Last week, television viewers around California had their regularly scheduled programming interrupted by what appeared to be an emergency broadcast message.  Where viewers once saw their favorite shows on channels like HGTV, they instead saw a black screen, with a red bar and the words “EMERGENCY ALERT,” accompanied by a distorted voice warning residents of the impending end of the world.

When was this apocalypse supposed to take place?  On Saturday… so it seems we all dodged a bullet on this one.

Television news stations around the country picked up the story, running shots from inside people’s homes recorded by cell phones, as the illegal interruption relayed its warning about the end of days, complete with remarks like, “Realize this, extremely violent times will come.”

Thanks to heightening tensions with nuclear-armed nations like North Korea, one could hardly blame your average viewer for feeling a bit uneasy as they watched and listened.  That paranoia about the state of our world is only bolstered by a historically destructive hurricane season, deadly earthquakes in Mexico, and a political upheaval in the United States.  Surely, these events can’t all be a coincidence, the leftover remnants of our lizard brains can argue, they must be signs that we’re living in the end of days.

The thing is, as a species, we’ve pretty much always been sure that we were living in the end of days.  Every life changing new invention, shift in power, new war, or just about any other kind of development has been met with its own fair share of apocalyptic prophecies.  In fact, interrupting TV broadcasts to initiate fear in the public regarding these predictions isn’t even a new thing.  Ever since TV has been around, hackers, pranksters, and ne’er-do-wells have been hijacking transmissions for just this sort of publicity.

Remember Steve Wilkos?  He was Jerry Springer’s bald headed bouncer that was tasked with occasionally trying to keep the talk show host’s guests from murdering one another with chairs, which eventually led to him getting a show of his own.  A few years ago, hackers infiltrated the emergency broadcast system for their local cable provider, and used it to interrupt the Steve Wilkos show with a warning about zombies rising from their graves.  You can watch the interruption here: