Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Scariest Things Caught on Live TV News. For this list, we’ll be looking at news moments that freaked out presenters and viewers, whether because of dangerous situations, frightening interactions, or spooky, hard to explain occurrences. Would these live moments have made you jump? Let us know in the comments.
#20: Alligator Freak Out
Sometimes you have to wonder how journalists get talked into holding animals on live TV. Boston sport anchor Steve Burton was handling an alligator, and you can tell he’s a little nervous. Then, he makes the unfortunate mistake of getting it too close to the other reptile in the room. The two four legged guests clearly had some kind of argument before the newcast, because the proximity got them all riled up. As the alligator tried to squirm out of Burton’s grasp, everyone must have been picturing those sharp teeth taking a bite. Luckily the handlers quickly got the situation under control. Burton still looked a little out of sorts, but the handlers clearly thought it was pretty funny.
This incident was scarier for the reporter in question than the viewing audience. However, most of us can understand the primal fear inspired by something big flying at your face. Fox TV reporter Brad Wills was ready to report from the beach, when a giant bug came straight for his head. He screamed in terror and smacked it away. After a quick recovery, Wills finally thought to ask his cameraman if the feed was live. It definitely was, and everyone got to enjoy the blooper at home.
#18: Far-Right Rage
Disagreements between political parties are to be expected. However, this debate came to blows. When Greek politician Rena Dourou, from the Coalition of the Radical Left, said that Ilias Kasidiaris’ neo-Nazi party would take the country back centuries, he decided to prove her point. He threw water in Dourou’s face, and when Communist Party member Liana Kanelli hit him with a newspaper, he slapped her three times in the face. Kasidiaris was restrained in a room backstage, but broke through the door and left before police arrived. He’s currently in prison for directing a criminal organization implicated in violence against anti-fascists, activists, and immigrants.
#17: Mugged on Air
Although journalists know better than anyone that crime can happen at any time, this incident was disturbing for both reporter and audience alike. CNN’s Bruna Macedo was on the scene in Sao Paulo, Brazil to report on rising river levels. Early in the report, a man can be seen watching her from a bridge in the background. Later in the broadcast, Macedo was approached by the menacing figure. While the studio co-host continues to talk, the assailant confronts the surprised reporter. Although not clearly visible on camera, the mugger threatened her with a knife until she handed him two cell phones. The thief then fled. Thankfully, nobody was injured.
#16: A Close Call
Haunted dolls are really only scary if you believe in ghosts. However, there’s no denying the terror a moving vehicle can inspire. In 2016, the viewers of KTVU news feared for the life of reporter Alex Savidge. He was facing the camera with his back to the street. Viewers watched in fear as a bumped car veered directly towards the reporter. Luckily, the photographer on the scene warned Savidge just in time. They both jumped out of the way as the car smashed into the camera. While staring at a lone hubcap on screen, viewers must’ve been relieved to finally hear someone call out that everyone was OK.
#15: Lightning Strike
We’ve all heard that it's dangerous to be at the highest point in the area when lightning strikes. So standing on a roof to do a storm weather report seems like a bad idea. Regardless, that’s where Dave Malkoff was for this broadcast. In the middle of his sentence, a large blue flash could be seen overhead. The deafening thunder clap that accompanied it was almost instantaneous, and the fear in the reporter's face was clear as day. Later, he explained that he could see a column of lightning dissipating, and that the strike was directly above him. Realizing this, he made the wise decision to get off the roof and into a safer location.
#14: A Shaken News Station
News teams are used to calmly covering natural disasters as they happen. It becomes more difficult when the catastrophe is wreaking havoc around you, though. In 2017, a Mexican news station was in the middle of a live broadcast when a 7.1 earthquake struck. The whole set started to shake. The host calmly told the viewers to follow safety protocols, as the station began to fall apart around him. Blurred shots from live cameras outside revealed the intensity of the quake. Meanwhile, inside the studio, overhead lighting began swinging wildly. It was a terrifying incident for both the news team and the viewers at home.
#13: Out of Control Guests
All you have to do is watch the panicked face of presenter Zuhair Al-Azza to see that something is about to go wrong. During a live debate about the Syrian civil war on the Jordanian show “Between Opposing Opinions”, emotions got the better of journalists Shaker Al-Johari and Mohammed Al-Jayousi. Al-Jayousi accused Al-Johari of supporting the revolution, while Al-Johari accused Al-Jayousi of supporting the government. As they lunged at each other, they shoved the desk back and forth until it completely came apart. Al-Azza was powerless to stop them, and the production team had to jump in to separate them.
#12:World Series Earthquake
On October 17, 1989, during the live broadcast of the World Series, people watching at home suddenly saw their TV sets flicker. There were panicked voices, and suddenly the broadcast cut. As audio returned, viewers could hear people shouting in the stands. The event was of course even scarier for people who were there in the ballpark. At that moment, the Loma Prieta earthquake had struck California's Central Coast, causing damage in both Oakland and San Francisco. While those in the ballpark were OK, the quake left 63 people dead and 3,757 people injured in the area.
#11: Freaky Doll
Is there anything scarier than a creepy doll? In 2017, the viewers of a British morning show had a real-life experience with one. The guests claimed a doll was haunting their family and had even scratched the husband while they slept. During the segment, the object in question was sitting in a rocking chair on the set. As the show hosts were discussing the incidents with the owners, the chair began to slowly rock. There were many tweets from audience members and people freaking out about the seemingly paranormal occurrence. The hosts didn’t seem convinced that the haunted doll was actually spooky, but there’s definitely something creepy happening in this footage.
#10: Bouncing Back
Reporter Tori Yorgey probably wasn’t expecting an exciting evening when she went to report on a water main break in West Virginia. Then, she got hit by a car on live TV. Viewers could clearly see the vehicle coming up behind her as she reported on the flooding. As Yorgey falls out of sight, there’s one brief horrifying moment when no one is sure if she’s seriously hurt. However, the cheerful reporter quickly bounces back into the scene. After announcing that she just got hit by a car, she blows it all off with a laugh.
#9: A Bolt of Adrenaline
During a monsoon in Phoenix, weatherman Matt Rodewald had a shockingly close call. The entire area where he was reporting was flooded. Cars were getting stuck in the roadways. The journalist was getting ready to report on the dangerous situation when a bolt of lightning struck behind him. It lights up the entire sky, and the bolt is startlingly clear. After initially moving to assess the situation, Rodewald quickly jumps back in front of the camera with a nervous laugh. Although the lightning missed the quick footed journalist, it did take out power in the area.
#8: Strange Sky Lights
When anchors at a Milwaukee news station cut to an outdoor camera in the early hours of Feb. 27, 2018, they got a much stranger scenic view than they were expecting. Multiple streaks of white light could be seen moving quickly across the dark morning sky. The anchors’ first thoughts were that it could be fireworks or maybe aliens. At first their tone is light, but you can hear a growing concern as the phenomenon continues with little obvious explanation. Later the news station reported that it was a flock of seagulls reflecting early light in a long exposure camera shot. Although this seems like a logical explanation, many viewers were still skeptical.
#7: Zombie Apocalypse
We’re stretching our criteria for this one, as it came during a tabloid talk show - “The Steve Wilkos Show”. In 2013, viewers of local Montana station KRTV heard an unbelievable and terrifying announcement. The show was interrupted by an emergency broadcast warning of the zombie apocalypse. They were told in a calm, authoritative voice that dead bodies were rising from graves and attacking the living. The serious nature of the report had viewers worried. Many called in to local police stations. It was later discovered that the news stations’ emergency alert system was hacked and the whole incident was a hoax. Most residents probably knew that it wasn’t real. But we’re guessing that they chose to stay inside for a while… just to be safe.
#6: Helicopter Havoc
In 2004, footage of an out of control helicopter stunned viewers. The scene was like something out of a movie, not a real life event. While covering an incident in Brooklyn, the aircraft started to spin and spew smoke. It clipped the edge of a building, taking chunks off the structure. The tail of the vehicle broke off and the cabin crashed into the roof of an apartment complex. Whether watching on TV or from the streets below, viewers were shocked that the pilots and reporter on board suffered only minor injuries.
#5: Frightening In-Flight Video
Not long after JetBlue Flight 292 made it into the air, the pilots realized that they had a serious problem. The plane’s landing gear was off-kilter and wouldn’t retract. Ultimately, they decided to land at LAX, but first had to burn as much fuel as possible to make the emergency landing safer. Viewers at home watched the drama unfold on live TV. Thanks to in-flight access to DirecTV, the passengers did as well. Luckily, the video on the plane was turned off before the nail-biting landing. Although there was smoke, sparks and flame, the malfunctioning aircraft landed safely. All viewers, in and out of the plane, breathed a huge sigh of relief.
#4: Alien Message
Are we alone in the universe? Maybe we already have an answer! On November 26, 1977, an Independent Television News program was suddenly interrupted in parts of southern England. A distorted voice identifying itself as ‘Ashtar Galactic Command’ ordered humans to get rid of their weapons to attain ‘a higher state of evolution’. The interruption lasted six minutes, prompting hundreds of calls from worried viewers. The perpetrator was never identified. Our species didn’t abandon its weapons, so maybe the enlightened extraterrestrials threw up their hands and wandered off to contact other worlds.
#3: Thirsty Ghost
This freaks us out just to watch! In Dec 2015, the Honduran morning show Primera Edicion (or First Edition) experienced an unexpected visitation. As Carlos Molina sat at his desk, his glass of water suddenly moved of its own volition! He asked colleague Pablo Zapata if he had seen the same thing. Molina later claimed that it was not a prank, and that he had experienced a chill right before the glass moved. It could have been due to condensation on the glass … but you wouldn’t catch us still sitting at that desk, trying to figure it out.
#2: A Ghostly Fan
There’s something instantly frightening about seeing a shadow where it doesn’t belong. No wonder soccer fans in Bolivia freaked out when they saw this news footage. The TV station was doing live coverage of a match at Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz, Bolivia. But the game wasn’t the biggest thing that caught peoples’ attention! A shadow could be seen sprinting through the stands. It moved through people and barriers, so it didn’t appear to be human. No one has been able to fully explain this incident. Therefore, it left many believing they’d seen a live broadcast of a ghost.
#1: We Interrupt This Newscast for a Tornado
In 2011, viewers of WREX news were keeping a close eye on the weather map displayed on their screens. A meteorologist was explaining the path of an oncoming tornado. For many, this report was their tie to outside events. So imagine the trepidation they probably felt when the voice on screen suddenly cut out. One long breath later, a voice came back on air. At this point, the tornado was getting very close to the station, and things were getting unsafe. Everyone took shelter in the basement, and coverage continued. Although it was a frightening experience, the news team and viewers were in it together.