Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I think my VCR is possessed

One evening shortly before Christmas, I walked into the living room and discovered that the VCR was busily recording something I knew nothing about. Based on my unfortunate history with all things mechanical and/or electronic, my first thought was that I'd done something wrong. I thought maybe I'd accidentally hit the "record" button on the remote control when I'd turned the TV on earlier. Oh, well, no harm done. I pressed the "stop" button and turned off the VCR.

A couple of days later, it happened again. That time I was watching television when I heard the VCR click on and start recording. There was no way I'd pressed "record." I had a plate in my left hand and a fork in my right, and the remote control was lying untouched on the end table.

The second time happened at approximately the same time of day as the first time did, so I considered another possibility: What if I had somehow programmed it (accidentally, of course) to record something every day at that time? If that was it, all I had to do was delete the program, and I knew how to do that. I pressed the "menu" button, then pressed the number to "review existing programs." The message on the screen told me there were no existing programs. There was nothing to delete.

But the next day? Same time? The darned thing started recording again.

I started paying attention. Every Monday through Friday--but not on weekends--the VCR turns itself on at exactly 6:00 p.m. That's 6:00 p.m. actual time; 5:59 p.m. according to the VCR clock. I don't know what time it stops because I've always turned it off manually.

It occurred to me that the VCR might be getting a signal from an outside source, a neighbor's VCR perhaps, so I conducted a little experiment. I have two more VCRs in the house, so the other day, as soon as I got home from work, I set the clocks on both of them and put in fresh tapes. At 6:00 p.m. the VCR in the living room started recording right on schedule. The other two? Nothing.

I realize that this isn't a huge problem in the total scheme of things, but it's definitely an irritant. If I record something to watch later, I don't dare rewind it unless I'm gonna watch it immediately. I learned that the hard way, after it turned itself on and recorded over most of an Ugly Betty episode I'd taped.

The otherworldly, non-programmed recording isn't the only happening with the VCR. When I watch anything I've previously recorded, or when I'm watching one channel and recording another, weird bars of seemingly random letters and symbols show up on the screen. The bars vary in length, number and position. Sometimes they appear on the VCR menu screen, too, blocking out the date or time or some other vital piece of information I need to enter.

At this point I'm out of ideas. Are there any techies out there who have a clue what might be happening here? Any exorcists?


  1. Those bars and letters look like closed-captioning. I get those when the captions are screwed up. I'm not sure why you're getting it if you don't have the CC turned on.

    Have you tried switching the VCRs? If a different one doesn't record, it could be that the possessed one has something wrong with it.

  2. Beat's me. But I thought it was pretty clever of you to think that a neighbor's VCR might be affecting yours and then rule that out by using your other VCRs.

    Let us know if you ever figure it out. Good luck!

  3. Wow Velvet, I hope it doesn't have a short... that could be dangerous. You could always just make sure you pop the tape out when you are done. Good luck with that! Holly

  4. Velvet, Holly is so smart. Just don't put the tape in it. I would never have thought of that.

    I don't have a vcr so I don't have that this program called "Ugly Betty"....I bet that is a winner!
    Sister Betty
    code today rcgzwv

  5. It's time to buy a Tivo.

  6. I used to get some weird symbols that would cover up the screen while viewing a show on the tv in my bedroom. It has been a long time ago but I think it did have something to do with closed captioning being turned on but it didn't happen on every channel.

    I think your vcr player and my dvd player are both possessed.

  7. Mike, My TIVO is possessed! I'm on my third one in three months! It behaves similar to Velvet's VCR. LOL! All this technology can be frustrating.

  8. Janet, thanks for the idea about closed captioning. That's something I can check out. The possessed VCR is set up in a VERY heavy entertainment armoire, and I'd almost rather live with the problem than try to pull the thing away from the wall to swap out the VCR with a different one.

    Sunflower, my experiment might not have ruled out a neighbor's VCR entirely. My other VCRs are different brands, so if a neighbor's remote control could have somehow programmed my living room VCR, the signal wouldn't necessarily have been compatible with the other two.

    Holly, that's a sensible solution. Now, if I can only remember to do it.

    Sister-Three, I think you'd like "Ugly Betty." It would help you teach your young students that beauty comes from within.

    Mike, I know. My daughter has been telling me that for months.

    Cindi, if it makes you feel any better, it used to take two of us to watch a DVD at my house: one to handle the TV remote, the other to be in charge of the DVD, carefully choreographing which buttons to push when.

    Holly, is your problem with TIVO the little bar thingies, or does it record inappropriately, too? I'd be REALLY annoyed if I spent the money on TIVO and had the same problems.


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