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Bethany Mystery Voices of America - 2002-02-18


A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage


Tuning in to VOA usually means flipping a switch on your radio or television, or perhaps these days a few clicks on your computer mouse. But imagine the surprise of young Amy Sowders the first night in a new house in the midwestern state of Ohio around 1980, with no radio or television turned on.

"I had gone down to the kitchen [to get] a drink of water," she said, "and I heard these voices in the basement - foreign voices. I was really frightened and went upstairs to get my parents. We all go downstairs and hear these Portuguese voices or something in the basement. Then we listened and there was a little bit of Yankee Doodle Dandy."

It turned out Amy Sowders was hearing VOA through, of all things, the big, old, metal, oil burning furnace in the basement of her new home. The house was near VOA's powerful Bethany transmitter station.

VOA voices came out of the furnace because of a phenomenon engineers call "intermodulation" or "overload" and they came out at all hours of the day and night.

"So we just got used to sleeping with the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy and various foreign languages broadcasting through our house," she said.

The non-stop background of VOA in Amy Sowders' childhood may have influenced her career choice - she learned to speak Chinese and plans to study immigration law.

As for the Bethany transmitter, it shut down in 1994 after 50 years of service.

There are plans to build a shopping mall on the transmitter site - possibly including a VOA museum. No more VOA "overload" in Amy's old house.

Snapshots will contine throughout our 60th anniversary year, here at VOANews.com.

To write to us about our anniversary, send an email to anniversary@ voanews.com. Or, send regular mail to Anniversary, VOA News Now, Washington, D.C. 20237, USA.

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