A photo of “M*A*S*H” character Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly has mysteriously returned to the “Speed Checked by Radar” sign on Third Street coming into Langley on Whidbey Island. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A photo of “M*A*S*H” character Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly has mysteriously returned to the “Speed Checked by Radar” sign on Third Street coming into Langley on Whidbey Island. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

In Langley, ‘Speed Checked by Radar’ — Cpl. ‘Radar’ O’Reilly that is

The random act of comedy on a traffic pole an is ongoing M*A*S*H-ed up mystery on Whidbey Island.

LANGLEY — The “Speed Limit 25” sign is “M*A*S*H”-ed up again.

What’s up with that?

The face of Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly has mysteriously returned to the “Speed Checked by Radar” sign coming into Langley from Bayview.

An 8-by-10 laminated mug of the 1970s TV character’s round boyish face is zip-tied to the traffic pole on Third Street.

It’s an ongoing whodunit of who put up the recent photo of Radar, as well as who took down the previous one about four years ago on the same pole as those that came and went before.

The Radar photos have been an off-and-on hijink for 20 years, with nobody owning up to the random act of comedy.

“As long as I can remember, it has always been a thing,” said Tim Leonard, a 25-year Langley resident.

The latest is a different photo of Radar than in 2018. This time, he’s smiling.

So, too, are the residents of this Whidbey Island seaside village, median age 66, many of whom can hum the “M*A*S*H” theme song. The comedy-drama was about an Army field hospital during the Korean War.

Pat Gregg is glad to see Radar’s return to the road.

“I think of my dad (Richard Gregg) every time I see the Radar picture,” she said. “He was a clerk in the Korean War before I was born. He had a good sense of humor and really enjoyed ‘M*A*S*H.’”

The sign gets a lot of likes on social media from islanders.

“I have an urge to salute when I see Radar as I’m heading home,” a post says.

“One of our charms,” reads another post.

And: “It makes a perfect introduction to Langley.”

Indeed. This is, after all, the quirky town that has an autographed trash can by Conan O’Brien in front of City Hall.

On a 2022 visit to Langley for his wife’s play at the arts center, O’Brien, the longest-serving late night host was awarded the town’s long-serving trash can. O’Brien drew a caricature of himself on the top in a dedication ceremony in June.

That was a public affair, with city bigwigs officiating.

The Radar tributes are clandestine, among other island enigmas.

The previous Radar photo appeared the same night in 2018 that a colorful butterfly wing art installation showed up downtown on First Street.

A photo of “M*A*S*H” character Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly has mysteriously returned to the “Speed Checked by Radar” sign on Third Street coming into Langley on Whidbey Island. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A photo of “M*A*S*H” character Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly has mysteriously returned to the “Speed Checked by Radar” sign on Third Street coming into Langley on Whidbey Island. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Leonard admits to having some intel on the two seemingly unrelated events that unfolded, a half-mile apart, that night with Radar and the butterfly.

“It was by a happy group of people who were having a little fun and not hurting anyone,” Leonard said. “I may or may not have been there to witness it.”

Then-mayor Tim Callison claimed the butterfly culprits were pixies.

“As far as I know it was the work of the fairies,” Callison told The Daily Herald for a 2018 story. “It might have been helped by some human form. We have a large fairy community here. I’m serious.”

The butterfly cutout remained a popular Langley attraction where people took selfies until a recent windstorm, when the wings took flight, never to be seen again.

The previous Radar photo vanished for good from the pole one night in 2018 or 2019 or so. The Radar fairies recently apparently decided it was time to bring him back.

A few other “Speed Checked by Radar” sign bombings with the “M*A*S*H’” Cpl. Radar have been reported across the nation, including one with a Star Wars “Darth Radar” twist.

Radar was played by actor Gary Burghoff, who is now 79 and still looks much the same, albeit older.

Burghoff left “M*A*S*H” in 1979 and did stints on “Hollywood Squares” and “The Love Boat.” According to the internet, he is the inventor of a fishing tackle called “Chum Magic” and a toilet seat lifting handle.

He won an Emmy in 1977 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in “M*A*S*H.”

On the show, Radar had the uncanny ability to know when a chopper was coming with the wounded. He would pause, as if listening, and then announce, “A chopper’s coming.” Others would say, “I don’t hear anything.” He’d say, “Wait for it.” After a moment there was the sound of a helicopter.

If you don’t follow the speed limit of 25 mph in Langley, you might hear the sound of a siren.

Wait for it.

Is there a person, place or thing making you wonder “What’s Up With That?” Contact reporter Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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