Recently I came across an article at wikipedia about Numbers Stations. I don’t recall how I got there…whether it was a link from somewhere else, of if I stumbled there, but there I was, reading about “shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin.” Apparently they broadcast voices reading strings of numbers, words, letters, tunes or morse code.
This totally reminds me of “Lost.”
I continue reading.
The voices that can be heard on these stations are often mechanically generated. They are in a wide variety of languages, and the voices are usually women’s, though sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used.
Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are channels of communication used to send messages to spies. This has not been publicly acknowledged by any government that may operate a numbers station, but in one case, Cuban numbers station espionage has been publicly prosecuted in a United States federal court.
Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s. This increase suggests that as spy-related phenomena, they were not unique to the Cold War.
This is one of the most spooky things I have heard of in a long time. I had to have a listen. So I scrolled down to the end of the article, found an external link, and ultimately found a recording for “The Lincolnshire Poacher.”
Weird stuff, huh?!
Back to the article, I learned some more:
It has long been speculated, and was argued in court in one case, that these stations operate as a simple and foolproof method for government agencies to communicate with spies working under cover (sometimes literally). According to this theory, the messages are encrypted with a one-time pad, to avoid any risk of decryption by the enemy. As evidence, numbers stations have changed details of their broadcasts or produced special, nonscheduled broadcasts coincident with extraordinary political events, such as the August Coup.
Others speculate that some of these stations may be related to illegal drug smuggling operations. Unlike government stations, smugglers’ stations would need to be lower powered and irregularly operated, to avoid location by triangulated direction finding, followed by government raids. However, numbers stations have transmitted with impunity for decades, so they are generally presumed to be operated or sponsored only by governments. Also, numbers station transmissions in the international shortwave bands typically require high levels of electric power that is unavailable to ranches, farms, or plantations in isolated drug-growing regions.
Although no broadcaster or government has acknowledged transmitting the numbers, a 1998 article in The Daily Telegraph quoted a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry (the government department that, at that time, regulated radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom) as saying, “These [numbers stations] are what you suppose they are. People shouldn’t be mystified by them. They are not for, shall we say, public consumption.” Listening to numbers stations in the UK is illegal under Section 48 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 , so it is unlikely you could get official permission to listen to them; however, it is unlikely that the legislation would be used to prosecute those who listen to the stations privately. Indeed, one could argue that a listener could not be prosecuted for listening to stations that officially do not exist and in any case, operate illegally on frequencies not allocated to them by the ITU.
I don’t know about you, but this stuff strikes me as very, very odd. Couple this with my earlier post about mirrors on the moon, and, I tell you, I’ve come to realize just how much about the world we live in I don’t know. There are some many strange things going on out there that we have absolutely no idea about. Do you know something? Post a comment and I’ll check it out!