Thursday, February 24, 2005

Testing 1 2 3 7 9 4 274 947 017 848

Spooky, mysterious and a little scary. I love finding information on the web that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Last year I stumbled upon information on the internet regarding Number Stations.

Wikipedia gives a good introduction to the phenomenon:
Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin that broadcast streams of numbers, words, or phonetic sounds. It is publicly not known with certainty where their signals originate or what purpose they serve. The voices that can be heard on these stations are often those of children, or are mechanically generated.

It has been speculated that these stations operate as a simple and foolproof method for government agencies to communicate with spies "in the field", using the transmitted codes as a one-time pad cryptosystem.

Others speculate that some of these stations may be related to illegal drug smuggling operations. A 1998 article in London's Daily Telegraph quoted a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry 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."
It's been suggested that these broadcasts emanate from embassies around the world. However, most of the transmissions that blanket the U.S. originate from Cuba. If these stations actually do transmit information, it's an ingenious solution for spies (or drug runners). Cell phones can be bugged, meeting in public is dangerous, but no one is going to suspect you are a spy simply because you own a shortwave radio.

A compact disc set was produced containing over 100 numbers stations broadcasts. The entire set - called the Conet Project & a comprehensive booklet explaining the codes can be downloaded here for free. You can also pick and choose which ones to listen to. (It's legal)

Each broadcast starts with a music clip or series of numbers or letters repeated over and over again, some for hours, before the "message" portion of the broadcast is heard. (This is how Wilco got the name for one of their albums - an opening message included in the Conet Project is "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Yankee Hotel Foxtrot ...")

One station is simply a buzzer [link contains sound] - originating from Russia - which never stops broadcasting. Actually, it did, twice. Once when the buzzer was changed to a deeper sound. It stopped again during the 1993 Russian Revolution. As you can see, information on numbers stations is very well documented on the web, and devotees can be obsessive.

Here's a few more links to get you addicted interested:
Rodent Revolution Parody or death threat?
Another good primer on numbers stations
NPR.ORG 2000 story on numbers stations.

Your Cheese: What things, discovered on the web, give you the willies? (Presidential election results do not count.)


Post a Comment

<< Home