Real Life Mystery: Number Stations

Real Life Mystery: Number Stations

We live in the age of information...

Communication is probably the most important aspect of life this past century. Humans are more connected than ever. Messages that used to take days, weeks, or even months to send now take minutes or even seconds. While communication media like Television, the Internet, and radio are usually used for normal purposes, they can be used for more dark and mysterious reasons as well.

This is an article about a real life phenomena, the Number Stations.

What are "Number Stations"?

Radio has been a popular form of communication since the early 20th-century, and as such that means it didn't take a lot of work to listen in on all the traffic. Thus, messages containing secret material would have to be sent on certain radio bands, and within a coded format. These messages would sound nothing like the rest of the radio stations that broadcast the weather, sports events, or news. Usually, they transmitted seemingly random groups of numbers, giving them the name Number Stations.

Number Stations are believed to have been active since WWI, making them some of the earliest uses of radio communication. They have since picked up in popularity during the cold war.

The reason Number Stations are used is because:

(1.) The messages are usually one time encoded so that each new message has to be deciphered by a new key, making it impossible to decode by the enemy.

(2.) It is extremely difficult to triangulate the location of both the origin and the receiving end of the message. The only possible way to tell is usually by the language of the messages or the signal intensity as the listener gets closer to the origin.

(3.) The technology is simple, cheap, and easy to hide. Anyone with a short wave radio transmitting station can send a message, and anyone with a shortwave radio receiver can listen to it. Unless someone is under direct surveillance, you'd have no idea they'd be the intended recipient of the message.

What is the purpose of these stations?

Truth is, nobody's exactly sure, but here are some of the most likely reasons:

-Espionage: Especially true in cold-war era Europe, where there was little distance separating both sides. It only makes sense to transmit seemingly gibberish radio signals around if the point was to communicate with spies behind enemy lines in secrecy. Usually spies would listen in for specific orders, warnings, or locations of drop off points for supplies. While no world government acknowledges the existence of Number Stations, you may get arrested if caught listening to one due to suspicion of espionage. This should tell you enough about the mystery behind these broadcasts.

-Military Orders: It seems that most of these stations are located in a specific country and transmit messages more actively during the times of important world political events. This is no coincidence, as these number stations are probably sending coded messages to their soldiers giving secret orders or as warnings. It is suspected that UVB-76, a popular Russian Numbers station, is used for this purpose.

-Jamming/Nonsense: Some number stations never actually transmit any numbers or cryptic tones. Rather they transmit strange sounds or noises continually on specific frequencies at specific times. This is thought to be for the purpose of jamming another hostile country's own number station, so that they can't be heard by the intended recipients. North Korea and Iran have been known to try to jam suspected MI6 number station The Lincolnshire Poacher, which ran on 3 different frequencies while transmitting a message in order to circumvent such jammings.

Examples of famous Number Stations:

The Lincolnshire Poacher: Named for the English folk song sound it uses to mark the station and before a transmission. It first appeared in the 1970's and disappeared in the late 2000's, believed to be operated by the British Military or MI6 off of Cyprus.

The Swedish Rhapsody: Known for it's creepy music box tone and even creepier coded messages. It is actually a Polish song, not a Swedish one, and transmitted German messages since the cold war. While offline now it is thought to have originated from Poland and serves a military purpose. You can tell the real message is about to start when you hear "Achtung! *Number sequence* Achtung!"

I would recommend "The Gong Station" and "The 3 Note Oddity" for listening to as well, from the same YouTube Channel.

UVB-76, The Buzzer: With a constant repetitive buzzer tone 24 hours a day, occasionally it is interpreted with weird changes in the buzz tone or messages in Russian Code. Believed to be Transmitted out of Russia near Moscow, it is thought to have a Military purpose.

The Backwards Music Station: While not actually playing backwards music at all, the distorted and pitch changing tones certainly are unsettling. This Station never broadcasts actual words and is always changing tone or pitch. Many believe it is transmitting messages in an encrypted or compressed format, and the source seems to be from the US Navy.

Still interested? Here are some other links to more info and examples of Number Stations:

Thank you for reading! Have another mystery or paranormal thing you'd like me to report about? Comment down below!


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What Girls Said 1

  • Just saw this... Interesting. Gna read more about these.


What Guys Said 2

  • Very interesting learn about these things.

  • The fact that no one knows what numbers stations actually are has always bugged me