Monday, June 05, 2006

Damn Interesting » Number Stations

Short wave radio enthusiasts worldwide have heard of the strange and elusive Numbers Channels. It is a name that refers to any one of several of unusual broadcasts that usually start at a very specific time, though often from different locations. The broadcasts contain some odd elements like excerpts of music, a regular attention message, and a sting of phonetic letters or numbers for which they are named. For the most part, the signals make no sense at least not to most people the messages are fairly random, and there is not enough information in the broadcast itself to allow one to decipher it.

Such transmissions are fairly common. They are most often reported in Europe, but can be found anywhere. Each adheres to a strict schedule, and often begin at either the hour or half-after. Most of the time the voice reading these letters is female, though sometimes male or a child’s. Despite being without any obvious function, they seem pretty harmless. So why does no licensed radio station admit to sending them, no government will admit to sanctioning them, and no one will confess to being responsible for them?

According to The Conet Project, a group which has taken to sampling and distributing recordings of these stations, this type of transmission has been observed since World War I, making them one of the first and oldest of all radio broadcasts. With no evident source or purpose for these signals, imaginations have taken reign, and a wide number of ideas have spawned ranging from plausible to tittering - alone - in - the - woods - wacky.

Among the most popular and most viable theories is that the Numbers Stations are a covert means by which government spy agencies use to maintain contact with their operatives. That would explain the need for the official obfuscation of their source, and why the messages are so cryptic; an extremely high level of coding would be required for spies. Perhaps the transmitters must occasionally move as the field agents relocate in the course of their duties.

Read the rest here.

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