Category Archives: Number

Numbers Stations

Remember at the beginning of LOST, Sayid took the aircraft transceiver from the cockpit and got it working?  Remember when Shannon was trying to translate the French distress signal?  Remember a computer voice coming on and announcing some numbers?

For those of you just getting into LOST, hopefully I didn’t ruin anything for you.  For those of you who love the show, then you know what I’m talking about.  The computer kept announcing numbers before the distress call at each loop. 

If anyone is into this weird hobby or found that transmission from LOST cool, you can listen to something similar for real!  All you need is a ham radio scanner and a fairly tall antenna or a high hill.  Just surf around the different bands / frequencies and you might just pick one up.  Listen for a computer voice announcing numbers, letters, strange and creepy music, and / or cryptic phrases.  

Number Stations have been around since the dawn of the Cold War, relaying urgent messages from intelligence agencies to their “agents” abroad.  The spies would use a device called a “One-Time Pad,” to translate the message.  Each time a new message was relayed, the spy would have to use the next pad in sequence to translate the numbers into readable text.  

Nobody, without the spy’s specific “One-Time Pad,” has been able to decipher a number station message since its conception!  Number Stations have proven to be most effective means of spy & intelligence agencies communicating with their agents in the field.  

But now that the Cold War is over, why do these stations continue to broadcast numbers?  Some stations, after the war, closed up shop…until 20 some years later.  The old stations that went dark after the war suddenly became active again and started broadcasting numbers!  Conspiracy theorists have made claims that the Cold War never ended; They believe we still have agents in the field, sneaking around secret military projects, gathering information about aircraft, etc. I don’t buy into this myself.  Some people believe that this is an elaborate hoax, like the crop circles.  I, personally, don’t know what to make of these number stations.  It’s very strange indeed, but who knows if there’s still a use for these stations or not.  So anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s.  

No government agency (US or abroad) has come forward and taken responsibility nor taken action against these number stations, which are not “officially” licensed to operate.  They should take action since they interfere with legit Ham stations around the world.  Although I know they won’t since thanks to signal triangulation, someone found a numbers station broadcasting from an antenna farm owned and operated by the US government.  No independent agency has taken responsibility for broadcasting either.  Whenever someone, whether a private citizen or journalist, tries to get a comment from a government official on these number stations, they either dodge the question or tell people not to even bother with them.  One politician, in the UK, made a bold statement saying that UK citizens shouldn’t be interested in these stations anyway.  It’s illegal to listen to them.  So, to my UK readers, you cannot listen to these strange broadcasts.  It’s illegal!  I personally don’t understand why it is illegal since nobody can own the airwaves themselves.  Once a signal goes over the air, unencrypted, then anybody with perfectly legal equipment can pick it up and should be able to listen since the government will not take responsibility for what they transmit from their property.  Anyway, I digress.  

If you’d like to listen to samples of number stations without a radio, a project called The Conet Project put out a 4-disk album containing different number stations’ messages.  I have had the chance to listen to some of them and there are a couple creepy ones.  There’s one that plays “taps,” then announces the numbers.  That one creeped me out.  There’s one that plays a creepy music box song and then a little girl’s voice starts saying random numbers and letters.  That is especially creepy.  You can buy it, but at the time of this post, they’re out of stock.  They DO encourage you hit up file sharing services and download it that way!  They even have a PDF containing some cool information. If you want to learn more about number stations, head over to the Wikipedia Page to view more.  

Here are some samples taken from YouTube:

Would you listen to number stations?  Have you?  Feel free to comment either way!  I’d be interested to hear what anyone has to say about them!