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The Voice of Fear

2010-07-07 15:25:36.700901+00 by petronius 4 comments

Strange doings in the airways: this interesting piece from Slate tells of obscure short-wave radio stations that broadcast only a voice repeating strings of numbers. They are generally thought to be spymasters in Moscow and Cuba sending untraceable messages to their agents in the West. It is reported that the recently arrested New Jersey spooks listened into such transmissions for their instructions. There are some sound files included, such as the East German STASI's penchant for beginning the program with a polka.

[ related topics: Language Invention and Design Conspiracy ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-08 03:26:23.031883+00 by: m

A podcast with a little more background on numbers stations is available at:


#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-08 11:32:14.385425+00 by: meuon

How much could you cause the USA to spend in analysis for just the cost of a radio transmitter sending random numbers.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-08 15:58:06.310517+00 by: other_todd

Numbers stations aren't new, gents, and they're a fascination of many people (including me).


Yr basic Wikipedia page is quite good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station

Simon Mason's pages are extremely messy and not well-maintained, but he probably is the best single-person source, and has many nice sample clips to listen to. Start here: http://www.simonmason.karoo.net/page30.html

The home of the Spooks mailing list and best source for tips should you be interested enough to actually want to start tuning your shortwave: http://www.spynumbers.com/

The Conet project http://www.irdial.com/conet.htm - you probably don't want to spring for four CDs of nothing but high-quality numbers recordings, but Irdial has released a great deal of it for free: http://irdial.hyperreal.org/

A number of recording artists have incorporated bits of numbers transmissions into their work, most prominently Wilco on their CD Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (which is also named for part of a numbers transmission!) Alas, Wilco used a sample of one of the Irdial tracks without permission and there was a to-do.

I myself have incorporated bits of the "Rumanian Skylark," so called because the transmission begins with them playing a recording of "Ciocarlia," in a CD mix of my own. The sample I used is the first link on this page: http://www.simonmason.karoo.net/page8.html

#Comment Re: made: 2010-07-08 18:29:21.982529+00 by: petronius

The possibility of a fake station to confuse your enemies is also not new. in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs invasion the CIA set up a short-wave station and broadcast lots of fake messages to make the Cubans think they had thousands of fighters in the hills ready to attack, when they had virtually none. I don't know if they did the numbers or the old BBC trick from WW2 of sending cryptic verses from French poets lake Verlaine as pre-arranged signals to blow up the German radar station at St. Lo.