The Really Cool, Spy “Numbers Stations” ……For Spies
Posted by bmac on May 23, 2008
I’ve posted about these before, but I got nothin’ to bitch about today, and it’s Friday, so let’s have some fun with:
The Spooky Numbers Stations.
I love these things. Most of you are probably aware of these, but if you’re not, here’s a Wiki definition of these shortwave spy stations, which were discovered in the 70’s, when short wave radios became popular, and people started to find these bizarre broadcasts that seemed to make no sense. Some of them had been on the air since as far back as WWI.
The voices that can be heard on these stations are often mechanically generated. They are in a wide variety of languages, and the voices are usually women’s, though sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used.
They’re also incredibly spooky sounding, and for some reason, many of them use music, like tinkly music box music, which just adds to the creepiness. Or tinkly music box music with a little girls voice reading numbers in a foreign language, which when combined with the static of shortwave, makes the hair on your arms stand up. Some horror movies have used these things as background to add a disturbing element you can’t quite put your finger on.
Check out this one, called “The Swedish Rhapsody”, but listen to the whole thing, because it gets creepier as you go. This is the one with the little girls voice, and the creepy tinkle music.
This one here, is just fucking disturbing.
Here’s one with just numbers.
This one inspired the title of the band Wilco’s album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”
I always picture a spy with a little radio sitting in some dank foreign basement with like a candle on the table, as evil Russian spies are closing in on him, listening to this message and writing it down on a piece of paper he’s gonna eat later when they catch up to him. I also wonder how these messages are translated, and by that I mean, what could 1,5,8,4,2,7, possibly mean? How much information could be in those numbers?
Many of these stayed on the air for 20-40 years, which makes me wonder if the spy ever got it, or was captured.
Even weirder, was that little girls voice and tinkly music an order to kill someone? Did that sequence of numbers lead to one, or many deaths? My simple mind reels with the possibilities.
The other really cool thing about these, and why they’re still in use today, is that these codes are 100% unbreakable. The spy and his handler were (are) the only two people that have the code, known as a “One time pad.” A spy almost anywhere in the world without the use of a trackable phone, could simply pick up a widely available shortwave radio, and receive messages from his handler.
If you’re really man enough, listen to a bunch of these, late at night, in the dark, by yourself.
It’s spooky cause it’s true.
Interesting fact: In the U.K., it’s illegal to listen to them on a radio.