Number Stations: Everywhere and Nowhere

Number StationA popular hobby, referred to as amateur radio (Meaning anyone who utilizes radio for recreational use without intending to make money from it) allows people to communicate with each other, listen to music, etc. However, these radios have sometimes picked up broadcasts that are mystifying and totally incomprehensible. These broadcasts are referred to as number stations, and while they have been picked up by radio operators for years, their purpose and meaning are still unknown.

The number stations broadcast (As indicated by the name) a seemingly nonsensical series of numbers, sometimes beginning or ending with a short tune or piece of music, and have been heard in a multitude of languages. For example, the Lincolnshire Poacher number station is named after “The Lincolnshire Poacher” folk song from England which was sometimes broadcasted. The station’s signal originated from Cyprus despite supposedly being broadcast by the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, the main foreign intelligence service of Great Britain.

However, another number station is broadcast in German, with a male voice saying “Achtung! Achtung!” (German for “Attention!”) before a series of numbers. A second number station in German begins with a Swedish song called “Swedish Rhapsody No. 1,” leading to a voice that sounds like a young female saying a series of numbers until the song plays a second time, followed by another series of numbers. This station (Despite being in German) is commonly referred to as the “Swedish Rhapsody Station.”

Russian Woodpecker
The “Russian Woodpecker” facility located near Chernobyl

Of course, number stations have been recorded in multiple languages aside from English and German, including French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, etc. One of the most famous of these is the “Russian Woodpecker,” a Russian radar station that began broadcasting originally during the Cold War but continues today. It derives its name from the continuous signal that sounds like an electronic woodpecker, although there is another infamous number station called “UVB-76”  (Nicknamed the Buzzer) which continuously broadcasts a “buzzing” noise which is only rarely interrupted by a message. The message is a male voice that relays names and numbers, the frequency of which has actually increased in recent years despite the passing of the Cold War and the Soviet Union. Another number station isn’t really a number station, but is known as the “Backwards Music Station” because it only broadcasts a strange, almost scary mechanical noise for seemingly no reason as there are never any breaks during which numbers are said, etc.

However, it’s still unknown as to what the purpose of these number stations is. Some suggest these number stations are being used by governments for top-secret or military purposes, and the most realistic and plausible explanation would be that the number stations are broadcasting to spies or sleeper agents. This is highly pCall of Duty Black Opsossible as a spy who possesses something to translate the numbers being broadcast would be able to understand the number stations using only a radio and, say, a code book, while any other agency listening to the broadcast would be totally in the dark. The video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, a war game set during the Cold War, depicts a similar concept (Albeit heavily fictionalized) of a Soviet number station transmitting to sleeper cells in the U.S.A.

There are dozens upon dozens of number stations currently broadcasting, and they can be picked up by almost anyone with the proper radio equipment. And despite many people not even realizing they exist, it is clear that something secret is going on and is being orchestrated by different groups around the world.


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