The Backwards Music Station

Even though the radio was many people’s main form of entertainment for years, it has been slowly falling to the wayside with the introduction of the television and the Internet. Today most use the radio to listen to music while others are amateur HAM radio enthusiasts, although there are still some mysterious broadcasts yet to be solved. Number stations, believed to be operated by intelligence agencies, still continue to broadcast such as the Russian UVB-76. One oddity that continues to broadcast doesn’t feature secret messages, numbers or words, and doesn’t actually sound like anything comprehensible at all. It has been nicknamed the Backwards Music Station.

The Backwards Music Station, also nicknamed “Whalesong,” reportedly began broadcasting in 2001 on three separate frequencies, and is still broadcasting the same strange noise continuously. As to what it sounds like, it’s much easier to listen to rather than describing it:

Obviously this is an extremely unusual broadcast. Most number stations have been broadcasting since the Cold War, while others usually have a break in the broadcast during which the station plays numbers or code names. The number station UVB-76 is one example, as it was nicknamed “the Buzzer” since it would continuously play a strange buzzing sound that would occasionally be interrupted with names and numbers in Russian. However, the Backwards Music Station doesn’t ever stop its strange sound or broadcast secret messages. One individual who studied the broadcast has suggested that there is actually a voice message being rebroadcasted which is hidden within the machine-like noises.

The DUGA-3's massive antennae array
The DUGA-3’s massive antennae array

Another unusual aspect of the Backwards Music Station is how no one is certain where the noise is being broadcast from. The Lincolnshire Poacher, an infamous British number station operated by the Royal Air Force’s 12th Signals Unit, was discovered to have been broadcasting from Akrotiri, Cyprus. UVB-76 is theorized to be broadcasting from either near Pskov or St. Petersburg, Russia while DUGA-3 (nicknamed the Russian Woodpecker) was discovered as being broadcast from a facility near Chernobyl which was code-named “Steel Yard.” As for the Backwards Music Station, no one knows where it is being broadcast from, although there are two theorized locations. One source of the signal is believed to be originating from somewhere in the United States, possibly a naval base in Jacksonville, Florida while a second source is believed to be located somewhere in Europe, possibly England. It is believed that there is a second source because the signal in Europe can be picked up at very good strength, so some individuals also suggest that the European signal is broadcast from a U.S. Naval facility in Palermo or Sigonella, Sicily.

As to who is broadcasting it is also a mystery. Usually the agency behind a broadcast can be theorized based on whether it uses the NATO or Russian phonetic alphabet, or what language it uses, such as English, Spanish, German, Russian, or Chinese. Some experts believe that the frequency broadcasting the Backwards Music Station is similar to that utilized by the U.S. Navy, suggesting that the station may be some secret form of communication for NATO or military units. What can be agreed upon is that the noise being created by the Backwards Music Station is being done so intentionally, and is not simply electronic noise or essentially “garbage.”

A chart showing the Backwards Music Station's signal
A chart showing the Backwards Music Station’s signal

Even though the noise doesn’t end like a typical station to broadcast messages, some say that they have indeed heard voices in the midst of the strange sounds. However, unlike actual messages, they are simply snippets of words or sentences that are extremely difficult to understand. This could be the noises playing tricks on the listener, although it is possible that there are actual people being broadcasted, albeit accidentally. To reference UVB-76 again, sometimes listeners hear the sounds of people talking behind the buzzing sound. This would suggest that the buzzing sound is being produced by a device and then recorded and broadcast separately, and that the sounds of people talking are actually people in the same room as the recording device. Is this the same thing that is happening with the Backwards Music Station?

There is also how DUGA-3, an extremely powerful over-the-horizon radar installation, continuously broadcast a repetitive noise until its deactivation after the Chernobyl disaster which lent it the nickname “the Russian Woodpecker.” Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, UVB-76 never broadcast messages either but instead one single buzzing noise. Perhaps the continuous noise created by the Backwards Music Station has a similar purpose, one which will not be revealed until years from now.

An abandoned facility formerly used to broadcast UVB-76's signal
An abandoned facility formerly used to broadcast UVB-76’s signal

One interesting theory behind the noise generated by the station is that it is actually based on the noises made by whales, and that the algorithm of whale communication is being tested as a method of encrypting messages. However, others (such as the individual who stated that the noise may be re-transmitted voice messages) claim that the Backwards Music Station may just be broadcasting with very maladjusted equipment. However, if it were operated by the U.S. Navy, then it wouldn’t make sense for them to not be using state-of-the-art equipment.

The Backwards Music Station will remain a mystery until it either stops broadcasting or the indecipherable noise stops and a message of some kind is broadcasted. But in a way the station is a perfect example of the kinds of mysteries that still inhabit the radio, one the world’s oldest and still-used methods of communication.

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