In the 70s and 80s I frequently used to browse radio channels. All the good stuff was there – Radio Luxemburg, BBC, AFN – just places where proper music was being played.
And quite often I came across the odd radio station where next to morse code someone just spelled out numbers. Nothing but numbers. “Coded messages!” I thought, “Spies!”
Listen to this example (taken from archive.org)
Turns out I was right. And even in our computerised age, those stations with their secret messages still exist. Apparently there are even new ones cropping up from time to time.
Thankfully, in our computerised age (see above) there are now websites dedicated to those Shortwave Numbers Stations, who try to shed some light onto this murky business:
The mysterious number stations – espionage-communications? is a rather good summary;
Then, of course, the Conet Project, where you can order an edition of 5 CDs filled with numbers;
How is it that Numbers Stations are allowed to interfere with essential radio services like air traffic control and shipping without having to answer to anybody? Why did the “Swedish Rhapsody” Numbers Station use a small girls voice?
The Conet Project at archive.org with lots of samples;
The Enigma 2000 website:
ENIGMA 2000 is a UK based online group, whose aims are to bring together listeners and enthusiasts who monitor and gather information on ‘Number Stations’ and other related radio transmissions. Through our Yahoo Group monitors can share their logs, discuss frequencies, thoughts and opinions on this most emotive subject.
A article in German at Kotzendes Einhorn;
and the Wikipedia entry on Numbers stations.
All together rather wonderful stuff. And here’s another sample, starting with a series of gongs followed up by rapidly spoken numbers: