Have a listen to this. Sound familiar?
Numbers stations, or shortwave spy stations, are being broadcasted constantly around the world and have been for decades. Thought to be encoded government or spy communications – or even messages from something else entirely – numbers stations have never given up their secrets despite being some of the earliest recorded radio transmissions dating all the way back to WW1.
So why, after all this time, have the presence of these stations never been addressed by any government despite their prevalence? Why are they still such a mystery?
What are they?
Most number stations, true to their name, are simply a list of numbers being read out over and over again either by a human voice, an electronic one or in morse code. You’ll sometimes hear coded messages or strange bursts of sound and white noise. Many of these stations have specific frequencies and times at which they’ll broadcast, although occasionally a transmission will break into another frequency, to depart its message and disappear.
The ENIGMA group currently record and categorize these stations, assigning names for each station depending on their broadcasting language (few stations, being so heavily encoded, can’t be traced to any particular country). With so many stations active, their list is always being updated.
The Atención Case
The only instance of any numbers station being officially reported was in 1988, following the case of a Cuban spy network accused by the US government of receiving messages from the Atención numbers station. On this occasion, the FBI testified that they had found the spys’ computer decryption program for the numbers code after breaking into one of the spy’s apartments. Using this, they were able to decode several messages involving instructions for the Cuban’s international agents.
Who broadcasts them?
In 1998, a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry was quoted in the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph on the subject of numbers stations. This remains the only official comment on the subject to this day.
“These [numbers stations] are what you suppose they are. People shouldn’t be mystified by them. They are not for, shall we say, public consumption.”
One could speculate that this confirms the stations’ presence as encoded communications. If so, why hide them in plain sight, as it were? What are they transmitting and why, after all of these years, have their origins and secrets still not been explained?
There is one other theory – that these transmission are, in fact, encoded communications from the ‘the Others’. Trawl through the depth of conspiracy sites and you’ll find many references to these Others. Suspected extraterrestrials, these creatures crop up again and again in myths, urban legends and even well-documented cases such as the Mothman event. Could it be that numbers stations are their private lines of communication – a way of being able to report on us in a channel we cannot understand?
However, it seems that numbers stations will not give up their mysteries any time soon.