A numbers station is a short-wave radio station and is characterised by some unusual broadcasts. They are registered by those searching to be streaming out voices, numbers, words, tunes, morse codes or letters. They have been recorded in various languages and more commonly have female voices although male and children voices have been recorded in some situations. The Swedish Rhapsody broadcast features a child’s voice. They are not officially recognised by any government body, QSL responses have been received from these stations by short-wave listeners who sent reception reports to them. (A QSL is like a receipt of transmission from what I can understand).

An idea posed is that these stations are/were used to send out coded instructions. Encoded messages could be then used via a one time number pad system, e.g. a notebook with the relevant code break that could be destroyed one the transmission was done. It is safer than any other medium on the planet, even if you hear the code unless you know it you can’t decipher it. Theoretically anyone could pick up the code with access to short-wave radio and finding the frequency but knowing what it is, well that’s another story! Drug smugglers were another reason put forwards. The radio stations can be used but this might not be as effective as thought, after all the farms and outlying posts often associated with large scale drugs operations would not necessarily be able to receive the messages.

Another suggestion I had found leant more towards the paranormal, the idea that these are somehow messages that might have been an old broadcast some how replaying over the waves without anyone physically behind them. Perhaps the dead are using it to try and reach out, however if so why would they be so formulaic and not contain a direct message? Often with some of them you can hear background information too suggesting that even if it is not playing live it may well have been recorded as such.

Typically they seem to transmit on the hour or half hour, an introduction to identify the station will be heard and then the bulk of the message is heard.  This repeats for a set interlude and then the transmission will end, usually with an identifier such as a set of zero’s or perhaps music.  Listening to numerous ones quite often they seem heavy with interference, or background noise, some are overlapping with the regular broadcasts which means you can hear a second station on them.  A Florida radio station, WYFR from Okeechobee is a religious broadcasting station and reported that it was regularly affected by a Cuban/Spanish number station. Others have reported that they have encroached across their transmission too.

One thing I can be assured off, the Conet Project collects them and listening to them is both slightly creepy and mesmerising at the same time. Whatever they are used for (and I like the mystery so very much) they are a thrilling find if you haven’t heard of them before.

So if you want to hear them try the link: http://archive.org/details/ird059

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