Fun With Shortwave Radio and Spy Stations!

shortwave radio

Years ago, I picked up a copy of Big Secrets by William Poundstone.  Leafing through it, I came across the section about numbers stations.  Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations that broadcast nothing but number segments.  Poundstone emphasized that no one knew why these stations existed.  SWLers (shortwave listeners) have, from day one, referred to them as spy stations.  For years, there was conjecture as to these stations' purpose.

Reading aboutr those stations scared the heck out of me.  Here was a mystery that was all around me: unlike UFOs, ESP, Bigfoot, and so on, this was real, and I could listen to these stations myself.

And that is exactly what I did.  I bought an Emerson portable shortwave radio from DAK.  Within an hour of putting batteries in the radio, I heard my first numbers station.  I was hooked.

I listened for the stations every hour.  I recorded some of the broadcasts.  I bought books and magazines on the subject.  I came up with my own crazy theories.

I remember when Gortbachev visited the USA in the 1980s.  Numbers stations traffic went nuts, with what must have been hundreds of broadcasts.

Numbers stations have been asround for years.  If any of you have ever seen the French film Orpheus, there is a scene it where a character is listenoing to a numbers station, and writing down the coded message.

And then one day I read that some of the broadcasts had been translated.  The SWLers had been right all the time: they really were spy stations, broadcasting code.

Listening for numbers stations is still one of my hobbies, and thanks to the internet, information on the subject is readily available.


The Ghostly Radio Station That Nobody Claims to Run
A Russian radio station that broadcasts a buzzing sound 24/7.

The Stupidly Simple Spy Messages No Computer Could Decode
Well done, in depth essay on the subject.

The spooky world of the 'numbers stations'
Good general coverage of the subject.

Numbers Station Research and Information Center
Great information, with a list of frequencies and so on.

The Conet Project: Recordings of Numbers Stations
A great collection of recordings of numbers stations.

Uno, Dos, Cuatro
An early book about numbers stations (PDF format)

The Conet Project: Recordings of Numberds Stations
A good overview of the subject, in PDF format.

Numbers Stations
A short essay on the subject, in PDF format.

Spy Numbers Stations That May Be On The Air Now
A nice, day to day list of numbers stations that you can tune into.

Online Shortwave Receiver
This is great!  They have a chatbox function, where you can read live reports of numbers stations, pirate stations, and so on.  Save yourself the expense of getting a shortwave radio!