In search of the unique, the weird, the unusual . . . a reader participation post

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

There is a richness in human experience, and I want to sample it.

When I worked the world on the HF ham bands, I considered myself a “conversation hunter.” I wasn’t content to simply make a contact, exchange signal reports, and move on; I wanted to talk to people in foreign lands, to chat with folks who did unusual things, to hear things you would not normally hear otherwise.

Here’s a quick sampling:

  • I spoke with a ham in England, a falconer, who flew the birds for the movie “Lady Hawke,” and who had a side business of manufacturing tiny transmitters that falconers could use to track their birds.
  • The chief groundskeeper for a major university in Ohio once explained, on ten meters, the difference between commercial and consumer lawn mower engines (the commercial units are designed to be rebuilt quickly and easily).
  • Recently, on 2 meters I heard a ham explain how he used VHF/UHF crossband repeat to provide coverage for a special event.

Similarly, I enjoy hearing the unusual on the AM, FM, or shortwave broadcast bands. For example, one evening years ago, on shortwave I heard “Radio Peace and Love” from somewhere in the Caribbean, followed (on another frequency) by “Mark from Michigan” extolling the militia movement. On another occasion, I heard a story on Radio New Zealand about a Maori weaver’s collective.

So, bottom line, I am interested in the unique, the unusual, the weird (could be all three!) . . . and I prefer stuff that is NOT syndicated across a bunch of stations. Marion’s Attic comes to mind as I write this.

So, now it’s your turn: what’s your favorite programming that is off the beaten path? Please respond, and be sure to mention the time and frequency when it might be heard.

Spread the radio love

30 thoughts on “In search of the unique, the weird, the unusual . . . a reader participation post

  1. Chuck Dube

    A few fun notes- as a teen I had a Realistic DX 160 with 75′ of wire in the attic. One afternoon in 1980 I was tuning for SSB stations around 14.5 MHz and heard what I assumed were military comms. I heard an aircraft that was flying the former American hostages Iran Hostage Crisis, that they were on their way to Algiers, and would meet with family member later upon arrival in Germany IIRC. Another fond memory was listening to the Space Shuttle missions (later using a Sony ICF2010) via retransmissions on amateur bands from Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. One mission in summer 1991 was almost scrubbed due to a problem with a switch which eventually they found a workaround. It was exciting listening. The tragic loss of the Columbia was heard as ground control called out for hours though it was already apparent what had occurred. Then there were the ship to shore calls on the AT&T High Seas service. One would only hear one side, but there were some heated phone calls made once in a while!

  2. adi

    Here is my story, it was the early 80’s when I heard on 20m a ZL call “CQ for 4x” I replied and the OM told me that a tragedy struck in the family and his son traveling in Israel, as far as their last contact, but he doesn’t know his where about. We set to meet again a week later. All I got is the guy name, I contact a ham who was a policeman and he assist me in spreading this in police stations in Israel. I went to few known Youth hostels to ask and to place notes on their boards. Long story short… the guy was found, I invite him to stay with us and we made it to the scheduled QSO. Then he heard that his mother was killed in a car accident and his father plead him return home. (The story made to the local paper…)
    Few years later, my parents went on a trip to ZL and contact him in Auckland. He was very happy to meet them again and he gave my mother two beautiful Maori dolls for her collection.

    1. Jock Elliott


      All I can say is “Wow!”

      Thank you for sharing that . . . and it proves, once again, the value of ham radio.

      Thanks again.

      Cheers, Jock

  3. John Seibels

    One night about 50 years ago I was listening to the maritime emergency frequency of 2182 Khz. when I heard a US Coast guard aircraft from New Orleans responding to a distress call from a boat somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. The boat was taking on water and the CG aircraft was circling above and attempting to drop an emergency gasoline powered pump by parachute. Over the course of about 90 minutes the plane made three drops about 30 minutes apart while I sat on the edge of my seat listening. The first two drops were unsuccessful because the pumps landed too far away from the boat. Before the third drop I could hear the pilot say it was the last pump they had and he was going to make a very low pass over the boat and hoped it would be successful. A very long time passed before I heard anything else, maybe 45 more minutes, but then I heard the boat’s crew report that the pump had been recovered and brought on board and was doing its job. In fact, I could hear it running in the background.
    I never heard anything more about this but I think that I shed a few tears of joy before going to bed around 2 a.m.

  4. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    Many years ago, as a fresh faced, newly minted General Class licensee, I called CQ on 40 meters sideband. I was all of about 14 years old at the time. And the guy who answered was flying over the Atlantic ocean in a KC-135. I hardly knew what to make of it. Clearly he had one of the very best antenna sites for 40 meters that you could get. A small pile up ensued after we exchanged pleasantries.

  5. Rob W4ZNG

    About five years ago I happened on a PSK-31 QSO with Dennis K1YPP, the judge of this blog’s Virtual Radio Challenge III. He’s quite the hiker, and we had an interesting chat about my then-new QRP backpacking radio I was using that evening.

  6. Zack S N8FNR

    Most nights when I lay down to sleep I tune my CCradio 3 to 520 khz as I like to fall asleep to atmospheric static. I then put the autoshutoff on 15 minutes. When the weather warms we start getting lighting static too. If there is a lot of lightnig static like in the summer I it tune to 1710 as the the noise can get overwhelming on 520. During a hurricane the noise can be quite something. I live in Michigan BTW.

    You did ask for the weird!

    1. Jock Elliott


      You’re right; that qualifies as weird.

      So, if I have this right, you’re basically listening to the White Noise Blues Band to help you drift off to sleep.

      Cheers, Jock

  7. Mort

    An SWL from the 1960s into the 1990s we recall all of the cold war activity as it went down. Daily, wildly conflicting Vietnam war body counts reported by Radio Peking and Walter Cronkite. Introduction to cultures around the globe, ignored by U.S. media. For instance, did you know that not every culture goes off the rails for Christmas? We are among the crowd who appreciate listening as opposed to contesting.

    We can’t blame you for possibly being unaware, since they have only five stations, but did you know that there is an entirely listener sponsored radio network on the air in the U.S.? It began in 1949 and is the progenitor of the “listener sponsored” model, decades before NPR and they still accept Zero corporate funding. Entirely listener sponsored.

    My local station is KPFK in Los Angeles. Grandfathered in with the most powerful FM transmitter west of the Mississippi. The Pacific Network also has stations in Berkley California KPFA, WBAI in NYC, WPFW in DC and KPFT in Houston Texas.

    We can’t speak for the others but on KPFK all programs run at least 30 minutes, most run for an hour or more. None of the 90 second sound bytes as on NPR or commercial radio. Long form programming varies widely, if you don’t like what you hear listen back later. Obviously this is commercial free radio but there are, from time to time, fund drives. Entirely listener supported.

    1. Jock Elliott


      Wow, that sounds great!

      I’m about 145 miles north of NYC, but I will see what I can hear.

      Thanks for the tip.

      Cheers, Jock

  8. KenL

    “Recently, on 2 meters I heard a ham explain how he used VHF/UHF crossband repeat to provide coverage for a special event.” What a coincidence, I heard that discussion on my way home from work.

    1. Jock Elliott


      Interesting. The ham in my case needed to reach a repeater with a handi-talkie from inside an office building . . . so he turned his truck in the parking lot into a crossband repeater!

      Cheers, Jock


    I talked to a ham back around 1980 who was driving around in circles. He was a test driver for new Fords, somewhere in Arizona on a test track and the ham radio helped him to pass the time.
    I heard a conversation back in 1978. A ham in Guyana asked for a phone patch from a California ham. When the California ham realized that the other ham was conducting a money transfer over ham radio, he cut off the phone call telling the other ham that he should know better. The Guyana ham pleaded saying that there were no phones where he was in the jungle. He said that it was important that he just needed to transfer money out of his account. The next day we all heard about Guyana and the Jonestown massacre!

    1. Jock Elliott


      Whoa! That Guyana story is chilling!

      That certainly ticks all the boxes on this post’s title: unique, weird, unusual.

      Cheers, Jock

  10. Peter L

    > I’m with you 100%, Jock. My buddy, David Goren, refers to this as “content DXing.”

    Interesting term. I am, basically, the opposite. I want to *hear* a MW signal from, say, Kiribati, but I am unlikely to be interested in what they are talking about. A news report might be an exception, particularly if something is “going on” in that locale, but beyond that, it’s ID, Log, Tune. This is probably why I enjoy FT8 on the amateur bands. And why I chase NDBs below ~500 kHz – the opposite of content DXing.

    But what *I* like and what *you* like are independent variables – as long as we’re having fun — and there is lots of fun to be had in the radio hobby, whether or not you transmit — then it’s ALL GOOD! 😀


    1. Jock Elliott


      “But what *I* like and what *you* like are independent variables – as long as we’re having fun — and there is lots of fun to be had in the radio hobby, whether or not you transmit — then it’s ALL GOOD!”

      I agree!

      Cheers, Jock

  11. Frank

    I totally agree! It doesn’t matter what mode, either. Once I was on CW and had just established a contact on 20 meters. I started rattling along and the ham on the other end got so mad that I didn’t immediately sign with him that he simply said “DE” and his call and never came back!
    Today, it’s all about the numbers, where yesterday it was all about learning about whom you were talking with. I guess with the Internet and the fact that knowledge is ubiquitous, hams don’t “need” to learn something about the one they’re talking to.
    Shame. That’s what it’s about!

    1. Jock Elliott


      I agree.

      I have nothing against contesters or folk who operate FT8 and the like, but I am not interested in the quick contact.

      It turns out that everybody has a story and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s an interesting tale.

      Cheers, Jock

  12. Dean Bonanno

    Here are three suggestions:
    1) “Your UFO Show” – Not about UFO’s. A northern Arizona retiree going through stream on consciousness about events, local happenings, gas price reports, and a female giving a daily recipe. Instrumental music played in background while he talks, pauses, and contemplates. WRMI 5950 0130-0200 utc Tuesday-Saturday.

    2) Voice of the Review of the Week- Host John gives opening opinion, status of his life report, then plays great music that he picks or are requests. Check WRMI schedule, on several different times, days, and frequencies per week.

    3) BBC World Service “Witness History” – I generally catch this overnight on an FM Public broadcasting affiliate. On several times a week on World Service (Check Schedule) but on US FM carriers at 0850 utc Mondays. Ten minute segment features a first person account of living through a historic event in roughly the past 75 years, today’s tale was of the 1995 Quebec separation vote.

    Great idea for a topic. I hope to learn about fascinating broadcasts that I am not acquainted.

  13. Fred Moe

    This is DJ Frederick from Imaginary Stations. We create something different musically for the airwaves every Sunday 2300 UTC on 9395 kHz.

  14. Thomas

    I’m with you 100%, Jock. My buddy, David Goren, refers to this as “content DXing.”

    I remember for about one week around Christmas in 2009, there was a solid and stable opening to Honduras on 20 meters. Each day, I ran into the same ham and we had a short rag chew. Reception was absolutely superb.

    Each time we has a QSO, I would hear a rooster crow as he was talking or hitting the PTT. He jokingly said that the rooster seemed to respond to RF energy. Being a guy who has raised chickens, I loved this.

    I remember speaking to him the day after Christmas and I noted that I heard no crowing in the background. He said, “Yeah, that’s because he turned into our Christmas chicken.”


    1. Jock Elliott

      Wow, Thomas, I love that term: “content DXing.”

      That’s exactly it.

      Years ago, when I first got started with shortwave, a hardcore DXer visited, and he was tuning around on my rig, brought up a very scratchy station broadcasting in Spanish. “That’s Peru,” he announced. It was at that moment that I realized I would never be a hardcore DXer.

      But give exotic content that I can understand (however dimly), and I will strain to hear it through the noise.

      Cheers, Jock


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