Category Archives: Numbers Stations

MDZhB featured in BBC Future’s “Best of 2017”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Golan Klinger, who shares the following article which was elected “Best Of 2017″ on the BBC Future website:

“MDZhB” has been broadcasting since 1982. No one knows why.

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article on the BBC Future website.

Video: Watch students at KSDB perform a numbers station radio drama

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, James Copeland, who writes:

I have enjoyed reading the SWLing Post for years and appreciate all your hard work. I wanted to share something with you that might interest the readers.

A few months ago, I was inspired to start writing a radio drama about a number station after reading an article on the SWLing Post about someone working at a number station.

I am the program director for the student-run radio station at Kansas State University, and we performed this drama live last Tuesday on our radio station.

The plot follows a worker at the station who has to decide what to do when she learns that the numbers she reads end up killing people and could start a nuclear war.

There are also a lot of short recordings from various active and inactive stations, including one of my recordings of HM01 at the end of the show.

We at KSDB love producing radio dramas and make them just like the golden days of radio with as many live sound effects as possible.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks for sharing this, James! I love it!

I listened to the audio as I hiked this afternoon–I actually prefer “theatre of the mind” without visuals with the first listen. Now I’ll watch the studio video and enjoy the reading, sound effects and direction!

James, you’re welcome to share your radio dramas here anytime! Bravo for putting together such a cool little radio drama. I love the off air numbers station recordings and clips!

Post readers: If you’d like to learn more about KSDB-FM or to stream their programming, check out their website and TuneIn stream.

Shadows of the State: a photobook about numbers stations

RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus (Source: Lewis Bush)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Jordan, who shares a link to this article in Wired magazine:

IF YOU TUNED into just the right shortwave radio frequency in the 1970s, you might hear a creepy computerized voice reading out a string of numbers. It was the Cold War, and the coded messages were rumored to be secret intelligence broadcasts from “number stations” located around the globe.

Photographer Lewis Bush is obsessed with these stations to “an almost irrational degree” and hunts them down in Shadows of the State, featuring 30 composite satellite images of alleged number stations from Germany to Australia. The series took two years and endless research. “It’s a difficult project to quantify in terms of man hours wasted on it,” he says.[…]

When Bush finds what he believes to be a station, he takes up to 50 close-up screen grabs and stitches them together in Photoshop to create one high-resolution image. He also listens to frequencies where broadcasts supposedly still happen on radio listening software, taking screen shots of the software’s spectrograms, graphics depicting the sound spectrum.

The final images try to visualize something largely intangible. No government has ever confirmed the existence of numbers stations, and Bush himself isn’t completely certain of their locations. No one can be sure what these scratchy codes really are. And that’s precisely what makes them so intriguing.

Shadows of the State will be published by Brave Books in December 2017. Bush is also raising funds on Kickstarterfor an interactive companion website.

Read the full article at Wired.

The Ghostly Radio Station that No One Claims to Run

There is a great article by Zaria Gorvett in the BBC Future online magazine concerning several transmitting stations which have baffled folks for decades.

Here is a brief introduction:

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

The whole article is a highly enjoyable read – check it out! 73, Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Operator shares what it’s like to work for a numbers station

(Source: Numbers Stations)

Working at a numbers station 6 decades ago was not much different than working at an AM broadcast station. Located on a WWII old Naval Base it consisted of one building surrounded by a double chain link fence inside which older local men drove pickup trucks around for security. Inside the building there was a workshop, two 20,000-watt AM shortwave transmitters, crystal controlled oscillators, and a soundproof booth with a record player and records of well-known music in a language and culture common to the target. Outside the compound was an antenna farm with a log periodic antenna, a rhombic, and a couple dipoles.

I lived, with my wife, about a mile from the site and would drive through a back road to the location, be admitted by security through each gate, and park, and relieve the other op who, after briefing me, was free to go home. My job was to follow a schedule, select the proper frequency at the proper time, tune the transmitter, hit the plate voltage, play the record the schedule told me to, and then recite the messages arranged in five-number groups of numbers in the appropriate language into the microphone in the recording booth. This was all done live and, as far as I know, no recordings were kept.

[…]Other than that it’s just a job. The messages were all prepared somewhere else by someone else and delivered to us along with the schedule. We all had high level clearances but we never knew who we sent these to or what the real ones might have said. This sort of compartmentalization was (and is) common.

I often thought of those for whom the messages were intended… how they felt, where they were… whether they were in an attic or shed or stranded somewhere copying down a message that was a threat to their very lives on a radio that was a death penalty to simply be in possession of. I was very careful to do it right.[…]

Read the full article at Numbers-Stations.com.