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Number Stations

Richie Freebird

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I occasionally listen to short wave broadcasts and in my time I've came across several number stations. I think I remember the first one I heard was back in the mid 90's when I had a cheap radio that had an analogue dial from 3-15 MHz and the station was in the lower part of that band when I came across an insanely strong signal of a woman apparently reading random numbers out. Since I had no idea what number stations were at the time, I just presumed it was just a test transmission. Looking back on it with a scratchy memory it was probably the CIA "Cynthia" station.


The big one in recent times was the SIS/MI6's "Lincolnshire Poacher" whom had a schedule that ran like clockwork and a voice that was, among such stations, a little quirky because the machine reading the numbers out always had the last number of each group have a human inflection added to it, though it went off air nearly four years ago. I've also came across a weak "Atencion!" station from Cuba, and the now inactive Mossad Phonetic Alphabet stations which at night in a darked room can sound very creepy. Haven't made a chance to try and tune into Swedish Rhapsody, mainly because its schedule is less regular and there's too much electrical noise at my new place.


The weird thing about listening to a number station, especially one like the Lincolnshire Poacher with a fixed amount of number groups, is that the message could contain something very trivial, or it could be giving a command for agents to carry out an assassination!

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