listen

Click the image above (it will open an MP3 file in a new tab). What is this woman doing? Just reading random numbers into a microphone, it seems. Or maybe not. Actually it’s probably not a real person, but a mechanically generated voice.

It’s so boring that if you heard this on your short wave set you’d just turn right past it, right? That’s exactly what “they” want you to do!

This is a recording from what is called a “numbers station,” which is a short wave radio station that beams these strange broadcasts all over the world. They were evidently much more prevalent during the Cold War, but I think you can still pick them up. No one is 100% what they are, who’s broadcasting them or why. The leading theory is that they’re coded communications sent by governments to spies in the field. To date no government has acknowledged that this is what they’re doing, but governments (including the U.S.’s) have occasionally charged people with espionage and alleged that they have received messages from numbers stations.

The recording above is from something called the Conet Project, a 4-CD compilation of recordings from numbers stations over the years. According to the people who created it, numbers stations have been broadcasting as far back as the First World War.

Pretty fascinating stuff. You can read more about numbers stations here.