An Introduction to these strange broadcasts
Anyone who tunes across the short wave bands for any time will hear "Numbers Stations". So called because the content of the transmissions consist of little more than groups of numbers being read out in a male or female voice.
Some of the voices will sound natural while others sound mechanical, abrupt or digitised. Listening to the end of the transmission will give no clues to the sender or purpose of the broadcast. The numbers will end, the voice may indicate that the transmission is over with a word or two, or perhaps a series of tones will be played or the numbers may simply stop. The carrier continues for a few seconds then disappears.
Numbers stations transmit in a variety of languages, English, German and Slavic being commonly heard in Europe, while in America there is a prominent number of Spanish stations. Numbers are usually read in groups of five, although four is also used. As well as numbers, there are stations which use letters utilising the various phonetic codes frequently used for radio communication.
As well as the voice stations, there is an even larger number of Morse stations operating and with the decrease in Morse traffic of the short wave by commercial operators these are now easier to find than they once were. Like the voice stations the Morse transmissions have their own unique habits and operating procedures.
The number stations have puzzled and intrigued short wave listeners for many years. While the transmissions may appear unscheduled and random, enthusiasts have through painstaking and methodical monitoring been able to show that many of the stations have structured and complex timetables and this work has enabled some of the transmissions from many of the stations to be correctly predicted in advance.
So what are these transmissions and where do they come from? Over the years there have been endless theories about the numbers stations from the logical to the frankly bizarre, and much speculation has been fueled by various Governments denying that such transmissions even exist. It has now however, been more or less accepted that these transmissions are coded messages from Intelligence Agencies for agents in the field.
If you would like to know more about numbers stations, a search for "numbers stations" on the Internet will provide a wealth of excellent and informative sites. Meanwhile, here are a couple of samples of numbers stations which can be heard on the short wave bands.
If you would like to contribute and share information on numbers stations, the European Numbers Information Gathering and Monitoring Association ENIGMA 2000 would be pleased to hear from you.