ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Mysterious Numbers Stations

Updated on August 29, 2011

Since the end of the Second World War and the start of the "Cold War" , there have been a proliferation of so called "Numbers Stations" transmitting on unlicensed short wave radio frequencies throughout the world. They have become a subject of fascination, particularly by short wave enthusiasts, as officially they do not exist and no government or organisation have openly acknowledged their own involvement in these transmissions.

So what are Numbers Stations?

Number(s) Stations are short wave radio transmissions, often on different frequencies, that usually conform to a strict time schedule, provide a recognisable "signature" tune followed usually by a synthesised human voice (be it a male, female or even a child's) issuing a seemingly random sequence of numbers. although there are variations on this theme.

Over the years, the various broadcasts have had names attached to them by enthusiasts, usually based on their signature tune or distinctive characteristic, for example, one of the more famous broadcasts was the (now defunct) "Lincolnshire Poacher" due, unsurprisingly, to the opening/test transmission of the English Folk Tune of the same name, you can here an recording of this broadcast here;

Other well known transmissions are "Cherry Ripe" (the signature is based on the nursery rhyme/english folk tune) - See Below;

The somewhat disturbing "Swedish Rhapsody" (don't listen/watch this one if you are of a nervious disposition!) plus there are "Spanish Lady" , "The Buzzer" and "Atencion", to name but a few.

What purpose do these "Number Stations" serve?

Officially, nobody specifically knows, however it is the widely supported theory that these transmissions are made by government "intelligence" organisations to operators in the field (i,e Spies) and it is suspected that the receiver is able to decode the transmissions using a "one time encryption pad", a common technique used by Intelligence services for over a century, which if used correctly, is impossible to decipher. Tenacious enthusiasts have been able to trace the transmissions to various government owned transmitters (for example, it is now well documented that the now defunct "Lincolnshire Poacher" was traced to a transmitter in Cyprus and it is widely assumed that the broadcast was being transmitted by the British Secret intelligence service, whilst other transmissions have been traced to Russian transmitters). In 1998, in what was perhaps one of the first high profile public acknowledgements of their existence, US Federal prosecutors accused Cuba of transmitting the "Atencion" numbers broadcast to Cuban Agents in the US. This was detailed in the "Cuban Five" Espionage trial when the FBI had confirmed they had been able to translate the codes after "obtaining" the encryption key from one of the defendants, without their knowledge.

It is perhaps the ease of accessibility that opens the gateway to the secret world of espionage, that makes Numbers Stations so fascinating for many people and for some short wave radio enthusiasts it has become an obsession.

This article barely hints at this fascinating subject and there are some excellent websites that explore this subject in great detail.

For further reading, I would highly recommend the Conet Project at This is a project set-up by a UK record producer which resulted in a large archive of Numbers Transmissions be recorded and even resulted in 4-disk CD being produced. The site has a large number of example recordings to listen to.

The excellent BBC Radio documentary "Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher" from 2006 also provides a well documented overview, you can listen to a copy on YouTube ;

YouTube also has a large database of recordings and if you are previously unaware of this subject, type "number stations" into google and it will open up a whole new world to you.

If this all seems vaguely familiar and a few years ago, you watched the TV series "Lost", the underground bunker was supposedly a "Numbers Station" and from where, Hurley's (un)lucky lottery numbers were broadcast .

Intriguingly, in a time when governments are becoming much more open about their Secret Intelligent Services activities (in recent years here in the UK, they even have open adverts in the national newspapers for jobs as "spies"!) along with ending of the cold war and the deluge of autobiographies of former "agents" from various countries, there has been a notable absence of information on the role of this particular subject, which appears to add further to the mystery.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)