mWow II – The Numbers Stations

Pandora, UncleLar’s mWow I, turned out to be a way practical contribution so this week I decided to go the complete opposite. I think I can comfortable say that no one will find this week’s honoree the least bit practical.

First a little background.

What exactly is a “Numbers Station”? The answer to that supposedly lies in the intriguing world of spies. I’m not talking about the Tom Clancy, John le Carré fantasy world of spying. I’m talking, at least supposedly, real world international spies.

Numbers Stations are shortwave radio frequencies that intermittently suddenly start broadcasting people reciting seemingly random streams of numbers, words, or letters. In theory, they are coded messages that governments use to communicate with their spies in the field.

England’s Irdial-Discs record label recorded a collection of these broadcasts and released them in a four CD set called the Conet Project. The set is available for purchase at

Now before you think I’ve gone completely wacko and entered the world of conspiracy theorists, there is substantial evidence to support the theory that these stations are in fact spy based. Here’s some reputable journalists’ remarks re Numbers Stations.

The Washington Post: “The Shortwave And the Calling”
Salon: “Counting Spies”
Chris Brand: “Numbers Stations”
and, lastly, a real life spy, Thomas Wagner, mentions Numbers Stations in his tome about escaping from East Berlin.

Interesting you say (or maybe not – afterall the mundane has to come in some time) and you are even asking “Is there any way I can listen to these stations without paying the £39.99 for the CDs.

Yes, I answer, with UncleLar’s mWow II, The Conet Project – Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. Check out a couple – I’m sure you’ll find them quite mundane. 🙂

One interesting followup. Evidently, the band Wilco, is a fan of Numbers Stations. They sampled one of the stations for the album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Wilco looped a female voice, supposedly a Mossad agent, repeating the phrase “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” for a minute and a half during “Poor Places” a track on the “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album. That led to an interesting lawsuit. Irdial Records sued Wilco for copyright violations. Now I’m not exactly sure Irdial can claim ownership of an anonymous female reciting a phonetic alphabet over the public airways but the suit was settled before it ever went to court with Wilco was forking over some royalty payments to the record company.

While there’s little doubt that this mWow is mundane, I hope I’ve made it a little bit interesting. Now go “enjoy” the recordings.