The most mysterious radio signal in the world


I believe Command 135 involves adding polonium to someone’s tea.


Doesn’t the US run stations like this as well. The “numbers” station. Basically they’re for covert communications. Operatives that need orders will tune in at a specific time and use their one time pad book to translate the message.

The reason they transmit all of the time is that they know other spies listen to the station, and they don’t want to make it apparent when they’re sending more messages than usual, so non-broadcast time is filled with just random data.

IMHO, these stations have been running for far too long to be an art project. They were also much too obscure, even for the insular art world.


One seven nine, four one one, seven four nine eight nine four, zero zero zero! I mean, seven.

“Command 135? Ah yes, please turn tape to side B”

Reality will recommend shortly. We apologise for any inconvenience.

I really want to set up an art project to emulate this now. Random noise, short clips from pop culture, and 13 second blips of obscure songs … Wonder if I can get funding for this somewhere?

Is this available on iheartradio? It’s probably just one of Clear Channel’s experimental formats.

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I agree with jandrese, it sounds like a numbers station.

I don’t know much about them though, except for them being mentioned in a segment on the Mark Thomas Product years ago.

Yea, these things are mysterious, but not really all that mysterious. The weirdest part is that nobody knows if a particular station in Berlin is owned by us, the Russians, or somebody else. Swan Lake proves nothing.

The other weirdest part is that anybody is still using one-time pads. Wasn’t there an internet?

If you have small amounts of data to transmit and need absolute certainty that they won’t be cracked in the next 20 or 30 years, one time pads are pretty much your only option. Anything else might fall to some weird mathematical trick or advances in quantum computing or something. A one-time pad made from a truly random data source is the only thing that’s guaranteed uncrackable.

Do you have to use shortwave radio to listen to these? Is there anything like this on the Internet? It might be fun to listen to as background noise at work. At any rate, I’m sure its worlds better than most of commercial radio stations available.

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Anything else might fall to some weird mathematical trick.

We will change this world, one weird trick at a time.

Here are some recordings

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I don’t know if i’d say Swan Lake proves ‘nothing’. Of course, it could be meaningless, however it was selected to play non-stop on all TV stations during the August Putsch :wink:

There’s a stream here:

You should also check out the Conet Project, which is a series of recordings of other numbers stations:

Well it certainly isn’t proof of Russianness; I understand Swan Lake is even available in the US, buried somewhere behind the pop aisle and the discount bin.

I hope that it’s somehow a performance, an art-hoax that’s gone on for decades.

I’d hope the opposite. Surely “oh, it’s just someone’s performance piece” is the least excitng explanation for… anything.

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The numbers are most likely codes that correspond with a code table pad agents in the field have and they’re probably required to tune in at specific times to retrieve instructions. The tables are likely one time use and randomly generated so cracking a code would be very unlikely without access to a copy of the original code material. The reason these are still broadcast and not network distributed is because one can still listen to a radio broadcast over the air without being traced–something that’s not really possible on the Internet. The random music and stuff is probably there just to show that the signal is open and broadcasting.

They’re qualitatively different. UVB-76 plays a periodic buzz all the time and stops when there’s something to transmit. Numbers stations only broadcast at specific times, as you say.

Here’s a bunch of streamed numbers stations, interrupted occasionally by a half hour satire about the US government privatising the UK’s spying agencies.