• WOCR Staff

Number Stations


During the Cold War, in a hypothetical situation, if you had been listening to WOCR on your radio dial, you may have heard some weird interferences. It would typically start with some sort of data burst, music jingle, or static then start spouting off numbers and phrases in a synthesized voice or Morse code. This would have been heard if a numbers station was placed near Olivet, MI. If that was the case, we may have the potential to hear these numbers stations today. Fortunately, that’s not the case (and I say fortunately because that would mean we’d have a bit of secret intelligence traffic in the area and this college doesn’t need that).

According to BBC, a numbers station is a shortwave radio station characterized by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which are believed to be addressed to intelligence officers operating in foreign countries. These stations were primarily used during the Cold War, however the oldest known use was in World War I. Many still operate and they are one of the most unsettling things I have ever heard. I work at an old theater in Charlotte, which is a few miles away from Olivet College, and I decided to listen to numbers station clips on YouTube while I worked, just to see the variety. There’s something sinister about them for me, and I felt like I had eyes on me the rest of the night. Many numbers stations have, as I mentioned earlier, music that I would liken it to TV Tropes’ Ominous Music Box Tune effect. Something about the happy tunes of many of these numbers stations are just off-putting and unsettling due to them being happy parts of coded messages meant for undercover agents. You see this effect in horror movies or movies with dark themes, such as The Ring or Edward Scissorhands. It’s a way of building tension and suspense. When you listen to these numbers stations, think of how out of place certain elements are.

I have attached videos of my three favorite numbers stations. If you are easily scared or unsettled, I would not recommend listening to these. I am not easily scared and I get the heebie-jeebies listening to the next clips. I would highly recommend listening to them in the daylight or while you’re with someone.

The first one is named “Yosemite Sam” by numbers station enthusiasts. It first started broadcasting around Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 19th of 2004. It features a sample from Looney Tunes’ character Yosemite Sam, which is how it got its name. The phrase Sam is saying is “Varmint, I’m-a gonna blow ya to smithereens!” Here it is: - Mysterious Yosemite Sam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuEmG0Oxa2M”

The next one is called Swedish Rhapsody, and it is absolutely not as fun as Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s believed to be of German or Polish intelligence, and features the aforementioned synthesized voice, this time in the form of a little girl’s voice: - Numbers Stations – Swedish Rhapsody https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2e9RDk_Ij4

The final one is Gong Station Chimes. It is a cursed cacophony of chiming, something akin to a dial-up modem tone, and static, followed by a woman’s voice. - Gong Chimes Station https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1ZxC_zENoo


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