Zaria Gorvett, BBC.com, writes about “[t]he ghostly radio station that no one claims to run.” Gorvett tells us that the radio station, located outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, has been on the air 24/7, seven days a week, for the past 35 years. So what does it broadcast? Not your typical radio fare. Says Gorvett:
[I]t’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.”
Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.
Apparently the radio station has its fans–thousands of them–even though they don’t know what they are listening to. Gorvett writes that “[t]here’s no shortage of theories to explain what the [radio station] might be for,” including the theory that it is operating as “a ‘Dead Hand’ signal. That is, in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear attack, “the drone will stop and automatically trigger a retaliation. No questions asked, just total nuclear obliteration on both sides.”
What follows is a long discussion of other theories, along with an explanation of “numbers stations,” i.e., “radio stations that broadcast coded messages to spies all over the world.” Gorvett tells us about one famous number station that was known as the “Lincolnshire Poacher,” which was the name of the English folk tune that would play at the beginning of the hour (the first two bars repeated 12 times). After the music finished playing, it was followed by “the disembodied voice of a woman reading groups of five numbers – “1-2-0-3-6” – in a clipped, upper-class English accent.”
In the end, we wonder if the station exists just to play with our heads. Or maybe it’s partly a jobs program, partly performance art? Gorvett says that many believe it’s a different type of hybrid, with the constant drone serving to keep other people from using the frequency, but in the event of a crisis, such as Russia being invaded, the station would become a numbers station. In which case, she concludes, “let’s just hope that drone never stops.”
And for once we hope the noise does not end.