The CONET Project: spy station recordings reissued


In 1999, I wrote an article for the bOING bOING Digital site about the CONET Project, a multi-CD collection of mysterious "numbers stations" heard on shortwave. For decades, intelligence organizations have reportedly broadcast one-way messages to their agents in the field via shortwave, and the transmissions happen to sound weirder than any Stockhausen score or minimalist electronica you've ever heard -- a child's voice, or the obviously synthesized intonation on what's known as the "Lincolnshire Poacher" station, named for the folk song accompanying the numbers. Wilco's album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is named for, and samples, a numbers station. The CONET Project has been available for several years for free download from various places online, including Now, the original compilers, Irdial-Discs MMX, have re-released The Conet Project in a special CD edition that includes the four original discs plus a fifth CD containing recordings of very strange "noise stations."

"The CONET Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations / 1111"

"Spy vs. Spy: The Soundtrack" (bOING bOING Digital)


  1. I’ve read about this in a book from the “Big Secrets” series.  It’s just so strange to try and figure out what the purpose of these broadcasts are…and creepy.

  2. And these numbers “stations” have also morphed into numbers tweets, as recounted at this very blog:

    1. above-all, you may well, be certain of one thing, it’s got nothing, repeat, nothing, to do with, the Boing-boing, comments, (or, punctuation), or by way of the strict amount of information, one would be hidden, there;

    1. If you’re being serious… that sounds like a great and creative way to discourage workplace lingerers.  Kind of like businesses that use high frequencies to drive away teens.

      I have the CONET project CDs too, but only find myself playing them once yearly, if that. I find that exposure for more than an hour is a fast track to nightmares.

      1.  24-carat truth, Quiet. I’m the help desk manager for $COMPANY, and often have people dropping by at all hours to “Ask you a question about my personal computer, real quick I promise, is that ok?” I had one nurse stick it out for 3 minutes before beating a hasty retreat. “What the hell are you listening to anyway?”

        Heh heh.

      2. I have the CD set, too. There are very few things in this world that creep me out to the point of visceral reaction. CONET is one of them.

  3. Back in the early 80s when I began studying all things Soviet a friend and I used to huddle over his dad’s shortwave and giggle with glee any time we managed to tune in some Russian gibberish. I eventually earned a degree in Slavic Languages and turned down a career with you-know-who. Oh, and there’s a Porcupine Tree song that ends with some numbers station stuff that’s really good. I forget what the song’s called.

    1. It’s “Even Less,” from the album Stupid Dream.
      We also hear some number station stuff in the new TV series The Americans, though I imagine those bits are newly created and not authentic recordings.

  4. In the ’80s, on the night the US was invading Panama to go after Noriega, a numbers station I was listening to was calling “Ocho dos! Ocho dos!” followed by a lengthy set of five-digit numbers in Spanish. My roommate turned to me and asked which military unit had been deployed for the mission. I paled and said “The 82nd Airborne, All-Americans”. He exploded in laughter and screamed “We solved it!”. Well, not fully solved but strange nonetheless. 

  5. Ace. Cheers. Just pledged £8 (sterling). Look forward to the download ‘package’.

    Early 80s, as a kid, a bedroom looking out over Dublin bay, I was given a very modest Panasonic RF-1105DLBE Radio as a birthday present. The SW was packed at the time with trawler noise, along with the dreaded Thunk Thunk Thunk Thunk and ‘Russian Woodpecker’.

    Damn I was proud of that radio. SW lullabies..

  6. Didn’t even need to read it. just saw the picture and nerded the fuck out. <3 Thank you for posting this. :) Big fan of this intriguing and mysterious part of our history. Possibly one of the creepiest things that actually happens in this modern age.

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