Numbers Stations are shortwave radio stations which broadcast strings of numbers. Nobody knows who runs them, why they do it, what the numbers mean, or even, mostly, where the stations transmit from. These are exceptionally freaky - are they spies? Madmen? Aliens? Our own government? All of the above? Numbers Stations are one of those things that just don't fit into my mental model of the world.
Numbers Stations were brought to my attention by a recent posting by Simon Mason on uk.rec.cycling (of all places); Simon took part in "Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher", a programme on Radio 4, which is worth a listen (it's got Bruce Schneier and everything!), even in Simon Fanshawe is an arse.
And now some links.
Numbers Stations were apparently sampled in the soundtrack to 'Vanilla Sky'.
The R4 programme mentions the Radio Security Service; something else i didn't know about. This was an organisation within GCHQ operating during the second world war, which recruited radio hams to monitor the shortwave bands for enemy signals, for example from spies in Britain signalling home. These hams were volunteers, working part-time from home; a sort of geek Home Guard. That's pretty cool.