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The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claims To Run (bbc.com) 127

Zaria Gorvett, writing for BBC: In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War. It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, "MDZhB", that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it'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. It's so enigmatic, it's as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as "the Buzzer." It joins two similar mystery stations, "the Pip" and the "Squeaky Wheel." As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claims To Run

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  • Careful, you'll end up with robot legs on an alien ship.

  • Follow the money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:27PM (#54993171)

    It doesn't run for free. It has power lines that someone pays the bills for the power usage. No doubt Russia has an FCC equivalent that all radio broadcasters must be licensed with. If it isn't officially licensed, then the government is allowing it, meaning the government is ultimately running it.

    • This post assumes a level of competence and accountability than has literally never existed in Russian history.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Surprisingly enough, however, it almost certainly reaches the right conclusion. Look up numbers stations [wikipedia.org]. Probably the thing you are forgetting is that the Soviet military (with a reasonably high proportion of Russian officers) showed very high levels of competence at all sorts of times. Mixed with the kinds of disasters that probably no other military in the world could achieve.

    • Re:Follow the money (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:59PM (#54993363)

      The most obvious explanation is it is part of a military strategy to facilitate an insurgency should Russia be invaded.

      Basilcy the station broadcasts nonsense on regular intervals so that at any time in the future it can be used by remnants of the Russian military to broadcast coded information without giving away the fact that they started communicating. It also broadcasts a solid tone and heartbeat so they can reduce the likelihood of somone else using the channel and so they can tell if the station is destroyed or deactivated without waiting for the next broadcast. It is also possible but IMO less likely that it is in active use for espionage.

      It probably isn't a nuclear deadman switch as those would have been shut down as part of post soviet disarmament. It might have been a decoy deadman switch that no one has the guts to turn off because they can't find the documentation saying where the missiles it controls are and are (because they don't exist) but no one is entirely certain the documents weren't just lost.

      It also probably isn't just a random troll as it's continued operation implies that someone with some kind of pull set it up not just a random citizen (they had to make arrangements with the power company at the very least, and likely ongoing matinance given it's age)

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        The Soviet (and later Russian) nuclear dead-man mechanism is reasonably well know to the public by now (well such things are hard to verify of course). It includes a lot of sensors designed to detect nuclear detonations on Russian ground, specialized hardened communications lines and hardened bunker(s) that is always active. If sensors detect detonations _and_ the normal chain of command can't be reached the personnel at the bunker(s) is given authority to decide if a nuclear attack have occurred and if ret

    • Plenty of unlicensed bands especially for worldwide broadcasting. The NSA and every other government agency in the world have number stations going well back to the Second World War. And even I can find abandoned industrial parks and even residential areas where the power is still on, energy companies can't just be bothered to turn off certain things or engineer a way to disconnect an area of the power grid without affecting surrounding areas and dependencies.

  • No Real Mystery (Score:5, Informative)

    by Myrdos ( 5031049 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:27PM (#54993173)

    As I understand, it's almost certainly used to send coded messages to Russian agents in case of emergency. The Russians are probably broadcasting a constant tone to reserve the frequency, so other people don't start using it. They say as much in the article.

    • Re:No Real Mystery (Score:5, Interesting)

      by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:31PM (#54993205)
      Maybe it's a component of Dead Hand [wikipedia.org].
      • That's the most common, most plausible, and also most terrifying theory.

        Because if for some reason it stops...

        • by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:41PM (#54993279) Journal

          Welcome, to the scary door.

          • You are entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location. The kind of place where there might be a monster, or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples; it could also be something much better. Prepare to enter: The Scary Door.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              Oh and watch out for the grue.

        • Follow the youtube link in the BBC article -- it has broken down in the past. Given that we're still here it probably isn't part of Dead Hand.

      • Re:No Real Mystery (Score:4, Informative)

        by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:49PM (#54993311)

        One of the things that British submarines were supposed to do to know if the country was nuked in a first strike was to listen to the BBC broadcast. If there was no broadcast then they were supposed to assume that the country was nuked and to do a retaliatory strike on pre-programmed targets over the Soviet Union.

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        As anyone who's watched Dr. Strangelove knows, the DH only works if the other side knows about it.

        So, either the Ruskies have told the Americans (who thus know, and are keeping quiet), or the Ruskies are -- as in the movie -- doing it horribly, horribly wrong.

      • Absolutely theoretically - this frequency might be, as many others. And buzzer just may work to make sure frequency is not used by anyone else.
        But transmitter definitely not, because it will be extremely stupid to run such component continuously, it will be destroyed on first strike. And if it activates dead hand on destruction, then some terrorists might destroy it as well, and trigger noke war.
        So, most likely - no. One more myth.
    • Is this it?

      http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/?tune=4625 [utwente.nl]

      If so, then when the summary describes it as a "dull, monotonous tone", it isn't kidding!

      • You can also try using the

        http://SDR.hu [sdr.hu]

        website which hosts links to about 150 (as I write this) individually owned receivers all over the world. Can be better reception from different locations.

    • I think with a little bit of ingenuity you could actually hijack that frequency especially since it transmits a constant tone. A competing signal could, I think, be used to modulate it, piggybacking other information on it.
    • "Almost certainly" without even basic proof, just picked from nose.
      Especially knowing, that in our modern age much more decent methods of communications exist.
      So agent have to compromise himself buying receiver capable to tune 4625Khz (thats not easy to find), tune to this frequency and listen each day, raising even more suspicions.
      While even at good old times they was reading newspapers or listening to local radio for steganographic-like messages, which looks much more innocent.
  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:28PM (#54993175) Journal

    ...when everything else fails.

    Hidden in plain sight.

  • What? You never know what or who may be relying on those occasional contrasting tones and words.

  • UVB-76 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jack Malmostoso ( 899729 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:35PM (#54993241)

    In case you're wondering, this article is about the very famous UVB-76 station.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:36PM (#54993249) Homepage
    When I used to visit my parents in Sacramento in the late 1990's, a country radio station played 1940's and 1950's country music between midnight and 5AM. Guitar strumming and praising God. Very interesting.
  • by NuclearCat ( 899738 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @03:37PM (#54993257) Journal
    One more nonsense, i guess just to fuel current trend about "those strange russians". This is typical (post-)apocalypse radio, that will coordinate militaries and probably civilians in case of extraordinary disasters. Note: most probably non-war related, because sites of transmitters are known, and easy to destroy.
    AM receivers for such frequency usually very robust, they are installed in many cities in military enlistment office(voenkomat) and easy to make.
    Buzzing and etc is just making sure noone else occupy frequency, sometimes(rarely) it is used for other communications, but nothing extraordinary.
    P.S. Old transmitter side abandoned in 2010, there is several new, at least 3.
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      The tone also helps people make sure they have their tuners setup properly when they're waiting for their code word. It's like a dialtone.
  • Audio online (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCC8Xb7K0c8

  • This is not rock and roll. This is a test! Time to rustproof your tractor and your trusty dinghy!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Zaria Gorvett, writing for BBC:
    In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War. It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, "MDZhB", that no-one has ever claimed to run.

    >middle of Russian swampland
    "At least two transmitters exist for MDZhB. One is confirmed to be at 6018’40.1N 3016’40.5E [google.com] where it sends radio relay and phone lines directly from Moscow via St. Petersburg’s command hub on Palace Square.
    The other site is claimed to be located at Naro-Fominsk, Moscow district at 5525’35N 3642’33E [google.com] where the 69th communications center is located, which serves as the main staff headquarter

  • by Provocateur ( 133110 ) <shedied@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Friday August 11, 2017 @05:30PM (#54994327) Homepage

    In Soviet Russia, radio buzzes you

  • I used to live in Arlington, Washington. At times, I could hear Russian language broadcasts bleeding into some cheap audio gear I had. I imagine that they could tune up from their VLF frequencies and pump out quite a bit of power (around a megawatt) to talk to our people stationed overseas. Smart to broadcast in Russian. That way the neighbors don't inadvertently hear our agents in Moscow listening to what in the 1980's would have probably been suspect material in English.

    • Well, no, you can't just flip a dial and run a million watts at ten times the frequency. It's a little more complicated than that (I did some design on the antenna tuner for a proposal once). But the Navy has a bunch of other stations with the proper gear to transmit high power at short wave frequencies.

  • If the radio signal stops, then something is seriously wrong. It doesn't take a lot of power and it broadcasts far enough to alert anyone. And because it doesn't broadcast anything specific, it remains up to interpretation with no legal recourse.
  • That's some really boring shit to listen to.
  • A clear tone does not carry much information, but buzzes and squeals have a lot of sideband components and could be carrying a lot of data.

    If you have equipment, try manually tuning in a digital signal sometime. It's all buzzes and squeals... ;-)

    Not to mention old Faximile, Teletype and other tone-keyed signals. You could tell with an HP packet analyzer, or maybe just a good Trigger-sweep Oscilloscope.

  • But nobody wonders about the bears.

We have a equal opportunity Calculus class -- it's fully integrated.