The Mystery of The "Backwards Music Station"

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All around us are radio waves carrying news, music, and whatever the hell you call the sound that comes out of Katy Perry's Summer's Eve-smelling yap. Hidden amongst the programming, though, are mysterious signals of unknown origin.

Consider the Backwards Music Station, aka Whalesong. It doesn't play backwards music, and it doesn't play whale songs. It's kind of like the people who name dog breeds in that way. The station, which sports the enigmatic designation XM, has been picked up on short-wave radio for decades. The sound that is an odd feedback-driven noise through which an altered voice can occasionally be heard.

The signal has been determined to be originating from two sources, one in the United States and one in England. There are several different theories as to the exact purpose of the broadcasts.


  • They are messages from Cthulhu.
  • They are some kind of extremely avant-garde art.
  • They are instructions for drug dealers.
  • They are coded messages by the government.

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Rocks Off leans to the first theory, but we understand your disbelief. The cost alone makes the second unlikely. The fact that some stations have been more or less broadcasting from easily triangulatable positions for decades rules out illegal drug-smuggling operations.

The fourth possibility is the most sensible. Esoteric transmissions have been recorded since World War I, making them some of the earliest broadcasts in radio. Many of these so-called 'numbers stations" - several of which are still active - are simply streams of numbers, read most often by a female voice.

It is believed that they represent codes to undercover spies. High-frequency signals can easily travel to any location in the world, and if enough power is behind the signal a spy with a hand-held receiver should be able to pick up the signal fairly easily.

The power needed to ensure this is one of the bits of proof that the Backwards Music Station and other odd transmissions are the work of government agencies. Other evidence that supports this theory includes unscheduled broadcast that coincide with world events, such as a four-hour broadcast during the 1991 attempt by Soviet government officials to wrest control away from President Gorbachev.

No government official has ever openly confirmed or denied a role in the Backwards Music Station.


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