Russia’s ghost radio station

A mysterious shortwave signal is broadcasting an eerie buzz, but nobody knows why

A short, monotonous buzz being broadcast 24 hours a day is currently being emitted from a radio station at an unknown location in Russia. The mysterious sound repeats at a rate of 25 times a minute, broken only by the occasional live Russian voice transmission. Is the signal used for military communications, perhaps just a channel marker to keep the frequency busy so it is easier to use? Or is the sound the result of something more sinister? The earliest known recording has been dated to 1982, and many theories have been proposed since then. Its original call sign was UVB-76, but today the tower uses ZhUOZ. The buzz is broken by Russian words, but they o er no real clue as to the function of the radio or its origins. They are often common nouns, including ‘virus’ and ‘prison’. It sounds like a code, but the Russian military claim they have nothing to do with the mysterious signal. Perhaps the most chilling theory is that the tone might be what is known as a ‘Dead Hand’ signal, a system designed to automatically retaliate with deadly nuclear strikes in response to a nuclear attack on Russia, which would be picked up by radio wave interference. This system was first devised by the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, and some experts suggest it may still be in use today. Regardless of its origins, there must be someone behind the signal and there must be someone tuning into the live transmission who knows the real reason why the broadcast is being sent out. The question is who?

Clues from the buzzer

The only clues about the purpose of this tower come from the sound of the signal itself. We know that the buzz continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and it has done so for at least three decades. During this time the sound has altered occasionally and sometimes even paused for brief periods, but it has never fully stopped. We know that UVB-76 became more vocal after the fall of communism in Russia – which may give a hint of a political identity – and after the turn of the millennium, even more, communications were heard over the frequency. With the increase in global interest from radio enthusiasts, it has become evident the sound isn’t recorded. Instead, it is being created manually by a tonewheel and picked up by a microphone. If you listen long enough to the broadcast you can very occasionally hear muffled conversations or sounds of things moving in the background. Other notable events include approximately 24 hours of eerie silence on 5 June 2010, and in September 2010 the station was moved and began to use a new call sign – MDZhB. On 11 November 2010, a conversation involving ‘bridge operative officer on duty’ was broadcast – it’s suspected that this was accidental.

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