HBM082: MI5 MI6 KGB CIA

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Content Note:

- Language

John Barner spent his entire childhood fiddling with his dad’s shortwave radio, picking up transmissions from all over the world. He like the way the sounds crackled, and the voices speaking foreign languages, and the eerie whine of transmissions coming in and out of static.

One night John got a phone call from one of his friends who also had a shortwave radio. “I think I just found spy stuff,” John’s friend said, “come over.”

John and his friends had found a number station, coded transmissions broadcast on unlicensed frequencies. Number stations are believed to be a form of espionage where intelligence agencies broadcast encrypted messages to field operatives. But no government has claimed responsibility for their existence.

Number stations come in many forms. Some are beeps or sustained tones. Some are repeated bars of familiar folk songs. The rest are strings of numbers and words from the phonetic alphabet.

Spectrograms of suspected number stations. 

John, like countless other shortwave enthusiasts, has been captivated by the mystery ever since discovering them as a teenager. He used to try to crack the coded messages, thinking he’d stumbled on the X-Files.

Henry Cooke at the Electromagnetic Field Festival.

Henry Cooke, a technologist and number stations enthusiast, believes that its the indecipherable code that makes number stations so alluring. He’s found internet forums dedicated to tracking number stations broadcasts and even videos of radio sleuths claiming to have found broadcast locations. Henry believes this to be a type of modern folklore; that shortwave enthusiasts trading theories about the origins and meaning behind the number stations are almost like telling ghost stories around the campfire.

Garrett Tiedemann produced this episode. Garrett also produces the podcast The White Whale. Bethany Denton edited this episode with help from Jeff Emtman and Nick White.

Number Station recordings courtesy of The Conet Project. Full archive can be found here.

Music from John Barner’s new album, Shadow Time.  

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HBM075: The Weight of Science

Anita Woodley went to the Rhine Research Center for scientific confirmation.  Since childhood, she’d dreamt the future, able to predict imminent murders in her neighborhood.  She prayed away her abilities for a period of her early adulthood, but they returned unexpectedly after the birth of her first child.  Her psychic abilities troubled her.  Going to the Rhine Center was her doctor’s suggestion.  Her doctor said she wasn’t alone, that there were others with her gift.  

The Rhine Research Center is America’s oldest parapsychology lab.  It started in 1935 as the Duke Parapsychology Lab under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine.  Dr. Rhine, a botanist with a growing fascination of psychics, turned his attention from plants and towards ESP.  He devoted the rest of his life to legitimizing its study as a science.

Duke University severed its affiliation with the Rhine Center in 1965 when Dr. Rhine reached retirement age.  The lab moved off campus and operates today as an independent non-profit.

John G Kruth, the Rhine Center’s Executive Director, breaks ESP down into five categories: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis and survival studies (persistence of self outside of the body).

While living, Dr. Rhine believed he found evidence for ESP.  Other academics were skeptical.  What’s not up for debate is that Anita Woodley and others like her feel validated to have the weight of science confirming their abilities.  

Anita was given a test similar to a Ganzfeld Experiment.  Also, she was tested for remote viewing abilities.  She says that she scored highly.  Due to the Rhine’s policy of not releasing records, we couldn’t confirm this.    

Conduct your own Ganzfeld Experiment from the comfort of your home.

Find images in the static from the comfort of your own home.

We produced this episode in conjunction with Hi-Phi Nation, a story-driven philosophy podcast hosted by Barry Lam.  This episode serves as the introduction to his series called Hackademics which looks into modern overreliance on statistical significance.  Listen to Part OneListen to Part Two.

Barry Lam is a professor of philosophy at Vassar College and a visiting fellow at Duke University’s Story Lab.

Jeff Emtman edited this episode with help from Bethany Denton.

Music: The Black Spot | | | Serocell | | | Phantom Fauna