Sunday, November 4, 2012

Numbers Station Redux

Ever since I learned about them, I have been fascinated by numbers stations.  My first exposure to one was on my favourite show of all time, LOST, where a numbers station was programmed 16 years earlier to air with a french plea for help.

I mostly forgot about them until the first LOST alternative reality game where there was a kind of numbers station set up as the next clue to unlock the next part of the game.  Creepy as all get out.  To solve it, you actually had to figure out how to reverse the video/audio to hear ciphertext being read (see the reversed version here). But it was then that I really started looking at where this idea came from and whether numbers stations are still airing (they are).

I even went so far as to get a short wave radio in order to hear them.  Creeped me out so bad, I didn't sleep for two nights, haven't listened on my own again since.

Anyways, after letterboxing for a while, I thought that a numbers-station-esque clue might be kind of cool, so I set about trying to figure out how to make a fake recording of a numbers station.

GarageBand and my first Numbers Station clue.
In the end, I used Rock Band which is preinstalled in my Macbook to take a number of recordings of static, a copy of me playing Yankee Doodle, as well as me reading off a phonetic alphabet set of clues.  I decided to use a melody intro and conclusion to be more like the well-known Lincolnshire Poacher numbers station, but I didn't have access to a child to read off the cipher, so I just read it myself while putting on a voice.

Then, mixed the sound levels a bit, save and export, send to Jackbear, and voila my first audio clue.


But then comes the waiting.  The worst part of a new letterbox.  Will anyone ever find it? Is the clue too hard? Can people even hear the recording properly? Should I make it easier? Is the clue too creepy to listen to? Should I just leave it?

After two weeks, there was a first finder, eight months after that, another finder. None since.

Then it occurred to me that I could easily just make another one and put it somewhere else for an entirely different group of boxers to potentially find. There are plenty of different numbers stations, after all.  A series of boxes perhaps.  Really, who's stopping me? Only me.  And since I had a lovely vacation planned for the near future, I set the gears in motion.

Actually, the location was perfect - and I even named this second box after the actual nearby numbers station.  You can hear some of the real station in the video below.  Stamp was easy, very similar to the original Numbers Station stamp, but unique.  Also, location, check. Planted, check. Then came the clue.  Second time around, easy peasy.

Jackbear was kind enough to host the last Numbers Station clue on the Letterpod, and agreed to host again...

And so, for your listening enjoyment: Numbers Station: Atención. My original box: Numbers Station.

I enjoyed doing it again, so I'll probably do another if I end up with a good location for one...

Happy trails!

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