Page 8 - The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper - April 2024
P. 8

8             Ghostly Radio Station That No One Runs

         The Ghostly Radio Station

           That No One Claims to


        “MDZhB” has been broadcasting

          since 1982. No one knows why.

        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-
                                                         the Soviet Union, rather than shutting in a neighbouring county, shortwave
        and-a-half       decades,       it’s     been
        broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone.            down, the station’s activity sharply stations like the BBC World Service are
                                                         increased.                                       aimed at audiences from Senegal to
        Every few seconds it’s joined by a
                                                                                                          Singapore. Both stations are broadcast
        second sound, like some ghostly ship
                                                         There’s no shortage of theories to explain from the same building.
        sounding its foghorn.  Then the drone
                                                         what the Buzzer might be for – ranging
                                                         from keeping in touch with submarines to It’s all thanks to “skywaves”. Higher
                                                         communing with aliens. One such idea is frequency radio signals can only travel in
        Once or twice a week, a man or woman
                                                         that it’s acting as a “Dead Hand” signal; a straight line, eventually becoming lost
        will read out some words in Russian,
                                                         in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear as they bump into obstacles or reach the
        such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”.
                                                         attack, the drone will stop and horizon. But shortwave frequencies have
        And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the
        world can listen in, simply by tuning a          automatically trigger a retaliation. No an extra trick – they can bounce off
                                                         questions asked, just total nuclear charged                   particles    in    the     upper
        radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.
                                                         obliteration on both sides.                      atmosphere, allowing them to zig-zag
                                                                                                          between the earth and the sky and travel
        It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed
                                                         This may not be as wacky as it sounds. thousands, rather than tens, of miles.
        with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today
        the station has an online following              The system was originally pioneered in
                                                         the Soviet era, where it took the form of a Which brings us back to the Dead Hand
        numbering in the tens of thousands, who
                                                         computer system which scanned the theory. As you might expect, shortwave
        know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It
                                                         airwaves for signs of life or nuclear signals have proved extremely popular.
        joins two similar mystery stations, “the
                                                         fallout. Alarmingly, many experts believe Today they’re used by ships, aircraft and
        Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their
        fans readily admit themselves, they have         it may still be in use.  As Russian the military to send messages across
                                                         president  Vladimir Putin pointed out continents, oceans and mountain ranges.
        absolutely no idea what they are listening
                                                         himself earlier this year, “nobody would But there’s a catch.
                                                         survive” a nuclear war between Russia
                                                         and the United States. Could the Buzzer The lofty layer isn’t so much a flat mirror,
        In fact, no-one does. “There’s absolutely
        no information in the signal,” says David        be warding one off?                              but a wave, which undulates like the
                                                                                                          surface of the ocean. During the day it
        Stupples, an expert in signals intelligence
                                                         As it happens, there are clues in the signal moves steadily higher, while at night, it
        from City University, London.
                                                         itself. Like all international radio, the creeps down towards the Earth. If you
                                                         Buzzer operates at a relatively low want to absolutely guarantee that your
        What’s going on?
                                                         frequency known as “shortwave”.  This station can be heard on the other side of
                                                         means that – compared to local radio, the planet – and if you’re using it as a cue
        The frequency is thought to belong to the
                                                         mobile phone and television signals – for nuclear war, you probably do – it’s
        Russian military, though they’ve never
                                                         fewer waves pass through a single point important to change the frequency
        actually admitted this. It first began
                                                         every second. It also means they can depending on the time of day, to catch up.
        broadcasting at the close of the Cold War,
        when communism was in decline. Today             travel a lot further.                            The BBC  World Service already does
                                                                                                          this. The Buzzer doesn’t.
        it’s transmitted from two locations – the
                                                         While you’d be hard pressed to listen to a
        St Petersburg site and a location near
                                                         local station such as BBC Radio London (Continued on Page 10)
        Moscow. Bizarrely, after the collapse of
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