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10 Unidentified Sounds That Scientists Are Seriously Looking Into


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UVB-76: AKA, 'The Buzzer'
People gather to immerse themselves in an ice hole near the Ostankino television tower during celebrations for Russian Orthodox Epiphany in Moscow, 2015. A similar radio tower north of Moscow transmitted strange beeps and buzzes in the 1980s and '90s. © MAXIM ZMEYEV/Reuters/Corbis
People gather to immerse themselves in an ice hole near the Ostankino television tower during celebrations for Russian Orthodox Epiphany in Moscow, 2015. A similar radio tower north of Moscow transmitted strange beeps and buzzes in the 1980s and '90s. © MAXIM ZMEYEV/Reuters/Corbis

If you thought the Lincolnshire Poacher was weird, the story of UVB-76 is even weirder. According to Wired U.K. reporter Peter Savodnik, starting in the early 1980s, a mysterious radio tower north of Moscow transmitted a bizarre assortment of beeps, and then in 1992 switched to buzzing sounds that each lasted about a second and occurred between 21 and 34 times per minute. Once every few weeks, that routine would be interrupted briefly by a male voice reciting brief strings of numbers and words, usually Russian names such as Anna and Nikolai. The tones, amplitude and pitch of the buzzing shifted, and the intervals between it would vary as well. But every hour, on the hour, the station quickly would buzz twice.

Even more oddly, after years of daily broadcasts, the station briefly stopped sending out signals in June 2010 and again in August of that year. Then, toward the end of that month, UVB-76 suddenly underwent a startling metamorphosis, with thuds and shuffling sounds creeping into the broadcasts, frequent interruptions by snippets of "Dance of the Little Swans" from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," and occasional recitations of cryptic messages such as "04 979 D-R-E-N-D-O-U-T" followed by long strings of numbers. Again, the assumption by shortwave buffs is that the station is transmitting messages to secret agents [source: Savodnik].