Fallout 3 contains several in-game radio stations. The most diverse and important of them is Galaxy News Radio. Many players of the evil persuasion know you can kill Three-Dog (the DJ) and he will be replaced by a technician called Margaret.
Margaret doesn't have a charismatic personality and has very little to say. It seems like she doesn't enjoy her new announcing duties for the station. She also never appears in person and, therefore, cannot be killed. Once Three-Dog is dead, you're stuck with Margaret.
What most players don't know, however, is that under certain circumstances, Galaxy News Radio will become a "numbers station." A numbers station is a station that broadcasts an unusual coded message. Many of these exist in real life and some hypothesize they are a nuclear retaliation control network.
Simply check Wikipedia for more information about these odd broadcasts, as they relate to the real world. Anyway...
No one is really sure which actions are needed to hear the numbers station in Fallout 3. It appears that you must kill Three-Dog, because no one has reported hearing the numbers station with him still alive.
It also appears that you have to skip over the quest, "Galaxy News Radio," where you help boost the signal so the station can broadcast further than the immediate DC area. This is easy enough to do with either a speech check or simply using FalloutWiki to look up where to go next and advance the main plot.
Finally, you definitely have to choose to destroy Raven Rock. This is the actual trigger to turn GNR into a numbers station and it will remain as such for the rest of the game. However, the vast majority of players who perform these actions still continue hearing the standard GNR broadcasts, so there must be several more requirements the community has yet to isolate.
If you're lucky enough to have hit upon the right set of circumstances, you will get a message just after destroying Raven Rock. "Radio signal lost," it'll say, before another message appears a few seconds later that says, "Radio signal found." You cannot, however, actually listen to GNR just yet because you didn't boost the signal and are out of range of the broadcast.
Luckily, Raven Rock is situated high in the mountains and is right near one of the few places outside DC that you can get high enough to catch the signal. So far, there are six confirmed locations to hear the GNR numbers station.
- Within the immediate DC area, obviously. This is true for the normal Galaxy News Radio throughout the game.
- At the top of the ferris wheel at Pilgrim's Landing. This is only accessable through the Point Lookout DLC.
- On the tops of some of the satcom arrays you can climb in the northwestern map area.
- On the roof of Tenpenny Tower, though this may be within the normal broadcast range.
- On the highest point of the broken bridge around Arefu. Again, this may be within broadcast range anyway.
- On some of the highest points of the mountaintop in the area near Raven Rock. This is obviously your easiest chance to first listen to the numbers station.
When you tune in, you'll hear a familiar voice: Three-Dog, despite the fact that you killed him earlier. He doesn't seem to be 'in character,' so it's technically not Three-Dog but his voice actor, Erik Dellums.
He reads a series of numbers in a monotone, depressed voice, always reciting a list of single digits between nine and twelve characters long (i.e. "nine-three-seven-nine-one-seven-two-zero-three-four."). He never uses multi-digit numbers like 'eleven' or 'forty.'
These numbers are followed by widely varying lengths of morse code. The song "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" follows this. All other music tracks seem to be inactive on the numbers station.
The morse code was the easiest part of the mystery to crack, as the code is widely available and many people actually know it by heart. We quickly had a list of a great number of messages in English. Some sounded completely mundane and even comical, such as, "Washed the car today, maybe Chinese for dinner," or, "Have you watched my Youtube video yet? I uploaded myself kicking bums in the nuts."
You may be saying, "But wait, Youtube doesn't exist in the Fallout universe," and you're right. As far as we could tell, all of the messages sounded like they were based in our reality, somewhere near present day.
Some of the messages, however, are quite sinister, such as, "The Queen has died today. The world mourns, as on days like these, we are all brits," or, "I can't believe they've actually done it. Not long left. The noise. I can't take the noise anymore. I have a pistol in the attic."
Just recently, a player on the wikiforums noticed a message that brought light to the meaning of them. He was reading a thread that collected all known messages (transposed from Morse to English) and he saw the line, "one-two-zero-five-five-two-eight-two-zero-one-zero. What you talkin' 'bout? You'll be missed."
He realized this referred to the recent death of Gary Coleman and the numbers were the time and date of his death. He immediately scanned through the messages to try and find more examples of this apparent future telling by a game that's more than a year old. The next message he read shocked him and pushed him to enlist the aid of others to decipher the codes.
"nine-four-five-four-two-zero-two-zero-one-zero. Accident in the gulf, several dead. Oil spill apparently averted." He realized this was the BP explosion and the erroneous day-one assessment that the well was not leaking.
From this point on, all numbers will be transcribed as times and dates. All times were given in-game in military format and remain so in this document.
Numerous members of the FalloutWiki message board began looking for the messages to see what else we could learn. We quickly found that most of the dates were after the game had been released, yet some were from the past. "22:16 April 18, 1865. he's dead and blame will probably be placed on that actor, Booth. Johnson better not cheat me out of the payment." This shed new doubt on the official version of the Lincoln assassination.
As the community quickly started piling up interpretations of the messages, the moderators of the site summarily banned everyone who had posted in the thread. All references to the numbers station was removed from FalloutWiki and filtering software was put in place to prevent reposting of any relevant information.
A few people, however, are still trading emails today and slowly finishing the translation of the remaining messages and putting dates to the existing ones.
- "The queen has died today. The world mourns, as on days like these, we are all brits." 4:02 March 19, 2014
- "Have you watched my Youtube video yet? I uploaded myself kicking bums in the nuts." 4:16 December 24, 2012
- "I can't believe Britney's actually won an oscar!" 21:33 February 27, 2023
- "I can't believe they've actually done it. Not long left. They were warned, but they just had to keep pushing the boundaries of science. The noise. I can't take the noise anymore. And the light, dear God! The Universe is slowly unraveling around us. I'm not going to wait for death. I have a pistol in the attic." This is the only message not preceded by a string of numbers.
It may be worth noting that the latest date on any of the messages is 1:27 July 6, 2027.