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Hands Off!

Agent Cluckminster reporting in: Mission Week 3.

This week I thought I’d share some secrets from a particularly clever agent with a scientific angle, since you agents seem to like that kind of thing.

Léon Theremin was an engineer and inventor, probably best known for inventing the Theremin, a musical instrument that you play without even touching it. If you like Beach Boys music, old school science fiction, or the Big Bang Theory you may have heard a Theremin in action. If you ask staff about it in our Eureka! gallery, they may be able to show you a Theremin that you can try out.

Upon introducing his instrument in North America, Léon Theremin was imprisoned in his native country of Russia where he was put to work creating high-tech spying devices. The resulting Buran listening system used infrared beams to detect sound vibrations from glass windows, a precursor to the laser listening system that is simulated in the Top Secret: License to Spy exhibition at TELUS World of Science.

Perhaps the greatest of all his inventions was, “The Thing.”  No, not the moody big rock guy from the Marvel comics but a marvel of electronics hidden in the back of a replica of the Great Seal of the United States. This seal was presented to the American Ambassador in Russia by a group of Russian children in 1945 (I know it’s hard to believe that children could be involved in something so nefarious). For seven years, “The Thing” broadcasted every conversation that happened in the ambassador’s office to waiting Russian Agents located nearby. In 1952, the Americans discovered the device but did not admit that they had found it until 1960. For those last 8 years, they used the Russian’s bug against them to send "misinformation" to the enemy agents, talking about things that may or may not have been true.

One of the cleverest things about “The Thing” was the fact that it did not need to be connected to power or wires to send it’s signal. It was activated by a high powered radio signal from outside the embassy that also powered the device.

I’ve discovered several hidden cameras and microphones hidden inside the Top Secret exhibition. Maybe you can find them, too.

Remember, you never know who might be watching and listening.

By the way, see that little camera above your screen? Be sure to wave before you sign off. A chicken in disguise might be watching you.


This week’s secret message:

What song from 1990 would be appropriate to play on a Theremin?

(Caesar cipher, decrypt P = A, Q = B, R = C …etc.)


Share your own Spy Jokes with Cluckminster at

Check out last week's blog entry by Agent Cluckminster Fuller.