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11 Famous Uncracked Code | Mysterious Ciphertexts

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For thousand of years, cryptography have been used for secret communications. The ciphertext or codes are a confidential way of writing any sensitive information. During the World Wars, such types of code were widely used for transmitting crucial information over long distances. But, the development of cryptography has been paralleled by advancement of cryptanalysis-the “breaking” of codes. Its more like a ball game between these two: sometimes the code breakers gets the upper hand, sometimes they didn’t. Bringing together some of those mysterious and famous Uncracked code(s) or texts that are still under scrutiny.

11. The Somerton Man (Tamam Shud)

Taman ShudPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The case of Somerton Man was an unsolved mystery of an unidentified man found dead on Somerton beach in Glenelg, south Australia on 1st December 1948. From the dead body, police recovered a piece of paper with the words ‘Tamam shud’ a Persian phrase for “ended” printed on it. Later, it was recognized that the piece was torn from a copy of ‘Rubaiyat’ of Omar Khayyam.

Upon retrieval of the copy, intensive studies were done on a series of mysterious letters founded on the final pages of the book, but all in vain. The noteworthiness of this case was that even the International authorities like F.B.I and Scotland Yard were unable to yield any lead. This case has been considered, “one of Australia’s most profound mysteries” till date.

10. Zodiac Killer’s Code

Zodiac Killer's CodesPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The ‘Zodiac’ was a mysterious serial killer who terrorized the Northern California between late 1960s and 1970s. There are nearly 37 killing on his name mostly in San Francisco Bay, the cities of Benicia and Vallejo. His first strike were the shootings of two high school students on December 20, 1968. A year later, the local newspapers received a anonymous letter from the killer in which he took full credit for the murders. The letter contained a 408-symbol cryptogram which the killer claimed contains his identity.

The publishers received another letter after a few months, but this time he addressed himself as the Zodiac. He then sent two more cryptograms, one of which is never been decoded. was never traced and there is no personal information about him, except the name, Zodiac. The Zodiac murder case is still open in the California High Court (since 1969).

9. D’agapeyeff Cipher

D'agapeyeff Cipher

Alexander D’Agapeyeff was a Russian born English cryptographer who is famous for his still unsolved D’agapeyeff cipher. In 1939, he published the first edition of his book: Codes and Ciphers, an elementary book on cryptography. At the end of the book, he mentioned a “challenge cipher” for readers. The code is still not decoded but upon asking D’Agapeyeff for possible method for solving the riddle, he just answered that he have forgotten how to solve it. Cryptographers and scientists believe that the code can never be solved as it contains numerous mistakes. Alexander was regarded by many as the most talented cryptographer majorly because his cipher remained unsolved for more than 70 years.

8. Shugborough Inscription

Shugborough_inscriptionPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Shugborough inscription is regarded as one of the world’s top uncracked ciphertexts. It is a series of letters – O U O S V A V V between the letters D and M, engraved on a 18th century monument in the ground of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, England. What did fascinate historians and cryptographers till date is that the inscription is engraved just below a mirror image of Nicolas Poussin’s famous painting: The Shepherds Arcadia.

In 1982, the authors of the ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ suggested that Poussin was a member of the Priory of Sion, and that his panting and the engravings contain hidden message of great significance. There are many other theories related to his cipher but without any proof.

7. Chaocipher

ChaocipherPhoto credit: Viralnova

Cryptographer John F. Byrne came up with the Chaocipher in 1918. According to him, the Chaocipher was simple yet unbreakable. Bryne was so confident that he even offered cash rewards to anyone who could solve it. The Chaocipher was created using two simple rotating disks and small enough to fit into a cigar packet. In May 2010 the Byrne family donated the Chaocipher-related papers to the National Cryptologic Museum in Ft. Meade, Maryland, USA.

6. The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich ManuscriptPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Voynich manuscript is a handwritten book in an unknown script. It is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a polish book dealer who bought it in 1912. The manuscript has been carbon dated to the early 15th century around 1404-1438 and may have been originated from the Northern Italy. The book has around 240 pages and filled with illustrations and diagrams. Over the years many top code-breakers and cryptographers tried to solve it but they never got succeeded, though they made some remarkable discoveries.

More to read: Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics

5. Dorabella Cipher

Dorabella CipherPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Dorabella Cipher is an enciphered letter written by a British music composer, Edward Elgar to his friend Dora Penny. The cipher consists of 87 characters spread over three lines and they look like numeric semicircles written in one of the 8 directions. Written in 1987, the letter has never been solved. In 2007, the Elgar Society organized a Dorabella competition and offered a big prize to the person who solves it. Many entries were received and some are very impressive but none was found satisfactory.

4. Linear A

Linear APhoto credit: Wikimedia

Linear A and Linear B are names given to the two scripts used in Ancient Greek civilization. Sir Arthur Evans was among the first archaeologists to discover both sets of writings in various excavations. In 1950s, Linear B was widely deciphered mostly by Michael Ventris, an English linguist and architect. Building up on Linear B, language scientists and cryptographers are still trying understand its much more complex predecessor Linear A.

Linear A has hundreds of signs. They are understood to represent syllabic, ideographic, and semantic values in a similar manner to Linear B. While a considerable amount of those syllabic signs are similar to ones in Linear B, approximately 80% of Linear A characters are unique.

3. The Beale Cipher

Beale CipherPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Beale cipher originates from an 1885 pamphlet announcing a secret treasure buried by a person named Thomas J. Bealle in a location near Bedford County, Virginia. The cipher is divided into three parts one of which allegedly contains the location of a buried treasure of gold, silver and jewels worth over US$ 64 million valued in 2011. Out of the three, only one has been successfully solved while the other two remained a mystery.

Some experts consider the Beale ciphers to be an elaborate hoax. In a couple of articles of 1980s, scholarly analysis of letters reveled that there is a strong possibilities that they could not have been written at the time alleged. Also, historical records of the city of Virginia cast serious doubts upon the existence of Thomas J. Beale.

2. The Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos CipherPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Phaistos Disc is just an another jewel of ancient Greek civilization. In 1908, an Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier discovered the disc of about 15 cm in diameter, consisting of stamped symbols from Phaistos on the island of Crete, Italy. The Phaistos disc consists of 45 distinct signs, which were more likely to be made by pressing “seals” into a disc of soft clay in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the center of the disk. After years of studies, archaeologists, historians and cryptologists have come to a conclusion that the writings cannot be deciphered until more references are found in this context.

1. Kryptos

Kryptos - Famous Uncracked CodesPhoto credit: Wikimedia

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Kryptos is an encrypted sculpture located just outside the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at Langley, Virginia. Since its inauguration on November 3rd, 1990, there has been much of a speculation about the message it carries. The name kryptos comes from the ancient Greek word for “hidden”. The sculpture consists a total of 869 characters, of which 865 letters and 4 question marks. It is divided four parts, one of which is still un-deciphered and it’s also famous as one of the popular unsolved codes in the world.