The pigpen cipher (also known as Freemason’s cipher) is the most popular secret writing alphabet. As reported recently, it has been used to encrypt gravestone inscriptions, treasure maps, certificates, mug inscriptions, beer labels and more. Today, I’m going to introduce ten more uses.
The pigpen cipher (also known as Freemason’s cipher, because it was popular among the Freemasons) is known in several variants. Usually, the cipher alphabet is derived from four tables in the following way:
Using this scheme, the cleartext X MARKS THE SPOT is encrypted as follows:
Sometimes a randomized order of the letters in the four tables is used to make the system more secure. In addition, there are pigpen variants based on only three tables, like the following:
The pigpen cipher has been in wide use for centuries. In a recent blog post I introduced ten usages: a pigpen gravestone, an NSA pigpen mug (with an encryption error) and a few others. Here are ten more.
This is a postcard written in pigpen (owned by US collector Raymond Borges):
Can you solve it? It’s not very difficult.
Pigpen gang code
This message was sent by a US gang member while in prison:
The cipher was broken by US gang code specialist Gary Klivans, as described in his great book Secret Codes Deciphered. Check here for details.
Pigpen in the British Civil War
The pigpen cipher was also used in the British Civil War:
Pigpen at Mystery Twister C3
Broken pigpen message
The following pigpen message was solved by British Codebreaker George Scovell:
Pigpen letter from Richard Lawrence
Here’s a pigpen letter from Richard Lawrence to John Wallis written in 1657:
Pigpen love letter
The following letter is described in the book Cryptographie by André Langie:
It turned out to be a love letter. Check here for details.
This gravestone with a pippen inscription is located in New York City, almost in the shade of the World Trade Center:
Here’s the cleartext: REMEMBER DEATH.
There are several web pages that encrypt a text into a pigpen message.
Finally, there are pigpen fonts. The following one is named “BabelStone Club Pigpen“:
If you know other pigpen texts or inscriptions, please let me know.
Further reading: Who can solve this Freemasonic rebus book?