In 1906, an unknown person sent two beautiful postcards encrypted in a pigpen cipher to a man in Kent. Can a reader solve these two postcard cryptograms?
Frequent readers of Klausis Krypto Kolumne certainly know the pigpen cipher (also known as Freemason’s cipher, because it was popular among the Freemasons). As reported recently, the pigpen cipher has been used for centuries to encrypt gravestone inscriptions, treasure maps, certificates, mug inscriptions, beer labels, postcards and other things.
The pigpen cipher
The pigpen cipher is known in several variants. Usually, the cipher alphabet is derived from four tables in the following way:
There are many variations of this scheme. For instance, the order of the letters in the tables can be varied. The following is an old French pigpen variant:
Two unsolved pigpen postcards
Here’s the second one:
The recipient of the postcards was a gunner (i.e., a soldier who shot guns) named H. Cooney living in Sheerness in Kent, UK. The picture motives suggest that the sender and the recipient were lovers. This is not unusual, as at least 95 percent of the encrypted postcards I know are love messages. However, it is very unusual that the recipient is a man, which suggests that the sender was a woman. Usually, it’s the other way round.
After these cards were published on the genealogy blog mentioned above in January 2016, a number of reader tried to break the encryption, but none of them was successful. Can a reader of this blog do better?
Further reading: Marie-Antoinette’s encrypted letters to Axel von Fersen