In the last decade of the 19th century, an unknown person sent three encrypted messages from a place named Bristol. Can a reader decipher these messages?

When recently searching for encrypted messages on Google, I came across the Imgur site of a user named SPIKER1986.

On his site, SPIKER1986 shows three encrypted sheets (probably postcards). He doesn’t give any further information about these messages. Especially, he doesn’t tell whether he knows the cleartext. Perhaps, he hopes that a reader of his site finds the solution and posts it. However, there is not a single comment on this page so far.

It goes without saying that these three messages are exactly of the kind I love to publish on my blog. Here’s the first one:


As can be seen, the message was sent in 1894, on the 13th of a month. The second sheet tells us a little more:


Apparently, this message was sent on March 28th, 1895 from Bristol. Does this refer to the city of Bristol in England? It probably does, but there are also over a dozen places named Bristol in the USA and Canada (on the other hand, a person from there probably would have written something like “Bristol, NH”).

Note that in the last two lines of the main text we can read a few cleartext words: “at 6.02.82” and “by friday aft. mail noblige”.

Here’s the third message:


This one was sent from Bristol on April 11th, 1895. In the fifth line, the word “apret” or “pret” can be read.

The messages are signed with “4”, “4.*.#”, and “4.X.#”. Apparently, the sender confused the * with the X or the other way round.

The encryption system used by the sender is probably a substitution cipher (MASC). I’m quite sure that these messages can be broken. Does a reader find the solution?

Further reading: Who can solve this encrypted postcard from WW2?


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Kommentare (16)

  1. #1 Gerd
    25. Februar 2018

    Yes, looks like MASC.
    Both #2 and #3 start with “Dear”, in the signature “your” and “yours” can be recognized.

  2. #2 Thomas
    25. Februar 2018

    Dear Harry,
    my cold is better and I can do out sleighing anytime you come u.
    I think it will be good sleighing.
    Now I just got a letter from Ollie. How is your cold?
    I am your true love,

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    25. Februar 2018

    David Allen Wilson via Facebook:
    The first four letters are the same on all three messages. However, the first ten letters are the same on the second and third messages. It’s possible the first message starts off with “Dear (someone)–” and the second and third message start off with “Dear (someone else)–“

  4. #4 Thomas
    25. Februar 2018


    Dear friend,

    if ? do not suu(?) you can you drive over to Lizzies (or Lippies?) for me sunday if you can come about 3 clock. If not, meet me at station at 6.02 train. Let me know by friday aft. mail oblige
    Your friend,

  5. #5 Thomas
    25. Februar 2018

    Maybe there are some mistakes:

    Dear friend,
    now dont forget to come up sunday come up to supper I will be dressed for church come early please come ghe ?) folks ???? you to supper.

  6. #6 Thomas
    25. Februar 2018

    Last word in line 1: up (…you come up…)

    “Lizzies” (the triangle stands for Z)

  7. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    25. Februar 2018

    David Allen Wilson via Facebook:
    The commas look like word breakers. If so, that quickly identifies another single symbol which looks like an “i”. If my guess of “Dear” is correct, then there are only a few months that can be correct for “V7#” — Feb, Sep. (Dec. can’t fit because of the D.) I think a transcription would help at this point.

  8. #8 Thomas
    25. Februar 2018

    Line 1 in text 1:

    “Langhorne, PA”: This is Langhorne in Pennsylvania, thus in texts 2 and 3 probably Bristol in Pennsylvania is meant.

  9. #9 Thomas Ernst
    26. Februar 2018

    Since the first postcard is from Langhorne, PA, as Thomas has deciphered, then its date is “Feb. 13, 1894”. – Yes, there appears to be some sloppiness goin’ on here …

  10. #10 Thomas Ernst
    26. Februar 2018

    If “Feb” is true, the greeting may be “Bel’d” or “Beloved”. Which, in turn, would indicate a slightly dyslexic – intentional or not – “Alnghorne” on the first postcard.

  11. #11 Thomas
    26. Februar 2018

    # stands for B, # with only one horizontal stroke stands for D and = with a vertical stroke stands for G. Thus ” Feb.” and “Dear” are correct.

  12. #12 test
    26. Februar 2018

    Is there information about railway connections? If old tt r still avlbl it shoud be possible 2 find out which Bristol is meant + what was the destiny of that train

  13. #13 Thomas
    26. Februar 2018

    I don’t know if timetables from 1895 are still available. But since the three cards were written by one sender (M. resp. Mab.), we can assume that Bristol in Pennsylvania was meant which is located in Bucks county as well as Langhorne (see this railway map from 1895:

  14. #14 Marian
    1. März 2018

    2. & 3.

    Both start with “dear” and then something that looks like a “rd” i think this rd stands for “Mr.”, that means that this two letters start with the words “Dear Mr. _____”

  15. #15 Marian
    1. März 2018


    it begins with “???? ?????”, now if I’m put these letters in, which we know already, it would come something like “Dear ?arr?”, I suggest that it begins with a Name, because it didn’t begin like both others with “Dear Mr.”,so it is more personal, so it can be a Name. The Names which makes the most sense for me in this case are Harry, Larry and Marry (if it is a woman), regarding the time (19th century), I would maybe exclude Larry, so I think it could mean Larry or it could mean Marry

    2 & 3

    here it begins with “???? ?? ????”, now if I’m put in here the letters, which we know already, it would come something like “Dear Mr. ?e?d”, here in my opinion it’s more likely a surename, because of the more honorific form of adress (Dear Mr.) and here i couldn’t suggest something

  16. #16 Thomas
    1. März 2018

    Have you read my posts #2, 4, 5?