Adventure-2-bar

In 1934, a US magazine published an encrypted message a reader had found in an old document. The solution is not known to me.

The US magazine Adventure was considered a “pulp magazine”. It mainly published stories as they are known from dime novels, as well as some non-fictional content. There were times when Adventure sold more than a million copies per issue. Many who read this paper did not admit it. For more than 60 years, Adventure was one of the most popular US publications, before it was finally discontinued in 1971. Even today, there are Adventure fans who try to keep the memories of this once beloved and hated journal alive.

Adventure

Adventure featured a popular column named “Ask Adventure”. In this column, readers could ask questions that were answered by experts. In issue July 1934 (page 124) a certain T. F. Ridell from Champaign, Illinois, asked if somebody could decipher an encrypted message a friend of him had found in some old documents.

Pulp-Question

As can be seen, this encrypted message consists of a sequence of numbers. Here’s a transcription:

942293906259174689397998395946
345881905863899824252317537919
637962463489466213872262807539

The answer to this question was delivered by an Adventure expert named Francis H. Bent. He wrote: “I’m afraid, I can’t be of much assistance.” He recommended Bent to contact the War Department, the FBI or the Police Laboratory in Chicago – perhaps, one of this institutions had a skilled codebreaker at hand who would find the solution.

There’s no doubt that the answer given by this alleged crypto expert is a little unsatisfactory. On the other hand, this cryptogram seems to be hard to solve. Apparently, the editorial staff of Adventure never received a solution from their readers. In 1988, the scientific magazine Cryptologia published the message (issue 1988/4), but again, nobody came up with the solution. The paper clipping shown above is from the Cryptologia article. I have never seen the original published in Adventure.

After my first blog post about this cryptogram (published in 2015 in German), I received several comments. Especially, Stefan Wagner and Norbert Biermann published interesting analyses. However, no solution was found. It is, of course, not even clear if this message is an encrypted text at all.

Now I hope, the my second article about this mystery will lead to some new ideas. I’m looking forward to your comments.


Further reading: An unsolved encrypted message from a missed person

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Kommentare (7)

  1. #1 Rallinger
    22. April 2018

    A full scan of the 07/1934 issue of the Adventure Magazine can be found here:
    https://ia800609.us.archive.org/18/items/AdventureV089N01193407/Adventure%20v089%20n01%20%5B1934-07%5D.pdf
    The cryptogram is on page 124 (126 in the scan).

  2. #2 The_Piper
    23. April 2018

    Easy.

    This message contains the first 5 lines of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem

    A dream within a dream

    Take this kiss upon the brow!
    And, in parting from you now,
    Thus much let me avow—
    You are not wrong, who deem
    That my days have been a dream;

    It is crypted by using a code book.

    A code book is a book which has a list of words and each word has a unique numerical value, in this case a triplet, 3 digits.

    And for decrypting an ascending list of numerical values with the assigned words.

    To avoid cracking this code with statistical analysis, most used words like “and”, “the”, “I”, “you” “a”, “an”, and so on, have more than one value assigned, so trying to break that code with statistics will be a FAIL.

    We have 3 lines with 30 digits each, so 90 digits in total.

    Now lets split those 90 digits into triplets, we get 30 of them. Like 942 293 906 259 174…

    So the code book to crypt this message looks like this:

    a – 807
    and – 397
    are – 537
    avow – 252
    been – 262
    brow – 689
    days – 213
    deem – 463
    dream – 539
    from – 946
    have – 872
    in – 998
    kiss – 906
    let – 899
    me – 824
    much – 863
    my – 466
    not – 919
    now – 881
    parting – 395
    take – 942
    that – 489
    the – 174
    this – 293
    thus – 905
    upon – 259
    who – 962
    wrong – 637
    you – 345
    you – 317

    As you can see, the often used word “you” has 2 triplets assigned.
    Crypt the message above and you’ll get this result:

    942293906259174689397998395946
    345881905863899824252317537919
    637962463489466213872262807539

    Now, to get back the plain text, use this code book:

    174 – the
    213 – days
    252 – avow
    259 – upon
    262 – been
    293 – this
    317 – you
    345 – you
    395 – parting
    397 – and
    463 – deem
    466 – my
    489 – that
    537 – are
    539 – dream
    637 – wrong
    689 – brow
    807 – a
    824 – me
    863 – much
    872 – have
    881 – now
    899 – let
    905 – thus
    906 – kiss
    919 – not
    942 – take
    946 – from
    962 – who
    998 – in

    Decrypt the 90 digits with this code book and you’ll get Poe’s poem again.

  3. #3 Thomas
    24. April 2018

    April 1 is over!

  4. #4 The_Piper
    25. April 2018

    Wut?

    Follow the instructions and try it, it works.

    If this message is coded with a code book, and we only know the coded message, but not the book and original message, we must guess the two missing parts.

    And the result makes sense, Poe wrote the poem in the 18somethings, so it was well known in the 1930’s.

    And the result is the complete first verse of that poem, not some random text, or it stops in the middle of a sentence or a word, it’s the full 5 first lines.

    So, as far as i can see in Klausis Blog, this is the best solution available.

    Or has someone else a better idea? :)

  5. #5 Nele Abels
    25. April 2018

    Very cool!

    Although I do not like your German translation of “pulp magazine” as “Schundmagazine”. You are talking here about my favourite genre of literary entertainment, mate. And I am speaking with the full authority of PhD in Shakespeare studies! 😉

  6. #6 Thomas
    25. April 2018

    My point was that you can take any text with 30 words and make up a ‘code book’ assigning the 3-digit-numbers to the words.

  7. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    2. Mai 2018

    @Rallinger
    >A full scan of the 07/1934 issue of the Adventure
    >Magazine can be found here:
    Thanks!