McCormick-Notes-3-bar

Murder victim Ricky McCormick left behind two encrypted notes. Both the crime and the cryptograms are unsolved to date.

Click here for the complete top 50 list

On June 30, 1999, police found a corpse on a corn field near St. Louis, Missouri. The dead man was identified as 41-year-old Ricky McCormick. It soon became clear that he had been murdered. In a pocket of the dead, police found two pieces of paper with encrypted notes.

The FBI engaged its codebreaking department, the CRRU, but none of the specialists could solve the encryption (this is unusual because the CRRU has a success rate of about 99 percent). A co-operation with the American Cryptogram Association (ACA) was not successful, either.

 

The McCormick mystery

On March 30, 2011, the FBI published McCormick’s two encrypted messages on its website. Here’s the first note:

Mccormick-1

McCormick was no model boy. He had dropped out of school, changed residence frequently, and fathered at least four illegitimate children. He spent eleven months in prison because of rape. When McCormick died, he was sick and unemployed. Here’s the second note:

Mccormick-2

Ricky McCormick did not have a cryptology education nor was he known to have an interest in computers or mathematics. However, according to police, his family members reported that McCormick had occupied himself with encryption since his childhood. He had never told his family much about his crypto activities.

 

No solution found

Little is known about McCormick’s last days in life. On June 25, 1999, he was last seen by witnesses. Five days later, his body was found on the cornfield near St. Louis, about 20 kilometers from his home place. He wore a white shirt and jeans pants and lay face down.

NSA-Symposium-04-McCormick

The police did not reveal whether the finding place was also the crime scene. McCormick did not own a car, and the cornfield was not served by public transportation. According to the police, the body was so badly decomposed that the physicians could no longer determine the cause of death. While examining the body, policemen found the encrypted messages. For 12 years, the FBI kept this find secret.

After the FBI had published the cryptograms, codebreakers around the world could study them. The police also hoped for witnesses who knew more about McCormick’s enciphering methods. Allegedly, the encrypted texts were written by McCormick himself no more than three days before his death.

The McCormick cryptograms created a tremendous interest. Many codebreakers believed that they had found the solution, others gave more or less helpful hints. In order not to be flooded with clues, the FBI set up an online discussion forum and asked to first discuss solutions there before the CRRU was informed. But in the end, all the excitement was in vain; the McCormick cryptograms remained unresolved.

 

Transcriptions

Here is a transcription of the first note:

(P1)
(MNDMUNEMRSE-N-STA-UNARE)  (AESM)
FRNENP?NSENPBSERCBBNSENPRSEINC
PRSE NMRSE OPREHLDULDNCBE(TFXLC TCXL NCBE)
AL-PRPPIT XLYPPIY NCBE MEKSEINCDRCBRNSEPRSE
WLD RCCBRNSE NT SSNENTXSE-CRSLE-CLTRSE WLD NCBE
ALWCP NCBETSMELRSERLSEURGLSNEASNWLDNCBE
(NOPFSE NLSRE NCBE) NTEGDDMNSENCURERCBRNE
(TENE TFRNE NCBRTSENCBE INC)
(FLRSE PQSE ONDE 71 NCBE)
(CDNSE PQSE ONSDE 74 NCBE)
(PRTSE PRSE ONREDE 75 NCBE)
(TF NBCMSPSOLEMRDELUSE TOTE WLDN WLDNCBE)
(194 WLD’S NCBE)(TRFXL)

This is the second note transcribed:

ALPNTE GLSE – SE RTE
VLSE MTSE-CTSE-WSE-FRTSE
PURTRSEONDRSEWLD NCBE
NWLDLRCMSP NEWLD STS MEXL
DULMT 6 TUNSE NCBEXE
(MUNSAISTEN MU NARSE)
KLSE-LRSTE-TRSE-TRSE-MKSEN-MRSE
(SAESNSE SE N MRSE)

NMNRCBRNSEPTE2PTEWSRCBKNSE
26 MLSE 74 SPRKSE 29KCNOB,OLE 175 RTRSE
35 GLE CLGSE UUNUTKEBKRSE PSESHLE
651 MTCSE HTLSE NCUTC TRQ NMRE
99.84.52 UNEPLSEUCRSEAOLTSENSKSENRSE
NSREONSE PUTSEWLD NCBE (3 XORL)

DNMSE NRSE 1N2 NTRLERC BANSENTSECRSNE
LSPNSENGSPSEMKSERBSGNCBENUXLR
MH CRE NMRE NCBE  1/2 MUNDDLSE

1 / 2 / Auf einer Seite lesen

Kommentare (6)

  1. #2 Schlock
    1. Mai 2018

    I’m only an interested reader on scienceblogs and don’t have a clue about encryption, but there is a criticism-section on the english wiki-page that quotes McCormick’s parents, which both say, that he barely could write anything.

    Maybe this is a case of an illiterate person trying to teach himself how to write, or something similar?

    It doesn’t even have to be disconnected from a possible drug deal or a murder, maybe he pretended to write to let himself seem dependable?

    I’m just guessing, so feel free to correct me.

  2. #3 HF(de)
    1. Mai 2018

    Na, da fasse ich mal spontan die spanische Lösung aus #1 und den englischen Beitrag aus #2 zusammen: “Schreiben wie man spricht.” Erinnert mich an deutsche Grundschulen. :-)

  3. #4 Schlock
    1. Mai 2018

    @HF(de)

    Ist mein geschriebenes Englisch wirklich so schlimm? Die Frage ist wirklich ernst gemeint. Wenn ja, dann entschuldige ich mich und versuche mich zu verbessern. :-)

  4. #5 HF(de)
    1. Mai 2018

    Nö, da war nix schlimmes. Du sagst in etwa, er ist Legastheniker. Der Spanier “entschlüsselt” reichlich viel mit “sounds like”. (z.B 8=eight=ai=a oder so) Ich bin da eher auf Deiner Seite :-)

  5. #6 Schlock
    4. Mai 2018

    @HF(de)

    Meine Antwort kommt etwas spät, aber da bin ich erleichtert, danke.

    Ja, in die Richtung gehen meine Gedanken. Die Diskussionsseite des englischen Wikipedia-Artikels ist auch ganz interessant, dort stellt jemand Vermutungen an, dass es sich um Teile eines medizinischen Protokolls handeln könnte.

    Ich spekuliere mal wild und hoffe das ist in Ordnung:

    Er war aufgrund einer psychischen Erkrankung in Behandlung und hat unter dem Einfluss paranoider Vorstellungen dieses Protokoll abgeschrieben, vielleicht vermischt mit anderen Textfragmenten.