Postcard-Whitmore-bar

Here’s another crypto postcard. As the encrypted part of the message has only 17 letters, it is probably hard to decipher.

As a reader of Klausis Krypto Kolumne you certainly know that this blog is the number one contact point for unsolved crypto mysteries. But what can you do if a mystery you encounter is not cryptographic but linguistic in nature? As far as I know, the puzzles section of the website Omniglot is the best place to ask questions about unknown writing systems, strange texts and exotic languages. Omniglot, an online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages, is operated by Simon Ager, a well-known linguist. The amount of information available on this site is absolutely overwhelming.

 

Omniglot

To get an impression on how the Omniglot puzzles section (which makes only a small part of the site) looks like, take a look at the following screenshot:

Omniglot-Example

 

An encrypted postcard

Another entry I found would fit better to this blog than to the Omniglot puzzle section. It is about an encrypted postcard:

Postcard-Whitmore

Like many other encrypted postcards, this one is written from a (young?) man to an unmarried woman (probably his spouse). The recipient is a certain Birdie Kimbler, living in Whitmore, California. The name of the sender is Vanie (?). The card was stamped in Altura, California, on July 8, 1908. The distance between the two California towns is about 140 kilometers.

The encrypted part of the message is only 17 letters long. According to a reader comment on the Omniglot page, most, if not all, of the symbols on the postcard appear to be hobo symbols. However, I don’t think this is true. To me this looks like a simple substitution cipher (MASC), which is by far the most common encryption method encountered on postcards.

My readers have shown many times that MASC-encrypted postcards are usually easy to solve for a good codebreaker. However, this one might be different, as the text is very short. Frequency analysis probably won’t help. Perhaps, a cleartext word can be guessed (as far as I can tell, the encrypted message consists of four words). If you can find out more, please leave a comment.


Further reading: Who can decipher this encrypted postcard from the 19th century?

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Kommentare (13)

  1. #1 Rich SantaColoma
    http://proto57.wordpress.com/
    11. Mai 2018

    I think in this case it might be helpful to see the picture on the front of the card. I say this because the text before the cipher section seems to say, “Tell C. this…”. The cipher then may end with an “!”.

    From this I suspect that the cipher refers to the image somehow, and is probably joking about what a third party’s interpretation of the image would be… NOT these, but as examples of the concept:

    – “Tell C. this is not a love letter!”
    – “Tell C. this is not a pretty garden!”
    – “Tell C. this is not a nice person!”

    So the cipher is a long shot of course, with so few characters… which only makes the context all the more valuable, I think. Perhaps it would help.

  2. #2 Rich SantaColoma
    http://proto57.wordpress.com/
    11. Mai 2018

    … I didn’t mean to imply I think it must be “… is not…”, of course… if a reference to the picture, it could be “is”, “… is a”, or “would be”, or “could be”, “must not”… many possibles to tie it in.

    Part of the impression shows on the side we see, and it appears to be a bouquet of flowers, with another square wreath of flowers to the left.

  3. #3 Thomas
    11. Mai 2018

    The recipient’s surname seems to be ‘Kunkler’ (Birdie Kunkler’s father was buried in Millville, a neighboring locality of Whitmore, Shasta county, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62773589/joseph-c-kunkler).

  4. #4 David Oranchak
    http://zodiackillerciphers.com
    11. Mai 2018

    If I assume a transcription of:

    LSMB GRDQ HBP CPHUMB

    I get some possible answers such as:

    PLAN WITH ONE YEOMAN
    CASH UPON THE FETISH
    PILE FROM SEA CASTLE
    FILE UPON SEA CASTLE

    They don’t make much sense, and many more nonsensical solves are possible. And transcription and word division assumptions might be wrong.

  5. #5 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    Well David what do we know about this card?

    And when do we stop trying to solve this card?

    Taking your results (from which the methods were not explained) I kinda see another possibility

    PLAN CASH UPON FILE PILE
    WITH THE FETISH SEA CASTLE
    FROM ONE YEOMAN

    Sound a little more fluent?

    As if its a message from one to another planning something sinister?

    Maybe you have to take ALL the possible anagrams and formulate a larger message from the small segment of 17 symbols….

  6. #6 David Oranchak
    http://zodiackillerciphers.com
    11. Mai 2018

    So based on this transcription there are four distinct words: LSMB GRDQ HBP CPHUMB

    The 2nd word (GRDQ) shares no symbols with the other words, and so any word can fit there.

    The other three have shared symbols (M, B, H, B, and P). So we can do a brute force search of words that fit. Here are over 700,000 solutions that fit (warning: 18MB file size):

    http://zodiackillerciphers.com/postcard-cipher-postprocessed-sorted.txt

    The first number is the product of word frequency percentiles, which helps organize by “word quality”.

  7. #7 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    Key is in the letter T

    The Score across the card is far greater than any of the other marks and accentuation, and very obvious.

    The last line of the phrase “long letter soon” shows that this is somehow connected to a key

  8. #8 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    Also to note the Stamp is posted to the right, rotated 90 degrees

  9. #9 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    And you didn’t explain how you took the CipherText symbols and translated them to the letters LSMB GRDQ HBP CPHUMB in your assertions

    What method was used for that?

  10. #10 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    Also the arrangement of the spaces in the symbols shows a letter count of 4-4-3-5 in the 4 words

    The last symbol is clearly a slanted Exclamation Point

  11. #11 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    Does the signature say Love From Varnie?

    Or Love From Bernie?

    The LaVerne and Shirley of Ciphers requires Granny’s reading glasses for sure to see the smallest hints.

  12. #12 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    And a letter soon?

    Sounds like a Running Key Cipher

    “The running key cipher, where the key is made very long by using a passage from a book or similar text.”

  13. #13 Breaker
    11. Mai 2018

    The cipher will more than likely be cracked with the letter that was sent along afterwards.