Postcard-Studholme-bar

A postcard from 1903 is encrypted in a dancing men code, like it is described in a famous Sherlock Holmes story. Can a reader decipher it?

The Adventure of the Dancing Men is a Sherlock Holmes story published in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1905 book The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

Return-Sherlock-Holmes

A crypto short story

For crypto enthusiasts, The Adventure of the Dancing Men is especially interesting because a number of encrypted texts play a role in it. These cryptograms are messages encoded with stick figures (“dancing men”), like the following.

Dancing-Men

As Sherlock Holmes finds out, the dancing men represent a one-to-one cipher (MASC). He solves several dancing men ciphertexts using frequency analysis and finally even forges an encrypted message. In the end, the case is solved and the perpetrator is arrested. Doyle ranked The Adventure of the Dancing Men third in his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories.

 

A dancing men postcard

My friend Karsten Hansky recently dicovered a postcard that must have been written by a Sherlock Holmes fan. The picture side (which is not Shoerlock Holmes related) …

Postcard-Studholme-pic

… shows a photograph of English actress and singer Marie Studholme (1872-1930). According to Wikipedia, Studholme often charged a sixpence to autograph her postcards and gave the proceeds to animal and theatrical charities. However, this postcard is not autographed.

The text side of the card is clearly influenced by the dancing men in Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes story:

Postcard-Studholme-add

As can be seen, the postcard is stamped in Glasgow in 1903. Even reading the non-encrypted part is quite a challenge (I hope a reader can help). The recipient is a Miss H. Husar (?) living in Glasgow. As frequent readers of this blog know, most encrypted postcards were written by young men to their spouses. As the recipient of this one is addressed as “Miss” (i.e., she was not married), it is pretty likely that we deal here with a love message of this kind, too. The last word of the message (“Animerint”?) is in the clear, but I don’t know what it means.

The cipher the unknown Sherlock Holmes fan used is probably a simple one-to-one substitution (MASC). Can a reader decipher it?


Further reading: Sherlock Holmes and the Pollaky cryptograms

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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 cast_away
    Köln
    27. Mai 2018

    According to the capital letter M at Miss I would rather say it’s
    ‘Miss N. Liesen or Liesan’

    Because I use to write the capital M, N and the L exactly like these.
    It can’t be Husar because there is a dot above, therefore the second (or perhaps, but less likely, the third) letter definitely is a small ‘ i ‘.
    To point up the small letter ‘u’ a small curved line (kinda tiny, less accentuated amazon smile) usually get put above it.

  2. #2 cast_away
    Köln
    27. Mai 2018

    According to the capital letter M at Miss I would rather say it’s
    ‘Miss N. Liesen or Liesan’

    Because I use to write the capital M, N and the L exactly like these.
    It can’t be Husar because there is a dot above, therefore the second (or perhaps, but less likely, the third) letter definitely is a small ‘ i ‘.
    To point up the small letter ‘u’ a small curved line (kinda tiny, less accentuated amazon smile) usually get put above it.

    According the capital G in Glasgow, the Address could be
    11. Canaly Ln.(Lane)

  3. #3 Thomas Ernst
    Latrobe
    28. Mai 2018

    I opt for “Miss H[elen] […] / 11. Country Lane.

  4. #4 Thomas Ernst
    Latrobe
    28. Mai 2018

    Symbols 1 – 4, line 1, are reminiscent of hieroglyphic ideograms. They may indicate sth. to the extent of: “Was happy to receive your letter, and will write back to you more extensively.” Am certain a symbol-for-letter substitution won’t do, and that it’s rather ideographic nomenclature.

  5. #5 Norbert
    28. Mai 2018

    The problem is to identify the correct “units”, and to tell apart identical ones from different ones. My proposal:

    HONEY, OUR
    MAN MADE A-
    LL RIGHT.
    HOW’S THI-
    S WRITING?
    ANSWER!

    Note that in this solution, the dots are interpreted as part of the character “units” rather than word separators (or punctuation marks), and that the two dancing men enclosed by dots, which seem to shake hands, form a single character “W”.

  6. #6 Norbert
    28. Mai 2018

    … thus, apparently, a literal “double-you”. Very poetic!

  7. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    28. Mai 2018

    @Norbert: Thanks, this makes sense!

  8. #8 Tony
    29. Mai 2018

    The best I could come up with is –

    HOPE FOUR CAPCASE ALL RIGHT
    GO BY S – THIS BY RITING – ANS BY ER

    but I’m not convinced.