A message written 118 years ago in Aldino, Maryland, waits to be solved. Can you break this cryptogram?
After having been in some 20 archives and numerous libraries and after having read stacks of crypto litereature, I still can say: My most important source for finding interesting cryptograms is Google. This is because there are plenty of cipher mysteries that can be found on websites, most of which have nothing to do with cryptology.
My latest find came up when I typed in “encoded message” on Google. Of course, I was not looking for encoded messages, but for encrypted ones, but I knew from experience that many laymen don’t know the difference. What I found using this search term is a two pages encrypted letter dated 1900, presented by a user named sassyjordo on an Imgur page. Here is the front page:
And here’s the rear side of the note:
As can be seen, the letter starts with the two cleartext words “Dear Sister”, which tells us that the recipient was a woman. The sender is not mentioned, at least not in the clear. My guess is that this note was written by a man.
Apparently, the note was written in Aldino, Maryland, a small community north-east of Baltimore. Considering that the message stems from the USA and that the few cleartext words are in English, I assume that the plaintext is written in English, too. The dots probably indicate the word boundaries.
The encryption system used is probably a simple letter substitution (MASC). I’m sure, the sender was not a professional crypto user. Otherwise, he would have known that using a secret alphabet doesn’t improve security compared to a letter-for-letter substition. In addition, the secret alphabet contains a number of complex signs, which are quite annoying when one has to write a longer text.
Can a reader break this crypto mystery?
Further reading: Who can decipher these two very short postcard messages?