Canadian artist Zen Rankin has published two encrypted messages he created in his youth days. Can a reader break them?

When I write this blog, I sometimes have to ask myself an ethical question: can I publish an encrypted message that is only a few years old and the author of which is still alive? After all, this person probably used encryption because he or she didn’t want the message to be read.


Zen Rankin’s cryptograms

Once again I had to ask myself this question when I recently read a blog post written by a Canadian artist named Zen Rankin. In this post Rankin published a number of artworks he had created in his youth. These artworks certainly show his talent, but they also show that art was not the only interest he had as an adolescent – women apparently were another one.

According to his blog post, Zen Rankin used an encryption code for some of his juvenile creations. Two encrypted messages are depicted in the post, without the plaintext being given. Is it acceptable that I ask my readers to break these? In my view it is. After all, it was the author himself who made these encrypted pages public. If it turns out that these messages contain something incriminating, I will be sure to delete the respective passages from the comments section.


Two encrypted journal pages

Here’s an excerpt from Rankin’s post:

Back in grade 9 I used to give girls notes with a secret code. I also used that code to write a secret journal entitled “Do Not Read.” Only certain people were allowed to read the secret decoder wheel that I made in ceramics class.



Women he wanted to paint in the nude

The following encrypted message lists women Rankin wanted to paint in the nude (which is, of course, nothing unusual for an artist):


Even without the secret decoder ring Rankin made in ceramics class it should be possible to break these cryptograms. I guess that the cipher Rankin used is a simple letter substitution (MASC). Can a reader find out more? If so (and if the plaintext you find out isn’t too private in nature), please leave a comment.

Further reading: Who can decipher this encrypted diary?


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Kommentare (2)

  1. #1 Jim Gillogly
    5. Dezember 2018

    It starts “my life is missing something. i think this is why: if i were to say something in half plain english, people will get the wrong impression of me.”

    The square-root-looking character shows the previous letter is doubled.

  2. #2 Jim Gillogly
    5. Dezember 2018

    It goes on with an extended parable about how life would look different to him if he were a mouse, and finishes with “[s ] have troubles telling my troubles to others when i’m sad and this is how i convey my words to others.”

    The list (leaving off realistic-looking names):

    1. lady rawhide [a comic action heroine]
    2. dawn
    6. a fake breasted woman
    9. a robotic exoskeleton
    10. any vampirella model