A Reddit user has found two encrypted notes and a few geographic coordinates in an old travel book. Can a reader find out what these messages mean?

Once again, I have found a nice crypto mystery on Reddit. This one was published by a Reddit user named SenJunkieEinstein three weeks ago. When leaving through a copy of Around the World in 2,000 Pictures

…, a travel book from 1958, SenJunkieEinstein noticed a number of hand-written notes (all of them can be seen here). Some of these can easily be recognised as geographic coordinates:

Source: Imgur

Reddit user RetiredQuantumMech wrote: “At a quick glance, the coordinates on the cover seem to be a chunk of the american south, ranging from Georgia to North Carolina. For instance 33 24 n 82 06 w is in the sw suburbs of Augusta, GA.”

In addition, the book contains two letter sequences that might represent encrypted messages:

Source: Imgur

Here’s the second one:

Source: Imgur

Here are transcriptions of the two cryptograms:

NJKUZGJMVNUAGEWVOFXY
EFBXDMIEYHHAD
RQDTGSWMRGTOT
AOPOJKFDWKGZBD
TSHEB

Reddit user vicpylon computed the Index of Coincidence (i.e., the probability that two letters randomly chosen from a text are equal) of these five lines. The result he received is 0.034. English texts usually have an Index of Coincidence of 0.067, which is about double as much. This value doesn’t change when a MASC or a transposition cipher is applied. The low Index of Coincidence indicates that the two messages in the travel book (at least when treated as one) are a lot more random than cipher text created with a MASK or a transposition cipher. A more complicated encryption algorithm (e.g., a Vigenère cipher) still is possible.

Can a reader find out more about this crypto mystery?


Further reading: Introducing my Cryptologic Travel Guide

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Kommentare (5)

  1. #1 Richard SantaColoma
    http://proto57.wordpress.com/
    12. Mai 2019

    Looking at the coordinates, the images, and the “shaky” letter string, I was reminded of an ESP experiment. So after doing a search I came up with the term, “Remote Viewing”, which even the CIA had an interest in in the 1980’s. They called it the “Stargate Project”. I found this image, which are notes of a subject’s “premonition” about a set of coordinates on Mars:

    http://earth-chronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/5898850cc46188c2088b467c.jpg

    It is from this site: http://earth-chronicles.com/histori/the-stargate-project-how-the-cia-was-exploring-the-situation-on-mars-in-the-1980s.html

    (this project was made into a movie, too)

    I also recall, as a child in the 1970’s, the naive excitement among our friends that there may be “something to” this “ESP thing”, and trying similar things…. like transmitting orders of playing cards across the town. Even recently, a few years ago, someone asked me to participate in a similar experiment.

    No, I do not think there is anything to ESP, but I’m less embarrassed in my childhood experiments to know that the CIA was, at one time.

    So it is just a guess, of course, but perhaps the images (eye with the hand, especially) and letters (shakily drawn out, like the path of a Ouija board pointer moves) above are a couple of friends who were trying a similar thing, trying to “transmit” by ESP some information held at the coordinates shown.

  2. #2 schorsch
    13. Mai 2019

    The coordinates mostly point to more or less prominent geographic or human engineered features in the american south. Three of the coordinates show to certain points in or near Murphy, NC. So it might be a good guess, that the author of the notes is or was an inhabitant of this lucky little town.

    One coordinate shows to a certain sculpture in the centennial olympic park in Atlanta, Ga. That suggests, that the notes have been written after the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. Before 1996 this place was a parking lot of some commercial operation.

    First Batch
    33°25’21.33″N 82° 7’10.33″W Dam of a rain storage reservoir near Augusta, Ga

    32°22’31.67″N 80°26’15.00″W Hunting Island Light, Beaufort, SC; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunting_Island_Light

    33°45’39.67″N 84°23’32.50″W Tribute, a sculpture in the Centennial Olympic Park by Peter Calaboyias, Atlanta, Ga; http://www.wanderlustatlanta.com/2013/06/tribute-by-peter-calaboyias.html

    35°59’58.33″N 78°54’38.67″W some Train signal station, Durham, NC

    35° 5’9.13″N 84° 2’22.50″W Small Hilltop, maybe some Outlook Point, Murphy, NC

    Second Batch
    34°52’28.00″N 83°48’39.67″W Brasstown Bald, outlook point and observation tower, highest point in the state of Georgia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brasstown_Bald

    35° 3’59.33″N 84° 5’59.00″W Panther Top Mountain, USFS Lookout Tower, westernmost Tower in NC, 4 miles sw Murphy, NC; https://www.hikingupward.com/NNF/PantherTopLookoutTower/

    34°59’59.67″N 84° 4’14.33″W some Crossroad, six Miles south of Murphy, NC

  3. #3 R. C. C.
    13. Mai 2019

    The original poster updated his post with scans of the book, 70 scans in all:
    https://imgur.com/a/wVx1ZP0

    There is another string of text on page 636

    One thing that jumped out at me is page 363 (hey thats sort of like 636): he wrote another 3 after the page number and ‘WHEELER’

    3633 Wheeler Road is an address in Augusta for a building called The Atrium which has been the home of a lot of military and Intelligence Community contractors. Given the fact that the symbols on the preceding page deal with military intelligence and crypto that cant be a coincidence. Companies like Booz Allen Hamilton have offices there (Edward Snowden answered directly to someone who worked in the Augusta office at that building.) Saxby Chambliss maintained an office in the building during his time as the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

  4. #4 schorsch
    13. Mai 2019

    The Atlanta Bomber

    Now it becomes interesting. As I wrote in my former post (still not online), several of the coordinates show direction Murphy, NC.

    Murphy is the town, where Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympic Bomber, finally was caught in 2003. Prior to his capture he lived several years in the vicinity of Murphy “gathering acorns and salamanders, pilfering vegetables from gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in Murphy, N.C.” (wikipedia)

    And now have a look again at coordinates 33°45’39.67″N, 84°23’32.50″W: By a radius of, say, 15 meters the exact point, where he placed his pipe bombs in the Centennial Olympic Park in July 1996.

  5. #5 R. C. C.
    15. Mai 2019

    While you linked up to a discussion thread on reddit, it should be noted there is another thread on there that is longer and has more information:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/RBI/comments/bfjimm/what_is_this_puzzle_spread_across_50_pages_in_a/

    The top comment has analysis of the symbols found throughout the book and most of the cherokee words written in the book have been translated. This is very exciting stuff!

    It seems like there are two different sets of writings in the book, one in blue ink, the other in pencil. Two different handwritings? Two different authors?

    Most of the pencil writings are just one or two words, they seem like code words to me, they are written small, and are easy to miss as they blend into the pictures. I’ll write a list: CROSSFIRE GAMBIT, HIGHJUMP, 20APR76, COSAFINA, CHOSATONGA, LEMON, ZEBULON, ARTICHOKE, 80 BROADWAY, SMOKEMONT, EVE, BURNTBLACK, Pack, SPEARFINGER, NOWARE, NOLAND, PORKCHOP, CORONA, MUSKET.

    Most of the words I haven’t found any meaning that might be important, but a couple seem to be specific to the area. Chosatonga and Smokemont are both names of campgrounds in North Carolina, Spearfinger is the name of a creepy old Cherokee legend:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spearfinger

    Interestingly there is a place on a mountain in Blount County associated with the Spearfinger.

    NOWARE and NOLAND might refer to the “Road to Nowhere” which connects to the Noland Trail, near Bryson City, NC: https://www.ncpedia.org/road-nowhere

    80 Broadway is the name of a building in New York, but when I google just “80 Broadway” it also comes up with an address in Asheville, NC which is a Masonic Temple! Considering the other masonic imagery and the locations around Asheville thats probablly not a coincidence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asheville_Masonic_Temple

    Something that just jumped out at me in the wikipedia article, one of the notable members is named Zebulon Baird Vance, who was a Senator and Governor of North Carolina in the 1800’s:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebulon_Baird_Vance

    Now that I’m on that page, something else jumps out at me! There is a obelisk monument called the “Vance Monument” that resembles the Washington Monument in Asheville, located in “Pack Square”. The word “Pack” is written on page 609 next to an obelisk type monument! Many of the word are written on pages near obelisk type monuments, such as “LEMON” by the Washington Monument (Opposite the page where ZEBULON is written on the Capital Building)

    I’ve been trying to figure out what the drawing (drawn next to another obelisk type monument) on the CORONA page is of: https://i.imgur.com/ZEhypCk.jpg

    I thought it was the CN tower at first but it’s different. Also intriguing is the other drawings on page 268 and the “EVE” drawing on page 341 (looks kind of like a boat?)

    Another word association, “CROSSFIRE GAMBIT” is the name of a (metal?) song by Project 86. BURNTBLACK is the name of a metal band from Australia. (I don’t care for this kind of music so I didn’t dig too deep to listen to the songs much)