Gravestones bearing an encrypted or hidden message are one of my favorite blog topics. Here’s a speciment I recently discovered on Reddit.
Gravestones with an encrypted or hidden message are rare. Even after years of research, less than 20 of these are known to me. The following list contains all the encrypted gravestones I am aware of. Almost all of them are listed in the Cryptologic Travel Guide.
Most of the encrypted gravestones I know stand on Freemasonic graves and bear a pigpen inscription (pigpen ciphers were especially popular among Freemasons):
- The encrypted gravestone of James Lacey (+1796) is located in New York City, next to the World Trade Center.
- The gravestone of James Leeson (+1794) is based in the vicinity of the World Trade Center in New York City, too.
- The gravestone of Thomas Brierley (+1785) can be found near Manchester, UK.
- The encrypted gravestone of John Farmer Dakin is located in the Manchester area, too.
- Henry Harrison’s encrypted gravestone in Warrington (between Liverpool and Manchester, UK) is the third one I know in the Manchester area. I don’t have a photograph I can use, but there’s one available here.
- The gravestone of Eliza Biehl (+1915), buried in Fulton, Ohio, is encrypted in a pigpen cipher, too.
- From Nick Pelling’s website I learned about an encrypted gravestone in Dalkeith, Scotland.
- There’s also a pigpen gravestone in Newcastle, UK. Again, I can’t publish a picture of it for copyright reasons; check here to see one.
I still don’t know the exact location of the gravestone in Newcastle. Can a reader tell me, on which cemetery it can be found?
There are also encrypted gravestones that do not bear a pigpen cryptogram:
- The inscription of Knut Bergman’s gravestone in Kikås, Sweden is encrypted.
- Herzog Rudolf IV (+1365), who is buried in Vienna, seems to be the only aristocrat whose gravestone inscription is encrypted.
- The gravestone of Henrietta Bean (+1865) and Susanna Bean (+1867) in Wellesley, Canada, bears a crypto puzzle.
- John Renie’s grave in Monmouth, Wales, features a crypto puzzle gravestone, too.
- James Burns’ encrypted gravestone is located in Belfast.
- Aquila Maud Freeman’s grave can be found in Dartmouth, Canada.
Finally, I know of three gravestones that bear a hidden message:
- The famous Fuck-You gravestone, located in Montreal, Canada has an inscription with a hidden message.
- In Hollywood, there is a similar steganographic grave stone.
- The gravestone of William and Elizebeth Friedman in Washington, DC, bears a hidden message, too.
An encrypted gravestone in Portugal
When I recently searched for terms such as “encrypted grave” and “encrypted tombstone”, I found an encrypted grave inscription I hadn’t known before. It’s number 18 on my list – a large gravestone with a long inscription.
The grave in question is located at the “Cemiterio dos Prazeres” (“Cemetery of Pleasures”) in Lisbon, Portugal. The person burried there is an Adelaide Baptista Neves (1858-1891), apparently the wife of a rich man. For copyright reasons, I can only publish a photograph of the inscription here, not of the whole grave:
For a photo of the grave, check here. If a reader can find more pictures of it, please let me know.
The cipher used here is, of course, a variant of the pigpen cipher. Contrary to all other pigpen gravestones I know, this one has no obvious connection to the Freemasons.
To my regret, the (Portuguese) plaintext of this message is not available on Reddit any more, except for the last line: PAZ A TUA ALMA. However, a Reddit user named arisoto has posted an English translation of the decryption result:
In memory of my beloved, dear wife, Adelaide Baptista Neves¹. She was born on the 27th of August, 1858 and lived 33 years, 2 months and 19 days². She passed away on 15th of November, 1891. This was built on behalf of her husband, Joaquim José Cardozo Neves on the 16th of November, 1894.
Peace, pure soul.
Can a reader decipher the rest of the original plaintext? It shouldn’t be very difficult if ones uses PAZ A TUA ALMA as crib.
Further reading: Who can decipher this encrypted inscription on a cigaret case?