Just like every end of year, I am awarding the Golden Alice for outstanding achievements in the field of crypto history and codebreaking.

Like in the years before, my last blog entry of the year is dedicated to the Golden Alice Award. The Golden Alice is awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of codebreaking and historical cryptography. There are eight categories.


Golden Alice 2017 for Best Codebreaking

Like in the years before, many of my readers have solved cryptograms I introduced on this blog. For instance, Tony Gaffney has broken Ernest Rinzi’s code, Klaus Tappeiner has solved the Tengri 137 message, and John McVey has deciphered a telegram from 1948.

In my view, the most outstanding cryptogram – in terms of difficulty and importance – solved in 2017 was the one of emperor Ferdinand III (1608 -1657). In June 2017, Thomas Ernst from St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania posted the solution of this encrypted text. I had introduced it twice on this blog before.


I hereby award the Golden Alice in the category Best Codebreaking to Thomas Ernst for this great success.


I’m looking forward to the research paper Thomas will publish about Ferdinand’s encrypted letters.


Golden Alice 2017 for Best Book

2017 has been an exceptionally good year with regards to crypto history books. Of course, I am convinced that my own book Versteckte Botschaften (only available in German) is an outstanding one – but the decision is left to my readers.


Here are a few more interesting books that have been published over the last 12 months:

  • The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is thrilling book about spy Brian Regan. Regan used several encryption methods, which were broken by the FBI. I blogged about this spy several times.
  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone is a biography of master-codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman (1892-1980). It’s a must-read for everybody interested in crypto history.
  • Divine Fire by Katie Letcher Lyle and David Joyner is another Elizebeth Friedman biography published in 2017. The whole book is available online.

And finally, the new book by Craig Bauer …


… came ot a few months ago. Craig’s book is named Unsolved!. It gives an overview of the world’s most important unsolved cryptograms. Many of the topics covered in Unsolved! will sound familiar to readers of Klausis Krypto Kolumne.


There’s no doubt that this book has deserved the Golden Alice 2017 in the Best Book category. Congratulations to Craig Bauer!

Golden Alice 2016 for Best TV Documentary

The most notable TV documentary about a crypto history topic in 2017 clearly was History channel’s The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer. There’s no doubt that this series has drawn a lot of attention on the Zodiac Killer case and on codebreaking in general. Craig Bauer, Kevin Knight, David Oranchak and Ed Scheidt, who were members of the documentary’s expert team, became TV stars – they certainly have deserved it because of their great work over the last few years. The blog posts I wrote about this series received thousands of page hits within hours – I hope some of the new readers will stay.

But was The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer a good documentary? No, certainly not. It did not provide more than a number of well-known hypotheses disguised as new insights, and a false solution of the second Zodiac cryptogram. It’s no wonder that this documetary received a lot of criticism from crypto experts. So, I don’t want to award this series a Golden Alice.

As there is no other crypto history TV documentary made in 2017 I am aware of, I don’t award the Golden Alice 2017 in this category at all.


Golden Alice 2016 for Best Event

In May 2017, the Historic Ciphers Coloquium in Bratislava, Slovakia, took place. It was labled the third of its kind, but actually was the first one that could be called an international crypto history meeting. It was a great event with about 25 attendants and good presentations. However, this conference series is still in its infancy and there are many things about it that still have to improve. Especially, we need to attract more attendants. I’m sure, the 2018 edition, which will take place in Uppsala, Sweden, will mark another step forward.

The best crypto history event in 2017 was in my view the NSA Symposium for Cryptologic History in Fort Meade, Maryland. Congratulations to the organisers for receiving the Golden Alice in the Best Event category.


Golden Alice 2016 for Encrypted Book

Encrypted books are one of my favorite topics. In 2017 my Encrypted Book List has grown from 83 to 89 entries. Which one of the newbies is the most interesting one? In my view it’s Ernest Rinzi’s journal. Thanks to David Scheers from the Netherlands, who informed me about this unique encrypted book.


Ernest Rinzi (1836-1909) was a jeweler, goldsmith and miniaturist of Italian decent, who lived in London. He exhibited miniature portraits at the Royal Academy and was a member of the Society of Miniature Painters.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign owns the encrypted journal Rinzi left behind. It is shown on the library’s Tumblr site (check here, here and  here).


Golden Alice 2016 for Encrypted Postcard

Over the last few years I have blogged about over 100 encrypted postcards. There were even postcard series consisting of a dozen or more cards, like the twelve beautiful encrypted postcards provided by Tobias Schrödel and the 44 postcards sent by Josef Fröwis from 1898 to 1900. In 2017 I blogged about a number of encrypted postcards again, but none of them was as spectacular as the afore-mentioned ones.

The most interesting postcard I encountered in 2017 was the one sent from Russia in 1906 (provided to me by Tobias Schrödel).


This postcard was sent from Russia to Finland. The message proved to be written in German. Torbjörn Andersson, Norbert Biermann, and Thomas Bosbach solved it.


Golden Alice 2016 for Newly Discovered Cryptogram

The most notable unsolved cryptogram that has come to my attention in 2017 is the afore-mentioned journal of Ernest Rinzi. However, Tony Gaffney solved this mystery within a few weeks, so it doesn’t qualify for the Golden Alice. Instead, I hereby award the Golden Alice in the “Newly Discovered Cryptogram” category to the Cigaret Case cryptogram.


So far, nobody has solved this strange inscription on a German cigaret case. Any help from me readers is appreciated.


Golden Alice 2016 for Outstanding Work

This category used to be named “Newly Created Cryptogram”. However, in 2017 there was no newly created cryptogram of notable importance. So I decided to award the Golden Alice for a different kind of work: the platform for the Cryptologic Travel Guide made by Christian Baumann.


So far, almost 100 crypto sights are included in the Travel Guide. There are more I will include next year. If you know other places that are interesting for crypto enthusiasts please let me know.

Congratulations to all the winners! I am looking forward to writing many more blog posts in 2018.

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Further reading: My visit at the Cheltenham Listening Stones


Kommentare (2)

  1. #1 Klaus Schmeh
    31. Dezember 2017

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    In regards to the hunt for the zodiac killer Every time an episode of aired we would recieve a number of membership request on both the classical ciphers group and ACA discussion group as per the graph below.

  2. #2 Klaus Schmeh
    31. Dezember 2017

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    As can be seen up to the show being aired levels were fairly static.