At the HistoCrypt in Uppsala, Craig Bauer gave a talk about famous cryptograms. Among other things, he defended his solution of the second Zodiac Killer cryptogram, which was heavily criticized by the readers of this blog.

First of all, let me say hello from Uppsala, Sweden, where the HistoCrypt 2018 is currently taking place. I have the honor of being a member of the steering committee of this event.


HistoCrypt 2018

55 people are attending HistoCrypt 2018, including many readers of this blog, like Norbert Biermann, Armin Krauß, Jerry McCarthy and George Lasry. Already on the first day, I heard several talks that inspired me to blog posts I might write in the near future. Program chair Beáta Megyesi and her team are doing a great job in organizing this event.

The most important message of HistoCrypt 2018 is that crypto history research is making progress. More and more skilled people get involved in this field, while new research areas are explored and new infrastructure is developed.

My two contributions to this year’s HistoCrypt, apart from committee work, are a presentation I will give about codebooks/nomenclators and a poster I have presented today. I will write more about this in a later post.

The current HistoCrypt is mainly a scientific event, but it has been decied that next year’s issue will be extended. Especially, it will feature a presentation track for people without a scientific scope. So, if you are a crypto machine collector, a crypto history book author, a journalist with an interest in crypto, a Voynich Manuscript enthusiast or just an interested reader of this blog, please consider handing in a presentation proposal. The application process for this track will be simple and you will not be required to write a paper for the conference proceedings. The speaking proposals will not be evaluated based on scientific considerations but on the attractivity of the topic and the competence of the lecturer.

In case you are more interested in a publication with a high scientific value, you still can hand in a research paper.


Craig Bauer’s talk

In my view, the highlight of the first conference day was Craig Bauer’s presentation about famous unsolved and solved cryptograms based on his latest book Unsolved! (this book, which is written in English, has a similar content as my German book Nicht zu knacken).

As readers of this blog might remember, Craig published a solution of the second Zodiac Killer cipher when he appeared in a History Channel documentary last year. Many crypto experts criticized him for this because they believe that this solution is not correct.

As can be imagined, many attendants were excited about whether Craig would address his Zodiac Killer solution in his talk. In fact he did. The Zodiac Killer story even filled 18 minutes of his 45 minutes speech. I recorded this part of the talk with my smart phone, Craig agreed that I publish this video on my blog. Here it is:

According to Craig, the Zodiac Killer used a substitution cipher with backwards homophones (i.e., there might be several ciphertext letters that stand for the same plaintext letter, and there might be several plaintext letters that stand for the same ciphertext letter). In addition, Craig thinks that a part of the cryptogram is simply gibberish, which is the reason why frequency analysis and other codebreaking tools don’t work very well on the message.

Of course, it would be nice to have a research paper about Craig’s solution published in Cryptologia or another scientific magazine, but Craig said that he is currently not working on such a publication.

Craig also spoke about the Paul Rubin murder case (a story he discovered and made available to the crypto history community), which was quite interesting. I recorded this part of the talk on video, too. I will write about it later.

Finally, Craig challenged his audience with an encrypted text that was found in a bible in his hometown York, Pennsylvania. Here it is:


The solution of this cryptogram is known. Armin Krauß found it within minutes, others deciphered this message, too. Can a reader break this ciphertext, as well?

Further reading: A great event: the European Historical Ciphers Colloquium 2017


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Kommentare (13)

  1. #1 TWO
    20. Juni 2018

    This bible……??


  2. #2 Lance Estes
    20. Juni 2018

    I am disappointed that Craig Bauer would defend his solution. In the TV series it was painfully clear that he was forcing a solution based on what he thought might be there, and then claiming gibberish when it no longer worked. C’mon really!? And if that is not enough for you, consider that in one section where he claims the plain as reading NOW angry dangeros, the cipher that represents the W in NOW, was earlier recovered as a T in NIGHT. So maybe the Zodiac is NOT angry dangeros! Those statements are on nearly opposite ends of the spectrum. You just can’t do this. 🙁

    If it helps for folks to see the Bauer solution, Nick Pelling had a nice column that includes it.

  3. #3 Peter
    20. Juni 2018

    This bible was bought in England.
    I got this bible from Mrs. Walter
    right for another bible. AIAU.

  4. #4 TWO
    Rome, Italy
    21. Juni 2018


    Good job, you got it but you missed the date.

    A I A U
    1 9 1 2 1

    January 1912


  5. #5 TWO
    Rome, Italy
    21. Juni 2018

    This is how to break this cryptogram

    Assume the first word which looks like DHIZ means THIS

    the second word has 5 letters, the second letter is an I *and you are looking at at a bible? Make an educated guess

    T H I S B I B L E

    fill in the known/guesed letters.

    # # S B # # H # E # # L # # #

    the third word is obviously BOUGHT

    # # S B O U G H T E # # L # # #

    fill in again

    # # S B O U G H T E N G L A N D

    # A S B O U G H T E N G L A N D

    W A S B O U G H T E N G L A N D

    If you don’t forget the word IN, like I did it is even easier

    One dot = space
    Two dots = dot


  6. #6 TWO
    21. Juni 2018

    Who can solve the cryptogram I made?


    I dedicate this to Bill Lann and Jew Lee Briere.

    Two dedicated hard working cryptanalysts, they sacrifice all their free time for their country.
    True Cold War warriors…


  7. #7 TWO
    Aachen, Germany
    26. Juni 2018

    Maybe not the right place but just for a laugh:

    B E R L I N – C L O C K – W G D K Z X T J C D – U P – X – U S A – F L Y – W E S T

  8. #8 Breaker
    27. Juni 2018

    The problem with these symposiums and the numerous “Book Deals” is that they are not really doing it for me…..

    One NSA “Fellow” Dave Oranchek has already asserted that he cannot break them, and offered discussions that ask the question “When do we know when to stop trying to solve them?” and has a pretty good following explaining that critical fact to everyone that he meets. That he cannot solve them, and that we should stop trying because ?

    The same “Fellow” on the show “Hunting the Zodiac”, Craig Bauer, has been instrumental in using the most advanced cpu tech to also assert that he cannot solve them. With this monumental opportunity on national tv you would think that they would find these associates crucial to solving it all for the ratings, but instead barely touched on the ciphers, instead focusing on strands of patterns that they had made up software for years before the show, offering the chance to see “new” info. Didnt happen then either?

    Computer makes some patterns appear, and the interest disappears.

    Instead as a consolation Kevin Knight, Craig Tester, and D. Oranchek decided again what there was for us to see about their discoveries, behind their secretive codebreaking partnership……he offers yet another online system that can “write poetry, like a serial killer”, using his computer to generate the lines of these Mikado Haiku’s at any time.

  9. #9 Breaker
    27. Juni 2018

    If you want to talk book deal…. lets roll

  10. #10 Jürgen Koller
    18. September 2018

    Hallo Klaus!

    Geht man bei Bauers Lösung in die Tiefe, so ergibt sich für mich jedenfalls das Bild, dass sie sich nicht wesentlich von meiner, jedenfalls der Wertigkeit nach, unterscheidet. Ich jedoch toure nicht durch die halbe Welt und verkünde, den Z340 gelöst zu haben.


  11. #11 EPotts
    22. Oktober 2018

    I have something better no one has seen yet.

  12. #12 NowhereMan
    5. November 2018

    I feel embarrassed for this guy. It’s one thing to produce something silly for a TV show, but quite another to try to defend it to people who should actually be more interested in the facts than being on TV. That he speaks with such certainty is really annoying, especially given that he will never submit a paper on this topic to his own journal, Cryptologia, as it would be ripped to shreds.

  13. #13 Sharon Lindimore
    15. Mai 2023

    Zodiac could not cipher, Those are really translations of another language that is not seen often. You can see what he said without any errors if you just put them (and special char) in Google translator. Just takes a few hours for them all and 15 min for Z13 and Z32. Carmel was worthless. All you need is a few hours to do every one and pencil and paper and google translator. You may get arabic on some. In that case convert the arabic to english. And that is all there is to it. They arent ciphers. Name is in Z340 and Z408 only. Z13 and Z32 are red herrings. So is the map. Generally I do not believe what serial killers say but I guess millions of people do. Thank you