Gravestones bearing an encrypted or hidden message are rare, and they have a morbid charm. On Reddit, I have found one I hadn’t known before. I have no idea where it is located and what the inscription means.

If you want to leave something special behind after your death, you should consider a gravestone with an encrypted or hidden message. Only 17 of these are known to me, even after years of research. Considering that there are dozens of millions of graves in the world, a cryptographic or steganographic note on a gravestone can without a doubt be regarded as something very unusual.

In the following, I am going to list all the encrypted gravestones I am aware of. Almost all of them are listed in the Cryptologic Travel Guide.


Pigpen gravestones

Most of the encrypted gravestones I know stand on Freemasonic graves and bear a pigpen inscription (pigpen ciphers were especially popular among Freemasons):


Source: Schmeh

  • The gravestone of James Leeson (+1794) is located in the vicinity of the World Trade Center in New York City, too.

Source: Schmeh

I still don’t know the exact location of the gravestone in Newcastle. Can a reader tell me, on which cemetery this grave can be found?


Non-pigpen gravestones

There are also encrypted gravestones that do not bear a pigpen cryptogram:


Steganographic gravestones

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.

Source: Schmeh


Source: Schmeh


Another cryptic gravestone

When I recently browsed through the /r/codes group on Reddit (always a good source for interesting cryptograms), I found another encrypted gravestone. Here it is:

Source: Reddit

This picture was published by a user named maximumice. He wrote:

This is on one side of a modern gravestone in a graveyard near my home. It was knocked over in a recent storm. The user who found this did not flip it to see the reverse. Any ideas what the inscription could mean?

I wish I could tell you more about this crypto mystery, but I don’t have any information about it. Can a reader find out where this gravestone is located and to whose grave it belongs? And, most of all, can somebody say what these letters mean? Of course, they do not necessarily represent an encrypted text, but I assume that these letter sequences have a meaning.

Further reading: Who can decipher this encrypted inscription on a cigaret case?


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Kommentare (12)

  1. #1 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    21. April 2020

    It could be a twig off the deceased’s family tree, using first initials of first names.

  2. #2 Gerry
    21. April 2020

    I thought of a Vernam cipher or a One Time Pad with “That’s what …” as the key, but whatever order I enter the other characters, the output is always gibberish.

  3. #3 Ralf Buelow
    22. April 2020

    There was a discussion about it a few years ago at It is in Dartmouth (Nova Scotia) i.e. in Canada, see the “Which city” question in the comments.

  4. #4 Helmut
    22. April 2020

    That looks like a chronogram to me.

    The first line would mean 1.
    The following columns 101, 2000, 600, 50.
    This looks striking, but the further meaning is also unclear to me.
    For easy solving of chronograms there is an online tool.
    For instance the sentence “Hornberg is everywhere” results in the number “6”

    For the quick analysis of the usual crypto procedures, there exists also a useful tool


  5. #5 David Oranchak
    22. April 2020

    The “it’s a family tree” explanation seems very plausible.

    Another reddit post about it:

    Top comment there points out some research someone did to try to confirm that hypothesis:

  6. #6 David Oranchak
    22. April 2020

    The grave is for Aquila Maud Freeman (Chapman). This obituary of her son John Freeman is consistent with the family tree hypothesis:

    His name is John, has brothers Gordon and Robert, and sister Sylvia. These are the JGRS in the first row.

    John’s children are Kathy, Judy, and Wendy. These are the KJW under the J in the first row. The indented letters KCE under KJW are the grandchildren.

  7. #7 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    22. April 2020

    If we could get a peek at the front of the stone, I’m guessing we’d see the name of a couple. With that information, we could do some genealogical research and see if the family tree conforms somehow to the letters on the back.

    The symbol at the top could be a stylized “M,” possibly for the initial of the family’s last name.

    Let’s say, then, that Mr. & Mrs. Music or whatever had 4 children with the initials J, G, R, and S. Let’s call them John, George, Ringo, and Saul, for the sake of discussion.

    These fabulous 4 kids gave their parents 14 grandkids, with John and George also giving them 4 great-grandkids.

    That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

  8. #8 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    22. April 2020

    @Dave Oops, posted at the same time.

    Congrats on the nice sleuthing and a perfect solution!

  9. #9 Klaus Schmeh
    22. April 2020

    Thanks to all! Apparently, this mystery is solved now.

  10. #10 Tony Payzant
    27. Juni 2020

    I would hazard a guess that the stylized “M” at the top of the stone isn’t about names, after all it’s usually the surname that is highlighted on a gravestone in North America, and her only “M” name is not even her first name. I would be so bold as to suggest that is in fact a representation of the view an obstetrician would have of the mom while her progeny were being born. Which seems to be what she wished to be remembered for (i.e., being the matriarch of all these generations). Apologies to the family if this is wildly out of line with their intentions.

  11. #11 Adrian Jones
    29. September 2020

    I can confirm that it’s the initials of her children (John, Gordon, Robert and Sylvia) and their children (and in some cases their children’s children) in turn. They’re my family!

  12. #12 Klaus Schmeh
    29. September 2020

    @Adrian: Thank you very much for this conformation from a family member! Is there anything interesting you can say about the background of this grave stone?