In 1908, an ecrypted postcard signed with “Somebody” was sent to a sobriety organisation in Northern Ireland. Can a reader decipher it?
Let me first mention that my US friend Bill Briere has published a series of six crypto challenges on Linkedin. If you’re looking for some distraction in this time of the coronavirus, consider these puzzles. But be aware: “They’re very challenging,” Bil writes, “so don’t get discouraged if you can’t solve all of them right out of the gate.”
A postcard sent to a temperance institute
The cryptogram I’m going to introduce today once again stems from Reddit. It’s an encrypted postcard posted by a user named Dazeofthephoenix four months ago. As it seems, it is still unsolved, which is quite unusual. Perhaps, it is particularly difficult to break.
Like many times before when I wrote about postcards, I needed to take a geography lesson in order to learn in which part of the world this card was sent and received. This time I had to check where Islandmagee and the town of Larne are located. Here’s what I found out: Islandmagee is a Peninsula on the northeastern shore of Northern Ireland; Larne is a town nearby.
… the postcard in question was stamped on Islandmagee and sent to a Miss Annie Kear living in Larne. The honorific “Miss” indicates that the recipient was not married. This suggests that this encrypted postcard was, like many others, sent by a young man to his lover.
Let’s take a closer look at the message:
The ciphertext consists of letters and digits. My guess is that the sender used a simple substitution cipher (MASC). I have seen cryptograms of this kind that are very simple (for instance, each letter represents itself, while the numbers stand for E, T, A, and O), but this one appears to be more complex.
The message is signed with “SOMEBODY” and “Ask Pearl”. Unless the ciphertext contains the name of the sender, we might never learn who wrote this unusual postcard.
The most interesting part about this postcard is the term “Temperance Institute” mentioned in the address. I have never heard of such an organisation before. Apparently, the purpose of a temparance institute was to fight the evil of alcohol drinking, with most of these institutions having a Christian backgroud. Perhaps, Annie Kear worked for the Larne Temperance Institute when she received this postcard from her lover.
Can a reader break this cryptogram? Does a reader know more about temperance institutes? If so, please leave a comment.
Further reading: Two unsolved encrypted postcards from London and Chicago