English actress Diana Dors left behind an encrypted message, which was deciphered years ago. Here’s another one, the solution of which is unknown.
English actress Diana Dors (1931-1984) was once considered the British counterpart of Marilyn Monroe. In dozens of films, she played a seductive blonde, while her private life was worthy of that of a film diva. Diana Dors died of cancer at age 52. The following picture shows her with Dutch entertainer Rudi Carrell:
Diana Dors’ first encrypted message
In 2015, at a symposium on the history of the Enigma in Poland, I met British cryptologist Andrew Clark. The following photo shows the two of us with Dermot Turing (the nephew of Alan Turing):
Andrew told me an interesting story about Diana Dors. About a year and a half before her death, Dors gave her son, Mark Dawson, an encrypted messsage. This ciphertext allegedly described the whereabouts of two million pounds she had hidden. Dors was already suffering from cancer at that time and probably expected that she would not live much longer.
The said story is covered in a British TV documentary, which seems to be not available online any more. At least, there is a website about it. The following image of the encrypted message is taken from the documentary:
Dors’ third and last husband, Alan Lake, allegedly knew the encryption key of this message. However, he died only six months after his wife.
When Mark Dawson tried to decipher the cryptogram, both his mother and her husband had already deceased. He therefore attempted to decrypt the message with codebreaking means. He figured out that the first part of the cryptogram was encrypted in a Pigpen cipher:
Dawson managed to solve the encryption. Here’s how the cipher works:
The plaintext is the following (with spaces added): LOCATIONS AND NAMES
Here’s a transcription of the second part of the cryptogram:
EAWVL XEIMO RZTIC SELKM KMRUQ QPYFC ZAOUA TNEYS QOHVQ YPLYS OEOEW TCEFY ZZEPI NYAUD RZUGM SSONV JDAER SZNVS QSHRK XPVCC WUAEJ JTWGC WQRCC NRBKZ VIITF RZLTS VOAIB NQZOK VANJJ TFAJO GYUEB XZHRY UFSDM ZEBRK GIECJ QZHFY QBYVU FNEGD EDIXF YZHOM PMNLQ XFHFO UXAEB HZSNO EAUIL JXIWD KTUDN MCCGC EURDG SRBCW GMNKC RLHER HETVP GWOGC WANVJ NGYTZ RALTM TAYTL UUSKM QIRZH
When Dawson couldn’t break this one, he consulted a team of British cryptologists. One of them was Andrew Clark, who later told me about this story.
A plaintext that is not really clear
Clark and his colleagues performed a few statistical analyses of the cryptogram. They soon saw that they were dealing with a Vigenère cipher, and they had no trouble breaking it. The keyword turned out to be DMARYFLUCK, derived from Dors’ civil name Diana Mary Fluck. Here is how the first line is decrypted:
Ciphertext: EAWVL XEIMO RZTIC SELKM KMRUQ Key: DMARY FLUCK DMARY FLUCK DMARY Cleartext: BOWEN STOKE ONTRE NTRIC HARDS
The cryptogram decrypted to a list of surnames, each one followed by a city in England or Wales:
- Bowen, Stoke On Trent
- Richards, Leeds
- Woodcock, Winchester
- Wilson, York
- Downey, Kingston Upon Hull
- Grant, Nottingham
- Sebastian, Leicester
- Leigh, Ipswich
- Morris, Cardiff
- Mason, Slough
- Edmundson, Portsmouth
- Padwell, London
- Pyewacket, Brighton
- McManus, Sunderland
- Coyle, Bournemouth
- Humphries, Birmingham
- Dante, Manchester
- Bluestone, Liverpool
- Cooper, Bristol
To my knowledge, it is still unknown what this list means. Do the names refer to real people? If so, did these individuals receive a part of Dors’ millions? The TV documentary does not provide any answers on these questions.
Apparently, Mark Dawson never found the fortune his mother had allegedly left behind. It is even unclear whether Dors still owned so much money when she died. Although she had earned well during her career, she later had to declare bankruptcy.
A second cryptogram
Last week, I received an email from Sean Flynn, who has recently purchased a bunch of photos and paperwork Diana Dors left behind. These items are featured in the TV documentary.
One of the sheets in Sean’s collection shows seven strange-looking words:
Here’s a transcript of this cryptogram:
All seven words are pronounceable (except for the last syllable of MALPAOPEQM), which makes it unlikely that they were created with a letter-based substitution.
On the other hand, these pronounceable words apparently don’t have a meaning. A Google search doesn’t produce any useful results.
An obvious explanation would be that each word represents an anagram. However, I don’t think that LAKAMAR or AMAMAM can be anagrammed to meaningful words.
Codewords from a codebook would be another possibility. But I see no reason why Diana Dors would use a codebook for her private notes.
All in all, I can’t come up with a good explanation for these seven words. Do they just represent gibberish? If a reader can find out more, please let Sean and me know.
Further reading: Tony Gaffney’s starlight steganogram