The encrypted postcard of a murder suspect

When Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor was murdered in 1922, his janitor Edward F. Snyder came under suspicion and subsequently disappeared without a trace. Thanks to Nils Kopal, today I can present a coded postcard from Snyder.

Deutsche Version

Four weeks ago I blogged about silent film actress Mary Miles Minter (1902-1984). Her career, which had been extremely successful until then, was shaken in 1922 when the director William Desmond Taylor, with whom she had worked, was murdered. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Miles Minter had written coded love letters to the man 30 years her senior. I presented one of them in my blog article:

Quelle/Source: Wikimedia Commons, Silent Era

Presumably there were other letters of this type, but I have not been able to locate any so far. Perhaps a reader will be able to do so.


Nils Kopal’s video

The encryption used by Miles Minter is a simple Pigpen variant, which was already solved at that time. If you want to know how this works, you should watch the following YouTube video by Nils Kopal (by the way, there are many more interesting crypto videos on his channel):

Miles Minter, like her mother, was among the murder suspects, but this suspicion could not be substantiated. Nevertheless, the young actress’ love for a much older man caused a scandal.

Miles Minter shot only four movies after this affair. In 1923 the film studio Paramount, for which she worked, didn’t renew her contract. Although Miles Minter now received numerous offers from other production companies, she retired from the film business at the age of 21. With the money she had earned by then, she lived a life of prosperity until her death six decades later.


Edward F. Snyder

The murder of William Desmond Taylor was never solved. The main suspect was quickly considered to be a certain Edward F. Snyder (he called himself “Edward J. Sands”), who worked for Taylor as a janitor.

Quelle/Source: Wikimedia Commons

Snyder disappeared immediately after the murder, and the police were never able to locate his whereabouts. On the other hand, there was never an arrest warrant either, because there was not enough evidence.


Snyder’s postcard

After Nils Kopal published his video about the encrypted letters of Miles Minter, a viewer from California named Nicholas Pinhey contacted him, reporting to have a partially encrypted postcard of Edward F. Snyder. He had purchased it at auction two years earlier, along with other documents from Snyder’s estate. Pinhey is an expert on the Taylor murder and is currently trying to research Snyder’s life after the crime.

Nils has thankfully provided me with a scan of said map:

Quelle/Source: Dr. Nicholas Pinhey

The card dates back to 1912, so it was written ten years before the murder. As you can read on the card, Snyder received this letter from a friend named Bill. This was a fellow army officer. Here is a transcription:

Yours O).H?. Glad to hear
you will be rated soon.
Newport is a bum place
and well I know it.
Three months more, never
again. Her address is
21-11-212-3-212-2-33. Newport R.I
get me. Friend Bill

Here is the encrypted part in close-up:

Quelle/Source: Dr. Nicholas Pinhey


The solution

Nils Kopal and his girlfriend managed to crack this cryptogram. If you feel like it, you are welcome to try it yourself. If you want to know the solution right away, you should watch the following video, which Nils published in his YouTube channel:

One thing I can say in advance: The plain text does not help to clarify the murder. Of course, that was not to be expected. Despite everything, I find the story about the murder of William Desmond Taylor extremely exciting. And who knows, maybe Nicholas Pinhey with 100 years delay can still contribute something to the clarification.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.

Further reading: Wie die Leser dieses Blogs ein spektakuläres Rätsel lösten


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