Cryptic Texts

I’m taking a little side trip away from the paranormal, though I suppose anything cryptic could fall under the paranormal if defined loosely. I found a list of 10 cryptic texts that I thought I’d explore for the blog. How many cryptic texts can you name? Do you think they will ever be solved? Should they be solved?

1. Voynich Manuscript – discovered in 1912, the book is apparently 600 years old (I’m guessing some sort of carbon dating was used to figure that out) and it appears to contain writings on plants, biological systems, astrology and astronomy. No one is 100% sure about the contents, however.

2. Codex Seraphinianus – published in 1981, this book is an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world. That, in itself, would seem to pose no great mystery, but the author (who is very much alive), wrote the book in a very unintelligible language. Or so it would seem. The author indicated that it isn’t really a language so much as an exercise in automatic writing meant to convey the confusion children who are learning to read often experience when opening a book and seeing all the words.

3. Rohonc Codex – dating to the 1700s, this book contains 87 crude illustrations with a lot of Christian, Pagan and Islamic symbolism. The script used is believed to be early Hungarian, Hindi and a syllabary alphabet similar to Chinese.

4. Zodiac Killer’s coded messages – 45 years ago a serial killer terrorized Northern California for nearly a year, targeting women between 16 and 29. The name was conveyed in a series of letters sent to the Bay Area Press, which included four cryptograms. Of the four, only 1 has been solved.

5. The Beale Papers – it is not known when this cipher was written, but it became public in 1885 and allegedly leads to over 60 million dollars in treasure, said to have been squirreled away by Thomas Jefferson Beale. However, there has been no record found of a Thomas Jefferson Beale in Virginia or elsewhere. Despite one of the ciphers being solved, it appears no one verified the authenticity of the results of the deciphering. Scholars believe the papers are a hoax.

6. Alchemist, occultist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee had ownership of the Book of Soyga until his death. It was thought to be lost until the 1990s, when two manuscripts were located in the British Library and the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library under a different title. Dee sought the help of spirit medium Edward Kelley to uncover the significance of the 16th-century magical text. The angel Uriel supposedly revealed to the men that only the archangel Michael could interpret the book. Later, writer Jim Reeds cracked the code used to create the 36 tables of letters found within, but the collection of incantations, names, and backwards writing remains a mystery.

7. Dorabella Cipher – this three line sipher is supposedly a love letter sent from married composer Edward Elgar to his 20 year old friend Dora Penny. Penny herself was said to be unable to decipher it and some believe the curled lines are notes for a musical composition.

8. Believed to be a ritual calendar, the Liber Linteus has a somewhat morbid history. A Croatian official in the Hungarian Royal Chancellery purchased a female mummy from Egypt during his travels. He displayed it in the sitting room of his home, even removing the linen wrappings at one point. After his death, the mummy was donated to the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, where a lengthy inscription was found on the cloth, estimated to date back to 250 BC. The codex contains 230 lines and 1200 legible Etruscan words — hymn-like passages and names of gods. The mummy itself was identified as Nesi-hensu, the wife of Paher-hensu, a tailor from Thebes. Scholars have never been able to decipher the entire text due to a language barrier.

9. Ripley Scrolls are a 15th century work of emblematic symbolism, written by English alchemist and Augustinian monk George Ripley. The work contains strange imagery and poetic passages referring to the philosopher’s stone and its creation. There are 21 Scrolls in existence and most are 20 feet long and roughly a foot and a half wide.

10. Persian poet and astronomer Omar Khayyám wrote thousands of poems, many compiled into The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Numerous translations have added widely different meanings to the text, ranging from mystic interpretations to devoutly religious (Islamic) symbolism. Scholars can’t agree on the authenticity of the collection, clouding the works further. Francis Sangorski, one half of London bookbinder company Sangorski & Sutcliffe, created a stunning bejeweled binding forThe Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám that took years to create. It was lost during the sinking of the Titanic. Sangorski drowned weeks later, leading many to believe that the book itself is cursed.