Please help me figure out what this script says. It's a mystery!

Hi SD,

This is an old fashioned “crack the code” mystery.

A friend has a painting on her wall. I took some pictures. Both of the script in the middle and the artist’s name.

I believe it is a pigpen cipher, but I’m not sure if it’s modified or not. My friend says the script is meaningless, but I don’t believe that is true. Why would you take the time to write something in your painting in such a prominent place and then have it mean nothing. I don’t buy it.

I am turning to the Straight Dope to give me the Straight Dope on this. All of my attempts to crack this code have been unsuccessful. I tried thinking of it as a cryptogram, but I didn’t get very far. Any help?



It’s a standard pigpen cipher with different symbols for S through Z.

It starts with “Beneath the earth”, but the angle makes me not want to spend time on the rest of it.

Okay, apparently I lied and I’m struggling through the angles. So far:

Beneath the earth’s outer surface lies a…

And done…

Beneath the earth’s outer surface lies a vast awesome fantasyland

DMC just beat me to it.

Apparently a grid,grid,grid pigpen cipher.

Dang, ninjaed. I used this site as a helper after transcribing the symbols to letters:

Didn’t get it fully via the auto-solve, but it got a few of the words, and the rest easily fell into place.

Thanks so much!



That’s what I got too. It’s very satisfying to crack even a simple code.

I believe this particular code was referred to as “The Civil War Code” in one of the Alvin Fernald books. IIRC, it was supposedly used by POWs (Confederate and Union, I guess) to pass secret messages to the outside.

Since this was in Cafe Society, not the Game Room, I didn’t even think about the fact that others might enjoy the challenge and treated it more like a GQ.

Mods, if you want to spoiler the shit out of my posts so that others can play with it, it won’t hurt my feelings.

Big shout out to @Chronos for adding the spoiler!

Dunno if anyone else wants to play with it, but I’ve spoilered it.

And wow, you posted quick.

It gave me notifications as you were spoiling away. Greatly appreciated!

Might want to get rid of guanolad’s post as well!

I hate to ask (yes, I know I’m about a year late), but do the other patterns spell out anything? The icicles, and the hilly bumps. One could imagine some really secret code.

Long story, involving bumps like that, which got me asking the question. A teacher I had was an architect, and he designed a small “hole-in-the-wall” (deep but narrow) retail store in NYC. The ceiling cross-section front to back was undulating, a little smoother but bumpy like in pianodave’s photo. The secret? He signed his name, then drew a curved line following the underside of his signature, then used that for the pattern of the ceiling. Never told the client.

I think those are stalactites, since we’re supposed to be looking at some vast underground panorama. They just make up the roof framing the view.

And yes, once you know it’s the Civil War Code, you don’t even need a pencil and paper to decipher it. It’s even easy to figure out if you approach it as just a simple substitution cipher and do a frequency count.