unsolved mystries

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Unexplained Mysteries Of The Worlds





    Go figure Few stories have the power to captivate us more than those that remain unresolved. Codes, puzzles and cryptic

    public art tease us with their intrigue: Why is their message coded? What great secrets might they hide? Despite the

    efforts of our most revered historians, cleverest cryptographers and most determined treasure hunters, history is

    replete with riddles that continue to confound us today. Fictional tales like those featured in The Da Vinci Code

    and the movie National Treasure have got nothing on these real-life puzzles. Here's our list of 10 of the world's

    most cryptic unsolved mysteries and codes.

  • Voynich Manuscript Named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912, the Voynich

    Manuscript is a detailed 240-page book written in a language or script that is completely unknown. Its pages are also

    filled with colourful drawings of strange diagrams, odd events and plants that do not seem to match any known

    species, adding to the intrigue of the document and the difficulty of deciphering it. The original author of the

    manuscript remains unknown, but carbon dating has revealed that its pages were made sometime between 1404

    and 1438. It has been called "the world's most mysterious manuscript."

    Theories abound about the origin and nature of the manuscript. Some believe it was meant to be a pharmacopoeia,

    to address topics in medieval or early modern medicine. Many of the pictures of herbs and plants hint that it many

    have been some kind of textbook for an alchemist. The fact that many diagrams appear to be of astronomical origin,

    combined with the unidentifiable biological drawings, has even led some fanciful theorists to propose that the book

    may have an alien origin.

    One thing most theorists agree on is that the book is unlikely to be a hoax, given the amount of time, money and

    detail that would have been required to make it.


    Kryptos is a mysterious encrypted sculpture designed by artist Jim Sanborn which sits right outside the

    headquarters of the CIA in Langley, Va. It's so mysterious, in fact, that (first three inscriptions say here). In 2006

    Sanborn let slip that there are clues in the first inscriptions to the last one, and in 2010 he released another clue: the

    Letters 64-69 NYPVTT in part 4 encode the text BERLIN.

  • Mission Impossible: The Code Even the CIA

    Can't Crack

    The sculpture named Kryptos at CIA headquarters contains a secret message but not even the agency's brightest can crack its code.

    Photo: Adrian Gaut

    The most celebrated inscription at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, used to be the

    biblical phrase chiselled into marble in the main lobby: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you

    free." But in recent years, another text has been the subject of intense scrutiny inside the Company and out: 865

    characters of seeming gibberish, punched out of half-inch-thick copper in a courtyard.

    Its part of a sculpture called Kryptos, created by DC artist James Sanborn. He got the commission in 1988, when the

    CIA was constructing a new building behind its original headquarters. The agency wanted an outdoor installation for

    the area between the two buildings, so a solicitation went out for a piece of public art that the general public would

    never see. Sanborn named his proposal after the Greek word for hidden. The work is a meditation on the nature of

    secrecy and the elusiveness of truth, its message written entirely in code.

    Almost 20 years after its dedication, the text has yet to be fully deciphered. A bleary-eyed global community of self-

    styled cryptanalystsalong with some of the agency's own staffershas seen three of its four sections solved,

    revealing evocative prose that only makes the puzzle more confusing. Still un-cracked are the 97 characters of the

    fourth part (known as K4 in Kryptos-speak). And longer the deadlock continues, the crazier people get.

    Whether or not our top spooks intended it, the persistent opaqueness of Kryptos subversively embodies the nature

    of the CIA itselfand serves as a reminder of why secrecy and subterfuge so fascinate us. "The whole thing is about

    the power of secrecy," Sanborn tells me when I visit his studio, a barnlike structure on Jimmy Island in Chesapeake

    Bay (population: 2). He is 6'7", bearded, and looks a bit younger than his 63 years. Looming behind him is his latest

    work in progress, a 28-foot-high re-creation of the world's first particle accelerator, surrounded by some of the

  • original hardware from the Manhattan Project. The atomic gear fits nicely with the thrust of Sanborn's oeuvre, which

    centers on what he calls invisible forces.

    With Kryptos, Sanborn has made his strongest statement about what we don't see and can't know. "He designed a

    piece that would resonate with this workforce in particular," says Toni Hiley, who curates the employees-only CIA

    museum. Sanborn's ambitious work includes the 9-foot 11-inch-high main sculpturean S-shaped wave of copper

    with cut-out letters, anchored by an 11-foot column of petrified woodand huge pieces of granite abutting a low

    fountain. And although most of the installation resides in a space near the CIA cafeteria, where analysts and spies

    can enjoy it when they eat outside, Kryptos extends beyond the courtyard to the other side of the new building.

    There, copper plates near the entrance bear snippets of Morse code, and a naturally magnetized lodestone sits by

    a compass rose etched in granite.

    "People call me an agent of Satan," says artist Sanborn, "because I won't tell my secret."

    Photo: Adrian Gaut

    The heart of the piece, though, is the encrypted text, scrambled, Sanborn says, by "a coding system that would

    unravel itself slowly over a period of time."

    When he began the work, Sanborn knew very little about cryptography, so he reluctantly accepted the CIA's offer to

    work with Ed Scheidt, who had just retired as head of Langley's Cryptographic Center. Scheidt himself was serving

    two masters. "I was reminded of my need to preserve the agency's secrets," Scheidt says. "You know, don't tell him

    the current way of doing business. And don't create something that you cannot breakbut at the same time, make

    it something that will last a while."

    Scheidt schooled Sanborn in cryptographic techniques employed from the late 19th century until World War II, when

    field agents had to use pencil and paper to encode and decode their messages. (These days, of course, cryptography

    is all about rugged computer algorithms using long mathematical keys.) After experimenting with a range of

    techniques, including poly-alphabetic substitution, shifting matrices, and transposition, the two arrived at a form of

    old-school, artisanal cryptography that they felt would hold off code breakers long enough to generate some

    suspense. The solutions, however, were Sanborn's alone, and he did not share them with Scheidt. "I assumed the

    first three sections would be deciphered in a matter of weeks, perhaps months," Sanborn says. Scheidt figured the

    whole puzzle would be solved in less than seven years.

    During the two years of construction, there were moments of intrigue and paranoia, in keeping with the subject

    matter and the client. "We had to play a little on the clandestine side," says Scheidt, who talks of unnamed observers

  • outside armed with long-range cameras and high-intensity microphones. "We had people with ladders climbing up

    the walls of my studio trying to photograph inside," Sanborn says. He came to believe that factions within the CIA

    wanted to kill the project. There were unexplained obstacles. For instance, he says, "one day a big truckload of stone

    for the courtyard disappeared. Never found. I saw it in the evening, went back in the morning, and it had vanished.

    Nobody would tell me what happened to it."

    Sanborn finished the sculpture in time for a November 1990 dedication. The agency released the enciphered text,

    and frenzy erupted in the crypto world as some of the bestand wackiestcryptanalytic talent set to work. But it

    took them more than seven years, not the few months Sanborn had expected, to crack sections K1, K2, and K3. The

    first code breaker, a CIA employee named David Stein, spent 400 hours working by hand on his own time. Stein, who

    described the emergence of the first passage as a religious experience, revealed his partial solution to a packed

    auditorium at Langley in February 1998. But not a word was leaked to the press. Sixteen months later, Jim Gillogly,

    an LA-area cryptanalyst used a Pentium II computer and some custom software to crack the same three sections.

    When news of Gillogly's success broke, the CIA publicized Stein's earlier crack.

    James Sanborn buried his sculpture's message so deeply that a CIA staffer took seven

    years to solve just the first three sections. Here's what we know.

    The first section, K1, uses a modified Vigenre cipher. It's encrypted through substitutioneach letter corresponds

    to anotherand can be solved only with the alphabetic rows of letters on the right. The keywords, which help

    determine the substitutions, are KRYPTOS and PALIMPSEST. A misspellingin this case IQLUSIONmay be a clue to

    cracking K4.

    K2, like the first section, was also encrypted using the alphabets on the right. One new trick Sanborn used, though,

    was to insert an X between some sentences, making it harder to crack the code by tabulating letter frequency. The

    keywords here are KRYPTOS and ABSCISSA. And there's another intriguing misspelling: UNDERGRUUND.

    A different cryptographic technique was used for K3: transposition. All the letters are jumbled and can be

    deciphered only by uncovering the complex matrices and mathematics that determined their misplacement. Of

  • course, there is a misspelling (DESPARATLY), and the last sentence (CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING?) is strangely bracketed

    by an X and a Q.

    Sanborn intentionally made K4 much harder to crack, hinting that the plaintext itself is not standard English and

    would require a second level of cryptanalysis. Misspellings and other anomalies in previous sections may help. Some

    suspect that clues are present in other parts of the installation: the Morse code, the compass rose, or perhaps the

    adjacent fountain.

    But if anyone expected that solving the first three sections would lead to a quick resolution of the whole puzzle, their

    hopes were soon dashed. The partial solutions only deepened the confusion.

    K1 is a passage written by Sanborn. "I tried to make it sound good and be inscrutable enough to be interesting," he

    says. Judge for yourself how well he did: "Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of

    iqlusion." Yes, iqlusionone of several misspellings that Sanborn says are intentional. The second section reads like

    a telegraph transmission. There's a reference to a magnetic field and information transmitted to a specific latitude

    and longitudegeo-coordinates for a location a couple of hundred feet south of the sculpture itself (a spot where

    nothing of apparent interest lies).

    K3 paraphrases a diary entry of anthropologist Howard Carter from his 1922 discovery of King Tut's tomb, ending

    with a question: "Can you see anything?" When Gillogly turned up that passage, he says, he had "the same

    excitement and exultation that Carter described. In a way, it seems that the plaintext is a metaphor for the work of

    the code breaker, or perhaps of the CIA itself."

    The 97 characters of K4 remain impenetrable. They have become, as one would-be cracker calls it, the Everest of

    codes. Both Scheidt and Sanborn confirm that they intended the final segment to be the biggest challenge. There are

    endless theories about how to solve it. Is access to the sculpture required? Is the Morse code a clue? Every aspect of

    the project has come under electron-microscopic scrutiny, as thousands of peoplehardcore cryptographers and

    amateur code breakers alikehave taken a whack at it. Some have gone off the deep end: A Michigan

    man abandoned his computer-software business to do construction so he'd have more time to work on it. Thirteen

    hundred members of a fanatical Yahoo group try to move the ball forward with everything from complex math to

    astrology. One typical Kryptos maniac is Randy Thompson, a 43-year-old physicist who has devoted three years to

    the problem. "I think I'm onto the solution," he says. "It could happen tomorrow, or it could take the rest of my life."

    Meanwhile, some of the seekers are getting tired. "I just want to see it solved," says Elonka Dunin, a 50-year-old St.

    Louis game developer who runs a clearinghouse site for Kryptos information and gossip. "I want it off my plate."

    Making the effort more complicated is the fact that the puzzle maker is alive and, in theory at least, a potential

    resource. For years, there has been a delicate pas de deux between the artist and the rabid Kryptos community.

    Every word Sanborn utters is eagerly examined for hints. But they also have to wonder whether he's trying to help

    them or throw them off track. Scheidt says that this process parallels the work of the CIA: "The intelligence picture

    includes mirrors and obfuscation."

    "It's not my intent to put out disinformation," Sanborn says. "I'm a benevolent cryptographer." Some think

    otherwise, and Sanborn occasionally receives messages from people enraged that he knows the secret and they

    don't. "It's the fact that I have some sort of power," he says. "You get stalkers. I don't know how they get my cell

    numbers and everything off the Internet, but they do. People have called me and said pretty terrible things. There

    are some who say I'm an agent of Satan because I have a secret I won't tell."

    Though Sanborn's usual practice is to stay in the background, every so often he feels obliged to comment. In 2005,

    he refuted author Dan Brown's claim that the "WW" in the plaintext of K3 could be inverted to "MM," implying Mary

    Magdalene. (Brown included pieces of Kryptos on the book jacket of The Da Vinci Code and has hinted that his next

    novel will draw on the CIA sculpture, a prospect that deeply annoys Sanborn.)

    Intentional or not, Sanborn's comments (or lack thereof) seem to generate an added layer of confusion. Even a

    straightforward question, like who besides him knows the solution, opens up new wormholes. The official story is

    that Sanborn shared the answer with only one person, the CIA director at the time, William Webster. Indeed, the

    decoded K3 text reads in part, "Who knows the exact location only ww." Sanborn has confirmed that these letters

  • refer to Webster (not Mary Magdalene). And in 1999, Webster himself told The New York Times that the solution

    was "philosophical and obscure."

    But Sanborn also claims that the envelope he gave Webster didn't contain the complete answer. "Nobody has it all,"

    he says. "I tricked them."

    So, Webster really doesn't know?

    "No," says Sanborn, who has taken measures to ensure that someone will be able to confirm a successful solution

    even after he dies. He adds that even he doesn't know the exact solution anymore. "If somebody tried to torture me,

    I couldn't tell them," he says. "I haven't looked at the plaintext of K4 in a long time, and I don't have a very good

    memory, so I don't really know what it says." What does the CIA make of all this? "When it comes to the solution,"

    says spokesperson Marie Harf, "those who need to know, know."

    If anyone manages to solve the last cipher, that won't end the hunt for the ultimate truth about Kryptos. "There may

    be more to the puzzle than what you see," Scheidt says. "Just because you broke it doesn't mean you have the

    answer." All of this leads one to ask: Is there a solution? Sanborn insists there isbut he would be just as happy if no

    one ever discovered it. "In some ways, I'd rather die knowing it wasn't cracked," he says. "Once an artwork loses its

    mystery, it's lost a lot."

    The day I visited Kryptos, a rare snowstorm in Virginia had blanketed the courtyard in white. I circled the sculpture

    carefully, marveling at the way the colors and texture of the surrounding landscape affected the panels, as some

    character strings became highlighted in white and other phrases shimmered, reflecting the dull light bouncing off the

    windows. I examined all the pieces, brushing aside the snow to uncover the Morse code and the compass rose. It

    was like unearthing hieroglyphs in some ancient ruin. Agents and bureaucrats shuffled past, deep in thought,

    clutching cups of coffee from the onsite Starbucks. In their midst, Jim Sanborn's statement in copper, wood, and

    granite remains, proof that even in the house of spies, some truths may never be found.

    Beale Ciphers The Beale Ciphers are a set of three cipher texts that supposedly reveal the location of one of the grandest buried

    treasures in U.S. history: thousands of pounds of gold, silver and jewels. The treasure was originally obtained by a

    mysterious man named Thomas Jefferson Beale in 1818 while prospecting in Colorado.

  • Of the three cipher texts, only the second one has been cracked. Interestingly, the U.S. Declaration of Independence

    turned out to be the key a curious fact given that Beale shares his name with the author of the Declaration of


    The cracked text does reveal the county where the treasure was buried: Bedford County, Va., but its exact location is

    likely encrypted in one of the other uncracked ciphers. To this day, treasure hunters scour the Bedford County

    hillsides digging (often illegally) for the loot.

    The Mysterious Treasure of Thomas Beale

    About a century and a quarter ago, a slim pamphlet was published in Virginia, USA. Amazingly for such an

    unassuming little document, it has ruined numerous lives, mostly through greed and obsession. It tells the story of

    buried treasure, and has snared the unwary ever since it was published. It is hard to imagine a treasure more like

    'fool's gold' than that described in The Beale Papers. The story revolves around a set of ciphers, that have so far

    resisted every effort to break them. Fools, read on and become beguiled...

    Lynchburg, Virginia, the 1860s

    Robert Morriss is one of the few characters in this story whose existence is beyond doubt. He was born in 1778, in

    the state of Maryland, but moved to Loudoun County, Virginia, where he married Sarah Mitchell. He set up in the

    tobacco business, as did so many people in Virginia, and for a while he prospered. Unfortunately, he behaved like a

    bull in a bear market, investing large amounts of money in tobacco stocks whose projected market value was never


    Morriss faced financial ruin, but his very resourceful wife suggested that they lease a local hotel and set it up as a

    business. He found this was as lucrative as selling the 'deadly weed', and very soon became the foremost hotelier in

    the town. He had a happy and prosperous existence, passing away in 1863, two years after his wife.

    A year before his death, Morriss reportedly invited an unnamed associate into his confidence with a tale of a guest,

    who left a valuable item in his charge. Many years beforehand, Thomas Beale had come to stay at Morriss's hotel.

    Beale was a handsome and swarthy man who had spent several years on the open range. Quite what he'd been

    doing out there was anybody's guess, but he was a regular guest of Mr Morriss and had come to trust him.

    Hence, in the spring of 1822, he left with Morriss a small, locked iron box, saying that it contained valuable papers.

    Morriss thought nothing more of the box until Beale sent him a letter from St Louis elaborating on the box's

    contents. According to the letter, Morriss was to open the box ten years after he received it, at which point he would

    find that the papers contained within to be totally unintelligible without the aid of a cryptographic key. The key was

    contained in another letter that Beale had left with a friend of his, and which was not to be delivered until July, 1832.

    The second letter never arrived. Beale was never seen again by anyone, and Morriss, being even better than his

    word, refrained from opening the box until 1845. When he did, he found the papers were covered in seemingly

    random numbers. Morriss did not breathe a word about the box to anyone else until 1862, when, with the Grim

    Reaper looking over his shoulder, he confided in an associate.

    The Treasure

    In his adventures, Beale and his party of 30 people had apparently stumbled upon a crevice containing seams of

    gold. They immediately set about mining it, agreeing to divide the gains between them. Eighteen months later, in

    1819, they had amassed gold worth about $30 million, by today's reckoning, as well as some silver and gems bought

    with some of the gold. Having no means of securing it, they argued about the best course of action. Eventually, they

    agreed that Beale should take the treasure back to Virginia where he would sequester it in a cave near Buford's

    Tavern. When he got to the cave he found it unsuitable, and soon found another hiding place for their cache.

    The Ciphers

    Quite where this hiding place was located was about four miles from Buford's Tavern. How do we know this? After

    Morriss had passed the papers on to his friend, the latter set about deciphering them - a task which was to take his

    lifetime (and those of several others since). There were three ciphers: the friend managed to decipher only the

    second. He did this by realising that it was a book cipher.

    In all kinds of cipher, the original plaintext is encrypted using a key to yield the cipher text. Generally, the same key

    also serves to affect the reverse process and allows the original plaintext to be obtained1. In a book cipher, the key is

  • a passage from a printed text. The encryption proceeds as follows: take the first letter of the plaintext, look up any

    word in the key that begins with the letter and then write down the position of the word in the key. Book ciphers are

    pretty secure as they prevent cryptographic attacks through frequency analysis2, providing that the same word is

    not used over and over again for the same letter.

    The friend eventually hit upon a version of the American Declaration of Independence as the key, and managed to

    decipher the second of the three ciphers. What he got was3:

    I have deposited, in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford's, in an excavation or vault, six feet below

    the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number 3,

    herewith. The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight

    hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819. The second was made December, 1821, and

    consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight pounds of silver; also

    jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at $13,000. The above is

    securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid

    stone, and is covered with others. Paper number 1 describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will

    be had in finding it.

    And that is precisely how far the associate was ever able to get with the ciphers. Eventually, he gave up, after

    spending the subsequent 23 years neglecting work, family and other aspects life in the vain hope of discovering the

    whereabouts of the treasure. One of the obstacles he ran into early on was the range of numbers in the other two

    ciphers. Attempts to decrypt Paper #1 using the Declaration soon ran aground when the numbers exceeded the

    number of words in the Declaration. And much the same result can be expected when other methods of numbering

    are used, such as starting at the end and working backwards.

    In a sane world, this is where the story would have ended. The associate would have quietly given up and got on

    with what remained of his life, and no more would have been heard about the matter. The papers would have been

    consigned to much the same fate as the notorious 'Singing Frog' in the Warner Brothers' cartoon One Froggy

    Evening. Obviously they weren't, otherwise the following story would not now be related. The associate, much to

    the subsequent dismay of the people of Buford's Tavern and delight of treasure hunters, decided to publish the

    whole sorry story as a pamphlet - The Beale Papers - through the agency of a James B Ward in 1885, in an apparent

    attempt to put the matter firmly in the public domain, and thereby draw a line under the affair. Many of these

    pamphlets subsequently perished, along with the original papers, in a print shop fire.

    Hoard or Hoax?


    So, is there anything to the story in the pamphlet? Lots of people seemed to think so. Even discounting the difficulty

    of deciphering the remaining two papers, the phrase 'about four miles from Buford's' contains enough information

    to entice intrepid treasure hunters out into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Couple it with the occasional nugget of

    seeming sense that can be extracted from the papers when other keys are used, and you have a sure-fire recipe for

    all kinds of misadventure.

    One of these nuggets pans out from trying to decipher Paper #1 using the Declaration. Mostly it fails, the numbers

    being greater than the number of words in the Declaration, but there is a sequence of letters

    ABFDEFGHIIJKLMMNOHPP visible in the 'deciphered' text. The chances of this occurring spontaneously in a randomly

    arranged plain text are next to zero.

    From the treasure-hunter's perspective, this sequence of letters is a deliberately placed hint to the decipherer that

    they are on the right lines in using the Declaration to decipher the remaining papers. If this is what the author

    intended, it is highly likely that not one but two or more encryption processes were applied to the original plaintext,

    a practice known as 'superencipherment'.

    There is another explanation for why the papers may be genuine, but the remaining two ciphers yield gibberish.

    Suppose that the confidant of Morriss believed that the person with the key, who was due to turn up in 1832 was

    still alive but did not know about where the papers were concealed. Under such circumstances, the confidant may

    well have decided to publish one correct cipher in The Beale Papers and replaced the other two with random

    numbers in the hope that it might flush out this second person and bring them to Lynchburg in the hope of discovery

  • where the treasure lay. The confidant could then have struck a deal to split the gains in return for the original cipher

    text. Both would have gone away considerably richer men.

    The third and least likely explanation, and therefore the one beloved of conspiracy theorists, is that the shadowy

    National Security Agency4 (or someone in it), home to the country's best cryptographers, has already deciphered the

    message and made away with the treasure, under which circumstances nobody would be any the wiser.

    Whatever one makes of such explanations, they don't yield any real information about the contents of the ciphers.

    All the same, in the absence of such information, people have managed to convince themselves that the ciphers

    were genuine, mainly because it was much more difficult to prove otherwise.

    Two of the most determined treasure hunters were George and Clayton Hart, who spent decades trying to solve the

    ciphers, but had nothing to show for it. Hiram Herbert, Jr became obsessed in 1923, but gave up in 1970. The ciphers

    were even made part of the training programme for the US Signal Intelligence Service, because its then boss deemed

    them to be of 'diabolical ingenuity, specifically designed to lure the unwary reader'.

    Hardly surprisingly, some treasure hunters have decided to dispense with the task of deciphering the papers

    altogether, and resorted to more speculative action. Groups of people routinely get arrested in Bedford County for

    unauthorised digging on private property. One woman even dug up the cemetery of a local church in 1983,

    convinced that Beale had hidden the treasure there. This was at the top of Porter's Mountain, which is exactly four

    miles from Buford's Tavern. The landowners in this area are now painfully aware of treasure hunters and anybody

    wishing to dig here must get permission.


    There are numerous aspects to the story that might indicate that there is less to it than meets the eye.

    Doubts are first raised by the abortive attempt to decipher Paper #1 using the Declaration as key. The almost

    alphabetical sequence of letters that appears in the result is certainly not there due to chance, but the rest is

    gibberish. It is entirely plausible that anyone wanting to construct a fake cipher might start out by choosing words

    from the Declaration at random, but then start to work through the alphabet to relieve the boredom of the task, or

    perhaps to simply throw a 'red herring' into the mystery. Moreover, why would Beale have created three ciphers

    with three separate keys, instead just the one? Paper #3 also appears to be too short to list the next of kin for 30

    individuals. And why encrypt these names and their places of residence? Possibly because they never really existed.

    Additional doubts arise from the story itself. The words 'stampede' and 'improvise' are not recorded in general use

    before 1840, but were supposedly written by Beale in 1820 in his accompanying note to the ciphers. There are scant

    references to any 'Thomas Beale' at that time: the only such person who fits the bill died in New Orleans in 1820,

    before the box was handed over. Robert Morriss, on the other hand, did exist but his involvement cannot be

    verified, since he died long before the pamphlet was written.

    Perhaps the most damning clue is in the account given for the decipherment of Paper #2. The version of the

    Declaration quoted in the pamphlet appears to be unique, in that it contains several errors, yet is supposed to have

    been discovered independently by the unnamed associate. Is it likely - or even conceivable - that Thomas Beale

    would have used the same inaccurate and seemingly unique version of the Declaration as the associate?

    In addition, the person who made the cipher clearly miscounted the words in the Declaration, for there are a

    number of discrepancies which can only be explained by the count being wrong. And the person who decoded it

    published the count of words in the Declaration with the same errors, without mentioning it. So either the coder or

    decoder made the same mistakes, or Ward, in decoding the cipher, figured the mistakes out but didn't mention it,

    both of which seem unlikely. Or were they the same person?

    Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave...

    If indeed The Beale Papers is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, then one has to inquire as to motive. No doubt,

    the sale of a few thousand or even just hundreds of copies of a pamphlet, netting the present-day equivalent of $15

    a throw, would have been a nice little earner for its author, and this would have been reason itself to have contrived

    such a ruse.

    There may have been another, surprisingly high-minded reason for writing the papers. On 30 May, 1883, a fire broke

    out in downtown Lynchburg, claiming several buildings and the lives of at least five people. The Lynchburg News

    went on to relate that:

  • The aggregate loss by the fire is variously estimated at from $250,000 to $300,000. Jones, Watts, Bros & Co are the

    heaviest losers, and their insurance is comparatively light. Members of the firm estimate their loss at from $75,000

    to $100,000 above the insurance. Peters & Flood also suffered tremendous loss, but their insurance was also large.

    The loss by the Lynch estate was considerable and the minor losses foot up an enormous amount, and are severally

    indicated below in the statement of insurance.

    In the following year, numerous events and appeals were launched to aid stricken families, and relief funds

    established. Almost exactly a year later, Mr Ward filed for copyright protection of The Beale Papers and the rest, as

    they say, is history. 'James Ward' (probably a pseudonym for the local newspaper editor) wrote this pamphlet as a

    'dime novel', a frivolous work of fiction, purely to raise money for the bereaved families of the 1883 disaster, and the

    remaining stock of pamphlets was deliberately destroyed, when the author realised that he had created a monster

    capable of controlling or consuming all those with whom it came into contact.

    Yet even today, individuals spend weeks or years of their lives attempting to decipher lists of numbers, and others

    head for Buford's Tavern with picks, shovels and a seemingly inexhaustible optimism. They will continue to do so as

    long as they believe that, instead of working for the American Dream, they can find it ready for the taking. And, as

    long as stories of buried treasure and secret codes continue to enthral, and there are fools enough to believe them.

    Phaistos Disc The mystery of the Phaistos Disc is a story that sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Discovered by

    Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in 1908 in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, the disc is made of fired clay and

    contains mysterious symbols that may represent an unknown form of hieroglyphics. It is believed that it was

    designed sometime in the second millennium BC.

    Some scholars believe that the hieroglyphs resemble symbols of Linear A and Linear B, scripts once used in ancient

    Crete. The only problem? Linear A also eludes decipherment.

  • Today the disc remains one of the most famous puzzles of archaeology.


    The Minoan culture of Crete developed several writing (or protowriting) systems. A number of seals show apparently

    pictographic signs that have been labelled Minoan Hieroglyphic, although the script has never been deciphered.

    Another apparently pictographic system appears on the mysterious Phaistos Disc, found in 1908 at Phaistos in

    southern Crete.

    The Phaistos pictographs seem unrelated to Minoan hieroglyphs, and no other example of this script has been

    unearthed. Because the disc is unique, the script remains undeciphered. (Several attempts have been made, but

    there is no consensus that any one is correct.) Curiously, given that only one example of the script has been found,

    each pictograph is impressed into the clay disc with a stamp, rather than incised individually. If the disc was intended

    to be a unique document, why go to the trouble of creating a set of stamps? And if other documents were made,

    why has none been found? Another curiosity is that stratigraphic evidence dates the disc to about 1700 BCE, at

    which time another Minoan script was common. This script is called Linear A. It appears to be derived from Minoan

    hieroglyphic and, like Mesopotamian cuneiform, the signs represent syllables rather than individual sounds. This

    script, too, remains undeciphered for the most part.

    Minoan Linear A came into use around 1800 BCE and was used for about three and a half centuries. Then, around

    1450 BCE a new script occurred. It, too, was originally found on Crete, and was called Linear B. The famous excavator

    of the Minoan palace of Knossos, Sir Arthur Evans, had a major key to reading Linear B, but rejected it. He guessed

    that Linear B might be related to a syllabic script used to write a Cypriot dialect of Greek, since certain symbols were

    quite similar. Evans applied the sound values of the Cypriot syllabary to Linear B, and concluded that the following

    passage would read

    two horses (The pictographic horse, which has a mane, is followed by two strokes)

    two foals (the pictographic horse is maneless, to indicate a young animal, or foal. To emphasize this feature, Linear B is written before the pictograph. Applying the sounds of these symbols in the Cypriot syllabary

    results inpo- lo-, which corresponds to the Greek word for foals, polo. ) Evans rejected this reading because it would

  • mean that Linear B was an early form of Greek, which made no sense to him. Linear B was not deciphered

    completely until 1953, thanks to the work of an amateur cryptographer named Michael Ventris, who had developed

    a fascination with Linear B as a young teen. To his own amazement, he was forced to conclude that Linear B was

    indeed a form of Greek, a conclusion that was soon substantiated by finds of Linear B tablets at Mycenaean sites on

    the mainland. We know today that the Mycenaeans had contact with the Minoans and later occupied Minoan sites

    on Crete. Apparently, just as Semitic Akkadian speakers borrowed the syllabary of Sumerian cuneiform to record

    their language, the Mycenaean Greeks borrowed Minoan Linear A.

    The Lost Holy Grail

    Holy Grail at the Last Supper (Fg. 2-2) Known as the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, the sacred Holy Grail is arguably the most sought after

    religious artefact next to the Ark of the Covenant. Legends of the ancient Grail's existence have been steadily fuelled

    over the centuries by on-going quests to locate it. Some have even speculated the term Holy Grail was really a

    metaphor and doesn't refer to a physical object. Still, many have searched in hope they may have a chance to hold

    the most divine of sacred relics. Popular theories base the Grail's whereabouts to be secretive passed down from

    generation to generation, changing hands only when the time is necessary.

    Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, The Knights Templar have long been suspected of knowing where

    the Holy Grail is kept. Rumours have placed the Knights in key locations during the Crusades with individuals claiming

    to have witnessed Templar digging and searching for holy relics while they occupied the Temple Mount. These

    mysteries have long tied the Templar to relics like the Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant, and the Shroud of Turin.

    Theories suggest that when the Holy Land was lost, many Templar faced persecution and several went into hiding

    along with the relics they were said to be protecting. Its believed the Order's efforts to keep the relics a secret were

    very extensive, to the point of using cryptic messages in communication and elaborately constructed buildings to

    hide them in. Many stories about the quest for the sacred chalice often involve decoding signs and messages left

    behind by the Knights Templar. Where is the Holy Grail?

    Prominent mysterious constructions such as Rosslyn Chapel and Oak Island are believed to be secretly housing the

    Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant. Even though either location would indeed make an excellent hiding place,

    conclusive historical evidence is lacking to place either relic to those locations. Then again, many relics and valuable

    items have been buried for protection in the past and it is not out of the question to think those hiding the Holy Grail

    would have worked extra diligently to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. From time to time certain

    individuals claim to either hold or know where the Holy Grail is yet they're unable to provide proof to their claim.

    Small ointment vessels recovered from ancient religious sites are sometimes mistaken as the grail and usually don't

    resemble the power, mystique, or presence the Holy Grail is normally tied to - As that of shimmering gold perhaps

    with jewelled inlays and intricate designs fit to carry the wine and blood of the holy son. Perhaps otherwise, artistic

    representations of the grail are instead false to display a fine polished metal chalice as a vessel surrounded by

    ethereal light; If it were nothing more than a hand-carved ointment jar toasted at the last supper.

    Ark of the Covenant

  • Parade Around Jericho (Fg. 2-3) Prophet Jeremiah spoke of a time when the land is filled with people, the Ark of the Covenant will no longer be

    talked about and even the thought of it would not enter anyone's mind. Present day would seem to follow suit with

    the land being filled with people, but there are many who still talk about, research, and are trying to find it.

    According to a vision on Mount Sinai, God commanded Moses to construct an Ark to house sacred tablets of the

    covenant. Ancient Biblical accounts suggest it provided direct communication with God especially in situations where

    it is documented to have a great deal of power over conflict. The book of Joshua talks about the destruction Jericho

    by rams' horns after the Ark was paraded around the city for seven days, and how the river Jordan was parted by its


    Several ancient accounts, and some found in the Bible, describe adverse effects of the Ark, almost as though it might

    have been radioactive on some level. In the book of Samuel there is specific reference to people begging Philistine

    rulers to send the Ark back to its own country before it kills everyone, as the hand of the Lord was heavy and

    devastated the people of Ashdod with tumours. Further references claim those who touched the Ark died instantly

    or shortly thereafter.

    The last known resting place on record is believed to have been around 650 BCE, at Herod's second Temple in

    Jerusalem. A mysterious copper scroll found in 1952 near the same cave area as the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests the

    Ark was among sacred objects listed to reside in the Temple until its 70 CE destruction. Similar to the Holy Grail,

    many have searched meticulously in hopes of its discovery. Mysteries of the Oak Island tunnel systems have recently

    revealed elevated levels of radiation suggesting the reason for building such an elaborate hydraulic system was to

    protect and hide the Ark of the Covenant.

    Shroud of Turin

    Holy Shroud (Fg. 2-4)

    Subjected to modern science, the Shroud of Turin might be the single most studied and scrutinized artefact believed

    to be a sacred relic from the time of Christ. The 14.5 x 3.5 foot linen appears to be the very burial shroud wrapped

  • around Jesus after his crucifixion. Several theories believe it to be the work of an elaborate artistic process by which

    the image was etched or painted directly into the fabric. Unanimously, the question of how the image was formed,

    and survived throughout the ages, is still yet to be answered. A somewhat controversial theory traces this ancient

    relic back through history and places it in the hands of the Knights Templar, sometime after 1204 CE, adding to its

    authenticity. According to some researchers it's actually possible to read a burial certificate of Jesus on a well

    preserved section. This concept has met scrutiny over the fact certain details such as the certificate might have been

    added later as the royal cloth switched hands on multiple occasions - The linen swapped hands enough times over

    the centuries, making it near impossible to retrieve DNA samples from its original owner.

    As with other mysterious artefacts of the time, the Shroud of Jesus resembles a significant moment in religious

    history. Like the Holy Spear, it's entirely plausible royalty and those holding prominent positions of power would

    take any necessary means required to secure the priceless artefact for them. Many researchers determined there is

    a real possibility of authenticity in that it's likely the image is of a real crucified man. Whether or not the image is

    Jesus, remains unclear; The Romans crucified many during their reign, a heinous and cruel public display reinforcing

    their power over the people. Yet the Holy Shroud shows a proportional accurate likeness of a man around 6 ft. tall

    demonstrating body characteristics which seem to coincide with people living during the era. Recent scans of the

    Shroud also indicate the possibility Jesus might be holding the nails used in his crucifixion. Whomever the image

    represents, mysteries of the shroud remind us of a time in history that remains dear to millions of people around the

    world to this day.

    Vienna Spear

    Vienna Lance (Fg. 2-5) Known as the Spear of Destiny by modern legend, the Holy Lance was used to pierce the side of Jesus by Cassius

    Longinus, ensuring success of the crucifixion. According to historical records, the ancient lance tip followed an

    extremely long circular route, changing hands with many influential leaders through many dire situations. The

    significance of this relic is similar to that of finding the crown of thorns, believed to be the most sacred, touched with

    holy blood. Four lances claimed to be the very spear used by Longinus. The Holy Lance of Rome, Hofburg Spear of

    Vienna, Lance of Echmiadzin, and the Lance of Antioch. One of these in particular stands apart from the others due

    to recent examination using sophisticated technology. The Vienna Lance, or Hofburg spear, provided startling

    revelations to its origin after an array of scientific testing.

    Rough estimates date the Hofburg spear tip to sometime during the 7th century, indicating it likely was added at a

    later time. It was inside the inscribed wrappings layered around the broken spear where the real discovery

    happened. A length of metal in the shape of a crucifixion nail, marked by tiny brass crosses which originally brought

    attention to the metal object. Further investigation revealed traces of cobalt dating to the time of Christ accurately

    within tolerance, and the nail characteristics fit those of ancient crucifixion nails used during the period. The layers

    and respective inscriptions were carefully studied, identifying an owner who placed a wrapping for each time the

    spear was obtained. The historical journey of the Vienna Lance corroborates results of existing physical evidence,

    highly suggesting it houses one of the few surviving relics subjected to the blood of Christ.

  • It's interesting to note nails of the cross were sometimes turned into healing trinkets at the time, especially when

    those nails were obtained from criminal crucifixions. According to most sculptures and artistic renditions of the

    crucifixion, three nails are shown. Two in the wrists or palms, and one in the feet. Yet the scripture is unclear about

    this bit and has a mysterious way of wording what happened. Thomas cites use of multiple nails, and John claims one

    through each wrist, without either mentioning the feet. Its possible Luke could be referring to both the hands and

    feet, but the passage is equally vague. Knowing this answer might corroborate or disprove the Shroud of Turin, as it

    appears to show one or two nails used in the feet. We know at least two nails were used by scripture, one of which

    could be the metal object secured inside Vienna's Lance. The other, claimed in the creation of the Iron Crown of

    Lombardy. Images of the Shroud suggest the crucifixion nails were placed in the hands of Jesus as he was wrapped. If

    this is true, perhaps Knights Templar recovered both the nails and Holy Shroud, by duty to protect interests of the

    Church, placing them in locations to remain safe for hundreds of years.

    Tree of Life and Creation

    Olmec Creation Tree (Fg. 2-6)

    Ancient civilizations around the world share similar creation stories including an important form known as the Tree

    of Life. Certain cultures envision the Tree of Life to exhibit a flow of creation, from the divine to Earth and back,

    while others simply see it as directions for travel to the heavens. Perhaps the Apprentice Pillar is an example of this

    flow. Further beliefs state representation of different levels of consciousness, and how our subjective experiences

    travel along different paths. However the Tree of Life is interpreted, the fundamental principles seem to remain

    consistent. The design is considered to be one of the most recognizable and most scared shapes in sacred geometry,

    believed as the key to all of creation.

    Modern science uses multiple forms to identify and organize elements of several disciplines, usually in the form of a

    branching tree as a basis to demonstrate the process of evolution, classify animals, and structuring geological

    matter. Genealogy utilizes the concept to trace and diagram human relatives back to our ancient ancestors. Versions

    of the Caduceus and Rod of Asclepius symbolized in medicine reflect a serpent coiled around the Tree of Life. Biology

    adapts a form in Phylogenetics to construct an evolutionary tree relating various groups of organisms together.

    Regardless of how a diagram or symbol of life is applied to sciences, the design helps humanity visualize its synergy

    of relationships in a tangible form. Sometimes the symbol is associated with DNA structure as outer bands wrap

    around the core, condensing and protecting information stored inside. Our existence is one of life's greatest

    mysteries. The shape of a tree is very symbolic as it represents life from a single point growing from seed, rooting,

    and connecting deeply with the Earth while branching out and multiplying into the heavens. To know the Tree of Life

    physically is to understand a principal concept, life stems from itself, and we are the direct result of our ancestors. To

    know the Tree of Life spiritually is to understand our beliefs interconnect with our planet and its divinity.