T is not often that a little skill in deciphering would be the deciding factor in saving a man his life; nevertheless, it was the lack of just this knowledge that cost a certain eminent gentleman his head about two and a half centuries ago.
Before entering into the why and wherefore of this man losing his head however, a few remarks about how heads were officially lost in the olden days might not be out of order.
It seems that beheading has thrived as a mode of capital punishment from very early times. It was practiced in the days of ancient Greece and Rome, both with the ax and the sword.
Beheading was introduced into England in 1076. It was the accepted mode of punishment for offenders of high rank, but also was occasionally used for common malefactors or thieves. It was common in those days to accompany the execution with certain barbarous features, such as drawing and quartering, which were not fully abolished until 1870.
Decapitating machines are likewise said to be of very ancient origin. Some authorities attribute the first of these to the Persians, saying that the idea was later introduced into various European countries.
A machine of this kind was used in Germany during the Middle Ages.
In Scotland a device called the maiden was introduced by the Regent Morton, who himself afterward was executed by it. The maiden was somewhat similar in construction to the guillotine, with the exception that the blade was fixed in the apparatus with the sharp edge upward, the neck of the victim being forced down upon it by a heavy descending weight.
In England the Halifax gibbet was used for beheading until 1650.
But the best known of all these machines is the French guillotine, devised by Dr. Antoine Louis, and first called the louison or louisette, later being named after Dr. Guillotine, who proposed it as a method of decapitation before the Constituent Assembly on December 1, 1789.
This proposition did not at first meet with favor. But it gradually gained support, the machine finally coming into use by a law effective October 6, 1791. After a few successful experiments upon corpses in the hospital of Bicêtre, the machine was set up on the Place de Grève, where it was used for the first time on the 25th of April, 1792, in the execution of the highwayman, Pelletier.
The guillotine was thus but a revival of ancient methods that had already fallen into disuse in many parts of Europe for half a century. Nevertheless, it is still used to inflict the death penalty in France, Belgium, and some parts of Germany, its general adoption seeming to have been hindered by the horrors of the French Revolution.
This much sets the stage for the enactment of our little drama. Enter now the hero himself, Louis de Rohan-Guéménée, the Chevalier de Rohan.
Rohan was the name of one of the most illustrious of the feudal families of France. Of the younger branches the most famous is that of Guemenee, which furnished in the eighteenth century the celebrated Cardinal de Rohan, who was involved as the principal actor in the affair of the diamond necldace, later immortalized in fiction by Alexandre Dumas.
The Chevalier de Rohan, notorious for his dissolute life, was of this same brandi, being the grandson of Hercule de Rohan, made Governor of Paris by Henry IV.
In the year 1674, as the story goes, the chevalier was sent to the Bastille on suspicion of having entered into treasonable conspiracy with the Dutch during the Third Dutch War, against Louis XIV, King of France.
At the time of his commitment there was no evidence against him except what might be obtained from his accomplice, a M. Latruaumont, who had been apprehended and imprisoned at the same time as the chevalier.
But Latruaumont proved himself a faithful and courageous ally, in that he endured a most severe examination, and suffered execution without having confessed.
De Rohan's friends wanted to inform him that his associate had died without having admitted anything, and accordingly, in sending him some fresh body linen, they succeeded in passing the following cryptic message into his dungeon, written on one of the shirts:
MG DULHXCCLGU GHJ YXUJ, LM CT ULGC ALJ.
This cipher, as it happens, is one of the simple substitution type with normal word divisions, in which any given letter in the normal alphabet is invariably represented by the same substitute in cipher, any given cipher substitute, conversely, always denoting the same letter in the message.
To solve such a cipher without the key is an absolute certainty, provided it is not too short.
The brevity of the above message would thus tend to make its solution more difficult, but it is still of sufficient length to resolve without the key. In fact, one accustomed to working with ciphers should not need more than a few minutes to decipher it.
But De Rohan's skill was not adequate to this simple task. And his limited experience in cryptography worked his ruin, for, despite his every effort, he could make nothing out of the message, even though his life depended on it.
For full twenty-four hours he puzzled over this cipher in vain. The light faded, and the whole night through he tossed on his hard bed, sleeplessly revolving the mystic letters in his brain, but all to no avail.
Day dawned, and with the first pale gleam of light he was again poring over the cryptic message, but as uselessly as before.
At length, failing in all his attempts, and wearied and exhausted by his many efforts, De Rohan decided with many misgivings to confess, and to throw himself upon the mercy of the crown.
He, accordingly, admitted his guilt, but the crown knew no mercy. He was beheaded on the 27th day of November, 1674.
The cipher, as printed above, is the original in French. Below will be found the same message translated into English, and enciphered in the same key as the original, insofar as the cipher alphabet reconstructed from the original specimen would permit.
In trying to solve this cryptogram one should endeavor to work it out under conditions similar to those most probably experienced by De Rohan himself.
Remember that you are without paper or pencil, for more than likely De Rohan had neither. All of your work must be done mentally. Before you is a brief cipher message that spells life or death in its few cryptic letters.
If you would wear your head in the usual way to-morrow, you must perforce decipher this cryptogram to-day.
Would you be able to save your own head?
Or, in De Rohan's place, could you have saved his?
Here's your opportunity to try!
CIPHER No. 1.
JWG DULHXCGU LH AGTA, WG WTH JXMA CXJWLCZ.
De Rohan must not be judged too harshly for his inability to solve this cipher. Information on this subject is none too prevalent to-day, and it must be borne in mind that in De Rohan's time it was still more inaccessible.
It is true that at that time some progress had been made in methods of deciphering, but such knowledge was not common property. Even such a simple specimen as the above was looked upon as an impenetrable mystery.
This department has already given two methods of solving such ciphers. In FLYNN'S for September 12 was described a method depending upon the initial, final, and total frequencies of letters. And in the May 16 issue of this magazine there was described a method of determining words according to their frequencies.
Both of these methods require a specimen of some length for their most effective application. Nevertheless, they are of some value even in so short a cipher as the above.
For example, in a longer cipher the character for E would more than likely predominate. In the De Rohan cipher eight different characters occur either three or four times each. Thus while no character predominates to a degree that would justify its being called E, nevertheless, it may be assumed with reasonable certainty that E is represented by one of these eight characters.
Again, in a longer cipher, the most frequently recurring three letter group would very probably represent THE, according to the table in the May 16 issue.
Here no group occurs more than once. But the chances are that some of the shorter groups in the cipher represent some of the words in the above mentioned frequency table.
Frequency tables, however, have a habit of going awry in long ciphers, not to mention short ones. Some method not dependent upon frequencies will therefore be found not only of value with the former, but practically indispensable with the latter.
Fortunately there is available a very simple expedient. To illustrate with the De Rohan cipher, if the groups be numbered for purposes of reference from 1 up, thus:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 JWG DULHXCGU LH AGTA. WG WTH JXMA CXJWLCZ.
The following short groups will be found to have certain characters in common:
1 J W G 5 W G 6 W T H 3 L H
From the above it will be seen that the last two letters of group 1 are as the same as the two letters of group 2; tlrat the initial letters of groups 5 and 6 are identical; and that the final letters of groups 3 and 6 are also alike. Further, groups 5 and 6 must represent two words that may be used in sequence.
The problem now resolves itself into the question: what short words will satisfy all of these conditions? There might possibly be more than a single set of words that would do this; but there can be but a single correct assumption.
Some consideration of affixes may also be advantageous in connection with this method. If the longer words of any English text be examined, it will be seen that many of them are built up by means of affixes used with shorter words or roots. Thus the word interpretable uses the prefix inter- and the suffix -able.
A comparison of the shorter words with the beginnings and endings of longer ones, and of these affixes with each other, will often prove a valuable aid.
To return to De Rohan's cipher, to correctly assume the values of groups 1 and 5 is to know the values of eleven—or one-third—of the thirty-three characters of the cipher; and to correctly assume the values of all four of the above illustrated groups would leave but fourteen unknown characters. And these can readily be determined by context.
The method just outlined should be all sufficient in coping with most short ciphers such as that of De Rohan.
Consequently, even though this adventurer lost his head in 1674 through failure to decipher his cryptogram, to-day our readers should not lose more than a few minutes in really attaining its solution. The next cipher tells one of the many stories relative to the once much debated question as to whether or not death by decapitation was instantaneous.
As a sample of these stories, the instance of Louis Philip Joseph, Duke of Orleans, and father of Louis Philippe I, King of France, may be mentioned.
When this notable was beheaded he is said to have rolled his eyes wrathfully at Robespierre, Danton, and the leaders of the Mountain party, who had brought him to his fate.
A similar tale is told of the execution of Charlotte Corday, who assassinated Marat with a dinner knife. The executioner is said to have held her head up to the public gaze, and to have brutally struck it in the face with his fist. Whereupon the supposedly dead face is alleged to have blushed as if in indignation.
But the most remarkable of all these yarns, and one which is admittedly untrue, for the party concerned is known to have died with his head on his shoulders, is narrated in the following cipher.
It is claimed that the executioner was in this case afterward examined as to the truth of the incident. His testimony has been concealed in No. 2 by means of a famous cipher described in a previous installment of this department.
What did the executioner testify?
CIPHER No. 2.
Some doubtfully veracious writer has stated that when Sir Kenelm Digbye was beheaded for high treason, the executioner, holding the severed head up in full view as was usual on such occasions, exclaimed in a loud voice: "This is the head of a traitor." At which the features of the decapitated gentleman are said to have instantly assumed an expression of contemptuous scorn; and the spectators were electrified to hear the head shout forth in clear and distinct tones: "That is a rascally lie!"
The answers to the De Rohan cipher, both French and English, as well as that to the foregoing, will be found in next Solving Cipher Secrets.
In this the fans are also asked to expect an unusual treat in the form of an exposition of the masterful Fleissner grille cipher.
This marvelous cipher is capable of innumerable variations. The instructions will enable you to make a grille after your own individual key, if you so desire. And the ciphers will try your skill at its best.
Watch for the next article!
Here follow the solutions to the ciphers printed in the October 10 issue of FLYNN'S.
Cipher No. 1 was Mr. Hutson's A.K.G.S. Code. A tabluation of the numbers of this cipher reveals that it consists of even numbers only, the largest of these being 54.
There being just 27 even numbers comprised within the limits 2 to 54, inclusive, only 26 of which are needed for the alphabet, the idea suggests itself that the additional character might be for a word-space.
In a simple substitution cipher having a word-space, the most frequently occurring character—representing the space—would have a frequency, according to the tables in FLYNN'S for August 15, of 18.6 per cent, and the next most used character—the substitute for E—would have a frequency of 10.6 per cent.
On the other hand, in a cipher without the word-space, the most frequently recurring character—see FLYNN'S for September 12—would ordinarily be the substitute for E, with an average frequency of 13.1 per cent, and the next in line would be the substitute for T, with an average frequency of 9 per cent.
A tabulation of the numbers in the above cipher, which consists of 130 groups, shows 54 occurring twenty times, or 15.3 per cent; 44 and 36 each sixteen times, or 12.3 per cent; and so on down the line.
Thus 54 would seem to be the word-space. And this single discovery alone would materially simplify the resolution of the cipher, in that it transforms it into a simple substitution cipher with normal word divisions.
There is further evidence, however, tending to show the presence of a methodized alphabet. For instance, there is an interval of 5 places between the numbers 44 and 36 inclusive, counting even numbers only; and a similar interval exists between the frequently used letters E and 7 of the normal English alphabet.
This and other similar comparisons suggest the following arrangement of the key, which, upon trial, proves to be correct:
Cipher No. 2, Mr. Alexander's modification of the Nihilist cipher, can be solved in the following manner:
First, substitute for each letter of the cipher (a) its numerical substitute as found in the unmodified Nihilist key, as at (b). Then, having transferred the last digit 5 of the cipher to the first place, regroup the figures by pairs as shown at (c).
In this form the cipher is nothing other than one of the simple substitution type, in which any given letter of the normal alphabet is always represented by the same pair of figures in cipher.
(a) O N X B M Y W H S U. (b) 34 33 53 12 32 54 52 23 43 45. (c) 53 43 35 31 23 25 45 22 3- -4 34. (d) Y O U R D E P A (R) (S) S.
And it may be deciphered by any method applicable to such ciphers, the translated message, partly shown at (d), being in full as follows:
Your department, Solving Cipher Secrets, is, in my opinion, the best feature in a magazine which is itself at the top of its class.
There are (5x4x3x2=) 120 different combinations of the five digits used as a key to this cipher, and apparently (120x120=) 14,400 different keys obtainable by using all the possible combinations of these digits both at the top and the side of the Nihilist " checkerboard."
We say apparently, for really there are only 120 different keys, each of these being capable of 120 forms, which make absolutely no difference in the cipher.
Mr. Alexander's key could be expressed in letters as follows: (side) v-w-x-y-z; (top) w-v-y-x-z. Expressed in figures, if 1-2-3-4-3 be used at the side, 2-1-4-3-5 must be used at the top. Or if 5-3-1-2-4 be used at the side, then 3-5-2-1-4 must be used at the top. And so on with the other 118 possible forms of this key.
It is impossible to say what numerical key our correspondent used, for the reason that any of the 120 above mentioned will give the same cipher, and any of the 120 will in like manner decipher it.
We can't stop to explain why this is so, but if you doubt it, try it yourself.
Cipher No. 3, a variation of Mr. Levine's system, used the key (G= ) 7, with the following alphabet:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14
The message was: " Any cipher that permits of more than a single interpretation is not to be recommended for general use."
The method of enciphering is shown below, where the letters of the message are given at (a), their numerical substitutes at (b), the key at (c), and at (d) the cipher, formed by taking the differences between the numbers at (b) and (c).
(a) A N Y C I P H E R etc. (6) 13 26 15 11 5 24 6 9 22 etc. (c) 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 etc. —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— (d) 6 19 8 4 2 17 1 2 15 etc.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned shortcoming, this system is very ingenious, and ciphers of this type are worth careful study.
Cipher No. 4, by Mrs. J. C. Minear, was one of the simple substitution type, with an alphabet of figures and signs. Here is the key, as far as the contents of the message reveals it:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M 9 † . 1 ‡ * 8 0 ; $ 7 N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z ( ) 3 : 6 ? ! 4 - = 5 x
Her message, translated, stands thus: " I have not missed a FLYNN'S magazine since they were first published. My favorite stories are those of Lawson."
No. 5 was written in the albam cipher, a system related to the atbash cipher explained in the last article.
You have been promised a full exposition of these and other associated systems in an early issue. But in the meantime an explanation of the key used in No. 5 will no doubt be welcome.
This is formed by superimposing the first half of the alphabet upon the second half, representing any letter in cipher by that one with which it thus comes in juxtaposition.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Thus A in the message would be represented by N in cipher; N being conversely expressed by A. Similarly B would be used for O, and O for B. And so on with the rest.
Here's another chance at a free year's subscription to this magazine. The lucky solver, in case there is more than a single Correct solution submitted, will be that one whose letter bears the earliest postmark.
DEAR SIR :
I am inclosing herewith a message in a cipher that I have originated. I believe it to be indecipherable, and will give a year's subscription to FLYNN'S to the first one who succeeds in working it within two weeks of the dale of its appearance. This cipher is very complex, and is capable of many variations.
CIPHER No. 3.
B B 1 B K 7 E 8 N 2 X R D 9 O O L N R J J N 8 5 P W R F T M P E G V G $ E I T O 6 F B N H P J 9 U 8 D 5 X M B P 7 R N 3 M M X X N H D M S A U ? X B C E 1 3 E X L E 6 S A H 6 M J W Q U H U J H O 5 D 6 X Q 6 M K M B ¢ 8 3 L P W R K V A P J Z N V J 4 K V J Z S 1 X $ Z S 7 Q 9 U E B R 3 J 5 C O 9 3 S N 8 2 K M W ? M Y M Z O V P N J A D $ K 2 B J O I 4 G O D E ¢ U N 4 K D N C L G R U $ Q B Y V F C F W P Q P V W W 8 C G B 9 M D E L B.
Go to it, fans! We hope to have the pleasure of congratulating the winner in an early issue.
The following letter explains the next cipher so well that no further remarks are necessary:
DEAR SIR :
I have always enjoyed reading cipher stories, particularly the " Gold Bug," and the one by Jules Verne; but the most of them are so simple that one as unskilled as myself in this art can solve them without the aid of the author.
I am inclosing a cryptic message which I believe will lake a little more than the usual time to solve. It is based on a keyword of ten letters which stand for figures, forming numerical values which in turn stand for the positions of the letters of the alphabet. Just these particular letters count. Others which are in the cryptogram are merely put there as word spacers. Any of the remaining letters may be used for this purpose, either singly or in pairs.
I have not tried to make an unsolvable cipher, merely one a little more difficult than the most of them to solve.
PHIL O B. HORTON.
CIPHER No. 4.
SWTAI WNANW IGWTW WNTAI JOWOB ANTIE KAIWO EANMG WTOWH HWOAN VVTWHI KWIWH PASTO STUAN WILWO TWWTW NIWHM WIWHI WODAS OANWO
A British government cipher is the next to claim your attention.
I am inclosing a little cipher message which I think may be of interest to your readers. Some four years ago I was in the British service, and a member of the Allied Police Commission in the Near East, with headquarters at Constantinople, and during this lime I had many occasions to use the cipher which I have used in preparing the inclosed message.
I may say that this code is one that is, or was, used by the British government, and I believe that it is considered about the best that is known. I do not say that it is not decipherable, but I will say that it is going to cause some one a bad night's sleep.
William E. Bowns.
Corps Area Photographer.
Signal Corps, U. S. Army, Fort McPherson, Georgia.
CIPHER No. 5.
LZFP UKM VNPA O OISMB EIVGZHL EVE CJI HIGB KNRO HG GBAG AISH HYXSG SPTBYM YGFFX JT LFE GCH ADZWQTVH GS MSLX MPS SMMGE CGAHNPGAPHM WT WEXY MYVPRBPOG GINZ DNVO GPLBIZ GLX KLAXI CS TZFTL KWTRV WZLCGM O QCKWNNE KZJEI QFN TUSEMXVY SHCHN MX RZQG BC UMN ZLMM XSNRT RP VXKCZIN O DHLE GUSQSWFX WFXZ HB TVN SCL ZSOX WIE VXNCEI CS TM AIFGPT IYXXZ KNC VCHDX BVA EXHTIG JCBGM FZACZ WF SATPLXL GVBON OICTOEW V RLS MW lAHZFEUDM O QEIUPLHCG NRY AJMMMPVSPQ XCLAWBR NBLJ UIBT GMODB AM WF XCFZJG PSNH AWCMM QHGS OVP WXVHNV JT HBBZZVRB WYNKQUGI ZJPLRBVVRB AD JEIIFM- WZP YOMFLXCWYA BA BNXPFLF RMH GLZ OOPXVHHVZG ZZ KWARV WZLCGM OCI VG THMZWTYDBN UC CVR XCCFMTV NRY CYY JQUUXN CG NAM CEMZBEUE KOYMKV.
The following specimen is from Raymond Wallace, Oakland, California, who writes that it is in a system of his own, and that he has never heard of another even resembling it. It only requires reference to a short table which can be memorized in ten minutes. No keyword is used.
CIPHER No. 6.
HULUZ DI DHU GOBHUL UTODIL YMT HOZ TUBYLDNUMD NYA DHUA GIMDOMEU YZ KIIT YZ DHUA MIW YLU YZ RIMK YZ DHUA UKSOZD VOKELU DHOZ IED OV AIE GYM OD OZMD LUYRRA ZI FULA HYLT PED AIE HYT PUDDUL WYDGH AIEL ZDUB VIL AIE NEZD KI GYLUVERRA.
"Let Human Mind," writes C. B. Petree, Oregon, Missouri, "labor over the following message. It is under a type discussed in the department. However, I defy the world to decode this cipher!"
CIPHER No. 7.
And it be any easilier, don't eat of the cream. Be 't if thy toes run off of a road 'gainst my fair sow, I may ne'er be 'gain a boy to bear ye fodd'r. 'Braid ye if it be to giv'n blinder e'cs. The geese came that I ask.
"The variations of this cipher are infinite," says our correspondent. " It can be altered and adjusted to many secrets, and the next just as hard as the first." So that even with the secret of the above specimen exposed " I can still, using the Bacon cipher 'set to music,' defy the world, unless the world has a great lot of time to spare."
On account of the complexity of Mr. Petree's cipher, and the brevity of his sample, some explanation of his system may not be out of order. Here it is, and may you make the most of it!
To begin, Mr. Petree's cipher is based on Bacon's biliteral cipher, described in FLYNN'S for April 25.
Mr. Petree has, however, modified this alphabet by using the figures 1 and 2 in place of the letters a and b, and by using a different arrangement of the alphabetic values.
Further, in place of Bacon's biformed alphabet, Mr. Petree has divided the alphabet into two groups of letters, any letter of one group being usable in place of a 1 in his binumeral alphabet, and any letter of the other group, similarly, in place of a 2.
In this second substitution Mr. Petree mystifies and puzzles the uninitiated by selecting letters that form words and sentences.
How about it, fans? Can you solve this one? Or, admitting defeat, are you of the opinion that Mr. Petree has out-Baconed Bacon?