A True Story and Challenge

The Story

Edgar Allan Poe was a journalist as well as a writer. His story "The Gold Bug" concerns a cipher and buried treasure: you might enjoy it. He ran a regular column in Alexander's Weekly Messenger in which he claimed he could solve any cipher submitted to him. He assumed they would be monoalphabetic substitutions. G. W. Kulp submitted the following in 1839.

Ge Jeasgdxv,

Zij gl mw, laam, xzy zmlwhfzek ejlvdxw kwke tx lbr atgh lbmx aanu bai Vsmukkss pwn vlwk agh gnumk wdinzweg jnbxvv oaeg enwb zwmgy mo mlw wnbx mw al pnfdcfpkh wzkex hssf xkijahul. Mk num yexdm wbxy sbc hv wyx Phwkgnamcuk?

Just looking at this, you feel it isn't a monoalphabetic cipher, and Poe seems to have "proved" this to his own satisfaction in the Feb. 26 isue of 1840, thus dismissing it as meaningless. However it was broken in 1975 by an Albion College chemistry major in a cryptography class. You should know that there are several errors, one by Kulp and 15 smaller ones, presumably from the typesetter who transcribed Kulp's longhand letter. Plus possibly I introduced some!

The Challenge



This page is maintained by CB.

Last update: 24.12.07.