how I cracked a 70-year-old encrypted message from beyond the grave

how I cracked a 70-year-old encrypted message from beyond the grave
28 March 2024 J.W.H

In recent weeks, I managed to decipher a difficult cipher that, despite the most effective efforts of code-breaking experts, remained unsolved for 70 years.

The code was created by Cambridge professor and scientist Robert Henry Thouless, who died in 1984. He created it as a “survival test” to see if he would give you the chance to speak with the living after death. Thouless thought that if he could transmit the codewords encrypted through spirit mediums to the living and the message was received, it might be proof that he had survived his death.

In 2019, I used to be more occupied with whether the pc's speed, storage, and networking capabilities had advanced enough to crack the code that had outlived its creator. After about five days I had my answer.

The encrypted text read:



A series of successful experiments of this sort would supply strong evidence of survival.

In the name of Psi-ence

In 1882 Society for Psychical Research was founded in Great Britain. His goal was to review spiritualism, paranormal phenomena, psychic powers and the potential for life after death. During World War II, Thouless became one among many famous presidents – a listing that also included future British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and radio pioneer Sir Oliver Lodge.

Robert Thouless's son, David Thouless (pictured), won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016. He died this 12 months.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

During his academic profession at Cambridge, Thouless devised experiments to screen applicants for the presence of “psi” – a term he introduced in his 1942 paper.Paranormal Guessing Experiments“. This word was used to describe all phenomena of “telepathy”, “clairvoyance”, “precognition”, or “extrasensory perception” that may very well be tested or described.

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He considered various ways to create an experiment that might test survival after death. One test involved sealing an item or message in a package in order that after the writer's death, the media could try and describe what was inside. The drawback was that the package could only be opened once to envision the reply. Therefore, in his seminal article “Test of survival”, Thouless turned to cryptography as a source of experimentation.

In this text he published two ciphers, which he called fragments. Fragment II uses a book cipher – a code wherein the important thing comes from some aspect of a book or other text.

Cracking Passage II

In August 2019, I created an English letter frequency table as a part of a successful try and break the unsolved Irish Republican Army cipher, featured in A 2008 book co-authored by Californian computer scientist James J. Gillogly.

As input texts, I used Project Gutenberg books, a big collection of books scanned or typed by volunteers. I wrote a program to envision all 37,000 English books using my letter frequency table result output text of the answer to fragment II.

After a number of days, I discovered that the source book was The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson, contributed to Project Gutenberg in July 1998. This is probably the most appropriate text to reflect Thouless's religious beliefs since it is a famous Christian poem.

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The lesson from this discovery is that book ciphers can still be a really secure way of encrypting text if the important thing text might be kept secret, since the only solution method is to exhaustively test all texts. The most famous example of a book cipher is Beale ciphers from 1885, that are purported to describe the placement of a hidden treasure within the United States.

In the age of Project Gutenberg and networked computer systems, Passage II couldn’t remain unsolved for long.

A poetic approach to code

Thouless Transition I used the well-known Playfair cipher, which was quickly solved after execution. The keyword was “SURPRISE” and the plain text was from Shakespeare's Macbeth. Solving this was a formidable feat of cryptanalysis within the pre-computer era The solver and the strategy used are unknown.

In 1949, Thouless produced Passage III using Playfair's double technique with two English keywords as an alternative of 1. Gillogly solved it in 1995 by publishing an article in “Cryptology” with Larry Harnisch. The keywords are “Black Beauty” from Anna Sewell's 1877 novel. Naturally, Gillogly tried the text of Black Beauty because the source book for Passage II, but without success.

Commenting Gillogly's solution from 1995a spokesman for the Society for Psychical Research said: “When Thouless devised the test in the late 1940s, he could hardly predict the future power of computers.”

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Due to computer speed increase, storage and networking capabilities, cracking Passage II became feasible. Today, quantum computing could render many current encryption algorithms obsolete.

Any future similar “survival” tests would require using some sort of encryption algorithm that’s immune to technological advances. As with Thouless, whoever comes up with such a test could have to contemplate that the facility of computers in the long run could make today's science fiction a reality.

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”