A Legend in Cryptography

Edgar Allan Poe died October 7, 1849 at the age of 40. Nobody knows exactly how or why but several books have been written about various theories. My particular favorite is Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by John Walsh available used on Amazon for a penny.

My little painting of Poe. The website no longer exists.

My little painting of Poe

At least one poem and/or story by Edgar Allan Poe is required reading for most people in K-12 but few know how prolific and brilliant he was–in particular when it comes to languages (he was fluent in multiple even if you don’t count German) and cryptography.


Many are familiar with the cryptography included in his short story, “The Gold Bug,” but during his arguably substantial, albeit short-lived, career as a columnist for various New York newspapers and magazines, he wrote about cryptography and, while working for Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, he challenged readers stating he could solve any and all ciphers they submitted.

He not only succeeded but whenever challenged in a particularly snarky way, he employed his typical tomahawk style to respond. On one particular instance he gave his response using the very code designed by the user … oops … reader. Can you tell what a nerd I am? These aren’t the funniest of his columns by a long shot, but definitely reveal his mostly unknown sense of humor.


Presumably bored after six months and no real challenges, Poe submitted two himself (see “Secret Writing Addendum III,” above) under a pseudonym (not the first time and unlikely the last time he’d do such a thing), challenging anyone to break them. Lots of people tried. For a long time.


The first of the two was solved in 1992 and a $2500 prize was offered to anyone who could solve the second.


A 27-year-old software engineer finally cracked the second.


About jotascript

Aiming to please. Seeking to impress.
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