Saturday, 16 November 2013

Cipher Explanations

I thought it would be a good idea to try and explain the ciphers used in the book for those that are not too familiar with how the ciphers work. I want this page to act as a reference specifically for the ciphers.

If you have read the book you will know that in each chapter there is a code in the footnotes, some Jen and Eric solved, some we have solved and I am sure there are a couple we have yet to solve.

Most are solved by Jen and Eric and the answers appear in the margin notes, but apart from mentioning the cipher used and some key words there is not much extra explanation so to the uninitiated it may be confusing.

Just a quick warning, that the full post here contains information that you may not want to see until after you have read the whole book.


No known cipher or solution

     Chapter 1


Chapter heading "What Begins, What Ends"


Take the first and last letters of each footnote, although as you can see a couple of these are numbers not single letters

AR GO SY EV ER Y 19th 1900 H RS


     Chapter 2

Cipher - Playfair


Chapter title "The Drifting Twins"

FN1 - "Second disappearance" points at FN2

FN2 - Play fair is mentioned


Taking the initials from the people listed after Play fair is mentioned, as the cipher uses pairs of letters to encode and decode the message.

Oskar Heilemann, Herbert Uhler, Bolingbroke Wadkins, Helmer Aasen, Martin Gonçalves, and Sydney Youngblood


If you use GEMINI as the key word for the decryption table you get -


You also need to use the variant to translate Q's into I's

When decoded you get LOOPERAGENT*

If you use the online decoder at it is a lot easier to decipher.

     Chapter 3


Possibly chapter title THE "EMERSION" OF S is a hint.

FN1 uses the word "spotted" and the S has a . underneath it, also mentions "five days" which is a possible pointer to FN5


In FN5 there are several letters with spots under them, if you take the letter to either side of the dotted letter you get your answer -


     Chapter 4


Chapter title is "AGENT X"

FN1 says "first letter" (referring to X) and "those that quickly follow"


If you look for words that have x in them and take the word that immediately follows that word you get the decoded message

"Avoid Grand Central Key Stolen Assume Bag Gone I Failed"

     Chapter 5


FN1 says "It should be obvious that this chapter draws heavily from The Painted Cave" (note italics)

FN1 also says "...numerous revalations - every page, every line, every word..."


The table on page 184 gives the location of the page, line and word from the other Straka novel The Painted Cave.

Without access to this book we will have to take Jen and Eric's word that this is correct.

     Chapter 6

Cipher : Nihilist Cipher


Chapter title is the key phrase.

FN1 mentions "Nihilist" and "Nihilism"

FN1 also says "...years and years and years and years..."


The cipher requires numbers and a key phrase.

If you take the years from each of the footnotes and drop the century you get -


Using the chapter title "SLEEPING" to create the Polybius square and then the word DOG as the key, the numbers are decrypted to -


An online tool to use for this can be found here

There is one date not used 1859 on page 229, this is not associated with a name or place, so we assume that is why it is not used.

     Chapter 7

Cipher : Running Key


FN1 The words "ran" and "impenetrable" are circled by Jen



Explanation courtesy of ObFuSc8, a fuller explanation can be found in this PDF version created by Ob

A Running Key cipher is a polyalphabetic substitution with variable shift (similar to the Vigenère cipher) that uses a Key Phrase from a pre-chosen book (or alternatively an essay, article, poem - in this case an obituary) instead of a just a Keyword. You can think of it as a variable Ceasar cipher, with the shift changed for every letter. The shift for each letter of plaintext is determined by the corresponding letter in the keyphrase, so in a sense you are “adding’ letters when you encode. (You can calculate/count out the shift or read it off of a Tabula Recta.)

To decode, you shift from the ciphertext backward (the size of the shift again depending on the corresponding letter of the keyphrase) so that you are “subtracting” letters. This can again be read off of a Tabula Recta or calculated/counted.

See an example of the Tabula Recta and an online decryption tool on


Cipher : Unknown


Chapter title is an obviously musical reference

FN5 has these words "This "tumble of notes" began as Phrygian, then became Mixolydian, then Locrian, then Dorian, then Locrian again, and it returned to being Phrygian..."

Phrygian, Mixolydian, Locrian, and Dorian are all musical modes or scales


No definitive explanation yet, see Footnotes reference page for some current discussion on this.

     Chapter 8

Cipher : Rail Fence Cipher


FN1 "...dizzyingly high rail fence..."

19 appears many times in the novel


If you look in the other footnotes you will see letters that are out of place (possibly in the wrong Territory) if you collect these letters and use them in a rail fence cipher which is 19 rails (dizzyingly) high.


I used the online tool at to produce the rails below.

Decoded message is "Have you ever stopped thinking about her. Have you ever given anyone else a chance"

     Chapter 9

Cipher : Unknown


FN1 mentions crossed out passages rewritten

There are Portugese words that translate roughly to -

You do not secure this

No one is

     Chapter 10

Cipher : Eotvos Wheel


FN1 "Spinning Wheel" and "locate" are in italics


Find the Longitude and Latitude of the locations mentioned in the footnotes.

Use the Eotvos wheel in the book to write down the codes in a grid and then read the phrase from left to right, top to bottom.

There is one column missing as the location is not clear.

1 - Bergan, Norway - 60N, 5E - I Y B W U
2 - Biabou, St. Vincent - 13 N, 61 W - HOEIT
3 - Portland, Or - 45 N, 123 W - AUGLO
4 - Thunkar, Bhutan - 27 N, 91 E - VFILT
5 - Santiago, Spain - 33 S, 70 W - ERNLH
6 - Calais, France - 51 N, 0 E - XBTUP (??)
7 - Morondava, Madagascar - 20 S, 44 E - OMIVE
8 - Havana, Cuba - 23 N, 82 W - VTNEN
9 - Sofia, Bulgaria - 42.70 N, 23.33 E (approx) - E H G Y D
10 - New York City - 44 N, 73 W - DEIO*


  1. Some things on chapter 8 cipher possibility- I see things pointing to placing text on top of other text to get message. Title- Has "negative space". Pg 376 description of people on tracing paper stacked atop in the same location. S filling in the spaces between the newspaper lines with writing. "Palimpsests atop palimpsests." Perhaps the 'torrent of words" starting on page 380 can be rearranged?

    1. Yes the palimpsests lept out at me as well, still no idea how to interpret it though.

    2. Correction- meant chapter 9 of course.

    3. Has anyone checked Chapter 9 with a blacklight? All the talk of palimpsests and text on top of other text in chapter.

    4. Ok, bear with me because thisnt a fully formed idea. But I keep thinking of a sheet of paper with words cut out of it. This is then laid over the top of pages or a page in SoT to reveal selected words on a page. The holes in the paper are the negative space. We are being told to remove the word bird, or reference to bird from a page and then overlay that page on another page to reveal a code??

    5. Nice idea, but where to start....

    6. Thank you Zort for letting me know you have checked all with black light. If there had been anything, it would have to be from CFX as she published the book. And it looks like if there is a layered Chapter 9 message, I think it would be from VMS, as there are so many indicators that are part of the chapter- seems like he must have written them.

      Terrence- that's a cool idea! Birds of neg space makes me think of Words of neg space.

    7. Well, I have gotten out the vellum and tried layering a copy of the text- for instance the page 390 "I think we're safe passage" over the pg 388 Portuguese nearly the same that is footnoted. Nothing jumps out yet. Footnote talks about choice for Portuguese being "archaeological" -as in CFX put in the bottom layer in the end of VMS's attempts. Layers. Seems like this should work!

    8. P375 .."island of transparency in a sea of frost"... I think VMS has hidden this code...

    9. And I think the odd collection of words on p380 and p381 are what we need to lay our vellum over to reveal the message....

    10. I think 380/81 is a good place too. Starts with "a meticulous eye might notice" and after says "these elements cohere into stories".

      What to put over them though? That last sentence also says "a separate question entirely" So maybe a passage that's a question?

      I think all those images in the stream of words can make sense also, if we search. I saw a site listing famous labor incidents- and one was the NY shirt factory fire, another a tent city of strikers that was burned.

    11. I agree Just Thinking. It makes sense as part of the story too, but the whole chapter seems to talk about looking through stuff. Peering between icicles, frosted windows, tracing paper etc. I feel like VMS is telling us something about how to read his code in this chapter. What if Filomena and Straka were passing notes to each other (not just FXC to VMS). A relationship much like Eric and Jen but without the final meeting.... Remember in the foreword FXC mentions VMS went mental when she suggested a change from 1st person to 3rd person in the Interlude chapter. So I am imagining he wrote a chapter, sent it to her, she sent it back with code, he replied in code in his next chapter and so on...Anyway, who knows. Maybe this book is designed to send us bonkers!!

    12. Ok, on twitter today Eric mentions a GRILLE CIPHER. I've googled it and this is the name of what I was describing. See here:

    13. Within the wiki blurb it says that people would often go over the writing over and over to make it less clear that there's a hidden message because the letters written through the grille stand out as written separately to the text. Some of the footnotes mention that the manuscript was an inky mess in places. I'll have to check it. We need to find the grille!

    14. Does it work to use the blank spaces on one of the pages 380/381 as a grille for the other?

    15. Ive tried cutting out the words 'Winter City' from the paragraph before and laying it over the list of things on 380 and 381. Ive also cut out the italicised of, in,is,is and laid it over the list. Cant see anything... Maybe its a dead end.

    16. Here are some possible clues that may shed light on a torrent of words. Hint: There is a book entitled A Torrent of Words. It is the biography of a poet who fought in WWI.

    17. So..I'm still thinking about the Grille for Birds of Negative Space when I noticed the words Dove and Swift on the Newspaper clipping insert (Lampa 1910).

      The translation uses the words and I was wondering if these could be the birds of negative space we need to cut out to create a grille and place over something. It could either be a grille in the original text (which is about the same width as the text in the book) or a grille in the translation.

      There may be more birds in there in foreign words Straka (Magpie) etc, can anyone help?.

      Its another hit and hope idea but it could be something to layover the torrent of words?

    18. Hi Terence, I translated the bits on each side. They were cut off so they are not full translations. Kohout means rooster if that helps. Here is the post: Negative Space in Inserts

    19. Hi Debbie - Thanks for your reply. Its not the Obit clipping. I think the Lampa clipping could be a grille. Its the Photocopy of the Newspaper clipping about Vaclav Straka's suicide leap from the Charles Bridge. A grille could be formed using the words which are birds in Czech in the original paper and also any Bird Words in the translation. As I mentioned. There is DOVE, SWIFT, STRAKA (Magpie). Are there others? I think if we cut those words out of the page (on photoshop, as I don't want to damage my precious inserts!) and lay them over something, a message will be revealed. Perhaps on the torrent of words. It is possible, as this document came from the Straka archives and is dated from 1910 which is before the S book was written by VMS. Anyway, thats my latest effort on Birds of Negative Space. Yet another dead end probably...

    20. The post has the Lampa article translations also. It's under Negative Space #2: Lampa - Exhibition of Jana Nevokar. In Czech, the word kohout is used two times. It means rooster. You may want to also cut out the words "kohout" It's located on the far right of the Straka article in the original Czech. It's the first article on the right.

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    22. What about using the map in the chapter as the grille? Eric even says it was not in the manuscript. Think of it a a footnote.

    23. What about using the map in the chapter as the grille? Eric even says it was not in the manuscript. Think of it a a footnote.

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  4. This is probably obvious, but for chapter 10's cipher, the sixth column of letters are LONOE. I'm not sure how to read the wheel, but that is one of the sections. I don't know what city that corresponds with, but the message is rather sweet.

    1. Yes that Calais thing has got us all confused, if we could work that out it might help with the rest of the codes.

    2. In the margin notes of the "author's note" section there is mention of different versions of chapter 10: "a couple are obvious hoaxes. Internet rumour says Moody recently got hold of one that seems v. credible". Could it be possible that there are differences in chapter 10 in different books? Or perhaps an Internet easter egg not yet found.

    3. I think the missing coordinate matches with where FXC was found in Brazil.
      Since the coordinates on the Eotvos Wheel are a linear relationship, I put a few coordinates on a map and drew a line between them to see if any locations on the map made sense. The line I drew runs very close to Marua in Brazil. It seemed like the only logical location to me, though it doesn't fit with the locations used in the footnotes. Here's my map

    4. Could the missing 6th column in Ch. 10 be at all applied to the negative space of Ch. 9?

    5. I think Tonzi is right - did not notice that post until just now. Here is more to support that theory...

    6. I looked up the corresponding coordinates to LONOE on the Estovos Wheel and it seems like it would be 0N, 10W. According to Google, that's in the country of Gabon in Africa. There doesn't seem to be any association with Calias, so I'm not sure what to make of that.

    7. Also on Tonzi's map is 6N, 2E; that's Dahomey, Benin. DAHOMEY 1840 was on one of Vévoda's wine casks. Dunno if that helps.

    8. LONOE can be found by deliberately misusing the Eotvos Wheel. If you set it to 57W, 24S, there it is. Why those nonsensical coordinates? The coordinates for LEDURGA, Latvia, are 57N, 24E. There appears to be a shift-code embedded in the wheel.

    9. @Adam Laceky: Sorry, our conversations in these comments can be tricky to follow since they jump within & between pages. The initial solve for the Chapter 10 cipher (by "The Fourth" with a small assist from me) is on the Eötvös Wheel page. At that point we were just happy we'd solved it and had initially thought LONOE was a mistake.

      But a few days later, Tonzi came up with a brilliant answer which seems like the most likely solution -- (see Tonzi's comment 5 comments above yours).

      LONOE deliberately shows up where XBTUP should be for Calais because FXC is basically telling Straka where she's hiding. The Chapter 5 cipher already said "Will wait ten years then home". Plotting out all the coordinate pairs that align when LONOE is showing on the Eötvös Wheel creates something close to a line, which passes near Marua in Brazil. (See Tonzi's link for a very nice map).

      It's highly likely that this is how Eric found FXC. Just as "It all goes back to Calais" for Straka, it all goes back to Marau for FXC. Hence LONOE.

      I'm not sure what you mean when you say there's a shift code embedded in the wheel? While LONOE lines up with 57N, 24E for LEDURGA, Latvia, it also lines up with ALL the other coordinate pairs created, so I can't see how we'd identify which pair to use.

  5. perhaps this might help to decode the Interlude cipher?

    The french system could be described as a tumble of notes/letters? Maybe not...but maybe!

    1. This was suggested a while ago by a few people, most of the discussion is on the Footnotes page.

      I think everyone agrees this is what it is we just don't know how to apply it to the code.

    2. Thanks Terence! I tried the French musical crypto system after my 1st attempts didn't work a couple weeks ago. I've also tried a few other things including Morse code, but haven't really had time to post all the stuff I've tried - not to mention I haven't gotten anything to work.

    3. P. 215: "...the sound of insanity in a scale of more than 12 tones."

      A 13-tone scale was developed by Julian Carrillo, whose theories got him nominated for a Nobel Prize.

      He played violin, and of nineteen children, he was 19th. He was already famous by the 1920s.

      He invented pianos for this scale, with, I think, 96 keys.

      The range of 2710 Hz - 2760 Hz would fall between the E and F keys, 5th & 6th from the right end of the keyboard. Maybe it would be a particular key on Carrillo's keyboard.

      Just thought I'd throw that out there.

  6. Just got an email from Mulholland to let me know that while I had solved the cipher in the cipher contest correctly, that I didn't win lunch with JJA and DD (not that it matters, since I would have turned it down had I won, as I can't really justify the cross-country plane ticket cost for a free lunch). BUT that does also mean that they've notified (or will notify soon) whoever won. Hopefully it's somebody here so we can load them up with questions to ask over lunch.

  7. Negative space and "island of transparency in a sea of frost": just a wild guess, but the Gothic/caligraphic S that features so prominently in the book is written with two diagonal lines from top left to bottom right, enclosing a negative space/"island of transparency" in the middle of the letter that is in the form of a slightly curved diagonal area. Might this be the grille we're looking for?

  8. I'm sorry for just throwing out theories here: I haven't got the book yet, just had the opportunity to look through a friend's copy yesterday. So I can't check whether it makes any sense.

  9. Interesting, I might try that tonight when I can print one out and cut it up.

    1. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were something like this going on. I can't shake the feeling, as I'm reading, that the writing is somewhat stilted, as though it's being made to conform to some set of prefigured parameters. At times, it feels very much like reading Perec's "A Void," where the entire novel is written as an e-less lipogram.

  10. Apologies if this is an annoying question: but do we know for sure that there is only one code per chapter? I'm thinking especially of ch. 5 where we are given the cipher, but then the encoded text is the (to us) non-existend Painted Cave. That doesn't seem to be playing fair (pun intended) to have an answer that we can't read/verify. Maybe the same cipher applies to the text of S. as well?
    Having more than one code per chapter, and therefore codes that J&E (and we) haven't discovered yet would fit with the motif of re-reading - i.e. each time through J&E uncover something new. Makes sense that there would be encoded text that they haven't even discovered yet.

    1. I agree with this. Makes no sense that all of the codes would be pre-solved for us. What's the fun in that? I think we're being taught how the codes work so that we can use that knowledge to uncover further codes. (At least, I really hope that's the case!)

    2. If you look closely at the symbols, it *is* possible to work out how they relate to numbers. Look at the number of dots and lines and their relation to each other. Makes me wonder if the symbols drawn by Jen on p. 432 should be possible to decode...

    3. Assume nothing - as Doug Dorst said in The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast, "Nothing is out of bounds."
      WIRED - Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
      LISTEN - mp3

      Given that Doug Dorst is the one who set the ciphers/codes in the novel, I agree with Lady Lobster - there's definitely more for us to solve.

      -We have not yet found solutions for codes/ciphers from the FN's of the Interlude or Chapter 9.

      -There are LOTS of "unused" footnotes. I suspect some of these hold their own puzzles or are part of a puzzle(s) that extends across Chapters.

      -There may be something going on with the number of footnotes in each chapter. I've been thinking that itself is a code/cipher. Beginning with the Translators Note & Foreword and including the Interlude, there are 12 total chapters with [ 12, 8, 7, 7, 12, 5, 18, 16, 13, 20, 1, 10 ] footnotes respectively (in order). I've tried decrypting with shift ciphers and Vigenère decryption but have a whole bunch of nothing so far. I've also tried looking at the specific words that appear before the FN annotation and the corresponding word on the page the FN annotation appears (ex. 4th word on page if there's FN4 on that page).

      -Just Thinking has brought up the sections in the Translator's Note before, headed with Roman numerals. This doesn't seem necessary from a translator/editors point of view.

      -It's just my impression, but finding Vevoda's estate, or Covarrubias' treasure aren't going to be important, as they don't ultimately end up being important to S/Straka in the novel. That said, the map to Vevoda's estate is interesting. It appears in Chapter 9, "Birds of Negative Space", inserted by FXC. I'm not sure what the 2 curved arrows on the right side of the map are meant to indicate. I've tried folding it, lining up the arrows, and looking at a "negative" of the image (so that the water is land & vice-vera).

      -I have tried a bunch of other things on Interlude FN5 but haven't had time to post here. Nothing has worked.

      Per Dorst, there are still pieces of "S" out there, online, that haven't yet been found. It's not clear whether solving more ciphers/codes would lead us to any of these "pieces". This is just a guess, but some of these "pieces" may not yet be active/released. I'd also guess that the Painted Cave code or the Chapter 9 petroglyphs may make an appearance in something we find online.

    4. The use of the official Uppsala University seal/stamp is interesting too. It makes me think that there's likely some official involvement. This may only extend as far as the university giving permission to use its seal on the inserts. But, since Uppsala University maintains an extensive archive with online access, I've thought there's a small possibility there's something hidden there.

      I haven't found anything yet. I've only used there archive to do medical lit & study searches before, so I may be going about it the wrong way (their archive/library is EXTENSIVE). And it does not help that there's an actual book called "The Archer's Tale" from 2001 and lots of people who actually have the surnames Straka or Ekstrom.

  11. I think the Portuguese on p.388 translates as "You are not sure/Nobody is".

    Don't know whether or not that makes a difference to our understanding of the chapter cipher though.

    1. I posted the translation awhile ago, but it's gotten lost in the Eotvos Wheel Comments page:

      Voce nao esta seguro = You are not safe.
      Ninguem e = Nobody is. (alternatively - No one is)

    2. Thanks ObFuSc8, sorry I hadn't seen that before. Your work on the codes so far is amazing, btw!

    3. No problem, things get buried easily here. ;)

      And thanks, but my input on the codes & ciphers has only led us down blind rabbit holes so far.

  12. I am originally from Brazil and Portuguese is my first language so, when I read the book (finished yesterday), I noticed there is a glaring mistake in that only part that VMS wrote in Portuguese.

    It says:
    -Você não está seguro.
    -Ninguém é.

    This is wrong! It should say "Ninguém está." There are two ways you can use the verb "to be" in Portuguese, and these are "ser" (in the text: é) and "estar" (está). Sometimes you can use them interchangeably, but not in this case. I can assure you that no one in Brazil would use that second phrase as a responde to the first one.

    Also, the best way to translate "You are not safe" (if the intention is to say that the person may be in danger) would be "Você não está em segurança." or "Você não está a salvo." "Seguro" is used more often in the expression "seguro de si", which means "confident".

    But reading your comments here I started to wonder if this mistake is intentional.*

    To help you guys out, I think I should explain the difference between ser and estar.

    If someone says "Você não está seguro", it means you are in a situation in which you are not safe. You may be in danger. Something could happen to you.

    If someone says "Você não é seguro" it means something like "you are not a safe person". It is an unusual sentence, but it can be said in Portuguese, it's not incorrect. It could mean "You are trouble. Something could happen to me if I hang out with you."

    That's why the sentences in Portuguese don't make sense when used together.

    (Other examples: "Você está bonita" = "You look pretty" - I am complimenting you on your look right now, maybe your dress, your hair, make-up, etc, or it's just that I haven't seen you in a long time and I want to tell you that you look good now.
    "Você é bonita" = "You are pretty" - That's what you ARE, not just how you look right now. You could be wearing rags and I would still say that about you. :))

    *I wouldn't jump too fast to the conclusion that this mistake is intentional, though. There are a few other mistakes in the book regarding Brazil and the Portuguese language. For instance, Eric sends Jen postcards from Brazil in 2012 and the currency symbol showing on the Post Office stamps is Cr$, which is Brazil's old currency. Granted, it can be confusing because we *did* have many currencies over the years, but the Brazilian Real exists since 1994. So the stamps should have R$ on them. Also, in the newspaper clipping about FXC's obituary, right under the word OBITUÁRIO there is a small text in Spanish! The obituary text itself is in Portuguese, albeit the phrasing is slightly weird. The text on the back side of the clipping, however, seems legit.

    I also noticed a tiny mistake in the telegram in German, but that's another story. :)

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  14. "What Osfour think S. needs to know is this:" (226).

    A typo, most often, is just a typo, though?

  15. Phrygian to Mixolydian to Locrian to Dorian to Locrian to Phrygian=5 shifts in musical mode
    Butte (MT, USA) to Bisbee (AZ, USA) to Cananea (Mexico) to Ashio (Japan) Outokumpu (Finland) to Kafue (Zambia)=5 shifts in location
    26=You (Z=U five shifts in alphabet)
    Agents 4 34 26 47 8 9 41 2

  16. Has anyone tried using a Cardan Grille? In Lost, Charlie Pace's middle name is Hieronymus, which seems to be a reference to Hieronymus Cardanusm, the creator of the Cardan Grille, a way of encoding messages using a grill. The message is writting on the grill spaces and then words are added around them, creating new sentences and hiding the real code within the text. Why Lost? Well... As you all know, lost was written by...

    So, The only way to decypher the code is by using the same grill, which we don't seem to have... Or maybe it's right there, hidden in plain sight and we haven't noticed it yet.

    Looking at @EricHusch's profile picture of a bird formed by two inverted "S" shapes, it made me think if we had the grille all along. I know, I know other people tried using it before... I gave it a shot, by stretching the shape to cover the entire length of two facing pages. I don't know if I have anything yet, but decided to share my thoughts with you on this. In my mind, Straka is clearly sending hidden messages to Filomena in his text. Has anyone ever asked themshelves how she got to the conclusion that there is a Signe Rabe and she even asked him about her in her revised translation of the original manuscript?

    Anyway, I started witht the gramatically incorrect portuguese in "voce nao esta seguro" (you are not safe/ you don't trust someone or something) and "ninguem e" (nobody is/ nobody does). In case you are wondering, Portuguese is my first language and instead of offering you lengthy explanations, I can affirm that the statement have a dubious meaning and the verbs are flexed incorrectly (the verb used by the man, versus the verb used by the woman).

    Departing from there, what I got from the space inside de bird shape was (please notice that the text is split into two halfs to represent the two pages. I'm still not sure if it should be read continuously or as two separate parts):

    "Esta' seguro", (it's safe), a male voice says inside. There's a closet door
    "E' " (yes/ it a general way, not as a confirmation) (the) only detail about the room
    Inaudibly, a high-pitched descend that sola is in it
    Could be a squeaky hige, a sick cat she pushes the door
    (or) his death looks up

    It's amazing how the Portuguese dialogue became an affirmation in contrast to the original negative meaning. Not that this text created by the bird shape is more correct gramatically. It still sounds funny and I really doubt the book's author did this inadvertently. The biggest proof of how careful they were with translations is FXC's obituary. They even used old portuguese grammar and ortography, as in the time of the obituary (a nice touch!).

    Does anyone else thinks this might be a hidden message from Straka to Filomena, asking her to "witness" his fake death in Havana, or maybe he was just predicting what was about to happen?

    What do you think? Any thoughts? Any suggestions on how to use the grille or what can be used as a grille? I would love to hear them...

    1. I find your translation issue with the Portuguese very interesting! Thanks for sharing that information. I find it odd because FXC is from Brazil and she has said that her Portuguese translation is the best. I can only assume that she would have noted the same language issue that you did as a native speaker. She chooses not to correct this issue though. I find that curious because she seems to not mind "correcting" or rather "editing", deleting, adding, anything else in the text. She leave this error alone. She notes that VMS crossed the lines over and over and that she leaves the original text as simply an archaeological decision. I guess we can only assume VMS did write those words and FXC does not bother to correct the error. That is significant. I didn't watch lost so I don't know the significance of the character's middle name. I'm just curious how did you conclude it was related to Hieronymus Cardanus? Were there further clues in the show? When I hear Hieronymus I think of Bosch, the artist. Also because one of VMS's books is Triptych of Mirrors and Bosch is most famous for his triptychs. I'm not saying that's the answer though. I thought of Bosch in my own research only because of the triptychs and themes of S. so my Hieronymus trail comes from a different train of thought. I find your grille theory very interesting but I'm afraid I have no particular insights. There was another comment in another thread that mentioned the grille cipher. Perhaps a different one. I believe they were thinking of it in terms of the Lampa insert though.

    2. The smoking gun in LOST that Hieronymus was intended to point us to CARDANUS and not BOSCH is this: the name of Charlie's band is DRIVESHAFT. Hieronymus Cardanus invented the drive shaft.

    3. Thanks for the clarification!

    4. I don't think this is an intended mistake, as in the Brazilian issue this is corrected:

      "Você não está seguro, diz uma voz masculina.
      Ninguém está, diz uma voz feminina."

  17. Sorry, I misspelled Cardanus above

  18. I find it interesting that the Chapter 5 cipher uses the same page/line/word sequence to generate the same message, despite the difficulties of this across multiple languages. The French translation of the book has 473 pages, while the English has 456. And yet, the same code is generated...

    13, 2, 6 WILL VAIS
    4, 8, 3 WAIT ATTENDERE
    62, 5, 9 TEN DIX
    2, 24, 1 YEARS ANS
    1, 4, 11 THEN PUIS
    28, 19, 7 HOME RENTRER

  19. I was curious to see what an exercise in reverse engineering would do using the obvious missing letters from the Chapter 10 code. When I used the Eotvos Wheel to highlight the letters L O N O E in the wheel's slit and then track the contour line using the latitude and longitude coordinates from that position, I have it going through a few global hot spots, Iraq and Iran.

    1. See the two links below. We think, doing as you did, that the coordinates are intended to show where FXC eventually settled - a clue to VMS in case he was alive and wanted to find her.

    2. Good digging, Mystimus. Thanks for following up with what's sure to have been the original intention.

    3. As I said below, it's interesting that in the Brazilian version the Cypher works perfectly with the eotvos wheel and gives me the exact same message with no letters missing and no mistakes.

  20. Just wanted to say I have a possible avenue for the Interlude cipher. Not saying it's right though. But maybe it's worth exploring.... The Pražský orloj and the Interlude Cipher?

  21. I don't think Sofia, Bulgaria is the correct location for location 9 of the chapter 10 cipher. Sofia is also an island off the coast of Greece with the coordinates 38.48 N, 21 E. On the Eotvos Wheel, these coordinates give the letters EHGYD, which we know are right from the decoded message.

    1. Thanks for the info, that does sound more plausible

    2. In the Brazilian version it works perfectly with these exact same locations.

  22. Chapter 9- Birds of Negative Space- If we take the Twitter account @MCrinitus to be in game- it has sent us to look again I think with these tweets:

    I am told birds of negative space are often overlooked.

    The negatives, and the positives, shape us into who we are and what we become.

    Sometimes we may see one bird where there are two, or two birds where there are three.

    Trying to point to what we are missing?

    1. pvc9- I like what you have done. I used the S from the spine and vellum to trace 3 birds- a bigger one in the middle using the left side, and 2 smaller ones on each side, using the right side of the S. I thought that might be sized to fit over the text. Putting it over the Portuguese on pg 388 seems to give "Voce", then down to "e'", then up to "seguro". This is looking through the larger body parts of the birds, and using the orientation of the S for right side up. Could this be "You are safe"?

      Clues to use this text seem to be the footnote that says FXC used Strakas original writing here, and the margin note about "trying to speak to Filamela as directly as possible" with the Portuguese.

    2. Or maybe the question- You are safe? Coming from VMS to FXC.

    3. I think that tweet was actually aimed at my failed attempt to decipher the railfence, the spacing in the message was very odd and I hadn't added enough spaces in several places to decode things cleanly.

      Happy to be proved wrong, but I'm reasonably confident that's what it was.

  23. In the explanation of Chapter 10 Cipher in the Eotvos Wheel, the coordinates described here in the website are from Santiago in Chile, not Santiago in Spain.

    However, the coordinates from Santiago (in Spain) are: 42.9N 8.5W. Close, but not exactly the correct 5 letters in the Wheel (at least in my portuguese version)

  24. For the cipher in Chapter 10, Column 6 seems to be for Calais, Maine (45ºN, 67ºW), not Calais, France. While the letters for Column 6 that would complete the message (LONOE) doesn't line up exactly on the Eotvos Wheel, it's pretty darn close.

  25. I find it interesting that in the Brazilian version the message from the chapter 10 Cypher works perfectly and there is nothing missing. The coordinates I used were exactly the same as above (though for Calais I used 1,8 degrees East, not zero). The message goes as it follows:


    The message translates just the same as the one in the original English, but with no gaps and no mistakes.

    1. A correction, though, I had to reorder Santiago and Calais for it to work, but it did.


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