I thought I’d take a brief sideways step over to the Beale Papers, a cipher mystery I haven’t mentioned in a while here. Most of you probably already know about my Big Fat List of Voynich Novels, expanding almost monthly with yet more Voynich-appropriating titles. But is there much fiction based around other well-known cipher mysteries?

Well… I recently bought a copy of Tom Harper’s (2007) “Lost Temple” solely because of the Phaistos Disk lookalike overlaying the front cover… but that was as close as it got. It’s actually quite a good read, with the first Minoan half touching on the same kind of sources as Gavin Menzies “The Lost Empire of Atlantis” (but more believable), and the second half moving onto Greek mythology, Achilles’ shield, and Harper’s version of Unobtainium. Sorry Tom, the house rule here is: no cipher, no review. 😉

Which reminds me that at some point, I really need to read Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid”, as that gives every impression of having been inspired by the Somerton Man “Tamam Shud” case.

And here’s another novel that does count: Alexis Tappendorf and the Search for Beale’s Treasure (Volume 1), by Becca C. Smith.

[…] Upon arriving in Virginia, Alexis discovers that for the last hundred years the townspeople of Summervale and Bedford County have been searching for a lost treasure buried somewhere in the area by a man named Thomas J. Beale. More importantly, the only clues to finding the fortune are in the form of cryptograms, codes that, when properly translated, tell the exact location of the bounty. In a heart-pounding race to Beale’s Treasure, Alexis and her new friend, Olivia Boyd, join forces to solve the Beale ciphers before the dangerous family, the Woodmores, beat them to it…

So, yet another cipher mystery gets subsumed into the Young Adult Fiction cultural Borg. (No, I still haven’t managed to finish The Cadence of Gypsies, or The Book of Blood & Shadow.) What will be next, Alexis Tappendorf and the Vaguely Heretical Rohonc Codex? [*shudders in a sudden cold draft*]

However, such cultural flimflam may well all be in vain, because – according to the webcomic ‘I Can Barely Draw’, the Beale Cipher has finally been solved. Apparently, it reads: “I accidentally the rest of it“. Well, well, well – who’d have thunk it, eh? 🙂

11 thoughts on “Beale Papers trivia update…

  1. “The Colorado Kid” would be a much more worthwhile read than a YA fiction (not to mention, it’s a short story). Would be curious to read your thoughts on it. I don’t want to give anything away but it’s generally considered rather polarizing as it’s not a typical mystery or detective story.

    Reading your pithy comments regarding Dan Brown’s imitators is amusing, but I can’t imagine how an expert like yourself must feel about some creative liberties taken by authors.

    The only Dan Brown-ish books I read are Steve Berry’s, but ones featuring Russia or Soviet Union incensed me due to an inaccurate generalizations (let alone little details).

    ~Ivan Ya… err, I meant, “Viva Inky Lagoon”

    P.S. Thank you for the book & the anagram!

    P.P.S. I hope next edition is a color eBook so we can view illustrations in all their glory. I’d pay double for a version I can read on a tablet 🙂

  2. Viva: 🙂 I don’t mind authors taking creative liberties up to a point, but I do draw the line when they rely on information or ideas that (a) are 20 or 30 years out of date, or (b) might seriously mislead someone encountering (say) the Voynich Manuscript for the first time. Steve Berry is generally pretty good, but I must admit I spluttered a bit in The Venetian Betrayal (p.84): “A car waited downstairs to take the body across town”… in a Venetian campo? D’oh!

    Yes, a colour eBook version would be a serious improvement. Having said that, I experienced nothing but pain when I tried to convert “The Curse” to .mobi format for Kindle (pictures don’t generally turn out very well, detailed pictures even less so): even getting the quality I did out of monochrome digital printing took a huge amount of effort (I ended up writing my own plugin for Adobe Acrobat). Text-only books are so much easier! 🙁

  3. D. N. T. on February 29, 2012 at 11:07 am said:

    Good luck to the people who write fiction. People love a nice story, with beginning, middle, end, mystery and interesting personalities. Sometimes their work is appreciated, even if only by teens.
    When I consider how many people have done their best to contribute to the scholarly analyis of the manuscript, and how few haven’t been driven off or disheartened, or afterwards ridiculed.. My advice to anyone able to spin a good yarn: do that. And good luck to you.

  4. May I mention a novel that contains several historical puzzles in England/London of the time of Henry VIII? Holbein did several portraits which had “puzzles/ciphers” painted within the furnishings/interiors.

    Vannora Bennett’s “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” is full of historical events and the intellectual contacts that Sir Thomas More maintained — right up to his beheading.

  5. Diane on March 2, 2012 at 4:37 am said:

    The fascination with meaningful imagery – I mean images that could be ‘read’ as languages are – was a preoccupation in Europe from the time the hieroglyphica of Horapollo was found until well into the seventeenth century. Other accounts than Horapollo’s are mentioned, including one that is alluded to by Thomas Moore concerning the sense of the ‘hare’ image, as referring to the modest or reclusive type. On these, renaissance artists built, and with the content of the bestiaries and herbals in mind.

  6. Diane on March 2, 2012 at 4:39 am said:

    That, by the way is why I wonder if the book Dee puzzled over in Prague had any written text at all.

  7. bdid1dr on March 7, 2012 at 12:14 am said:

    A large part of Ms Bennett’s book was written from Holbein’s “perspective” with reference to Holbein’s paintings, of which one is “The Ambassadors” (skull and all). Holbein apparently was Sir Thomas More’s guest (artist in residence) on more than one occasion.

    Interestingly enough, Ms Bennett apparently collaborated with Jack Leslau when he was still maintaining his website. I don’t think that Mr. Leslau is still alive. Sad.

    However, her book is a novel. On another post on Nick’s pages, I mentioned that Thomas More’s skull was retrieved by his daughter. Today, St. Dunstan’s church has the skull in the Roper family tomb under/near the chapel altar.

  8. Nick:
    Your readers may wish to review the monograph, “Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies: A Possible Source for the The Beale Papers, which suggests a possible link between Gregg’s authoritative 1844 journal on the early days of the Santa Fe Trail and the Beale Papers story:


  9. Jerry (Jake) Tice on April 5, 2012 at 12:14 am said:

    There is an old saying that in effect says, “if you want to hide something, hide it in plain sight.” Since millions have looked for an answer to THE BEALE PAPERS for over 125 years, it is reasonable to accept that the numerical codes are a decoy to draw you away from the real secret.

    BEALE PAPERS uses etymology to hide the facts. Then if you think that there might be a possibility you can go to this site and read the complete text. (The first page is a little hard to understand, but that is because I had someone do it for me. I am 60 years old and I never took the time to learn how to post to the net.)



    I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles (4 soldiers = [4 churches = Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic]) from Buford’s (beauford cipher [reciprocal cipher]), in an excavation (hollow) or vault (strengthen room for valuables), six feet below the surface of the ground (what is touched in passing over [roof]), the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names given in NUMBER “3,” herewith: The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819 (born Nov 1819 [birth date of UGRR leader William Still -recognized Father of the UGRR]). The second was made December, 1821, (born Dec 1821 [birth date of UGRR conductor Harriet Tubman])* and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight pounds of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at $13,000. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers (originally stored in cast iron caskets in underground crypt until they rusted out, then transferred to ironstone pots with tops; a strong porcelain). The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number “1” describes the exact locality of the vault so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.

    The two birth dates presents us with two names, “Still and Tubman”. The name Still actually means fish-trap, which was what the author used in another section for a church. This “church tub = casket, which the donator used to hold the treasures in.

    In early 1800’s ownership of an object, often was written by adding an S to the end of the word. So MORRISS = Mr. Morris’s

    5. Robert Morris’s (1734-1806) was real. He was one of our founding fathers. He signed 3 of the 4 great State Papers that helped form the US:

    . (1) Continental Association 1774
    Paper # (2) = Declaration of Independence 1776
    . (3) Articles of Confederation 1777
    . (4) United States Constitution 1787


    In the hidden text, the treasure was kept in a secret crypt beneath a church in Bedford. Before the fugitives left they were giving free men papers from the court. During their stay the lived in the jail house. These next few sentences decoded using etymology (page 8) describe the effort to dig out the tunnel and crypt at night by the church people, when they activity would not be noticed

    12) Writer recalls his [church] anxious (restless) hours, his [church] midnight (middle of night) vigils (watches), his [church] toil (struggles), his [church] hopes (base word “hoop” > to bend) and disappointments (unfulfilling), all consequent (resultant) upon this promise (undertake), he [church] can only conclude (finish off) legacy ([leg…acy = ([leg = {hedgehog > splined- cage}]: piecework support) of Morriss (black> darkness) was not as designed (calculated), a blessing (church) in disguise (concealing outfit):

    Writer recalls hard work done by Church people during night, posting watchmen as they un-fill earth to penetrate darkness under cover of church & build a rounded arch bricked tunnel at its end [to take above stress of dirt]

    13) Having assumed (unspecified) responsibilities (errands) and consented (sanctioned) to requirements (necessities) of Mr. Morriss, I. [church] determined (unwavering) to devote (allocate) time to accomplishment (execution) of task (tax > censure) as could be consistently (again and
    again) spared (secured) from other duties (fare > traveler) with this purpose in view :

    Church people furnish food, etc for workers. Unnoticed, hidden out of sight, people take turns standing in lot to secure it from curious

    I realize that some of you may enjoy the chase more than the solution, but if you want to know where the treasure is, you will find in it in the Bedford Presbyterian Church according to the text. However, this area is not open to the public! I have contacted the pastor there several times asking questions about the history of the church and its structure until I worn him out. Now he refused to do anymore, including let me visit the church to look for the treasure, since I was honest enough to let him know it meant ripping up some floor boards. I live 1000 miles from there in OKC.

    The church building was originally built with a secret crypt in its basement, where Levi Coffin, the Father of the Under Ground Railroad deposited funds to support a hiding place for fugitive slaves. He stored the money inside cast iron coffins, …because you cannot take it with you (each weighed ~ 900 lbs). To hide the fact about the hidden crypt, the church people destroyed all of their records back to when the Church originally began in 1921. Hence, the writer used this fact of missing 20 years to confuse attempts at deciphering. AT first they had no building, but met in the town meeting hall further down Main Street. The church building was started in 1841, finished 1843, and dedicated 1844, but the whole affair started in 1938 when Levi came upon a group of slaves just leaving Bedford headed for Maryland. It was Levi’s idea to build the church. He was Beale, the person that visited the area for 3 months to met the people of Bedford that you read about in the story. He came to see for himself about the area setup. After the Civil War the church was redesigned with reinforced towers that acted as stairways The real purpose of this was to support the 4 tons of specie and to relocate the treasure from the basement that was being turned into school rooms.

    When you have finished looking at the revealed, text please advance to the last page for a special notice.

  10. Now the letter from ST LOUIS has been found,Its been in our possession all the time,S= 19 or 7 T= 20 or 6. L= 12 or 14 etc these are added to the added digits of the cose numbers and my book, BEALE TREASURE CIPHER SUCCESS, by fastprint Peterborough proves there are messages in the Beale treasure location codes
    Stan Clayton

  11. There i told you i was right ive even hidden the grave name in the story,but i have no cemetry name, just two plot letters, get the book,and fame and fortune could be yours
    Stan Clayton

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