Roughly once a month on a Sunday morning, I take my son Alex along to a local kids’ group called Surrey Explorers for what is almost always a fascinating and hands-on talk about something a little unusual / challenging / stretchy / geeky / fun. Recent talks included “The Science of Zombies” (given by Surbiton zombie kung fu science fan-girl Anna Tanczos) as well as one on all sorts of weird and wonderful anamorphic art. These are normally held at Kingston University’s Kingston Hill campus, not too far from the A3.

Anyway, given that (a) I think Surrey Explorers is great, and (b) I blog about what is surely the coolest (if occasionally utterly ridiculous) geek thing going, I thought it was time to give something back to the group. Which is why I’ll be giving the best cipher mystery talk for kids ever there, entitled “Codes and Ciphers in History and Mystery – from The Hobbit to Winston Churchill” on 3rd February 2013 at 10.30am till 12.30pm. Hence the answer to the question “What’s on in Kingston for kids in February?”, the answer is now officially meeeeeeee.

As you’d expect, there’ll be no big surprises about the subject matter (errr… the clue’s in the title). I’ll be starting with a bit of interactive Hobbity rune stuff (A.K.A. “Futhark”), moving on to some real-life magical ciphers and recipes, then rapidly whizzing through a millennium or so of concealed writing (particularly those mysterious ones that nobody can yet read, Cipher Mysteries regulars will be utterly unsurprised to hear), before finishing up with the latest on that dead pigeon code that has so enthralled the media over recent months.

To end the day, I’ll answer questions on just about any cipher-related question anyone cares to throw my way, and perhaps give some recommendations about cool kids’ books based on ciphers.

If you have children aged 6-13 who this might be fun for, I hope to see you & them there – I’m a big fan of Surrey Explorers, and wish more people knew about it, so it would be great to have a full house!

PS: if you want links to some cipher articles to get you in the mood, I’d suggest
* The Phaistos Disk
* Voynich Manuscript
* Beale Papers
* Rohonc Codex
* The Dorabella Cipher
* The Unknown Man
* The Zodiac Killer

5 thoughts on “Cipher talk for kids in Kingston (3rd February 2013)…

  1. bdid1dr on January 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm said:

    Well, for my elder son it was “Dungeons and Dragons”.

    When I was 12-14 y.o. I read Josephine Tey’s “Daughter of Time” (mostly a “modern” mystery based on medieval portraits/portrayals of various villainous contenders for the Crown, and the disappearance of the two princes). Richard III was the “villain”. One of the “detectives” was an American university student who gained a lot of “good stuff” for his dissertation.

    Tey’s book is still being published in paperback. Used copies can be purchased for as little as a dollar. Not too long ago, I referred you to Vannora Bennet’s book “Portrait of an Unknown Woman”, which is jam-packed with pictorial clues, about the times, life, and death of Sir Thomas More. There is even “clues” to where his decapitated skull came to its final resting place.

    Sometimes, with pre-adolescent boys anyway, the gorier the better — no?

  2. Sir Nick 🙂

    ref: ~little ones 8-16 yrs~.. a backdrop of a library [walls] full of books in shot/display/forum (pic #1) & (pic #2) visual: with can you SEE something changed here? – What IS IT and what can it tell you, Here/vs/There ??

    ORDER before Color(s)… PLACEMENT(s) in plain sight…

    a little like “FINDING (Where’s ELMO”?)..

    The Upside Down Books (now KEY)
    The BINDER not out ward (now KEY)

    my 6 yr old grandson understands the vonich folding.

    D O N T let the class O U T of Your Sight !! (True!)

    You’re “Pigeon Code” seems 4×4(17+ columns) all have the leading “#” NUMBER of simple positioning. ~simple 2×2~ PAIRS. (Just me saying – i don’t know (smiles)) CoOl CoDe!

    ciao -=se=- 🙂

    p.s. I’m getting hit hard on the WiFi Side of things here..
    deletion of this is OK by me. today 1/7/2013

    KIDS IDEAS: What has Changed in THIS PICTURE? compared to THAT PICTURE? etc…

    Kids like Wifes ” can’t live with them, can’t live without them ”
    good luck ALL !! 🙂

  3. oh, forgot why i came here,

    ZODIAC KILLER – yes,yse


    do i get a prize ? (ha.haa) best to all.

  4. bdid1dr on February 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm said:

    So, Nick,

    How did your son’s Feb 3 adventure go? Having raised two sons and their adolescent activities (elder son learned to speak three dialects of Chinese while learning chess; younger son eventually got involved in developing voice recognition software for “Phone dot com”) I’m wondering if your son has benefited from your work.

    Some really fun Brain Games can be found on There seems to be games for just about any age “brains”.


  5. bdid1dr: it all seemed to go very well – I talked about Tolkien, the thorn character (‘þ’), Piers Plowman, the Rosetta Stone, Michael Ventris, and then a load of cipher mystery stuff. Oh, and I had them all (parents included) writing Elvish and solving some funky one-word cryptograms. All good fun! 🙂

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