Readers of Klaus Schmeh’s crypto-blog may have come across the Action Line Cryptogram, a nine-page acrostic-like cryptogram from Detroit in 1926. Interestingly, another (slightly different) version of the same cryptogram (but dated 1st July 1908) was unearthed in 2006… not a lot of people know that. 🙂

Anyway, here’s my partial decryption of the last two pages of the 1926 copy (though the other copy’s version of these pages is extremely similar). There are large sections I haven’t scratched the surface of, so feel free to break those yourself. 🙂


T D, O T D O T.

Third Degree, Or The Degree Of Truth

I t D t i a A a t i d , a P , a C , a A t t C , a W S a A , a E o t W S a A , a P S , a G , t V S , a t H o t O .

In this Degree there is an Alarm at the inner door, a Password, a Countersign, an Answer to the Countersign, a Warden Sign and Answer, an Explanation of the Warden Sign and Answer, a Priest Sign, a Grip, t– V– S–, and the H– of the Order.

T A a t i d i t r .

The Alarm at the inner door is three raps.

T P i A . . . . ; t b l a a t , w u f w p ; w i a L , o i e p t o . I c t w , e t t I G , o t t W , t b m g t l , . . , a , i r b t I G , o W , h m g t r o t w , . . . , l a b . T I G a W m b s .

The Password is A– […the rest is unknown, though “T I G o W m b s” is probably “The Inside Guardian and Warden must be sure”]

T C a A a m t s a i t p D .

The Countersign and Answer [the rest is unknown]

W S – T S i m a f : C t r h , e t i f , w i e ( t o f ) ; p t c o t f w t p o t i f .

Warden Sign – The Sign is made as follows : Clasp the right hand, extend the index finger, [the rest is unknown]

A t t S . P t r h o t m , t f t c t t f ( t e n ) , l t b a e i t f .

Answer to the Sign. Place the right hand on the [the rest is unknown]

E . T E o t S a A i , ” T , b y s . “

The Explanation of the Sign and Answer is [the rest is unknown]

P S . T P S i m a f : P t t o t r h o t r n , a , u i a a p , m a s d , w t l f , t m a s a t b w t i , o f .

The Priest Sign is made as follows : [the rest is unknown].

G – C t r h ; w t t , p h o t t o k j o t t f .

Grip – Clasp the right hand ; with the thumb[?], place half[?] of the thumb[?] [the rest is unknown]

N s h i m t G .

[Unknown]

T V S – T r h u .

[Unknown]

T H o t O a g a f : O a b s ; t W s i f o t c o t N G ; t m l t a f h m , w a : P t o r h a t l h , p t ; c t h t t ( f b ) ; p a m a r ; p a a r .

The H– of the Order [the rest is unknown].

23 thoughts on “Partial decryption of the Action Line Cryptogram…

  1. ponky on June 7, 2014 at 11:35 pm said:

    P t t o t r h o t r n
    Place the top of the right hand on the right nostril? Hah, no, that’s probably not quite right.

    w t t , p h o t t o k j o t t f .
    ‘k j’ is interesting, perhaps it’s ‘knee joint’?

  2. SirHubert on June 8, 2014 at 12:22 am said:

    G – C t r h ; w t t , p h o t t o k j o t t f .
    Grip – Clasp the right hand; with the thumb, put heel/half of the thumb on the knuckle joint of the third finger.

    P S . T P S i m a f : P t t o t r h o t r n , a , u i a a p , m a s d , w t l f , t m a s a t b w t i , o f .
    Priest Sign: The Priest Sign is made as follows: Place the thumb of the right hand on the right [n…], and….make a sign? down, with the left finger, then make a sign? around/at the bottom? with the index, or fourth?

    *rolls up trouserleg*

  3. Very interesting! Do you know anything about the background of the document discussed in Tweleve? Can you provide a link to this discussion?

  4. Klaus: I’ve only got 10% of the story there, so will be updating this with links in a follow-on post. All the same, the text is extremely similar in both copies (where differences are mainly punctuation and a few paragraphs moving around), so the basic decryption principles hold for both.

  5. SirHubert: perhaps… “Place the thumb of the right hand on the recipient’s nose” ? I stopped decrypting at the point where I became uncomfortable.

    And there’s no need for formal dress here, so you can take that apron off. 😉

  6. Shurupag on June 8, 2014 at 10:32 am said:

    Nice work Nick.

  7. Shurupag: well… in many ways, what I did here is the easy bit. There’s much more to do yet… 😐

  8. >so will be updating this with links in a follow-on post.
    I’m looking forward to it.

  9. SirHubert on June 8, 2014 at 3:56 pm said:

    It is indeed the Odd Fellows – here’s page one expanded:

    “The Entersign consists of one rap, or one pull of the bell if there be one, at the outer door, and three raps at the inner door.
    The Countersign has three motions:
    First – With the thumb of the right hand in the palm thereof, place the four fingers perpendicularly across the mouth, the back of the hand outward.
    Second – close the last three fingers upon the thumb, in the palm of the hand, the index, or forefinger, being extended, carry it to the outer corner of the right eye(the back of the hand being outward), forming a right angle with the nose.
    Third – Drop the hand toward the ground, open and palm outward, the thumb to be nearly parallel with the fingers, and the hand about six inches from the body.
    The Answer is the same as the Countersign.
    Explanation of the Countersign – The first motion signifies Silence, and reminds us that we are bound to keep inviolate the secrets of the Order.
    The second motion signifies Omniscience, and reminds us that the All-Seeing Eye of God is continually watching over our actions.”

  10. SirHubert on June 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm said:

    Most of page 2:

    The third motion signifies Fraternity, and reminds us that the hand of an Odd Fellow should always be open to a brother.
    The password is Fides; to be lettered at all times, when used for working purposes; working into a Lodge. or in examination prior to opening. In (sic) communicating this word, either to the Inside Guardian, or to the Warden, the brother must give the letters [2 spaces, for F I], and, if required by the Inside Guardian, or Warden, he must give the remainder of the word, [3 spaces for D E S], lettered as before. The Inside Guardian and Warden must be satisfied.

    Grip – With the first two fingers of the right hand seize and link with the first two fingers of the brother’s right hand; with the thumb (your
    own), touch each of the two fingers (your own), and thus form the link.

    No shaking hands in making the Grip.

  11. SirHubert: well done, good find (I started at the end, so never got as far as the first page)! But the problem is that even though the text is identical up to “No shaking hands in making the Grip”, it then changes. The text on the pages I was looking at (pages 8 and 9) doesn’t seem to match the third degree rituals in mainstream Odd Fellows practice. Or have I missed something else?

    http://archive.org/stream/independentorder00oddf/independentorder00oddf_djvu.txt
    http://archive.org/stream/revisedoddfellow00blanrich/revisedoddfellow00blanrich_djvu.txt

  12. PS: I can’t be the only person here wondering what the “F y !” at the bottom of page three is going to turn out to be short for. Doesn’t sound very brotherly! 😉

  13. Clay on June 8, 2014 at 5:34 pm said:

    The online ritual doesn’t have all of this in one place.

    The TUW at the top of page one means The Unwritten Work.

    Here is the rest of page two and most of page three:

    THE SIGN OF DISTRESS.

    Place the open right hand, palm downward, on the top
    of the head ; raise the hand upward, about nine inches;
    drop the hand to the head; this do three times;( the
    hand after being placed on the head is to be raised and
    replaced on the head three times); then drop the hand
    to the side.

    Answer to the Sign : Extend the hands
    at arm’s length off from the sides and at right angles to
    the body, palrns outward; pause a moment, and drop the
    hands to the side; this is not repeated.

    Explanation : The Sign of Distress gives information
    to a brother at a distance that a brother of the Order is
    in want of assistance. The Answer to the Sign is given by a brother
    who shall observe and recognize the Sign and denotes a
    readiness to give the requisite assistance. When this
    Sign cannot be observed the brother in distress may use
    the words ” Give ear, Oye Heavens!” which words must
    be pronounced in full and not the initials thereof.

    THE SIGN OF RECOGNITION.

    First – When a brother shall desire to be recognized
    as an Odd-fellow, by a member of the Order, he shall grasp with his
    right hand the lapel of his coat, the hand being placed over the
    right nipple, the thumb extended upward.

    Second – An Odd-fellow, observing this Sign, shall recognize
    and answer the same by taking hold of the right lapel of his coat
    with his left hand, the same being
    also placed over the right nipple,
    thumb concealed beneath the coat.

    Third – When the brother who made the Sign shall observe the
    answer, he shall advance to the person making the answer and
    extend to him his right hand, which the person (if he
    be an Odd-fellow) shall accept and shake with his right
    hand and at the same time shall ask,” Are you looking for
    me?” when the other shall respond, “For you!”

    If either of the brothers should be, at the time, without
    a coat, he shall place his hand on his person, in the same
    position, the challenging brother with his fingers turned
    under,and the brother answering, with his thumb concealed
    in the palm of his hand.

  14. Clay: perfect, thanks! 🙂 There are a few minor differences (e.g. after “w m b p i f” and “w t p m t a” on page 3), but that’s without any doubt the one. May I please ask: how did you happen to know this?

  15. Clay on June 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm said:

    I Googled found an online text of the ritual and went through it
    and made a few minor changes and educated guesses where it wasn’t clear. As I said, it isn’t all in one place, you have to scroll up and down the page, but practically everything in the Action Line cipher is there somewhere. I found this interesting, as my grandfather was an Odd Fellow.

  16. SirHubert on June 8, 2014 at 7:42 pm said:

    Rest of page three looks like it should begin:

    “The Rebekah Sign of Recognition – When a Sister of the Rebekah Degree shall desire to be recognized as such by an Odd Fellow, she shall give the Sign for…”

    Can’t find a crib for this section – can anyone finish it off?

  17. SirHubert on June 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm said:

    Oh, and The Unwritten Work actually comes up on Google Books, described as a book of nine pages length (but with no links to text).

  18. SirHubert: is that the 31-page 1883 book by E. S. Bullis – http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=uXIlHQAACAAJ ?

  19. SirHubert on June 8, 2014 at 9:55 pm said:

    No, I was thinking of this one:

    books dot google dot co dot uk/books/about/Unwritten_Work.html?id=s2ozcgAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

  20. Clay on June 9, 2014 at 12:10 am said:

    This should be pretty close to the next part:

    The Rebekah Sign of Recognition – When a Sister of the Rebekah Degree should desire to be recognized as such by an Odd Fellow, she should give the Sign for recognizing Brothers, which is made by placing the first three fingers of the right hand, extended, but closely touching each other (thumb and little finger concealed), on a table, a chair, or any other object, or by placing them on a book, reticule [handbag], handkerchief, or other thing held in the left hand.

    Any Odd Fellow, observing this Sign, should respond to such by giving the Answer, which is the same as the Sign.

    The Rebekah Word of Distress [or Danger?] – When a Sister of the Rebekah Degree should be in a position [or place?] of distress. she may use the Word of Distress, which is “N”.[?]

    An Odd Fellow hearing the Word, shall answer, “N f ” [No fear?]

  21. SirHubert on June 9, 2014 at 4:03 am said:

    …Sign for Recognizing Brothers, which is made by placing the first three fingers of the right hand, extended, but closely touching each other, (thumb and little finger concealed) on
    a table, a chair, or other object; or by placing them on a book, reticule, handkerchief, or other thing held in the left hand.

    An Odd-Fellow, observing this sign…

  22. Pingback: Action Line Cryptogram, now comprehensively cracked! -Cipher Mysteries

  23. Rick A. Roberts on February 23, 2016 at 9:05 am said:

    ” FY ” = ” FRATERNALLY YOURS ” . ” TVS – Trhu ” = ” The Visitor’s Sign – The right hands unite ” .

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