Scorpion Ciphers

From 1991 onwards, John Walsh (the well-known host of “America’s Most Wanted”) received a string of letters and cryptograms signed “SCORPION”: these are more usually known as “The Scorpion Ciphers”. However, only two of the ciphertexts and a few pages of text have so far been made public.

The first Scorpion Cipher is known as “S1”, and is laid out in a 10×7 grid: 53 of its 70 symbols are unique.

scorpion3

The fifth Scorpion Cipher is known as “S5”, and is laid out in a 12×15 grid: 155 of its 180 symbols are unique.

scorpion4

The Scorpion text released so far is available on The Cipher Foundation’s Scorpion Ciphers page. For anyone planning (reasonably enough) to use the text of those letters as an example of what to expect in the cleartext, the instance and group statistics are close to what you would expect from normal English:

Letter frequencies

e : 212 11.1%
o : 173 9.1%
t : 151 7.9%
i : 146 7.7%
n : 136 7.1%
a : 132 6.9%
r : 127 6.7%
s : 109 5.7%
l : 84 4.4%
h : 69 3.6%
d : 67 3.5%
c : 66 3.5%
y : 65 3.4%
u : 63 3.3%
m : 57 3.0%
f : 50 2.6%
p : 35 1.8%
w : 33 1.7%
g : 31 1.6%
v : 24 1.3%
b : 23 1.2%
k : 8 0.4%
x : 6 0.3%
j : 1 0.1%
z : 0 0.0%
q : 0 0.0%

2 letter sequences

37 an in th
32 er on
30 ou
28 at
24 or
23 yo nd
22 ve to co
20 se re
19 he nt te et ea is
18 ar ed ra
17 ti ng es
16 ll ly fo ha st
15 ur wi si en it de
14 me nc
13 ro ul le om rs
11 ot al ef ta be ec ho
10 no ri hi ca io ee
9 ry my il el di ow ce
8 ic ne of na sa ys fi od im
7 as lo ci ei sc ni ns tr tt ge us

3 letter sequences

22 you
19 and
14 for
13 ing
12 our the
9 her ati thi
8 nce ion
7 tha ate ver ter
6 ful hat eth ont ean rat ent wit ith
eco con ode com his wil ill
5 sin inc hav ath ere tin not ime sco ica use tio est cod int ran eve ers one ave ove nto ons een

4 letter sequences

8 your
6 this ther eand will with that
5 athe ince tion atio sinc rath have
4 icat eful ours fory ryou oryo form code ihav onsi arat ting tter youw nfor

5 letter sequences

5 ation since ather rathe
4 oryou foryo ihave

6 letter sequences

5 rather
4 foryou

13 thoughts on “Scorpion Ciphers

  1. thomas spande on August 21, 2014 at 9:39 pm said:

    Dear all, For those of you who are “news junkies” you will have heard of the Yazidis in connection with the overrunning of the northern part of Iraq by jihadis. The Yazidis must have the most ecumenical religion ever used by man. It incorporates elements of Sufi-ism (pretty ecumenical in itself; “everywhere I turn I see God” symbolized by the “whirling dances” ; the Shia,form of Islam, Zoroastrianism, early Christianity and some ancient mesopotamian religions. Well ISIL has singled them out as super heretical and they will need all the help from their religious beliefs that they can hope for.

    What kind of language did they have? One would guess Arabic but nope. It uses some Western (i.e. Latin) alphabet glyphs (e.g. “o”, ‘x” a side-ways “t” ) and some geometrical forms like little flags, the bisected “u”, the triangle with a horizontal line atop it, those right angle “L’s” that could frame a square, a square, a triangle, parentheses mark, etc. In short a lot of symbols shared by S5, Is this just a weird coincidence or is part of the Scorpion cipher based on the Yazidi alphabet? The parts that have dots or are are blanked out might be math operators.or position indicators: Just a thought. Cheers, Tom

  2. , Rick A. Roberts on September 8, 2014 at 7:51 am said:

    I’ve been looking at S1, the First Scorpion Cipher. So far I have come up with the following; bgel(Beegle?) provided them with new(s?) stories but what if I ask JW(John Walsh?) do I wa(want a?) xry(x-ray?) w(with?) bones ages jee WKON. Was WKON the television station that John Walsh was on?

  3. Cat Darensbourg on May 19, 2015 at 11:56 pm said:

    I am looking at S1, and think Mr. Spande may be on to something. In particular, if people reading the cipher start from the lower right hand corner — the symbol looking like a capital “I”, and remember that in Latin, “I” is “J”, and read from right to left, there are just enough symbols for “JOHNEWALSH” (HSLAWENHOJ). This means the “W” is rotated, and there are only 2 “E”s — and the symbol used for “E” is actually a simple glyph for the “eye” of a hook&eye in a sewing kit. (They usually sit right above a zipper on the back of a woman’s dress.). After that, you go up, then left-to-right, then down, then right to left — a fancy inward-moving snail spiral. Ultimately, more and less of the glyphs may repeat than first thought.

    Anyway, this may be theory waiting to be slain by fact, but thanks to giving me the spiral idea from here.

  4. Michael Koebnick on June 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm said:

    Is it just me or does it look like part of the letter is missing right before: intricate and difficult to recopy onto these cards?

  5. Michael Koebnick: the FBI released only a small number of pages of text, and only a few of the ciphertexts. I transcribed everything I could find for code-breakers to use as a resource, but more would be better. 🙂

  6. Rick A. Roberts on February 9, 2016 at 6:16 am said:

    I’ve been working on S5 and here is what I have . ” D US LOOK LYK GIVEN ME URE WORD BECAUSE THAT WOULD NOT SHOW THEM MORE DONT STATE JON WALSH EDIT IT ON TN DECEMBER SO IT IS VERY COLD BUT EVEN I HHAVE SLOWWED DOWN OUR LIFE VOICE DOES WRITE IN SOMETHIN GOD DOSO LATE THAY CAUSED OLDETH SO THIS EASIER ON “. I believe that the message is ; ” DOES LOOK LIKE GIVEN ME YOUR WORD BECAUSE THAT WOULD NOT SHOW THEM MORE . DON’T STATE JON WALSH EDIT IT ON 10 DECEMBER SO IT IS VERY COLD BUT EVEN I HAVE SLOWED DOWN . OUR LIFE VOICE DOES WRITE IN SOMETHING GOD DOES SO LATE . THEY CAUSED OLD DEATH SO THIS IS EASIER ON ” .

  7. To rick a. roberts would i be able to ask you a few questions about the s5 cipher and how you came to you conclusions.

  8. Rick A. Roberts on February 25, 2016 at 2:04 am said:

    Keke,
    Thanks for your interest in my work . I’ll try to answer any questions that you have .

  9. would i be able to contact you by email?

  10. Mr.Betyko on July 25, 2016 at 2:37 am said:

    Hi Rick A.Roberts

    Nice work i would like to know too in fact is there some links to the Zodiac you think!!

  11. Mr.Betyko on July 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm said:

    @Rick A. Roberts is this tell you something or nah!

    When ? the letter after not sure
    (N or A) or both*

    SASAESIH(?)LOD(?)RD(?)M(N or A)D

    So it could be:

    SASAESIHODDND

    or

    SASAESIHLODRDMNAD

    Or sometime like that

    This is the letter from ted all the word that are underlign first letter

  12. Cat Darensbourg on September 19, 2016 at 5:21 am said:

    I don’t think this links to the Zodiac. This is just a bored technologist using symbols drawn from an emoji dictionary which first started being published in the year the first letter was sent.

    I don’t think he’s troubling anyone anymore — or at least it would not be the same person. This first sample smacks of Lone Wolf, thank God.

  13. I have been studying this case for a year now and i somehow think it links to the zodiac as well especially after the interview strip i gained access to. John Walsh himself stated that prior to scorpion’s letters he was contacted by the Zodiac

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