Is There an Unbreakable Code?

The Crippy begins when a little girl with a strange talent – the ability to speak any language and break any code – is kidnapped by Men in Black. Of course, the world would covet such a child. Governments would. Enemies of governments would. Organized crime, hackers, corporations, just about anyone would see such a child as a threat, as well as an opportunity.

The premise of this fantasy-thriller supposes that all codes can be broken. Even the DNA sequence, which is the basis of all earthbound life, profound as it is, is being decrypted within our lifetimes. When I was a child, the textbooks didn’t even teach us what the DNA molecule was. Now, they can tweak life because they’ve decoded it. This leaves us to ask: is there a code which can’t be broken?

I’m not a cryptologist, but I believe that all codes are breakable. The most famous unreal person and amateur cryptographer, Sherlock Holmes of The Dancing Men fame, once said: “What one man can invent, another can discover.”

Your online psyche is the subject of constant harassment, isn’t it? Data breaches involving hundreds of millions of people. Companies who assure you that your data is safe with them, until it isn’t. Governments hacking other governments. Impostors posing as your closest friends trying to lure you into a phishing scam. You begin to see that any code, no matter how foolproof, is a communication. As a communication, it’s designed to share information. Anything which is designed to communicate is necessarily open at one end, and therefore, it should be decipherable on the other. That’s the whole beauty and problem of online. Still, there seem to be… ‘exceptions,’ let’s call them.

The Voynich Manuscipt has been suspected as a hoax, as an invented, artificial conlang (or conlanguage, discussed at length in The Crippy), but whatever it truly is, this manuscript from the 15th or 16th century is written in a script no one understands. It features bathing women connected to tubes, plants that don’t exist, and Zodiac symbols. And speaking of Zodiac, the Zodiac killer of northern California, who was never caught, left behind a 340-character cryptogram which remains unsolved today. There are 340 characters in his cipher, which is made up of 63 uncracked symbols. The Zodiac killer, like serial killer H.H. Holmes of Devil in the White City fame, was a particularly creepy creep. He believed that he’d enslave the souls of his victims in the afterlife. Besides cold cunning, what killers like Holmes (aka Mudgett) and the Zodiac killer had in common was an almost supernatural ability to avoid detection.

And then there’s this: with the help of retired crippy (aka cryptographer) Ed Scheidt, sculptor, Jim Sanborn, erected a four-panel cryptogram sculpture, Kryptos, at CIA headquarters at Langley. CIA crippies have deciphered panels 1 through 3, but the 4th panel, known as K4, remains a mystery. What do the deciphered panels allude to? Mysterious information, stored in a subterranean vault, words out of the mouth of Egyptologist, Howard Carter, when he discovered the tomb of King Tut. The 4th panel contains only 97 characters. Bottom line: The shorter the puzzle, the harder the decrypt.

A couple of unsolved cryptograms have been found on the bodies of dead men: one on an Australian beach in 1948, the other on the body of a man in eastern Missouri 41 years later. The two cases are unrelated other than the notes found on the bodies. The Australian case involved finding the words Taman Shud, meaning ‘ending’ in Persian in the dead man’s pocket. This was connected to a copy of poet Omar Mayam’s The Rubayait in the back seat of a car close to a place the dead man visited before he died, along with five lines of code in the back of the book of poetry. Maybe it was connected somehow to The Rubayait. The FBI is treating the Missouri case as a homicide, and its Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit hasn’t been able to solve the puzzle. Hmmm.

I guess cryptography lends itself by nature to unsolved mystery. In The Crippy, the main characters, Mitch Cantsee and a little girl named Sam, embark on solving the greatest mystery of all, one that may have huge consequences for our world.

You can buy The Crippy in softcover or e-reader formats at