Secret Theories

Jim Sanborn said,

“The greatest chart we have for decoding is the Rosetta Stone.  Cracking that code gave us the ability to understand an ancient language.  What the CIA does now, as far as encoding and decoding, is a very similar kind of sleuthing: word sleuthing as opposed to physical sleuthing.”

Word Sleuthing.

The Rosetta Stone had a single text inscribed three times in multiple languages.  Knowing the first two provided a means of interpreting the last.  Imagine, conversely, inscribing a single text once with multiple meanings.  If one could hide the meaning, or the existence of alternate meanings, we would be confronted with steganography.  If those words were reused with different meanings, we would have a palimpsest.  A palimpsest of word meanings.  Words reused.

Ed Scheidt discusses with Nova ScienceNow how the art of steganography is hiding the notion that a secret message exists at all.

Word sleuthing.

“Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of illusion.” means: Between my ambiguity in word meanings and your ignorance of my technique, you are deceived into interpreting the deciphered Kryptos text at face value.

“Of the part that’s been decoded already there is certain ambiguity in the last few sentences and it’s been open to interpretation, as has the whole piece.” – Jim Sanborn.

Howard Carter’s journal means something different too:

“Slowly, disparately (sp?) slowly, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway was removed…”

The ciphertext is considered a passage of text.  K4, the unsolved part of Kryptos, is debris, and it is to be removed.  This is why all attempts at cracking K4 has failed.  K4 does not exist as 97, 98, or even 100 letters.  K4 does not exist in the text at the bottom of the sculpture. However, the text isn’t simply to be disregarded as useless debris.  Even debris comes from something once constructed!  There is an algorithm of applying that text as a tableau grid over the oddly-worded K2 (and other sections) to create a null cipher. A cipher where overlapping characters are removed. Those letters are passage debris, and ultimately, debris gets removed.  It gets discarded.

Identify the debris.

“When you use the last part and you get the solution you should take out all the spaces and run [the remaining characters] all together.” – Jim Sanborn (2009) (in response to an inquiry as to whether or not he would acknowledge a solution posted online.  See Null-Cipher Theories posted in dozens of forums since 2004)

“With trembling hands, I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner…” refers to the raised letters of the K3 ciphertext.

A breach, as in a break-through.  A breach, as in a discovery.  A breach, as in compromising a relatively secure system — those raised letters in the upper left-hand corner of “Layer Two.”

“And then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in…” means:  We apply the Null Cipher Technique.  We shed light on the true meanings of the deciphered text.

“The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the flame to flicker…” could imply a chamber of people — officials, perhaps — an organization.  A flame is a criticism or violent, intense passion.  The flicker harks back to the raised letters as actual, physical portions of the new text as a guide (or grain of Kryptos Sand).

“‘Kryptos brought me back to my first love. Like my childhood programming days, I was once again free to pursue a challenge that didn’t have the limitations of ‘this is how to do it’,” Phillips told The Guardian in 2005.  (continuing) “Mr Sanborn admits he would feel a tinge of regret if Kryptos is solved.”

Regret that people finally figured out his puzzle?  Regret for what the message says?  Perhaps a flame against the CIA?

“But presently, details of the room within emerged from the mist.”  Mist is an ambiguous term that implies something obscured or hidden from meaning or view.  In context, it means “a hidden document.”

“I’ve made a statement which is straightforward, but that leads to something else. There’s another deeper mystery. As you peel off a layer of an onion, the myst – you get closer to the heart of what it is. And so y’know I just wanted to make it…  you had to go deeper and decipher something else. It’s in English, it’s in plain English, it’s in text, and you can read it, but that isn’t necessarily the whole story.” – Jim Sanborn

“Can you see anything?”

It is certain that we could be understanding the real power of art and Sanborn’s disposition as a Natural Scientist toward certain philosophies of institution.

“[The sculpture] could corrupt, somehow…” – Jim Sanborn.

“Just knowing Jim – in talking to Jim, he has philosophies that he would like to portray, and this is a medium for him to do that.” – Ed Scheidt

Details of this theory forthcoming.

Serpentine Yin-Yang: The Ribbon

Over the course of time, ideas about the nature of Kryptos becomes convoluted.  Every good researcher maintains a notebook with facts stripped of conjecture, and my notebook happened to be within arm’s reach of my laptop this morning.  Sifting through the organized collection of material I’ve collected about the CIA sculpture over the years, my eyes were drawn to a particular page with large words written on them.  In haste, and considering that the single-page document was compiled in several dozen sessions of study, sources were vague.  However, there is enough information present to trace these words back to Jim Sanborn himself, given the time to complete such a task.

The title of the page is “Jim Calls the Copper Scroll:” and is followed by this list (partially reconstructed here to focus on certain titles):

  • Yin-Yang (attributing it to balance)
  • Copper Ribbon (noting it furls from a tree that could represent a printer)
  • Serpentine
  • The Sculpture (distinguishing it from the other elements of his artwork at CIA)
  • The Source (of information that is disseminated into the whirling abyss below)

The mind has a way of automatically organizing its volumes of information over time, and “Copper Ribbon” brought several links to mind.  Suppose that petrified tree represents a typewriter, and the Ribbon represents its ribbon (as opposed to printer paper, the popular belief).  Typewriter ribbons are cyclic, which means they are reused by a single typewriter until the ink is diminished.  A ribbon is a prime example of a textual Palimpsest.  Evidence of previous writings can be found on a single ribbon, and a little detective work can result in decoding those plain messages.

“Copper Ribbon” is Jim Sanborn’s description of his sculpture.  When did this change?  Even he claims to have had loose lips in the early discussions, being ambiguous as to which interviews or publications.  “Copper Ribbon” comes from one of the earliest known official documentaries on his work at CIA.  This choice of terminology is what chooses to use, because it is one of the first, raw descriptions of what Sanborn did in that courtyard.  As a professional, you are urged to explore why it is you choose to describe works such as Kryptos in the way you do, and to be ready to answer when it all comes together.

Kryptos Employs a Fibonacci Sequence?

Does that CIA Sculpture, Kryptos, employ a Fibonacci Cipher?  Vorlath, a.k.a. “Krazy Kryptos,” has been spinning his Kryptos wheels for some time now.  He proposes at his blog that the misspellings in Kryptos are a clue to be used in conjunction with the misaligned letters of K3.  The position of those misspellings form a Fibonacci Sequence as observed by other sleuths years ago.

What Vorlath suggests is that endYAhR (capital letters depicted here are actually raised letters in the sculpture) is a reversed Fibonacci sequence.  Matter-of-factly, he is correct, and I think the correlation between this and the misspellings is noteworthy if nothing more than one of the hundred thousand insignificant coincidences we could fine in the sculpture.  However, there are other anomalies that suggest “a reverse” of something.  We have the backward ciphertext or tableau.  We have “Antipodes (look up the meaning),” the CIA sculpture’s sister sculpture at the Hirshhorn Museum, and we’re aware of other oddities that may tie a Reverse Fibonacci Sequence into Kryptos.

When Sanborn asked, “Has anyone figured out what those are?  They’re important,” he implied that the misaligned letters could be interpreted with some finality (not to imply certainty) that leads us into the entire algorithm that unlocks the cipher known the world over as K4.  Is, “Yes, Mr. Sanborn, we know what those are.  Now what?” get us any closer to the answers?  I certainly think it’s worth the effort to pursue at this point in time.

Go check out Krazy Kryptos’ recent article: “K3 DYAHR Curiosity

and then peruse the rest of his blog to see the untamed inner-workings of a person who loves puzzles.

Interactive Kryptos Sandbox

Interactive resources are now available at to aid in experimental sleuthing.  You can explore the growing list of helpful tools under the “Interactive Solutions Sandbox” toolbar.  Discover Morse Code Tables, translators, and exclusive solvers related to Kryptos, the sculpture at CIA Headquarters.  Subscribe to the RSS feed on this page to learn about new tools as they become available.  Future plans include an interactive palimpsest solver at the “Interactive Kryptos Sandbox”, a visual Vigenere solver, and many other unique resources pertaining to classical cryptography.

Morse Code Tables

Morse Code Translators

Sanborn’s CIA Sculpture ‘Kryptos’ on ABC World News Tonight

An excerpt from a television segment of ABC World News Tonight which aired April 2, 1991 and was reported by John Martin and hosted by Peter Jennings has been referenced in the network: CIA Kryptos Sculpture by Sanborn: ABC World News Tonight

The original transcript can be found at the following mirror: Elonka’s Kryptos Page.  Additional information may be found at ABC News.

Sanborn’s CIA Kryptos Sculpture in Time Magazine

An excerpt from a Time Magazine (Grapevine) article published Sunday, June 24, 2001 and reported by David Ellis has been referenced in the network: CIA Kryptos Sculpture by Sanborn: Time Magazine (Tribute to Information)

The original story can be found at Time (Grapevine).

Kryptos Sculpture in The Wall Street Journal

An excerpt from The Wall Street Journal entitled CIA Sculpture ‘Kryptos’ Draws Mystery Lovers originally published Friday, May 27, 2005 and authored by John D. McKinnon has been referenced in the network: CIA Kryptos Sculpture by Sanborn: Wall Street Journal

The original article can be found at The Wall Street Journal Online and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  The Wall Street Journal lists this article under an alternate title: The Secret Passages In CIA’s Backyard Draw Mystery Lovers

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