The Shakespeare Codes

Just about everyone has heard about the controversy surrounding the question of who really wrote Shakespeare. Maybe you had a grumpy English teacher that casually passed it off as nonsense. There are literally hundreds of books on the subject and all claim to have found the answer. It was Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth, Edward De Vere, Ben Johnson, and the list goes on for nearly forty candidates. Looking into the subject however shows a shocking lack of evidence on both sides. But what are the codes everyone has mentioned and what could they mean? Today I’m focusing on three pieces of evidence that show that someone has placed hidden messages in some of the greatest English writing in history.

One of the most well-known Shakespeare code-breakers is Peter Amundson from Norway. He has found countless codes and ciphers throughout all the works. He was featured on on Timeline’s “Cracking the Shakespeare Code “about all his findings, he’s been on the show “The Curse of Oak Island” with his theories of buried treasure hinted at in the Tempest, and he has his own book. His best discoveries are found in the original folio of Shakespeare’s works, published in 1623, 7 years after Shakespeare’s death. Two of his actor friends assembled over 1000 pages under the three categories of Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. On page 389 of Tragedies is a clear signature from the Rosicrucian brotherhood. There is the word Rosie surrounded by the word C-R-O-S-S in such a way that it forms a perfect 3-4-5 triangle. Hopefully you remember this from your high school geometry because this is legitimate. The Rosicrucian order thought of this geometry as sacred and also used it frequently in their designs and writings. The angles that are formed from this triangle are roughly 53 and 37 degrees. And wouldn’t you know, there are several other hints of codes on pages 37 and 53 of each of the sections. For example, the word Bacon only appears twice in all of Shakespeare’s works. And those two incidences are on pages 53 of Comedies and page 53 of Histories, despite the fact that the publisher had to skip pages 46 through 49 to make this happen. The reason Bacon is significant is because Sir Francis Bacon is one of the contenders for who really wrote Shakespeare.

Screenshot from the Timeline series “Cracking the Shakespeare Code” discovered by Peter Amundson.

Why leave so many hints though? Luckily for any Stratfordians out there (someone who believes that Shakespeare really did write Shakespeare), adding these little codes and messages into Shakespeare’s plays seven years after his death is little proof of original authorship. It does prove without a doubt that the Rosicrucian order had a heavy hand in modifying the plays. Their motivation for this might have been as simple as giving some of the best works in English history to the public. They were and still are big on enlightenment of the people. Peter Amundson goes a step further and suggests that it is all an elaborate treasure map. His work is compelling and fascinating and you can find out more on Timeline’s Youtube Channel.

The next set of codes is from an obscure video I found on Youtube called “Shakespeare, Bacon Enigma (1996)”. It was posted by John Huntly who seems to mostly post little videos from what must be his home-town in England. Most of the videos seem older as if he’s just trying to preserve some history. The Shakespeare video seems to have been filmed for a Mr. Dean and was not a public broadcast. It is filmed in a way that makes it feel secretive and their reputations are on the line for even suggesting these theories. It is hosted by Mr. Richardson a former producer for the BBC and covers a series of codes found in the sonnets written by William Shakespeare and discovered by Thomas Bokenham. The method is a type of cipher common for the era of lining up the words into blocks so that they form a grid pattern. What they find in several sonnets are anagrams that typically form the words Francis, Bacon, Tudor, Author, Prince, etc. They are never exactly perfect but they are almost always symmetrical.

It’s not the most impressive evidence, but it is interesting that it keeps popping up with the same similar letters in a grouping. If these codes were truly put there, then I think it proves that Sir Francis Bacon is probably the world’s greatest and most sophisticated graffiti artist ever known. The first publication of the sonnets was in 1609. Interesting because unlike the folio, this was made before William Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616. It was after one other’s death, however, who is the topic of our next set of codes.

Shake-speares Sonnets title page.

The absolute best proof of codes are found on the title page and dedication poem of the original publication of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Discovered by Alan Greene, the title page of the Sonnets has some oddly placed dots and overall doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you literally connect the dots on the page, they create several, perfect right triangles. Furthermore, mathematically they form four points to create a perfect circle on the page. There are a ton of theories about this which you can read up on, but the best one comes from Alexander Waugh. His claim is that these two pages combined with the odd memorial plaque to Shakespeare under his bust in Stratford, the location of Shakespeare’s burial site is given.

Sonnets dedication poem, 1609.

Now a few things before we move on. Shakespeare was literally not dead at this point being 1609 when the Sonnets were published. This means that this theory entirely relies on someone else having been the author. Since the Tempest was written somewhere between 1610 and 1611, there must also be another author if it wasn’t William Shakespeare himself. Somebody had died however and he is the biggest contender to be the author. That person was Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Shakespeare Memorial Plaque in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford

Alexander Waugh starts off by showing that the first line of the memorial plaque, (Pylius with his judgement, Socrates with his genius, and Virgil Maro with his art) was probably referring to Beaumont, Chaucer, and Spenser with historical evidence to back that up. Interestingly, those three are buried next to each other in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey in that same configuration. From there he goes on to show that the dedication poem in the Sonnets pamphlet can be laid out in a grid with 19 columns. He then shows a message that says Edward De Vere Lies Here, South Cross Ile St Peter’s at the Westminster. The fun part is that The Westminster is perfectly shaped like a mini representation of the Westminster Abbey layout. He concludes by showing that the title page can be interpreted as a map of Westminster Abbey with the exact location of Edward De Vere’s grave. Now neither Edward De Vere nor Shakespeare was officially buried at this location, but a statue of Shakespeare was erected in this location in 1740. His work is absolutely incredible and rock solid. All of the anagrams are perfect and he never changes his strict rules for what counts as a code. The chances of him being wrong are astronomical and you must watch the proof in its entirety. The most condensed version is a lecture available on Youtube called “Shakespeare was a fake(…and I can prove it)|Brunel University London”. He also has his own Youtube channel with many more discussions on the subject that expands beyond codes and proof with historical evidence.

After seeing all of these put together,the work of Shakespeare is riddled with ciphers and codes without any doubt. It made me think of the crazy people that come out with all kinds of prophecies and hidden messages from the Bible. However, the King James version of the bible was being written in the same time period. So, I will be investigating and can’t wait to see how many times Francis Bacon managed to get his name in the Bible.

I’m not sure what all of these codes in Shakespeare could possibly mean. The Sonnets seem to require heavy scrutiny given the amount of codes that can be found in the them. Although the most solid evidence of code is not in the works of Shakespeare itself, but in the dedications and poems surrounding it. None of these clearly state that Shakespeare himself didn’t write the plays. Just a few Rosicrucian signatures sprinkled throughout. So I think William Shakespeare from Stratford on Avon is still possibly one of the writers. It would be a shame if he really did these great works only to have the Rosicrucians hijack his work because they owned the publishing companies. There is much more to the theories that show evidence or lack-of of both sides of the argument. The answer to whether Shakespeare really wrote Shakespeare is still a hot topic for debate.

Yours Truly,
-R.C. Mystery Detective

Hunt-A-Killer Review

Hunt-A-Killer, Box 1 Contents, Initiation

Have you ever wanted to receive mail from a serial killer?  Your answer is probably “OH HELL NO!”.  I’ve never heard of a situation where this could possibly end well.  Perhaps the killer heard that you’re a mystery detective now and wants to test your wits and deduction skills.   It’s unnerving when a killer has the audacity to show off by sending out clues.  Do they want to get caught or do they think they are too smart to ever get caught?  However, receiving mail from a serial killer is exactly the premise for the company Hunt-A-Killer.

Hunt-A-Killer is a monthly subscription box where you are the recipient of post from an unlikely pen pal.  You receive a box filled with several documents, newspaper clippings, thumb drives, trinkets and a whatever else your new friend decides to send you.  There’s also supporting online elements to the game such as websites and Facebook pages to add an additional layer of realism.  This is all fake of course, right?  RIGHT?  But the quality of everything makes it look and feel real.

As you receive boxes, your job is to build the narrative of the story and crimes and hopefully put this serial killer behind bars.  It won’t be easy though as the serial killer can be cryptic in their messages.  There are seasons and each story will not be complete with a single box.  The seasons range from six to eight months long, or six to eight boxes.  Each box will generally have several paper documents, one trinket or physical item, and at least one puzzle to solve.  All the different documents are meant to look and feel genuine.  The letter I received, for example, was written on a typewriter and literally has the indentations you would expect from a typewriter.  Each box will have roughly one hour of reading material to complete and another hour to solve the puzzle depending on your abilities.  Your first box will also contain a notepad, pen, pin, and a guide on how the game will work. 

The Story: When you start your subscription, you must begin with the Initiation season.  This is most likely to ease you into how the game works and set you up with the tools you need to enjoy the game.  I haven’t been subscribed for a while now so unfortunately my experience is not 100% up to date.  They have a new initiation package and story that will differ from what I experienced.  Luckily for you this means I can get into some spoilers that won’t affect your experience.  The first box I received introduced me to Listening Friends of America, a program that pairs lonely people in hospitals and retirement homes with pen pals.  Due to my ability to handle mature content, they are experimenting with this idea with a patient in a mental hospital who has committed a murder.  For my safety the communication will only work one-way and this will hopefully give the patient an outlet to express themselves to a listening ear.  However, I also received a message from an outside party who suspects that something sinister is going on in this mental hospital and needs me to help him figure out what that is.  From there the story builds from box to box to a rather shocking conclusion.  Going through the “modified” staff pamphlet for the final box gave me chills and was an excellent finale.  A final message from the killer required all six boxes to complete and the discovery of some hidden archives.    

The Puzzles:  The puzzles were mostly ciphers and codes with some other types mixed in.  There were also hidden elements to the online websites that are critical to find and solve by finding passwords.  These were more challenging than what you would typically see in similar subscription boxes.  I was able to get through the first couple of boxes without much help, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with what I found.  I think part of my problem is I expected the puzzles to be more creative than just substitution ciphers.  For example, I thought that the first puzzle with the different “times” listed at the end of Jasper’s letter was related to the pocket watch that I received.  I tried turning the hands of the watch to all the different times to see if I could spell something out.  I did the same thing in box 3 when I was trying to use the different knots to spell out something.  The extra things that come with the box are fun, but I just had wished they were used for something more than just props.  The great thing about these puzzles is that they are not just thrown in.  They are completely relevant to the story and aren’t always even meant for you.  By that I mean you were able to find a secret message that our pal was trying to get to someone else without the inspector noticing.  An inspector checks all the outgoing mail and so it was essential for any hidden messages to remain a secret.  This is an incredible way to add puzzles to the game without them feeling like a tedious addition for the sake of having puzzles. 

The Trinkets: The physical items you receive range in quality from box to box which was frustrating.  I know that it should be more about the story, but at $30 a box, it’s difficult to feel like you are getting value without these little guys.  You can buy a book for $10 and a puzzle book for the same.  What you’re paying for is the experience rather than $30 of goods.  The extra goodies help offset the fact that you are paying more than $180 for what is essentially one story.  So when they start off with a decent pocket watch in the first box, but range from cheap plastic things to a really nice jewelers magnifying glass, it feels like you never know what random item they might throw in.  It also felt like the degree in which the item was related to the story varied too much.  The final box contained a solar paneled grasshopper toy and a wooden heart shaped frame.  How these are related to the story is a true mystery.  Maybe the serial killer was just cleaning out his room in the mental hospital. 

Hints/Help: If you need help on anything in the boxes, there are several ways to get it.  You can go onto their website and get clues that won’t spoil the solution for you.  Their website has a forum to ask specific question about puzzles or boxes and fellow members and creators can aide you.  There is also a Facebook group to make friends with others in this same unfortunate situation as you, receiving post from a serial killer. 

There’s only way to decide if this box is right for you and that is to plunge in.  For $30 a month, it provides good entertainment for a decent value.  Since each box is not a complete story, I recommend getting at least 6 months so that you can get the full experience.  By prepaying you will also save on shipping costs and get one month free.  If serial killers aren’t your forte, the same company has also created two other subscription boxes.  Empty Faces is a supernatural box that follows the story of a young witch.  Their newest box is EarthBreak which follows survivors from an alien invasion.  If I had infinite funding and time I would try all of them but I’m not quite there yet, dang it!  Check them out here.

Yours until I die from a serial killer,

-J.C. Mystery Detective

The VOC Treasure – At Home Mystery

There’s a new mystery live now on Kickstarter and I’m excited to see this adventure come to fruition.  Growing up watching The Goonies and Indiana Jones, I’ve always been a huge fan of a treasure hunt.  Fortune and glory awaits!  The VOC Treasure puts you on the trail of the van Amstel family’s uncle.  An adventurer and treasure seeker who recently passed away.  Following clues and solving puzzles, you can help discover the mysteries of the Dutch East India Company’s lost voyage.   

Jachin Letwory is the creator of the project and he graciously answered a few questions I had for The VOC Treasure.  He told me that he is a teacher of both guitar and physical education in The Netherlands.  He has his own guitar school and likes to organize outdoor treasure hunts in his spare time.  The Dutch version of the game is already up and running and has raving reviews. 

JC: I am a big fan of mystery puzzle games and I always love seeing new and exciting mysteries to solve.  What made you decide that you wanted to create a mystery game?  

Jachin: Two years ago I had to organize a bachelor party for my best friend. Without any prior research I made an Jason Bourne/secret agent like scavenger hunt. I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to make some more.

JC: Most of these games tend to be murder mysteries so it’s refreshing to see one that’s about a buried treasure.  What inspired you to create this story and what makes this box unique?

Jachin: I was thinking of some original ideas an treasure hunts came to my mind. I did some research and came across some inspiring treasure hunts like The Golden Owl.

During the same period I was doing some family tree research and in on of the online archives I found some old Books. In one of those books I read a line “a ship wrecked”. I knew it was from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) during the period of the pirates. I used this story as a bases for The VOC Treasure. Most used materials in the box I’ve found in the archives such as an original page from the ships log dating around 1709. So what I did is make the story and all the puzzles to make it an At Home Mystery.

JC: You mentioned that this story is based on a true events.  Is this a well-known legend from the Netherlands that a U.S. audience has not heard before?

Jachin: The story isn’t well known to both the Dutch as the U.S. audience. But that a good thing. otherwise they would know some of the answers beforehand.

JC: Kickstarter seems to be a popular place for many of these games to get a start.  What made you choose Kickstarter? 

Jachin: I choose Kickstarter because a lot of creative projects use this platform and other mystery games and books have used Kickstarter in a successful way.

JC: Thank you for your time and I wish you all the luck!

I for one am sold and was able to snag one of the early bird packages.  Check out the The VOC Treasure page on Kickstarter or their webpage to learn more and become a backer.  Don’t miss out on this great experience.