The Organist

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The Organist

Postby Petter Amundsen on Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:54 pm

Tank suggested I put this sample of our Oak Island book in this forum, too. A great idea!

The book begins with an introduction på Erlend Loe, co-author.


Seven or eight months before my stint as film consultant at the Norwegian Film Fund was due to finish, I received an unusual request. A film producer rang and asked to meet me, but he refused to give me the reason over the telephone. I didn’t know him at all, but I had to take him seriously as indeed you have to take all enquiries seriously working in such a job. That is the way it is when you represent the state. Everything is gold until you can demonstrate the contrary, so, yes, why not and what about such and such a day. We arranged to meet.
A week later, three men turned up in my office. Two of them were film people and I had a vague feeling I had seen them before, in passing, or at a film festival or some such place, but I had no recollection of the third. He introduced himself as Petter Amundsen, an organist. I had the impression he was the boss. The other two would make the film, but Amundsen was key to what all this was about.
The film director and the organist sat down on the sofa and the producer took a chair in my tiny office.
The producer started off by explaining that some years back he had written a book about an unsolved mystery in the skerries outside Kragerø. Petter Amundsen had read the book and determined to solve the mystery. He had examined documents at the Public Record Office and the Royal Library in Copenhagen as well as a nautical chart at a museum, and using these he discovered what no-one else had managed to do, though many had tried. He had done this off his own bat, for amusement. That was how it was put it anyway, but the point was that the film producer and the organist had established contact.
Some time later, Amundsen had got in touch again because he thought he had stumbled onto a new discovery and he needed help bringing it to the screen. This discovery and the project were the motivation for the visit; they wanted financial support in order to make a documentary for the cinema. They were already certain that the material was extremely controversial and would undoubtedly cause a furore both at home and abroad, and on a scale that no other Norwegian project had ever approached.
The reason they came to see me was that they thought I could help them with maintaining balance on the dramaturgical side of narrating the story, while in need of state funding as well, of course. I sat back in my chair, already somewhat sceptical, and waited for them to give me a bit more to go on. Amundsen started. This is about Shakespeare, he said. Perhaps the greatest writer the world has ever produced, and without any doubt, the most important in the English language. However, for almost four hundred years people have constantly been coming out of the woodwork and casting Shakespeare’s identity into doubt. There are lots of theories and there is a lot written on this subject, but no-one has succeeded in proving anything at all, just as none of the world’s Shakespearean professors or researchers have managed to dig up much about Shakespeare’s life. We know he has lived, but his life is poorly documented and there are no handwritten letters or notes. Despite this, the Shakespeare tradition is so strong today that writers are not above publishing even more articles and books about Shakespeare’s life or works or childhood or love life or whatever. None of the original manuscripts has ever been found. Not one. Some have claimed that Francis Bacon wrote the plays, others that they were written by a collective, and there are many other suggestions about the identity of the originator. Recently (autumn 2005) I heard on the radio that two Englishmen reckon they have documentation to suggest that a man called Neville may have written Shakespeare’s plays. In other words, this tradition is alive and well. So far, though, all the claims have turned out to be circumstantial or idle speculation. You can take them or leave them. Put another way, it is a question of faith. Nevertheless, Petter Amundsen has uncovered the riddle and is sitting on evidence that will shake the literati and others when he publishes it.
What sort of evidence? I ask.
Not yet, he says. First of all, he has to know that I’m willing to support the project and that I will keep what I hear to myself. Only three people know for the moment and every new initiate into the secret constitutes a finite risk. If information leaks out, they will forfeit control. They could have gone to the BBC or Discovery Channel, or Hollywood for that matter, and they would certainly have got the go-ahead for the production there and then, but then they would have lost ownership of the material. Petter Amundsen says he knows what he is sitting on and he has to take precautions to protect his discovery.
He goes on to talk about Oak Island, a privately owned island off Nova Scotia, where hunts for treasure trove have been going on for years. A few boys began digging there a couple of hundred years ago. They found a shaft filled with earth and partitioned off with wooden joists every ten feet. After digging almost 100 feet down they came to grief by triggering an ingeniously constructed mechanism which flooded the shaft with water in one night. So someone had apparently built this shaft in such a way as to prevent anyone finding what was buried there. Subsequent to this incident there have been many digs, but it is complicated and costly, and the owner’s interests on the island are of a nature that it is tricky to get permission to do anything. But Amundsen and the producer have been there. He has carried out measurements which have only made him more convinced that he is right. Other treasure hunters don’t know what they are searching for there, but Amundsen is sure that the references in Shakespeare’s texts and the finds on the island point to the objects buried on Oak Island having a direct connection with Shakespeare’s origins, maybe they are even the manuscripts themselves, preserved in quicksilver.
Now we’re talking. A treasure hunt with a watery seal and chests whose content will be able to re-write history. That sounds like the goods. Nevertheless I have to make certain reservations. This is not an area I know anything about. I suppose I am extremely gullible. I comment that it sounds exciting, but I have no way of determining at that moment whether Amundsen is a genius or a lunatic.
I agree to meet again in a couple of weeks to find out more details.
Before these three gentlemen knocked on my office door I had a relatively normal, relaxed attitude towards Shakespeare and his works. I have seen a small number of theatre productions and several films based directly or indirectly on his plays, and one summer, some years ago, I lay in a hammock in the mountains reading a handful of plays in English for pleasure. I read them mostly because I thought it was time I did. I felt it was shameful not to have read his plays in the original form, and I remember thinking it was wonderful, a linguistic pleasure. He creates characters and situations and especially conflicts which are sharply delineated, and therefore attractive, and I probably smiled a few times because he is not above conjuring up spirits and ghosts out of nothing when it suits him.
I haven’t read all his plays, I admit, and I am not terribly interested in the ones I have, but I can accept that Shakespeare is great, greater than most, and that if you are interested in drama and literature he cannot be ignored. At the same time, I’m a bit sick of Shakespeare, although I hadn’t actually articulated it openly until now. Can’t you just get over him, I have occasionally caught myself thinking, in the same way that I’ve caught myself longing for the day when theatres perform Ibsen a little less frequently. In a way, it is so obviously a failure of imagination to put on Hamlet yet again. Or The Doll’s House one more time, instead of looking for something a little fresher. While we wait for new geniuses, though, we have to put on the old ones. It stands to reason.
I would also like to add, naturally, that it fascinates me that anyone can rule the roost in such a way four hundred years after their death. He’s present in many modern dramas, often without the audience being aware of it, and probably without the creator being aware. Shakespeare is somehow so universal that we carry his themes and motifs with us even when we only have peripheral knowledge of his plays. I had seen most of Kurosawa’s films before I saw a link between him and Shakespeare. Children watch The Lion King year in and year out without suspecting that it was directly inspired by Hamlet: the evil lion Scar makes his little nephew Simba feel guilty about the death of his father, the king. Simba runs away from the herd and represses the past – only for it to catch up with him and force a showdown, etc, etc. These are substantial, eternal problems, and it is drama and tragedy in anyone’s currency.
My knowledge of Shakespeare peters out around here. Unfortunately. I was unaware that there were controversial theories about others having written his plays. I might have been able to keep this going for a while by talking about films based on Shakespeare plays, but what I am trying to stress is that I’m an amateur, as in so many things incidentally, and I’m fascinated to meet people who are not amateurs, who have studied something in depth and thus take a risk. In my opinion, it is a lot scarier to limit yourself to one area than to be able to do a little of everything. I am, therefore, immediately attracted by someone like organist Petter Amundsen who sweeps into my office knowing a lot more about something than I do.
To put it another way, I was looking forward to meeting Amundsen and the film people.
The next meeting was to take place in Skøyen church where Petter Amundsen is an organist. I arrived in a taxi from work – I had rarely been in this part of town before. It is a residential area with quite large detached houses, lots of money, trees, parks and cemeteries. The church is in no way classical; perhaps it might be called modern. Not particularly attractive, not particularly ugly. An orange colour. As I opened the church door, a Bach fugue came to meet me. I stood listening for a while before I made my presence known. Recently I had acquired a piano myself and dreamed, and still dream, of being able to play fragments of Bach and Mozart, and the other boys, which of course is as good as unattainable. I’ve never had a piano lesson in my life; I can read music because I played clarinet when I was a boy, but I struggle on, taking one day at a time, as they say. Enough of that. Petter Amundsen was in the church playing the organ. Church organ music is always more attractive when the church is empty. The emptier, the better, somehow. Now it was absolutely empty. Standing there was almost magical, but after a while he noticed I had arrived and stopped playing. I was led into an adjacent room and asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. What I was about to have a hand in had to remain confidential.
I was shown a facsimile of the first edition of Shakespeare’s collected works from 1623 and an OHP was switched on. I was then presented with parts of Amundsen’s theory. I’m not in a position to reveal details at this moment in time, it is now about a year later, but I will come back to them later, point by point. The nub of the whole matter, however, is that Amundsen has discovered ‘pointers’ in Shakespeare’s texts. He has found ciphers and codes in the prologue (To the Reader) which point to later sections in the book, specific pages, which in turn point to specific words and combinations of words. It appears that some pages have been deliberately mis-numbered to make the whole thing tally, for which no-one has so far found a logical explanation. The name or the word ‘Bacon’ is made to stand out repeatedly as a word the author or authors of the text wanted to be picked up by the observant reader. There are also clear signs that Oak Island was incorporated into the text. And much more. In summary, Amundsen stands there and tells me that the person or persons who wrote Shakespeare’s works had an agenda while they were writing exquisite drama. They created works which are so well encoded that it has taken the world hundreds of years to understand them.
The answer to that is far-reaching, says Amundsen. We’ll come back to it. Now perhaps it is time to refresh our knowledge of the English language and culture to face the new world which the English and others had just begun to colonise at this time. This is the real Da Vinci Code, he adds. Dan Brown’s book is all very exciting, but the problem is he doesn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, so for those who are well up on the area the fascination disappears. By contrast, the codes in Shakespeare are absolutely real. It can’t be called speculation any more. They exist and they can be demonstrated.
Naturally, I have to admit I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code. I have a sort of brain injury which prevents me from ingesting the same as everyone else at the same time. I can read a book before everyone else or a good while afterwards, but not at the same time. If you were young in the 80s and frequented the same wannabe artist milieus as I did, that’s the way we are. I may have to concede the principle here, though. We’ll have to see. If it would be useful for me as a consultant for this film project to read The Da Vinci Code, I’ll do it of course. Or so I say.
Then we discuss how to prepare for a film. Is it better suited to being a TV film or a cinema film? (This is, by the way, a question which film consultants often automatically ask anyone who happens to be in the vicinity when they wake, befuddled, in the middle of the night). But the answer is no. They want cinema. And so on. The long and the short of it is that I promise to support the film in its developmental phase. I still don’t know if Amundsen is a genius or a weirdo, but this is obviously a risk I have to take. There are quite a few frissons in this project. And, besides, I might learn something, I think, and that’s not something you turn your nose up at. We part as friends and amicable parties to an agreement, and I don’t hear from Amundsen or the film people for quite a while.
The next thing to happen is that Amundsen and his two cronies hook up with a more experienced film producer. This producer fills in the requisite application forms to get money out of the Film Fund, I sign the letter of intent and the process begins. The agreement is that they keep themselves to themselves for a chunk of time and then later I will make comments.
Time passes.
One afternoon, nine months later, Amundsen rings me. He knows my period as a film consultant is soon up and he asks me if I would be interested in helping him to write a book about the Shakespeare material. The question is a little vague. Do I write the book or do I make comments on what he writes? He’s not sure precisely himself, but he knows that he wants someone to bounce things off. My first reaction is a blunt no. As I have said, my consultant job will soon be over and for ages I have been longing to write my own things. In addition, I have to spend six months at home with our youngest son. There may also be a legal problem with a consultant giving a project support and then working on it. What do I know? During the course of the conversation, however, I realise the project is too exciting not to consider. My brain works overtime to gather reasons for saying no, but even so I am on the verge of saying we can discuss it. If I have to speculate on why I don’t say no immediately, I think it may have something to do with my liking for paradigm shifts. When old established theories crumble and take entrenched academics and careers and destinies down with them, it has a primitive attraction. The thought of my playing a part in it is attractive, I don’t mind admitting. And whatever happens, I will never be the brains behind it. Merely a go-between. A middleman. And middlemen can be forgiven. I didn’t know any better, I can say afterwards. Provided that no lives have been lost as a result of my writing, I will in a sense be able to struggle on. My dread is that I become a useful idiot for Petter Amundsen, who turns out to be a con-man. Using my name and reputation to take forward a controversial theory which doesn’t measure up may well be a price I have to pay, but so what? I don’t have that much to lose. There is much more at stake for Amundsen. And what I’ve seen of him so far is more exciting than scaring. I have faith in the man. At any rate, I believe that what he is convinced he has found is sensational. That will do for the moment.
Petter lives in Smestad and I cycle there one day after work. There is a grand piano in the living room. He serves the remnants of the previous day’s 17th May celebrations and we discuss the beginning of his book, which I read in advance of the meeting. He is planning a fictional work in which a male protagonist has to persuade his extremely sceptical sweetheart, Robenna Castella, that Shakespeare’s works are not written by Shakespeare. It may well work, but I tell him that this type of fiction is not something I have much experience of, or interest in, or feel that I can write. There are many others who can give him better advice during the writing than I can. We toss this to and fro. In the course of which I have an idea and I pursue it: if you want to write a book in The Da Vinci Code style, I say, I’m hardly the right person to collaborate with, but if you can visualise a documentary in which Petter is Petter and Erlend Erlend, in other words, a text about you and me and your attempts to convince me and the reader that your theory has a right to exist, then I would consider joining him. Petter chews this one over and says afterwards that this is a definite possibility.
As I stand in the hallway, putting on my cycle helmet, Petter tells me that in addition to being an organist and Shakespeare-paradigm-breaker, he has an agency importing leaf gelatine from Germany. He sells the gelatine on to Norwegian chains of grocery shops.
This is getting better and better.
A few weeks later, Petter and I meet Anders Heger at Cappelen. Petter wants a publisher behind him. He wants an official agreement so that we can work with it and be fairly certain that someone at the other end is willing to publish the outcome. Before the meeting Heger googled Petter Amundsen and suspects that the meeting is in connection with Shakespeare and Oak Island. Petter presents a light version of the same talk he gave me in Skøyen church. Heger is in no doubt that this will be a sensation, if there is anything in it, but he is better-heeled than me and thus more on his guard. He asks follow-up questions which reveal that he has done his homework and doesn’t seem to be able to get enough. He wants more. He wants to see the proof. Amundsen holds his cards close to his chest, only giving enough for Heger to make out the dimensions. We get our written agreement even though ultimately there is very little obligation on Cappelen’s part. It only says they will publish the book if it satisfies their quality criteria.
Let’s hope it does.
Last edited by Petter Amundsen on Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Petter Amundsen
Petter Amundsen
Digging for Diamonds
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2003 6:16 pm
Location: Oslo

Postby Petter Amundsen on Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:04 pm

1st Meeting

A Dictaphone has been bought in, tested and placed on the table in front of Petter Amundsen as we open our first meeting one November morning in 2005. We start by discussing the conditions for our collaboration. Any future income should be split 50-50. We should both be allowed to drop out at any moment if we feel that the other person does not live up to expectations, and in such a case that person may not make independent use of existing material. For me, that might happen, should Amundsen’s theory prove to be too bizarre or speculative or otherwise unsatisfactory. For him, it would be if my presentation of him or his theory deviates too far from his own version. This is, I assume, quite an unusual clause to drop into a joint venture contract, but in this case it is absolutely imperative for both of us. I don’t really know what I am letting myself in for. And neither does Petter. That’s why it is important to make sure that neither of us can go behind the other’s back with material which has been worked on together, and for the process it is important to be sure that both of us give our utmost. There will be no book if either of us is unhappy. A great many research books would never have seen the light of day if a contract of this nature had not been signed.

OK, Petter Amundsen, now things are getting interesting. Let’s start. The first thing I would like to know is who you are so that I can consider the qualifications you bring to what you are later going to claim.

I was born in Oslo and lived here while growing up, initially in at? Tåsen and then in at?Vettakollen. I had a traditional Norwegian boy’s upbringing, simple, with lots of skiing, sport and maybe not the most cultural of backgrounds, even if our house resonated with the sound of classical music from records my parents loved so much. My enthusiastic mother also saw to it that I was introduced to the theatre and the opera. I’ve had several - some specialist - engrossing interests over the years. I messed around with discus throwing, was deeply preoccupied with ornithology, and have always set myself fairly ambitious targets and I have never let it bother me that some of my activities could be socially stigmatising. I began to play piano with a teacher, Ingeborg Thrane, in Risalleen, as many of the other boys did, but after about 18 months I couldn’t be bothered any more.

Weren’t you any good?

I was average. Not very keen to practise. I was hardly a great talent, so becoming a professional organist was a result of a later obsession. When I want something to happen, it happens, even if I am not best qualified. For example, when you play piano or organ it helps if you are properly equipped by nature, but I have a handicap. The extension tendons have grown together between the ring and little finger of my right hand. Surgeons opened me up and saw that I have one muscle for both fingers, whereas I should have two. I couldn’t have survived if I had been a pianist and needed to vary the melody line with different pressures, but because I play organ it’s OK; the keys basically have to be pressed and released at the correct moment and the rest takes care of itself. The reason I play organ is that I was babysitting my sister one evening in 1977, in the winter months, and we watched an old Italian film in black and white on Swedish TV, about an elderly man who was showing a pregnant woman beautiful buildings, art and so in Rome or Florence. His idea was that if she saw beautiful things, the child would be beautiful. They went into a church where a monk was sitting playing the organ. Of course he was playing Bach’s Toccata in D minor and I immediately knew I had to do it too. Although it might have been a way of combating my childhood fear of the fog horns at Jomfruland lighthouse, but whatever the reason I went for the organ.
There has been no great church tradition in the Amundsen family. No-one has been an organist. But there has been an interest in music among the piano-playing doctors and engineers of the family. My father’s aunt, Signe Amundsen, was a celebrated opera singer, a Wagner specialist.

What did your parents do?

My father was a wine agent and bit by bit I began to work for his wine agency. He used to work for Jägermeister Norway, and I still have a Jägermeister track suit top which I use when I go jogging. It’s a bit loud, orange. My mother is a retired social worker
I spent the money I earned as a newspaper boy to buy my German teacher’s harmonium and then I was away. I majored in music at Foss high school and then spent seven years at the Norwegian State Academy of Music, finally earning my Master’s degree in recital playing.

So you must have had some kind of talent then?

Yes, in my own way. I was intensely engaged in what I wanted to achieve and furthermore I have an analytical mind, which has usually made me aware of what stands between me and my objective. I exert all my energy when it is required.

Was it your ambition to be an organist in a church in Oslo?


Can one become an organ virtuoso?

Yes. And that was what I wanted the most, but at the entrance examination in the state academy I was persuaded to switch to church music, so I did. I am happy I did that now. Particularly with regard to this project because I learnt a lot about church history and symbolism which has helped me track down several of the discoveries I shall reveal to you soon. My own path to the church has been long and slow. Gradually I have managed to piece together my own understanding of Christianity so that to myself I can defend my position as an employee of the Norwegian church. And I feel really good about it
In addition, I like to partake in other activities. For example, I’m a certified skiing instructor at the Tomm Murstad Ski School in winter. And I compete in the slalom races for veterans. That, too, is pure will-power. A few years ago I set myself the goal of beating all the sods who left me standing when we were teenagers. There was in particular one boy in my class who was really good. He nearly made it to the national team, where his brother already was representing Norway. A few years ago I challenged him to take part in the National Masters championship. I beat him, and to my great joy he didn’t take it well. Later on he apologized that he did not applaud my triumph. Again it was more a question of will-power than ability. Will-power plus a certain analytical facility. That’s my talent. And that’s what this project exemplifies.
Have you, alongside selling gelatine, playing the organ and teaching skiing, read much history, literature and that sort of thing?

I’ve always read a lot while pursuing my interests. As I said, my interests have often been very intense and all-involving.

Can you give me instances?

Early on I became a member of a Masonic Lodge and I trawled their libraries to find out what it was all about. We are talking several shelf metres.

There it was. So Petter Amundsen is a freemason. And my alarm bells are ringing loud. I know almost nothing about masons or where they come from or their history, or what basically they wish to achieve, but I imagine a brotherhood living comfortably, buying cars and other goods and services off each other at favourable prices, and otherwise helping and protecting each other when necessary. It’s too early to say whether this has any consequences for Petter’s credibility in my eyes. For the moment I don’t let on and try to be more tolerant and generous than I usually am.

Mason, right. Okay. I assume you’ve grown up in circles where older men have noticed your qualities and somehow guided you into the Lodge? Don’t you have to have a recommendation?
No, Petter says. It wasn’t like that. This was an organist thing. Lots of organists are in the Lodge. I simply thought it seemed exciting.

But you can’t just knock on the door and say you want to join, can you?

Yes, you can do exactly that. People don’t know this, but that’s how it works. You have to take the initiative and say you wish to join.

But someone has to vouch for you?

Yes, you have to have mentors. But you’re allowed to join. As long as your conduct is relatively unblemished and you’re of sound mind.

And you have to be Christian?

Yes, in Norwegian lodges you have to be of Christian faith. You do. Or at least you should have an idea about God. In some foreign Masonic lodges the Talmud, Koran and the Bible are put out during the ceremonies.

Is the fact that you are or have been a Freemason integral to this project?

To a very high degree, but I should add that I am not a freemason. No-one is. But I have been accepted by the Masonic order. For the time being, I have chosen to put myself on the sidelines. I was often used as the organist at functions and after a while it became a dread dealing with all the requests. Besides, as an organist you sit in the gallery and don’t join in.

But if it’s important that I understand this freemason stuff, perhaps you ought to put me in the picture?

We will definitely talk about freemasonry. It is crucial to this quest, but it’s equally important to stress that the reason I have been able to get as far as I have, and been able to draw the conclusions that I have, is because I have a random mixture of knowledge. Freemasonry is an important constituent of that. The church connection is also important, but perhaps not quite as important as freemasonry.

Do people weep and hold each other and have visions and insights at these Lodge meetings?

I’ve never experienced that. But you are overwhelmed by how rich and grand it is.

Do you mean the human mind? Or the brotherhood? Or what?

This is quite different from the world we usually operate in. It is exotic in a way. It is dignified, stylish and thoroughly ordered with beautiful language, wonderful surroundings, mysteries and the like. It’s easy for those who don’t know what it is to make fun of it, but these are profound, life-changing experiences. Some say the day they are accepted into the order is the greatest day of their lives. They might look at their spouse askance, knowing they should have said their wedding day or the day the first child was born, but they still say it.
Fine, but what was it you saw there which has led to us sitting here today?
The world of symbols. No more, no less. Freemasonry is permeated with symbols. With double, treble, quadruple, quintuple meanings. Now that I can see the whole picture, the fact that much of it may have come from the Knights Templar fits in very neatly. You could say it is about brotherhood all over the world, across religions. There are countries which ban it, but enough about that now. Freemasonry has no direct connection with this project, nor has playing the organ. These elements were there more as potential I could draw from when I came across what I did.

The whole thing started in the early 90s when my wife and I were expecting our first daughter and I needed a video camera to film her. I had a wonderful watch, a Patek Phillippe, and to buy this camera I had to sell something, so I decided to sell this watch. And then I discovered there was a marvellous market for selling used watches. I sold the Patek Phillippe, but that set me off. I started buying and selling old and new watches. At the time you could buy Rolex sports models in Norway and sell them with a very nice profit, for instance in Italy. But mostly my market was Swatch watches. Swatch was all the rage then. I collected all the data, read and waited until I knew my field. There was a huge collectors’ market for Swatch watches, so I had to get to grips with auction catalogues and learn which models were in demand. When I drove around the country selling wine and spirits I always popped into the local watchmaker’s to see if he had any interesting watches and they often had models which had been lying there for years and were worth gold. I sometimes bought ten to fifteen watches with discount and sold them abroad through a network I had set up. Sometimes German wholesalers came to see what I had to offer. I had a fair bit of beginner’s luck and I was hooked. Then suddenly my interest ebbed away. There was a kind of crash in the market. Some of these watches were exchanging hands for 150,000 kroner after all. They were only plastic watches. Crazy times.

Do I detect the profile of the entrepreneur spirit?

Well, I‘ve always liked earning money. Right from my early teens when I desired things and calculated how much I would have to work to acquire them. As I said I delivered papers when I was very young and took jobs whenever they offered themselves. That’s how it was. But the watch market went into decline. I had managed to sell out in time, and I thought it had been really exciting, so in many ways it was a shame this opening came to an end just at the point when I had understood the situation and how to exploit it. I decided to look for something else I could teach myself in the same way, but it had to be more long-term, not something which ended after a few weeks or months. That was how I came to the stock exchange.
I was in the army and saw the film Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd and was fascinated by how they were able to exploit commodity trading. I had no idea there were exchanges for orange juice or pork bellies, but there are real markets, I gradually realised, and the exciting part is that you can buy the rights of a large lorry load of, say, pork bellies for very little money. You can put two thousand kroner down and control the movement of pork bellies costing, say, a hundred thousand. And if these pork bellies go up in price to one hundred and five thousand, you’ve earned five thousand. And that’s not five per cent, but a hundred and fifty, because you only put down two thousand kroner. It’s all about sitting on your rights and then selling again before the real pork bellies are delivered, are you with me?

I think so.

If you have control of the pork bellies to be delivered in May, you should have sold them by March. But you can also sell before you’ve bought anything at all. This is high level speculation with lots of options and many pitfalls, of course.
Anyway, I decided I was going to get involved in Futures trading, and as usual I threw myself into it and read everything that came into my hands. I began to study technical stock market analysis since I quickly understood that I would never know more about the markets than people who were on site closely following events every second of the day. The human psychology angle fascinated me and I soon realised that there are people who claim it is possible to outwit these markets, based on trends and cycles. In other words, some claim it is possible to predict future trends, based on knowledge of the past. I was hooked and had to be taught a few lessons to realise that I didn’t know enough. The most effective one came when I thought was doing a perfect day’s trading in cotton, sitting outside a supermarket in Lierbyen; I thought I was a hotshot, but ended up buying the highest tick of the day and selling out at the lowest. It doesn’t get worse than that. I made up my mind there and then to learn more, and I discovered the luminary in stock market analysis: William D. Gann.
Gann was a legendary trader who died in the mid-1900s. He was the man. Some of his methods went beyond everything else in existence and of course he left behind huge sums when he died. He wrote letters giving advice about shares and sent them to subscribers. These letters still exist. Anyone can check that in 1928, the year before the great Wall Street crash, he predicted very accurately that the stock exchange would reach its peak on 3rd September 1929. He was right about the date and the peak, down almost to the last decimal. He had a method for analysing the market which no-one else has been to replicate, neither in his lifetime nor since. He bases it on a kind of cycle and he can see the pulse and rhythm of the market. When I found it, I thought: yes! I’m going to get into this.
I began to study Gann in depth, but this is not so easy when it comes down to it because he never revealed his secrets. Some he did, but not all. And he described the missing parts of the picture, he says, in this book:

Reproduced by permission from Lambert-Gann Publishing –

As Amundsen says this, he lifts up a book from the pile on the table. He holds it up and shows it to me. The title is Tunnel Thru the Air.

It is a kind of prophetic novel, which Gann published in 1927, Amundsen continues. For example, Gann wrote about how the wheat market would be, and if you draw a graph based on his predictions and one for the actual market performance in the same period, it is unbelievable. It challenges what you think is possible. He also wrote that the years from 1940-44 would be a tough time for America and describes Japanese planes flying over the US and dropping bombs.

Are we talking about rational phenomena here or the supernatural?

These are the tools Gann used to earn money, so I would say it’s rational. The point is, at any rate, that I decided to learn how Gann could do what he did. The book I have is a first edition and it contains things which are absolutely crucial if you’re going to get to the bottom of his real activities. I realised that in time. In this book, which is in fact a novel, Gann says in the prologue that his book has a hidden meaning and has to be read several times before it can be understood.

Reproduced by permission from Lambert-Gann Publishing –

The book makes several references to the Bible. And, by the way, Gann was also a freemason. I read the book, but didn’t understand very much. I read it again and studied it more closely and got a few hints from people who had heard what others had heard and so on. Gradually one or two things stood out as possibilities. Then suddenly I had a breakthrough. Something which had previously been a mystery was suddenly clear and I wrote an article in an American trading magazine about what I had found. I invited others to form a working party to decode the book.

In other words, no-one has managed to crack the book since 1927?

Some claim to have succeeded and some have done similar things to Gann, predicting movements on the market and getting rich, etc., but I still believe they have only understood parts of his message. However, I received some response to my article and as a working party of five we sent off faxes to each other about Gann’s unsolved mysteries. In time, we went over to e-mails and now we have written thousands of e-mails about this book. We’ve read it forwards, backwards and upside down. Gann hid his message in a kind of cipher known as steganography.

Oxford English Dictionary - 1933

Steganography means hiding codes in such a way that you cannot find them unless you search actively. From the outside, Gann’s book looks like a normal novel with a normal plot.

One of the places in the book which set me on the trail of what we’re going to discuss now is on page 126: “Lord Bacon, the literary genius and philosopher lifted the bible one day above his head and said There God speaks”.
This is just rubbish. Francis Bacon is not known to have done this. The same applies to “the literary genius”. Bacon was a statesman and a philosopher, but has never been considered a literary genius. Somewhere else, Gann mentions Shakespeare as a literary genius. I soon understood that Gann was befriended with a guy called Manly P. Hall who wrote books about esoteric subjects. He said Bacon was Shakespeare and also wrote about Bacon’s system of codes in detail. In other words, there was a chance there might be something here worth exploring, and after we had scanned the book in and run a search, we discovered that the word ‘code’ is mentioned twice, on pages 238 and 283 respectively, and for someone like me these jumbled page numbers are a suggestion that there may be something to examine more closely here.
To date, we have come a long way towards understanding this book, but our work is not complete yet and there are things I cannot go into at this juncture. The point is, though, that when I began to study Bacon’s codes, my interest shifted from Gann to Bacon.

One checking question here might be to ask you why you aren’t stinking rich today.

Probably because I haven’t solved the puzzle. Yet. But, well, over to Bacon and his codes.

Amundsen takes out a piece of paper copied from a book about codes and shows me Bacon’s system. He tells me it is a five-bit system with two variables. ‘Five-bit’ simply means that every symbol, in this case letters, is normally constituted by five ‘binary digits’ or bits. Here letter-types ‘A’ and ‘B’ are used in lieu of digits.

Bacon: The Advancement of Learning (1640)

You’ll have to explain that again.

As I said, I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in Bacon or Shakespeare when I started this. Remember that. I had to examine it in the same way as I had to examine hundreds of other leads. I read up about Bacon and so far have not found any references to him raising the Bible over his head and saying “There God speaks”. Put another way, it stands out. There is something about it. And I became aware that I would have to come to terms with Bacon’s world of codes. I searched everywhere for material and eventually found a book entitled The Cipher in the Plays and on the Tombstone, written by Ignatius Donnelly and published in 1899. This writer has constructed a whole system around Shakespeare and Bacon, about codes hither and thither, and it is very unlikely it is correct. I do not want to be associated with Donnelly. I think he’s just muddying the waters. He presented a number of unsubstantiated claims, but, and it is an important ‘but’ for me, he begins this book with this poem:


It’s the epitaph, the inscription on Shakespeare’s tombstone.
Donnelly also discusses something a Mr. Hugh Black wrote in the North American Review in 1887. Naturally I got hold of a copy of the North American Review.


So you’re doing this to get to the bottom of the W. D. Gann conundrum and not because you’re suddenly hooked on another puzzle?

Absolutely. By this time I am well into Gann and do all I can to wrest the ciphers from him. I get it into my head that I have to teach myself Bacon’s codes in order to understand Gann, and to learn Bacon’s codes I have to read Donnelly and the 1877 North American Review and loads of other books and journals.
At first, I understood nothing of all the ‘A’s and ‘B’s. I couldn’t make head or tail of it. But there are some misprints in Donnelly’s book and I got hold of his book to learn more about Bacon’s codes, so I thought I would simply have to go through his solutions again. At this time, I didn’t have all the information about this field I would have later and that was actually quite lucky, for otherwise I could have disregarded the misprint which helped me to solve the code on my own. You see, Shakespeare’s original epitaph is written in a mixture of upper and lower case letters, in an apparently irrational pattern, but if you make groups of five letters to represent one letter according to Bacon’s code, you get the following set of letters:

ImageIllustration 007 I. Donnelly: The Cipher in the Plays and on the Tombstone (1899) p. 10.
Where Donnelly found an ‘E’, I discovered it should actually be an ‘F’.
And in this particular place the difference between an ‘E’ and an ‘F’ is very important. Donnelly writes that the letters of Shakespeare’s name appear in front of you if you decode his epitaph with Bacon’s system. But what he missed, because he took an ‘E’ instead of an ‘F’, is that four letters from Francis Bacon’s name also turn up in a similar grouping, giving us the first two letters of each name. Since no-one had written about this, I wondered if this might be the beginning of something. I don’t believe in felicitous coincidences. At least, not until the contrary has been proved. Everything must be pursued until it can be eliminated. So, what I find is the initials of the person who designed this code, as well as the initials of the deceased, or what is left of him, lying under the stone the epitaph is engraved on. It tickles my imagination.

At this point I knew very little about Francis Bacon and had superficial knowledge of Shakespeare. I had seen a few films based on his plays and had been to Arne Nordheim’s ballet The Tempest. That’s all. But with the experience I had now gained with Bacon’s code I easily solved the rest of the epitaph, I will assert, and what I found there made me immediately put Gann’s book aside. And I haven’t looked back.

But what about Hugh Black of the North American Review? Didn’t he get as far you did?

He came a good way, but he made a terrible howler which has meant that posterity has rendered him harmless and ridiculed. He has only himself to thank. He made an interpretation without adequate support. He found the letters of Shakespeare’s name, but where he wasn’t sure he took a huge risk and arrived at the conclusion that the full string should be ‘FRA BA WRT EAR AY’, which became: ‘Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays’. And it went downhill from there. With the letters he produced you can make whatever you want if you are as generous as to allow EAR to stand for Shakespeare, for example. And when you know that there are people just sitting around waiting to be able to pounce on you, it wasn’t the smartest thing he could have done. He served his own head on a silver platter to the critics. Exit Hugh Black.

But nevertheless Donnelly picked up on it 12 years later?

Yes. Donnelly has his own twist on it. But he made it all too complicated. My solution, on the other hand, is straightforward. It solves the cipher on the epitaph, but it also builds a connecting bridge between the gravestone and Shakespeare’s works. If such a link didn’t exist you could just object that the stone was engraved by someone who wanted to manipulate history. But when you find that there has to be a correspondence between the person who constructed the code and the publishers of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s collected works in 1623, it immediately becomes interesting.

So, at some point, your focus on Gann shifted to Shakespeare?

Yes. It was 3rd January, 2002. That was when I cracked the epitaph code and, as I said, put Gann aside.

Had no-one cracked it before you?

No. No-one as far as I know. At least, no-one has written about it.

It’s a redeeming feature for a sceptic like me that you were looking for something else when you discovered this.

Yes, I can imagine.

But what about the gravestone? Does it exist? Can I visit it?

No. And that’s a shame, of course, but it is well documented. Halliwell-Phillipps, among others, refers to the original stone in 1882, and laments that it was later exchanged for the one there today.

Illustration 008 Halliwell-Phillipps: Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (1882) p. 171
And Halliwell-Phillipps continues, with regard to the stone: (It…)

Illustration 009
I assume it was replaced around 1825.
A man called Charles Knight wrote a biography of Shakespeare and travelled around England trying to document what he could. He copied the original stone. Shortly afterwards the stone was gone.

Is this controversial? Are there no Shakespearean scholars who doubt the authenticity of the inscription?

No, not as far as I know. And a big point here is that both Phillipps and Knight were hard-core traditionalists. They wouldn’t have liked the idea that there was speculation about Shakespeare’s authorship. If Knight had known that his written copy of the stone would have been grist to the mill for the Baconians in coming centuries, I assume he would have been pretty upset.
This is the background to everything. It’s the start. ImageIllustration 010 Oxford English Dictionary Supplement I A-G (1972)
Petter Amundsen
Petter Amundsen
Digging for Diamonds
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2003 6:16 pm
Location: Oslo

Postby Petter Amundsen on Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:18 pm

The Second meeting.

Two months later I meet Petter again.
This time in his brand new apartment in one of the many newly erected buildings on Voksenkollen. He has a view of Oslo and the fields at his feet, but when I comment on how pleasant it seems, it emerges that he has both bought the flat and sold it again since we last met. He is slightly reticent about explaining why. Fair enough. He undoubtedly has his reasons. And this book is not about that, anyway.
A debate has flared up in a national paper as to who Shakespeare was, or was not. The reason is that someone was unfortunate enough to refer to the book The Truth Will Out, which came out in the autumn of 2005, where it was claimed that Sir Henry Neville wrote Shakespeare’s works. The literature professors and experts want to put this debate to rest for ever. They appear to be claiming that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s works and anyone who says anything different has an infantile need for conspiracy theories, and doesn’t actually know what they are talking about. Petter has also had a couple of articles printed. He writes that we have to be allowed to retain the mystery surrounding Shakespeare for lack of evidence. His works will not become less brilliant or valuable for all that. Another correspondent writes that there are probably several hundred people around the world sitting penning books intended to prove that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s works, and if we are to be convinced, they will have to present considerably more than was in the book about Neville.
And so the obvious question is:

Can you add anything, Petter Amundsen? Will it hold water? Or are both you and I making a laughing stock of ourselves by writing this book?

I have a lot to add, Petter says.
So far we have only scratched the surface. The so-called experts always give conflicting accounts. Some feel that it was an unschooled genius who wrote the plays while others maintain the Grammar School in Stratford set very high standards and that was why Shakespeare knew so much about the world and history, and so on. The point is we know too little. There are some people who think it should be almost forbidden to speculate on this. Most concede that little is certain, but they still feel that the question of authorship is so certain that all speculation should cease. I find it entertaining that the debate is alive and kicking and reveals so much emotion and guesswork from a variety of quarters.
Follow carefully, Amundsen says, as he spreads out a copy of the epitaph on Shakespeare’s grave the way it looks today. It is the original size and made by pressing a large piece of paper against the stone and running over it with a charcoal stick.

Illustration 010B
The original gravestone was replaced with this at some time in the 1820s. The old one was worn and had sunk beneath ground level, and probably the idea was to restore it and return it to its former glory. Shakespeare was enjoying a resurgence at that time.
What I am about to tell you is what happened at the beginning of 2002 when I was trying to understand the stenographic code. As I have already mentioned, there was an error in Ignatius Donnelly’s book. An ‘E’ where there should have been an ‘F’.
Illustration 007
In Hugh Black’s article in the North American Review the original cipher solution has been reproduced without any errors. I know that now, but I didn’t have the North American Review at this time. Donnelly’s book begins by referring to Black’s article and reproducing the epitaph as it originally was, before it was replaced in the 1800s. When initially I realised that there was a mistake, a lot of things opened up to me. To explain that, though, I will first have to tell you a little more about Bacon’s system of codes.
You could say it is actually a forerunner of the binary system used today in computers. They use two variables, too. Today we use 1s and 0s, but Bacon used two separate alphabets which letters he designated as type ‘A’s and type ‘B’s, respectively. He describes this from page 277 (a number we come back to) onwards in De Augmentis Scientiarum, which was published in Latin in 1623, the same year the First Folio comes out incidentally. In 1640, after Bacon’s death, an English version of the book appeared. In his book Bacon wrote that while he was in France as a boy, he invented something which he thought was so good it should be published. He was clearly proud of his invention.

Illustration 011 Bacon: Advancement (1640) p. 265
He had made an alphabet which represented the 24 letters of the Latin alphabet of the time. In fact, there were 26 letters, but ‘I’ and ‘J’ were interchangeable and the same was true of ‘U’ and ‘V’.
This is an example of Bacon’s code:
Illustration 004 Bacon: Advancement (1640) p. 266
See previous post

By putting these ‘a’s and ‘b’s in groups of five to represent a letter in the alphabet, Bacon had 32 variables.

aaaaa is A
aaaab is B
aaaba is C
aaabb is D

and so on. There is an unfailing logic to this. Anyone with the same idea would have constructed the system in the same way.
Bacon made sentences with these two alphabets, taking letters from the two different alphabets to encode messages.

For example, the name Erlend can be concealed in a message of at least 30 letters since the name has six letters, each of which has to be encoded with a group of five ‘a’ or ‘b’ types. Six times five equals thirty. To do this, the encoder will use his two chosen sets of letters. No space between the five-bits will be visible. When we write words we always make spaces, and we can’t restrict ourselves to using only words of five letters. If you want to conceal ERLEND, you can do it like this. I have chosen to italicise the ‘b’ types. Even then, it is not easy to see the code:
Billy’s mother gave himm four pounds

As the decoder, you first have to define the ‘a’ and ‘b’ types, and then divide these up into five-bits. Pure gobblydegook.
Billy smoth ergav ehimm fourp ounds

Then you just read from the table:
aabaa baaaa ababa aabaa abbaa aaabb


What gives it away is ‘himm’. The extra ‘m’ is there because I needed another letter, and that would probably make the observant reader reflect on correct English spelling. Deliberate errors are a handy indicator when you’re cracking codes.
Part of what is so fascinating about this is that since Bacon’s five-bit system has 32 possibilities and there are only 24 letters in the alphabet it means that there are eight variables left over which don’t represent any letter at all. The last letter in the alphabet is ‘Z’, which Bacon represented as babbb. If you were to add a 27th letter, logically it would be bbaaa, but there is no such five-bit group in the epitaph. In other words, not one of the 22 groups extracted from the epitaph begins with bb. That is a strong indication that we are on the right track in our assumption that the epitaph is in code. Keep this in mind as we go on.
During my studies of codes I kept coming across references to this two-letter alphabet, but I didn’t understand what it meant, so I had to go back a few steps to work it out. When I read Hugh Black’s article in the North American Review, the penny began to drop. You see, Black refers to the original epitaph as reproduced in Charles Knight’s book. There the text has big and small letters everywhere in no apparent rational order.

Illustration 012 Charles Knight: Shaksper (1843), vol II, p. 535.
Black thought size was a perfect way of making a distinction between two different types of letters. You don’t immediately know, however, if the big letters are the ‘A’type or the small letters. You need a kind of key, a table, and we don’t have such a table. Gravestones don’t come with an interpreter’s manual, so we have to grope our way forwards.
Hugh Black, who must have been endowed with especially fine instincts, assumed that this conspicuous manner of using upper and lower case served a cryptographic purpose. And he thought, naturally enough, it was Bacon’s code with two variables being used. The simplest method is often the best, and Black thought the capitals were the ‘A’ type and the others the ‘B’ type, or vice versa. So he put Shakespeare’s epitaph into a table replacing the capital letters with b and the others with a. Then he divided them into five-bits and assigned space on the line for completed five-bits. The table looked as follows:

baaab aaaaa aabaa aabbb baaaa
aaaab aaaaa babba aabaa aabaa abbba
baaaa aabab baaba aaaaa babab aaaaa
baaaa aaaaa babaa aaaaa baaaa

There are several things worthy of note here. First of all, the table consists of 28 ‘b’s and 82 ‘a’s. The number 28 is not only inverted to make 82, it is also one of the few numbers the great Greek mathematician Pythagoras called perfect numbers since the sum of its factors (factors of 28 are: 14, 7, 4, 2, 1), make the number itself. Factors are integers which can be multiplied to make the number. Thus the relationship between a and b is extremely neat.

Secondly, the number of letters divides up into groups of five – there are no letters left over. This may, of course, be chance since the odds of this happening are only 1:5.
And thirdly, none of the groups starts with bb. Do you understand? A bb-start would have torpedoed any idea of a code based on letters since the alphabet only had 24 letters. Combinations starting with bb… represent the possibilities between place 24 and place 32 – that is those without a letter. This means the odds that we are dealing with a cipher increase enormously and the whole thing suddenly becomes more interesting.

The next step, following Black, is to use Bacon’s table and replace each of the five-bits with letters. The result is as follows:


Notice the symmetry of the last line. RAWAR can be read in both directions, almost like a kind of allusion to the inversion of the 28 and 82 I just spoke about.

I can see letters alright, but I don’t see anything about Bacon or Shakespeare, do you?

You have a point. It might have said ‘Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays’ and we’ve dealt with that, but it doesn’t. It would have been almost too stupid. But Black had no problems seeing the letters S A E H R E P X A. Jumble them up and we have SHAXPEARE. Remember that at this time ‘x’ was the normal way of writing ‘ks’. And on the wall, beneath the Shakespeare plaque in Stratford church it says SHAKSPEARE. So, the same spelling, without the familiar ‘E’ following K.
There have been several examples of this spelling over the years. As I said at our last meeting, Black used the remaining letters to make a kind of sentence: FR BA WRT EAR AY which was supposed to read: Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays. An interpretation which is just asking to be ridiculed.

However, I didn’t have Black’s original article at this time. I was following Donnelly’s sloppy presentation of the case and fortunately couldn’t make it work. That was how I discovered that Donnelly’s ‘E’ shouldn’t be there and that was what made the whole difference for me. Then I paid special attention to the grouping of the letters F R B A, which are the first letters of Francis Bacon’s names
In the last line we also find a possible W for William.

Illustration 013

What we have then is a code Francis Bacon made in his youth, and using it to decipher Shakespeare’s epitaph we’re left with the letters W SHAXPEARE and FR BA. This can still be dismissed as chance, but it’s more than enough to motivate me to continue. I ponder what the point of it can be. Did someone want us to find something here? I concentrate on the word ‘EncloAsed’ of the epitaph. I think: What can be enclosed? I go back to the code and look at the letters in the middle:


These letters are framed by all the others. One might claim that Y E T A is ‘encloAsed HE.Re’. The letters constituting YE TA (the letters are in twos, like HE.Re) is enclosed symmetrically by the other letters. The fact that ‘encloAsed’ with a capital ‘A’ where there shouldn’t be any ‘a’ at all could be a hint. If there should be another letter at all, it was in fact usual in the 1600s to write ‘encloysed’. The ‘A’ may suggest that YETA is intended, from looking at the capitals:

To digg T-E Dust EncloAsed HE.Re.
Blese be T-E man Y spares T-Es Stones

Furthermore, Cloaking means concealing or disguising. The ‘A’ provides associations. After all, there is no name on the stone slab. How would we know it was Shakespeare’s gravestone if tradition hadn’t passed it down? I believe this uncertainty is intentional; it is to make us stop and puzzle. Beneath the nearby poet’s plaque on the wall it says: “Stay passenger, why goest thou by so fast? Read IF THOU CANST…”
Illustration 012
Thus the name ‘Shakespeare’ does not appear on the epitaph, but if you study it closely, you will see that the first word which really strikes you is ‘SAKE’. Two lines down we find ‘spares’. We are therefore missing an H in ‘SAKE’ and an ‘E’ in ‘spares’. Perhaps that is what is also being alluded to in the striking way of writing ‘HE.Re’? Normally there would not a full stop, of course. Later in the story we will, incidentally, see that ‘H’ and ‘E’ combined with part of the word YETA become extremely important for our understanding of the complexity of the cipher in Shakespeare’s works. (Returning to the book at a later date and reading it again will provide many Aha!s. We generously leave that to the reader.)
Another version of the gravestone gives ‘enclo-Ased’, written with a hyphen which serves no sensible function. We don’t know if this was the original form - Knight didn’t see it. Perhaps it was to encourage decoders to make the connection between ‘SAKE’ and ‘spares’?
Another oddity is that the first three letters of ‘SAKE’ form part of the fourth five-bit, aabbb, which is the missing ‘H’ of SHAKE. Phonetically speaking, there is a great deal of difference between ‘Shake’ and ‘Sake’, but not between ‘spare’ and ‘speare’. Whether this observation has any significance is, of course, open to debate.

This has been a painstaking piece of detective work, I can see. Often it must have been pretty impossible to distinguish between what was a real clue and what you imagine was a clue, wasn’t it? I suppose you soon see clues everywhere looking through a decoder’s glasses?

That’s right. It’s only time and external checks which show up the real clues, but basically that’s not essential for this story.

Why’s that?
Because I can see the whole picture now and even if the clues weren’t placed by the writers, they have helped me find my way to the solution.
Having mused for a few minutes on the framing of YETA I came to the conclusion that I would pursue the idea that YETA was enclosed in the code, and draw a parallel with what is actually enclosed in the grave, in other words DUST, a word which moreover is also in the epitaph.
Y E T A has four letters and D U S T has four, so I thought: what if ‘Dust’ is actually the key word for breaking this code?
You may counter that this is far fetched, but nevertheless I determined to test out what would happen if I took the word ‘Dust’ further.
I ran an Internet check on the use of the word ‘Dust’ in Shakespeare’s writing and discovered a scene in Hamlet where Hamlet has just killed Polonius, the father of Ophelia, who was hiding behind an arras (ARRAS reminded me of RAAR, the letters beneath YETA). He hid the body and someone asks where he has disposed of Polonius. He answers: “I compounded it with dust”. That doesn’t necessarily have any significance, but I thought it fitted in neatly, so I took it as a kind of confirmation that I was on the right track. Then I took the word DUST and wrote it alongside YETA. That wasn’t just a brainwave but a way of thinking which follows an old tradition within cryptology and number symbolism and with which, furthermore, we know that Bacon was also familiar. In this system A=1, B=2 and so on. One letter plus another equals a third. A + B is the same as 1 + 2 equals 3, or the letter C.
The evidence for saying Bacon was familiar with letter values can be found in his book Abecedarium, published in the 1600s, a fragment of which we have, but the book was later found and has been published in its entirety by an Oxford man. Bacon writes in this book about the number 67, which he calls ‘the threefold Tau’ (the third T). Bacon uses the alphabet several times over. The first T is number 19.
Z is the last letter, number 24. The second A becomes 25 (24 + 1); the second T is therefore 24 + 19 = 43. The third A is 49: 24 twice plus 1. So 67 is the third T, 48 + 19 = 67.

I set up Yeta and Dust like an arithmetic sum.
Y + D
E + U
T + S
A + T
The numerical values are:
- Y E T A 23 5 19 1
+ D U S T 4 20 18 19
= C A N V 3 1 13 20

I was left with the letters C A N V.
And I replaced Y E T A with C A N V in the table.


Naturally, a sceptic would rebel at this point. The enclosed name is not FR Bacon, but FR Bacan, if you approve of taking the N from the line under the CA of CANV. What about the V? That was what I thought too, but I couldn’t let go. I wondered what it was about this grave and Shakespeare and his writing. After all, the stone is only a stone. Anyone could have meddled with the stone. If, for example, Bacon had wanted to change the stone, he was a powerful man until the early 1620s (before he had to admit to taking bribes) so it is not difficult to imagine that he could have tampered with or had someone tamper with this stone if he had wanted to take the credit for Shakespeare’s writings. So this in itself wouldn’t prove anything, except that Bacon’s code has been used, and many would have disputed even that because you can always object that anyone can do whatever they like with letters and codes and so on. This objection is valid, of course. The more letters there are, the more interpretations and solutions there are going to be. That’s how it is. But it is difficult to explain away the fact that we have used Bacon’s own code and found a phonetic version of his and Shakespeare’s name by exchanging the key word DUST from the epitaph with the enclosed letters YETA. For me, this is too neatly tied in to be written off as chance.
If we add all the numerical values of each line, we can find further support for my conclusion.
Black’s version of the table gives the following values:
S A E H R = 18+1+5+8+17 = 49
B A Y E E P = 2+1+23+5+5+15 = 51
R F T A X A = 17+6+19+1+22+1 = 66
R A W A R = 17+1+21+1+17 = 57

Total = 223

Using DUST instead of YETA the values are:

S A E H R = 18+1+5+8+17 = 49
B A C A E P = 2+1+3+1+5+15 = 27
R F N V X A = 17+6+13+20+22+1 = 79
R A W A R = 17+1+21+1+17 = 57

Total = 212

The sum of the top and bottom lines, which are unaffected by my change, is 106 in both cases.
It is worth noticing, however, that when DUST is replaced by CANV the sum of the two lines in the middle is also 106.
Perfect balance and symmetry. And the average of each line (212 divided by 4) is thus 53.

The numbers 53 and 106 turn out to have huge significance for what is to follow.
Those with their heads screwed on properly will probably reject most of this as chance, but for me it is beginning to point to something now. There is no difference in the pronunciation of ‘Bacan’ and ‘Bacon’. The Oxford English Dictionary gives written variants, in no particular order, as: bacoun, bakoun, bacun, bakon and baken. Recently I even got seven hits on Google with ‘eggs and bacan’ and twenty-three with ‘bacan sandwich’.

Has the number 106 any significance?

There is something special about 106, but I’ll come on to that later. What I did when I discovered all this was to check Shakespeare’s books more closely. Until then, I had limited my observations to the gravestone and that was exciting enough, but if this is to hold water I need to find a link between the stone and Shakespeare’s works. I obtained a facsimile of the First Folio, the collected version of all Shakespeare’s plays, dated 1623. I stumbled across something on the very first page. And once again it was to do with upper and lower case letters.

All the lines of this poem begin with capital letters, as all poems did at that time. All the lines except one. It may be a misprint. However, I am wearing my cipher glasses and know that one approach to steganography is to make deliberate mistakes. It is a way of leading the reader’s attention in a particular direction, and it immediately drew my attention. The misprint, or whatever it is, is in the first letter of the line. The Greek word for this is: Akrostikon. And an acrostic was a method of including a dedication to a person, or something similar. Words are formed by reading the first letter of the line up or down, and sometimes, as we shall see later, more than one letter is taken from each line.
The same year that Shakespeare’s collected works came out, in 1623, a dictionary was also published. There was no author mentioned on the first page, but there was a poem prefacing the book:

He whose self love, or too ambitious spirit,
Envies or carpes at this thy Muses action,
Nere let him live, or of a Muse once merit
Regard or fame, but die in his detraction,
Irrevocably plagu’d with Zolian spight,
Ere he once taste of Helicons delight.
Could I, oh could I quintessence my skIllustration,
Or with Elixir truly alcumize,
Knowledge with learning should instruct my quIllustration
Effectually to praise thy Muses guise,
Re.felling all the critical disasters,
Among some captious, yet wise seeming masters,
Made by her curious eye, their owne disasters.

The name of the author is thus written acrostically downwards: HENRIE COKERAM.
Another similar type of code which was in use was a telestich, which is the same as an acrostic but at the end of a line.
And if you read To the Reader now and think acrostically, what is the first thing you espy?


TWOHB going down. Unfortunately, that isn’t a word I’ve ever met

But if you take only the first three letters, it becomes more readily comprehensible.

That would be TWO.

Exactly. The same sound as To, as in To the Reader. That may not be a major point, but then who knows? Nevertheless, we’re reading the first page of Shakespeare’s Collected Works and already a code reveals itself. It is so simple it seems fanciful. But it’s there. The number 2 is in an acrostic. And it will become apparent that it is a pointer to much more than the number, but at this stage in the process we are completely unaware of that. So, for the time being, we stick to the number. What shall we do with the number? What does it mean? What is it urging us to do?

Look at page two?

That was what I thought. Since there isn’t a page number in the First Folio before the plays (the 15/20 pages of introduction, preface, index etc are not paginated) – so you encounter the first number 2 on the second page of The Tempest. In the right-hand column there is a new acrostic with TwO, curiously enough with a small ‘w’ where the verse form would seem to require a capital. This also happens in the To the Reader. A clear misprint parallel. This is amended in the 2nd Folio and a capital ‘W’ replaces the small letter. There are, incidentally, other differences in To the Reader in the 2nd Folio. All the capital ‘W’s have been written with two ‘V’s side by side. I think that may be interpreted as a sign that the print setter deliberately used a small ‘w’ in the First Folio since, if he had been short of a capital ‘W’, he could already then have written it with two ‘V’s. This strengthens my suspicion that the small ‘w’ was deliberate. The poem in the 2nd Folio looks as follows:


I looked at The Tempest and found the TwO acrostic on page 2. And in the opposite column I found a F BACon acrostic:


In the 2nd Folio the little ‘w’ in TwO is corrected to TWO but the word ‘so’ at the end of the line has disappeared:


And now the space between the ‘F’ and the ‘B’ in F BACon is line 33 on the page.
And the T in TwO in the next column, to the right of F BACon, is line 100 on the page.
Thinking about letters and their numerical values, I know that the word ‘Bacon’ has a value of 33. (B=2 + A=1 + C=3 + O=14 + N=13 = 33)


’Francis’ has a value of 67, thus giving ‘Francis Bacon’ a total value of 100.
Then I spot something else. Another mistake. Between the word ‘how’, which should be capitalised, and the‘s’ of ‘so’ in the brackets there are 33 lines. In other words, another possible allusion to Bacon. There seems to be a momentum to emphasise the number 33.


Another observation I have made is that the little ‘w’ is on line 12 from the top. And it is 21 lines down to the little‘s’. This is an interesting geometrical fact which not only alludes to the 12-21 inversion, but is also tied to a figure which will have decisive importance as the story progresses. It is related to Pythagoras´ famous 3-4-5 triangle. Without digging too much at this stage I would just briefly mention that these three misprints are all connected to this Pythagoras triangle:


You’ll have to examine this on your own when you have time. As a kind of foretaste of what’s to come. It does no harm to point out the word ‘bootlesse’ in the right angle.

First of all. I’ll have to go home and think about the idea that I’m sitting and talking to a man who clearly habitually draws geometric shapes on ancient texts. Exotic, to put it mildly.
At this point in my research I had not yet got hold of the books I possess today. Mostly I took things off the Net. It wasn’t until much later that I obtained the books and travelled to the British Library to order printouts. Now I have a library of my own, but the Net got me started. As an owner of The Advancement of Learning, the 1640 English edition, page 33, I found something similar. A quick study of the text reveals an acrostic, BAC, and on the opposite page, a telestich, ON, and then you have an ‘E’ and an ‘F’ and an ‘S’. In other words, FS BACONE.


FS BACONE. Bacone is an ablative form of ‘Bacon’, meaning ‘by’. Francis was often written FS:


These are measurable matters. I have, for example, sat counting and checking the probability of certain letters appearing in certain contexts in The Tempest, such as TwO being situated opposite BACon. Guess what I found.

I give up. Lots?

Based on a count of letters at the end of the lines in the 19 pages of The Tempest, a rough probability calculation makes the odds of these letters occurring naturally 1:2 billion. And since it appears on page 2, you would thus have to have two billion further publications before the probability is that this acrostic will appear again.

The reason I don’t ask you awkward follow-up questions is that I’ve decided to let you tell the story in the way you see fit. I could have run off to a maths professor this morning to find out whether your probability calculus was correct, but I won’t. I’ll try and understand what you’re saying. Others can do the analysis.

Sounds good. As you already know, I have no desire to be found wanting. What I say can stand the light of day. Even if I had kept it to myself.
To progress now, I had to examine the frequency of individual words in Shakespeare’s plays. You can run a search on the Net, you can see where they appear, how many times, and so on. The first word I searched for was, of course, ‘Bacon’.


As it stands, the word appears twice. The word ‘Bacons’ appears once, a strange choice of a word because ‘bacon’ is uncountable, but it could be the Bacon family, hence the Bacons, but all the same. The last variant of the word is ‘Baconfed’. The two occasions when ‘bacon’ appears are on page 53 of The Merry Wives of Windsor and page 53 of Henry IV, Part 1. An amusing parenthesis is that the numerical value of the word poet is also 53: P = 15, O = 14, E = 5, T = 19.
In the play actually entitled Henry IV, Part 1 or 1 Henry IV it is striking that the pages number 45, 46, 49, 50, 51, 52 and 53.
In other words, pages 47 and 48 are missing. They don’t exist. It might therefore seem as if someone wanted a particular piece of information to appear on one page and it was so important for this person that he or they manipulated the page numbers to make it fit.


The other occurrence has a context related to an anecdote Bacon grew up with. A man called Hog was trying to get off a severe sentence in a case which Nicholas Bacon was presiding over by saying they had to be kinsmen – Bacon and Hog. Fine, said Bacon, but Hog does not become Bacon until it has been well hanged! On page 53 in Merry Wives it says: “Hang Hog is latten for Bacon”. This story did not become public knowledge until long after Francis was dead, roughly in the middle of the 1600s.

And what about posible anomalies in The Merry Wives of Windsor?

There is a new scene on page 53. It’s new in the First Folio. It wasn’t in earlier editions, the so-called Quarto editions. And no-one has successfully explained how Shakespeare managed to write a new scene when he had been dead for 7 years, but in academic Shakespeare editions, such as The Arden Shakespeare, it says this scene is not relevant to the development of the plot, but it seems the writer wanted to play with words.
The way I see it, this scene was put in to have the word ‘Bacon’ on page 53.
The same page also gives us a lesson in telestich, in other words, the code which hides a message at the end of the line.


We’ll come back to this, but for now let’s focus on the word ‘Caret’, which appears twice in the book, once every 450 pages, and then they have lengthened the lines and even managed to finish on letter ‘C’ exactly where ‘Bacon’ and ‘Caret’ are. See also that there is a Pythagorean triangle between the ‘O’s and that the hypotenuse is extended to point to ‘Bacon’.
With respect to Henry IV, Part 1 the version is relatively unchanged from earlier editions, but you have to skip two pages to have the word ‘Bacon’ appear on page 53. However, number 53 has a lot more to it than just that. You’ll see in time.

And 53 + 53 make 106.

Yes. Like the average of the lines in the decoded epitaph is 53.

It must have been hell writing this to make it all fit. If you’re right, that is.
I also believe it must have been hell constructing all this. Whether or not I am right will soon be clear. You’ll have to wait and see.
But why page 53?
As I said, it’s the numerical value of POET, so it must be a way of signalling that. But I didn’t think about it until much later. Rightly, because 53 has a very special function. But let’s not take short cuts. We have to take it step by step. I looked at page 53 of The Advancement of Learning, but to my disappointment found nothing. I searched here, there and everywhere. Nothing. But on page 2 I found a TWO acrostic.


And the ‘W’ has moved in, for no reason. That’s promising.
The numerical value of TWO is 54. So I turned to page 54, and there I found TwO again as an acrostic. With a small ‘w’ and everything.


And then I looked at the next page. What should have been page 55. But there is no 55. Instead it is 53. So there are two page 53s in The Advancement of Learning. And on this page “Sir Francis Bacon” is written beside the text.


Bacon is quoting himself and crediting himself. It happens two or three times in the whole book, which is about 500 pages long. And to make it abundantly clear it is placed in such a way on the page that the TWO acrostic is opposite Bacon’s name, more or less as we see it in the First Folio.

At this point I stopped believing it was chance playing tricks with me. On the contrary, I began to believe that somewhere there was some meaning, and I became more and more obsessed with finding it. I just didn’t know what the TWO meant. I also began to be more alert to the meaning of some of the other numbers, that is that 33 is Bacon and 100 is Francis Bacon and so on.

Back on the Net, I searched Shakespeare’s works for the word ‘cipher’. I discovered that the word crops up seven times in all the plays. ‘Cipher’ often means ‘code’, but the original meaning may have been ‘zero’. In one of the seven manifestations, where the word does not necessarily mean ‘zero’ something dramatic happens, causing all my warning lights to flash. All doubts are simply swept away. Both about the gravestone and the First Folio. We’ll take that next time. though.

OK. I accept that you’re in charge of the dramaturgy here, and I’ll go home obediently and note down what was said at this meeting. I have to admit that so far I am fascinated, but not a hundred per cent convinced. It feels as if I’ll have to swallow hard to absorb everything you’ve said today. I’m very unsure that the original grave stone was as claimed. If someone can catch you on that, the whole reasoning falls to pieces
I’m fine with your scepticism, but much of what we have covered today is completely independent of the gravestone. I haven’t drawn the final link between the stone and the book. I’m trying to tell you this in as much detail as I can so that others will be able to see what I have seen. If my thoughts can be dismissed as insanity or wishful thinking, I’ve lost and naturally enough that’s not what I want. The story continues. We’ve only just started.

This book has an international agent: Cappelen Agency, Oslo - Norway
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Postby Jo on Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:47 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this Petter! It's very generous of you and on first glance, looks fascinating.

It's going to take some digesting, but as soon as I'm done, I'm sure I'll have some questions...

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Postby . . . on Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:10 pm


To begin with, perhaps I should make my position clear. While I concede that there are many things not quite right about the Shakespeare compendium, I have found no compelling evidence yet to convince me that this was entirely the work of another individual.

So, in the absence of any proof satisfactory to me, I am inclined to attribute the Shakespearean corpus to Shakespeare of Stratford. Of course, he may have had help, and would probably have needed it, and the output attributed to him may have been the work of a consortium, or he may have just been the ideas man, or the dogsbody who put the scripts to paper and added players' notes. That's my feeling at present, and I trust we can keep this civil!

To begin with, I positively concur with Ignatius Donnelly (and Elizabeth Wells Gallup) that there is something not quite right about the form and presentation of the1623 Folio, but I find Donnelly, Owen and Gallup very heavy going, and I trust you will make things easier than they did! I am also sympathetic with the idea of messages being woven into books.

Your preliminary chapters should be of some interest to the newcomer to the controversy but I have never felt quite happy about such interpretations of the text on the Shakespeare memorial stones: that is, the gravestone and the monument plaque.

First, I'm not convinced of the pedigree of either of these. If we discount the existing gravestone inscription and revert to that provided by Black and Donnelly then I feel we may have a problem of style, as the engraving of THE as TE is common to both and I've seen no proof that the monument stone was transferred from the original (ref. Dugdale, 1656 and Rowe, 1709) when it was later rebuilt. I'm also concerned about the internals of the gravestone inscription. Technically, Halliwell-Phillips gets the grammar right. Why should the third line not read "Blest be" when the line below reads "Curst be"?

If it is original and genuine then there is clearly something suspicious about it - quite apart from its un-Shakespearean quality - and a bi-literal cypher does seem to be suggested, although the raised letters may be significant in themselves.

I would observe that the text does seem to follow the normal convention of capitalising noun and line initials but, were the 'P' of sPares raised then these letters might simply indicate the word SHAKESPEAR (BE), or such, on the right. There would be no need for any further machinations -unless you count HID, on the left!.

Alright, I concede, the letters must be rearranged to read: SHAKESPEAR HID ME FB. And we all know FB is Francis Bacon. :wink: Keep It Sweet and Simple!

However, should we not consider the possibility that the tombstone inscription might even post-date Bacon? I didn't hear back from you what you thought of The Byrom Collection but I feel that this indicates a resurgence of interest in things Shakespearean, bearing upon my particular interest in 18th century esoterica.

Most people would not think to put a plea on their grave exorting people to leave their remains alone, and such a request hints at the possibity that somebody might think not to do so. I feel that nobody would have thought to remove Shakespeare's remains until he was widely known and appreciated, such that there might be suggestions that he be reburied in Westminster Abbey. I understand that he wasn't that famous in his own time.

These few niggles aside, if we accept that somebody (Bacon?) managed to introduce a bi-literal cypher into the engraving on Shakespeare's tombstone then must we be committed to interpreting the resulting plaintext in the manner described by Black? Obviously not. If the plaintext is presented in two lines then we may miss the SHAXPEAR indicator completely, as below:


However, if this is presented in a circle of 22 letters, for example, then we could proceed around it in the form of a clock cypher, skipping letters arithmetically and thus rearranging the text, perhaps making it meaningful. Why should the procedure you indicate be necessarily the one intended? One such process produces:


This is no more meaningful than the 'accepted' interpretation but here the SHAXPEAR is more pronounced. However, why should the reader have to resort to anagrams at all?

Since the result of the bi-literal cypher is unintelligible why could this not be in yet another cypher, such as the Vigenere or Porta, requiring a key, and resulting in a straightforward plaintext with no manipulation?

There are so many variations on a theme that proceeding on the basis of solving anagrams is ultimately unconvincing. Just taking anagrams of the above, I could venture:


This is totally unconvincing, and I might essay:


This would certainly not be something that Bacon would want to say, or be associated with, in public, far less than:


As one could follow any one of hundreds of different paths I don't feel, personally, that anagraming and delving into the works of Shakespeare searching for substitute letters for numerological consideration is necessary in this case, and proves nothing except that it is possible to do as you have done.

I don't say that what you have done is not what was intended, just that you haven't convinced me that what you did is necessarily indicated by the internals, or externals, of the cypher.

Despite your distaste for Donnelly's work I did feel, towards the end, that I was back looking at his 'magnum opus', particularly his introduction to The Great Cryptogram (Vol 2, pp 555-558) where he discovers, hidden in the text: Francis Bacon Nicholas Bacon's son. The pointer, again, is:

I have a gammon of Bacon and two razes of ginger ...

For my part, I don't need pointers such as these to take a serious look at the works of Shakespeare as presented in the First Folio, but I wonder how many people you will convince with your preliminary argument.

As you say, what you present here is just a taster, and I look forward to seeing what more you have to offer later in your research.

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Postby Petter Amundsen on Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:18 pm


Thank you for taking your time commenting. I really like this kind of discussion. I will try to answer below.

First, I'm not convinced of the pedigree of either of these. If we discount the existing gravestone inscription and revert to that provided by Black and Donnelly then I feel we may have a problem of style, as the engraving of THE as TE is common to both and I've seen no proof that the monument stone was transferred from the original (ref. Dugdale, 1656 and Rowe, 1709) when it was later rebuilt. I'm also concerned about the internals of the gravestone inscription. Technically, Halliwell-Phillips gets the grammar right. Why should the third line not read "Blest be" when the line below reads "Curst be"?

Black and I have used the gravestone as it is given in Charles Knight’s bio on Shakespeare. Halliwell-Phillips tells us that it was like the one reported by Knight – and uncouth mixture of large and small letters. In 1825 a booklet was published with the gravestone as it is today. Knight was published in 1842. This means that he was in Stratford almost 20 years prior to publishing, or that he is lying (as is Halliwell-Phillips). I think Knight was right. If he was lying, that opens up a whole new ballgame.

If it is original and genuine then there is clearly something suspicious about it - quite apart from its un-Shakespearean quality - and a bi-literal cypher does seem to be suggested. However, should we not consider the possibility that the tombstone inscription might even post-date Bacon?

It might be post-Bacon, but I think that would be strange. Why change a slab that often?

Most people would not think to put a plea on their grave exorting people to leave their remains alone, and such a request hints at the possibity that somebody might think to do so. I feel that nobody would have thought to remove Shakespeare's remains until he was widely known and appreciated, such that there might be suggestions that he be reburied in Westminster Abbey. I understand that he wasn't that famous in his own time.

He died unsung and unwept, to quote Mark Twain. They had an ossuary in the church where his bones might have ended up. I think the curse was there to safeguard the stone and to create more interest.

These few niggles aside, if we accept that somebody (Bacon?) managed to introduce a bi-literal cypher into the engraving on Shakespeare's tombstone then must we be committed to interpreting the resulting plaintext in the manner described by Black? Obviously not. If the plaintext is presented in two lines then we may miss the SHAXPEAR indicator completely, as below:


The plaintext is linked to the ciphertext. It has four lines, as has the plaintext-table.

However, if this is presented in a circle of 22 letters, for example, then we could proceed around it in the form of a clock cypher, skipping letters arithmetically and thus rearranging the text, perhaps making it meaningful. Why should the procedure you indicate be necessarily the one intended? One such process produces:


Well, you could experiment and see where that would take you. I know that there is confirmation to be harvested following the first steps of Black.

This is no more meaningful than the 'accepted' interpretation but here the SHAXPEAR is more pronounced. However, why should the reader have to resort to anagrams at all?

That is the key. Why anagrams? Initially I thought it would be so much neater if the plaintext simply read: Bacon wrote Shakspeare. But now I see there is a reason behind it. If the plaintext was of end-all quality, then it would prove nothing. You could just challenge it by blaming a corrupt stone mason, working for Bacon. It would mean nothing to the authorship debate. However, I am more interested in the treasure hunt than proving who wrote Shakespeare.
As the result of the bi-literal cypher is unintelligible why could this not be in yet another cypher, such as the Vigenere, requiring a key, and resulting in a straightforward plaintext with no manipulation?

If you compound YETA with the key DUST you get CANV. This continues the letters BA beginning line 2. BACANV is not an anagram, even though it is too short as a plaintext to end discussions.

There are so many variations on a theme that proceeding on the basis of solving anagrams is ultimately unconvincing. Just taking anagrams of the above, I could venture:


This is totally unconvincing, and I might essay:


This would certainly not be something that Bacon would want to say, or be associated with, in public, far less than:


Funny. The point is not to go bananas with anagrammatic possibilities. The point is to look for confirmation in the First Folio. Proving an anagram is very difficult. W.SHAXPEARE FR BACAN V and ARRA makes some sense as you have the name of the dead man, the name of the cipher-maker and four letters that could be nulls or they could mean ARRA – good faith money.

As one could follow any one of hundreds of different paths I don't feel, personally, that anagraming and delving into the works of Shakespeare searching for substitute letters for numerological consideration is necessary in this case, and proves nothing except that it is possible to do as you have done.

I agree.

don't say that what you have done is not what was intended, just that you haven't convinced me that what you did is necessarily indicated by the internals, or externals, of the cypher.

My co-writer, Erlend Loe, had his moment of enlightenment while he was working on chapter eight… You are not supposed to be convinced at this point, but hopefully intrigued.

Despite your distaste for Donnelly's work I did feel, towards the end, that I was back looking at his 'magnum opus', particularly his introduction to The Great Cryptogram (Vol 2, pp 555-558) where he discovers, hidden in the text: Francis Bacon Nicholas Bacon's son. The pointer, again, is:

I have a gammon of Bacon and two razes of ginger ...

That line is cherished by most Baconians, I would assume.

For my part, I don't need pointers such as these to take a serious look at the works of Shakespeare as presented in the First Folio, but I wonder how many people you will convince with your preliminary argument.

As you say, what you present here is just a taster, and I look forward to seeing what more you have to offer later in your research

Of course there is more. This is just a (too) difficult piece of it. But that is how it started for me.
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Postby Petter Amundsen on Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:25 pm

A fun coincidence (discovered by Jørgen Friberg, our film director) is that on the neighbouring grave, that of Thomas Nashe, telestic letters spell out AET (Aetatis) 53. Aetatis 53 is a clue on the Shakespeare plaque on the nearby wall, and the average of 53 per line is a feature of the solved cipher:
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
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Postby . . . on Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:40 pm


In haste, as I am about to go out. I'll provide a considered reply when I return.

I must confess that I was conveying my fear that the gravestone is either 'touched up' or a fake. I believe that the Rennes-Le-Chateau mystery has an inscription of a supposed 'planted' tombstone introduced into the 'evidence' in support of a spurious argument, or hoax.

As indicated in my post, I considered it possible that somebody like me was supposed to notice that the raised letters, if rearranged, would read SHAKES(P)EAR HID ME FB:

Good Frend for Iesus SAKE forbeare
to digg the Dust EncloAsed HERe.
blest be the Man y sPares thes Stones
and curst be He y moves my Bones.

That is, raising the P of 'spares' gives: FISAKEDEAHERMPSHB

However, this seems to be going back to a time before the Baconian controversy was first mooted - about 1850? - because Charles Knight's Shakespear is marginally too early. If we then assume the hypothesis to be correct, and the P must be raised, then this would suggest that Knight either initiated the hoax, making an error at 'sPares', or he copied the inscription incorrectly, or the inscription he was copying was itself an inaccurate copy.

We are then certainly pushing the Baconian claim back much earlier than I am aware it surfaced (William Henry Smith).

The hypothesis implies that, if there is, nevertheless, a bi-literal cypher in the text (and it would be a clever thing to have achieved) then there would be a letter change as a result of raising the P of 'sPares', and other changes if ThE is not considered. However, it is the T_E of 'T_Hes' that gives the required X. I studied a whole lot of variations but wasn't convinced by any, but W.SHAXPEARE BAC. can appear with the remainder as possible fillers (e.g. RARARA), or a second 'line' of BETRAY etc.

Frankly, it just didn't seem worth pursuing. :cry:


PS. I've just seen your '53'. An intriguing coincidence most likely lost on many readers! I don't suppose John Hall was a page by calling, was he? :lol:
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Postby Petter Amundsen on Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:56 pm

Good one!

I have checked and made amends. The grave is of Thomas Nashe. I had to look it up in my Dugdale.

Again, to adjust source material is dangerous. I stay with Knight. Black's subjectivity lies in the designation of the H in T-E to be a small letter.

A fun fact is that the name of the dead poet(?) is missing. But the large letters SAKE give you the H (aabbb). Then on line three you have "spares". The plaque on the wall says: "Read if thou canst". To me it is a message to look closer.

Jørgen Friberg made a preliminary reconstruction of the original stone using letters from the plaque. It has been improved on, but this is his sketch:
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Postby . . . on Fri Nov 02, 2007 12:27 am


I wasn't suggesting that anybody should change the evidence to suit themselves. What is written is written, but may not reflect the way things were originally.

I know of a very old gravestone that contains a rhyme that my father often quoted from his memories as a boy. The stone was partially destroyed after he left the area and was subsequently 'reconstructed'. When I eventually saw the stone, the inscription differed slightly from what my father had quoted, and I assumed that he'd got it wrong. However, I later found another gravestone with the same rhyme upon it some 150 miles away but this version matched the one my father had always quoted.

I will never know if the two gravestones originally said exactly the same thing but it would be strange if my father was quoting from another gravestone that he hadn't seen, to my knowledge! I assume, therefore, that the 'reconstructed' gravestone was in error in just one word, even though the inscriber, or the person specifying the new text, had probably seen the original. The other possibility is that there may have been a guess at a particularly faded section.

This could have happened to the Shakespeare gravestone when it was copied. This isn't something that can be proved, but I think it extremely odd that the upper case letters on the right hand side of a SHAKESPEARE gravestone (excluding T.Es) can be arranged to form the word SHAKESPEAR without the P, but that a P exists in the text. Not only this, but there is also the possible transcription error in 'BLESE' instead of 'BLEST'.

I'm trying to suggest that the original inscription may not be exactly what we are assuming it to have been. For all anybody knows, the original could have read:

Good Frend for Iesus SAKE forbeare
To digg the Dust EncloAsed HEaRe.
Blest be the Man that sPares thes Stones
And curst be He that moves my Bones.

Both ye and yt could have been used to save space, but I note that the long forms were in use at the time. Perhaps the copier, or the inscriber, made an error with Blest, and the inscriber also took it upon himself, as a design motif, to make 'THE' into a not altogether unpleasing TE glyph, as also with a vertical YT.

This suggestion would almost certainly discount the possibility of a bi-literal cypher and lead to exclamations that it is unsubstantiated drivel. However, to demonstrate that the bi-literal conjecture is valid, it would need to be demonstrated that we are working from an original dating back to the second or third decade of the 17th century. I don't think this can be done, so any work whatsoever on the gravestone inscription is speculative.

I'm also not too happy about the memorial tablet. The first line seems so clumsy. Given that this is iambic pentameter, why begin with two stressed syllables? The command, 'stay' must surely be stressed in this instance. So, why use the word 'passenger', which is stressed on the first syllable and sounds odd (note that 'goest' is one syllable)? What is wrong with 'stranger', 'traveller' or even 'passer' (2 syllables): surely, these words existed at that time. Throw in the unstressed pronoun linked to the command and we could have: Stay thee, stranger, why go'st thou by so fast? This presents two trochees at the beginning (and some sibillance) but seems eminenly more acceptable than as now written. Furthermore, starting with 'Stay thee, passer' would retain the context, and root, of 'passenger'.

Once again, it's almost as if somebody has taken a shot at remembering an original, but has failed in the attempt, and has not appreciated the overall poetic effect. This has happened, on occasion, between Quarto and First Folio. Not that I'm particularly bothered which words are used but it seems to me that this is another pointer to something not quite right.

In these cases, I feel that it's a pointer to our not having sight of the originals, and this ought to be addressed in any discussion. I feel that if anybody is going to make a declaration based on the documentation we have at hand then they have to be sure that they are working on a precise rendering of what was written down on day one.

I just don't think we can say this, particularly as we know that the gravestone was lost, perhaps badly faded, then 'copied', and that the memorial was likely rebuilt, and we can see that the style of inscribing (the combining in 'THE' and 'YE') is the same in both.

I suggest that they are probably contemporary and may even date to the mid-18th century when the bust was replaced. Furthermore, I would not guarantee that the gravestone inscription was accurately transcribed in the 19th century.
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