Enter content here


Published Sept. 5, 2011

Beale Treasure Story
New Result: The Beale Treasure Story is Likely to be True


Some people believe the Beale treasure story is true; others believe it is an elaborate hoax. I have heard most of the arguments, pro and con. I do know this: Arguments against the treasure story can be refuted on the basis of counterarguments. And, new evidence exists showing that the treasure story is true.
In this article, I present new arguments, not found elsewhere, which demonstrate with a degree of certainty that the Beale treasure story is true. This result is derived from two arguable propositions, viz.
Proposition 1: If the Beale Ciphers B1 and B3 are genuine, then the treasure story is likely to be true.
Proposition 2: Beale Ciphers B1 and B3 are likely to be genuine.
Genuine or Real Cipher: A cipher in which a cipher text is produced via an enciphering operation in which letters in a plain text are replaced by cipher numbers in a key.  
Homophonic Cipher: A cipher in which the same plain text letter can be enciphered with possibly many different cipher numbers in the key.
Book Cipher: A special kind of homophonic cipher where the cipher numbers in the key are determined by numbering the letters or words in a key text, typically taken from a book.
Bogus or Phony Cipher: A cipher in which a cipher text is produced by selecting numbers more or less at random, i.e., "pulling numbers out of thin air."
Encryptor: A person who creates a cipher text (real or bogus).
If B1 and B3 are Genuine, then the Treasure Story is Likely to be True
In this subsection, arguments are offered as proof of proposition 1.
Besides the obvious explanation that the treasure story is true, there are a number of alternate conjectures that have been advanced to explain the origin and purpose of the Beale Papers. These alternate conjectures are listed and arguments are given to show that all but one of these can be easily ruled out as being unlikely, namely the treasure story is a hoax perpetrated by the anonymous author of Ward's pamphlet. Four different arguments are presented to show it is unlikely that a hoaxer would choose to create genuine ciphers that potentially could be decoded rather than bogus ciphers that could not be decoded. Thus, by a process of elimination, it is shown that the only likely way that genuine ciphers B1 and B3 could have been created is for the treasure story to be true.
Ever since learning about the Beale treasure story, I have heard it said: "It is possible for the Beale Ciphers to be genuine even though the treasure story itself may be a hoax." Dr. Carl Hammer, founder of the Beale Cypher Association (BCA), was fond of saying that when B1 is eventually decoded it may be found to say something like "I was just kidding." This would usually bring forth a chuckle from BCA members. At the time, Hammer's conjecture seemed like it might be possible.
Over the years, people have speculated that the Beale treasure story may not be what it is claimed to be. If the treasure story is a hoax, it is generally conceded that ciphers B1 and B3 are most likely bogus. But, they could be genuine. So far, I have never heard of a case where it has been conjectured that one of the ciphers (B1 or B3) is genuine and the other cipher (B3 or B1) is bogus. In any case, this theoretical possibility can be ruled out.
Chapter 6 of Beale Treasure Story: New Insights describes a computer test performed on ciphers B1 and B3, which showed that the two ciphers have similar or like frequency distributions. Additional tests were performed using real and bogus ciphers, which led to a conclusion that B1 and B3 were created using the same creative process, viz.      
(1) B1 and B3 are both real ciphers, created (most likely by the same encryptor) using the same cipher method and key,
(2) B1 and B3 are both bogus ciphers, created by the same hoaxer with a preference or bias for selecting certain numbers over others.  
Therefore, the test results serve as justification or proof of the following stated proposition: 
Porposition 3: Ciphers B1 and B3 are both genuine or both bogus. 
In his book, The Beale Treasure New History of a Mystery, Peter Viemeister postulates that Ward's pamphlet can be classified in four ways, viz.  
Pure Creative Fiction: Published to make money; the treasure story is fiction; ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 are pure gibberish.
A Cover Story: The treasure was acquired illegally; the treasure story was fabricated by the anonymous author and others to allow the perpetrators to claim legitimate ownership of the treasure by "finding it;" ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 are pure gibberish.
Mostly True: The treasure story is untrue, but there is a treasure that came from another source; Beale was an imposter and Morriss was duped; ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 are legitimate.
All True: The treasure story is true and ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 are genuine.
According to Viemeister, a German researcher theorized that the gold and silver buried in Beale's vault was looted from the Mexican government treasury after the American victory in the Mexican War of 1847–48. A more persistent claim is that Beale's treasure is actually the legendary missing Confederate Treasury of the 1860s. It is known that early on April 3, 1865, Jefferson Davis and members of his cabinet of the Confederate States of America boarded a special train in Richmond, bound for Danville, Virginia, bringing with them the assets of their treasury. The missing treasury has never been located. According to the "cover story" theory, The Beale Papers is a "fabrication, published to hide the truth of where the treasure came from and to 'launder' the loot."
However, there is good reason to doubt the "cover story" theory. If the pamphlet had been published to provide a "cover story," then one would expect the Beale treasure to have been located and removed within a reasonable period after the pamphlet's publication by the perpetrators of the "cover story." But, well over a hundred years has now passed, without any confirmed report that the treasure has been recovered, and so, it seems doubtful that the pamphlet was published with an intent to provide a "cover story."
A popular conjecture within the category of "mostly true" is that Thomas J. Beale was in reality the privateer Jean Laffite and Beale's vault contained the treasure of gold, silver, and jewels accumulated by the brothers, Jean and Pierre Laffite. However, there is justification for doubting this conjecture. Jean Laffite would not have known in 1822 that, three decades later, tons of gold would be mined near Pike's Peak, 250–300 miles north of Santa Fé. Unless Laffite made a lucky guess, there are only two ways that this fact could have been known: (1) the treasure story is true, or (2) the treasure story is untrue, but concocted at least in part after gold had been discovered near Pike's Peak. The "Laffite" conjecture is presumably based on a desire by Jean Laffite to have his treasure distributed to the heirs of the men in his band, or to his men posing as the heirs. But it seems unlikely that Laffite's men were Virginians, as stated in the treasure story. If the key to the ciphers had arrived in 1832, and B3 had been deciphered, Mr. Morriss would have realized that the storyline in the Beale Papers could not possibly be true. Few if any of the heirs given in B3 would be Virginians. Thus, the decoded B3 would not agree with the storyline in the Beale Papers. Given this anomaly, Mr. Morriss might have sought legal advice before proceeding, especially if the names Jean or Pierre Laffite appeared somewhere in the list of names.   
On the basis of the foregoing, Viemeister's categories of "cover story" and "mostly true" can be ruled as unlikely. This leaves the categories of "pure creative fiction" and "all true" as the likely explanations for the Beale treasure story.
For purposes of discussion, the category of "pure creative fiction" can be broken down into three sub-categories:

Beale was the hoaxer: Morriss, the anonymous author, and Ward were duped.

Morriss was the hoaxer: Beale never existed; the anonymous author and Ward were duped.

Anonymous author was the hoaxer: Beale never existed; Morriss was not involved in the hoax; the hoax was perpetrated by the anonymous author and his confederates.

Despite the fact that Beale or Morriss could have been hoaxers, neither possibility seems likely. The payoff realized from such a hoax could never begin to offset the tremendous effort required to create the Beale Papers. According to Viemeister (pp. 145–46), author of more than a dozen books, "creating a fictional The Beale Papers would be a challenging task." Viemeister says that "a fiction writer would need two or three years to work out this intricate story and the ciphers." Moreover, each man had little reason or incentive to perpetrate a hoax. After all, how much pleasure could Beale derive from leaving the papers in a locked box given to Mr. Morriss, with instructions that it not be opened for ten years? If the key did not arrive, the papers could easily end up in an ash can. If Mr. Morriss created the Beale Papers, how much pleasure could he derive from turning the papers over to an unsuspecting person, apparently a relative or friend, just months before his own death, never to rejoice in the pain and suffering inflicted on the anonymous author and his family? In each case, there was no assurance or even any prospect that the papers would ever receive notoriety, or that either Beale or Morriss might be revered as a clever hoaxer.
Regardless of whom the hoaxer might have been, one thing is certain. If the Beale Papers were fiction, it would require a significant effort and a significant period of time to write the story, just to get everything consistent, including the plot. Someone once asked author Ayn Rand what were the three most difficult things about writing and she replied: "plotting, plotting and plotting." According to Rand, "a plot is a purposeful progression of logically connected events leading to the resolution of a climax." According to Beale researcher Jerry Watt, the mere complexity of the Beale treasure story and the fact that it makes sense, historically, is a powerful argument that the entire story is real—something not very obvious to the average person.
In any case, on the basis of the foregoing, and in my opinion, the sub-categories of "Beale was the hoaxer" and "Morriss was the hoaxer" can be ruled as unlikely. This leaves the sub-category of "anonymous author was the hoaxer" and the category of "all true" as the remaining possibilities.
According to Viemeister, if the treasure story is "pure creative fiction," then ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 are pure gibberish. However, I think it better to acknowledge the possibility that the ciphers might be genuine if the treasure story was a hoax, and then argue against this supposition. In fact, there are at least four reasons why the supposition is unlikely to be true. Don't forget, an event may be possible, yet improbable. Astronomers tell us that it is possible for a massive asteroid to strike the earth and effectively destroy life as we know it, but astronomers also tell us that such an event is highly unlikely.
First off, if ciphers B1 and B3 were created as part of a hoax, there would have been no need to create genuine ciphers B1 and B3. Bogus ciphers B1 and B3 could be easily constructed, e.g., by "pulling numbers from thin air." This would be simpler than creating phony messages No. 1 and No. 3 and enciphering them to produce genuine ciphers B1 and B3. Why go to all the work of preparing genuine ciphers when bogus ciphers would do the job? Creating bogus ciphers B1 and B3 would have required far less work.
If it were the hoaxer's intention to make money from the sale of Ward's pamphlet, then sales could, and probably would be negatively impacted if knowledge of a hoax leaked out. The hoaxer would be concerned about protecting his return on investmentIf the hoaxer had considered the possibility of creating genuine ciphers B1 and B3, he would also have realized that this would require genuine looking (albeit phony) papers No. 1 and No.3 to be prepared. But there doesn't seem to be any constructive purpose for doing this. In fact, creating genuine ciphers would have a downside. If B1 contained a set of directions to a fictitious burial site, anyone decoding B1 would discover that the burial site was phony. Admittedly, an ambitious hoaxer could create his own burial site lined with stone, but without any gold, silver, or jewels. This might fool an unsuspecting treasure hunter who happened to decipher B1. In fact, upon discovering the empty vault, one might conclude that Beale and his men had indeed returned and removed the treasure long ago. But, what about B3? At best, it could contain a list of real people and real addresses. But upon checking a few of the names, it would be learned that the list had been concocted. There would be no way to perpetuate the masquerade. Eventually, it would be discovered that the names of supposed members of Beale's party had no connection to each other and had never participated in a western hunting expedition. If it was the hoaxer's intention to prevent someone—who decoded Beale's ciphers—from learning that the treasure story was a hoax, then creating messages No. 1 and No. 3 and enciphering them to produce B1 and B3 would undermine this objective. It would be safest to create bogus ciphers that could never be decoded, and thereby protect your return on investment.
It seems certain that family honor and reputation would be damaged if the treasure story was a hoax and knowledge of the hoax leaked out. According to a statement made by George Hart in the Hart Papers (p. 8), "Inquiry among some aged neighbors of Ward showed the high respect they had for him, and brought forth the statement that Ward would never practice deception." It is clear that Ward had a reputation to protect. But what about the anonymous author? Although not a certain fact, the anonymous author is suspected to have been Lynchburg resident, Ferdinand C. Hutter. The unblemished reputations of Hutter, his family, and his relatives could be easily scarred if Hutter was implicated in a hoax. F. C. Hutter had been a major in the Confederate Army. His father had been a U.S. Army officer prior to the Civil War. His wife Mary Lyons was the daughter of Judge James Lyons (1801–82), who attended William and Mary and established a thriving law practice in Richmond, where he served ten years as district attorney and was active in Whig (until 1852) and Democratic politics; he chaired the 1872 convention that nominated Charles O'Conor for president. A prominent civic leader and an early advocate of secession, Lyons was "a pillar of the administration" in his one term in the House, 1862–63. He and his wife were close friends of the [Jefferson] Davises': Varian remembered enjoying their "large and graceful hospitality" at Laburnum, their home in the suburbs, and later said he was "our dear and intimate friend." Lyons addressed Andrew Johnson on [Jefferson] Davis' behalf, volunteered his legal services, was a bondsman in 1867, and kept in touch with [Jefferson] Davis the rest of his life. One of Lyons' sons-in-law was [General] William B. Taliaferro (1822-1898), who married Lyons' daughter Sally, U.S. Army officer, lawyer, legislator and Confederate general in the Civil War. Henry A. Wise was his brother-in-law. James Lyons Taliaferro (1855–1928), son of General William B. Taliaferro and Sally Lyons, was also a Virginia lawyer and Judge. Even if the treasure story were true, allowing F. C. Hutter to be cited as the author of Ward's pamphlet could possibly be embarrassing for the relatives of Hutter's wife. And, this may explain in part why F. C. Hutter (assuming he was the anonymous author) chose to remove his name as author of the pamphlet. (The information about James Lyons was taken from The Papers of Jefferson Davis: June 1865–December 1870, by Jefferson Davis, Lynda Lasswell Crist, Suzanne Scott Gibbs, and Brady L. Hutchison, footnote 22, page 26.)
Imagine the impact that the following (make believe) article might have if printed in the Lynchburg and Richmond newspapers: 
It has been reported that Ferdinand C. Hutter together with James B. Ward, both residents of Lynchburg, have been implicated in a scandalous hoax perpetrated on their neighbors and friends, in the city and surrounding area. F. C. Hutter, former major in the Confederate army, is the son of the late George C. Hutter, U.S. Army officer, and is the husband of Mary Lyons, daughter of the late Judge James Lyons of Richmond, lawyer, former Richmond district attorney, and legislator. She is also the daughter-in-law of William B. Taliaferro, U.S. Army officer, lawyer, legislator and Confederate general in the American Civil War. Ward is the son of the late Giles Ward and grandson of the late James B. Risque, both former attorneys practicing in Lynchburg for many years.
[This is followed by a short description of the treasure story.]
[This is followed by a description of how the hoax was uncovered.]
[This is followed by a list of other relatives together with ranks and titles, accompanied with a statement saying "So far relatives of the perpetrators have refrained from commenting on the matter."]
By all accounts, it would be foolish to perpetrate a hoax in the first place. It would be doubly foolish to perpetrate a hoax and not take steps to avoid the inadvertent exposure of the hoax by a person who happened to decode one of the ciphers. Family honor and reputation would seem to be a powerful motivating factor to be considered by the hoaxer. Why create genuine ciphers B1 and B3, and risk the possible exposure of a hoax, and subsequent loss of family honor and reputation, if the ciphers happened to be decoded?
Threat of a lawsuit would be another powerful motivating factor to be considered by the hoaxer. The anonymous author of Ward's pamphlet spent nearly twenty years trying to solve Beale's ciphers. And, according to Ward's pamphlet (p. 3), "regardless of the entreaties of his family and the persistent advice of his friend ... he stubbornly continued his investigations, until absolute want stared him in the face and forced him to yield to their persuasions." This describes a man totally consumed with the task of decoding Beale's ciphers. Suppose that after Ward's pamphlet had been published, a few readers became equally absorbed in the matter, toiling many hours in hopes of recovering the treasure despite the fact that the pamphlet warned against doing so. How might these persons react upon learning that the treasure story was a hoax? They might be downright angry. Could the anonymous author and Ward successfully blame the matter on Beale or Morriss? Perhaps, but that might also be chancy. Under the threat of exposure, someone might talk. In such an event, the anonymous author and Ward may be exposed to a possible lawsuit. Thus, if the treasure story was a hoax, it would be imperative for the anonymous author and Ward to keep their participation in the matter secret. Why create genuine ciphers B1 and B3, and risk the possible exposure of a hoax and a possible lawsuit, if the ciphers happened to be decoded?
Even if the treasure story did not begin as an intentional hoax, but instead began as a fictional story, later turned into a nonfiction narrative and sold in pamphlet form to make money, the perpetrators of the hoax (anonymous author, James B. Ward, and possibly others) would still be concerned about their family's honor and reputation and the risk of a possible lawsuit. However, in this case, ciphers B1 and B3 (included as part of the fictional story) would have been created by the author of the fictional story. And, it may be that the perpetrators of the hoax would have no way to know whether ciphers B1 and B3 were genuine or bogus. In that case, the safest course would be for the perpetrators to discard the inherited ciphers and replace them with newly created bogus ciphers. Thus, even if ciphers B1 and B3 started out as part of a fictional story, it seems likely that they would have been used by the hoaxers only if they were known to be bogus ciphers; otherwise they would have been discarded and replaced by bogus ciphers.
Conclusions: If the treasure story is a hoax, then ciphers B1 and B3 are most likely bogus. If the treasure story is true, then ciphers B1 and B3 are genuine and created by Beale. Conversely, if ciphers B1 and B3 are bogus, then the treasure story is a hoax. If ciphers B1 and B3 are not bogus (but instead real), then the ciphers were most likely created by Beale and the treasure story is most likely true.

 Beale Ciphers B1 and B3 are Likely to be Genuine

In this subsection, two arguments are offered as proof of proposition 2. The first argument offers proof that B1 is likely genuine. The second argument, which is independent of the first argument, offers proof that B3 is likely genuine. Either argument, together with proposition 3, is sufficient to show that B1 and B3 are likely to be genuine. But together, the two independent arguments provide even stronger evidence that B1 and B3 are real. 

The remarkable thing is that the arguments showing that B1 and B3 are genuine are not based on an analysis of the cipher numbers themselves. The arguments are based on simple observations about the construction of the ciphers. I may have discovered something that other researchers have missed. It is this: A hoaxer acting on behalf of a fictional character confronted with a make-believe situation will not always act in the same way that a real-life character will act when confronted with a similar real-life situation. If this axiom is applied to the Beale treasure story, it is possible to use projected differences in the storyline to make important inferences about the treasure story itself.
B1 is Likely a Genuine Cipher
Several monotonic increasing letter strings occur in the recovered plain text when B1 is deciphered with the key to B2. In a monotonic increasing letter string, each letter is either one greater than the previous letter or equal to the previous letter. The observed deciphered strings and their corresponding locations in B1 are these:

Location  String 
James Gillogly was the first to draw attention to the letter strings [1]. But, as he could find no explanation for these strings under an assumption that the treasure story was true, his inclination was that at least the first cipher, B1, was a hoax. In Gillogly's own words: "I visualize the encryptor selecting numbers more or less at random, but occasionally growing bored and picking entries from the numbered Declaration of Independence in front of him, in several cases choosing numbers with an alphabetic sequence."
Creating a bogus cipher would be boring. I am sure of that. But it is unclear why the encryptor's boredom would be relieved by interrupting the random number selection process in order to create monotonic increasing letter strings in B1, using the key to B2. In effect, this would constitute an enciphering operation, in which letters in the plain text, or letter string, are replaced by homophones in the key. Don't forget that an enciphering operation may require counting forward or backward from the nearest numbered letter or word in the key text. It would seem that the encryptor would be more apt to relieve his boredom by looking for ways to speed the process up, rather than resort to a more tedious operation of encryption.
Beale researcher, Ronald Gervais, conjectured that the monotonic increasing letter strings in B1 were inserted by a hoaxer, as if to say "Don't take this too seriously folks; it's just for fun." I'm not exactly sure how the letters strings could be interpreted to mean "Don't take this too seriously folks." Except for Gillogly's conjecture that the letter strings were the result of a hoaxer who became bored, I know of no other explanation for the presence of the strings in a bogus cipher B1 under an assumption that the treasure story is a hoax.
But, if it is conceded that a hoaxer did insert such letter strings in B1, then why insert imperfect monotonic increasing letter strings of the form ABCDEFGHIIJKLMMNOOPPP (with two clerical errors corrected [2]) when one could as easily insert perfectly formed letter strings of the form ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTU. The letters "A" through "U" were available in Beale's key to B2. There seems to be no reason for ending the string with letters 'PPP" when one could move right on to letter "Q." Why insert imperfect letter strings when one could as easily insert perfectly formed letter strings?
To me, the letter strings have the appearance of being created using a process of double encipherment, which of course means that cipher B1 is real and that the strings were created by Beale. It means that the cipher numbers corresponding to the letter strings can be deciphered with the key to B1 and the key to B2 to produce two different meaningful decodings. But as a practical matter, because double encipherment introduces an extra degree of difficulty into the enciphering process, this extra degree of difficulty could explain why Beale was able to create only imperfect letter strings.
As for the first four letter strings, AAAAB, AAABBCDEFF, AABBCCCCDDE, and ACBCDDE, they have the appearance of practice trials in which Beale experimented in order to learn (by doing) how the process of double encipherment could be accomplished. It is supposed that the fifth string ABCDEFGHIIJKLMMNOOPPP (with two clerical errors corrected) was a string of sufficient length to satisfy Beale's intended purpose.
Recall that in Beale's letter of May 9th, 1822, Beale gave Morriss several instructions concerning the locked iron box left in his charge. Among other things, Beale said that:
"Should none of us return you will please preserve carefully the box for the period of ten years from the date of this letter, and if I, or no one with authority from me, during that time demands its restoration, you will open it, which can be done by removing the lock."
It is clear from this instruction that Beale intended for someone other than himself to possibly demand the box from Mr. Morriss. This person would most likely be a member of Beale's company, but could and probably would be a person that Mr. Morriss had never met. The letter string ABCDEFGHIIJKLMMNOOPPP would serve as proof of this person's authority to retrieve the locked box. The recovery process would work as follows: Mr. Morriss would be instructed to number the words in a copy of the Declaration of Independence (DOI) and use the first letter of each word to decipher the 21 cipher numbers beginning with the 188th cipher number in the cipher beginning with cipher number 71 (i.e., B1).  Mr. Morriss would be told in advance that a recognizable letter string beginning with the letter "A" and ending with the letter "P" would be produced. Only a person with Beale's authority would know this information. Once the letter string was proven to be correct, Mr. Morriss would know that the person demanding the box had authority from Beale to reclaim the box and the person demanding the box would know that the cipher being examined was the genuine Cipher No. 1.  
Of course, the most important paper in the box was B1, as it alone contained the directions to the burial site of the treasure, which explains why Beale chose to insert the required letter string in B1. It also explains why it was unnecessary for Beale to create additional letter strings after once creating a letter string of sufficient length to serve his purpose. However, if the ciphers are bogus, it doesn't explain why the hoaxer's boredom abruptly ended with more than half of the numbers in cipher B1 still to be created.
Without knowing what Beale's key to B1 looked like, it is difficult to judge the degree of difficulty that he may have had in accomplishing the necessary double encipherment steps. There are a couple of "tricks" that Beale might have employed to facilitate the double encipherment process.
One method would be to make use of nulls in the key to B1. Nulls represent "nothing" and can be thought of as spaces or blanks. An easy way to make use of nulls would be for the key to B1 to be based on a book cipher in which the individual letters in the keytext are consecutively numbered, including the spaces between words. In that case, the spaces would represent nulls. And, as there would be many nulls (approximately one for every four or five letters in the keytext) to choose from, there would be no difficulty in forcing the double encipherment process to succeed. Thus, if the usual double encipherment step happened to fail, a recovery could be easily made by inserting one or more nulls into the plaintext (Paper No. 1) at the appropriate point.
The other method works only if the key for cipher B1 is defined by Beale himself. You might think of the key as a table with as many rows as there are letters in the alphabet. The key is populated by assigning cipher numbers or homophones to each letter in the key, by writing the homophones in the proper rows in the key. Thus, the assignment of homophones is a random or haphazard process. If a keytext is involved, the keytext itself determines the assignment of homophones to the letters in the key. In that case, the assignment is deterministic not random. For sake of discussion, suppose that Beale is the one who assigns homophones in the key. In such a case, double encipher works as follows: The process starts with an empty enciphering key. At first, letters in the letter string are produced as a consequence of assigning or adding needed homophones to the empty enciphering key. This extra degree of freedom can be enough to permit double encipherment to succeed. But, as more and more homophones are assigned to letters in the key, it becomes possible in some cases to perform double encipherment in the usual sense, without assigning new homophones to letters in the key. In effect, the process of double encipherment consists of adding homophones to the enciphering key (whenever necessary) or making use of homophones already assigned to the enciphering key (whenever feasible). Once double encipherment has been completed, additional homophones are assigned to letters in the key, to complete the key, and the remaining plain text is enciphered in the usual sense.
Conclusion: If B1 is bogus, then the letter strings are problematic. They have an unexplained purpose, they have an unexplained form, and they were created by a hoaxer for the fun of it, to relieve boredom. If B1 is genuine, the letter strings were created by Beale for a specific and planned purpose; the form of the strings is consistent with a double encipherment operation in which there is enough freedom to permit imperfect monotonic increasing letter strings to be created, but insufficient freedom to permit a perfectly formed letter string or a short English text message of 21 characters to be created. Given the two competing explanations for the existence of the monotonic increasing letter strings, it seems more likely (to me) that B1 is genuine and that the letter strings were created by Beale for a planned purpose. It seems less likely that B1 is bogus and that the letter strings were created by a hoaxer for the fun of it to relieve boredom.

Footnotes and References

[1] James J. Gillogly. 'The Beale cipher: A dissenting opinion." Cryptologia, volume 4, number 2, 116–119, April 1980.

[2] The actual letter string at location 188 is ABCDEFGHIIJKLMMNOHPPO. Cipher number 301 at location 205, which deciphers as letter "H" was probably meant to be cipher number 302, which deciphers as letter "O." Cipher number 680 at location 208, which deciphers as letter "O" was probably meant to be cipher number 681, which deciphers as letter "P." Thus, words "of" and "pretended" at positions 302 and 681 in Beale's numbered copy of the Declaration were undoubtedly misread as numbers 301 and 680. In effect, these were clerical errors made by Beale.
B3 is Likely a Genuine Cipher
It is presumed that the construction of cipher B3 was influenced by several factors, depending on whether the cipher was created by Beale or by a hoaxer. These different factors can be identified.

Beale would want B3 to be as short as possible, in order to minimize the work required by Mr. Morriss to decode it. A hoaxer would have lacked the same incentive, as B3 was never intended to be deciphered by Mr. Morriss, or by anyone for that matter.

The hoaxer would desire to make B3 no longer than necessary, but would insist that B3 be believable. The hoaxer would likely select a length for B3 that could be easily verified by readers of the pamphlet as reasonable and believable, using a simple test of reasonableness. Moreover, the hoaxer would likely choose to err on the side of caution, by allowing B3 to be made longer than necessary, rather than risk making it too short. Conversely, Beale was free to make B3 as short as he could. He was unconcerned whether the cipher may appear too short, as it was intended to be viewed only by Mr. Morriss or by someone that he selected to replace him as custodian, but never by you or me. From Beale's perspective, B3's length was a non-issue.

Once Beale's company had been formed, the names of the members, and for the most part, the names of the designated heirs and their places of residence were determined and fixed. A place of residence was probably specified as a post office address. Beale had lists of names and addresses that he could use to prepare paper No. 3. Names and addresses that repeated in the constructed lists would be based on actual members in Beale's company and the names and addresses of actual heirs. The members consisted of Beale's "friends" and "friends and acquaintances" of these friends. The recruitment process was not a random selection process. The lists were used to create paper No. 3, and in turn paper No. 3 was enciphered to create cipher B3.

Comparable lists, which might be used to prepare bogus cipher B3, would have to be created by the hoaxer himself. Any redundancies (repeated names or addresses) in the constructed lists would come from the hoaxer's own fertile imagination. But, as B3 was merely a set of numbers, e.g., "pulled from thin air" it is unlikely that a hoaxer would have found it necessary to create a simulated paper No. 3. There was little or no need for this. 

If the treasure story is true, then while preparing paper No. 3 Beale recognized that some of the men were brothers or cousins with the same last name and that many of the heirs resided in the same location with the same post office address. First names of members and heirs could be abbreviated. Beale would have recognized that by appropriately arranging the information in paper No. 3, many names and addresses, which would otherwise be repeated, could be replaced by the abbreviation "do" for "ditto." Beale would have discovered that paper No. 3 could be written in as few as 618 letters, a fact that is also confirmed in Ch. 7 of Beale Treasure Story: The Hoax Theory Deflated.

But, if the treasure story was a hoax, there would be no need for the hoaxer to prepare paper No. 3, or to encipher it to produce B3. A hoaxer could omit these steps, as they would serve little or no purpose. Instead, he could directly create bogus cipher B3, e.g., by selecting numbers more or less at "random." The only decision of importance would be to select a length for B3. For practical purposes, there are two ways in which the hoaxer could determine a length for B3, and they are essentially the same.

The first method consists of selecting a trial length for B3, dividing that number by 30, and then asking whether the resulting value seems large enough to hold two names and one address. Depending on the answer, a different length for B3 would be selected, divided by 30, and examined to see if it appears reasonable. The procedure would be repeated until an acceptable value had been obtained.

The second method is similar, except that one works forward instead of backward. In this case, one starts by selecting a length that would accommodate a first and last name (doubling the value as there are two names) and selecting a length that would accommodate a post office address. A person's first name can be abbreviated. The obtained values are then added together and multiplied by 30. The resulting value is the length of B3. A hoaxer might do just what I did in order to estimate the lengths for names and post office addresses. First I made a list of names of my ten closest friends (abbreviated first names and full last names). I added up the number of letters in these ten names (101) and divided by ten to obtain an average length of ten letters. In Beale's day, a post office address was the name of a city, town, or court house. If a town or city by the same name happened to occur in more than one county, the post office address would include the name of the county. In order to simulate the length of a post office address, I selected the names of 20 towns in Virginia, added up the number of letters in these 20 names, and divided by 20 to obtain an average length of 11 letters.  On the basis of these fairly simple calculations, I determined that on average two names and one post office address could be expressed in 31 letters. If 31 is multiplied by 30, one obtains a length of 930 for B3. This is a rough estimate, but probably a pretty good one. It does not take into account that B3 could be shortened due to redundancies most likely occurring in the names and addresses, if the treasure story were true. But, even if the hoaxer recognized this, it is unlikely that he would have pursued this line of thinking, for reasons already discussed.

If the hoaxer had selected a length for B3 of about 930, readers of Ward's pamphlet could fairly easily confirm that its length was reasonable. But B3's actual length of 618 is arguably too short. If 618 is divided by 30, one obtains 618/30 = 20.6, which means there are only 20 or 21 letters available to write two names and one address. A number of Beale investigators have voiced concerns that B3, with only 618 numbers, is too short to contain the claimed list of 60 names and 30 addresses. 

In December, 1924, M. E. Ohaver began writing a monthly column in Flynn's Weekly called "Solving Cipher Secrets," which ran for a couple of years. The articles were continued in Detective Fiction Weekly, and ran uninterrupted until August 1954. In December, 1926, John Ingles, vice-president and treasurer of the American Fidelity and Casualty Co., Richmond, Virginia, wrote to Ohaver with information about the Beale treasure story. But it wasn't until August, 1933, that Ohaver responded with information about his progress. Among other things he said:

"Another thing about this case that impresses me as rather peculiar is with reference to 'Cipher No. 3.' This cipher purports to give the names of 'parties and their residences.' It consists of 618 numbers, each of which presumably represents a letter. According to Beale's letter of January 4 addressed to Morriss, this cipher must contain the names and addresses of the thirty members of the party, together with the names and addresses of the relatives and others to whom they devise their respective shares. In other words, we have here sixty names and sixty addresses represented by only 618 numbers, which would make only about 5 or 6 letters for each name, which seems to me a rather small number. It might be that the names and addresses are abbreviated in the document. It can hardly be that a different cipher is employed,—that is, a different kind of cipher,—since Beale speaks of only a single key to all three documents. Besides, the three ciphers all have the appearance of being in the same kind of cipher."

Actually, it is Beale's letter of January 5 that mentions the names of the thirty members of the party, together with the names and addresses of the designated heirs. Thus, there are sixty names and 30 (not 60) addresses represented by only 618 numbers, which would make about seven letters for each name (not five or six). But to me, if five or six letters is too few, then seven is no answer.

It is noteworthy that Ohaver performed a simple calculation to determine whether the length of B3 seemed reasonable. He started with the number 618 and worked backward to find the number of letters for each name. He was concerned that this number seemed too small. I think that a hoaxer would be more apt to start by selecting an average length for each name, and then work forward to determine the length of B3. But even if the hoaxer did start by picking a length for B3, I think it likely that he would perform a similar computation by working backward to determine the number of letters for each name, just as Ohaver had done. In either case, it seems unlikely that the hoaxer would accept 618 as the length for cipher B3 when this would give only seven letters for each name.

A copy of Ward's pamphlet was published in the December 1954 issue of "The Cryptogram," the official publication of the American Cryptogram Association. A copy of the pamphlet had been provided by Herbert O. Yardley, author of the American Black Chamber (1931), from a copy provided to Yardley by Joseph McGehee of Roanoke, Virginia. In the foreword to the article in "The Cryptogram," several comments attributed to Yardley are given:

"Bozo [Yardley] submits these documents for what they are worth. He has worked on them off and on for a number of years ... Number three cipher, he believes, is not long enough to contain all the names of the so-called heirs."

Beale researcher Louis Kruh, in his paper "The Beale Cipher as a Bamboozlement - Part II," says the following about Beale Cipher No. 3:

"A minor issue involves cipher number 3 which is supposed to contain the names and addresses of the 30 members of the Beale party plus the names and addresses of their relatives. For those roughly 60 names and addresses, cipher number 3 has only 618 numbers which appear insufficient to provide the information described."

Author Joe Nickell, in his paper "Discovered The Secret of Beale's Treasure," provides the following comments about Beale Cipher No. 3:

"Unsolved cipher number three raises further suspicion. Beale claimed it contained the 'names of all my associates, and opposite to the name of each one will be found the names and residences of relatives and others, to whom they devise their respective portions.' However, the cipher contains only 618 characters—relatively few when it is considered that an average of only 20.6 characters was available for each of the thirty men and that the names of two persons plus an address for one were to be given."

Nickell continues by providing additional arguments, both pro and con, and concludes by saying "... it may be doubted that cipher number three contains the information Beale said it did."

If we disregard some of the obvious errors made by these men, the concern expressed in each case is clear: Beale Cipher No. 3 is too short to contain the information Beale said it did.

But, of course, we know that this is not so. Indeed, B3 is long enough to contain the information Beale said it did. Thus, the following may be concluded:

Conclusion: If the treasure story was a hoax, it is extremely unlikely that a hoaxer would create a bogus cipher B3 with only 618 numbers. This conclusion is consistent with statements attributed to four reputable researchers, Ohaver, Yardley, Kruh, and Nickell. They believed that 618 was not long enough to contain the information that Beale said it did. Taken together, their arguments provide the best empirical evidence available to show that a hoaxer would be unlikely to create B3 with only 618 numbers. Thus, there is only one remaining conclusion that can be reached: B3 contains 618 numbers because B3 is genuine and because Beale found a way to shorten paper No. 3 by removing the redundant information found in the lists of names and addresses that he used to create paper No. 3. Therefore, B3 is likely to be a real cipher.
Several arguments were given as proof of proposition 1. Two separate and independent arguments were given as proof of proposition 2. Together, propositions 1 and 2 serve as proof that the treasure story is likely to be true.

Return to the Home Page