The Use of Cryptography in Real and Fictional Crimes
This book deals directly with a topic that has rarely, perhaps never, been treated separately in either the study of crime fiction or criminology—namely, the use of cryptography in both fictional and real crimes and the possible connection between the two. It was Edgar Allan Poe who first used cryptography as a central element in a mystery story—“The Gold Bug,” which is discussed in detail in this book. Protagonist William Legrand is bitten by a gold-colored bug. His servant fears Legrand may, as a consequence, be losing his mind. On the throes of insanity, Legrand organizes a team to find a buried treasure whose location he discovered after deciphering a cryptogram. The story became highly popular mainly because of its incorporation of a cipher as the crux for unraveling a mystery. Cryptography and mystery became entangled narratively at that point, generating a new genre called cryptofiction.
Ciphers and codes are now found throughout crime fiction literature, greatly enhancing its appeal. Either by imitation or twisted ingenuity, real criminals started using cryptography for their nefarious purposes at the same time as the appearance of cryptofiction. The most infamous example is the case of the “Zodiac Killer,” a serial killer ← ix | x → operating in Northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, whose identity remains unknown to this day. The killer sent cryptograms to the local area press, of which only one has ever been decoded. It is believed that once the others are decoded,...
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