Secret Code of Eye-Surgery Cult Gets Cracked

The secret rituals of an 18-Century German occultists have been revealed. The New York Times reports that an exceptional language nerd cracked their code. It sounds like something straight out of Hellboy, except with fewer fights and more computers.

The Copiale Cipher, a 105 page coded document discovered in East Berlin after World War II has revealed its dark secrets to a team of researchers. Apparently, the text documents the rituals and observations of an 18th century cult preoccupied with eye surgery and ophthamology. That sounds creepy, but who are we to judge.

The cipher consist about 90 characters including 26 from our boring old Roman alphabet. After determining that the base language was likely German, the researchers analyzed the most common letters and tried mapping them to common letter clusters in the German language. Slowly real words began to emerge, as did other tricks designed to mislead the would-be code breaker. The Roman letters, by the way, were duds.

Interestingly, the code wasn't broken by cryptologists—it was broken by a team led by Kevin Knight, a computer scientist who specializes in translation algorithms. Their research used a combination of computer transcription tools including—I kid you not—freetranslation.com, to unravel the code.

The document hasn't yet been fully translated so we don't know what it really says. Knight says that the whole text, including the whole weird eye fetish thing, could be cover for yet another embedded code. [ISI via LA Times and NY Times]