Category Archives: Codes and Ciphers

Dan Burstein’s World Talk Radio Interview

Secrets of the Lost Symbol co-editor Dan Burstein appeared recently on World Talk Radio’s Be The Star You Are.

In a wide-ranging interview, Dan discusses how our Secrets team correctly predicted some of the major themes of The Lost Symbol, years before it was published, and some of the many interesting facts we discovered about the history of Freemasonry, its links to American history, and its influence on Washington DC architecture.

He also talks about our discoveries from exploring a central element of Dan Brown’s novel, noetic science, and the spiritual and material issues noetics raises in people’s search for meaning in life.

You can hear the interview, in full, below.

Decoding the mysteries of The Lost Symbol

Secrets of The Lost Symbol co-author Dan Burstein appears in the Washington Post Short Stack today, talking about the codes on the Lost Symbol cover and what they mean:

Using various decryption tools we can identify these three coded phrases:



We also found on the back cover, by combining words at the top and bottom, a small but important reference to the hermetic adage:


In “Secrets of the Lost Symbol,” we explain the relevance of all these phrases.

Here’s just one example:

Pope’s Pantheon refers to a series of architectural works by Freemason architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Scottish Rite Freemason headquarters building on 16th Street in Washington where the opening scene and the climactic scene of “The Lost Symbol” take place.

But Pope also designed the Jefferson Memorial, which is in the shape of a classical Roman pantheon building. More than that: The whole idea of a pantheon ties in to the belief, stated many times in “The Lost Symbol,” that all gods, and all religions, are important manifestations of humankind’s search for spiritual connectedness to the universe. So even after you have decoded “Pope’s Pantheon,” you still have multiple meanings to contemplate.

Decoding the mysteries of ‘The Lost Symbol’ (WaPo)

Buy Secrets of The Lost Symbol or download the e-book today.

The Jane Austen Code

Jane Austen: Liked to write in code.

Dan Brown fans sometimes have a hard time believing the parts of his stories where one person inscribes some important information for another in code.

Sophie Neveu, the heroine of the Da Vinci Code, was known to play code and anagram games when she was a small child with her grandfather; the knowledge of these games later turns out to be crucial to solving the puzzles her grandfather leaves in the wake of his murder. Robert Langdon must similarly make sense out of Masonic codes on the small pyramid left to him by Peter Solomon in The Lost Symbol.

Dan Brown has told several interviewers that he has always been fascinated by codes, cipher, anagrams, and mirror writing. As a child, Christmas in his family’s household meant going on treasure hunts, solving puzzles, and figuring out clues to find his gifts.

A new show at the Morgan Library, in New York, reveals that the greatly esteemed 19th century novelist Jane Austen played similar games with her young niece, Cassy. The show includes this nice New Year anecdote recounted in the New York Times:

Who would not wish for a close relative like Aunt Jane? In early 1817, the year she died, suffering, perhaps, from lymphoma and beginning work on a novel she became too ill to finish, Jane Austen wrote a letter to her 8-year-old niece, Cassandra.

“Ym raed Yssac,” it begins, “I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey.”

Every word in the letter is spelled backward, from that opening New Year’s wish to her dear Cassy to the signature, “Ruoy Etanoitceffa Tnua, Enaj Netsua.” The author, here as elsewhere, does not condescend to her readers, but she also knows who they are and how to give them pleasure. Imagine an 8-year-old girl, perhaps as precocious as her aunt, playfully deciphering these good wishes.”

A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy, runs through March 14.

Buy Secrets of The Lost Symbol today or download it now as an e-book.

Secrets of the Codes

Secrets of The Lost Symbol editor Dan Burstein talks through some of the codes and cryptic clues left for Dan Brown’s readers on the cover of, and inside, The Lost Symbol. It’s a trail that led our Secrets team to a number of intriguing topics, such as the year 2012 and the Book of Revelations.

Buy Secrets of The Lost Symbol today or download it now as an e-book.

Symbol Quest Winner!


Congratulations to Cheryl Helm! Cheryl, a member of our Secrets of the Lost Symbol codebreaking team, won one of the 33 signed copies of The Lost Symbol, by finding the telephone number encoded on The Lost Symbol dust jacket. She describes her method as “a hunch, some luck and a little help from her Twitter mates.” But we think there’s a little more to it than that. Here’s how she did it:

The day the front cover was first released I noticed the faint, red alpha-numeral pairs. Once I (and several others) saw the two new sets on the spine when it was released were in the same simple format, I was fairly sure that these would yield the phone # (especially after bgates87 had solved the “POPES PANTHEON” code eliminating that as the source).

After wandering along some wrong paths, like the one ending with the nice couple I called [Ed’s note: Cheryl, like many other Symbol Quest contestants, used trial and error to track down the correct answer. One popular false trail led to the private number of a couple in New York who received numerous calls.] I finally thought of a simpler solution. On a hunch, I looked up Doubleday in Manhattan and found their main number was 212-782-9000.

On Sept.12 after a visit to the Cryptex site, I sent the following message outlining my speculation on the possible number:

Just speculating here. We already know about:
B1 C2 J5 E8 H5

and one of your speculators says we will get:
D7 F2 A2

If I am right, we need an I? and a G?

I think we need to rearrange according to alphas. If so, we have:
A2 B1 C2 D7 E8 F2 __ H5 __ J5

212-782-9000 is Doubleday’s main number. I suspect I am on the right track.

So, I assumed I had 9 of the 10 numerals needed: 212-782-95?5. I went the trial and error route, calling the 10 possibles, but with no success. After this, I considered that I was on the wrong track. But one of my twitter-mates (who was also using the same tactics–so it is a good thing all the 95?5 numbers belong to RH/DD publishers) suggested that the number might not have been “live” yet, which turned out to be the case. So I went back to my results and eliminated 8 of the 10:

-9515- no ans
-9525- working office ext
-9535- working office ext
-9545- working office ext
-9555- working office ext
-9565- personal phone?
-9575- fax
-9585- working office ext
-9595- asks for an ID
-9505- no ans

Now I was left with 2 likely candidates:
15- no ans
05- no ans

After that, I had thought I would probably miss out since there would be many who would have a chance to call before I got home Monday night. But I gave it a shot again after I got a tip from a twitter-mate that the number was live, and that I had the right number.

That’s it. No spark of genius, no ethereal insight, no sexy skills. Just my love of puzzles, a hunch, a little luck, and friends.

Are you also a Symbol Quest winner? Did you arrive at the same answer via a different route? If so, we would love to hear from you.

UPDATE 10/5: Congratulations to Bgates87, who received his signed copy today!