Category Archives: Cover Art

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.

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!

The Pope’s Pantheon and The Dotted O

A brilliant young computer programmer and code-breaker we know, Billy Gates, reports to us that if some of the numeric sequences on the cover of The Lost Symbol are run through substitution code analysis, it yields multiple possible pairings of words.

When you eliminate the nonsense pairings you are left with only a few likely solutions, the most intriguing of these being “Pope’s Pantheon.”

We expect there to be a number of interesting codes embedded by Dan Brown on the cover of The Lost Symbol and throughout the book.

In my book, Secrets of the Widow’s Son, I explored the subject of pantheons. A pantheon can be any structure intended for the worship of multiple gods. So it is appropriate to keep thinking of that functional definition, without insisting that it fit a physical design.

Dan Brown may have been intrigued when he researched his novels to discover the Panthéon, in Paris, which was the final resting place of Enlightenment thinkers Voltaire and Rousseau and a prominent building during the period when Jefferson visited the French capital.

However, the greatest example of a pantheon, the Pantheon of Rome–which featured prominently in Angels and Demons–is a special design, incorporating a pronounced circular portion and a rectangular portion (the portico). The circular part has a hole in the center of the domed roof called an oculus.

In his books, Dan Brown has called attention to the use of “round churches” by Templars and others, and he set part of the plot of The Da Vinci Code in the Temple Church of London, a genuine Templar church, which has a circular nave attached to a rectangular chancel.

There is a basic echo here in the idea of something round, married to something rectangular or square. If you just keep that concept in mind, you begin to see reverberations everywhere, but particularly in Washington, DC.

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Dan Brown’s Open Secret, The House of the Temple’s Role in The Lost Symbol

Matt Lauer-6Word in Washington has it that Matt Lauer’s NBC team was spotted filming in The House of the Temple the other day. Lauer has spent the past few weeks dashing around Washington (and perhaps other locations) filming a Secrets of the Lost Symbol treasure hunt which will air on the Today show from Tuesday, September 8, right until the book’s release on September 15.

The Today show announced recently that Lauer will visit “top-secret locations that play key roles in The Lost Symbol.” Well, it seems that The House of the Temple is not so secret anymore. In fact, it never really was a secret at all.

Our expert David Shugarts guessed long ago (five years ago, to be precise) that The House of the Temple would play a starring role in Dan Brown’s next novel.

The House of the Temple is the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, and it’s perfect Dan Brown material.

The House of the Temple, in Washington, is the perfect location for Dan Brown novel

The House of the Temple, in Washington, is the perfect location for Dan Brown novel

Dave, who has been given a tour, tells us that cinematically it is stunning. Two sphinxes guard the wide steps leading up to an enormous doorway. Inside, is a cavernous temple atrium decorated in black marble and other precious materials.

The Temple is also literally filled with treasure. There’s a library full of rare books. And a lower floor packed with artifacts collected by Masons throughout the centuries.

Most intriguing for us though, the Temple is also the resting place of Albert Pike, a lawyer and Confederate general who is hardly known today, but who was immensely influential in his day, particularly in Freemasonry. Pike is the only Confederate general to have a statue in his honor in Washington. He also just happens to have written Morals and Dogma, the definitive tome of the Rite’s philosophical underpinnings. A mysterious, Merlin-like figure, he also is famous for a long platonic relationship with a flashy young artist named Vinnie Ream, and for rumored connections to the Knights of the Golden Circle. Albert Pike’s remains occupy a favored niche in the Temple.

But you don’t have to take our word for it that the Temple is a significant part of the plot. Random House handed out an enormous clue that The House of the Temple would play a starring role when it released the cover for the US edition of The Lost Symbol.

The US Cover to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

The US Cover to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

The wax seal with the triangle and “33,” along with the double-headed eagle and the legend “Ordo Ab Chao” (Order Out of Chaos) form the essential symbol of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Says Dave, “In the context of Washington, DC, this points a big red arrow toward the House of the Temple, the home of the Scottish Rite.”

So, where else can we expect to see Lauer next week? Dave reckons the Smithsonian Institution, the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are all safe bets. But when we asked him about Mount Vernon, the telephone went very quiet.

Is there something Dave isn’t telling us?

– Paul Berger, Contributing Editor, Secrets of the Lost Symbol