The ‘Taman Shud’ case is one of the world’s most baffling real-life mysteries. A man was found dead (from an unknown cause) on a beach in Adelaide, Australia on December the 1st 1948. He appeared to be aged in his mid 40s, was well dressed and was of a physically fit stature. He had no form of identification on him and all of his clothing labels had been removed. He had checked in a suitcase with some eclectic belongings at the Adelaide railway station however all clothing labels within the suitcase were removed.
A thorough search of his body eventually led to a piece of torn out paper being found in a hidden trouser pocket. The piece of paper contained the words ‘Taman Shud. ’ ‘Taman Shud’ loosely translates to ‘the end.’ These words are the closing words of a book of poetry by Omar Khayyam called The Rubaiyat. A local professional found this very book on the back seat of his car with the words ‘Taman Shud’ torn out the night before the mystery man was found dead. Laboratory results confirmed that this very book matched up to the piece of paper located on the deceased man.
On the back page of the book, a mysterious code was printed. It contained what is seemingly unrelated letters. The actual code can be found in the picture at the top of this article. This code was found over 60 years ago and to this day no-one has cracked it. Many professional code crackers have tried however all have failed.
In the back of the book found in the professionals car was also a telephone number. It belonged to a retired nurse who lived only a few kilometres from where the body was found. The woman claimed to have had previously possessed a copy of The Rubaiyat however gave it to a former lover. The woman claimed to have not known the deceased man.
To this day, the identity of the mystery man, his cause of death and reasons behind his death remain unknown. Despite extensive worldwide efforts over the past 60 years to identify him, his identity is still a mystery.
I have only given a brief outline of some of the features of the case however for a greater overview with many more specific details please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taman_Shud_Case
The handwritten code found in the back of The Rubaiyat may hold the key to this perpetually perplexing and paradoxical puzzle. When The Rubaiyat was found on the back seat of the professional’s car, the code was compiled of faint pencil markings. It is thought that a policeman investigating the case traced over the code in an ink pen.
Many of the letters in the code are ambiguous. I will attempt to determine the actual letters that make up the code. I have created a simple notation that will help me indicate which letter in the code I am referring to. This notation includes the five lines in the code. These lines are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 corresponding to the top to bottom order of the lines. Line 2 is the crossed out line. Each line comprises a number of letters. These letters will be numbered from left to right in ascending order. For instance, the fourth line seems to start with M, L and I. M will be letter 1 for that line, L will be letter 2, I will be letter 3 etc. My notation will comprise two numbers. The first number refers to the line and the second number refers to the letter within that line. For instance if I am referring to the Q from the fourth line, I will write (4, 10.) This is due to the Q being the 10th letter along the fourth line.
The First Line
The first letter (1,1) of the code is ambiguous. It has an identical structure to (3,1.) (1,1) slightly resembles but is unique from the 5 ‘Ms’ within the code. The ‘Ms’ within the code are composed of four pencil strokes while (1,1) is composed of six pencil strokes. (1,1) resembles a ‘W’ however two parallel lines are placed on the peripheries of the ‘W.’ I believe that the weight of evidence indicates that (1,1) is a ‘W’ however due to the uniqueness of the shape of (1,1) it is possible that (1,1) is a foreign letter or a symbol. It should also be noted that (1,1) contains a faint (possibly pencil) marking beneath it. This (pencil) marking is indistinct however looks similar to an ‘M.’ Upon zooming in on (1,1), the faint marking seems to have two apexes. The first apex is located between the peak of the first parallel line of the ‘W’ and the top part of the W that resembles an isosceles triangle, minus the base. The second apex of the faint ‘M’ is located on the right hand side of the right vertical line comprising the W, only a small distance from the apex of this line. The middle trough of the faint M seems to be slightly beneath the right trough of the W. The faint M seems to begin to the left of the base of the W. The M seems to end in a similar position to the right base of the W. The faint M is also slanted to the right and has a striking resemblance to the M at (4,1.) This faint M may be a pencil marking that the police officer did not over trace in ink pen. It may possibly be an error within the code, as the writer of the code may have erroneously written an M instead of a W and then in the absence of an eraser, the writer may have drawn over the M with a bolder W.
(1,2) seems to be an R and the only R within the code. (1,3) appears to be a G. The only other possible G in the code is at (5,11.) The figure at (1,3) is different from the figure at (5,11) in that it has a curl at its peak. I believe (5,11) is largely ambiguous however (1,3) is almost definitely a G. There is a small possibility that (1,3) is a ‘6.’ (1,4) appears to be an ‘O’ (oh) although it is slightly slanted, unlike (2,5) and (4,6) therefore it may be a distinct symbols such as a ‘zero.’ (1,5) is an A, which is the most frequently occurring letter within the code. (1,6) resembles a ‘B’ however unlike the Bs at (1,8), (3,3) and (4,5) it is not drawn beginning from left of the apex of the vertical line of the B. Similar to the Bs in the code, its bottom section is significantly larger than its top section. The base of (1,6) also seems to be unique in that it is horizontal and possibly lacking a continuum from the bottom curvature of the B. The base of (1,6) is therefore possibly a distinctive brushstroke. The other Bs within the code contain a continuous curvature that comprises the bottom part of their letters. It is possible that (1,6) is an (8) however the weight of evidence points towards it being a B. (1,7) is an ‘A’ however the part of the ‘A’ that is normally composed of a horizontal strikethrough contains a curved, slanted stroke. (1,8) is a B. (1,9) is a D and the only D within the code. The D is formed by an exaggerated curvature and broadness that is disproportionate to the length of its vertical component.
The Second Line
The second line is the crossed out line. This line starts with the letter M at (2,1.) This M is one of the smallest letters on the page and nestled only slightly below (1,1.) It is conceivable that the writer of this code did not appropriately judge the amount of space they would require hence the crammed up letters within the second line. It is also conceivable that the second line was written as an afterthought however this is unlikely due to the similar nature between line 2 and the beginning of line 4. This indicates that line 2 was originally misplaced. (2,2) seems to be an L however it has a unique curvature of the base of the L. (2,3) is an I. (2,4) is an A and the only A to have its horizontal line actually horizontal to both the actual letter and the page itself. (2,5) seems to be an O (oh) although it is not slanted like the O at (1, 4) which leaves the possibility open that it is a zero. (2,6) at first glance looks like an L however upon zooming in, it is clear that the horizontal line that masquerades as the bottom stroke of the L is actually the brushstroke that is crossing line two out. Further evidence that (2,6) is an I is that the other Ls in the code have a curved base. Also the vertical component of the letter extends beyond the trough of the horizontal line, indicating that distinct two brush strokes would be required to write the letter. All of the other Ls have two brush strokes however the pencil does not leave the paper for these strokes. It is interesting to note that all of the letters within line two are written almost perfectly in line below the first six letters of line one. This ‘lining up’ does not occur anywhere else within the code.
The Third Line
(3,1) has the same general form as (1,1.) (3,1) is unique from (1,1) in that two distinct lines join the right trough of the W component of the letter to the right vertical line. (3,1) therefore slightly resembles an N however it is too dissimilar to the N at (3,8) to be considered an N. (3,1) is a very cumbersome looking letter and its uniqueness from known English letters and other letters within the code point towards the possibility that either this letter was a foreign letter, a symbol or the writer of the code had not written many Ws before possibly due to the code writer’s mother tongue not containing the letter W. It is unlikely that (3,1) is an M due to the number of strokes comprising (3,1) in comparison to the Ms in the code. Overall I believe that the evidence suggests that (3,1) is a W however the writer did not form the letter in an orthodox manner for whatever reason. (3,2) is a T. Ts seem to be the most consistently formed letter within the code with little diversity among its form. (3,3) is a B. Interestingly the four or five Bs within the code each have some variance among their formation. (3,4) is an I. (3,5) is an M. (3,6) is a P although its vertical stem beneath the trough of the curvature is quite short, or conversely, the curvature is exaggerated. Within the curvature of the P at (3,6), a line hangs down from the apex of the P. This line is disjointed at one end and seems to be composed of a distinct stroke from the other two P brush strokes. Several possibilities exist to explain this ‘superfluous’ stroke. Firstly, it is conceivable that the code writer accidentally made a mark on the page that coincidentally began at the apex of the P. A second scenario involves the police officer who traced over the code making an error in this process. A third possibility involves the stroke having some cryptographic relevance that is unbeknownst to me. The thinness of this extra stoke suggests that it was due to an unintentional error as opposed to a purposeful motive. It is interesting to note that this possibly superfluous brushstroke parallels the curvature of a segment of the P to its below and right. (3,7) is clearly an ‘A’ however a dot is located in its bottom right quadrant, beneath the horizontal line component. There are several other similar dots amongst the code that at least superficially appear to be placed haphazardly. These occur between (3, 10) and (3,11) also two in a close proximity on the right of (4, 7) and one above (5,6.) A final dot may be present on the bottom and top right corner of the letter at (5,3.) These dots may be caused by some innocent imperfection on the paper itself, accidentally by the code writer or the police officer tracing over the code or have some deeper meaning that eludes me. (3,8) is an N and the only N within the code. (3,9) is an E and the only E within the code. This may be significant as E is the most commonly occurring letter in the English language, with a frequency of 12.7%. The next most frequent letter is T at a 9.1% occurrence. This suggests that the code does not directly contain letters from any place within the words. The letter E occurs as a first letter of English words at a relative frequency of 2%. This evidence is more consistent with the code being an initialism. (3,10) is a T. (3,11) is a P however with a slightly different composition to the P at (3,6.) The P at (3,11) contains a hyperbolic arc that protrudes sharply from the vertical stem of the letter. The same curvature can be observed with the D at (1, 9.) This D was also the last letter of a line hence this exaggerated curvature may be a personal idiosyncrasy indicating the end of a line.
The Fourth Line
(4,1) is an M and similarly to (1,1) it has a (pencil?) mark beneath the ink pen letter. This mark beneath (4,1) is not as distinct as the (1,1) mark and it is possible that this mark is actually a pareidolia. The entire page is full of imperfections, grey nuances and fold marks hence it is conceivable that the mark beneath (4,1) is not relevant to the code and only a spurious occurrence. There are two main arguments against the mark being spurious. The first involves the texture, colour and width of the mark at (4,1) as it is almost identical in these aspects to the mark beneath (1,1.)The second argument involves the positioning of the mark at (4,1.) After zooming in, it becomes apparent that the mark is located approximately half way up the right peak of the letter. The mark cuts across this peak to form a quasi A-shape in the top-right quadrant of the letter. The dark background texture of this section of the page makes the mark almost indecipherable in the top-left quadrant of the letter. The opposing end of the mark appears to run alongside the right side of the right post forming the letter. It is possible that the police officer tracing over the code failed to accurately stylize the letter or perhaps omitted tracing over the mark, considering it irrelevant to the letter formation. The actual ink letter at (4,1) seems to clearly be an M. The letter at (4,2) is an L. (4,3) is most likely an I however its slanting nature and over proportionate length relative to the other letters amongst line four leaves the possibility open that it is a forward slash (/) or even a means of indicating a space or new line. (4,4) is an A and unique in that it has the right slope finishing higher than its left slope. This idiosyncratic letter style occurs on two other As within the code at (1,8) and (4,9.) The A at (4,4) is the only A within the entire code to have its horizontal stroke not touching one of the A’s isosceles triangle like slopes (in this case the left slope.) The horizontal stroke of (4,4) appears to be of a proportionately accurate length for the ‘A’ however transposed to the right. (4,5) is a B and the only B within the code to have a distinctive curvature following on from its bottom arc. This curvature makes this B one of the most uncharacteristic letters within the code. To have such a unique extension of the B that unmistakably curves beyond the letter itself approximately 120 degrees raises two separate possibilities. Firstly, it is conceivable that a different person wrote this letter B and not the other Bs. Secondly it is possible that this letter is not a B at al. If one removes the vertical stroke comprising this letter at (4,5) that does not perfectly join with the rest of the rest of the curvature then one is left with what resembles a ‘3.’ It is possible that what appears to be the stem of the B is actually the number ‘1.’ The symbol at (4,6) resembles an O (oh) however it too is possibly a number, in this case zero. If this hypothesis is correct, the number would read ‘130.’ This may indicate the time 1:30 or perhaps an address. What is doubly striking about this section of the code is the two lines that run above a section of line four, beginning at (4,5) which indicate an emphasis on this number/time/letter combination. (4,6) is either an O (oh) or a zero and this symbol has a cross directly above it. The centre of this cross is positioned almost exactly above the apex of the ‘O’ at (4,6.) the bottom two peripheries of the cross extend to almost perfectly in line with the apex of the ‘O.’ This cross above (4,6) may have further relevance in that the letter beneath it may be of some extra importance. It is of course conceivable that what appears to be a cross is in fact not a cross. The two lines comprising the symbol may represent a crucifix on its side. Another object it may represent could be a person. There are an ambiguous number of lines comprising this symbol. There are two distinct lines forming the slanted cross however the two quasi-parallel lines running across the page merge into this cross symbol. The possibility arises that one of these quasi-parallel lines ceases at the positive sloped (from bottom left to top right) line. What continues may be distinct and actually one of the legs of the stick figure person. This theory gains credence when the bottom quasi-parallel line is examined in a zoomed setting. Across four or five x-coordinate pixels, the bottom quasi parallel line intersects with the positive sloped line forming the cross-like symbol. Across the distance, the ‘continuation’ of the line is dropped by two pixels. Also the only part of the entire bottom quasi-parallel line that has a negative slope is the part that protrudes from the left of the cross, possibly forming the leg. Although only a theory, this is significant considering the manner in which the Somerton man was found- Lying against a beach wall. If the symbol is indeed of a person, the two quasi-parallel lines may represent the beach wall.
There is a large space between (4,6) and (4,7) and this is the largest gap between any two consecutive letters/symbols within the code. This may indicate a new line, space or separate section of the code. (4,7) is an ‘A’ and the only ‘A’ within the code to have a definite curvature of the horizontal stroke although the ‘A’ at (5,7) has a small curvature. (4,8) seems to be an ‘I’ and is more proportionate to its adjacent letters than the ‘I’-like symbol at (4,3.) (4,9) is an ‘A’ with a continuation of its horizontal stroke almost twice beyond the right slanted stroke of the A’s extremity. (4,10) is a Q and perhaps the most important letter within the entire code. The relative frequency of the letter Q occurring in an English word is 0.095%. The relative frequency of Q beginning an English word is 0.173%. In other terms, we would expect less than 1 in 500 words to begin with the letter ‘Q.’ The Q at (4,10) is the only Q within the code. It is also unique in its formation. The other rounded Os within the code are perfectly formed in that the stroke ceases exactly in the same position where the stroke began. The Q at (4,10) is not only disjointed in its ‘O’ part but also the brushstroke continues beyond the zero degree, northern point in a rather careless and haphazard fashion. As the letter Q is comprised of two independent brushstrokes, one being the letter ‘O,’ it is rather intriguing to note the atypical ‘O’ comprising the Q at (4,10.) Another piece of evidence supporting the atypical ‘Q’ style involves the width of the ‘O’ component of the Q exceeding all of the other Os within the code. The positioning of the Q at (4,10) provides evidence that is was written by a different person due to the peak of the Q being located on a far higher position on the page than the previous letters within line four. (4,11) is one of the most ambiguous letters/symbols on the page. (4,11) is often considered to be a ‘C’ however the vertical component that has been formed with a separate stroke to the curvature of the C provides evidence against it being a ‘C.’ Generally a ‘C’ is written with one stroke of the pencil however within the code this symbol has been written with two strokes, as is clear when the symbol at (4,11) is zoomed in on. Upon close inspection, the vertical component of the symbol surpasses the apex of the curvature of the ‘C.’ A further argument against this symbol being a C involves the solitary vertical line itself. For a ‘C’ to be drawn it is commonplace to not include any vertical components although a small portion of the population may include two vertical proponents- One protruding from each end of the curvature of the ‘C.’ The fact that the writer of this code falls into neither of these categories amplifies the theory that this was either not a ‘C’ or perhaps the writer of the code was not familiar with writing Cs perhaps due their primary language not containing the letter C. If the letter at (4,11) is not a ‘C,’ then it may be a letter from a foreign country. Another possibility involves (4,11) being a symbol such as a cents symbol or possibly a part of the quasi-parallel line picture. The other three completed lines all end with exaggerated and large letters and this end of line four is one of the smallest few letters within the code that is also compact in form. The formation of the letter Q at (4,10) is more consistent with an end of the line letter as it is exaggerated and large in size.
The Fifth Line
The letter at (5,1) is another ambiguous letter that is often assumed to be an ‘I.’ The other ‘Is’ within the code are all composed of a single vertical stroke however the letter at (5,1) is composed of a continuous stroke comprising two lines. (5,1) was most likely drawn starting from the top of the left stroke until the bottom of the left stroke then a continuous receding stroke back to the top right completing the letter. This is most analogous to the letter ‘V’ as opposed the letter ‘I.’ There are no other Vs or similar letters to (5,1) within the code for comparison. (5,2) is a T and (5,3) is also a T, both Ts of an almost identical form. (5,3) is an M and along with the T at (5,3) the biggest letter in the code. (5,5) is another T and also similar in form to the Ts at (5,2) and (5,3.) (5,6) appears at first glance to be an ‘S’ however it is the only letter of its type in the entire code. As opposed to orthodox ‘S’ style, this symbol at (5,6) contains a bottom straight component, along with the curvature component of standard Ss. Interestingly, if one removes the bottom straight component of the S, one is left with an almost exact replica of the symbol at (4,11) that resembled a ‘C.’ It is conceivable that the writer of this code had the idiosyncrasy of writing a superfluous vertical stroke to the apex of their ‘Ss’ and ‘Cs.’ The uppermost vertical component of this symbol at (5,6) is written with a separate brushstroke to the rest of the symbol. In other words, the writer had to remove their pencil from the page to add this part of the symbol. There is the possibility that this symbol at (5,6) is indeed an ‘S’ however there is also a chance that it is actually a symbol or even a foreign letter. (5,7) is an A and is rather shaky in form, compared to the other As within the code. (5,8) is an M however like the Ms and Ws at (1,1), (3,1) and (4,1), it seems to have a superfluous component. This component is the arced line between the trough of the M’s formation. The end of this arced line is nebulous as it appears to merge in with the left stem of the M. This peculiarity involving several Ms and Ws in this code is most perplexing and suggests that perhaps the writer of this code was not accustomed to writing these letters in his native language. Another possibility involves these aforementioned Ms and Ws having a meaning distinct from their direct letter meaning. (5,9) is a letter that resembles an ‘S’ however it is distinct from the letter at (5,6) in that it has a mark through its centre as opposed to an extra vertical component protruding from its apex. The bottom vertical component of (5,9) is of a similar length and has a similar angle to the symbol at (5,6) however is unique in that the top curvature is much more smaller and more compact. The evidence suggests that this symbol at (5,9) is a unique symbol from the one at (5,6.) It is conceivable that one of these symbols is an ‘S’ however it is unlikely that both are Ss drawn by the same person. (5,10) is a T. (5,11) is one of the most curious letters within the code. The extension of the horizontal component of the ‘A’ at (5,12) makes (5,11) an ambiguous letter. Only one ‘A’ within the code, the one at (5,7) has a horizontal extension exceeding its left limit and only by a small portion. It is therefore unlikely that the horizontal line at (5,11) entirely belongs to (5,12.) If one assumes that at least part of the horizontal line belongs to (5,11) then the letter resembles a G however the G at (1,3) is very different to the letter at (5,11.) The G at (1,3) has a curved peak that extends almost vertically while the letter at (5,11) has no peak and stops sharply at an almost horizontal position. Also the horizontal aspect of the G at (1,3) is quite lengthy although the width of the actual letter may be partly responsible for this phenomenon. If one assumes that (5,11) is a ‘C’ then the problem arises as to why the unique extended horizontal component of the ‘A’ at (5,12)? Also, this letter is very different from the only other possible ‘C’ in the code at (4,11) which indicates that one of these letters is not a ‘C.’ The letter at (5,12) is an ‘A’ and the only ‘A’ within the code to have a slope protruding from the base of the bottom right stem. This ‘A’ also has an extended horizontal component. These unique factors may be due to the end of the line and indeed code nearing, as it has already been suggested that the letters near the end of the line become more exaggerated within this code. The final letter in the code at (5,13) is ambiguous and seems to be either an ‘R’ or a ‘B.’ The only other ‘R’ in the code is located at (1,2) and has been written with a downwards vertical stroke followed by an upward vertical stroke- without the pencil leaving the page. This letter at (5,13) only has one stem stroke and is also unique from the R at (1,2) due to its sharp protruding upper curvature compared to (1,2)s rounded curvature. The letter at (5,13) therefore seems to resemble a ‘B’ more than an ‘R.’ The extended pencil stroke at the base of the B at (5,13) is consistent with the other lines having an exaggerated letter style towards their ends. The B at (5,13) has this extended pencil stroke underlining the A at (5,12) and part of the G at (5,11) raising the possibility that this part of the code indicates a separate function such as a place name, initials or an important piece of information. I believe the consistency concerning the ends of the lines containing exaggerated letters makes the most likely option that the B at (5,13) is only extended due to ‘the end’ of the code.