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Beale Ciphers v. Perplex City

I'd like to expand on the ideas in yesterday's post with a discussion of the Beale Ciphers. There are two documents, published in 1885, that contain encrypted clues for finding buried treasure. Lots of people have spent lots of time trying to figure out the code, but it has yet to be deciphered. The prevailing notion nowadays is that it cannot be broken, because the story, and the documents, are a hoax.

This is all very interesting, and by following the links above you can learn a fair bit about cryptanalysis, ciphers, and marketing scams. It brings me back to my first thought when I originally came across the Perplex City concept: what if there is no Cube? I'm a skeptic by nature, and I wondered how we would know if no one ever found the grand prize object. It was, in fact, devilishly hidden, but it did exist, and it was located.

So, the concept of selling clues to eager treasure hunters is nothing new. The Beale Ciphers were fake, but the publishers made a profit, at the expense of their customers. Perplex City is the real deal: they gave out a prize and stand to make more money by selling another round of products. Their second "season" began this month, and they're even branching out the franchise into board games. Ironically, Mind Candy (the company behind Perplex City) stands to make a lot more money than the perpetrators of the Beale Papers. But will people still be talking about them in a hundred years?

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