A Series of Cryptic Letters Turn Up at a Canadian University: Can You Crack the Code?

An edited image of one of the Weldon Letters

Most of you know that I’m a Cannuckian (A.K.A Flannel Shirt Wearer, A.K.A Neighbour to the north, A.K.A Resident of America’s Hat)  Much of my writing though, focuses on locales far from my little hometown.  Weird stuff happens all over the world, some places more than others (looking at you Australia), and it’s relatively rare that I get to report on a story that originates in Canada, let alone from the region in which I live.  Today is such a day however!

This one is particularly weird, even among the stories already covered on this website.  It’s the case of the Weldon Notes.  I’m sure you are, as yet, unfamiliar, so read on!

The Weldon Notes are a series of letters that have been found hidden between the pages of various books in the D.B. Weldon Library at London, Ontario’s Western University.  That might not strike you as all that weird, but it gets weirder.

The 18th Weldon Letter

The letters, of which there are now 18 confirmed examples, are cryptic messages printed in an unidentified script similar to the wingdings font.  They are comprised of some 40 different colour pictographic symbols.  The message is, as you might expect, a complete mystery thus far.  But that’s not the end of it.

Western University’s assistant professor of business, economics and public policy, Mike Moffatt, is credited with finding the first official letter, as he was browsing the library’s economics and political science section.  When he picked up a copy of International Economics: Trade and Investment, written by Soren Kjeldsen-Kragh – a book one would think holds few surprises – he opened its cover and a plain white envelope fell out from its pages, landing at his feet.

Thinking that perhaps the book’s last reader had left it as a bookmark, he scooped it up and flipped it open, only to find a seriously strange correspondence inside.

The 17th Weldon Letter


The letter, as with all subsequent letters, was accompanied by an object, in that case a small, green, plastic leaf.  The leaf had been marked with two small blotches of paint, but was otherwise unmarked.  On the reverse of the letter was a reference to a website: 000xyz.blog.ca.  You’ll note that this website, which sports a .ca domain registration, is nothing more than an empty and unused blog.

Moffatt explains, on his personal blog, that all of the letters have been found under similar circumstances.  Each one was accompanied by a single item, such as the leaf, or a feather, and on the reverse side held a picture of an object like a vase or table or some such thing.  Since finding that first example, Moffatt has offered a small reward for anyone who can crack the code of these letters, and through that effort, many other people have come forward claiming to have found similar letters as long as two years ago.

Moffatt has documented all of the letters, their accompanying accoutrement, and their envelopes, as well as information about where and when they were found, and by whom, all in an effort to solve this mystery.

Theories thus far have been somewhat mundane, which is atypical of such a mystery, were it not for the fact that this is Canada.  The leading hypotheses are that the letters are remnants of a student organised scavenger hunt, and were simply never found during the game.  Others think it might be an artistic stunt being perpetrated by someone affiliated with the library or school.  The more fanciful among the sleuths suggest it could be an elaborate publicity stunt.  Either way, the mystery endures.

Of course, there’s no shortage of similar stories that have engendered all kinds of mystery mongering, to coin a phrase.

Kryptos in Langley, Virginia

As was forefront in Dan Brown’s novel Digital Fortress, there are whole organizations in place, dedicated to finding and cracking so-called undecipherable codes.  Kryptos, a memorial sculpture that sits in a courtyard outside of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is one of the most enigmatic codes currently known.  Of the four encrypted messages carved into its surface, only one has been solved since it was erected in 1990.

In the form of undecipherable letters though, perhaps the most famous, and most gruesome examples are the Zodiac Killer’s letters.  These infamous correspondences were sent to several newspapers at the time of the murders, claiming responsibility for the crimes and taunting authorities.   They also included a 408-symbol cryptogram, which went unsolved for several years.  The killer claimed that the cryptogram contained his identity, but when it was solved in 1969, it was found to be more of a manifesto of sorts, wherein he claimed that he was collecting slaves for the afterlife.

The Zodiac Killer, of course, was never identified or caught, but his letters exist as a sort of morbid reminder of his dark skills and twisted mind.

The Zodiac Killer’s Cryptograph

Now, I’m not suggesting that the Weldon Letters have anything to do with a serial killer or even a crime of any sort, but the mind does conjure some interesting scenarios when one considers the potential of the messages.

Is it a secret communiqué between nefarious parties?  Is it perhaps an innocent game between students, or perhaps a messaging system between star-crossed lovers?  Or is it just a meaningless prank by someone with too much time on their hands?

We don’t know, and Mike Moffatt is prepared to offer $100 to anyone who can crack the code contained in the Weldon Letters.  Give it a shot, everything you need can be found on Moffatt’s website.

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