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Page 28 : Beale Ciphers Analyses

The Case for Edgar Allan Poe

     During the existence of this website, the evidence favoring Edgar Allan Poe as the author of The Beale Papers has been steadily increasing. This page presents the arguments for and against.

The Last Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe

    One of the best Beale websites is "The Last Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe " by Robert Ward. It presents convincing circumstantial evidence that Poe is the author of the Beale Papers. He has written several excellent essays and analyses which are listed here:


    A correspondent has made the following suggestion.

    In 1850, at the end of his career, E. A. Poe published his only novel, 'The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket'. Like 'The Gold Bug' it is a story involving cryptographic messages. Chapter XXIII of the novel contains the following cryptogram:

pym.jpg (22549 bytes)

The following passage from The Gold Bug, found by Heath Smith, contains interesting similarities (underlined) to The Beale Papers.

"It left me also in the dark," replied Legrand, "for a few days; during which I made diligent inquiry,
 in the neighborhood of Sullivan's Island, for any building which went by the name of the 'Bishop's
 Hotel'; for, of course, I dropped the obsolete word 'hostel.' Gaining no information on the subject,
 I was on the point of extending my sphere of search, and proceeding in a more systematic manner, when,
 one morning, it entered into my head, quite suddenly, that this 'Bishop's Hostel' might have some
 reference to an old family, of the name of Bessop, which, time out of mind, had held possession of
 an ancient manor-house, about four miles to the northward of the Island. I accordingly went over to
 the plantation, and reinstituted my inquiries among the older negroes of the place. At length one
 of the most aged of the women said that she had heard of such a place as Bessop's Castle, and thought
 that she could guide me to it, but that it was not a castle, nor a tavern, but a high rock.
"I offered to pay her well for her trouble, and, after some demur, she consented to accompany me to
 the spot. We found it without much difficulty, when, dismissing her, I proceeded to examine the place.

Edgar Allan Poe's cryptology

    In some of the crypto websites on Poe there is some criticism of his cryptographic abilities; that he used monoalphabetic substitutions almost exclusively; that his knowledge was limited, having been garnered from reading an encyclopedia.

    Poe left cryptograms for posterity to solve. See The Edgar Allan Poe Cryptographic Challenge for several links with historical information on Poe's cryptographical interests. One was solved in 1992, and another in October 2000. Details of the last solution, and the cryptogram itself, are provided.

    Was The Beale Papers one intended for posterity?

    I have found no analysis criticizing the Poe hypothesis. Some authors on Beale dismiss the idea off-handedly. There are many scholarly websites on Poe the writer, and Poe the cryptographer, but I have found none that mention a link between him and the Beale Papers. At least one noted Poe scholar, Burton R. Pollin, categorically rejects the notion that Poe is the author. He has written a paper on this subject which we are trying to locate.

Method of Encryption Found?

   Brothers David and Charlie Mason have been resolute Beale analysts for many years, and are previous contributors to this website (see Page 10). In this new paper, the Masons find code-based indicators to Edgar Allan Poe as author. The paper is brief, well researched, and intriguing. Download now (.rtf format 18.6 Kb)

The mystery-shrouded death of Edgar Allan Poe

    There are many versions of the cause of Poe's death. These include alcoholism, opium, heart failure, tuberculosis, rabies, a beating during an election campaign, to name a few. Even his burial site is controversial.

    The excerpts below are from these websites:

The parentheses are my own.

    "Shrouded in opinion and contradiction, the essential details of Poe's final days leave us with more questions than answers. In the end we must accept that the few tantalizing facts we have lead to no certain conclusion. Poe's death must, probably, remain a mystery -- but the puzzle still teases and entices us."

    "I now proceed to give the true version of the place and manner of Mr. Poe’s burial. Among the false statements I have met with was one to the effect that he had been 'buried in the Potter’s Field of his native city.' As one of only three, or perhaps four, persona -- not counting the undertaker and the drivers of the hearse and a single carriage, which made up the entire funeral train of the author of 'The Raven' -- who followed the body to the grave, I am happy to be able to testify that the truth, bad enough as it is, does not sustain this story. The burying-place of Poe was an old one belonging to the 'Westminster Presbyterian Church,' which had ceased to be used much, in 1849, because of its location in a populous portion of Baltimore -- in Green street. There were many old vaults in it; and, when our little cortege reached it, I naturally consoled myself with the thought that his relatives -- two of whom were present, and one of these the officiating clergyman -- had secured him at least a temporary resting-place in one of those family tombs. But it proved to be otherwise. A grave had been dug among the crumbling mementos of mortality. Into this the plainly-coffined body was speedily lowered, and then the earth was shoveled directly upon the coffin-lid. This was so unusual even in the burials of the poor, that I could not help noticing the absence of not only the customary box, as an inclosure for the coffin itself, but of even the commonest boards to prevent the direct contact of the decomposing wet earth with it."

-Joseph Evans Snodgrass

    "Mr. Nelson (Neilson) Poe, Judge Nelson and myself (Henry Herring, Poe's uncle), together with Mr. Charles Suter, the undertaker, were the only persons attending his funeral."

-Henry Herring

    "Neilson, Poe's cousin, spoke briefly at the dedication of Poe's memorial grave in 1875, but made no statement concerning the circumstances of Edgar's death. If Neilson Poe had specific information about Poe's final days, he apparently took it with him to the grave."

    " ardent search for a death certificate or any official hospital records, but found nothing..."

     "Death certificates were apparently not required at the time and none is known to have been filed for Poe.

Rosalie MacKenzie Poe

   I thank David Mason for reporting the following.

    Rosalie MacKenzie was Edgar Allan Poe's sister, and they maintained close ties during his lifetime. Their complex history and relationship is described here: Rosalie MacKenzie Poe

    Although she was the natural heir to Poe's literary estate, she lost control of it to another. She died in 1874, but for several years before, being needy, she is known to have sold Poe memorabilia in Richmond and Baltimore. In The Beale Papers, James Ward makes a statement which appears totally irrelevant to the story. With reference to the year 1862, he states "About this time, however, affairs of importance required
my presence in Richmond...". Is this the manner by which a work in progress at the time of Poe's death wound its way to James Beverly Ward and John W. Sherman, to be completed and published in 1885?

    Many details regarding the contents and disposition of Poe's literary estate are available here:

Stylometry: Edgar Allan Poe and The Beale Papers

    Stylometry is defined as a method of studying literary style, frequency of word usage, etc. by means of the statistical analysis of a text, usually with the aid of computer programs, which allows for the charting of historical changes in style, the investigation of questions of disputed literary authorship and the authentication of written evidence.

    The first person to apply this technique to the study of The Beale Papers was Louis Kruh. He wrote two papers which were published in Cryptologia. (See Page 22)

    In his analysis, he compared the texts of The Beale Papers and of the three letters allegedly written by T. J. Beale, and concluded that all were written by the same person, and that therefore, the treasure story was a hoax. For lack of any other suspect, and without any specific proof, he presumed the author to be James B. Ward.

    Science News Online of December, 2003 has an article on stylometry titled Bookish Math - Statistical tests are unraveling knotty literary mysteries. Stylometry is ‘the science of measuring literary style’. The article describes methods in some detail.

"At first glance, it might appear that the way to pinpoint a writer’s style is to study the rarest, most striking features of his or her writing. After all, it’s the unexpected words and the unusual rhetorical flourishes that seem to mark a work as unique..."

"Yet the most venerable, commonly used approach of stylometrists does the opposite: It examines how writers use bread-and-butter words such as 'to' and 'with.' Although this approach seems counterintuitive, it’s based on sound logic."

    The following revisits the question of The Beale Papers authorship, using stylometry to compare with a selected work from Edgar Allan Poe.

    Three documents were used, as follows:

  1. The Journal of Julius Rodman, Poe's work which most resembles the Beale adventure. The title and chapter headings were removed.

    2.    The Beale Papers with the following items removed:

    3.    The three letters from TJB to Morriss with the following items removed:

    The same Science News Online article notes: "Stylometry is now entering a golden era. In the past 15 years, researchers have developed an arsenal of mathematical tools, from statistical tests to artificial intelligence techniques, for use in determining authorship."

    For this purpose, I selected a freeware stylometry program called Signature written by Dr. Peter Millican,  Head of Joint Honours Computing, and Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Computing at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He also lectures on programming for the School of Computing. Signature is designed to facilitate stylometric analysis and comparison of texts, with a particular emphasis on author identification. More information, and download of Signature are available here:

  The startling results follow:

Word length:

Style1.jpg (90483 bytes)

Sentence length:

Style2.jpg (93392 bytes)

Usage of letters:

Style3.jpg (94354 bytes)


Style4.jpg (64898 bytes)

Common words:

Style5.jpg (72059 bytes)

    It is tempting to look at these graphs, conclude they are virtually identical, and hence that Poe wrote The Beale Papers.

     However, the Signature program provides a more precise statistical test called "Chi-Square". In the words of the author...

The Chi-Square value is calculated as a number, and the larger the number, the less likely it is that a text like the sample could have arisen by chance.

This number is usually compared against a standard value to indicate whether it counts as "significant" to the corresponding degree. Typically in scientific research, only a result which is at least "significant at the 5% level" is taken to be worthy of note.

Many people who use statistical tests fall victim to a natural misinterpretation of their results. The p-value does NOT give the probability that the sample actually "came from the same population as" the reference text.

Rather, it gives the probability that a difference of at least the magnitude measured between the sample and the reference would arise by chance if a sample of similar size were to be taken at random from the reference population.

    First, I performed the chi-square tests on the categories shown in the graphs above for The Beale Papers as the reference text and the TJB letters as the sample text, with these results:

Word length * The difference is significant at the 5% level. Chi-square 5% value = 12.59; 2% value = 15.03
Sentence length Insufficient data for test
Usage of letters The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.
Punctuation The difference is highly significant at the 1% level.
Common words The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.

    I swapped the sample and reference texts and the new test results were as follows:

Word length The difference is very highly significant at the 1% level.
Sentence length Insufficient data for test
Usage of letters The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.
Punctuation ** The difference is NOT significant even at the 20% level. Chi-square 20% value = 3.22
Common words ** The difference is NOT significant even at the 20% level. Chi-square 20% value = 4.64

      Asked to comment on these results, Dr. Millican responded:

"There are a number of problems with authorship identification using stylometry.  When a comparison of two texts using the chi square test yields a result which is 'very highly significant, at the 0.1% level', this means that according to that test, the texts are significantly DIFFERENT.  The problem is that this sort of significant difference can easily occur, even with texts by the same author, especially if the samples are short, or if there is any systematic difference between them (e.g. prose style, dialogue content, repeated use of specific names). 

For this reason, stylometric results have to be interpreted with great caution, and I’d suggest that to assess the significance of the comparisons you want to make, you should test them not only on your target texts, but also on a number of others, e.g. other writings by the 'suspects', AND other comparable writings from 'non-suspects'.  Then you can look at a battery of results, and get a reasonable impression of what is significant in the context and what is not. 

 To be frank, I suspect that on texts of the length you’re dealing with (i.e. very short texts), only Signature’s word list test is likely to be of much use.  Eventually I hope to put more sophisticated tests into the system, because things like word length, sentence length and letter frequency are pretty crude, and tend not to discriminate authors very reliably (though sentence length gives very interesting results if texts are long enough, e.g. novels)."

    Essentially then, The Beale Papers is too short to draw a reliable conclusion and, in the tables above and below, those items with asterisks indicate a degree of similarity, whereas the others indicate significant differences.

    Next, assuming that The Beale Papers and the TJB letters were written by the same person, I repeated the chi-square tests on The Journal of Julius Rodman and the combined text of The Beale Papers and the TJB letters, with results as follows:

Word length The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.
Sentence length ** The difference is NOT significant even at at the 20% level. Chi-square 20% value = 1.64
Usage of letters The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.
Punctuation The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.
Common words The difference is very highly significant at the 0.1% level.

    These results are quite different than the graphs seem to suggest. There are too many assumptions, and not enough data to conclude that Edgar Allan Poe is, or is not, the author of The Beale Papers.

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