by Leah Strickland

The 1903 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story "Sherlock Holmes and the Dancing Men" features an unusual cipher. In this podcast, I give a summary of the story, so listeners will understand why Sherlock solving the puzzle is important. I then explain how Sherlock was able to solve the Dancing Men cipher. He was able to solve it by using frequency analysis. I go on to explain how Sherlock solving this cipher is unrealistic because of more messages needed to be sent for frequency analysis to be more accurate. I then talk about how the dancing men cipher is similar to the Gold Bug cipher created by Edgar Allan Poe. I then describe some similarities between the two authors and their ciphers. I finish off my podcast by giving an example of popular cryptography in modern times.

I would like to thank Xiaoyu Dong and Xin Yi Zhang for helping me edit my script.

Sources

Illustration by Sidney Paget.