The Kryptos Sculpture

The Kryptos Sculpture is located in the center of the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA. It was designed in 1990, and contains a four-part encrypted puzzle. The first three parts have been solved, but now we’ve learned that the second-part solution was wrong and here’s the corrected solution.

The fourth part remains unsolved. Wired wrote:

Sanborn has said that clues to the last section, which has only 97 letters, are contained in previously deciphered parts. Therefore getting those first three sections correct has been crucial.

Posted on April 21, 2006 at 7:54 AM20 Comments


Josh O April 21, 2006 8:31 AM

Actually, many people have solved the last part. It uses the CIA’s best encryption method, and when you follow the instructions in the message to claim your prize, THEY KILL YOU! Problem solved! No need to find a better encryption method.

stacy April 21, 2006 8:36 AM

From wikipedia: “On April 19, 2006, Sanborn contacted the Kryptos Group (an online community dedicated to the Kryptos puzzle) to inform them that the accepted solution to part 2 was wrong. He had removed a single character from the cyphertext for aesthetic reasons.”

If it is crucial that you correctly decipher the first three parts before you can decipher the fourth, why would you change the cyphertext of one of the parts? Oh, right, “aesthetics”! Why didn’t I think of that?

Erik V. Olson April 21, 2006 9:10 AM

It’s just one of those crazy things that despite a busted cyphertext, you ended up with a readable plaintext — “IDBYROWS” rather than “XLAYERTWO”.

Chris Sanner April 21, 2006 9:14 AM

re: stacy
read the wired article.
yes, aesthetics, but he did it thinking that it wouldn’t change the decrypted output to remove a single “.” character. (Which was what the x decrytped to.)

Miesmuschel April 21, 2006 9:22 AM

Why does the artist even have to know the plaintexts? They could have given him just the encrypted version without a problem.

Eric K. April 21, 2006 9:23 AM

There are actually numerous typos in the Kryptos plaintext.

I’ve been wondering for a while if those aren’t part of the clues for part 4.

phil April 21, 2006 10:12 AM

Why does the artist even have to know the plaintexts? They could have given him just the encrypted version without a problem.<<

The artist is the person who devised the encryption in the first place.

Jungsonn April 21, 2006 11:32 AM

Before i clicked the links i had an image im my head, of a beautifull bronze girl with chyperings all over the statue…
(imagination can run wild)

Now i have to digest that squirly boring statue, i think it looks depressing…

another_bruce April 21, 2006 11:37 AM

i cracked up reading “the da vinci code”. 300 pages of running around europe with the french chick trying to align the letters on the side of the two cylinders correctly, when all he needed to do was put the cylinder in the freezer, standing on end, then take her into the boudoir for about 90 minutes…upon returning, the vinegar inside would have frozen, trapping the vial with the map safely at the bottom, at which point the top could be removed with a band saw (or a louisville slugger) with no risk to the map. that’s called thinking outside the cylinder!

Mike April 21, 2006 1:19 PM


Yes, but that would have made a short book and a bad movie (unless Ron Jeremy was hired for the lead) and Dan Brown would make no money.

allen April 21, 2006 2:09 PM


IMO, Dan Brown’s books sell because they are written at such a simple level. Comprehension and prerequiste knowledge requirements are low. They are like Michael Crichton’s novels, except with most of the interesting scientific clue stripped away so that they are quicker reads, accessible to a wider chunk of the bell curve, and will translate well into movies. The average person who knows nothing about crypto can watch Alias – which referred to the crypto sculpture at Langley without showing the real thing in the most recent episode, read Brown, and actually mostly get it.

Cryptodecker April 21, 2006 4:26 PM

It has been hinted about the misspellings are all intentinal. The latest news was a mistake that the sculptor made without knowing about it. We noticed that the final wording on the plaintext was not right, and so he made the call.
Read the wired article with him for the complete story. And FYI, he made the statue by himself, with only technical assitance from a retired CIA guy. He wanted no one to know the answer to this problem he gives to the CIA. Read the article.,1284,66334,00.html

A good article to get those cypher-phreaks really going about a puzzle.

Mike C. April 21, 2006 5:33 PM

Is it just me, or does the second part (up until the coordinates) read like it’s out of the production notes for “Lost”?

xfrosch April 21, 2006 9:29 PM

allen: it’s been amusing to follow Baigent and Leigh suing Brown in London. why do you suppose they didn’t try to sue Professor Eco as well?

Roxanne April 22, 2006 10:21 AM

They need to go find out what’s behind the brick on the second shelf in the CIA’s library. What is the latitude and longitude of the sculpture itself? 🙂

I expect that it has in fact been solved many times, and may have given birth to the whole GeoCaching craze, as each person who solves it decides not to tell. Let the next guy figure it out, too, if they’re so smart.

Komodo May 15, 2006 7:12 AM

Classical cryptography can easily have more than one solution. However, that does not mean that the other “new” solutions are “correct”!
In addition, the theory is that to come up with the “new” solution, one must alter the ciphertext, not the keyword. If one were to propose that the keyword is incorrect, I’d be all ears.

msmagnolia September 19, 2009 4:27 PM

of KRYPTOS worth???

IF someone knew the answer to
the STORY,, how much would this
be worth??and HOW can I get to
converse with someone WITHOUT
giving away my answer??


msmagnolia November 1, 2009 6:02 PM

i thank you for this site,
i hope to meet you as a FRIEND one
i have 1 query for mrsanborn/mrscheidt,
only cars park here? do no vans or
pickups park here?

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