Hidden in plain sight….

Curious Rascal
5 min readJan 21, 2024

Why is the world so mysterious? I don’t mean nature and how and why we exist or have evolved, or even blood curdling tales where you are scared witless from malicious intrigue. I’m pondering man made deceptions. Deliberately hidden in plain sight around us the hidden and not so hidden meanings and messages created by people. We have language but much of life proceeds or is lubricated by subtext perpetuated by codes only obvious to the chosen few.

Let me start at the conspiracy end of secret communication….

One day on holiday I fell into one of those meandering conversations with a stranger that are inexplicable but delicious in encouraging your brain to ponder what you don’t know. He spoke to me of musicians concealing codes in music not obvious to us mere mortals. I was drawn in and had to learn more.

Hiding information in this way is known as music cryptography. In its most basic form, the music letters (A to G) are used to spell out words or codes. Philip Thicknesse an 18th Century mathematician and cryptologist created an enciphering approach using quarter and half notes to express words. Francis Bacon the English philosopher also used a musical encryption technique where a certain number of notes of A or B are translated into a letter of the alphabet e.g aaaaa for A. The idea being such messages could not be easily translated by the untrained eye without musical ability or a knowledge of the key. It seems this type of cryptography was less used for passing intelligence but for fun, to leave a mark or to protest to those in the know.

Bach created the Bach motif in which he spelt out his name in compositions. Brahms is said to have placed a cipher in his String Sextet №2 in G major. In 1858, he fell in love with Agathe Von Siebold, a musical director. Although they made plans to marry he called it off to focus on his musical career and so she married whilst he remained single until his death. But still being very much in love he mingled the notes A-G-A-H-E in significant bars of the first movement of this piece apparently in demonstration of his unrequited love (T is not a musical note). Even Taylor Swift is said to use cryptography in her tunes for fans to crack her hidden thoughts. Then there are pieces played backwards in which some can hear Satanic words (Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and The Eagles Hotel California for example) and subliminal coded messages camouflaged within refrains are another category altogether…

To have a little sense of creating your own musical cipher, Solfa cipher turns words into melodies…. I typed in curiosity and the rascal and was rewarded with a cute little ditty.

Conspiracy theories abound; clearly there is much conjecture and stretching following this direction of thought which could actually be acts of coincidence or nonsense. But it is fun speculating because music is not the only realm of shrouded messages. Famous paintings have inspired speculation. In the painting by Da Vinci of The Last Supper, someone has suggested it divulges a musical piece. If 5 lines are drawn across the painting, the apostles right hands and the loaves of bread position as musical notes and form a 40 second hymn like melody. Could this be a hidden code only translatable with the correct key?

Art history reaches into the past to discern information and context from objects and symbols placed within paintings. I enjoy studying pieces to make sense of what is being ‘declared’ or happening. Like a puzzle more is being expressed than the strokes of the brush. Today we can only muse but at the time I believe the conveyed messaging would have been obvious to sharp observers.

Hoboglyphs emerge from the term ‘hobos’. They were essentially a collection of graffiti tags understood by the hobo community. These were nomadic travellers (specifically travelling to find work) who left symbols for each other indicating the best places to stay — or not, where to secure food or of the dangers lurking. These messages were turned into the Hobo code.

I have often stopped to puzzle the seemingly random coloured markings on pavements, roads, walls. Yes, I have too much time on my hands… Often incomprehensible they can be quite curious to us bystanders but understood by utility, construction workers and engineers. The strange numbers and letters tell of what pipes or cables lurk below — water, gas, electricity for example and where it is safe to dig or not. A BBC News magazine report explained in the UK the different colours each co-ordinate with a type of cable or pipe — blue means a water system while yellow indicates gas lines and green labels CCTV or data wiring.

Most professions have their own codes or ‘lingo’ which only those in the know can debrief — from the police, medical professions, nightclub bouncers and even dating websites have codes imparting information. I read on Reddit 437737 means Herpes! Gangs use graffiti symbols as a language to control territory or threaten violence. This I learnt from a US website (police1.com) : a sprayed tag defines a gang’s turf; a crossed our gang tag is an act of disrespect and signals impending violence and RIP will commemorate a dead gang member. Certain emojis now have dual meanings having been commandeered by drug dealers….I could go on…When you start to immerse yourself in this line of thought, you become aware of the wealth of broadcasting around us and I have only revealed the tip of the iceberg.

I am aware I have spanned conspiracy to everyday life in this post on hidden meanings. My intention was not for you to think of me as a nut but to be open to the idea the world isn’t two dimensional. All around us are hidden but not hidden messages we in our naivety or inexperience are ignorant to. So open your eyes and your mind and remember — just because we do not partake, do not underestimate how much of the world is oiled and managed by such mysterious communication….

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Curious Rascal

I'm keen to understand more of the world, people, history, science, making sense of the random because it helps me in life and improves my thinking.