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'Devil Letter' Mystery Solved After 300 Years

by John Rosca / Sep 21, 2017 09:28 AM EDT
Possessed/Evil Nun

The so-called "Devil Letter" bearing a mysterious code from a medieval-era nun has been deciphered after centuries of failed attempts to decode it. The 300-year-old message was written by a Sicilian nun who believed that she was under the influence of Satan.

Scientists from the Ludum science museum in Sicily were able to crack the "La Lettera del Diavolo" code after obtaining a copy of the letter in August, reports Atlas Obscura. Ludum museum director Daniele Abete said that their team used a powerful code-breaker program to analyze its symbols and formulate an effective decryption algorithm. Curiously, the software had been sourced from the dark web, the hidden portion of the Internet that is a hotbed of hacker tools, illicit porn and black market activity.

Before they could run the dark-web program, the Ludum researchers needed a better understanding of the woman who crafted the code. The letter writer was Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione (born Isabella Tomasi), a 31-year-old nun who was staying at Palma di Montechiaro convent in Sicily. On August 11, 1676, her sisters discovered her lying on the floor, her face stained with ink, clutching the infernal letter in her hand, says LiveScience.

Sister Maria could not recall having written the message, a cryptic text composed of undecipherable symbols and letters. Historical records suggest that the nun claimed Satan had come to her with the message, which she transcribed on parchment while under devilish possession.

The Ludum researchers learned all they could about Sister Maria, finding out that she was a learned woman with facility in many tongues. Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Runic languages were used in the code-breaking software to process the decryption.

The deciphered "Devil Letter" turned out to be convoluted and not entirely comprehensible. Ludum did share some of the decoded snippets. One part said, "God thinks he can free mortals. This system works for no one. Perhaps now, Styx is certain," according to Mysterious Universe. Other lines spoke disparagingly of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, calling them "dead weights."

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