Secrecy and mystery surrounds pretty much everything in and around the Central Intelligence Agency. The strange sculpture on the ground of its headquarters in Langley, Virginia contains a cryptographic puzzle that has never been completely solved, even by the agency’s top code breakers. That is until now…maybe.
The 12-foot tall sculpture, called Kryptos, is a cast iron replica of a large sheet of construction paper containing four hidden messages that are carved into the metal surface like stencils. The sculpture was erected 25 years ago by American artist Jim Sanborn and the messages therein apparently contain clues to a riddle.
According to Sanborn, the key to solving the puzzle lies in performing a kind of “treasure hunt” on the grounds of the CIA complex.
To date, three out of the four messages have been solved but the fourth has yet to be cracked. It is apparently 97 letters in length and has given even the top code-breaking minds within the CIA and the super-secretive NSA fits for years.
It was a collaboration of individuals at both agencies who were able to crack the first three messages but the fourth has been a mystery for years and both CIA and NSA code-breakers have given up trying.
Sanborn recently released a small clue to the fourth message to honor the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The clue has only been sent to certain of the world’s most renowned cryptographers and mathematicians and Sanborn claims that he is the only person alive who knows the answer to the fourth message.
That said, if the individuals who have been presented with clues for that fourth message are unable to solve it while the artist is still alive, the CIA’s Kryptos mystery may remain a mystery forever.