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What could be an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the death of the Somerton Man.

With a little help from Aristotle and the infamous Soviet spy, Harry Gold.

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In the course of his interrogation, Rumrich divulged some information on how the Nazi spy ring operated. For example, he explained how as a means of identification, he would receive one half of a torn postcard that would be reconciled with the other half carried by one of his fellow agents.

NThe Nazi Spy Ring in America – Rhodi Jeffreys-Jones.

~~

In a fragment ascribed to Aristotle’s Constitution of Ithaca, the Spartans repeatedly used a pair of sticks (skutálē) as a simple encryption device. A long piece of leather was wrapped around a stick of a particular diameter and a message was written on it. The message could not be read without being wrapped around around a stick of the same diameter.

The Aristotlian fragment gives another version of the skutálē as it was used in financial transactions in Sparta. Discourides cut the skutálē in the presence of witnesses and wrote the corresponding part on each segment to signify a contract or bond (sumbolaoin). He would give one part to one of the witnesses and keep the other himself. This suggests what might have been a more precise function in wartime.

Aristotle’s Empiricism – Jean De Groot.

~~

After wrapping up the details of the Fuchs meeting, the handler told (Harry) Gold something surprising: the Soviets had a second mole inside Los Alamos. This mole would be in Albuquerque, not far from Santa Fe, while Gold was visiting, so Gold needed to make a side trip there to pick up additional papers from a man named Greenglass.

The handler then gave Gold half a Jell-O box top, which had been cut into a jigsaw shape. He passed the puzzle piece over to Gold. You’ll know it’s Greenglass, he said, because he’ll have the other half.

Harry Gold: Spy in the Lab – Sam Kean April 25, 2019. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/harry-gold-spy-in-the-lab

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Somerton Beach, 1948.

The plan was for one agent to receive a copy of a book (Rubaiyat) with the part of the last page containing the two words Tamam Shud removed. The other agent was to receive the removed slip of paper. Upon meeting they would reconcile both the tear in the book and the Tamam Shud slip. With that completed to their satisfaction, whatever needed to done would be done.


Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances were their undoing and the agent carrying the TS slip was found dead on the morning after their meeting was planned to have taken place,* aware of this the other agent disposed of his Rubaiyat through the open window of a car parked nearby rather than be caught with it in his possession.

Given that contact was known to exist between both agents and Harkness: one being the existence of her phone number on the back of the abandoned Rubaiyat, the other her reaction at being shown the bust of the dead man found to be carrying the TS slip, it is suspected she was responsible for covertly distributing both the book and the TS slip.

As far as the code found inscribed on the back of the Rubaiyat is concerned, it may have been something written by a previous owner as the book was likely sourced by Harkness second-hand rather than bought new. Her choice of a Rubaiyat as a means of covert identification is not surprising as she was known to have a strong attachment to the book, as evidenced by her gift of an inscribed copy to a wartime acquaintance some years previously.

Alf Boxall

Speculation has it that the reason both the body and abandoned Rubaiyat were found so close to Harkness’ home is that not only did she covertly distribute the book and slip, she also advised the agents where would be the best time and place for them to meet.

Here, in the open?

… or here, behind closed doors?

*If we were to believe that the man who saw a man carrying a man along the beach on the night of the 30th was watching the Somerton Man being taken to the bottom of the steps, already dead, then perhaps the man doing the carrying was the individual SM was meant to meet and the meeting and his death took place at 90A Moseley St. A scenario that might explain the body’s lividity, and after completing the carry he abandoned the Rubaiyat by slipping it into Freeman’s auto, not realising Harkness’ phone number was written on the back.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Things are only as complicated as you want them to be ..

    May 29, 2022
  2. Alan+H #

    Peter, your supposition of using the page and the missing piece does hold some water, however the time of the meeting, and the exchange of IDs if it happened, needed to be earlier as the book was tossed into the car 10 days before the expiry of our friend.
    And the second supposition as to the book being re-used from a previous time is also reasonably watertight as it was abandoned after its original mission in1945. The code page was long gone when the book was re-used but the phone number was likely written during its second coming.

    May 30, 2022
    • Alan, I know of the 10 days before claim, but think the timing of finding the book as given to Leane by Freeman to be more reliable. You’ll have to enlighten me on what happened in 1945 etc, unless you are talking about the Boxall episode.

      May 30, 2022
  3. There may some readers who mistakenly think the image published of the torn page is authentic, it isn’t as confirmed by Gerry Feltus in his book The Unknown Man. The torn page image was mocked up by the press and published the day after Freeman handed the Rubaiyat to DS Leane.

    May 31, 2022
  4. Clive #

    So, what was the reasoning for not showing the authentic torn page? Surely, all Durham had to do was take a photograph, of the authentic page, for the press as per his SM photos. Perhaps the authorities either didn’t want to show the authentic page because it showed writing(?) or, they tore out the page and lost it, which wouldn’t surprise me if the rest of the police ‘investigation’ was anything to go by!

    May 31, 2022
    • Clive, who knows? What is certain is that someone called the newspapers straight away and gave them all the info they needed to have some gopher sprint out to the nearest bookshop for a copy of the Fitzgerald edition, bring it back and rip a hole in the back page. And knowing that was the case it’s possible the book didn’t have the two words Tamam Shud printed there anyway. Problem was though that whoever leaked the info to the press didn’t tell them the TS slip was trimmed up, hence the endless discussions about the ragged tear not matching the slip (looking at you Milongal). Not only that but the silly buggers didn’t even know enough to keep the finger of the bloke holding open the book out of the shot.

      As a note: Gordon has just bought it to my attention that he found out about Gold’s Jello pack caper some years ago and in a comment drew attention to the same technique possibly used in TSM case. Cramer’s problem is that he has compromised himself with his micro-writing fixation and as a result cannot discuss what looks more than likely to be a means of mutual ID in the Somerton Man case without weakening that position.
      And Gordon, please tone down with the overly pompous emails … ok? Otherwise I’ll get cranky.

      And I do wish you would stop printing SOMERTON MAN CODE CRACKED as header to your multiple posts – you haven’t ‘cracked’ the code at all old sport as the term is derived from deciphering coded intelligence during wartime and became current during World War II, when cryptography, used by armies at least since Napoleon’s day, reached new heights of sophistication. Got that? Good.

      May 31, 2022
  5. The Sly Dog #

    The scenario: two grown men, both hardened spies, meeting at a predisclosed location, each with their respective elements to confirm the others ID. Man 1 pulls out a small book from an easily accessed, regular sized pocket. Man 2 pauses, starts using his large hand fingers to ferret out a tiny roll of paper from a small fob pocket unfortunately located right near his peen… there it is, nearly got it, nope, just missed it, try again… maybe shoulda thought this concealment through a bit more! Sounds super professional.

    May 31, 2022

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