Ym raed Yssac

A fleeting glance at the following, beguiling letter would more often than not result in the assumption that it had been penned in a foreign language, when in actual fact it is a charmingly coded message – hint: try reading each word backward – sent playfully to an eight-year-old girl named Cassandra in 1817, by

You must know again my reluctance to marry

In May of 1932, 34-year-old pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean following a 14 hour, 56 minute flight from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B—just one of many aviation records that she broke during a lifetime fuelled by ambition. Earhart was

Joan of Arc’s Call for Arms

November 9th, 1429, with her forces’ weaponry and other supplies severely depleted following months of successful fighting, Joan of Arc dictated and signed the following letter to the population of Riom in the hope of rounding up replenishments in time for the Siege of La Charité. Approximately 17 years of age and illiterate, Jeanne was more

The most beautiful death

In 1960, as he was writing Island, the utopian counterpart to his classic dystopian masterpiece, Brave New World, celebrated author Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. On his deathbed three years later, in November 1963, just as he was passing away, Aldous—a man who for many years, ever since being introduced to

Fifty Lady Sharpshooters Await

As the Spanish-American War loomed in April of 1898, celebrity sharpshooter Annie Oakley – a Buffalo Bill performer so famous that she was essentially the world’s first female superstar – decided to donate her resources to the government by sending the following letter to then-U.S. President William McKinley. The offer was simple: Oakley would supply the

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

In July of 1939, after nine years of fruitless treatment, multiple sclerosis sufferer Bess Bell Neely took a chance and wrote to baseball legend Lou Gehrig in the hope that he may be able to help. Gehrig himself had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis the previous month following a visible decline in his health

When a real and final catastrophe should befall us…

On April 9th, 1948, a month before Israel declared independence, just over one hundred residents of Deir Yassin were massacred by members of two militant Zionist groups – Lehi and Irgun – as part of an effort to cleanse the area of its Arab population. The next day, Albert Einstein wrote the following passionate letter

This was dictated before the world fell in on me

The main body of this letter was dictated by then-Vice President of the United States Harry Truman on the morning of April 12th, 1945. In it, he tells sister-in-law May Wallace of his ever-increasing workload after just three months in a role for which he didn’t actually campaign. Just hours after the letter was dictated,

I had seen Amelia Earhart!

On July 2nd of 1937, 39-year-old Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean whilst attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, just five years after famously becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Despite multiple search efforts, neither Earhart or her navigator Fred Noonan were ever found. Weeks

I am to be executed

For the best part of twenty years until she died, Mary Stuart was either imprisoned or on trial in England at the behest of her first cousin, Elizabeth I. Her entire life was anything but normal, having been crowned Queen of Scots at nine months of age, married and widowed by the time she was

John Lennon signed my album

On the afternoon of December 8th, 1980, outside his apartment in New York, John Lennon, one of the most famous and recognisable faces on Earth, was approached by an autograph hunter who silently handed him a copy of Lennon’s album, Double Fantasy, to sign (see photo above). Lennon obliged. In roughly the same area just

I felt the risk of being overwhelmed by Giger

Considering the hugely positive reaction to his incredible, Oscar-winning work on the film’s predecessor, it’s little wonder that H. R. Giger was “disappointed” not to be contacted when production began on Aliens, the second installment in what is one of the most successful movie franchises in cinema’s history. Indeed, Giger, the celebrated Swiss artist who famously

Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic’s friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous

An idiot of the 33rd degree

In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent the following superb letter to J. H. Todd, a salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received, the “medicine” in question — called “The Elixir of

Hang on, my love, and grow big and strong

It took nine months for Iggy Pop to reply to then-21-year-old Laurence’s fan letter, but really the timing couldn’t have been more perfect as on the morning his thoughtful note did arrive at her home in Paris, Laurence’s family were being evicted by bailiffs. Laurence recalls that moment back in 1995: “By the time I

Art is useless because…

In 1890, following the publication of Oscar Wilde‘s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an intrigued young fan named Bernulf Clegg wrote to the author and asked him to explain a now-famous line included in its preface: “All art is quite useless.” To Clegg’s surprise, Wilde responded with the handwritten letter seen below. Transcript follows. (Source: The Morgan; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.)

The birth of Bonfire Night

On 26th October, 1605, William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, received a letter, seen below, in which he was advised, anonymously, to stay away from Parliament the following week as a “terrible blowe” was expected to meet all those present. That terrible blow was in fact The Gunpowder Plot, a plan to blow up the Houses

I wish I could spare Nancy from this painful experience

On November 5th of 1994, five years after leaving office, 83-year-old Ronald Reagan hand-wrote the following open letter to the American people and revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a surprisingly common, incurable form of dementia that affects many millions of people around the world. He lived with the disease for a further ten

What a dandy car you make

From 1932 until its bloody conclusion in May of 1934, Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and an ever-changing gang of accomplices became a nationwide talking point as a result of a murderous crime spree which spanned the Central United States. Naturally, such a high-profile criminal gang depended on high-powered transport to evade the authorities and judging

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

In 1897, on the advice of her father, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a short letter to the editor of New York’s now-defunct newspaper, The Sun, in which she sought confirmation of Santa Claus’ existence. In response, Francis Pharcellus Church published an editorial on September 21st — entitled ‘Is There a Santa Claus‘ — which went on to

The Quill Letter

I’ve spoken before about the secretive communication methods used during the Revolutionary War – see The Masked Letter and Fire or Acid – and here’s another, decidedly lower-tech example: The Quill Letter. The idea was simple and effective: messages were delicately written on long, extremely thin strips of paper, then rolled up and inserted into

This rain of atomic bombs will increase manyfold in fury

At 11:00am on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an

We have a message from another world

In the summer of 1899, while alone in his Colorado Springs laboratory working with his magnifying transmitter, the inimitable Nikola Tesla observed a series of unusual rhythmic signals which he described as “counting codes.” Having just detected cosmic radio signals for the first time, Tesla immediately believed them to be attempted communications from an intelligent

You gave me a valuable gift: you took me seriously

During an illustrious career which saw him win multiple awards and worldwide recognition, Theodore Geisel published over 60 books, the majority of which he wrote and illustrated under the pen name Dr. Seuss. Despite his busy schedule, and just months after the release of The Cat in the Hat, Geisel set aside time to write

My real name is David Jones

David Bowie was just 20 years of age and yet to make a dent in the music scene when, in September of 1967, he received his first piece of fan mail from America. The fan in question was 14-year-old Sandra Dodd, a New Mexico resident whose uncle, a manager of a local radio station, had

Houdini’s Last Trick

At New York’s Shelton Hotel on August 5th, 1926, in plain view of invited journalists and using no breathing apparatus, Harry Houdini lay in a sealed casket at the bottom of a swimming pool for an hour and a half. His motivation for the feat was the opportunity to expose Egyptian fakir Rahman Bey, a

Slaughterhouse Five

In December of 1944, whilst behind enemy lines during the Rhineland Campaign, 22-year-old Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops and subsequently became a prisoner of war. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow PoWs reached a Dresden work camp where they were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as “Schlachthof

Thousands of other Daddies went too…

On October 21st of 1942, not long after being called to New Guinea to fight the Japanese forces during World War II, a young Australian soldier named John Byrnes decided to write to his 2-year-old daughter in an effort to explain his situation. His letter can be seen below. It’s beyond beautiful. (Update: It seems

To my good friends ye Postmasters

Over 70,000 Londoners were left homeless in 1666 when, in the early hours of September 2nd, a fire that began in a bakery on Pudding Lane swiftly grew to consume and devastate the entire city. It is believed that approximately 13,000 residences burnt to the ground. As London’s first Post Office at Cloak Lane surrendered

If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong

Three years into the American Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wrote the following letter in order to summarise on paper some points he had previously made regarding the recruitment of slaves as Union soldiers and, ultimately, their freeing from the institution of slavery itself. Come the end of the war, all slaves in the

SAY YES I NEED A JOB

In 1989, at the end of a disastrous telephone interview in which he alluded to playing pirated versions of their games, Tim Schafer was advised by David Fox to send in his resume and a covering letter relating to the role of Assistant Programmer/Designer at LucasArts (at the time still named Lucasfilm). Schafer, in an

To all aspiring animators

In 1973, an aspiring young animator named Will Finn wrote a lengthy piece of fan mail to one of his idols, Disney legend Ward Kimball (pictured above), and Kimball responded with the wonderful letter below — an endearingly enthusiastic reply filled with friendly, sage advice. Even 15-year-old Will’s swipe at Hanna Barbera was dealt with expertly

The Ax

On November 30th, 1954, a character by the name of Charlotte Braun made her debut in the much-loved comic strip, Peanuts. Loud, brash and opinionated, “Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun” quickly annoyed the strip’s readers and on February 1st, 1955 — after just 10 sightings — she appeared in a storyline for the last time. 45

Einstein’s One Great Mistake

On August 2nd, 1939, after consultation with fellow physicists Leó Szilárd and Eugene Wigner, Albert Einstein signed the following letter to then-U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter warned that the construction of an atomic bomb using uranium was indeed possible, advised the U.S. Government to invest time and money into its research, and then hinted that

We all feel like that now and then

At the height of World War II on April 6th, 1943, the British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, wrote a letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke in an effort to simply brighten up his day–a letter which has since become a classic piece of correspondence for reasons that will soon become

Fire or Acid

American physicist Benjamin Thompson wrote the following letter in 1775 at the start of the American Revolutionary War, a war during which Thompson, a loyalist, acted as a spy for the British Army. The letter actually contains two different messages. The first, longer message spans three pages, was readable by all and is notable in

I was ready to sink into the earth with shame

Getting hideously drunk at a dinner party and embarrassing yourself is certainly nothing new. As far back as the 9th Century, the beautifully named ‘Dunhuang Bureau of Etiquette’ insisted that local officials use the following letter template (dated 856) when sending apologies to offended dinner hosts. The guilty party would copy the template text, enter

The things I saw beggar description

The concentration camp in Ohrdruf was the first to be liberated by U.S. forces during World War II, and just a week later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower paid a visit in order to survey the scene. The following letter, in which Eisenhower describes said experience, was written by the future President three days later and

It will be sunny one day

Early-2006, during a bout of depression, a young lady by the name of Crystal Nunn wrote a desperate letter to Stephen Fry. Says Crystal: “I had no idea who to turn to. But I really needed someone to turn to and to ease the pain. So I wrote to Stephen Fry because he is my hero, and

Most of you steal your software

On February 3rd of 1976, almost 10 years before unveiling Windows 1.0, an irate young Bill Gates wrote the following open letter in response to piracy of Altair BASIC, a piece of software Gates had produced with Paul Allen and Monte Davidoff, and which was essentially the first such release from Microsoft (then named Micro-Soft). The letter was published

The word God is the product of human weakness

In January of 1954, just a year before his death, Albert Einstein wrote the following letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind after reading his book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt,” and made known his views on religion. Apparently Einstein had only read the book due to repeated recommendation by their mutual friend Luitzen Egbertus

I can’t spell. I’m very upset

April 1964: The U.S. Department of Labor introduces new rules relating to foreign musicians entering the country, in effect making it more difficult for them to do so unless they can demonstrate a unique talent. The very recent onset of Beatlemania in America, coupled with misleading reports by the American press regarding this issue, results

And don’t get me started on the Scoutmasters

To conclude today’s child-centric trio of letters, I present to you a beautifully observant, expertly written complaint from a schoolboy by the name of Richard Millington which verges on comedy gold. The letter was sent to President Kennedy in February of 1963, just a few years after the U.S. government introduced the President’s Council on

I did NOT hear the Martians “rapping on my chamber door”

For your enjoyment, two beautifully contrasting reactions to the original airing of Orson Welles‘ adaptation of H. G. Wells‘ The War of the Worlds. For the uninitiated, on the evening of October 30th, 1938, the CBS Radio Network broadcast what sounded (to some) like a series of genuine news bulletins depicting the unfolding invasion of

My good friend Roosvelt

In November 1940, thirteen years before spearheading the revolution that would ultimately see him replace dictator Fulgencio Batista as leader of Cuba, a teenage Fidel Castro—aged fourteen, not twelve as he inaccurately claimed—wrote a somewhat cheeky letter to the then president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and asked him for some money: a

Blade Runner will prove invincible

In 1968, author Philip K. Dick’s post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—the story of a bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, whose job is to find and “retire” rogue androids—was published, almost immediately generating interest from film studios keen to adapt it for the big screen. Early talks and screenplay drafts failed to

It was hard to give five sons to the Navy

November, 1942: Five brothers, all serving on the same vessel during World War II, are killed in action as a result of said warship sinking at the Battle of the Solomons. Two months later, after hearing no word from the Navy regarding her sons’ well-being, Alleta Sullivan writes the following, deeply moving letter to the

I ♥ U

Experts believe the following love letter to be approximately 100 years old. If you have some time to kill, I’d suggest attempting to solve the code yourself before looking at the transcript. The idea’s simple: each image represents a piece of text, e.g. ☼day would translate as Sunday. Good luck. Slightly larger photo here. More info

TO A TOP SCIENTIST

In 1957, following the announcement that the Soviets had trumped the U.S. with the successful launch of Sputnik 1, Australian schoolboy Denis Cox urgently sent the above letter to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Rocket Range at Woomera, in an attempt to enter Australia into the Space Race. Much to Denis’ dismay, his letter, addressed

17 million Negroes cannot wait for the hearts of men to change

Jackie Robinson was an exceptionally talented baseball player. In fact, such was his talent that on April 15th, 1947 he obliterated an unwritten policy within baseball that had, until that point, prevented players of African descent from joining teams in either the minor or major leagues. After his baseball career ended, Robsinson took an active

I can and will do more good as a Federal Agent at Large

Elvis Presley was an avid collector of police badges and the owner of dozens from departments and agencies the length and breadth of the United States. But, there was one badge in particular that he was desperate to get his hands on—one which had, for a long time, proven elusive: a badge from the Bureau

From Hell

On October 15th of 1888, Mr George Lusk, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee—a group of concerned citizens who actively searched for the person responsible for a spate of killings known as the “Whitechapel murders”—received this chilling letter from someone claiming to be infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. It was sent along with a

For the sake of humanity

On July 23rd of 1939, as tensions mounted in Europe following Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia, Mohandas Gandhi, the famously non-violent leader of the Indian independence movement, wrote a letter to the man who was orchestrating what would become World War II: the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler. As it happens, Gandhi’s letter—a clear and