Sunday, August 9, 2009

Clue #110 Revisited--The Next Level

In my previous blog post, I incorrectly stated that the term "AURORA" had not shown up as a puzzle solution over this past week; I was unaware that a Doubleday official had confirmed that as the answer to Clue #97. In addition, I asserted that the term "WICKHAM" referred to John Wickham; I was unaware that an official at Doubleday had confirmed that the name as it came up in Clue #107 referred to William Wickham. I am very grateful to the community of readers on this blog for setting me straight on the official answers, and I shall redouble my efforts to provide careful commentary regarding the Dan Brown clues sent out by Twitter. I also apologize to the fine folks at Doubleday for suggesting that they were practicing disinformation.

Having said that, I thought it worthwhile to take each of the puzzle solutions mentioned in Clue #110 to "the next level": that is, to give the background of the entities mentioned in each puzzle solution, and show their connections to other Twitter clues. Additionally, I thought I'd take a stab at showing how each clue might connect with The Lost Symbol. As always, your comments are welcome.

Clue #110

Posted at 4:21 p.m. (PDT) on Friday, August 7th:


The use of the word "Hint" suggests that all of these items are to be considered as a whole, not just as individual clues. I'll return to that notion later in this post. For the moment, though, let's consider each of these puzzle solutions individually.


As I mention in my post about Clue #97, a Doubleday executive, Frank Nelson, confirmed that the answer to this puzzle is "Aurora," explicitly mentioning that this refers to the hypersonic aircraft, the existence of which has been rumored in the aeronautical community for years. In addition, as Sandy Tamayo mentioned on the Dan Brown Facebook fan page, in 1992 Steven Douglas photographed the distinctive 'doughnuts on a rope' contrail that seems to be characteristics of the Aurora; this sighting occurred in Amarillo, TX (the coordinates of which show up in Clue #97), and Sandy mentioned that Douglas' description of the engine noise appears in the May 11, 1992 edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology. (There is also another possibility that I mention below.)

Babington Plot

The Babington Plot was mentioned 'way back in Clue #15, and was mentioned this past week in Clue #95. I have just restored my post on Clue #15, where you can read about the plot itself, and the themes that it brings up -- the most notable one being the theme of failed or broken codes that bring about the downfall of conspiracies.

Black Hand

As I mention in my post about Clue #96, the Black Hand were a real political conspiracy in early 20th century Serbia, a conspiracy that committed a political assassination that set in motion World War I. I hypothesized that, in The Lost Symbol, a group going by the same name might be involved in a conspiracy that could result in global warfare.

Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303), as I mention in my post about Clue #98, held very strong opinions against the separation of Church and State. These opinions were shared by some subsequent popes, including Pope Leo XIII, who in his letter Humanum Genus (1884) faulted the Freemasons for their support of the separation of church and state; in turn, the famous Scottish Rite Masonic leader Albert Pike wrote a response defending Freemasonry from the many criticism of Freemasonry found in Humanum Genus.

I speculated that The Lost Symbol might feature a face-off between some conspiracy that supported theocratic rule (that is, rule of the nation by religious authorities), on the one hand, and some component of the Scottish Rite, on the other.

(There is also another way that Boniface VIII might turn up in The Lost Symbol, as I describe below.)

Double Cross System

The Double-Cross System, mentioned in Clue #92, was the famous system created during World War II by MI5, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), which is parallel in its function to the American CIA. In this system, almost every German spy sent into British territory during WWII was turned into a double agent, supposedly working for the Germans against the British, but actually working for the British against the Germans.

Double agents have shown up in the Twitter clues before, including Benedict Arnold (Clue #30), Edward Bancroft (an associate of Silas Deane, Clue #42), Robert Hanssen (Clue #51), and Aldrich Ames (Clue #55). In a sense, then, what Clue #92 does is further establish that one or more double agents will show up in The Lost Symbol.


Clue #105 indicates that the "conspiracy objective" -- that is, presumably, the objective of the conspiracy in The Lost Symbol -- is monopoly. Monopoly, of course, means "sole control." However, this leaves up in the air whether this is a monopoly of a commodity (like, say, gold--which is often hinted at in the Twitter clues), or a monopoly of power.

Roberto Calvi

Robert Calvi was found dead, hanging by the neck from Blackfriars Bridge in London, which is shown in the surveillance camera feed featured in Clue #101. Calvi was a member of a renegade pseudo-Masonic lodge in Italy, P2, and featured prominently in a banking scandal where an enormous amount of money vanished, bringing down an Italian bank.

There are at least two points of potential relevance for The Lost Symbol. There may be some renegade Masonic group involved. In addition, the novel may well feature a conspiracy involving a vast amount of money -- such as the Confederate gold supposedly stashed away by the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34). (I mean, come on -- how could you have a vast, powerful, high-stakes conspiracy without a pile of cash to fund it all? Let's be practical here!)


Clue #94 indicates that Surveillance is directed "everywhere, to everyone, at all times." (In passing, I note the use of the ancient Atbash cipher in this clue, which dates back at least as far as the composition of the Jewish Bible.)

Surveillance is a frequent theme in the Twitter clues. The question is: does the Conspiracy merely use surveillance as a method to pursue its ends, or is surveillance itself the very heart of the Conspiracy?

William Wickham

In my response to Clue #107, I present the case that the solution to the puzzle posed in that Clue was John Wickham, a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War who was forced to move to the South after the War, and who went on to defend Aaron Burr in his trial for treason, when Burr tried to found an empire in the West--an example later emulated by the real-life Knights of the Golden Circle.

However, I have had it presented to me on good authority that the Wickham of Clue #107 is actually William Wickham, a British spymaster who worked against the French Revolution. Indeed, perhaps both Wickhams make an appearance.

In either case, the implication for The Lost Symbol involves espionage and back-stabbing galore. There is also another possibility, which I describe below -- immediately below, in fact.


A cryptonym (as mentioned in Clue #103) is a code name used to disguise an intelligence operation; instead of saying "our plot to restore the Merovingian kings to the throne of France" in your communications to your associates, you can simply say, "Operation Sophie's Choice" and leave your opponents scratching their heads in case they intercept your message.

Of course, cryptonyms can also be applied to places, and to people. As noted in Clue #92, the World War II-era British Double-Cross System pinned names like Brutus, Charlie, Garbo, and Zig Zag on its double agents. And it is in this connection that many of the puzzles summarized in this clue, Clue #110, might have a special meaning.

It is entirely possible that terms like AURORA (or AMARILLO!), BABINGTON, BLACK HAND, BONIFACE, CALVI, and WICKHAM will appear in The Lost Symbol as cryptonyms, code names for people, places, or plans that are of importance in some intelligence operation. ("Tell BABINGTON to report to WICKHAM in AURORA about BLACK HAND's progress on PROJECT BONIFACE." I put these terms in capital letters because the practice in an earlier generation was to capitalize cryptonyms in American intelligence reports.)

Putting the Hints Together: Relevance to The Lost Symbol

Here's one way to put it together:

A secret organization for whom assassination is not too far to go (a Black Hand-like group) is at work to further the cause of implementing a full-scale theocracy in the United States (a Boniface-like agenda), which would give them a monopoly on political power. They are infiltrated by law enforcement or the civilian or military intelligence community, but the infiltrators are themselves double-agents (the Double-Cross System) who use the surveillance capacities of their government agencies -- including the use of classified "Black Triangle" high-performance aircraft -- to further the aims of the Conspiracy. The plot requires immense funds (a la Calvi), and perhaps involves achieving a monopoly on the precious metals market. The Illuminati (either the foes or secret bosses of William Wickham) and/or the current incarnation of the Knights of the Golden Circle (once secretly supported by John Wickham) appear in the novel, either opposing the Conspiracy (the Illuminati) or supporting it (an element of the Knights?). However, the Conspiracy begins to fall apart when its code (perhaps patterned on the Atbash cipher? or the Aurora algorithm?) is broken (like Babington's code). (Of course, we haven't worked in the Revolutionary War era or Freemasonry yet.)

Or it might be nothing like this at all. However, you can see many major potential elements of the novel, summarized in Clue #110.

[Above you see the image of the staircase at St. Mary's Lighthouse on Whitley Bay. Supplied by Copyright (c) The image is used here under the first licensing option offered by use permitted with "attribution to the image and a link back to"]

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Clue #107: Wickham: John or William--Counter-Revolutionary Spy

This is one of those clues where I believe there is still room for disagreement about the proper answer. I'll present both sides here.

Clue #107, posted at 12:23 p.m. PDT on Fri., Aug. 7th: - Counter-revolutionary spy

The link leads to a TwitPic that shows the name "wickham" in the form of an ambigram. Several people have noted that there are actually two Wickhams who might fit this clue: William Wickham, an English spymaster of the 19th century who tried to subvert the French Revolution, and John Wickham, an American attorney of the Revolutionary period who was accused of being a British spy.

William Wickham as a Solution

William Wickham took a law degree in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1786. Entering the British diplomatic service after law school, he was sent to Switzerland in 1794 as assistant to the British ambassador -- and chief spymaster. By the following year, England was fighting against the French Revolution; any movement that removed the heads of royal personages was perceived as a threat to a country, such as England, that was ruled by royal personages. William Wickham developed a spy network in Switzerland and directed it against the Revolution in neighboring France -- with no real success.

I am reliably informed by some of my readers who comment on this blog that they have received communication by Twitter from an executive at Doubleday who confirmed that the solution to the puzzle is indeed William Wickham, as is further confirmed by the text of Clue #110. One can see how Dan Brown would use William Wickham in The Lost Symbol: in the Dan Brown universe, as indeed in the universe of the more wild-eyed and fringe-y conspiracy theorists, the Illuminati were behind the French Revolution. William Wickham, in fighting the French Revolution, was therefore fighting the Illuminati itself; perhaps the reason for his lack of success was that he or his agents were actually double agents for the Illuminati.

That said, I still hold out for another candidate as a solution to this Twitter puzzle.

John Wickham as a Solution

John Wickham was a Loyalist in America during the Revolutionary War. That is, he supported the British Crown. After the war, he was accused of not only having been a supporter of the British, but of also being a spy for the British, a charge of which he was acquitted. He was, however, forced legally to give up his residence in New York, and move to the American South.

John Wickham seems to me by far the better choice for a Wickham who is likely to appear in The Lost Symbol. This is because of the chain of associations that this Wickham has to people and events mentioned in the Twitter clues. Consider this:
  • John Wickham was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Of course, The Lost Symbol focuses extensively on the American Revolutionary War, not the French Revolution.
  • After moving to the south, John Wickham was the defense attorney for Aaron Burr during Burr's trial for treason. Of course, Burr was the person who killed Alexander Hamilton (Clue #36) in a duel. Burr's alleged treason, years after the duel, involved Burr's efforts to form his own independent empire in the West, efforts that were said to have inspired the similar ambitions of the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34) in later years. The attorney who prosecuted Burr for treason, and who thus struggled against John Wickham, was William Wirt (Clue #6).
  • John Wickham's descendents in the American South included prominent officers of the Confederate Army -- which was supported by the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34).

Put all the connections together, and John Wickham is clearly the more likely of the two possible Wickhams to play some part in The Lost Symbol. And what might that part be?

John Wickham's connections could put him realistically at the center of a conspiracy to support the cause of the Knights of the Golden Circle, beginning decades before the time (the 1850s) that history reports their formation. In the world of the novel, John Wickham really had been a British spy during the American Revolution; after the Revolutionary War, he secretly maintained his connections, and provided a way for the British to lend support to these Knights of the Golden Circle, in the years leading up to the Civil War--and perhaps after.

Of course, there is a third possibility:

Perhaps both Wickhams show up in the novel.

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

Clue #98: Pope Boniface VIII

Posted at 1:18 p.m. (PDT) on Wed., August 5th:

MCCCIII The death of this foe of Dante.

This is clearly a reference to Pope Boniface VIII born about 1235, died in 1303 ("MCCCIII," in Roman numerals). Why would he be of interest to The Lost Symbol? As it happens, there is a reason, and mentioning Dante's name in the clue pins that reason down.

Pope Boniface VIII had very strong opinions concerning the separation of church and state -- a concept to which he was utterly opposed. In his papal bull, Unam Sanctam (1302), he declared that "it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff." In another papal bull, Ausculta Fili (1301), he declared that "God has set popes over kings and kingdoms."

Today, Dante Alighieri is best remembered for writing his magnificent fictional trilogy, "The Divine Comedy" (the Inferno, the Purgatoria, and the Paradiso). However, Dante wrote other works, including a political treatise, De Monarchia ("On Monarchy"), composed at some time between 1308 and 1318. In this book, he argued against theocracy (that is, government by religious authorities), and essentially made a case for the separation of church and state. This position led to conflict between him and Pope Boniface VIII.

What might any of this have to do with The Lost Symbol? There are a couple of ways in which all of this might be relevant.

In his Langdon novels, Dan Brown likes to consider issues dealing with the Catholic Church, issues both centuries-old and contemporary (in Angels & Demons, the relationship of science and religion; in The Da Vinci Code, the nature of Jesus, and the divine Feminine). The issue of separation of church and state has always been a touchy one; indeed, it has been a hot-button issue in American politics for almost 30 years, although not by any means exclusively involving the Catholic Church. I expect that one of the plot devices to appear in The Lost Symbol will be a conspiracy to exert religious influence over the political process -- maybe even a full-blown theocratic conspiracy.

There is an interesting aspect on this theme that involves another facet of The Lost Symbol. We do know that the novel is set within the world of Freemasonry. The separation of church and state has long been embraced by Freemasonry, which has long had a policy of not discussing sectarian religion or politics in their lodge rooms, and who are generally forbidden to consider a candidate's religion or politics when considering someone for membership.

It is not generally known these days that Freemasonry has been condemned for taking these positions -- by a Roman Catholic pope in the 19th century. Pope Leo XIII promulgated the papal encyclical Humanum Genus, which specifically criticized the Masons' support for the separation of church and state. The encyclical also criticizes Masonry for its support of public education and the right to civil (as opposed to solely religious) marriages.

(Humanum Genus also condemns Freemasonry for a variety of other reasons that betray a profound misunderstanding of Freemasonry, but that is a story for another time and place; my book on the subject is in process. I am in the midst of a series on my Masonic blog regarding Catholicism and Freemasonry; the most recent post, which links to earlier posts, is available here.)

At the time Humanum Genus was published in 1884, a response was issued on behalf of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry by its famous leader, Albert Pike. The Scottish Rite has long emphasized several principles in its dramatic degree rituals that are relevant to resistance to theocratic rule. Prominent among these are such principles as:
  • a resistance to tyranny of all types, including religious tyranny;
  • support for religious and political freedom;
  • support for public education and free inquiry.

(One can find this described in detail in some books written for Scottish Rite Freemasons, including Rex R. Hutchens' A Bridge to Light and Arturo de Hoyos' Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide. No, I don't make a dime off sales of either book. Yes, I am a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Freemason.)

Thus, it is possible that, in The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown will feature a face-off between a theocratic conspiracy, on the one hand, and some component of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, on the other.

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

Clue #97: Texas: Aurora sighted in Amarillo

Posted at 9:52 a.m. (PDT) on Wed. Aug. 5th:

Black Triangle sighted near here: 35.202187, -101.835552

Plugging the coordinates of the clue into GoogleMaps yields the address 299 SE 11th Avenue, Amarillo, Texas. Looking at the street photos in this locale, one sees not far off a black truncated pyramid of a building, currently housing Channel 7 television, which one might think could serve as the "Black Triangle" of the clue (although that's not it, as you will see). Amarillo also has the distinction of possessing the only facility for nuclear weapons assembly and dissassembly in the United States, owned by Pantex; surely this could be a plot point in an apocalyptic, highest-stakes-possible thriller -- such as The Lost Symbol could well be.

However, as it turns out, the solution to this clue involves, not the location mentioned in the clue, but the identification of the "Black Triangle" itself.

According to a long-standing and consistent set of rumors, the SR-91 Aurora is a hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft, developed for the U.S. Air Force to replace the famed SR-71 Blackbird. (An artist's conception of the Aurora aircraft is shown above; click for a larger image.) Hypersonic aircraft would be among the ultimate surveillance technologies.

As it happens, one explanation that has been given for years for UFO sightings is that at least some of them are glimpses of test flights of secret high-performance aircraft. In fact, as a reader on this blog -- Machine.Elves -- noted in a comment on another post that, some time ago, there was a famous sighting in Amarillo of evidence of the Aurora aircraft. This alerted my trusty research staff -- directed by, and entirely composed of, my brilliant imzadi y esposa, Kathleen Koltko-Rivera -- to discover Sandy Tamayo's comment on the Dan Brown Facebook fan page, noting that:

On March 23, 1992, near Amarillo, Texas, Steven Douglas photographed the "doughnuts on a rope" contrail and linked this sighting to distinctive sounds. He described the engine noise in the May 11, 1992, edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Thus, the "Black Triangle" of this clue refers to a glimpse of the Aurora aircraft, in Amarillo, Texas. As Machine.Elves also pointed out, what I call the more fringe-y part of the conspiracy community claims that Black Triangle aircraft are being used to further the aims of a grand conspiracy that is attempting to create a New World Order (a phrase which is mistakenly claimed to be the translation of "Novus Ordo Seclorum" on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States; see my comments on Clue #35). (And a great big tip of the hat to Machine.Elves for bringing this all to my attention, with thanks to Sandy Tamayo.) This solution, the Aurora aircraft, was confirmed by Frank Nelson, an executive at Doubleday, Dan Brown's publishers.

It's not hard to see how this might work into The Lost Symbol. As I mention above, the Aurora aircraft would be cutting-edge technology for surveillance -- for either the forces of good or evil. In addition, however unlikely it would seem to me to do this, the Aurora could be used to transport Robert Langdon around the country at Mach 5.

Incidentally, just to complicate matters further, it is worth noting that there is another way in which the term "Aurora" might work into The Lost Symbol. AURORA is also the name for a cryptographic algorithm, that is, a mathematical system to create a coded message. Developed by Sony and scientists at Nagoya University in Japan, the algorithm is said to have certain weaknesses. This is interesting, given that the Twitter clues for The Lost Symbol include several instances of codes that failed, that is, codes that were broken. These include the Enigma machine (Clue #46) and, especially, the code used in the Babington plot (Clue #15 and Clue #95).

[The image of the artist's conception of the Aurora was created on Jan. 6, 2008, by "Henrickson" with contributions from Bret Danielson. It was obtained from Wikipedia, and is used here under license from the Creative Comons Attribution--ShareAlike 3.0 License, and the GNU Free Documentation License.]

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

Clue #96: The Black Hand of Serbia

Posted at 1:37 p.m. (PDT) on Tues., Aug. 4th:

Set events spiraling out of control: {then, in Serbian using Cyrillic characters, the phrase} Unification or Death

The phrase "Unification or Death" (in Serbian) was the motto of an early 20th century political conspiracy group, known (in English) as the Black Hand. (Their seal is shown above; the Cyrillic characters around the top half of the seal are what was shown in the Twitter clue.) Like the real-world Illuminati, the Black Hand embraced assassination as an acceptable means to meet its objectives. Unlike the real-world Illuminati, the Black Hand actually killed people, most famously including Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, the heir presumptive to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Princess Sophie; their assassination was the match that ignited the global agony of World War I.

Okay. So the Black Hand was a secret conspiratorial organization. But would there be any special reasons to mention them in a clue about The Lost Symbol? There sure are:
  • The members of the Black Hand were assassins. Dan Brown likes to begin his novels with assassinations--in his Langdon novels, these are gory, bloody, nasty assassinations.
  • The Black Hand started a global war. The Lost Symbol takes place in Washington, DC, where decisions are made about global war and peace.
  • The name, "Black Hand," has been used by several groups in addition to the Serbian nationalists of a century ago: gangsters in Italy, Islamist militants in Palestine in the 1930s, Frisian noblemen's forces, and several other real and hypothetical groups. We already have seen the Twitter clues use one name that points to two distinct groups: "Sons of Liberty" (Clue 34).

Put it all together, and one might expect some group known as "the Black Hand" to be involved in some highest-of-all-possible-stakes conspiracy: something that could lead to global warfare, in Washington, DC. This group might only share a name with the Serbian group mentioned in this clue.

Then again, perhaps the Dan Brown version of the Black Hand that started WWI was only a front for another secret society, one that started (in the real world) in a state adjoining the Austro-Hungarian Empire where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, that is, Bavaria.

Where the Illuminati were founded.

(The name "Black Hand" shows up lots of places. I'm not even counting the band, the role-playing game villians, the comic book villians, or the inn--yes, the inn. Oh, all right, so it's a music album title. But if it were a real inn -- can you imagine making a reservation? "Hello, Black Hand Inn? Yes, I'd like to make a reservation for two, please, the Honeymoon Package: heart-shaped bathtub, candlelight dinner in the room, and complimentary assassination of all my sweetheart's former romantic interests.")

Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 7, 2009

George Washington: Traitor to the Revolution?

This morning, a post on Christopher Hodapp's excellent blog, "Freemasons for Dummies," alerted me to an article appearing in the online newspaper, The Scotsman -- an article that reports startling revelations about the plot of The Lost Symbol.

The Scotsman interviewed Robert Cooper, curator of the Scottish Masonic Museum and Library at Freemason's Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland. Cooper, a well-regarded authority on the history of Freemasonry, reported that he had received important information from an unnamed source regarding the premise of The Lost Symbol: the idea that George Washington was actually in league with the British during the Revolutionary War, and that he planned to betray the American Colonial rebels and hand American forces over to the British, until the exposure of Benedict Arnold as a traitor led Washington to embrace the Revolutionary cause.

All of this leads us to ask two questions:
  1. Is Cooper's source likely correct? That is, could this really be the direction that The Lost Symbol is taking, based on what we know from the clues?
  2. Could this possibly be true, in real life? That is, could Washington really have been on the brink of betraying the Revolution?

Is a "Traitorous Washington" Plot Element Consistent With the Twitter Clues?

Short of a peek at the manuscript for The Lost Symbol--which, I assure you, I have not had--the best source we have for the plot of The Lost Symbol is the set of clues being posted by Doubleday on Twitter and Facebook. Is the "traitorous Washington" plot consistent with the Twitter clues?

As a matter of fact, yes, it is.

Consider, for example, Clue #39: - Who is this Redcoat commander?

The URL (a hot link, above) leads to the earliest known portrait of Washington -- a jarring image to modern American eyes -- showing Washington as a British officer during the French and Indian Wars. The more subtle message here may be that Washington remained a British officer, secretly, during the beginning of the Revolution.

(I would also point out that the very numbering of this clue may be a sort of subtle joke on the part of the clue's author. This being the 39th clue may be an homage of sorts to Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film about a foreign espionage network stealing military secrets in England, "The 39 Steps.")

The idea of Washington being a British agent would make sense of Clue #47 (" "), which shows the real-life headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)--caught on a surveillance camera!

The clues are full of references to real-life double agents and betrayals, including Aldrich Ames (Clue #55: "Market mailbox, 37th and R. He wants a meeting"), Robert Hanssen (Clue #51: "Betrayer of double agents: "), and, of course, Benedict Arnold himself (Clue #30: "Braced Indolent was the Revolutionary War's most famous Can Trout": that is 'Benedict Arnold was the Revolutionary War's most famous TurnCoat').

In light of the leak about the novel's plot, perhaps the most interesting reference is Clue #42 ("An agent to France, + his host's "colors". VLODVGHDQH"), which decodes to SILAS DEANE, the name of an American emissary to France during the Revolution. Deane, of course, was spied upon by his own assistant, Edward Bancroft, who reported everything Deane did to the British. Bancroft's role as a double agent was not discovered until long after Bancroft's death, when the British declassified some intelligence papers that revealed his wartime activities. The subtle message in the clue may be that some people's two-faced nature is not discovered until years after their deaths -- perhaps many, many years after . . . .

In summary, the idea that Washington was secretly a British agent during the Revolution is entirely consistent with the clues. But how about real life?

Could Washington Really Have Been a British Agent?

There is absolutely nothing in the real-life history of Washington that is remotely consistent with the notion that he could have been an agent for the British during the Revolutionary War.

George Washington is one of the most intensely scrutinized figures in all of human history, a man who has had many biographies written about him over the course of over two centuries. (See, for example, Joseph J. Ellis's 2004 biography, reissued in 2008, His Excellency: George Washington, published by Knopf; this book made use of recently catalogued Washington papers at the University of Virginia.) No one--and I mean, no one--has ever mentioned the hint of a shadow of a rumor about this kind of duplicity on Washington's part.

In addition, we need to keep in mind that the British of Washington's era and afterwards had no special love for the United States or Washington's legacy, and would have revealed Washington as a British agent if they could have. In our day, after the U.S. came to Britain's aid in not one but two World Wars in the 20th century, after almost a century of comradery-in-arms, it is easy to forget that Britain was quite opposed to the U.S. for decades after the end of the Revolutionary War. Remember the War of 1812--when the British Empire actually invaded the United States, captured Washington, DC, and burned the White House?? In that era, there is nothing that the British would rather have done than demoralize the United States by revealing that Washington himself had been a British agent during the Revolution. The fact that the British did nothing of the sort would suggest that they simply had nothing on Washington.

I realize that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence": that is, the lack of evidence that Washington was a British agent does not prove that he was not one. However, let us consider another principle of evidence: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" (Marcello Truzzi's notion, as popularized by Carl Sagan). Anyone who wants to make a claim about Washington as a British agent had better be able to cough up some very solid evidence for that idea -- and, right now, there's bupkis, nada, zilch, nani mo nai wa, and so forth, all euphemisms for the fact that there is absolutely nothing in existence to support this notion.


It may well be the case that The Lost Symbol has, as a plot device, the idea that George Washington was himself secretly a British agent. This idea is entirely consistent with the clues that have come forth so far. However, this idea is completely at variance with everything we know about Washington in real life.

[The image above shows Rembrandt Peale's portrait of George Washington, painted sometime during the period 1795-1823; it it currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. The image was obtained from Wikimedia Commons, which states that the image is in the public domain.]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to Version 2.0 of the "Key to The Lost Symbol Clues" Blog!

After a couple of weeks filing posts on this blog regarding the Twitter clues about The Lost Symbol, on July 13 I removed all the posts. I did this because it had come to my attention that, essentially, I was doing the research work of other writers who were developing books regarding The Lost Symbol. However, at this point, I think I have more to gain by building this platform for my work than I have to lose by sharing it.

In order to protect my own contributions for future publication, I will not comment on every clue. Rather, every day or two, I will comment on a clue that is particularly intriguing, from among the clues that have been posted in the preceding 24 to 48 hours. In addition, I have reposted some of my previous responses to some clues. (Please note: links to posts that have not been reposted will not work.)

I am glad to be returning to this blog. I very much enjoyed the give-and-take of the comments, and the opportunity to be part of the public community commenting on the Twitter clues.

I invite new readers to take a look at my earlier posts, perhaps especially including the "Welcome" post and the orientation to Freemasonry. You may gain access to earlier posts through the "Blog Archive" to the right.