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Secret Codes

Source: Martha Stewart Kids, Volume 18 2005


Keep communication between friends confidential with clever, easy-to-create codes.

Undercover agents, beware. Sneaky spies (little sisters and brothers, for example) lurk everywhere, eager to intercept transmissions about clubhouse meetings and hidden cookie stashes. That's why it's best to send classified information to fellow ops (a.k.a. friends) in top-secret language.

Novice agents can easily master any of the eight codes here. All that's needed is a sense of adventure and some high-tech spy gear -- such as notebook paper and paper-towel tubes. Choose whichever code will make your mission possible and then let your friends know how to decipher the message.

Crease and Conceal
To use this simple code, fold a piece of paper in thirds, vertically, and then unfold. Write a message down the creases. Then fill in words horizontally -- using the letters in the message -- to devise a note that won't rouse suspicion.

Phone Fooler
Every spy knows telephones must be used with caution. Thwart pesky eavesdroppers by writing a message using the numbers on your phone's keypad. Copy down the number that corresponds to each letter; for example, A would be number 2. (Since some keypads don't have Q or Z, for Q use number 1; for Z use 0). Mark a small line to indicate the letter's position on the phone button: If it's first (A), the mark should slant left; if it's second (B), make it straight up and down; if it's third (C), it should slant to the right.

Backward Brainteaser
Keep prying eyes guessing by spelling words backward. S'ti os ysae dna nuf!

Hieroglyphic Hider
Friends flip open their own decoders to translate these mysterious lines and dots -- secret symbols for letters and part of a classic code known as the Pigpen Cipher. To spell out your message, look in the grids to find the letter you wish to write, and draw the pattern of the lines that surround it. If the letter has a dot above it, put a dot inside your lines.

Hieroglyphic Hider How-To
Glue decorative paper to the back of the secret code template; trim to size. Cut slits at each end on dotted lines. Fold it in half, concealing the decoder. Tuck the ends into slits to hold it shut.

Screwy Spaces
Break up the words in a sentence with random spaces to create new words that look like a whole lot of nonsense.

Tube Transmission
This code requires a top-secret decoder: a paper-towel tube. Only pals who have it will be able to read the message that's scrawled on a long scroll. To draft your message, wind a long strip of paper (use a paper roll from an adding machine) all the way down the tube. Secure it with a rubber band, then write your note across the paper. When you give it to your friends, take it off the tube. They can read it by wrapping it around a tube the same size.

Sentence Scramble
Not only are the words spelled backward in this code, but they're put in reverse order in each sentence, so that the last word appears first. Nuf dna ysae os s'ti!

Disc Duper
A note's real letters and numbers can be substituted with fake ones by turning a wheel. To set up your code, line up a letter on the inner circle with a different one on the outer circle. Write your message by locating the letters on the inner circle and replacing them with the letters they line up with on the outer one. Tell your buddies the key to the code you've created (B = C, for example) so they know how to set their decoder. It's easy to change the code quickly if it gets cracked.

Disc Duper How-To
Download the disc duper templates and print them onto white card stock. Make enough for you and your friends. Cut out along the dotted lines. Poke a hole in the center of each circle with a pencil. Stack the smaller wheel on top of the larger one. Insert a paper fastener through the holes to secure.

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