The Cipher of Ricky McCormick

On first impression, Ricky McCormick makes an unlikely chap to wind up on Wondercabinet. Forty-one years old. An unmarried ex-con, with a rap for rape and a shitty habit of leaving bastard children behind. Allegedly illiterate. Habitually unemployed. A high school dropout who never lived very long in one place, scraping by on disability checks and the occasional generosity of his elderly mother.

On June 30, 1999 Ricky’s Ricky_McCormick_note_2partially decomposed body was found in a cornfield in St. Charles County, Missouri, a long way from where he was living. Who cares, right? His chronic ill health could have explained his premature demise–cause of death was ruled as “undetermined,” and no one reported him missing–but then one has to ask how he got there. He owned no car, and no lines of public transportation ran anywhere nearby.  And then there’s the pesky problem of that swath of land being a notorious dumping ground for the St. Louis crime community. These details are curious, but not exactly Sherlock material. It’s at least theoretically possible that he wandered out there drunk and died of exposure. Given his many sins, he probably should have been buried in a potter’s field and promptly forgotten. He would have been, too. If it weren’t for the two pieces of unbreakable code that local police found in his pocket.

It turns out Ricky once worked at a gas station with some very shady characters. Shady enough for the FBI to sit on the ciphers for twelve years, until suddenly labeling his death a murder and posting a notice for help on their website. They were convinced the notes encrypted details about his death, or his whereabouts leading up it, or perhaps even the names of those responsible.  To this day, they maintain a website to accept tips or help with the codes.  There’s also a wiki where would-be crackers can share theories and talk crypto shop.

Ricky’s mother, on the other hand, always claimed “the only thing he could write was his name.”  According to her, the ciphers, which her son had been scribbling since he was a child, were complete gibberish. Which theory is correct is anybody’s guess at this point.