You Can Write Secret Messages

by Roberta L. Fairall

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    It’s lots of fun to write and receive secret messages. A message in secret writing is called a cryptogram, a word that comes from the ancient Greek language and means “hidden writing.”

    Early warriors used cryptograms to send messages in wartime. A general would wrap around a staff a narrow strip of parchment made of thin sheep or goat skin. Then he would write along the length of the staff and unwind the strip, showing only pieces of words. The officer who received this jumbled message had a similar staff and would wind the parchment on his staff to read the message.

    To make your secret message, you will need matching paper towel rolls, paper, and pen or pencil.

    Write a brief message. Cut the paper lengthwise into 2 1/2″ strips. Wrap a strip around the roll. While holding the paper in place with your thumb, write your message vertically, each word below the other (see illustration). Unwrap your message and send it to a friend, who will wrap it around his roll and read your message.

    Illustrated by Nina Grover