I've tried decrypting them myself to little avail, I think it starts with "I'm here" but after that I get lost. Are these the original codes used in "The Adventure of the Dancing Men"?


1 Answer 1


I actually looked into this last night after watching it, as I hoped it was an easter egg or message to viewers, but sadly no. It's directly quoted from the original short story "The Adventure of the Dancing Men", by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Holmes held up the paper so that the sunlight shone full upon it. It was a page torn from a notebook. The markings were done in pencil, and ran in this way:

enter image description here

Holmes examined it for some time, and then, folding it carefully up, he placed it in his pocketbook.

"This promises to be a most interesting and unusual case," said he. "You gave me a few particulars in your letter, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, but I should be very much obliged if you would kindly go over it all again for the benefit of my friend, Dr. Watson."

In short, it's a substitution cipher, where each letter of the alphabet is represented by a different dancing man, and the men holding flags denote the end of each word.


As far as I remember, it was a secret code devised between the main female character of the story and the antagonist Abe Slaney in childhood, and he followed her from America to England where the code began to reappear, hence Holmes's involvement in the case.

  • "but sadly no" - surely it is still an easter egg? Your phrase makes it sound like it is neither an easter egg nor a message to viewers which seems to do it a disservice.
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 9:37
  • @Chris - In my opinion, I see the dancing men as an appreciative tip-of-the-hat to the source material, as happens quite often in Sherlock. An easter egg or message to viewers on the other hand would be exactly that - a hidden message to the viewers. For me at least, the distinction is subtle, but it's there. I think you are seeing disservice where there is none.
    – mike
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 9:48
  • Fair enough. I tend to think of easter eggs as hidden references to stuff. For example I never realised that that was a message or a reference to something until this question which is why I would have said it was an easter egg, even if the message it contained wasn't written by the show writers. I should note I am not trying to tell you you are wrong and I am right, just sharing my perspective (and i think it is just a subjective perspective thing).
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 9:50

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