Satan's Enigma: 'Possessed' Nun's Cryptic Message Decoded

Satan is known for many things, most of them bad — fallen angel, Lord of Darkness, resident lifeguard at the eternal lake of fire (or as Baywatch fans probably call him, "David Hass-hell-hoof"), dog-walker of Cerberus, and CEO of the Illuminati ... probably. But did you know that Satan is also a hell of a cryptographer? That might sound preposterously out of place, but how else would you explain the allegedly satanic message written by a 17th-century nun named Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione? As Live Science describes, in August 1676, the 31-year-old nun was discovered in her cell at Sicily's Palma di Montechiaro convent with an ink-stained face and an unintelligible letter.

Sister Maria encoded her message in a mysterious assortment of symbols and said the Devil made her do it in order to force her to forsake Jesus. Obviously, the convent had a vested interest in learning the contents of a letter allegedly formulated by Satan and penned vicariously by one of its nun's hands. IFLScience writes that in the 1960s, Palma di Montechiaro offered a "free month-long vacation" to whomever could translate the letter. Though, if they offered to let people stay in Sister Maria's old room, that would be reason not to solve it. In any event, the letter remained shrouded in mystery until researchers cracked the code like a bad egg in 2017.

The power of Antichrist compels you

Clearly, this sounds like a job for an exorcist well-versed in Dan Brown books. But the Ludum Science Center ultimately got the job done. Director Daniele Abate explained to Live Science that the key to decrypting the message lay in understanding the messenger. Not Satan — Sister Maria. Born Isabella Tomasi, she entered the convent at just 15 years old and composed her message in a sort of shorthand. Researchers theorized that Maria created her own vocabulary using ancient alphabets that she learned before entering the sisterhood. 

It turned out that Maria drew from Latin, Greek, and Arabic when crafting her code. And it turned out that she had a way with words and languages. So what did "Satan" say? The supposedly demonic message called the Holy Trinity "dead weights" and proclaimed, "God thinks he can free mortals ... The system works for no one ... Perhaps now, Styx is certain." By "Styx" she of course meant the river separating the realm of the living from the underworld in Greek mythology, not the 1970s rock band.

Was this just a teen rebelling against authority in a world before rock and roll existed? Unfortunately, researchers believe she may have been in the throes of mental illness, perhaps schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Historical records claimed she had nightly shouting matches with Satan. So even if she wasn't possessed by by a devil with a poison pen, she probably went through hell.