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Coded messages to God

Coded messages to God

Andrew Brown tells the story of Dorothy Ann Holm who wrote apparently random strings of capital letter on 20 cards before she died. It turned out to be a code of the heart.


When Janna Holm’s grandmother Dorothy Ann died of brain cancer in 1996 she was unable to speak. But in the last two weeks of her life she covered 20 or more index cards with long unbroken strings of capital letters that made no apparent sense. Her family was convinced that she meant something by her writing but they could not decipher the mystery.

Dorothy Ann had led a quiet life in Minnesota. She married Lyle Holm, a former second world war submariner, in 1949 and had four children, one who died in infancy. After her marriage, she devoted herself to her children and, later, grandchildren. Janna remembers that her grandmother “never flew in a plane and never drove a car (scared of both), and hated having her photo taken”.

Eighteen years after Dorothy Ann’s death, Janna photographed one of the cards, which her father had kept, and uploaded it to the internet discussion site Metafilter. She thought they might refer to song lyrics, but within 15 minutes another user had spotted that one of these strings of capitals, “OFWAIHHBTNTKCTWBDOEAIIIHGUTDODBAFUOT”, was an acronymic prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven …”


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