Herbert Osborne Yardley's Letter Opening Tools
Flap and seals roll
“Gentlemen do not read each other's mail.”
Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson


Herbert Osborne Yardley


Letter Opening Sticks




Sensory Deprivation


Touching foreign or encoded message streams

Collected by

Warehouse 13







Date of Collection

June 11, 2018



Before the US government established the OSS and NSA for codebreaking research, Military Intelligence Section 8 sprawled through foreign messages for any shred of information. Herbert Osborne Yardley operated the outfit, besting simpleton American ciphers of President Wilson with alarming ease. Under the division, they decoded the smallest ratio of battleships the Japanese were willing to accept at the Washington Naval Treaty signing of 1921, allowing delegates to negotiate a few less foreign battleships built. In light of this achievement, Secretary of State Stimson pulled the financial backing – disgusted by the idea of spying on allied nations.

By the time Cipher Bureau closed, the stock market collapsed. Without a pension or job market, Yardley published The American Black Chamber for book sales in 1931. The government halted interest in signal interception programs since the whole world, friend and foe, knew their private telegrams had been read without permission. In response, the Japanese military began rearmament knowing they had been tricked into an unfavorable deal. Yardley continued with writing and various small-time cryptographic work abroad, but was never allowed a position again.


Due to the extremely sensitive, illegally obtained and encoded nature of the messages, the sticks will translate most works. Encrypted codes and foreign languages are both breakable, with more sticks increasing the accuracy of each translation. Audio recordings only need to touch the device the message is currently stored on. It also keeps intact any unfamiliar syntax or slang from the sender to recreate the original subtext as closely as possible.

After being effectively shutoff from government codebreaking, even being placed on traitor watch, the sticks each remove a sensory experience. The ability to see, hear, and use any other classical sense disappears – the length of the cracked message equals how many hours the removal lasts. The sixth removes internal feeling. Users become unmoored from their daily values and behave like a lost shamble of their identity.

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