Gravity Falls is one giant mystery. There’s a puzzle wrapped around every inch of Gravity Falls, and we just can’t seem to get enough. Mysteries expanding from who the author of the journals is to who runs and knows about the mysterious happenings around the town. It continues into the three journals themselves, with the different creatures and objects that occupy this world. Secrets kept hidden from families and friends as well as who you can really trust. The hidden mysteries inside this woodsy town can really trip you out, but it also makes it so enjoyable to watch.
One of those mysteries is the mixed up letters that viewers are introduced to in the credits and inside the journals themselves. These letters are a big deal in the world of Gravity Falls. You have to decode them to begin climbing into yet another mystery of this town. You might have seen them, and you may be wondering what these strange letters and symbols are? These symbols and letters happen to be cryptograms or ciphers, which are secret messages in a very mixed up pattern for you to figure out. There are seven, yes seven, different types of ciphers used throughout Gravity Falls in their ending credits. Again, it is a very important part of Gravity Falls, because it helps you figure out some of the mystery between the characters, the thoughts of the author, and the journals themselves.
Now, you may be wondering—which cipher is which? Which one do I use? How do I actually maneuver this strange language and come out sane? Cryptograms and ciphers can seem quite intimidating at first if you’re not a meddling teenager or Dipper Pines. You see a bunch of letters and numbers, and you’re wondering what to do with them and how to get the message out. You’re in luck! I will navigate you through the different cryptograms and ciphers in Gravity Falls, but it will ultimately be up to you to figure out what they say. If you’re like me and enjoy navigating through ciphers, you’ll have a very great time decoding your way through these mysteries.
Before we get into the different ciphers themselves, I would like to point out one sure fire way you will be able to know what cipher will be used in the credits of a particular episode of Gravity Falls. In the main theme, if you listen very closely, there is a little whisper after the Gravity Falls postcard when Bill Cipher’s wheel shows up? If you play that single whisper backwards, it will tell you what cipher will be used at the end. Sometimes you’ll be able to know after you decode the ciphers themselves. For now, let’s get start with our journey into cryptograms and ciphers.
Caesar Cipher • The very first and most commonly cipher used in Gravity Falls is what’s known as the Caesar Cipher. Other common names for the Caesar Cipher are Caesar’s code, Caesar shift, and shift cipher. This cipher was named after Julius Caesar, who used it to send private messages between himself and other people whom he trusted. (He obviously couldn’t trust a lot of people.)
The way the cipher works is pretty simple. For Gravity Falls purposes, the cipher is used as a substitute of the original letter for the third letter before it. So basically, your first step is to write out the alphabet. Once you write out the alphabet in the correct order, you’ll write another version of the alphabet. Take the last three letters of the original alphabet set (X, Y, Z) and place it in front of A, B, C. We see that the alphabet shifts three spaces to the right in order for X, Y, Z to come first in the alphabet instead of A, B, C. Simple as that!
This is used alone in episodes one through six of the first season. It’s also used by itself in episodes later in season two. It’s later combined with other ciphers throughout the rest of the first and second season, but it is not to be confused with the combined cipher, which we’ll be discussing later. The Caesar cipher is also used in the shorts with the Number codes.
Atbash Cipher • Atbash Cipher originates from the Hebrew alphabet. This is a super simple cipher as well (the first two are always easy). This is probably the most simple cipher, because it doesn’t require as much effort as the Caesar Cipher, and there are no immediate shifts of the alphabet. It is also a substitution cipher. It’s usually talked about as being one of the weakest types, because it can only have one possible key (solution).
The way it works is basically writing out your alphabet as normal. Once you write out your alphabet, the next section is going to be the alphabet flipped around. When you’re done, you’ll see that the regular alphabet will start with A, but the Atbash Cipher starts with Z. It’s just that simple.
The Atbash is used by itself in season one for episodes seven through thirteen and in episodes of season two, but then combined throughout the first and second season with different ciphers.
A1Z26 Cipher • The A1Z26 is another simple substitution cipher; however, instead of our usual letters, we will be using numbers for this instead. From personal experience, numbers aren’t usually the most fun thing in the world, but this cipher is actually quite enjoyable. The way A1Z26 works is basically matching the twenty-six letters of the alphabet with the same amount of numbers. Just line both of them up, the numbers on the top and the letters on the bottom and there you have it.
This cipher is used in episodes fourteen and fifteen by itself, but combined with the Caesar in some episodes after that in season one. It makes a brief reappearance in the episode “Scary-oke” (S2E1) before being retired throughout season two.
The Author’s symbol substitution cipher • This cipher is exclusively for Gravity Falls. In Dipper’s journal, Journal #3, there is wheel of symbols that look like absolutely alien language, but in a strange way (and once you figure out the cipher), they make complete and total sense. There is no easy way to maneuver this cipher, but as your trusty guide through the land of Gravity Falls, we can figure this out together.
Here is what the The Author’s symbol cipher looks like in the book. Once you’ve laid all of these out from A to Z. You’ll look on the wheel and there are tiny little A to Zs on there. Just write out those symbols and you should have it! There is a catch to this cipher though. You might notice that there are at least three letters missing Q, X, Z. These do not have a translated symbol yet. Unless we physically have Journal #3 in our hands to decode it ourselves. We’ll be waiting a little bit to solve this particular mystery—unless someone out there has the symbol already. The Author’s symbol substitution cipher is used at the end of season one and then comes back in season two. The Author’s cipher is great when you decode them and lands you into the thought process of who The Author is.
Combined cipher • This is one of the two ciphers that I absolutely adore. Mostly because it’s so complicated and I like to make my life harder than it should be. This particular cipher combines two or more different ciphers, depending on how you’re using it. These include: A1Z26, Atbash, and Caeser Cipher (it can also include the Vigenere Cipher).
The combined cipher that we’ll look at first appears in the episode “Gideon Rises” (S1E20) in the credits. It combines A1Z26, Caesar, and Atbash ciphers. Now, since we know that A1Z26 involves numbers, write those numbers out first from 1 to 26. Underneath, we’ll use the Atbash, which involves us flipping the alphabet instead of A to Z, it will be from Z to A. The last step is to use the Caesar Cipher, we have to shift the letters three to the right. We’ll start with W and end with X.
This code is really cool! I’ve used it a couple of times in personal letters to friends. If you ever write letters and want to stump your friends, this is probably one of the best ciphers to use. The combined cipher is used once in season one, but heavily used in season two. When the combined cipher is used, pay attention to where it’s being used.
Vigenère Cipher • In the theme of making life complicated once again, this is my other favorite cipher used in Gravity Falls. This one is arguably more complicated than the previous ones, because it involves a bunch of different plays on the Caesar Cipher.
It is formed in a Vigenère square containing twenty-six letters all the way through, but using A to Z on the top and A to Z on the left side as its starting points. Now we know that we have to shift to the right, for the Vigenère you’ll be shift up at least once each row. I know. It sounds super complicated, right? Below is a picture of the cipher in it’s final form for you to get a feel of what’s happening. It’s going to be a very big cipher, there’s no way around that. This one, again, is the more complicated of the bunch.
The Gravity Falls Wikipedia points out another good way to look at this cipher, stating:
“Another way to think of Vigenère ciphers is that each letter of the key corresponds to a Caesar shift number (A=0, B=1, C=2, etc.) and for each letter of the message you form a Caesar shift based on the corresponding key letter.”
The Vigenère is heavily used in season two of Gravity Falls, which is a blessing and a curse considering all the letters you have to go through to find the message. In the end, it’s totally worth it I promise.
Bill’s symbol substitution cipher • This one is for those who have the book Dipper and Mabel’s Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun! (still very highly recommended for all those who haven’t purchased it yet). This cipher is mainly for the book, because Bill Cipher sends you on a bit of a quest. He taunts you into figuring out what secret code he’s hidden through the book. It’s your job to figure it out and to crack the code. The awesome thing about this cipher is that it’s very familiar to one we’ve seen before. If you know The Author’s substitution cipher, you will know what Bill is up to. This one is basically taking the existing Author’s cipher and mixing it around to create Bill’s. These symbols are also used in the show for the episode “Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future” (S2E17).
Number codes • This one is a little bit more complicated, and to be honest, I don’t even understand it myself. Mostly due to the fact that I’m not good with numbers, but to understand this code fully, let’s go to Gravity Falls wiki in order to solve this final mystery. According to them,
“These codes are solvable by taking the number beside a parenthesis as an episode number, and the other numbers beside them represents a letter in that episode’s credits cryptogram.”
For example, after the short “Stan’s tattoo,” we see the cipher solved in the number codes, as another piece of the mystery is revealed.
The shorts for Gravity Falls are the only places you will get these number codes. If you can’t figure them out, don’t worry, but inside of those shorts and number codes is a very big piece of the puzzle. If you can’t figure it out now, come back to it later! You might want to get number codes as soon as possible if you haven’t fully watched the show. I’ve seen everything and I’m still trying to figure it out.
Binary codes • For all the awesome computer geeks out there, Gravity Falls has some codes for you as well. Binary codes is basically computer language. Instead of using human speech, it speaks in zeroes and ones in order to relay the message across. Binary language is extremely fascinating and pretty easy to understand once you get it down.
Gravity Falls uses Binary in the episodes “Into the Bunker” (S2E2) and “Soos and the Real Girls” (S2E5). Even though you won’t use them an extensive amount in Gravity Falls, it’s pretty cool to know if you wanna learn how to speak in computer. There are a lot of avaiable links, including this one, to help you on your binary way!
Well, there you have it! The inside guide to the mystery of everything cryptograms and ciphers in Gravity Falls. If there’s some super awesome piece of mystery that wasn’t covered or you found a piece of cipher inside of those wonderful show. Please share it! It’s always exciting to hear what people have done with the cryptograms and ciphers. I hope you have fun decoding these messages. Stay weird!