JON from Buckinghamshire tells of the spooky goings-on at Bletchley Park, the UK’s code and cipher school during World War 2
I work at Bletchley Park.
Bletchley Park was built in 1883 and was home to the wealthy Leon family. At the heart of their estate of 300 acres they built a mansion in a curious mixture of architectural styles.
Following the deaths of Sir Herbert and Lady Fanny Leon, Bletchley Park fell into the hands of property developer Captain Hubert Faulkner, who intended to demolish the buildings and sell the land. However, in 1938 with the threat of war looming, the Government intervened.
During the Second World War, Bletchley Park was the site of the United Kingdom’s main decryption establishment, the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), where ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted, most importantly the ciphers generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines. It also housed Station X, a secret radio intercept station. Although interception was soon moved to a location with better reception, the name persisted for the Bletchley Park wartime activities. During these years it was home to many notable mathematicians. Alan Turing was one of them.
The area I work in covers the story of the Bombe, an electro mechanical device used to help break the enigma cipher code.
It is common knowledge Turing used to chain his coffee cup to a radiator and around two years ago we found out why: when the Bombe started to work, strange things started to happen. Our percolator got broken and its replacement went missing. Also the supply of coffee started to vanish and on the odd occasion, we had a cup fall to the floor when there was no one near the table they were placed on
We deduced that the original KaffeePolterGeist from WWII had noticed that we were getting close, and decided to stop us.
When the Turing statue was installed, it all stopped.
UNTIL RECENTLY: During the Cheltenham Science festival week, we were challenged by GCHQ to try and break an enigma cipher message set by themselves ever day for the event. This included a live link up to their stand at the festival. We broke the code 3 days in a row then something strange happened. Our reserve coffee supply mysteriously dematerialised: gone to that great percolator in the sky. This is kept in a locked office and only the bombe team have access to the room. When we left that night, myself and a colleague who were the last to leave before the building was locked for the night, had both seen our spare supply of coffee.
Also on 2 separate days after this we came in to find the peculator jug was scalding hot even though the peculator was switched off at the mains supply and on the peculator itself.
Obviously, this is because our success has been noted, and again we have to be stopped.
No harm was done, but we were ready ready for further manifestations. As the week progressed we continued to break the code every day and although no more coffee went missing we did have a few malfunctions on some of the equipment as the week went by. The equipment had been recently serviced by the team and there was no logical reason for it to malfunction
JON grew up in Reigate, Surrey and spent many years in Whitstable in Kent, where he obtained a Masters in biochemistry. He worked in a reasearch facitily for many years before moving to Bletchley in Buckinghamshire where he is currently working at Bletchley Park as part of the Bombe rebuild team.