Typewritten Secrets of The Prisoner

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Like many of us, I have a whole backlog of TV and movies that I’ll watch “some day”. Having grown tired of this, over the last year or so I’ve been making an effort to scratch some of these names off the list.

One of the oldest entries on that list is 1967’s “The Prisoner”.

Well, turns out Shout Factory posted the entire series – in HD, no less – over on YouTube, free with (easily blocked) ads.

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I finally dipped my toe in with Episode 1, and well, the rest is history. The Prisoner is way, way, WAY ahead of it’s time. I thoroughly recommend it. It’s a real mind-fuck at times (especially in that first episode). It’s easy to see the influence it’s had on other shows (like LOST, for instance) in the decades that have followed it’s airing.

But this isn’t a series review – I’ve stopped at Episode 6, The General because I noticed something that would be fun to note and archive.

The episode (at least as far as I’ve gotten) concerns a visiting professor who’s seemingly developed a technique to teach students 3 years worth of education in 3 minutes. A test of the technique works quite well on the citizens of ‘The Village’ and our protagonist, Number 6. But not everything is as it seems, naturally.

Anyway, the professor is not a willing participant in this. In fact, he’s seen trying to escape from The Village at the opening of the episode, causing a mad chase to ensue, dragging him back in time for his ‘lecture’.

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In the scene I paused on, the professor is urgently authoring some typewritten notes in his room. A couple Village scientists burst in, and drag him away. Meanwhile, another scientist, quite pleased with the current results, begins feeding the documents into a machine (the prop seems to be a Xerox 660 desktop copier with the name plate altered).

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While I can’t vouch for the detail present in the original airing, this HD version of the series renders the text VERY visible, if upside-down.

So let’s see what he was writing!

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                                    - 2 -

    a person washing up during the d??es and Sunday morning ?nd a cleaner
    working all day Saturday and Sunday morning.

Theatre Outings
---------- ----
    Secretary reported that 52 17/6d seats @ 12/6d each had been booked for
    the Cinerama production "Grand Prix" on Wednesday 5th April.  Coach has
    also been booked.


Football Section
-------- -------
    Alf Hunter[?] has asked for twelve pairs of football shorts.  As some of
    the present white shorts are missing he also asked if it would be
    possible for the new ones to be old gold because he did not know of any
    local team with that colour, then perhaps players would resist the
    temptation to 'borrow' H.G.K. shorts for other matches.  The cost of
    the shorts would be between 16/- and 18/- per pair and this was agreed.

Darts
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    Secretary asked, subject to Treasurer's Report, to purchase two
    dartboards.  This was agreed.

Treasurer's Report
-------------------
    Jack Howtree said our bank balance stood at £263, less outsanding bills
    to [?] of approximately £151, but receipts from "Hawaii" are still
    to come in.  Chairman asked for a full statement of balances and
    Jack Howtree agreed.

Bar Committee
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    Frank War?sle has agreed to replace Peter Hancock on the Bar Committee
    while he is away on location.  George asked if a replacement could be
    found for Christine on the Bar Committee.  It was agreed Brian Dolan
    sit as new ?????r.  It was also agreed that the Bar Committee should
    meet[?] fortnightly, dates to be arranged by members concerned. [?]

    ...

(NOTE: I tried my best on this. Anywhere I was unsure, I tried to mark it with question marks.)

Obviously this has absolutely nothing to do with the show, and wasn’t intended to be read by the audience.

It’s unsurprising that this text is clearly sourced from the UK considering The Prisoner was an ITC production. There seems to be a pattern of the letter a, e, and s, especially, having the hammer not strike hard enough. Makes critical pieces of this tough to puzzle out.

I went through several frames of the episode. The paper actually appears twice, once at 20:38 and again in another, similar scene with the same props at 43:36. Pieces of it are clearer than others depending on the frame, but I used all of them, and some visual tweaking in Photoshop to draw out details.

There’s a little more at the bottom of the page but it never appears in focus on-screen.

Theatre Outings

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This one helps ground the text in the mid-1960s. At least December 1966, since the Cinerama production “Grand Prix” was released on 1966-12-21. If I’m reading that correctly, it looks like they reserved 52 seats valued at 17 shillings, 6 pence, but gotten at a bulk discount? (I may be reading into it there.)

I did a bit of research (thanks, dv!) and all I could turn up was a showing at the Abbey Cinerama Theater in Liverpool. Turns out the ‘Liverpool Echo’ newspaper (PDF) was dated April 5th, 1967 – the exact date in question.

Football Section

  • Alf Hunter? Seems right.
  • H.G.K.? N.G.K.? H.G.H.? None of them produce anything obviously related… I tried rugby football, soccer, various sports clubs, etc. I’ve come so close, but never quite close enough.

Darts

  • Congrats on the dartboards.

Treasurer’s Report

  • Jack Pawtree? Jack Rawtree? Jack Rowtree? Jack Howtree? Jack Hawtree? You’d think having TWO examples of it on the page would be a bit of natural error correction. I dug around some directories and census data and couldn’t find anything that made any of those favored over the other.

Bar Committee (probably)

  • Frank Warsale? Frank Warcole? Frank Wargale?
  • Peter Hancock
  • “George”
  • “Christine”
  • Brian Dolan

Afterward

I really busted my ass trying to connect these dots. Shockingly, I got the most traction on the Cinerama section. The rest… lots of little clues, but nothing substantial. I could spend a lot more time on this and maybe start opening my wallet to some better tools, but this is about as much as I can squeeze out of this little OSINT side quest on a Saturday.

If you know anything, found something, or just have an observation I might have missed, hit me up on Twitter.