Wells' Lair on The Flash is Braille?

I don't actually watch The Flash (lack of time rather than inclination), but my sister pointed out to me that the secret lair of Harrison Wells is covered in bumps that look a lot like Braille.

But is it really Braille? And if so, is there some secret message hidden in the walls? Since this aligns with my interests (i.e. ciphers, linguistics, Braille), I decided to investigate. There are some answers on the internet, but not enough to satisfy me or my sister. I'm fixing that now.

First, a little Braille primer. The Braille alphabet encodes the 26 English letters into 2x3 grids of dots, like so:

Braille also encodes numbers, punctuation, and other formatting marks (like capital and italics) in that same 2x3 grid. However, the only markings on Wells' wall that fit any of those Braille markings are the letters n and z.

But Braille also has a cool and ridiculous number of shorthands and contractions. The dots on Wells' wall match these. Specifically, every 2x3 grid of dots on Wells' wall is one of these orientations, rotated either vertically or horizontally:

So the answer to our first question is yes, this is definitely Braille. I didn't see a single screenshot that showed any markings that broke the 2x3 grid pattern, nor that represented any word but those above.

But does it say anything? I'm gonna say no.

That conclusion does come with a few caveats though:
  1. I only know the basics of Braille. It may be that a fluent Braille reader would be able to see a pattern that I'm missing.
  2. Because the characters are rotated, it's hard to tell what orientation they are meant to be read in. I assumed a specific orientation and stuck with that for the image above.
  3. My translations assume English Braille. A lot of other languages use these grids for their own characters too (e.g. here are the Thai consonants).
With those caveats in mind, I would call this "decorative Braille." It's possible that there's a secret message hidden in some other language or character orientations, but I doubt it.

Even if there was, I'd never find it. You start doing this long enough and Wells' face starts to look like this:


Steve MC said...

Cool sleuthing. There could be a hidden joke there (if accidental) in that the actor shown played Ed in "Ed."

Elena Solodow said...

Very cool sleuthing indeed! :)

R. Pardue said...

I am a braille teacher, and I'm sorry to tell you that this is NOT braille. This is an artistic impersonation of braille symbols, but braille has meaning. The wall... does not.
The spacing is completely off to be braille. If you look at the wall panels, they subdivide the characters into groupings of "cells", but the spacing between characters and lines is almost non-existent. It may "look like" braille, but it does not follow proper formatting in any braille code, English or otherwise. Someone was mimicking the visual aspect of braille without any knowledge of braille conventions.
Also, if you look again, there are repeating strings of symbols (like you said) "z", "-er", and "-ed", but there is no logic or interpretation to come from it.

Adam Heine said...

Thanks, R. Pardue! That was the conclusion I came to as well—these are technically braille characters but they are used in an artistic way rather than to convey any meaning.

And good point about the spacing! That was a detail I had not noticed or mentioned in the post. Thank you!