The Gypsy code, or Gypsies’ code

From the book: “Opportunity Suits the Thief” Francesco Caccetta, English edition 2015


It’s a habit, by now: as soon as a critical economic stage gets impending, early fears are back. It is frequently noticed, as a matter of facts, that many people use to call the Police just to report about strange scribbles on a street lamp, on a tree, rather than on a wall nearby their homes. Scribbles that have nothing to do with the cyclostyled ones, filling up the web, or long since spread by parishes as leaflets, the so-called Gypsies’ code, although a so much enlarged worry pervading our communities leads to an even excessive upset. The Gypsy code, or Gypsies’ code, is quite available to find, by surfing the internet, through any picture gallery shown by a search engine –many reliable experts have dealt with this matter – and yet it really stands as an obsymorus, so that indeed we can call it a “true-lie”, fibs told as truth. Though in time these scribbles were widely shown as wrongly-connected with the Gypsies, many people, even properly worried about cyclical waves of thefts all over the country, have somehow suffered some dark charm by the questioned symbols, sometimes disregarding the common shrewdness to follow not to be robbed. In my opinion, since its wide European spread, this leaflet someway reminds us the famous pamphlet “The early wise of Zion”, lately come up again by Daniel Pipe, whose spread for ages couldn’t have been stopped, nor the wide willingness of many to behold that book as reliable. So, the spread and some willingness to believe that the mysterious leaflet showing a supposed Gypsy code could be someway reliable is likely due to some legacy which features our deepest vision of a different ethnic group. The Gypsies are known to be nomadic, hardly tied to a particular land or its people, even if their presence has all along been mixed to ours; they are bringers of mysterious, secret stories, somehow coloured with some occultism and magic, which feeds common fantasies and helps spread fears, besides a sort of discrimination sense, that however doesn’t fit any longed-for security perception. The root of this symbols is anyhow linked up with the wanderings’ language, and dates from the early 20s in the XIX century, when, because of a deep recession the number of no fixed abode people, roaming through the nations, had a conspicuous increase, and touched a considerable quantity. It’s now easy to guess why the Hobos’ language (Hobo is how the Americans used to name the vagabonds) was to hide some shared, survival code,through even a conventional alphabet, meant to inform who would come later about the possible availability of a country, or a town, or maybe a single house to be a good host, or otherwise meant to beware of a hostile place. The questioned leaflet, as turned by the Leviathan of the perceived insecurity into a Gypsies’ secret code, has probably arrived in Italy, with its odd scribbles roughly alike the symbols that still go round the web, about 40 years ago; roughly alike, except for some details lately cropped up. It’s hard to say how, but the effect was explosive: nearly all believe that code to be real, and ascribe it to the Gypsies, although an apparent lack of congruence. I defy anyone not to have ever heard a friend being sure to have noticed one of those scribbles on an entryphone, rather than on a neighbour’s boundary wall… To have helped a further spread of the questioned leaflet we ought to admit an even excessive zeal, as for some policemen, who thought, in good faith, to serve the community, by supporting somehow the authenticity of that false code. The symbols list shows anyway a certain inconsistency; I’m now going to quote a few contradictions, just to highlight how unlike they are. We can see, for instance, the symbol III (like a 3 in Roman numerals) pretending to mean “keep off this municipality”, but it seems it was carved on some entryphones, while it should have been found elsewhere, as on a road billboard announcing you’re entering the district of a town. One more scribble stands for “very attractive house”, or “desirable”. Now, what’s the point of talking to other thieves about an attractive house? It would be much more opportune if the thief kept his own secret, in order to strike once more the suitable target, without informing his competitors! Yet, what mostly rouse our suspicions is that such a relevant code – so useful to both burglars and Gypsies – get hardly in the line of an all-over spread document, long since so well known… what’s its use? Why then not to command an army at war to make use of Julius Caesar’s cipher-book? Can you ever think of a Gypsy, so naturally wary and cautious, nearly invisible, while studying a series of small, almost imperceptible, scribbles craved on an entryphone plate, or on a wall? He would be noticed as well, and his attempt would be surely thwarted. As matters stand, most of people are divided between believers and unbelievers, unless we consider a third opinion class “it’s not true, but I believe it all the same..” which leads me to draw a conclusion, that, though respectful for any other point of view, could set all agree. To prevent one’s home from being robbed, it could be convenient that you mark your own entryphone, or your boundary walls, with a ciphered Gypsy-symbol meaning “just visited!!!” or “just robbed” as you like; a suitable trick to get the Gypsy confused. He might even decide to save your property from a possible theft, but that’s just provocative, not surely the advice I am willing to give. My exhortation is that you follow the common rules of shrewdness to defend both your house as your possessions, even in the case the mentioned scribble may be truly a Gypsy code. I therefore urge you to have good terms with your neighborhood, just to take mutual advantage of any shared information and benefit as someone else looks after your property, while you’re away; but above all, don’t you ever let unknown people enter your house. This is the best cleverness symbol against any supposed Gypsy scribble!


Francesco Caccetta ©



Swindles, the ones I use to call “on the road”, are so widely proportional with human fantasy that a digest itself wouldn’t be enough to spell the list. The swindlers are such a kind of multitasking-minded people, who make the worst use of their creative cleverness, besides they are very skilled talkers, if we mean communication as a “rational act“ performed by someone who perfectly knows how to adapt his talents to the goal he aims to, in a particular circumstance. This ability is essential for a cheat to work, and it’s not so easy to save oneself from the trap. The old swindles, even thanks to the media outcry, are now widely known and identifiable by most of people who can oftenescape, but a swindler needs to survive too, which means that by a fewarrangements and a bit of experience he can ever work out new trickssuitable enough to hit the mark. So, just remember that when you park your cars in front of a supermarket, someone is looking over you, and if you hold a shoulder-bag, or a waist-bag, especially if you are alone, the trap is ready to go off. Once you get back to the car, after you’ve put your stuff on the nearside, you start the engine and leave, but only just later you realize something is wrong, and suddenly an other car comes alongside yours, and someone makes you gently notice that you have a flat tyre. What you probably can’t guess at the moment is that the same gentleman who is now offering to help you change the wheel, is the offender himself who previously saw to get your wheel deflated. And that’s it! While you curse and bustle about your spare-wheel, your kind-helper’s accessory steals the bag you had left unguarded, inside the open car, and after all who would lock his car while changing a wheel? This is known as the “flat tyre swindle”. One more amazing and ingenious trick is smudging your outside rear-view mirror, or the bumper of you car, with a coloured chalk exactly the same as the offender’s car. At this point, the swindler waits for you to overtake him, both while he is speeding along or stopping at the side of the road, then he finally reaches you and ask for you to stop. His aim is to make you notice that his car got damaged, because of your passing. He wants you to believe you have a responsibility towards the matter, once he can show you the scrape of your car that matches the colour of his! You admit your fault and he can lead you to compensate for the damage. This is known as the “chalk swindle”. But it could even happen that someone makes you softly crash into his car, and by chance the impact makes a most expensive cell-phone (such an I-phone or a Samsung Galaxy 3, both expensive, but not new, and that is the trick!) fall from the glove compartment and gets the display shattered; what you certainly can’t know is that, in spite of the brand, the object was already dented, since it had been bought second hand, old and half-cracked, for next to nothing, on E-bay. It is the “dent-phone swindle”. I could go on, or even invent myself some kind of new swindle, but what’s more is that such tricks so properly work because in many cases it’s just us who prefer to be cheated. We often pick out to avoid a pointless expense or a waste of time, and so keep off the Insurance Companies, or sometimes we feel the need to be free from a fussy, hot-tempered spouse, which leads us to accept a short-cut; it’s exactly what a swindler relies on. As he knows that since we wish the matter was closed here and now, we actually lay open to a swindle. Now that I think of it, in the early 80s, a comedian trio from Naples, used to repeat a slogan at the end of their comic tv-show; they were the Trettrè and their slogan sounded “Bear in mind that saving is never earning”. Thanks to this successful quip, we may even end the argument, with a simple advice: do never negotiate a deal with anyone, on the road; if and when somebody invites you to settle any account on the spot, without involving the Insurance Company, in order to avoid a rise in costs, feel even free to accept, but only in the presence of a Police patrol, since the cops may write an official report and moreover check the real identity of your opposite party. At this point, a swindler chooses to drop his plan and give up his unlawful trade, but if it all is true and hides no cheat, your interlocutor is surely willing to wait for the Police to arrive. So, do never pay anything when you’re alone on the road. At all events, remember to jot down the number- plate of the questioned vehicle, in order to report it to the Police, and prevent any other unfortunate-one from being cheated. When it is possible, take a picture of your interlocutor’s car, as he moves away, paying attention not to be seen as well: it could be of use to any possible inquiry.

By: Opportunity suits the thief. The neighborhood watch

Francesco Caccetta

Traduttore: F. Falvo

Editore: MGC Edizioni

Anno edizione: 2016