For years, the mysterious figure known as Mr. Encrypto has eluded authorities. The question of his true identity has given birth to a small cottage industry of paperback books and reality tv shows. Some will remember the '70s controversy when bestselling author Clifford Irving identified Mr. Encrypto as reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, but this was later proven to be a hoax. In the '80s, there were claims that an itinerant Russian van driver named Josef had been seen donning Mr. Encrypto's familiar dark costume, but authorities were unable to glean more and the lead was dropped. With the new release of Mr. Encrypto's first album, HERO AND VILLAIN! (Death Barney Records), the question of his true identity has regained front-burner status. And, in recent years, suspicion has been cast on a Los Angeles musician named Bruce Gordon.

That there is a connection between Gordon and Encrypto is not in doubt. Gordon is the credited songwriter and co-producer of the album, which features soul-searching lyrics married to '60s-inflected melodies and harmonies. But some claim the connection between Gordon and Mr. Encrypto goes further; indeed, that they are one and the same man!

Gordon denies it. "That's utter rubbish," he told an AP reporter in a rare interview. "Certainly he's been an influence, but I can assure you I'm very much my own man. If I am Mr. Encrypto, Elvis is Dead."

But the parallels between the two men are uncanny, and many questions remain. Submitted for your consideration:

* The earliest known reports of Mr. Encrypto come from Australia at a time when it is known that Bruce Gordon lived there.

* During the '80s, when Bruce Gordon lived in Grand Junction, Colorado, there was an earthquake measuring 9.8 on the Richter scale that nearly destroyed Mt. Kamanawanaleia in Hawaii. Mr. Encrypto claimed responsibility, but scientists were astounded when they reverse-engineered the seismic vibrations -- the origin point was Grand Junction!

* A young intern by the name of Chuck Jefferson, who sat in on some of the recording sessions with co-producer Earle Mankey, said Encrypto and Bruce Gordon were never seen in the same room together. "Yeah, I thought it was kinda weird that Bruce would go into the bathroom, and this Mr. Encrypto guy would come out. But you know musicians .... I just figured, don't ask, don't tell."

* Dr. Hans Indiaire of the Cleveland institute of Acoustic Sciences compared vocal fragments from Gordon and Mr. Encrypto and found an astounding similarity. "One would not under normal circumstances expect to see such a close correlation between all key identifying characteristics of the waveform, unless these two men are the same person."

Scientists say that waveform analyses of recordings made by Bruce Gordon (left) and "Mr. Encrypto" (right) suggest they may be the same person. (Graphs courtesy of the Cleveland Institute of Acoustic Sciences.)


Of course, many have noted the other, less scientific but certainly compelling parallels regarding Bruce Gordon and Encrypto. For instance:

* "Encrypto" contains 7 letters (more or less); "Bruce Gordon" contains 11, a total of 18 letters. Bruce was 18 when he first shopped at a 7-11.

* "Mr. Encrypto" and "Bruce Gordon" can be rearranged to spell "Ptymer Drog Coroner Bunc", which can then be rearranged to spell "Bruce Gordon" and "Mr. Encrypto."

* Bruce's mother threw out his Lincoln logs. Mr. Encrypto's mother spent his Kennedy half-dollar.

* "Hero and Villain in One Man!" pronounced backwards allegedly sounds like, "Bruce Gordon is really Mr. Encrypto, no foolin'."