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TOMB RIDDLER; Graveyard mystery solved by TV show.

Byline: RICHARD SMITH

HOUSE painter John Renie turned the tombstone on his grave into a giant crossword puzzle which has baffled people for 170 years.

But researchers have finally discovered what the jumble of 285 letters on his south Wales grave actually means.

It spells out the words Here Lies John Renie an incredible 46,000 times.

TV producers came up with the answer and believe John designed the inscription as a way of confusing the devil to guarantee himself a place in heaven.

HTV Wales' Talking Stones programme will reveal the claims tonight.

Programme maker Mary Simmonds said yesterday: "At first it looks quite complicated but really there is no secret code.

"It just carries 46,000 permutations of the same message.

"During that era people were far more inclined to believe in hell as a literal fact and we think he designed the puzzle himself to confuse the devil.

"People were far more preoccupied with death and the after life than we are today." John was 33 when he died in 1832 and his gravestone is in St Mary's church in Monmouth, south Wales.

Labyrinth puzzles, crosswords and wordsearches were popular in Georgian and Victorian times but few people could afford to use them on gravestones.

Local Vicar Rev James Coutts believes John was simply trying to provide a bit of entertainment for people in death.

He said: "I think it's nonsense to suggest he was trying to cheat the devil.

"I think it was probably intended to be something unusual and was just a bit of fun."

TALKING STONES is on HTV Wales tonight at 10.30pm.

richardjsmith@ic24.net

CAPTION(S):

PUZZLE: The gravestone at St Mary's Church in Monmouth, left; INTRIGUE: The stone has fascinated visitors for years
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 23, 2002
Words:293
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