The Purloined Letter Approach

The Purloined Letter Approach

"The Purloined Letter Approach" is the general name of a plan to hide something in plain view.


The name of this idea is based upon one of Edgar Allan Poe's detective stories, named "The Purloined Letter", where a damning letter is hidden for ransom. Despite the best efforts of the police, they cannot find it - even knowing which room it is in. Finally, the main protagonist of the story describes how very small changes to the letter caused it to be hidden from the police's eyes, even when they saw it, simply since it didn't look like what they thought it should.


Cited in many fiction stories, [We Few, by David Weber and John Ringo. Baen Books, ISBN 978-0-7434-9881-4] [ [ The Machine] ] by most especially when the heroes must penetrate a large organization covertly.

Compare and Contrast

* The Big Lie, where the intent is to make the observer look and listen to the main lie; while the Purloined Letter Approach is to prevent the observer from seeing the kernel of truth.
* Parthian shot, where the observer is distracted with an even larger event, and thereby doesn't see the object to the hidden - at least momentarily. (The very device was used by the hero of the original story, "The Purloined Letter").
* False flag, where the action is flaunted and meant to be seen, but to appear as if done by another party; while the Purloined Letter Approach merely unfocuses the observer's attention, and does not provide another focus for the observer.


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