The Dripping Pen card and 340 Cipher, comprising of 63 characters, were mailed by the Zodiac Killer to the San Francisco Chronicle on November 8th 1969.
On the inside of the Dripping Pen card (shown below) it read:
This is the Zodiac speaking.
I though you would nead a good laugh before you hear the bad news. You won't get the news for a while yet. PS could you print this new cipher in your frunt page? I get aufully lonely when I am ignored, so lonely I could do my Thing !!!!!! Des July Aug Sept Oct = 7
December 11th 2020 will go down as a momentous day in the Zodiac Killer story, as the day Dave Oranchak (USA), Sam Blake (Australia) and Jarl Van Eycke (Belgium) finally cracked and publicly released the solution to the 340 cipher after 51 years and one month. Here is the message:
I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME - THAT WASN’T ME ON THE TV SHOW - WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME - I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE - SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH - I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH.
LIKELY INTENDED MESSAGE:
I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS DEATH. LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE. (34 characters and two rows). This method only requires switching "DEATH" from the end of the last line to the beginning of the 19th line (see image on right).
On October 22nd 1969, the Oakland Police Department took a call in the early morning hours from somebody claiming to be the Zodiac Killer, requesting that either Melvin Belli or Francis Lee Bailey, high profile lawyers at the time, appear on a chat show hosted by Jim Dunbar later that day. Melvin Belli agreed to appear on the show to which a man would eventually contact via telephone, claiming not only his name was 'Sam', but also by inference that he was the infamous Zodiac Killer.
The 340 cipher is effectively a rebuttal of that claim, with the Zodiac Killer stating he is "not afraid of the gas chamber" because he will just arrive in paradise all the sooner, where he has assembled plenty of slaves for his afterlife.
Despite the banality of the message, it is a marvellous achievement to finally end one chapter in the Zodiac story after five decades and countless claimed solutions. However, the complexity of the encryption in this instance may tell us so much more about the person behind the ciphers. Here is a video by Dave Oranchak explaining the latest find on his Youtube series Let's Crack Zodiac.
During the phone call on the Jim Dunbar Show, Melvin Belli attempted to placate the Zodiac impostor, Eric Weill, by stating "You’re not going to be hurt. You’re not going to be hurt if you talk to me". This was followed by Jim Dunbar, who reassured the caller "You’re not going to the gas chamber". This obviously struck a nerve with the Zodiac Killer, who felt the need to effectively distance himself from being the caller to the Jim Dunbar show, while using much of the same language as the 408 cipher. However, he didn't appear to distance himself fully from the circus that followed Melvin Belli, by mailing a piece of Paul Stine's shirt to the prominent attorney on December 20th 1969.
In the Melvin Belli communication he was clearly mocking elements of the phone call by pleading for help from Melvin Belli on numerous occasions, with the inclusion of the shirt piece confirmation that this time it was no hoaxer. The idea that Eric Weill would become instrumental in the message contained within the 340 cipher is one I doubt few (if any) people contemplated. I suppose many were hoping for something far more substantial in an encrypted message that has beguiled and confused us in equal measure for over 50 years, leaving us happy that the long quest for answers is finally over, but also leaving us a little disappointed that the ramblings in the 408 cipher didn't metamorphose into something more satisfying. The complexity of the encipherment in the 340 cipher was clearly a massive leap forward for the Zodiac Killer, undeniably leaving us in a position, where we will now have to re-evaluate the intelligence of a man who defied eminent codebreakers and amateur sleuths for over five decades
The Zodiac accompanies his cipher with a brief message "This is the Zodiac speaking. I though you would nead a good laugh before you hear the bad news. You won't get the news for a while yet. Could you print this new cipher in your frunt page? I get aufully lonely when I am ignored, so lonely I could do my Thing". This was followed by a running total of seven victims, detailed chronologically in months: "Des, July, Aug, Sept, Oct = 7".
An article by Paul Avery in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 25th 1969 may have been the inspiration for the Zodiac Killer's choice of greeting card on November 8th 1969. The Chronicle article stated "Zodiac struck last on October 11 when he gunned down cab-driver Paul Stine on Washington Street in Presidio Heights. He revealed himself the killer in a letter sent to the Chronicle three days later. Since then he has remained silent". In the Dripping Pen card the Zodiac apologized by way of chosen image and wording, stating "Sorry I haven't written, but I just washed my pen". The message in the 340 cipher was partly inspired by the Jim Dunbar TV show, while the Dripping Pen card was seemingly chosen in response to "Since then he has remained silent". If so, then there is a real possibility that the 340 cipher was created subsequent to October 25th 1969.
From the beginning of the Zodiac attacks in December (2), they were followed by further attacks in July (1), September (1) and October (1). However, this gives us five victims, possibly six if we we retrospectively include Cheri Josephine Bates, murdered alongside the Riverside City College library on October 30th 1966. However, her murder lay outside the Zodiac Killer umbrella. The (2) August murders he was referring to on the card were without any doubt the brutal double stabbing deaths of Kathie Reyne Snoozy and Debra Gaye Furlong in San Jose on August 3rd 1969. This is detailed below.
After the Zodiac's third attack at Lake Berryessa on September 27th 1969, the killer did not send any correspondence bragging about the events that day, leaving some people to question this attack as a Zodiac crime. Other than his admission on the car door of Bryan Hartnell's white 1956 Karmann Ghia, the mention of September on the 'Dripping Pen' card was one of two references that may have been used by Zodiac in admitting his involvement in the Lake Berryessa attack. The author of the October 13th 1969 Paul Stine letter opened with the words "This is the Zodiac speaking. I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St + Maple St last night, to prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt. I am the same man who did in the people in the north bay area".
The Zodiac Killer on the car door of Bryan Hartnell's white Karmann Ghia clearly attributes both of his first two attacks under the banner of Vallejo, despite the fact David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were murdered in Benicia. In fact, the Zodiac Killer never referenced Benicia in any of his communications, while he mentioned Vallejo several times. If the Zodiac Killer played no part in the Lake Berryessa attack, then his above introduction could have read "This is the Zodiac speaking. I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St + Maple St last night, to prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt. I am the same man who did in the people in the Vallejo area". However, he chose to use the "north bay area" for the first time, which incorporates the Napa and Sanoma wine regions.
Two young girls, Debra Gaye Furlong (14) and Kathie Reyne Snoozy (15) were found murdered on August 3rd 1969 in the Bay Area of San Jose in what can only be described as a barrage of knife wounds. These murders were eventually found to be at the hand of Karl Francis Werner, who was also convicted of the Kathy Bilek murder.
On Sunday, April 11th 1971, Kathy Bilek (18) visited Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, having planned to read a paperback book (The Gabriel Hounds) and engage in a spot of bird watching in the seclusion of a remote, wooded portion of the park, near a small stream. Her body was found the next day by her father, Charles, while Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies searched nearby. She had been stabbed 17 times in the back, and 32 times in her chest and stomach.
The Zodiac Killer was claiming the double murder of Furlong and Snoozy in August and thereby taking his victim count to the seven he had added in the 'Dripping Pen' card. The horrific murders of these two young girls featured in a front page newspaper article by the San Francisco Chronicle on August 6th 1969, entitled The 'Frenzy' of San Jose Girls' Slayer. If the Zodiac Killer had read this article and noted the extensive coverage of these murders on the front page, while also noting that his ciphers and admission to three murders, mailed to the Chronicle and Examiner on July 31st 1969 were relegated to a lowly page four and nine when published, then there is a very real possibility this may have influenced his decision to switch from gun to knife in his third attack, thereby securing front page coverage by mimicking a deadly knife attack. Read The Story of San Jose. Here is an excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle article:
The two young girls, found dead Sunday on a sun-parched San Jose hillside, appear to have been victims of a sexual psychopath, whose blood frenzy led him to "overkill."
Dr. John E. Hauser, Santa Clara county's chief medical examiner and coroner, said yesterday that the girls, Deborah Gay Furlong, 14, and Kathy Snoozy, 15, died in a "frenzied flurry of knife-wounds" inflicted so swiftly that neither gave any evidence of having struggled against the attack. Dr. Hauser, so shaken by the brutality of the crime he could scarcely find words, said the Snoozy youngster had 150 wounds on her back, 50 on the front and a "storm" of punctures on her neck. Deborah's body had about 100 wounds on her back and upper front and a dozen on her neck. Dr. Hauser said he was "puzzled" by many aspects of the brutal slaying. He said neither girl had been sexually molested; neither had suffered any wounds below her waist, neither gave evidence of having struggled to escape. Only the Snoozy girl, he said, had one small mark on her hand, suggesting she may have tried vainly to deflect the plunging knife.
The coroner said both girls must have died very quickly and he is investigating the possibility they may have been drugged before the stabbing began. Blood and skin samples as well as stomach contents have been sent for further examination to area laboratories, he said. The results should be known in a few days. It is Dr. Hauser's opinion that the multiple puncture wounds were inflicted by one or two small knives, the largest wound the size of a pocket knife with a half-inch blade. "I've never seen a case with this many stab wounds," Dr. Hauser said. "You know, I've been in this profession a long time and sometimes I think I'm rather callous, but when I saw these girls, believe me it was terrifying. The Nazi sex mutilations during World War II were nothing compared to what was done to these young girls".
Incidentally, the wording on the Zodiac Dripping Pen card "and I can't do a thing with it" was not written by the Zodiac - it was part of the original card. One-and-a-half months after the Dripping Pen card, the Zodiac Killer included another piece of the murdered taxicab driver's shirt, mailed with the Melvin Belli letter on December 20th 1969. In this letter the Zodiac stated his fear of "losing control again and taking his ninth or possibly tenth victim". Number eight has never been identified, if there was ever one at all.
The 408 cipher was decoded fairly quickly by Donald Gene and Bettye June Harden, after three portions of cipher, forming one whole, were mailed to the Vallejo Times-Herald, San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner just over three months prior to this latest offering.
The 340 cipher proved a whole lot harder to crack, but finally we have the answer in 2020
thanks to Dave Oranchak, Sam Blake, Jarl Van Eycke, and all the others who have contributed to this project over many years.