Part One - Zodiac Killer Roundtable
Part Two - Zodiac Ciphers
Part Three - Zodiac Killer Letters
Part Four - Cheri Jo Bates
Zodiac researchers Michael Morford, David Oranchak and Michael Butterfield sat down with House of Mystery Radio - KKNW Seattle to produce a four part roundtable discussion about the 'unholy trail' of the Zodiac Killer. Each podcast, presented on the Youtube platform, is split into four 50 plus minute segments.
Part One - Zodiac Killer Roundtable
Part Two - Zodiac Ciphers
Part Three - Zodiac Killer Letters
Part Four - Cheri Jo Bates
"There are approximately 230 miles of levees protecting over 50,000 acres of marsh land in the Suisun Marsh. Only about a third of the Delta levees (385 miles) are part of a federal flood management project of the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems. All of the Suisun Marsh levees – are local levees constructed and maintained during the past 130 years by local reclamation districts. Suisun Marsh and adjoining bays are the brackish transition between fresh and salt water. But the location of that transition is not fixed. Hydrologic studies suggest the Delta works like a giant washing machine agitator, with tidal forces and river flows constantly sloshing water back and forth."
Water Education Foundation.
"Suisun Slough is under the influence of tides. The most severe flooding along this waterway would result when very high tides and a large volume of stream outflow occur coincidently. In Suisun City, restrictive outlets into slough areas cause floodflows to pond in low-lying areas, and high tides may delay drainage for several days. Flooding occurred in Suisun City in 1940, 1950, 1955, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, and 1973. Extensive flooding along State Highway 12 occurred in December 1955. Floodwater rose to waist depth in a residential development when high tides slowed drainage. In January 1967, floodwater covered one-third of the streets, and was approximately 2 feet deep in the southern part of town. Flooding from Pennsylvania Avenue Creek and Union Avenue Creek had a recurrence interval of 15 years for the 1967 flood. A high tide and overflow from Laurel Creek and Union Avenue Creek caused flooding in January 1970." Flood Insurance Study.
"A flood damage survey was made during the January 1970 flood, but streamflow measurements and high-water marks are available for only the 1973 flood. Examples of flooding in the project area are shown in the photos. Newspaper articles, photographs and descriptions by local residents for the other flood years indicate substantial losses to residences, businesses, crops, and county roads. These floods caused many homes to be evacuated, disrupted community activities, and endangered the health and safety of residents and those involved in rescue operations." Fairfield Vicinity Streams.
"Those of you who have lived here since the 1970s or earlier may remember what the state-named streets in Fairfield looked like after a heavy rain and, if I remember correctly, a high tide. There was a tidal incursion on streets that have long since been redone and the flooding problem totally mitigated." Bud Stevenson, Solano Daily Republic.
The Zodiac mailed correspondence to the San Francisco Chronicle on April 20th 1970, in which he stated "I have killed ten people to date. It would have been a lot more except that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back." Suisun City, Solano County, California can be seen via the link to border the city of Fairfield. But why is this relevant?
It has been suggested in previous articles that the Zodiac Killer may have resided near the payphone at Springs Road and Tuolumne Street, but we know that two letters were mailed from Fairfield to the San Francisco Chronicle on December 7th 1969, and to the San Francisco Examiner on December 16th 1969. If these were genuine Zodiac letters, then there is a possibility that he may have been a resident of Suisun City or Fairfield for the duration of the 7th to 16th of December and mailed his letters from this location. Was he a resident of this area beyond December 16th 1969, or did he reside here permanently? The Bay Area murderer may have had two residences, a vacation home, lockup or a business in this region of Solano County.
Just a matter of weeks after the final Fairfield letter, floods in Suisun City/Fairfield, "from Laurel Creek and Union Avenue Creek caused flooding in January 1970" resulting in the evacuation of many "residences and businesses" in the area. The Zodiac Killer then wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle in April, stating "that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back." But was he telling the truth?
# The population of Suisun City was only 2,917 in 1970.
# The population of Fairfield was 44,146 in 1970.
The sighting of a 'suspicious' male roaming the hillside of Lake Berryessa was reported by Dr Rayfield & Son and the three young women at different times during the Saturday of September 27th 1969. Two unusual or notable sightings, both at virtually the same location (0.8 miles from the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia), of similar description and separated by approximately 3 hours is certainly food for thought. If this was our suspect, then a comparison of his footprints to the boot prints documented from the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to the crime scene, could have added considerable weight to the description given by the three young women. Bearing in mind their description led to the first sketch of the possible Zodiac Killer, it shouldn't have been too surprising that the description of the killer at Presidio Heights painted a different picture. The difference in hairstyle and the presence of prescription glasses probably the result of what had occurred two weeks earlier.
The Zodiac Killer stated in the November 9th 1969 'Bus Bomb' letter "I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill." His disguise in the instance of the Paul Stine murder likely not a disguise at all- just a radical change of his facial appearance because of his widely publicized exploits just 14 days previously.
In a previous article entitled 'Lake Berryessa-The Two Sightings' the possibility of blood on the shirt of the subject viewed by Dr Rayfield & Son, along with the 70 minute difference between the supposed 6.30 pm attack and the phone call in Napa, were given as supporting evidence that the man described by Dr Rayfield & Son was actually the killer.
Some have wondered whether the couple were followed to Lake Berryessa, hence the killer's ability to connect the victims to the correct vehicle.
According to Ken Narlow in the 2007 Zodiac documentary "There's a lot of activity up at Lake Berryessa during the summer months, but after Labor Day when all the kids go back to school it kind of quiets down. This was September 27th probably 3 and a half weeks after labor day, so it was a very, very quiet Saturday evening out there."
Therefore, the ability to connect a vehicle to its owners wouldn't have been that difficult for a killer able to construct ciphers.
According to page 11 of the police report "Miss Marilyn Denise, a student at Pacific Union College, stated that about 5.15 pm Saturday 9/27/69 she was in the Lake Berryessa area with a male companion. She stated at this time they were parked on the Knoxville Road approximately one mile south of the Lake Berryessa Marina. She stated shortly after they parked the vehicle they observed the victims who were known to them, Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, driving south on Knoxville Road in Bryan's white Karmann Ghia. She stated as the Hartnell vehicle drove by, Bryan waved out of the window and said "Hi John", referring to her companion."
It is clear from this statement that Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard would have parked up by 5.30 pm. Had the killer parked behind them shortly after, with the intention of trailing them to the edge of the lake, we would have to assume there was an approximate 40 minute delay before he first made contact with the couple. But, had the killer ever parked his vehicle to the rear of the Karmann Ghia, by the stile? The killer may have parked 0.8 miles north of the crime scene, hence the two sightings before and after the attack on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard. It is perfectly conceivable he was traversing the hillside looking for vehicles and victims, rather than driving directly to this parking area. This may explain his confusion regarding the distance he stated in the later payphone call to police dispatcher Dave Slaight.
The police report states "Reporting officer observed footprints leading from the foot stile to the passenger side of the Karmann Ghia. The footprints were measured and Sgt. T. Butler photographed the impressions. Sgt. Butler also photographed Reporting Officer pointing to the footprint which was to be cast. Said footprint indicating the direction of travel was toward the vehicle."
This is important, because if no footprints were leading towards the foot stile (only beyond the stile), then the killer may not have approached the crime scene from the car park, and by inference, hadn't parked his vehicle in this area.
It is extremely likely the killer wore gloves during the attack, as mentioned in the police report- so it would have been rather a strange decision to then drive 27 miles to Main Street and handle the telephone receiver with bare hands.
"At 20.50 hours Reporting Officer met Eric Ronback and Reserve Officer Donald Stanley at the Napa Car Wash, Main and Clinton Streets, They stated that they had secured the scene and the area around the phone had been searched for physical evidence. The phone booth was then processed for latent impressions and latent impression lifts #1 thru 35 were taken into evidence. Heavy beads of moisture remained on the impressions photographed."
The Zodiac Killer was almost certainly right-handed, as he had holstered his gun on the right side during the attack on the young couple. Had these been the payphone prints of the killer, then they could have confirmed a right-handed assailant. Although not beyond argument, a right-handed killer would likely handle the telephone receiver with his left hand while dialing with his right. The four fingers of the left hand on the top side of the receiver. In the case of a left-handed person holding the receiver with their right hand, the four finger impressions would be on the opposite side of the receiver. If the killer was wearing leather gloves, this may still have opened up the possibility of confidently tying together this crime with the attacks at Blue Rock Springs and Presidio Heights.
The leather gloves left in the taxicab of Paul Stine may have been mistakenly forgotten by a previous passenger, nevertheless, the attacker at Blue Rock Springs and Lake Berryessa on both occasions made a payphone call. Had the killer wore the same gloves during these two crimes, it is conceivable that the glove impressions (which are as unique as a fingerprint) could have been matched, along with any latent impressions taken from Presidio Heights- or the taxicab gloves themselves. This could have undeniably tied these three crimes together.
Assuming the physical evidence was retained from Presidio Heights, it shouldn't have been that difficult to detect any traces of airplane cement had the Zodiac used such a defense.
"Many criminals often wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, which makes the crime investigation more difficult. Although the gloves act as a protective covering for the wearer's prints, the gloves themselves can leave prints that are just as unique as human fingerprints, thus betraying the wearer. After collecting glove prints, law enforcement can then match them to gloves that they have collected as evidence as well as glove prints retrieved from other crime scenes.
In earlier decades, investigators would dust for fingerprints only to find smears and smudges caused by gloves. Often in earlier decades these smudges were ignored because very little of their detail was retrievable. With the advent of latent fingerprint detection in the late 20th century, investigators started to collect, analyze, and record prints left at crime scenes that were created by the wearing of gloves. Glove prints can be as simple as marks caused by seams or folds in fabric of a glove, or they can be as complex as marks left behind by the grain or texture of the fabric of a glove. When gloves are collected as evidence their prints can be taken and compared to glove prints that were taken at crime scenes or from evidence.
Over time, the pores and grain of leather gloves will pick up dirt and grease from surfaces that they have touched or handled. The dirt and grease can in return help to create prints on surfaces. Also, unlined gloves provide the most dexterity but can over time become saturated with the oils and sweat of the wearer's hands. This helps to increase the gripping properties of the gloves but causes the gloves to leave prints. A print that contains the glove wearer's sweat and oils will contain their DNA, which can incriminate them." Wikipedia.
With the 50th anniversary of the Lake Herman Road murders fast approaching, can another form of fingerprint evidence finally snare the Zodiac Killer- or are we heading to an irrevocable dead end.
On September 27th 2018, the third instalment of Dr. Mark Hewitt's trilogy of Zodiac books will be available. 'EXPOSED: The Zodiac Revealed, the final instalment of the Zodiac Serial Killer series, brings to light the truth about the Zodiac. In it, Hewitt presents definitive evidence of the killer’s identity, and names him directly. This incontrovertible work of investigation will confirm the suspicions of many Zodiac investigators and change the public’s understanding of the case forever.' Dr. Mark Hewitt.
Having listened to Dr. Mark Hewitt on numerous occasions, it is refreshing to hear a level-headed approach to the Zodiac case using police reports, FBI files and documents from the standpoint of impartiality. Dr. Mark Hewitt is an intelligent and thoughtful individual, taking a reasoned approach to the available evidence gathered thus far.
However, in the prelude to the final book of the series, he states "definitive evidence of the killer's identity." 'Definitive' can be described as reached decisively and with authority- and while I would take note of Dr. Mark Hewitt above most, he is not the first Zodiac researcher to claim such a discovery. The trilogy is certainly striving for a conclusion, having hunted and profiled the confirmed murderer of five in the previous two instalments. Whether an answer to the Zodiac case is required upon conclusion of the trilogy, is debatable, and dependent on the reader.
Putting aside the current DNA research into the case, I have yet to see any definitive evidence or scientific breakthroughs to conclusively pin down any suspect to the Zodiac Killer mast. Many excellent researchers have come and gone, and while plenty have advocated for a particular suspect, none have achieved even a general consensus within the Zodiac community. This bears testament to how the 'evidence' can be manipulated to reach the conclusion you were originally looking for. This has been achieved, not only in shaping the case around a suspect based on cherry-picking the evidence, but also by finding the suspect's name in the ciphers through less than compelling reasoning.
Dr. Mark Hewitt states of the Zodiac that he will "name him directly," but, whether such a bold statement holds any sway with a tired and weary Zodiac audience, who have heard such proclamations innumerable times before, we will have to wait and see. I wish Dr. Mark Hewitt every success in his final offering, and have no doubt that it will be a thoroughly well researched and informative addition to the Zodiac mystery. However, my guess, is that the "killer named" in 'Exposed-The Zodiac Revealed' will certainly not close the book on this case any time soon.
The most important editorial decision made in the Zodiac Killer case was the publication of an article in the Sunday San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle newspaper on August 3rd 1969, labeling the murderer of three as the "cipher killer." This, along with the musings of Vallejo Chief Jack E. Stiltz brought about the inception of the Zodiac Killer, who has now become the most infamous serial killer in American history.
Vallejo Chief Jack E. Stiltz stated "he is still not convinced the letters and codes were written by the actual killer although the letters contained details of the crimes that are not public knowledge. The letter writer described the clothing of the victims, position of the bodies, and even the brand names of the ammunition used. Such a knowledge could have been obtained from any witness at the death scenes." He urged the writer to send in more facts to prove his connection to the crimes. The fact that the killer responded immediately on August 4th 1969 with "In answer to your asking for more details about the good times I have had in Vallejo, I shall be very happy to supply even more material," and introducing himself as the 'Zodiac,' is testimony to how this newspaper shaped the very nature of the Zodiac case.
Had Jack E. Stiltz not "urged" the killer for more material, it is highly likely this letter would not have been sent- and in view of the absence of any Lake Berryessa communication, the murderer of five would have been just that on October 11th 1969. The serial killer under the pseudonym Zodiac would very likely not have existed. Additionally, this would have left just one set of communications, the July 31st 1969 trinity of letters, the only correspondence mailed by the killer spanning his five confirmed murders. Subsequent to October 11th 1969, the Zodiac Killer mailed copious letters and cards, with no confirmed further attacks. This brings us on to the modus operandi of the Zodiac Killer.
The Zodiac Killer committed only four confirmed attacks, so can we confidently attribute an M.O. to a killer with such a small sample size. The best we can say, is that he attacked couples on three of the four occasions he embarked on his murderous pursuits.
Some people claim that the Lake Berryessa attack was not the Zodiac Killer based on M.O. Could a case ever be made that the Zodiac Killer had a pattern or M.O. after only two attacks at night?
Why shouldn't the Zodiac Killer have wore a hooded costume, bearing in mind this attack was perpetrated in daylight hours in a recreational setting? The argument for an M.O. based on just two attacks appears rather groundless when we consider the limited sample size, along with the fact he used a knife instead of a gun being used to usurp the idea of Zodiac involvement.
By the evening of September 27th 1969 he had used a knife in 33% of his attacks, yet he had attacked couples 100% of the time. Therefore, the argument for an M.O. based on couples is stronger than the argument that he only used a knife 33% of the time, thereby negating this idea being used to dismiss the Lake Berryessa attack as a Zodiac crime.
The proponents of a Lake Berryessa copycat will concede that the M.O. of the Presidio Heights murder would have been equally questioned, had it not been for the subsequent letters and shirt pieces mailed by the killer. If not for this corroborative proof, his third and fourth attacks would have been wholly dismissed based on just the first two crimes. Implying that the Zodiac Killer is compelled to stay rigid forevermore, subsequent to July 4th 1969. Any deviation, must by inference, be regarded as grounds to rule it out. The assumed deviation of Lake Berryessa based on M.O. is weakened and diluted as an argument, when the shooting of Paul Stine occurred in a built-up area in San Francisco, perpetrated inside of a taxicab, on a lone 29-year -old male, with 'souvenirs' taken from the crime scene. If either the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns or Lake Tahoe disappearance of Donna Lass were confirmed as a Zodiac attack, the M.O. of the Zodiac Killer based on just the first two attacks is made even weaker as a credible argument.
The only conceivable M.O. we have are the attacks on couples. If we remove the Lake Berryessa attack from the Zodiac story we effectively remove an M.O. altogether. If we remove, or diminish the M.O greatly, then it being used to argue against the Lake Berryessa attack is heavily compromised. Two crimes are not sufficient to proclaim a pattern. In fact, attacks three and four are different from one another, and both are different from the first two crimes. So Zodiac, it can be claimed, committed three different crimes within the four he was credited with.
A modus operandi or MO refers to the method or procedure that a criminal uses when committing a crime. It comes from the Latin phrase meaning “mode of operation”. Basically, all criminals have a method of operation that encompasses the habits, techniques, and any peculiarities of behavior. The method can stay the same, but it will often grow and change over time as the criminal becomes more skillful at committing a specific crime. authorjenniferchase.com.
Can two crimes really be considered a habit? If we take the Lake Berryessa crime from the Zodiac story, can we confidently claim the Zodiac Killer had formed a habit encompassing Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs, separated by nearly seven months? If we discount the Lake Berryessa attack, then what little method of operation the killer had, has literally vanished- just like he did nearly fifty years ago.
The following is based on a very interesting post by Mike Morford on the Zodiac Killer Site forum.
Just past midnight on Sunday November 2nd 1975 a man walked up to a couple's vehicle on Monte Cresta Drive, Belmont, California and shot 17 year-old Carlmont High School student Anthony Vincent Bruno Jr to death. "According to Police Captain George Stephenson, Bruno and his girlfriend (16 years) had been parked on Monte Cresta Drive, above Barclay Way in an isolated area of western hills when a man opened the driver's side door and apparently without saying anything fired the shotgun. The girl, who was not identified by police, pushed Bruno's body aside and drove the car to her home from where police were notified. She described the assailant as white, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 140 pounds and wearing an Army green parka with hood, according to police. Stephenson said also that a late model brown pick-up truck, possibly a Dodge or Chevrolet, had been seen in the area at about the time of the shooting."
San Mateo Times.
Anthony Vincent Bruno was shot in the mouth from close range while the couple were parked on the rise of a hill, described as a lovers lane area. The weapon (believed to be 25+ years old and not made now) malfunctioned when the cut-down stock of the shotgun broke free from the weapon and was found 10 feet from the scene of the crime. The police said it had been taped to the barrel. "The killer then ran south on Monte Cresta from the dark hillside area, past a streetlight 50 yards away, and then possibly to a late model Dodge or Chevrolet pick-up truck." The area of isolated hillside continued for several hundred feet, ending in a dirt road. Here is a newspaper cutting from the actual crime scene and its modern day equivalent on Google maps.
A follow up San Mateo Times article dated December 11th 1975 stated 'The youth, Anthony Vincent Bruno of 213 Bayview Drive, San Carlos, died instantly, his body sprawled on the seat of the parked car beside his terrified 16 year-old girlfriend. The killer then turned, dropped the sawed-off stock of his weapon on the ground, perhaps by accident, and fled. It was disclosed Wednesday that about an hour and a half before the brutal slaying, a man was seen struggling to drag a box about two feet long and 18 inches wide up a steep rise about 100 feet from the slaying site. A rod, or perhaps a rope, protruded from the box, according to police, and the dragging was being done by a man in mechanic's overalls with longish, dark brown hair. Stephenson also confirmed that police are searching for the driver of a maroon pick-up truck, equipped with blackwall tires and white wheels; a vehicle which they have information to believe may have approached the parked couple 15 minutes before the slaying, stopped a distance away, made a u-turn, and apparently drove off.' The girl gave a follow up description "She saw a face but couldn't identify him. She couldn't see whether he was black or white, or anything other than he was 5'5", 140 pounds and wearing a green army-type parka."
"We've never had a case like this before. This is the bloodiest, most brutal killing I've ever seen", Belmont Police Chief William R Singer said as he surveyed the scene of Belmont's first potential murder case in over two years. "It could be another Zodiac", he added. '
Whether the description of the killer is accurate or not, it is an interesting addition from Mike Morford. The couple were attacked on an isolated lovers lane area while parked up in their vehicle at around midnight, the killer may have approached their vehicle, left and returned 15 minutes later, not unlike the Blue Rock Springs Park attack on Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau, the attack appeared motiveless, and probably the most important thing of all, we shall come to at the foot of this article.
'Wednesday afternoon, Juvenile Division Detective Gary Sickman drove this reporter to the scene of the slaying and replayed what police have linked together about it so far. "This is a little-known lovers' lane", Sickman said. "Many of the kids I've talked with at Carlmont were unaware of it."
Sickman drove the patrol car down a narrow dirt road connecting with Monte Cresta Drive; a chuckhole-pocked stretch traversing a ridge high above Belmont Canyon. At the end of the road, a half-mile from the slaying site, a teenaged couple embraced in a parked car. Sickman checked their identification and jotted their names in his notebook after giving them a little fatherly advice.'
This murder was the first in Belmont in over two years. The Zodiac Killer's last confirmed communication was on January 29th 1974, although there were possible Zodiac communications up to July 8th 1974 with the 'Red Phantom' letter. There would have been hoax letters purporting to be the Zodiac Killer subsequent to this, but one would assume the 'novelty' of Zodiac would have worn off in time and the hoax letters would have dropped off in frequency by the November of 1975. That is what makes a letter purporting to be from the Zodiac Killer, found in a phone booth likely on the day of the murder, all the more interesting.
Mike Morford stated, in reference to a San Mateo news article dated November 14th 1975 "The reporter, a man named Bob Foster, mentions that on the night of November 3, 1975, the 11 pm TV news on channel KGO, ran a story about a Zodiac letter being found in a phone booth. This is pretty interesting to me for a couple reasons regarding the timing.
First of all because, the night before, on 11/2/75, a young man and his girlfriend were attacked on a lovers lane by a gun wielding man. The male victim, Vincent Bruno was killed, but his girlfriend survived. If I recall correctly, there may have been a letter & cassette tape found the same night in a phone booth not far from the attack site, from someone claiming to be Zodiac."
I would like to thank Mike Morford for the information regarding this story. All images are courtesy of the Zodiac Killer Site forum and the San Mateo Times. Here is a link to the thread on Mike Morford's site.
Here we will revisit an article published by the San Francisco Examiner on October 22nd 1969, in which Professor D.C.B. Marsh, president of the American Cryptogram Association laid down a challenge to Zodiac. The words he chose to use in this article may be the bedrock to much of the subsequent Zodiac communications, beginning with the 340 cipher, mailed only seventeen days after the San Francisco Examiner article. Here are the crucial extracts from that article.
'Dr Marsh told the Examiner today: "The killer wouldn't dare, as he claimed in letters to the newspapers, to reveal his name in the cipher to established cryptogram experts. He knows, to quote Edgar Allen Poe, that any cipher created by man can be solved by man. Zodiac has not told the truth in his cipher messages to the Examiner, the Chronicle and the Vallejo Times-Herald. Zodiac has not done this, because to tell the complete truth in relation to his name-in cipher code-would lead to his capture. I invite Zodiac to send The American Cryptogram Association a cipher code, which will truly and honestly include his name." It is difficult to believe that Zodiac, an avid reader of the newspapers, could resist such a challenge, particularly as he had promised to reveal his identity in the 408 cipher two months earlier, but failed to do so.
The key section to note in the challenge by Professor D.C.B. Marsh is: "I invite Zodiac to send The American Cryptogram Association a cipher code, which will truly and honestly include his name."
Seventeen days later, the Zodiac Killer duly obliged with the November 8th 1969 340 cipher. Could this cipher have included the killer's name, but not in the format envisaged by Professor D.C.B. Marsh?
In a previous article entitled 'Zodiac Admitted 340 Not a Real Cipher' we examined the idea that the 340 cipher was inextricably linked to the Zodiac's 'Halloween' card, mailed on October 27th 1970. One can notice that the word "By" is located in each of the four quadrants of the 340 cipher. The author of the cipher also placed the letters F and K adjacent to one another no less than seven times (situated in each quadrant). But of particular interest was the corrected section on the sixth line of the 340 cipher, where the author chose to scrub out a forward facing K and replace it with a backwards K, elevated above the blacked out section.
The Zodiac Killer was known for numerous spelling errors in his communications, so why was it seemingly imperative to correct this one mistake? Was this correction crucial to the interpretation of the cipher, or was he drawing our attention to the letters in this section of the cipher? Are the F and K characters the initials of the Zodiac Killer?
This observation carries little merit on its own, so to bolster any argument for the initials of the Zodiac Killer being present in the 340 cipher, we have to explore the rest of his communications, particularly from around the time of the 'Halloween' card, in which we suggested was his admission that the 340 was unfortunately "no cipher".
Linking the 'Halloween' card and 340 cipher through a Tim Holt comic book and explaining to us that the solution was "sorry no cipher." left us with the possibility that the 340 cipher was just a collection of puzzles, in which may have contained his name. The Zodiac Killer "wouldn't dare, as he claimed in letters to the newspapers, to reveal his name in the cipher to established cryptogram experts", but he may have given us the abridged version.
We now enter the crucial phase of Zodiac communications, from the '13 Hole' postcard mailed on October 5th 1970, to the 'Exorcist' letter mailed on January 29th 1974. This critical period of four consecutive communications, is probably key to understanding the message the Zodiac Killer was trying to push. That the 340 was "sorry no cipher."
In the '13 Hole' postcard the Zodiac Killer stated "There are reports city police pig cops are closeing in on me. Fk I'm crackproof. What is the price tag now?"
This section of pasted letters was placed upside down. The question one should be asking is 'what is the purpose behind this'. If its significance had no relevance to the actual postcard, did it have relevance to another communication.
The wording "FK I'm crackproof" could indicate that the killer thought he was immune from capture, however, it could also be a reference to his 340 cipher once again. The word "crackproof" is something that is unable to be cracked.
The 340 cipher would certainly be impervious to cracking, and certainly resistant to the attempts of The American Cryptogram Association had the killer devised a cipher not of conventional understanding, of which Professor D.C.B. Marsh was hoping when he laid down the challenge. The F and K text being flipped on the '13 Hole' postcard reminds one of the flipped K (next to F) on the only corrected portion of the 340 cipher. If FK were the Zodiac Killer's initials, then he certainly could be declaring that he was crackproof.
Professor D.C.B. Marsh stated "He knows, to quote Edgar Allen Poe, that any cipher created by man can be solved by man. Zodiac has not told the truth in his cipher messages to the Examiner, the Chronicle and the Vallejo Times-Herald. Zodiac has not done this, because to tell the complete truth in relation to his name-in cipher code-would lead to his capture." However, the Zodiac Killer could give his name in the form of initials without any fear of revealing his identity, and without risking his immediate capture. This may have manifested itself when he mailed his following cipher on April 20th 1970, when he opened with the gambit "This is the Zodiac speaking. By the way have you cracked the last cipher I sent you. My name is...." The code placed underneath was likely an immediate rebuttal to this question.
All he is probably doing, is stating "My name is FK," and once again telling us he is crackproof, just like the '13 Hole' postcard, which would be mailed five and a half months later. The phrase "FK I'm crackproof" fits perfectly in circular formation within the '13 Symbol' cipher- which itself contains a series of circled 8's. Structured in this fashion, the F and K yet again align, as does the K and M in both the cipher and phrase.
Continuing with our four consecutive communications from October 5th 1970 onward, we now have the October 27th 1970 'Halloween' card promising to yet again reveal his name: "I feel it in my bones, You ache to know my name, And so I'll clue you in." Again we feel disappointed only to see the word "Boo" on the card inner- but we know the Zodiac Killer isn't going to make this a conventional and straightforward offering. He offers us the phrase "sorry no cipher," but can we find his name or initials within this communication. This is where it gets more difficult, nevertheless, we are aware that within the '13 Hole' postcard he reversed or flipped the text containing "FK I'm crackproof" and he flipped the K (next to the F) on the sixth line of the 340 cipher. So the obvious conclusion, is to look for flipped or reversed text within the 'Halloween' card.
The only place that F and K exist within one word on the 'Halloween' card, is in the word "knife." either side of the reversed letter N.
If we flipped the reversed N back to its appropriate position, the F and K of "knife" would be reversed yet again.
Now let us turn our attention to the peculiar configuration at the foot of the card inner. It would be extremely satisfying for the 'Halloween' card to read "I feel it in my bones, You ache to know my name, And so I'll clue you in... FK,"- so that is what we will create, by manipulating this card to read whatever we want it to.
The strange symbol, reading it as true as possible, appears like a number 7, followed by four dots and the letter F.
7+4=11=K (followed by F).
Without further ado, we shall move on to the next confirmed Zodiac communication on March 13th 1971, in which the Zodiac stated "This is the Zodiac speaking. Like I have allways said, I am crack proof. If the Blue Meannies are evere going to catch me, they had best get off their fat asses + do something. Because the longer they fiddle + fart around, the more slaves I will collect for my after life. I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there. The reason I'm writing to the Times is this, They don't bury me on the back pages like some of the others."
You will notice that the Zodiac Killer refers to "crackproof" once again, parroting his October 5th 1970 communication five months earlier. However, he doesn't just state he is crackproof, he reminds us that he has always been telling us he is crackproof, and quite possibly we just haven't got the message.
Roll on the January 29th 1974 'Exorcist' letter, signed "yours truley," nearly three years later, giving us our final installment of FK contained within the array of symbols at the foot of the letter.
On this occasion he mirrors the sixth line of the 340 cipher by elevating the K above the letter F, and to its left. In fact, five characters from the Exorcist letter can be found in and around the corrected sixth line of the 340 cipher, as shown here in a previous article. This was possibly the fourth consecutive communication inferring an FK link and the suggestion that the author was indeed "crackproof."
Was this a persistent and deliberate attempt to be true to the challenge laid down by The American Cryptogram Association and Professor D.C.B Marsh, by inserting his name (albeit initials) into the 340 cipher and subsequent communications, or just a case that my mind is F@@Ked after six exhausting years of looking for patterns where none exist.
As has been pointed out by many intelligent posters, the Zodiac Killer never actually claimed any crimes that would later be attributed to another criminal, because he was simply too vague when insinuating his attachment to these said crimes. Two notable examples would be the June 19th 1970 murder of Officer Richard Radetich and the October 30th 1966 stabbing of Cheri Jo Bates- the latter of which he only 'suggested' in March of 1971, stating "I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there".
There is without doubt some interesting connections between the Zodiac and Riverside, in particular, the trinity of consecutive communications from April of 1967, to the three July 31st 1969 letters that began the letter writing campaign by the Zodiac Killer. It is therefore understandable that many observers want to interpret the symbol at the foot of the Bates letters as an alphabetical Z, to bridge the connection between the Bay Area and Riverside, and bolster an argument for it. However, was this symbol seriously considered to be an alphabetical Z before the arrival of Zodiac just over two years later, or was it just a convenient reappraisal.
Here are the two prominent Z like characters from the foot of the Bates letters, mailed to the Riverside Press Enterprise and Riverside Police Department. It is easy to want these to be an alphabetical Z, but unless the Zodiac performed a near identical error on two occasions, or just happened to have aligned his writing paper over an uneven writing surface in both instances, then there is little reason to believe these two characters are a Z.
Additionally, if these two characters were a Z (representing Zodiac), then why not just write 'Zodiac' at the foot of the Bates letters.
Two years later, on July 31st 1969, the killer we now know as Zodiac announced himself to the world, when he wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Vallejo Times-Herald newspapers, but yet again, despite supposedly masquerading as the Zodiac Killer, he was still apparently reticent to reveal his pseudonym to the world, only introducing himself as "the murderer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman + the girl on the 4th of July." For a egotistical murderer so bold, he seemed rather reluctant to reveal his identity. Had Vallejo Police Chief Jack E Stiltz not questioned the July 31st 1969 letter writer in the August 3rd 1969 San Francisco Examiner, stating he was "still not convinced the letters and codes were written by the actual killer, and urging the writer to send more letters, with more facts to prove his connections to the crimes," then the August 4th 1969 'Debut of Zodiac' letter would not have been written by the killer. In other words, the 'Zodiac Killer' would still not have been born. How can we reconcile this reluctance to announce the pseudonym 'Zodiac' to the world, with the fact he had supposedly concocted this pseudonym by the time of the Bates letters in April 1967.
Many people have stated that the Zodiac Killer acquired the pseudonym 'Zodiac' and the crosshairs symbol from the Swiss watchmaker, as they appear together under one banner.
"In 1882, Ariste Calame founded a workshop for the production of special watches in Le Locle, Switzerland. The original name of the company was Ariste Calame and would later become Zodiac. The name "Zodiac" was used early but was not registered until 1908. The founder's son, Louis Ariste Calame, was sent to watchmaking school, and then began to participate in the business in 1895, and took over the business that year." Wikipedia.
If the Zodiac Killer was inspired by a watchmaker, then one has to ask the question- why did he only use the crosshairs in his three July 31st 1969 letters and seemingly abandon the name Zodiac, if an advertisement such as the one on the right was the trigger. Again, he only introduced himself as the Zodiac Killer four days later when the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter arrived at the San Francisco Examiner, and even that wouldn't have arrived if the killer had not been prompted by Vallejo Police Chief Jack E Stiltz..
The idea of gunsight crosshairs proposed by many, may be the likely inspiration for the murderer of three young people at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs Park. The standalone crosshairs at the foot of each of the July 31st 1969 letters appear to be the logical conclusion to the threat that preceded it.
The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, finished with an ominous threat: "I will go on a kill ram-Page Fry. night. I will cruse around all weekend killing lone people in the night then move on to kill again, until I end up with a dozen people over the weekend." So it isn't particularly illogical that this threat may be followed by a "target" sign or the crosshairs of a gun, without the need for the pseudonym Zodiac or a connection to a famous watchmaker. The killer is simply signing off his letters by indicating he has more people in his sights.
If there ever was the perfect opportunity to announce himself to the American people under the name Zodiac, this was the perfect time- in accompaniment with a trinity of letters and his opening coded message, in which he actually promised to reveal his identity. However, this opportunity was spurned. The reason for this, one could argue, was the pseudonym Zodiac had not been conceived by the killer at this juncture.
The San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle of August 3rd 1969 opened with the lines "A self-accused killer failed to keep a threat of mass murder here, but there was no slackening of tension or mystery caused by the warning. The police department telephone system was clogged at times by anxious callers asking if the "cipher killer" had been caught." In this short snippet of text probably lay the inspiration behind the pseudonym Zodiac- as he was not prepared to be labelled the "cipher killer" by anybody. This was the push he needed. The following day the Zodiac was etched into the minds of police and newspapers alike, and has remained so for nearly half a century.
The answer to the origin of the pseudonym Zodiac likely sits within the pages of the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle of August 3rd 1969.
Somebody with access to newspaper archives may be able to discover the inspiration behind America's most infamous serial killer.
One possibility could be the Zodiac horoscope section, or an advertisement such as the one above for Zodiac watches. Had the latter been the case, it could be strongly argued that the Zodiac Killer was extremely fortunate in signing off his three July 31st 1969 letters with threatening crosshairs, only to discover they were also the symbol used by the Swiss watchmaker only three days later.
On the contrary, had the Swiss watchmaker been the original inspiration behind the Zodiac's pseudonym and logo, then why did he fail to introduce the name "Zodiac" in his July 31st 1969 letters. He delayed the introduction until his August 4th 1969 letter to the San Francisco Examiner, in direct response to the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle article of August 3rd 1969. Therefore, this newspaper had to be the driver behind the name Zodiac, not only because of his lack of affection for the "cipher killer" pseudonym, but because the name Zodiac probably lay somewhere within its folded pages.
Randall Scott Clemons has recently released a book on Amazon examining the ciphers and codes of the Zodiac Killer.
Entitled 'Zodiac Killer Enigma-The Secret of the Zodiac Killer Schematic,' it encompasses ten years of dedicated research into the mechanics of the Bay Area killer's letters, postcards, maps and codes in a visually stunning presentation.
This is an altogether new and fresh approach into the workings of the Zodiac Killer, tackling the codes and puzzles from a completely unique perspective, and unearthing interesting new avenues into what drove and inspired the Zodiac Killer during his reign of terror in Northern California nearly half a century ago.
Along with the ciphers and codes, the book also covers the crimes of the Zodiac Killer, bringing the black and white photographs of yesteryear into full color images, thereby breathing new life into a case that has rivaled the Jack the Ripper mystery in recent years.
The Zodiac Killer enigma has gathered unfettered momentum since the release of the blockbuster David Fincher movie in 2007, inspiring a collective push to unearth the identity of America's most elusive and infamous serial killer. Randall Scott Clemons' book is further proof of how this mystery captivates everyone that becomes embroiled in its web of intrigue, and as such, has resulted in a comprehensive analysis of great detail.
The Zodiac Killer did not mail the three July 31st 1969 letters to the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and Vallejo Times-Herald, although the murderer of Betty Lou Jensen, David Faraday and Darlene Ferrin certainly did.
In the letter to the Chronicle, the author suggested that within the code he had mailed we would discover his identity.
He wrote "Here is part of a cipher the other 2 parts of this cipher are being mailed to the editors of the Vallejo Times and SF Examiner. I want you to print this cipher on the front page of your paper. In this cipher is my idenity. If you do not print this cipher by the afternoon of Fry.1st of Aug 69, I will go on a kill ram-Page Fry. night. I will cruse around all weekend killing lone people in the night then move on to kill again, until I end up with a dozen people over the weekend."
When the cipher was decoded a matter of days later, the code revealed "I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangerous animal of all to kill something gives me the most thrilling experence it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl the best part of it is that when I die I will be reborn in paradice and all the (people) I have killed will become my slaves. I will not give you my name because you will try to slow down or stop my collecting of slaves for my afterlife."
The killer of three assured us that his identity was concealed within the cipher, while all along, knowing the enciphered text would reveal that he was unprepared to give us his name. He was effectively equating his identity with his name, not with his pseudonym or other covert means of identifying him. That is probably because the assailant at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs was technically not the Zodiac Killer. The "Zodiac Killer" 'only' killed two people under the Zodiac pseudonym, that of Cecelia Shepard and Paul Stine.
As covered in a previous article 'Born on August 3rd,' it was argued that the killer had no "identity" or pseudonym to reveal to us before August 3rd 1969, because he hadn't yet assigned one to himself. Being called the 'code killer' or 'cipher killer' in the newspapers clearly didn't sit well with an ego-driven murderer. He had to give himself a pseudonym worthy of his perceived stature- hence, the "Zodiac Killer" was born.
The San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle of August 3rd 1969 opened with the lines "A self-accused killer failed to keep a threat of mass murder here, but there was no slackening of tension or mystery caused by the warning. The police department telephone system was clogged at times by anxious callers asking if the "cipher killer" had been caught." The next day the killer would waste no time in introducing us to his new identity or pseudonym, opening with the line "This is the Zodiac Speaking." In other words, looking for his identity in the 408 cipher, in either the enciphered or decoded version would be a futile exercise, because he certainly wasn't going to reveal his real name, and it is extremely likely he had no identity or pseudonym at this juncture. Had he already attributed himself the pseudonym "Zodiac" prior to the July 31st 1969 letters, then this threefold barrage was the perfect time to announce the menacing "Zodiac" to the world, something he clearly failed to do. In fact, he could only muster the unoriginal "This is the murderer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman + the girl on the 4th of July near the golf course in Vallejo."
Four days later however, he would be triggered into action by the lame 'cipher killer' pseudonym designated to him by the public and featured in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle of August 3rd 1969- He was in control, and as such, was not going to be labelled by anybody.
It was now a simple task of replacing one word in his introduction, from "This is the murderer" to "This is the Zodiac."
This would have significant implications regarding the Riverside murder of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30th 1966, and in particular the three Bates letters. The idea that the symbol on these letters was an alphabetical Z indicating Zodiac would now be nullified, as the Zodiac pseudonym was 827 days in the making.
Had the murderer opened up with the 340 cipher on July 31st 1969 rather than the 408 cipher, then the statement "in this cipher is my identity" would have had very few detractors, when just four days later a further communication arrived stating "This is the Zodiac Speaking."
Comparing this introduction to the 'near Zodiac' at the foot of the 340 cipher would have left few in doubt this was deliberately placed, and indeed, he had concealed his identity in the cipher.
However, because the 340 cipher was mailed on November 8th 1969, it is often argued that the 'near Zodiac' may have fell out accidentally on his creation of the cipher- something that would likely never have been argued three months earlier.
Therefore, if the Zodiac Killer did belatedly give us his identity or pseudonym in the second cipher, when we already knew it, one could suggest it has a secondary purpose, other than to be deciphered in exactly the same way as the other 334 characters.
There is a growing perception that the 340 cipher is effectively a "bag of puzzles" rather than a continuous uninterrupted message, as many of its features can easily be linked or shown to compare favorably with other correspondences mailed by the Zodiac Killer. This man wasn't a Professor Moriarty style genius- so he either created a method of encryption so illogical, as to make the cipher unsolvable by the logical mind or computer created by logic, he created a mix of puzzles disguised within the cipher, or he created the perfect ghost cipher, to which he would eventually keep his promise by placing his identity within a cipher, but little else.
Without identifying a key and demonstrating which communication it was found, then the '13 Symbol' and '32 Symbol' ciphers are simply too short to ever be proven as solved. In a previous article we highlighted a piece by Dave Oranchak, in which 46 consecutive alphabetical letters from the historical text of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, can be placed successfully into a portion of the 408 cipher. Dave Oranchak, the foremost expert on the Zodiac ciphers, commented on this "So, only one piece of text, from a vast collection of eleven billion pieces of text, fit into this chunk of cipher text. A one in eleven billion chance seems to suggest some significance. But don’t be fooled by this. Just because this rare event occurred, doesn’t mean it is anything more than a simple coincidence. If we didn’t already know the real solution to the 408, how do we know that this chunk of old and obscure text isn’t the correct solution?"
Therefore, one can easily see the multiple solutions that can be harvested from these inadequately designed ciphers. The Zodiac Killer wasn't a genius, but he certainly wasn't a fool either, and must have known that the variability of the '32 Symbol' cipher, and lack of characters within the '13 Symbol' cipher were open to multiple solutions. This was probably part of the fun.
The man, eventually to become known as the Zodiac Killer, mailed the 408 cipher on July 31st 1969. This was a genuine cipher, decoded by Donald Gene and Bettye June Harden of Salinas, California, who both used homophonic substitution to identify the solution. The "cipher killer" or "code killer" would not have lived up to the name given him by the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle on August 3rd 1969- the "killer of codes" would have been far more suitable.
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This site is constructed and authored by Richard Grinell from Coventry, England.
On a cold, dark night back on December 20th 1968, a young couple were enjoying a late night out, parked up in their Rambler, on a lonely gravel turnout, just off the unlit, narrow winding road of Lake Herman, when an unknown assailant shattered the tranquil night time air, gunning down both David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen in cold blood and unleashing an unparalleled horror on a community, the like of which had never been seen before.