Somebody purporting to be the Zodiac Killer phoned the San Francisco Police Department and several newspaper outlets on January 11th 1974 claiming to have murdered a woman and placed her body inside a Daly City church. Police mobilized a search, but after several hours they were unable to find any murdered woman, concluding it was very likely a hoax. On January 29th 1974, a letter believed to have been authored by the Zodiac Killer arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle stating "I saw + think "The Exorcist" was the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen".
Exactly six months after the postmark date of The Exorcist letter, on July 29th 1974, a blaze erupted at the Roman Catholic Church, St. Vincent Ferrer, at 65th Street and Lexington Avenue in the Upper East Side of Manhattan at about 9:50 pm. Reverend Thomas Smith (71) unable to escape the fire, unfortunately died of asphyxiation. Ten minutes after the fire engulfed the church, a man claiming to be the Zodiac Killer phoned the news agency United Press International threatening to "unleash a tirade against the Catholic church. Priests are going to die. Someday people will realize that Christianity is a fraud". This phone call was followed by several more to The Daily News from 10:30 pm to 3:45 am, also claiming to be from the Zodiac Killer, The following day at 11:33 pm, the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, at Fifth Avenue and 10th Street became the second church to be targetted by the arsonist, shortly followed by a third attack just 30 minutes later and two miles away, at the Episcopal church, St. Mary the Virgin, at 145 West 46th Street. No other casualties were reported at the latter two fires.
The Zodiac Killer is often dismissed as a footnote in history, 'only' responsible for the murder of five people in California over fifty years ago, but it seems that his legacy may have inspired many more murders subsequent to his relatively brief reign of terror, that included Heriberto Seda, dubbed the "New York Zodiac", and the 1997 Tokyo Child Murders committed by Shinichiro Azuma. Arsonist and murderer, Gordon Earl Marais may not be the Zodiac Killer, but his attacks on Catholic churches just six months after the Daly City affair, along with the mailing of The Exorcist letter in San Francisco, in response to the William Friedkin movie revolving around catholicism, makes you wonder how far his legacy reached - and is still reaching.