The letter is short, reminiscent of much of the Zodiac Killer's later contact with authorities, but as well as mentioning the Exorcist movie, the letter, in rather disjointed fashion, breaks into a Mikado recital once again, recalling memories of the Little List Letter mailed three and a half years previously on July 26th 1970. But this time the foreboding 'Tit Willow' seemed contemplatory in this context, possibly marking the end of the Zodiac reign, and to this day, is still often quoted as the murderer's epitaph. The third and final section issued the usual threat of more murders, capped off with Asian style symbols, in the form of a cryptic message.
Like much of his later correspondence there is little substance here, but we will attempt to delve a little deeper into the Exorcist letter and find any links that may be relevant or otherwise, as to why he wrote the letter in the first place. This is not a theory, just an examination into the reasoning, whereby the Zodiac Killer may have been drawing his inspiration.
The Little List Letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 26th 1970, heavily featured the Gilbert and Sullivan stage play, The Mikado.
One section loosely quotes 'a more humane Mikado', followed by the more extensive paraphrasing of Act 1 Part 5a, 'As some day it may happen'.
The curious thing, is that the Zodiac Killer's version of the Little List mimics closer to the Groucho Marx version in the Bell Telephone Hour (1960), than the original Gilbert and Sullivan play.
Visit here for the full audio collection: Gilbert Sullivan-The Mikado audio.
A thread at the Zodiac Killer Site Forum also covers this topic in detail.
Groucho Marx would possibly appear again, depicted in the American Greetings Card or Eureka Card, mailed by either the Zodiac or a copycat, in the December of 1990.
This card was reminiscent of the Halloween Card mailed some 20 years earlier. It begins with the words 'FROM YOUR SECRET PAL CAN'T GUESS WHO I AM YET ? WELL, LOOK INSIDE AND YOU'LL FIND OUT... and once opened said ... THAT I'M GONNA KEEP YOU GUESSIN' ! HAPPY HOLIDAYS, ANYWAY'.
The scene portrayed on the Christmas card was of a snowman, disguised in a Groucho Marx style nose and glasses. In front of the snowman was a
Another interesting connection was noted on viewing the Tom Hanson Zodiac movie from 1971, in that the killer wore a Groucho Marx style nose and glasses in one scene from the movie. View the scene and thread at ZodiacKiller.com.
But this was not the only possible film connection to the Groucho Marx disguise featured on the 1990 Eureka Card.
Terror Train was released in 1980, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson and David Copperfield.
During New Year celebrations at the students fraternity house Sigma Phi, a prank backfires on Kenny Hampson (Derek MacKinnion).
Mentally scarred by the event, this forms the basis of revenge, when the students responsible for the prank board a private train, hosting a fancy dress party exactly three years later.
On boarding the train one of the students is stabbed, but his friends believing it is a prank, continue along unconcerned. The killer collects the victim's Groucho Marx mask, follows them onto the train and seeks his revenge, one by one.
The movie was primarily a thriller/slasher, filmed in Canada from November 21st to December 23rd 1979 and released by Twentieth Century Fox in the October of 1980. Watch film.
The Zodiac Killer described The Exorcist as, "the best satirical comedy that I have ever seen". Well this may not be the case, however, the genesis of the movie may well have been born with the help of a comedy genius, that of Groucho Marx.
The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty was a close friend of Groucho Marx, indeed, there was an intention by Marx to dress as the priest Father Lankester Merrin from the movie and appear on the set of the Exorcist film, but due to scheduling matters, the comedic entrance never materialized. But in one episode of the popular 'You Bet Your Life' series, hosted by Groucho Marx, William Peter Blatty was a contestant and walked away with a prize of $10,000. When he was asked what he was going to do with the money, he stated he was to take some time off to work on a novel. That novel was the acclaimed forerunner to the movie 'The Exorcist'.
Groucho Marx was a lifelong fan of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, appearing as KoKo, in a production of the Mikado, on NBC's Bell Telephone Hour in 1960. He also recited Tit Willow in 1960 and on the Dick Cavett Show on March 20th 1970. Wikipedia.
Therefore Groucho Marx can be associated through the Little List Letter mailed on July 26th 1970, the Exorcist Letter on January 29th 1974 and the Eureka Card in the December of 1990. However there is a little more background.
William Peter Blatty released a novel in 1966, entitled 'Twinkle,Twinkle Killer Kane'. It achieved little commercial or critical acclaim. View accompaniment.
The story centers on a psychiatrist, 'killer Kane' (Hudson L Kane), and explores faith, humanity and irony. He enters a madhouse to determine if its residents, comprised of soldiers and astronauts, are actually mad or just putting on an act.
This results in extended interaction with resident Manfred Cutshaw on the concept of God. In the story Kane postulates 'every man who has ever lived has been born with desire for perfect happiness. But unless there is an afterlife, fulfillment of this desire is a patent impossibility'.
It was to be later rewritten and published under the new title 'The Ninth Configuration' in 1980, attempting to explore the marginal line of sanity over insanity. It failed to inspire the public on its cinematic release.