For a greater part of the 1960’s, Northern California was stalked by a serial killer known only as the Zodiac Killer. He was notorious for sending the police letters in his signature handwriting, complete with disturbing jokes and lewd comments targeting police. Over the years the Zodiac talked to newspapers, police and other agencies about shooting little school children, stabbing police, strangling citizens and planting a homemade bomb at an office building. He included sketches of weapons, greeting cards, and even blood soaked pieces of clothing from his victims.
One of the most noticable facets of the Zodiac Killer was his attitude. He has always been overly confident, a little too confident. Although he never signed his letters, he left a trademark symbol instead. His letters were filled with mockings of high officials, and his tone never expressed even a drop of nervousness. He even told the police where he was at different times during a murder, only to chastise them the next morning in a letter discrediting law enforcement. Sadistic, clever, bizarre and highly motivated, the Zodiac Killer made fools of police for over a decade.
The Zodiac Killer began nearly every letter with “This is the Zodiac speaking,” before going into graphic detail about his latest murder to prove to police he was real. At least 7 victims have been proven to be related to the Zodiac in some way, although the Zodiac has claimed 3 times that number of deaths to his name. Many of the Zodiac’s letters also included complex ciphers written inside. Hidden messages with thousands of combinations and possible answer keys. In 1969 the first Zodiac cipher was cracked by a school teacher, and read:
“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 DANGEROUE ANAMAL 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 THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE.”
Since the first message was cracked, little has been accomplished in terms of translating the Zodiac’s other secret messages, most notably his 340 symbol cipher. Mailed on November 8th, 1969 the 340 cipher has stumped even the highest experts in the field of decryption. Although some answers have been proposed, none have proved accurate enough to be a confident solution. According to experts, the 340 cipher has 63^26 possible alphabet combination keys, and it would take thousands of years to test them even with the fastest computer. It must be cracked on a basis of extensive trial and error, a feat that is anything but simple. There is hope that one day it will be cracked, especilally since the Zodiac Killer has to this day never been successfully identified. DNA evidence and handwriting analysis has consistently eliminated suspect after suspect. The case’s key suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, died of a heart attack in 1995. The Zodiac case is still open. Here is the Zodiac Killer’s unsolved 340 character cipher: