The Zodiac Killer

Sophia Buffone

Serial killers have tormented the United States for years. Many of them have been caught, but others remain at large, or rest as cold cases.

One of the most prominent unidentified serial killers in the United States is the so-called “Zodiac Killer.” For many years, he tortured the cities of Northern California, and until recently, many believed he could never be caught.

The Zodiac Killer operated in Northern California from approximately the late 1960s to the early 1970s. The Zodiac Killer was officially connected to five murders and two attempted murders; however, he is thought to have killed at least thirty-seven victims due to the hints he left in several letters, some of which were sent to local newspapers.

In July 1969, an encrypted letter was sent to The San Francisco Examiner newspaper. The letter contained chilling messages and taunts about committed murders, as well as clues about his identity and where he might be officially located. Due to the fact that he sent letters of encrypted messages of details about himself and his murders, it has taken nearly five decades for law-enforcement officials, professional code breakers, and armchair criminologists to crack these codes. 

In December 2020, a group of amateur code-breakers cracked the killer’s Z-340-cipher which was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in November, 1969. After only a year of attempted decipher, they cracked the code, which was verified by the FBI, which read:

I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME

THAT WASNT 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

The three codebreakers used a codebreaking computer program referred to as “Van Eycke’s.” Oranchak, one of the decipherers, stated that when he was feeding the different variations of codes into the computer program, he noticed one solution had the phrases, “hope you are” and “trying to catch me” in the coded gibberish. Oranchak expanded on the settings, and yet another line of clear text appeared stating, “that wasn’t me on the TV.”

One piece that also fits this translated code is that approximately two weeks before the letter was sent, someone who was claiming to be the killer himself called a morning TV news show hosted by Jim Bunbar and said, “I don’t want to go to the gas chamber.” No one really knows who the call was from, but this and the line, “I am not afraid of the gas chamber” correspond, considering the call was sent before the letter leaving many to believe the person calling could have been a possible victim of the killer himself.

Whether because they are caught, unknowingly died, or are sent to prison, all serial killers eventually stop. Around October 1979, the Zodiac Killer miraculously stopped killing. No one knows why or what caused him to stop, but he did. Nevertheless, even though he did stop killing – the terror he remains for the Northern California area and the families and friends he killed.