My interest in the Zodiac killer is morbid, there’s no doubt about it, but he did what most serial killers can’t… I don’t mean his ability to not get caught, although there is that considering the fact that he should have been on at least one occasion…
He wasn’t just a serial killer, he crossed the line between serial killer and accidental terrorist. No, he didn’t set off any bombs and he didn’t commit any mass murders, although he did talk about it. I’m talking about the way people reacted to Zodiac. He was scary than any serial killer up to that point. To some degree, he still is because it is possible that Zodiac is still alive.
He managed to get the city of San Francisco to buy I’m not Paul Avery buttons and wear them. That is just unbelievable when you think about it because his killings were random, yet people were so sure he was going to target Paul Avery that they wanted to make sure Zodiac knew that they were not Paul Avery. How often does a reporter get on the wrong side of a serial killer to the point that other people are willing to offer him up like a sacrificial lamb?
The capture of BTK made the Zodiac case more interesting. Zodiac had a kill count on many of his communications that was much higher than what anyone attributed to him and it continued to rise after the Zodiac Killings officially stopped. BTK provided proof that the long held belief the only reason serial killers stop killing is because they are dead or in prison, didn’t hold true. The Zodiac could have gone on killing for most of the last fifty years and we just don’t know about them or he could have stopped, lead a life, retired and be living in a retirement community somewhere drawing a pension.
How’s that for dramatic plot twist: Zodiac could be living next door to someone’s grandma and no one would be the wiser because we basically only have a vague description of him and I’m sure he ditched the horned rimmed glasses when they went out of style.
Hell, with the descriptions we have there could have been two men involved in the Zodiac killings. Let’s not jump off on that tangent, I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but survivors really do disagree on whether he was tall and stocky or short and kinda squat.
And I’ve heard the theory that the ciphers are uncrackable because they are nonsense, but that doesn’t really make sense either. To turn one of my short little facebook posts into gobbledy gook takes time, especially uncrackable gobbledy gook, because our brains are trained to use patterns. If I write a string of nonsense and then convert it into letters and symbols but I don’t want it to have any meaning, I have to really think about what I’m now writing, because our brains instinctively create patterns that form words, that’s why we can all immediately find a few words in a word search puzzle by just looking at it. Now try encrypting a phrase and make it mean nothing. Using a substitution cipher or anagram cipher, it suddenly has all sorts of meanings and all sorts of words can be found. Which leads me to believe that he created a real cipher. It is less time consuming to create a real cipher than to create gobbledy gook. I did something similar in an arch/anthro class, we created a language from nothing. It was harder to avoid inserting English words by accident into a pictographic language than not insert them and we spent weeks working on our languages. It was a huge pain in the ass.
It was the hardest part of the project. Then we had to translate the opposite team’s language. The interesting part was by knowing just a little bit about them, the language became much easier to figure out. One of the things that always gets me about the Zodiac ciphers is that we assume they are in English, but he was killing in some of the country’s most diverse county’s. He’s a white guy, so he must speak English, except Vallejo County is has a large number of people that do not speak English, even in the 1960s as a first or second language. Spanish, Tagalog, Japanese, and Vietnamese are all common languages in Vallejo County. Evidence has always suggested that Zodiac had some military training. A military man could learn Tagalog in the armed services at this time because the Philippines was an important staging area during WWII and it was about to become just as important again because we were gearing up for the Vietnam war. It was less important during the Korean War, but not by much. I have a friend who’s mother speaks a form of Tagalog, she is Pinoa. However, like Chinese, Tagalog has different dialects and I found as a teen that just because both people were Pinoa and spoke Tagalog didn’t mean they could understand or speak to each other – which to us in the US seems weird, we have accents, not actual dialects. But imagine how much harder the cipher becomes if it is Tagalog or one of it’s dialects or god forbid, Russian. No offense, I took Russian and German in college, I’d rather hit myself with a hammer than try to understand someone writing or speaking in Russian and it isn’t the Cyrillic alphabet that gets me, it’s the nuances of the language that confuse me. However, surely someone has checked it for being Russian. It was the 1960s, but again, there are some strange dialect differences in Russian and in German both. When I was in Berlin, I actually had someone tell me I had learned High German from an East German, which was correct, my teacher was from East Berlin, so I learned Hoch Deutsch mit Ostern influences. And people who didn’t speak high German or had grown up in West Germany like my neighbor, sometimes had trouble understanding me. At first I thought it was because I spoke German badly, but my neighbor assured me repeatedly, I was good at German, I just used words and pronunciations that she wasn’t used to because she was from Karlsruhe and they speak Low German with western influences.
anyway, that’s my fascination. It isn’t admiration, it’s more like disbelief. How the hell did he manage to create the ciphers and get away with it and terrorize a city like San Francisco for so long? Not to mention terrorizing Mr. Avery.