Zodiac Killer’s ‘340 Cipher’ solved after 51 years: ‘Not afraid of gas chamber because I have enough slaves’
Zodiac, in letters he sent to newspapers across northern California, claimed to have killed at least 37 people in the region
The Zodiac Killer's infamous 340-cipher -- containing 340 characters -- was finally cracked this month by a team of codebreakers 51 years after he sent it to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zodiac, whose true identity is still a mystery, is known to have killed at least five people and injured two others. However, in letters he sent to newspapers across northern California, the dreaded killer claimed to have killed at least 37 people in the region, SFGate reported.
That said, several of the letters were cryptograms -- one of them being the card he sent to the Chronicle on November 8, 1960, which remained unsolved until December 5.
A three-member team, including American computer programmer David Oranchak, Belgian programmer Jarl Van Eycke, and Australian mathematician Sam Blake, solved the puzzle. Blake reportedly ran 650,000 simulations just to determine the direction the characters should be read in. By December 3, the algorithm churned out phrases "trying to catch me" and "the gas chamber." However, Oranchak and Van Eycke soon realized that Zodiac had made a slight mistake in constructing his cipher, and they were able to decipher this message shortly after:
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 FBI acknowledged the solution by confirming that “a cipher attributed to the Zodiac Killer was recently solved by private citizens." However, it provided no further comment due to the "ongoing nature of the investigation."
The message doesn't provide any clues to Zodiac's identity, but the second line reportedly confirms that a man who called into a local TV talk show 'The Jim Dunbar Show' on October 22, 1969, wasn't him, according to CrimeOnline.
Meanwhile, codebreakers also recognized that Zodiac had often misspelled the word "paradise" in his letters while spelling more complex words correctly. According to the report, the killer spoke of "slaves" in "paradise" on a number of occasions, with one letter saying he will “torture all 13 of my slaves that I have waiting for me in Paradice.”
Numerous disappearances and deaths have been attributed to the Zodiac killer, with some dating back to 1963. His letters continued well into the 1970s, with the last known communication being sent to the Chronicle on January 29, 1974. According to CrimeOnline, the letter showered praise on the movie "The Exorcist," which the killer believed was “the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen." It also included an ominous final score taunting the San Francisco Police Department: "Me = 37, SFPD = 0.”
That said, another cipher remains unsolved -- a letter in which Zodiac wrote “My name is” followed by 13 symbols. However, the geniuses who cracked the 340-cipher say it's too short to find patterns needed to decode it.