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David Oranchak, a leading expert on the cryptograms of the Zodiac Killer, has published a video. It’s a must-see for everybody interested in this case.

For years, the Zodiac Killer has been the second-most popular topic on this blog behind the Voynich Manuscript. I assume that this is because the Zodiac case is a perfect combination of true crime and cryptology, involving unsolved murders, a broken cryptogram, three unbroken cryptograms as well as countless suspects, theories, and claims. It’s a fascinating story.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

For those who don’t know: The Zodiac Killer was a serial murderer who operated in the San Francisco area in the late sixties. He was never caught. He killed at least five people and seriously injured two. There are four confirmed crimes the Zodiac Killer committed:

  • Dezember 20, 1968: The Zodiac Killer murders 16-year-old Betty Lou Jensen and her 17-year-old boyfriend David Faraday in Vallejo, north of San Francisco.
  • July 4, 1969: The Zodiac Killer kills 22-year-old waitress Darlene Ferrin in a parking lot in Benicia. Her 19-year-old companion Michael Mageau survives badly injured.
  • September 27, 1969: In a park near Lake Berryessa, a man dressed in black kills 22-year-old Cecelia Shepard and seriously injures her 20-year-old boyfriend Bryan Hartnell (see picture below).
  • October 11, 1969: The Zodiac Killer shoots Taxi driver Paul Stine in his taxi.

The Zodiac Killer wrote dozens of letters to regional newspapers and other recipients. In these notes he repeatedly made fun of the police and boasted of his deeds. Four of his letters contained encrypted messages, three of which are unsolved to date. The most famous one is known as Z-340, named for the number of letters it consists of.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Z-340 is one of the most famous unsolved cryptograms in the world. For details, refer to the Zodiac Killer article in my series about the top 50 crypto mysteries. Other sources about this case include the 1986 book Zodiac by Robert Graysmith, the website of David Oranchak and a video by Nils Kopal – just to name a few.

Blog reader Mustafa Yücel has produced a number of videos about the Zodiac Killer in German. He analyzes the case in the style of a profiler. I think his conclusion that the killer had some experience in the field of encryption but was not a professional is correct.

My main contribution to the discussion about the Zodiac Killer are a few Lego models I made for my presentation at the 2015 NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History and that I reused a few times since then.

NSA-Symposium-03-Zodiac

Source: Schmeh

Source: Schmeh

Source: Schmeh

Aforementioned David Oranchak, …

Source: Schmeh

… who is an expert on the Zodiac Killer cryptograms, has informed me about a video re recently produced. Titled “Let’s Crack Zodiac”, it is the first episode in what is planned to become a video series. The clip is about the said Zodiac Killer book by Graysmith. David writes: “Almost 35 years ago, Robert Graysmith published his blockbuster book, ‘Zodiac’, and claimed to solve a famous unsolved Zodiac Killer cipher. But did he really solve it? Let’s break it down.”

The video looks quite professional, and it provides interesting insights in the Zodiac case and Graysmith’s book. It’s a must-see for everybody interested in the Zodiac Killer cryptograms.

Congratulations, David on this great production. I’m looking forward to the rest of your video series.


Further reading: Is the second Zodiac Killer message a fake?

Sei|sing  〈n. 11; Mar.〉 kurzes Tau zum Befestigen der Segel an den Rahen; Sy Zeising ... mehr

Ver|bin|dung  〈f. 20〉 1 das Verbinden 2 das, was verbindet ... mehr

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