So he claimed to have used it on a 32-character cipher that the killer had provided in a letter as the key to the location of a bomb intended to detonate at a school in the fall of 1970. (It never did, despite the fact that the authorities were unable to crack the code.) But even if Spence was able to solve the cipher and identify the victim or victims, it wouldn't have helped him find the murderer. The police knew who they were looking for, and they arrested him within days of the last murder being committed.
Spence died in 1999 at the age of 78 after living for several more years in a nursing home near San Francisco. He never revealed his method for decoding the letters, and no one has been able to replicate it since he died.
The Zodiac Killer's identity remains a mystery today, but what we do know is enough to make him one of the most fascinating characters in criminal history.
A group of amateur codebreakers has deciphered a perplexing encryption submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969. The decrypted message revealed the killer's bizarre motivation, but his identity remained unknown... until now.
The newly discovered letter is the third that the murderer sent to the newspaper. In one of them, he claimed responsibility for the murder spree and requested an interview. In the other two letters, which were written in different handwriting, he expanded on his views on society and technology.
Since then, no more murders have been committed, and it appears that the killer has gone into hiding. However, researchers believe that they may have found him in Thomas Hargrove, who was imprisoned for robbery but released due to lack of evidence. They claim that his handwriting matches that of the killer, and he too wrote a letter to the Chronicle in 1969.
Hence, they think that he may be the Zodiac Killer. However, there are still some doubts because Hargrove has denied writing the letter many times before. Nevertheless, if this conclusion is proven true, then it would make him the first person ever to decode his own cipher message.
The FBI has verified that code-breakers have broken a 340-character cipher allegedly transmitted to the San Francisco Chronicle by the so-called Zodiac Killer 51 years ago. The killer, who was never apprehended, murdered five people in late 1960s stabbings and shootings that terrorized the San Francisco Bay region.
Code breakers work for organizations such as the FBI and NSA. They use computers to decipher secret writing, usually from documents or letters hidden inside dead bodies. In this case, the code breakers were asked to determine if the cipher text, which was sent in an email on 4 October 2007, was written by the same person who had sent them a previous message in July 1967. That earlier letter contained several references to the Zodiac's victims, including one that included their initials ("RJ" and "KM").
The code breakers determined that the new text was written by the same person because it uses the same spelling errors and sentence structure as the earlier email. It also contains two symbols (the number 9 and the at sign) not found in the original email.
In conclusion, the code breakers believe that the new message is actually from the Zodiac because he used details of real crimes that had been reported in the San Francisco Chronicle to write his fake messages.
The FBI says it will now analyze other evidence that may help solve additional murders that may have been committed by the same person or persons.
For decades, amateur and professional cryptographers, including FBI agents, have been attempting to decode the iconic serial killer's message to the media. Keep this anecdote in mind for later.
The "340 Cipher" was regarded as the holy grail of unbreakable codes, and the Zodiac Killer claimed his identity was hidden in the grid of symbols in one of his four cryptograms....
The 408 Cipher stated little more than "I adore murdering because it is so much pleasure." To break the 340 cipher, called for its 340 characters, Oranchak collaborated with two other amateur code crackers and ran the befuddling set of symbols through special software tools. They concluded that the cipher was most likely an anagram, or word game. An anagram can yield multiple meanings, and in this case, each letter in the cipher was assigned a number where it would translate to another word or phrase when rearranged.
Oranchak later wrote that he believed the killer was either male or female, between 30 and 50 years old, who had been involved in crime before becoming obsessed with the Zodiac phenomenon. The writer also theorized that the murderer might be a police officer or someone with access to law enforcement agencies, such as a pathologist, but admitted that this idea was just a guess.
In October 1970, three months after writing about the cipher, Oranchak was shot dead in his home by a man who broke into the author's house looking for money. The murder remains unsolved to this day.
Since then, many people have taken up the cause of solving the Zodiac murders, but so far no one has come forward with any conclusive evidence relating to these crimes.
More than 51 years after it was transmitted, a coded message sent by a deadly serial murderer who has never been apprehended has been deciphered. In Northern California in 1968 and 1969, the male suspect known as the Zodiac Killer killed at least five people and attempted to kill at least two more. He used the pseudonym "Zodiac" for his letters to the editor of four Northern California newspapers.
The murders took place over an extended period of time. The first murder was committed on February 12, 1968. Before then the killer had been active in the Bay Area community and had shown no signs of quitting or being caught.
He began each letter with the same words: "I am not guilty but why do they think I'm guilty?" This statement was followed by a string of numbers from 0 to 10, which were assigned to various aspects of the case by the author of the note. These include the number of times the victim's face was cut, the number of wounds suffered by each victim, and so on. Some numbers are crossed out, indicating that they have already been discussed in detail.
It is believed that the murderer sent hundreds of notes to newspapers around the country while he was active. Most of them were written in standard English but several poems have also been attributed to him. One poem called "My Blood Runs Cold" was published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969.
The cipher ascribed to the killer, Oranchak, adds, "I hope you're having a good time trying to capture me. I'm not frightened of the gas chamber since it will take me to paradise even faster now that I have enough slaves to labor for me."... The cipher is an anagram of the following words: ORENCHAK....