A group of three hobbyist cryptographers last week cracked one of the most infamous ciphers created by the Zodiac Killer, more than half-a-century after the murderer claimed their first confirmed victim.
The unnamed Zodiac killed at least five people in Northern California between the late 1960s and early 1970s, and derived their pseudonym from a series of taunting letters sent to the San Francisco Bay Area press up until 1974. Those letters included four cryptic messages, known as “ciphers.” Up until a few days ago, only one of those ciphers had ever been convincingly decoded.
Cryptologist David Oranchak, who has been trying to crack the notorious “340 cipher” (it contains 340 characters) for more than a decade, made a crucial breakthrough earlier this year when applied mathematician Sam Blake came up with about 650,000 different possible ways in which the code could be read. From there, using code-breaking software designed by Jarl Van Eycke, the team’s third member, they came up with a small number of valuable clues that helped them piece together a message in the cipher:
“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”