Zodiac Killer's Cipher Solved by Code Experts 50 Years After Murders Began

Three codebreakers have cracked the Zodiac Killer's hidden message, 51 years after the serial killer sent it to the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the FBI's response.

By Ryan Gajewski Dec 12, 2020 2:16 AMTags

A coded message from the notorious Zodiac Killer appears finally to have been cracked, more than 50 years after the string of murders began in Northern California.

The message that was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 had been referred to as the "340 cipher." According to the publication, it was recently solved by a trio of amateur codebreakers: Virginia-based software developer David Oranchak, Belgian computer programmer Jarl Van Eycke and Australian mathematician Sam Blake.

Last week, the individuals brought their findings to the FBI, which released a statement to social media on Friday, Dec. 11 to acknowledge the breakthrough. 

"The FBI is aware that a cipher attributed to the Zodiac Killer was recently solved by private citizens," the organization stated. "The Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for the FBI San Francisco division and our local law enforcement partners. The Zodiac Killer terrorized multiple communities across Northern California and even though decades have gone by, we continue to seek justice for the victims of these brutal crimes."

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The unveiled message was in all capital letters and lacked punctuation, and it included repeated misspellings of the word "paradise." The message reads, "I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me. That wasn't 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 will be an easy one in paradice [sic] death."

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The serial killer sent the message two weeks after an individual claiming to be the criminal called into local TV talk show The Jim Dunbar Show, which is referenced in the cipher. 

Oranchak told CNN that he had been working on the project since 2006 and had gotten used to false positives and red herrings. 

"It was incredible," he said of solving it. "It was a big shock. I never really thought we'd find anything because I had grown so used to failure."

The mysterious Zodiac Killer, who murdered five individuals between December 1968 and October 1969, was known for sending coded messages to news outlets and has long been the subject of theories and speculation. The 2007 film Zodiac, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr., told the story of a team of experts trying to solve the case. 

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