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.

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.


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 he 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?

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Kommentare (6)

  1. #1 Nils Kopal
    Krefeld & University of Siegen
    14. April 2020

    As already said in the cryptography group of Facebook: Really well made video.Everyone interested in the topic should watch it 🙂 Thumbs up!

  2. #2 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    14. April 2020

    Nice work, Dave! I’m looking forward to future episodes.

  3. #3 Richard SantaColoma
    14. April 2020

    Very nicely done, David! Definitely 100% pro quality, and it is informative and entertaining. I’ll subscribe tonight, when I’m on my Roku app, and look forward to your upcoming episodes.


  4. #4 BREAKER
    16. April 2020


    Dave asks us in one of the last videos “When do we know when to stop trying to solve the Z340?”

    Now we have this “new video” that has the same questionable codebreak.

    I commend you Dave on keeping up the front so long

    Chicago Courts received my report on the break in the ciphers and the matching suspect sketches in the case of the Barefoot Intruder, and were compelled to act on the information in the dossier. This convinced the presiding judge to contact the Kenilworth Detective in the Valerie Percy Case and take a statement from me and a copy of the report.

    Sorry to say Dave, but you like the others have been chasing the ghost of the legend behind the Zodiac……the show you were on merely addressed one of the police sketches in the Zodiac investigation files that tied to the John’s abduction, whereas the first sketch that appeared was that of his getaway driver in the parking lot of the Lake Beryessa attack. The killer was busy in the hood “doing his thing” while his handler was in the lot waiting for him to make their getaway.

    This was shown openly through the media of the era as the original sketch of one of the people involved in the San Fran Killings.

    Now this means there are two people, and one of them was tied to the notorious “4Pi Cult”…..the use of the Rose Cross symbol to represent the cipher and the star map are quite historical, and the manners of encryption were actually done in a very classical manner and one of a degree of intelligence that you cannot degrade beneath any of your theories, having produced nothing but the continuation of your own trial and error performances.

    So enjoy the new information presented…..it exposes the entire Intelligence Community for hosting a continued affair and operation through the copying of the themes of the Zodiac and encrypts their new plans in their Art Installation.

    They continue on through the affair with the Scorpion Ciphers. You would know about this info if you were an expert on the ciphers, but instead you have a groomed theory about the “Zodiac” using the basic cut and paste suspicions and mask it with trivial programming of a supercomputer to locate the very same patterns that you found in the past. You basically are showing off your theory and it is embarrassing to see that sort of speculation being added to the forums, KNOWING, that you have omitted official evidence to create the theory about a single suspect.

    This is decades old and your legacy is slowly aging in the same hilarious manner

  5. #5 Klaus Schmeh
    29. April 2020

    Richard Bean via LinkedIn:
    “David Oranchak really enjoyed your presentation, looking forward to next in series”

  6. #6 werner
    12. Dezember 2020