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30 May 2014
A serial killer in northern California murdered, confirmed, five people from the late
1960s to the early 1970s. The killer was never officially found, but many people have been
suspected as being the Zodiac Killer. The killer named himself “Zodiac‟ through letters intended
to be published. He was also named the "Cipher Slayer” from the cryptic letters (Giullen).
Eighteen letters under the name “Zodiac” had been sent, but not all of them were authentic.
There are four encrypted letters sent by the killer, and of those four only one has been decoded.
The recognition of the Zodiac killer and the killer‟s infamy was due to the nature of the crimes,
the high level of interest in finding the killer, and the psychology of the killer.
While the crimes themselves created a large amount of publicity due to the fear and
anxiety of those who either lived in the targeted area or were informed about the news, the crime
continued its publicity and continued to gain interest in future decades. A nonprofessional
codebreaker from Massachusetts by the name of Corey Starliper claimed that he had deciphered
the letter by the Zodiac killer that was coded. “‟Starliper still holds out hope that his decrypted
cipher will bring solace to the victims' families…” and comments, “„What I really mean to do by
cracking these codes … my main goal, is to figure out, for one, exactly who did it, and to bring
peace to the families of at least some of Zodiac's suspected victims,‟ Starliper said” (Liebowitz).
Decades after about forty years after the crimes, finding out who committed the murders is still
important to some people. Its importance is not limited to the police force as people attempt to
decipher the coded letter. When the crimes were committed, people were obviously concerned
about justice which included the family of the victims having closure. For someone to attempt to
decipher a code that has been proven to be extremely difficult without having the responsibility
to due so shows how much of an impact the Zodiac killer continues to create. The importance of
the crime shows not just in the actions of the people directly, but also the entrainment they find
“The blockbuster Zodiac - starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr - is just the tip
of a mountain of Zodiac-inspired spin-offs. The original Dirty Harry film, which
launched Clint Eastwood into the A-list, was inspired by the Zodiac case. There have
been countless articles, documentaries and books about the case, many of them
bestsellers…Zodiac followers have even had their own film made about them. Called
Hunting The Zodiac, the documentary chronicled the lives of some of the people who
have devoted themselves to pursuit of the killer”(Harris).
Films are catered to be interesting to at least most people as it is profitable. The interests of most
people are shown by the films that are created at the time. Most people believe that all crimes,
especially multiple murders, lead to the criminal being caught and punished, so when a criminal
is not caught for committing a crime, especially multiple murders, they begin to think about why.
One persons question becomes a community‟s question and so forth. For a film about a crime
committed about 40 years prior to become popular enough to be created into a film staring
famous actors requires a large group of people wanting it. As previously stated, the crime
interests people which leads to people wanting their questions answered. There is a
website:(http://oranchak.com/zodiac/webtoy/) where anyone can use an interactive cipher for
those who want to decipher the letter sent by the Zodiac killer. This is an example of people who
want to have their questions about what the letter had stated, and the name of the criminal
Deciphering cryptography by the Zodiac killer was not the only way people have tried to
create a closure for the case; finding the killer directly was and continues to be common. In
2009, Deborah Perez claimed that her father, Guy Ward Hendrickson was the Zodiac killer. It
was reported that, “Perez produced the glasses she said her father took from Paul Stine, the San
Francisco cabbie who was the Zodiac's only confirmed victim in that city. But investigation
determined the glasses didn't belong to Stine, said Kevin Jones, an inspector in the San Francisco
Police Department's homicide bureau” (Mello). People continue to attempt to find who was the
Zodiac killer even after the case being closed in 2004. There are people who are so focused in
the crime and find little details such as glasses to be what they consider valid evidence. They are
the people who respond with fear and become hypervigilant. They do not know much about
forensics and accuse people who are later proven as not being the Zodiac killer. While the
awareness and interest of individuals can aid finding the criminal, those who do not have the
knowledge needed create more damage as they go based on their own limited information and
sometimes hidden motives, for example: publicity. Another person was: Randy Kenney who was
from New York, and claimed that, “his friend Louis Myers admitted to the killings... „[The
friend] said, 'I killed some people. I'm the guy they‟re looking for. They've been looking for me
for over 30 years. I'm the guy that's The Zodiac Killer,‟'... "I really, truly feel that Louie was
100% honest with me that day…” (Goldstein). This is similar to what was written previously.
The want to know who was the murderer comes from wanting to see a face. While most people
do not have the capability to determine the criminal lawfully and accurately, the intent is the
same. The idea that justice should always be the ending are many times due to associating justice
with fair, and fairness is appealing to most when it involves their life.
Much of serial killers‟ infamy homes from the psychology of the serial killers
themselves, and this idea contributed to recognition of the Zodiac killer. Serial killers have
several characteristics that make them recognizable as being sociopaths/psychopaths, and those
recognitions have become synonymous with killers.
“Narcissistic tendencies, part of the grandiose self described… are often present in the
serial killer… Primary narcissism is seen as the investment of libidinal energy in the
achievement of object love, empathy, and possible creativity; secondary narcissism is the
withdrawing of the original psychic libidinal energy from objects back to the ego. The
latter mechanism seems to be present in the psychodynamics of serial killers. They are
indeed not only pathologically narcissistic but unrealistically grandiose, and their
exaggerated self-importance is fragile and sensitive to shame (Palermo 85). In Freudian
psychoanalysis, primary narcissism represents an individuals self love and/or self-
preservation which is present in everyone with varying degrees. This form of narcissism does not
have the same meaning as narcissism most commonly used. Secondary narcissism includes
megalomania where the individual developed schizoidtypal tendencies which include grandiose
self views and defensiveness. The Zodiac killer sent letters that were encrypted and likely had
information giving himself (sex confirmed by victim) away with the belief that he would not be
caught as he is above everyone. The behavior and possible thoughts of the Zodiac killer were
different from those who watched and heard through the news. This difference makes people
curious about how people can be, and some feel strong emotions in response of the crime and/or
attempt to understand the differences. Another case,
“Thirty-eight-year-old serial killer Leslie Allen Williams, after suspicion for the slayings
of four women, exploited the Detroit-area media to the hilt… Williams took requests. In
a contest, the outcome of which he alone would decide, one local television station won an
exclusive interview with the serial killer. In addition, one daily paper, the Detroit News,
was chosen for the „privilege‟ of printing his 24-page open letter to the public that
expounded on the theories and philosophy of Leslie Williams” (Fox 8).
With a society based on news and media, company‟s publish what will sell. While most people
feel anger and/or disgust when they hear about murdering innocent people, but this type of news
is the most notable. Public interviews are often due to the media company wanting to be the first
to talk because the topic is still new. It is not about the actual understanding and interest in the
person interviewed but the number of viewers it can have. That is why being the first to
interview is so important.
The case itself does not have much information aside from the victims. Asking a question
was difficult as there was not enough information to wonder anything. Most of the information
and events relating to the Zodiac killer were many years after the murders stopped. The crime
was already difficult to understand as not much happened in comparison to crimes where the
criminal was caught. Most of the attention went to the letters and more importantly the cryptic
letters. The actual case itself did not much usable information as it was simply summaries, the
aftermath is much more detailed and interesting. What makes the Zodiac killer interesting in
comparison to the other serial killers was that the lack to content in the case itself led people to
create reasons and who-did-its. The case is mostly about the reaction it cause people. The lack of
evidence to validly link someone to the crimes makes it more interesting because the readers
have to create information and make inferences. On the surface researching seems easy as it is a
popular topic, but most of the articles are repeats of other articles. I found much more
information about the lasting effects after the crimes, so I decided to change the time frame.
This criminal case lasted less than a decade, but the lasting effects continued for decades
and will most likely continue. When media and news show sociopaths and psychopaths the
common reaction is to be curious and interested, and while the opinion towards the criminal is
rarely positive most people are still intrigued. The interest in what is considered “strange” or
“different”, the need to see the criminal, and the crime being mass murder is the reason people
continue to become opinionated when knowing about a crime. Another point that could be
addressed is how much of a person‟s reaction to the Zodiac murders and other crimes are based
on how people see themselves in another person.
Fox, James Alan., and Jack Levin. Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. Print.
Goldstein, Sasha. "Is Louis Myers the Zodiac Killer? Man Says Now-dead Buddy Confessed to
Being Bay Area Murderer ." NY Daily News. N.p., 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 May 2014.
Guillen, Tomas. "Serial Killer Communiqués: Helpful or Hurtful." Serial Killer Communiqués:
Helpful or Hurtful by Tomas Guillen - JCJPC, Volume 9, Issue 2. JCJPC, Volume 9,
Issue 2, 2002. Web. 28 May 2014.
Harris, Paul. "So Who Was the Zodiac Killer?" The Observer. Guardian News and Media, 15
Apr. 2007. Web. 14 May 2014.
Liebowitz, Matt. "Has Amateur Codebreaker Cracked 'Zodiac Killer' Letter?" Msnbc.com. N.p.,
25 July 2011. Web. 12 May 2014.
Mello, Michael. "Police Say No to Zodiac Daughter Claim." The Orange County Register. N.p.,
25 Nov. 2009. Web. 12 May 2014.
N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://oranchak.com/zodiac/webtoy/>.
Palermo, George B. "Narcissism, Sadism, and Loneliness The Case of Serial Killer Jeffrey
Dahmer." Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes. N.p.: Humana, 2008.
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