April 20, 2020: Zodiac Sends 13-Character Cipher
Do to the graphic nature of today's crimes listener discretion is advised extreme. Caution is advised for listeners. Under Thirteen today is Monday April twentieth. Twenty twenty on this day in nineteen seventy. The notorious Zodiac killer said one of his most disturbing communications to the San Francisco. Press the letter not only held the key to the killer's identity but it also included a detailed bomb threat that terrified the public. Welcome to today and true crime. Apar- cast original today. We're covering the my name. Is Cypher. One of several cryptic messages the Zodiac killer sent to bay area newspapers. Let's go back to San Francisco on April Twentieth. Nineteen seventy as the sun rose over the city. The Zodiac killer slipped an envelope with the cipher into an unknown postbox and fled the scene as quickly as possible. The next morning the letter was rushed to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He wasn't surprised to see another message from the Zodiac over the past year the paper had grown accustomed to hearing from the mysterious serial killer every few months but the Zodiac still knew how to keep reporters on their toes by the time the editor had finished reading. The killer's latest message. He was aghast. For the second time the Zodiac had threatened to blow up a school bus full of children in a previous letter the Zodiac included a hand drawn diagram of an explosive device. He planned to build. The plan showed. It would be placed on the side of the road and rigged to blow up as a school. Bus drove by after examining it the FBI had determined that the plans for the device were theoretically sound. It was no idle doodle or empty threat. It was possible the Zodiac had an actual plan that could result in a devastating explosion in the name letter the Zodiac. It updated his previous diagram and sent a more complex blueprint for the bomb. This one included a special circuit designed to prevent the device from detonating on a cloudy day. Apparently the Zodiac had determined that without this failsafe the bomb could accidentally be triggered by an overcast sky. Though it wasn't clear exactly why this was the case the Zodiac wrote that he had planned to plant the bomb earlier but his work had been interrupted when he was swamped out by the recent rainstorms. In San Francisco the credible threats along with the fact that the killers knowledge of bomb-making increased disturbed investigators working on the case but as terrifying as the blueprint for the bomb was the short cypher. The Zodiac transcribed at the beginning of the letter was even more compelling. He wrote that when the code was broken his identity would be revealed. The Chronicle made copies of the note and pass the original onto authorities as they done with the previous messages the FBI soon determined that the handwriting on the letter matched the previous Zodiac messages. Unfortunately they were unable to crack the code since the cipher only contained thirteen characters. There were too many potential solutions. As far as investigators were concerned the possibilities were infinite the Zodiac must have known that without more characters. The cipher was little more than a farce. Add to that the fact that the Zodiac had a habit of deliberately misspelling words even in his ciphers and the challenge was really just a red herring. Authorities concluded that the code was only meant to waste their time something. The killer had attempted to do plenty of times in the past. This line of thought also led them to question the scoreboard that the Zodiac included at the bottom of his letter it read Zodiac Ten s F P zero at the time the Zodiac was only known to have committed five murders. His latest scoreboard claimed double that but since the killer enjoyed taunting police and the media it was tempting to believe that he was lying to throw off investigators on the other hand the Zodiac had successfully carried out at least four attacks. His most recent murder had been committed in the middle of a San Francisco Street the prospect that he committed other murders. The police didn't know about seemed possible. Once again detectives were working overtime to delve into the Zodiacs cryptic clues and decode his bizarre ciphers. As it turned out there work would continue for decades. This letter wasn't the last time they'd hear from the elusive killer coming up. We discuss the aftermath of the Zodiac's letter and Cypher high listeners. 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Authorities were used to the feeling it seemed like every report they wrote about the Zodiac had to end uncertainly with the words the investigation continues but the name letter was particularly galling. The Zodiacs last confirmed victim had been taxi driver. Paul Stein the killer shot Stein. In the middle of the presidio Heights neighborhood in San Francisco. Though police arrived at the scene within minutes and three witnesses saw the shooting take place the Zodiac somehow managed to escape of feet he'd frequently rubbed in the faces of the SF PD. Authorities felt powerless and frustrated. The killer made it clear that he considered investigators incompetent and now he was so arrogant that he was willing to offer them clues even a puzzle which might reveal his identity of course. It's likely that the cipher wasn't a legitimate puzzle at all but the effect was just as maddening and over the years amateur and professional cryptology sts alike. Did their best to crack the code. One of the more popular suggested solutions to the cipher was the name. Alfred E. Neuman the Mascot for the Popular mad magazine. The name not only fit within the code but also matched the Zodiacs absurdist sense of humor. Unfortunately it meant that the cipher provided no clues about who the Zodiac really was With the cipher looking like a dead end authorities turned their attention to another section of the name letter Zodiac mentioned that he'd been swamped out by the recent rain. Police seized on the killers phrasing and began investigating low lying areas in the city searching for places that were vulnerable to flooding. It was an ingenious idea but unfortunately failed to turn up anything helpful it seemed like the Zodiac was always one step ahead of the police for all they knew the entire story about the rain had been fabricated as the months wore on. That explanation looked increasingly likely as it turned out the Zodiac never committed any more confirmed murders after the October nineteen sixty nine killing of Paul Stein though. He claimed additional victims in his subsequent letters to the press it seemed more likely that the Zodiac had changed tactics entirely he's still sought to spread terror and become infamous but he found he could accomplish his goals more easily by simply making threats and tantalizing investigators with his letters ultimately however his new strategy had limited success after repeatedly threatening to detonate a bomb but never following through people stopped feeling so afraid his threats became hollow and eventually the Zodiac stopped his campaign of terror entirely five months after the name letter in September nineteen seventy the Zodiac went silent for three years though. He undeniably outfox police. The Zodiac also overplayed his hand with the name letter it marked one of his final credible threats but ultimately it was nothing more than a smokescreen the last gasp of a killer. Who's fifteen minutes of fame would soon be up? Thanks for listening to today and true. Crime. I'm Vanessa Richardson to learn more. Check out our episodes of serial killers on the Zodiac killer. Today and true crime is a podcast original. You can find more episodes of today in true crime all other parkas originals for free on spotify not only does spotify already. Have all of your favorite music but now spotify is making it easy for you to enjoy. All of your favorite podcast originals. Like today in true crime for free from your phone. Desktop or smart speaker to stream today in true crime on spotify. Just open the APP and type today in true crime in the search bar at podcast. We're grateful for you our listeners. You allow us to do what we love. Let us know how we're doing reach out on facebook and Instagram at par cast and twitter at podcast network? We'll be back with a brand new episode tomorrow in True Crime. Today and true crime was created by Max Cutler and his podcast studios original. It is executive produced by Max Cutler sound designed by Dick Schroeder with production assistance by Ron Shapiro Carly Madden and Freddie Beckley. This episode of today and true crime was written by terrel wells with writing assistance by Nora. Patel. I'm Vanessa Richardson. Hi Listeners. If you haven't heard it already I highly recommend you check out the new parkhouse original series supernatural with Ashley Flowers every Wednesday. Take a deep dive into the strange and surreal to find the truth behind some of the world's most bizarre true crime occurrences search for supernatural with Ashley Flowers in the spotify APP and listened free today.