A team of amateur codebreakers has reportedly cracked the Zodiac Killer’s most infamous cipher, solving a mystery that’s had law enforcement stumped for more than 50 years.
The Zodiac Killer is the moniker of the as-yet-unknown American serial killer who authorities believe murdered at least five people in California in the late ‘60s (and who may or may not be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz). The alleged killer claims to have murdered 37 victims in a series of cryptic letters sent to Bay Area media outlets at the time. This week, a three-person team based out of Australia, Belgium, and the U.S. reportedly deciphered one such coded message that had remained unsolved for decades known as the “340 Cipher” (so named for containing 340 characters), which was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969.
David Oranchak, one of the codebreakers who helped unravel the hidden message, told the Chronicle on Friday that the text reads, in part:
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 [sic] all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”
Oranchak started the YouTube series “Let’s Crack Zodiac” to document his codebreaking efforts alongside his colleagues, Sam Blake and Jarl Van Eycke. In a video posted Friday, he breaks down how the team finally cracked the cipher, which involved running over 650,000 simulations to pin down the correct reading direction of the characters. You can check it out below:
The team forwarded their results to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which “confirmed the solution,” Oranchak told the outlet. The FBI corroborated this in a statement on Friday but said it would refrain from further comment “due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Scores of sleuths have come forward claiming to have solved the cipher in the past, but this is the first solution with the FBI’s seal of approval. Several context clues in the deciphered text also point to this being the real deal. As SFGate points out, a few weeks before the Chronicle received the “340 Cipher,” a local TV station fielded a call from a man claiming to be the Zodiac Killer, which the message seems to reference. The text also has “paradice” misspelled, a likely intentional error that appeared in most of the Zodiac Killer’s letters to media outlets.
Sadly, the decoded message doesn’t appear to provide any clues about the identity of the person behind the murders, meaning the unhinged conspiracy theory about a certain Texas senator lives to see another day.
“The message doesn’t really say a whole lot,” Oranchak told the Chronicle. “It’s more of the same attention-seeking junk from Zodiac.”
You can read the decoded message in full below:
“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”