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Zodiac Killer’s coded message cracked by experts after 51 years

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Zodiac killer’s famous ‘340 cipher’ coded message sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 was cracked by a team of cryptography experts.

A team of cryptography experts was able to crack a coded message by Zodiac Killer – an anonymous serial killer who terrorized the streets of northern California over 50 years ago.

The message was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 and was famously called ‘340 cipher’ as it contains 340 cryptic characters.

It took David Oranchak, a software engineer, several computer programs, and years to crack the code. He was assisted by Sam Blake, an Australian Mathematicians, and Jarl Van Eykcke, a Belgian Logistician.

A copy of cryptogram sent to San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 famously called the ‘340 cipher’

The investigators had hoped the message would reveal the identity of the killer or at least have some clues about the motive for the killings. According to the team, the message included boasts and defiance of authorities.

The decoded message read:

“I hope you are having Fun in trying to catch me…I am not afraid of gas chamber because it will send me to paradice (sic) all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”

The team figured out the way to read the code after a lot of people in crypto community on Zodiac pointed out that the message might have another step beyond just figuring out what letters belonged to the symbols.

One of the few images of a criminal / © Getty Images

Oranchak in a video on his youtube channel explained that the 340 cipher is read diagonally, starting from the upper left corner and shifting one box down and two boxes right. When the bottom is reached the reader must go back to the opposite corner.

According to these experts, the coding system appears in cryptography manual from 1950’s for the U.S army.

The first message sent to the Californian newspapers was decoded by a school teacher and his wife in 1969. The code for the message was much simpler than 340 cipher.

“I like killing because it is so much fun” read the message. It also mentioned “slaves” that zodiac killer said he was collecting for afterlife.

Zodiac killer killed at least five people between 1968 to 1969 but claimed 37 in total. He inspired a lot of other serial killers.

The cryptic messages sent by him to Californian newspapers during his reign of terror started a quest amongst the crypto community with hundreds of people trying to crack the coded messages to help reveal the identity of the anonymous serial killer to this day

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