Cold Case Consciousness

What I said at the end of my last post . . . It’s the reason why I’m here. I began to investigate mysteries 25 years ago because I was just the same as everybody else. I like a good mystery. But I like to have a fair crack at solving them. Entering such a realm 25 years ago I had little idea of what I would encounter. Not only was I so dumb I didn’t know, I was so dumb I didn’t suspect. Now that is really dumb.

For the pantheon of the world’s great mysteries, it is forgivable that one continues to chronicle them without solution, but when it comes to cold cases, we speak of human predators and with this the indignity done to people. Nevertheless I discovered a similarity in the cult and culture of those who dwell on trying to command such topics with those who dominate popularized legends. Many do not want them solved. These topics become their life. They feed off them. Not money. I’ve yet to see moolah in any of this. But they like their chills and thrills and they like the preeminence within a niche group.

I have discovered something else. Mystery will breed legend and legend will breed immortality. It may sound cynical, but it is not. It is the product of experience. Cynicism blindsides one. It must come before and sour one’s perspective at assessing a situation. When it’s the product of experience, sadly it is just the truth.

If you wish true fame, true immortality in culture, your work need not be the best. When it comes to mysteries you must be the first.  When a true life mystery captures the cultural imagination, it slowly evolves into legend. If you are one of the early figures involved, your part in it evolves and intertwines with it and you become intricate to the whole regurgitation of the legend. You enter Campfire Americana.

Let me give an example. Bigfoot, that nebulous denizen of the forest, captured the world’s imagination. As its legend grew, so did the importance and immortality of its earliest and most definitive personalities. We still know of John Green, Rene Dahinden, Grover Krantz, and Peter Byrne. A few others have attained like immortality and their names go hand-in-hand with the campfire stories: Roger Patterson, Ivan Marx, Bob Titmus and even Arch Buckley, Ivan Sanderson and Robert W. Morgan. All those that have come later seem more or less acolytes always proclaiming the glories of these kodachrome days. It has become a real life comic strip franchise, and these names are as important to it as the characters in Gotham– Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, etc.

It is little different in True Crime and Cold Case. Perhaps it is simply not as recognizable because the object of the hunt is accepted to be quite real– the perp. But nevertheless intertwined with the retelling, forever sewn into the stitching of the legend of Zodiac is Dave Toschi, Dea Ferrin, Mike Mageau, Bryan Hartnell and Lake Berryessa, and even Robert Graysmith, and numerous suspects– Leigh Allen and others. There are the legends of behind-the-scene events in Vallejo. Soon on September 27, Zodiologists will gather at Lake Berryessa. It will be the anniversary of the famous attack where Zodiac wore his sinister black hood. It has come to symbolize him. They will gather on Zodiac Island at the scene of the crime at the

Zodiac Island at the time of the September 27, 1969, attack.
Zodiac Island at the time of the September 27, 1969, attack.

precise time: 6:30 p.m. They will remember in silence Cecelia Shepard. Then they will walk to where Zodiac parked and then get into their own cars– some will carpool– and they will drive Zodiac’s route into Napa to where he called from. Then they will go out to dinner in a local restaurant and discuss the case.

Some have contemplated the case for decades. Some don’t want such a legend solved.

Few other cold cases, however, have had such credible independent investigators nosing around to at least gather information. So much official information has been released on the case that of all the oldest cold cases that are still known by the

Walter Cronkite presents to the nation the first composite on what Zodiac could look like.
Walter Cronkite presents to the nation the first composite on what Zodiac could look like.

general public, the Zodiac case has the best chance of solution.

When it comes to other cold cases, it can be dismal. Lone Wolf Gonzaullas and a couple of other Texarkana personalities have become intertwined with the growing legend of the Phantom of Texarkana, another lovers’ lane killer, though far more brutal than Zodiac. Unfortunately, there is very little reliable information that has been released. It is far older than Zodiac and by the time it entered cold case consciousness many key personalities were dead and could not be interviewed. The stories are regurgitated. But there is no (or little) crime scene analysis, and so many facts are hidden. There is even more information on The Horrible Headhunter of Kingsbury Run from the 1930s Cleveland. But as far as I can tell, there isn’t even

Zodiac Island seen from the stand of trees today, the area from which Zodiac must have watched his intended victims.
Zodiac Island seen from the stand of trees today, the area from which Zodiac must have watched his intended victims.

enough to put in order a believable, accurate analysis of The “Moonlight Murders.”

The Texarkana Phantom murders proves one of the most frustrating to imagine and therefore reenact accurately to understand what was involved to move from point A to point B. I’m finally going to have to try conservation photos to see if I can get aerials of what these roads and lovers’ lanes looked like around that time.

Only 2 cold cases have real consciousness behind their study — Ripper and Zodiac. Others like the Cleveland Torso Killer and Phantom of Texarkana have to start getting consciousness. And so does the Smiley Face Killer theory. There is enough for those who proposed the theory to at least present a  thesis. There doesn’t have to be a solution yet, but so much was dangled and then dropped with the case that some cohesion must be placed in print to bring order to it.

These cases deserve far more than reciting generalities and arguing over suspects, but they have sadly not been accorded any genuine detailed and public scrutiny.

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