It’s part of the genre. It’s part of the comic strip. That doesn’t make it bad. So long as we label it properly, there’s no harm. My only gripe is when legend obscures truth.
There’s a reason why The Zodiac Killer’s attack at Lake Berryessa on September 27, 1969, is quite significant. There’s a reason why pilgrims travel to the site today.
Let’s backtrack a bit to put it in context.
Up until his attack at Lake Berryessa, ZODIAC had essentially been a drive-by shooter. This didn’t require any elaborate preparations or any real ingenuity. At most it reflected his arrogance to add one more ante to his game of death. The killings were his résumé by which he was now terrorizing the Bay Area in letters to the newspapers. No other interpretation could be drawn until . . . Lake Berryessa.
When ZODIAC attacked at Lake Berryessa, it was different. He endangered his escape by having parked 1/4 of a mile from the attack. He also knifed the victims, which of course was a close quarter killing. Most strange of all, he wore a bizarre, theatrical black hood that had a bib on it that hung down his chest. On it was neatly sewn the symbol of the Zodiac– circle with a crosshair.
None of this was required to ruthlessly dispatch these two youth. Why did ZODIAC go to so much trouble here?
ZODIAC’s last attack would be a cab killing, where he shot a cab driver in San Francisco. Again, no real ingenuity required. Nothing exotic. It was in execution little different than some thug killing. It was just another ante in his game of death. It was so different from his MO that he knew he had to mail in a piece of the victim’s bloody shirt to prove he was the killer.
Why did he take such risks at Lake Berryessa?
Daytime doesn’t explain it. This was ZODIAC’s only daytime attack. But this doesn’t explain the hood. The victims were not meant to survive. We were never supposed to know ZODIAC dressed like this. The man was stabbed 6 times, the woman 21. But the woman, Cecelia Shepard, survived for a day and a half; the man, Bryan Hartnell, survived to give us his account. Why did wearing that homemade, theatrical hood mean something to ZODIAC?
It wasn’t fear factor. ZODIAC didn’t jump out from behind the oak and declare ‘I’m the infamous ZODIAC. I’m going to kill you’ and then feed off their fear. Rather he said he was an escaped con who wanted their money and car keys. The hood really didn’t register with them. Bryan Hartnell kept chatting with the guy and even offered to write him a check for more money. ZODIAC finally got impatient. Someone wearing a ski mask points a gun at you there is no ambiguity as to what they want. Such a theatrical hood really implied nothing when added to ZODIAC’s bland excuse for holding them at gun point. Clearly it meant something. A ski mask wasn’t good enough. It had to be this executioner type of black hood with the Zodiac symbol on it.
Well, there is no point in trying to dissect it here. You can consult my page on it at The Quester Files for more details.
Let’s rather come to the present, to September 27, 2015.
The above helps you to understand why today many of those who follow the case of The Zodiac Killer will make a special pilgrimage to Zodiac Island at Lake Berryessa, the scene of the attack. This attack represents something significant and because it is so exotic it has come to symbolize ZODIAC and to imply some arcane reason for the murders– thus it may be a clue.
Pilgrims will gather at 6:30 p.m., the time of the attack. They will remember Cecelia Shepard with a moment of silence. Then they will follow the ZODIAC’s trail up the hill to where he parked on the road. Then they will pile in cars and follow his route into Napa, to where he called the police and confessed to the crime. Then they will go out to dinner and discuss the case.
Let’s look at this in pictures.