A sneak peak at the first couple of pages of Chapter 15 –“Titwillo”– from HorrorScope. Still in the rough, but let’s see. . .
Now I feel just as sure as I’m sure that my name
Isn’t Willow, titwillow, titwillow,
That ’twas blighted affection that made him exclaim
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow”
It didn’t take long for Zodiac to fade away. His little epilogue in January 1974 really wasn’t much. For almost 5 years he had proved himself nothing but a sporadic and empty braggart. This was 5 years in which society had undergone a huge change in which the Zodiac’s crimes had paled by comparison. The Kodachrome flamboyance of the late 1960s may have gasped at a grandstanding predator haunting lovers’ lanes, but the dim, trash strewn reality of urban decay was to see militant groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army and the bizarre Zebra Killings. San Francisco had been the center of the latter, a crime spree which seemed to come from the pages of Kipling and the deadly Thuggee uprising in the name of Kali. The entire Bay Area was affected by the SLA, who had kidnapped Patty Hearst from Berkeley.
Worst of all, of course, was the fear that these crime sprees could only be vanguards for more urban guerilla uprisings or cult gang murders. Mindset was fueled by anxiety now, and “What’s next?” was the attitude. Altogether the Zodiac, that pudgy braggart who boasted of shooting unarmed teens at petting spots, was relegated to a dated past, and his boasting letters to an archive drawer at SFPD, one of the 9 filing cabinet drawers where Dave Toschi kept everything.
Weeds were waist high in public sidewalks now. White Flight had occurred. Winos walked in fashionable business centers. Post Modern skyscrapers were artless glass boxes whose shadows plunged the classic old downtown buildings into cold obsolescence. Fashion seemed a thing of the past. Unkempt was the hairstyle, long and “casual.” Hip huggers showed too much. What kind of fashion was “afros”? Morality was in the tank. Disco seemed lewd. The new lingo included ‘fuzz,’ ‘foxy,’ and ‘far out.’
Society, as a result, had become overwhelming nostalgic about “How sweet it was” before the counterculture movement of the late 1960s, and the drug, crime infested culture that followed. Movies may have continued to churn out the “dystopia” genre showing a negative post nuclear holocaust future, but TV with its stricter censorship rules found success in catering to the nostalgia. Happy Days, which aired only 2 weeks before Zodiac’s final “Exorcist Letter,” was a tremendous hit, joining The Waltons as the primetime favorites.
The social activist stuff like Room 222 was already fading from the channels. The mainstream was adapting the counterculture attitude only in terms of lifestyle, wanting a much freer social environment but not the constant tambourine beating of philosophy.
Newsmen are like drama critics. They hate a good performance. It makes them struggle to write their reviews. News concentrated on all the bad, but there were sordid things they didn’t think their middleclass audience was ready for. For San Francisco, there was little coverage about a pimp butchering drag queens in the Tenderloin, and the bizarre case of The Doodler was largely swept under the news carpet.
The Doodler Murders were especially sordid. The Black Doodler, as he was also called, was an artistic young black man, probably from nearby George Washington High School, who went into the late night bars of The Castro, the district which was now becoming the center of San Francisco’s nighttime gay culture. He came in with his sketchpad handy, and with this and his charming manner he captivated patrons. He also ingratiated himself. He drew caricatures of them, and at one point some offer was made and they left the bar. Next time the patron would be seen he would be carved up in Golden Gate Park or at Ocean Beach. On more than one occasion the patron survived, with or without slash wounds from The Doodler’s formidable butcher’s knife.
Because there had been survivors, The Doodler was easily identifiable, as you might imagine. However, the three survivors were of prominent positions. One was a “European diplomat,” the other a “nationally known entertainer,” and the last of the three survivors was a “prominent local citizen.” Since these were pick-ups in gay bars, at night, and in such circumstances that they would be classified as “Dinge Queens,” none of the trio wished to admit to anything or any wrongdoing. The prominent citizen left for Texas, the entertainer couldn’t remember and refused to return, and the diplomat insisted no sex had occurred . . . before he went back to Europe.
The diplomat was probably right. There is no evidence from the circumstances that I could uncover to indicate that The Doodler was interested in any dalliance, shall we say. He seemed to want to kill his victims rather than indulge in any erotic interlude. They were found in such circumstances that indicated they were taken completely by surprise by their charming and talented sketch artist before anything had occurred. He either hated gays or . . . no one was really sure. But no charges were ever brought. Seven or 8 victims fell in slashing violence little different than the victims of Norman Bates in Psycho, but SFPD could never get enough information out of the survivors. The Doodler quit . . . and faded away.
The press never demanded any action. These were late night, sordid tenderloin murders. By contrast, the Zodiac had generated metropolitan wide news because he had attacked John and Jane Q. Citizen. The Doodler was a bizarre denizen of a very controversial district in town, and most of the news was covered only in underground gay magazines and newspapers.
In terms of publicity, all the other jurisdictions but San Francisco had long been out of the limelight. Zodiac’s letter writing had kept San Francisco as the center of attention and the center of his publicity campaign. This made the publicity dangerously disproportionate to the meager evidence SFPD had, but since an echo’s strength is dependent on the strength of the original sound it is not surprising San Francisco would always dominate the echo. As echoes also take a while to reverberate, and are only a pale reflection of the original sound, so was the era that was to follow.
* * *
Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.