HorrorScope: “This is the ZODIAC Speaking”– Foreword

As it stands today, this is the newer, shorter introduction to HorrorScope— the foreword entitled “This is the Zodiac Speaking.” By yours truly, Gian J. Quasar.

 

Civilization had never seen such a thing before. The fabric of American society was viewed as coming apart. National curiosity was now dissolving into national disdain and even national jitters. A counterculture within the younger generation was spreading like a contagion. They cast off the conformity of the “establishment” to become dropouts, long-haired hippies, anti-war flower children and radical student yippies. San Francisco was the center. An elegant society tiptoed around the psychedelic flamboyance of peace, love, and drugs, wondering when this unnerving fad was going to ebb. Yet a year and a half after the momentous Summer of Love there was no end in sight. The river of youth had become a torrent, entering the city’s tenderloin and parks to reside in “Love-ins,” to adorn themselves in symbols, tie-dye, Indian feathers, to smoke hashish, and to hear the preaching of the Age of Aquarius.

There could be nothing more at a contrast to this mixture of giddy colors and staid culture, diamond tiaras, minks, and daisies behind the ear, than a midnight, lonely rural road near Vallejo, a utilitarian city across the bay. Shots rang out. Gun powder flashed. Two teenagers lay dead, a boy and a girl.

Now in December 1968 the mainstream youth still looked like their parents— clean cut guys with thick-rimmed glasses, and gals with elaborate coiffured hairdos. They still necked at petting spots. This was an accepted “taboo.” Lovers’ lanes were still unofficially designated. These were the victims. The victims were John and Jane Q. Citizen, not tunic wearing gurus and licentious members of “Love-ins.” Kids at a petting spot on a backroad. Here the terror began. Like a drop that starts a ripple, it began here in this drab, unlikely place and grew wider and wider until it sent San Francisco and the metropolitan Bay Area into a panic.

For 7 months the killer did nothing. He was fomenting his game. Then he killed again in the summer of ’69. Like a pompous comic strip villain he now proclaimed himself to the world:

 

This is the Zodiac Speaking

 

From this point forward this mysterious and egotistical villain made a very public game out of murder. Indeed he made such a success out of it that despite the fact his murders were, to be frank, largely unimaginative and clumsy he is the second most famous serial killer in world history, ranking only behind London’s Jack the Ripper.

Fame in this case is based on his arrogance, not on ingenuity as in the case of the Ripper. The Zodiac was essentially a drive-by shooter. He stalked late night couples at rural lovers’ lanes, and from behind the bright splatter of a flashlight he fired away at his surprised victims. This bland truth does not diminish the evil that was Zodiac. On the contrary, it confirms his arrogance. The truth is he need only remain essentially a drive-by shooter because his victims were important to him only insofar as they were another ante in his game of death. So much was boasting important that from the bloodied, impromptu scenes of death he hurried to confess to police operators or to his dark lair to scribble his bragging letters and set in motion his publicity campaign. The portrait of arrogance is that of a pudgy little man sniggering over his poison pen letters while his TV screen flickered with images of pall bearers carrying out his victims to the hearse. The truth is that of a strange outcast who was so egotistical he was not only indifferent to the lives of others he was also completely untouched by the great events of his time.

Man’s first step on the moon, the Manson murders, the antiestablishment movement— nothing contemporary found place in his writings. Only once did he make reference to current events, and this was so his tongue-in-cheek humor could dovetail on it. Peace symbols were popular, he said; others wore “black power” or “Melvin eats bluber.” He wanted to see the Bay Area wear his Zodiac buttons. It would cheer him up and this would keep him from killing again. “Please no nasty ones like melvin’s. Thank you.”

History has shown us that in 1969 network news would be at its apogee. Whether this phantom killer’s publicity campaign of murder is a reflection of the times or inspired because of the massive stage news could give, his threats of a “killing rampage” rode the crest of a popular wave the likes of which was never to be seen again.

The colorful antiestablishment movement was part of the reason network news scored so high in American homes. Racial tensions in the nation, anti-war protests, and the latest news on the war in Vietnam were other factors. The moonshot had long been promised and in the summer of 1969 it would be fulfilled. Political assassinations had drawn Americans to the TV. It had only been 6 years since President Kennedy had been assassinated, 4 years since Malcolm X had been brutally gunned down, less than 2 years since Martin Luther King Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations. News was really happening, and it was news that had mattered. It was news at hand.

When the San Francisco Bay Area newspapers warned a psychotic killer was afoot, the killer had a guaranteed large audience. He made sure of it. The newspapers headlined with intriguing cryptograms. Nothing excites our imaginations more than a puzzle. Under threat of a metropolitan wide “killing rampage,” this drive-by shooter manipulated the newspapers to print his ciphers of code symbols. He taunted police that his identity was concealed therein, and he enticed the public to uncover where he’d strike next. A metropolitan area sat down to try and figure it out. When the cipher was finally decoded, all and sundry read the gleeful but simple syntax: “I like killing people because it is so much fun.” Jubilation at murder wasn’t his only motive. This killer rejoiced over the fact his victims would be his slaves in his afterlife, thereby invoking some primitive, arcane religion that seemed inspired by the esoteric mysticism of the disturbing hippie movement.

Playing upon the fears of the time may have been his motive, but by writing letter after letter he was needlessly taking risks, potentially giving clues that could lead to his capture. None of this was necessary to cover his identity. Indeed, its only purpose seemed the creation of his alter ego “The Zodiac.” For years he kept the Bay Area in suspense with his threats. “Be sure to print this part . . . or I’ll do my thing”— the threat not of a mystical maniac wanting more reincarnated slaves but paradoxically that of a cheap gunsel extorting fear.

Such contradictions, red herrings, and false clues would pepper his crime spree, making it impossible to figure out the heads or tails of his actual motive. One thing can be figured about him— that alter ego he created in print came to possess him in real life. For his only slaying in daytime he hid his face under a sinister black hood. It hung down incongruously over his shabby appearance and thereon was neatly sewn the symbol of the celestial Zodiac. Since the victims were by no means meant to survive (one was stabbed 6 times, the other 21), we were never to know he had dressed like this. But one of them survived to give us the account. Obviously, this outfit meant something purely to him. The Zodiac’s crime spree was clearly a bit more complex than merely a means to publicity.

The Zodiac’s murder spree lasted for only a short time, but his love for terror (or for his alter ego) kept him writing these poison pen letters, claiming more and more victims. Each new letter he sent was introduced as an oracle: “This is the Zodiac Speaking.” Each was sluiced with sarcasm, and with his dark humor each in its way was a sinister chuckle. Each in turn was signed by the symbol of the celestial Zodiac— a circle with a crosshair through it. It looked little different from a gunsight, and the double meaning was no doubt intended. Then he played the ultimate hand in his game. He vanished. To this day the San Francisco Bay Area has never forgotten, and the most bragged about murders in history remain unsolved.

 

    Insert Zodiac symbol.

 

This is The Zodiac Killer. He is inexorably linked with the summer and tumultuous autumn of 1969, but his legacy is decades of anxiety that he’d return, decades of frustration that a killer escaped justice; not just a killer, but the most boastful, haughty killer in the annals of crime. “The police shall never catch me,” he boasted in one letter, “because I have been too clever for them.” He won. He got away. The faded ink of his bragging rubs this fact into our face even today.

Sadly, this has been the truth of the last 48 years. Zodiac not only escaped, he covered his trail beyond even his wildest dreams. Whether he intended it or not, his game evolved so inconsistently that he covered his trail effectively. One thing, however, has covered his trail more than anything. Despite only having attacked 7 and killed 5, Zodiac succeeded in creating a personality cult of crime far more successfully than he ever could have hoped or have even foreseen. In this folklore he is a worldwide arch villain who has never stopped killing.

Professional and amateur detectives alike have arisen to pursue Zodiac long after he bid farewell. None could believe that one who had sought and cultivated so much media attention could merely quit. The Zodiac therefore became a potential suspect in many other murders thereafter. The Zodiac had encouraged this himself by saying he was privatizing his game of murder and would make his victims look like they fell victim to accidents. The legend bought into it.

Part of the folklore of the master criminal Zodiac has proposed that if all the unsolved murders over the USA dating from the late 1960s to today were connected by an imaginary line they would form a giant Z— proof that the astrological assassin continued his crime spree in secret and killed his victims according to locations where he could create his astrological symbol.

Amateur detectives have examined his undeciphered cryptograms and poison pen pal letters with a metaphoric zeal usually devoted only to Biblical exegesis; each sure that the fateful clue to his goading, infamous identity lay therein. Mathematics has been done to try and find a code or sequence in the ciphers that would finger the culprit. Others have put together all the misplaced letters in the misspelled words in Zodiac’s nasty missives, trying to see if the misplaced letters would together form a coherent sentence or confession.

An entire subculture has developed, little different than the fans of a serial comic strip, who live each day as if it and they are integral in the continuing saga of the nefarious arch killer The Zodiac. In this franchise, college professors have been accused. Ted Bundy and Ted Kascinski seem perpetually suspected of every crime. Poor Leigh Allen reveled in the limelight over the years he was suspected. When he died in 1992 it even merited national news, billed as the passing of the man suspected of having been “The infamous Zodiac.” Cranks have offered relatives and old friends as suspects. Others have insisted on elaborate conspiracy theories. Those who were 50 years old at the time— doctors, car dealers and winos— have been accused in their 80s and 90s and in one case even DNA tested. None of these suspects were ever anchored to the Zodiac crimes by the actual evidence.

We are now on the cusp of history, that point where the crime spree will soon be beyond the reach of satisfactory solution, buried in time, that substance we cannot dig out of the way. It will take its place with Jack the Ripper and become a topic of suspects and folklore rather than actual investigation. Right now is our last chance to solve it, to place in order the facts and follow them through to the villain himself.

The truth is out there, though tenuous to extract. Those who view the killer only through his letters and cryptograms see the evil genius. Those who see him only through the crime scenes view him as a spontaneous thrill killer. As always the truth lies in between. Zodiac was a dichotomous mixture of bungling perpetration and cerebral game playing, the latter seen in how he remained so consciously behind the alter ego he created that, amazingly, little was ever discovered of this villain. Enough was pieced together, however, to draw the portrait of an odd, festering but highly clever misfit.

In 1969, in appearance there was still a stark difference between the mainstream and the counterculture. Guys still wore their tight, sleek slacks, button-down collar shirts, short hair parted and combed to one side. Gals wore some elaborate hairstyle, often like their mother. Miniskirts came “in” in 1966 and were still “in” in 1968-’69. Guys wore thick-rimmed glasses; gals cat-eyes. If you were the mainstream you looked like the above; if you were a hippie you looked “way out.”

Yet the Zodiac was neither. In age he was unquestionably between 25 and 30 years old— a difficult age to categorize. He was too young to be the establishment; too old to be the counterculture. Nevertheless, even for 1969 he was, for one of his age, a strange amalgam. His hair was stylized, a fashion that went out in the early ’60s. He wore baggy, pleated wool dress pants— the norm for the mid-1950s. He mixed this obsolete formality with a touch of current and casual— a thin cotton windbreaker. Strangely, he then added more incongruity by wearing high rim Air Force Wing Walker shoes, standard issue for cadets at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was under 6 foot tall but a heavy 225 pounds— chunky like a gorilla, a big face with high cheekbones.

It took quite a bit just to assemble this much information, and the final mosaic wasn’t in place until the crime spree was over. Other than the carnage he left behind, we have no other clue to his character than the ego he created in print.

It would be unwise, however, to judge Zodiac based on his awkward appearance and his clumsy MO. There was a cerebral quality to Zodiac that is belied by his sloppy modus operandi and it extended far beyond his gloating letters. For all of his uncouth look, for all of his amateurish execution, somehow, equally mysterious, that frumpy gorilla neatly managed to melt into the very different background of mainstream life and evade an enormous dragnet.

In fact, as this volume unfolds, the reader will discover that Zodiac devoted enormous time and effort to carry off what appeared to be very spontaneous crimes. Zodiac lived and killed to create his alter ego. He is, in fact, one of the few serial killers to ever give himself his own handle. It doesn’t reflect police categorizing or witty press sensationalism. It reflects his own megalomania as the celestial controller, the master of the game of fate.

What ultimately was Zodiac’s game?

The need to expose this killer is enormous. It is not for the narrow piety to bring closure to the victims’ families. Nor is it simply for the sake of closing the book on a case of crime. The ‘Zodiac’ Killer played a game with the public. He did not murder to merely give himself a thrill. The victims were a means to an end to glorify this frumpy gorilla’s much more imaginative alter ego. Such a braggart is unique in the annals of crime. He threw the gauntlet down and forced society to play his terror game. This gauntlet, as all gauntlets, must eventually be picked up and slapped in his face, even if that face is only the reputation of a long passed and seemingly respected citizen.

I picked up that gauntlet. It is not boastful to say so. Many have done so, and it has come my turn. I have little interest in criminology, but investigative method is investigative method, whether the object is a truth of science or the identity of a serial killer, whether it is in the hand of a criminalist, journalist, or biologist. I enjoy pursing mystery and solving mystery; and the identity of the Zodiac is one of the greatest mysteries in true crime.

What I have added to cold case is my approach. I treat a cold case like a hot case. I completely reinvestigate the crimes as though they just happened. In essence, I start all over. I visit the crime scenes. I examine the evidence and, more importantly, I look for clues. Contrary to what may be public perception, cold case is mostly processing, comparing any information that comes in to a few pieces of evidence distilled and preserved by the original investigators, evidence that is considered conclusive to identify the killer or exonerate an innocent man.

By reinvestigating from the very beginning, I plunge both myself and the reader back to a volatile and colorful era. The crimes and times shall unravel before us. Context is everything. Within context lie the clues, and often clues are more important than evidence, for upon investigation clues lead to evidence, and new clues lead to new evidence. And this case needs new evidence. Zodiac, in fact, made mistakes in his letters, and he made mistakes within the context of his crimes. Only by ignoring 40 years of folklore could these be uncovered again. Only by reliving the crimes and times of the Zodiac could that one kernel be uncovered that leads to the identity of this cerebral braggart.

This is the complete chronicle of The Zodiac Killer crime spree. This is not an anodyne compilation of the history of The Zodiac Killer and of those events, sometimes decades later, engineered by people who have attempted to write themselves into it, together the above amounting to little more than a journal of urban folklore. This is the investigative thesis that vividly recreates the crimes and seasons of the Zodiac, and that leads to the outing of the man behind the mask, the killer behind the pompous preamble “This is the Zodiac Speaking.”

In this volume I will deliver the body of the Zodiac. But it takes more to get at the soul— why he killed and why he stopped. Was he a reluctant killer? Was the terror campaign a ruse to cover some other motive? Were the deaths necessary in some greater scheme or ritual? The questions may not seem as important after the killer’s hood is removed. To unmask the Zodiac is to reveal more than the soul of the killer. It is to isolate the pudgy, insecure madman from the pomp of his publicity. This will destroy his evil soul. The result is an empty hood devoid of any substance of the theatrical master controller that he created from dark shadows. It leaves us with his true image, the one he drew for himself in the cowardly barbarity of his crimes.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

The ZODIAC– Final edit on HorrorScope

An except from part of Chapter 1 of HorrorScope— “The Sign of the Crimes” by Gian J. Quasar. I set the in place the times and seasons. . .

 

History moved on. Events came and went. The clock ticks slowly and we come forward. The Summer of Love was long over by the end of 1968.

Rural East Bay area hamlets were still mainstream. Hippies weren’t in large numbers here. Though they had been exiting the Haight for country communing and impromptu ashrams, Vallejo, an industrial, shipbuilding town was not an expected destination for them. Some of the locals may have begun to morph, but it was only appearances. These were known as “hippie types” because their hair was sprouting or they had a peace symbol necklace or some such other paraphernalia that middleclass youth adapted as fashionable. The average youth still looked like pre-antiestablishment teens. Guys had short hair. Their slacks were nicely fitting, their shirts had button-down collars. Some had long sideburns. Some had Beatle haircuts. Elaborate coiffures adorned mainstream gals; cat-eye glasses, miniskirts of bright colors— the full monty of 1966 was still vogue in 1968.

The Haight was only an hour away, if that, and Vallejo teens could sample the “far out” when they wanted. But pure hippie veneer was still too extreme for the mainstream, especially for high school kids with their sense of peer pressure. High schools forbade the extreme looks anyway. PTAs would not bend. Yet the new morality could be sampled behind any veneer. It didn’t require morphing into a hippie. Pot was smoked. Sex was free. Both could be sampled easiest at the lovers’ lanes.

vallejo-map-GJQ

Columbus Parkway was a significant northeast Bay Area road, even if your average metropolitan Bay Area resident didn’t know it. It was the first exit off Highway 80, the main highway coming to the Bay Area from Sacramento. It was just before Vallejo. It skirted the town by wending along the grassy foothills. But it wasn’t a dead end country road. It connected with Lake Herman Road. This was also a main country road. It connected this rural area with Highway 680 to the east of Vallejo. Coincidently, Lake Herman Road was likewise the first cutoff coming from Sacramento on Highway 680, on the outskirts of Benicia. These two highways formed a huge fork around Vallejo and Benicia, each coming from Sacramento to the Bay Area. They came together again at Highway 780 along the Carquinez Strait. Short of 780, these backroads were the quickest and easiest ways between these two highways.

Easy access made these roads perfect for lovers’ lanes; remote at night, dark, with turnouts and entrances to unattended ranchland in the rolling hills. Paradoxically, despite the convenience these roads offered they were not heavily trafficked. Most traffic along Lake Herman Road went to Lake Herman and the recreation areas. Most traffic on Columbus Parkway was for going to Blue Rock Springs Park or to the new golf course. This was Vallejo’s famous and beautiful country park situated in the foothills. While locals more than metros knew how these roads connected, tens of thousands who used the lake or visited the parkland would have learned over time how they were a major convenience.

From the peak of Lake Herman Road, at night, the only light was the distant and the bloodless halogen lights of the new Humble Oil Refinery on the outskirts of Benicia. They gave a faint indigo glow to the inky veil hanging over the Carquinez Strait. During the daytime this veil was a thin, milky haze, turning the silhouette of Mount Diablo far to the south into a transparent shade. Devil’s Mountain was like the island volcano rising high from the jungles. Every mountain range in the Contra Costa corridor cringed at its feet. Mt. Diablo was visible from every angle of the Bay Area, from San Francisco across the bay, looming over the Berkeley Hills as they genuflected on their knees before it. A particularly nice vantage point is at the end of Lake Herman Road, where it meets Highway 680. Here a special viewing area exists.

I do not belabor these points without reason. This area is indeed an integral part of the sign of the crimes. Not only was a time and season in history being assaulted, so was a place . . . but most of all a type of victim.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

The ZODIAC’s Subtle Connections

Since 2012 I have been fairly convinced that my suspect was The ZODIAC. Over that period of time, though I was waylaid by my EAR/ONS investigation, I have refined the suspect’s qualifications to be the infamous braggart, The ‘Zodiac’ Killer. I then went straight for handwriting comparisons.

Little things emerged from the shadows. They infer. Like all inferences worth anything they point us toward the next step. They are not an end in themselves. Some of the most interesting facts are within the group of people he was around. It is not surprising clues are contained here. Had they been overt in ZODIAC’s life he would have stood out more as a suspect. The fact that such a publicized crime spree has gone unsolved tell us, of course, that it was in and of itself quite complex behind-the-scenes.

For example: victim Darlene Ferrin seems to have been a carbon copy in many respects of his own mother.  By the time she was 45, she had one son (illegitimate; him obviously) had been married 3 times, divorced once, the other died within weeks of the marriage, married a third, though still using her first husband’s surname on the license rather than the name of her second and quickly-dead husband’s surname. Considering that she had met her second, short-lived husband through her first husband, then he ends up dead after a secret marriage in Missouri, it is not surprising that she fled Kansas society with her teenage son.  To San Francisco she came. She soon married a draftsman in Nevada.

By the time her son, the object of my interest, went to college, he had been raised around Air Force and aircraft, then as a teen, saw the complexities of a draftsman’s work– the inks and pens used, the paper, the slant of the draftsman’s board. After a somewhat disappointing Air Force career was cut short,  he returned to a San Francisco his mother had now left. He didn’t stay long. The Summer of Love was in full swing and it was not a San Fran he would know. It was a promiscuous, bizarre place. Lake_Berryessa_Suspec sketch

He moved east, but he still needed to drive through the east bay area in order to visit momma. This marriage wouldn’t last. She would eventually divorce yet again and  marry another. Where she met them, I do not know. She was a beautician. She had been that since she was a teen. She never wanted another kid, and her son was a bit of a surprise. The father was a doctor’s son, and it seems she wasn’t from the right side of the tracks for the doctor’s family.

Such clues are indeed curious.

Her husband during her San Francisco sojourn had been a draftsman for the steel companies. He worked on drafting east bay projects, and for all I know he may have been involved in the new Humble Oil Refinery in Benicia. If so, he would have been drafting all the piping. How many times he visited the area while it was under construction I do not know, if any. But it is another possible connection with the area and ZODIAC. He also liked to hunt in the foothills.

Such things lead me on in a difficult case. A solution for such a case cannot be so simplistic as “daddy did it.” ZODIAC altered his handwriting. He took care to hide clues, but the sum total of research on my suspect reveals many sources for inspiration– for his poison pen paper, sketches of bombs, locations of attacks, and perhaps even a motive for vengefully killing the female victims but quickly dispatching the male victims. Perhaps also for why he shifted his MO and attacked only a lone male cab driver in San Francisco.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

Vallejo Today– ZODIAC Sites

I had a reason to be in Vallejo a couple of days ago and decided to stop by a couple of the ZODIAC sites to see how they stand today. Lots of tree trimming going on Lake Herman Road. The turnout is basically being used as a dump. The old “No trespassing” sign with the Zodiac symbol painted on it by some enthusiast has been replaced by a new one with no symbol (yet) painted thereon.

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To me this isn’t a big deal. There are Jack the Ripper tours in London to this day. If someone wants to mark a famous attack spot in one of the most documented crime sprees in American history, that’s the way of it. It reminds me of the kids in The Great Race scribbling on Professor Fate’s gate: “Fate Loves Fate.” There’s always going to be pranksters. You can’t put a fig leaf on a statue and say something isn’t there.  The famous cases are unsolved and they need to be remembered.

What happened on Lake Herman Road on December 20, 1968, happened. You cannot condemn  people even for their most impeccable attributes– curiosity. The Zodiac Killer crimes were mentally intriguing, and his boasting provocative. It has inspired more than one generation to hunt him. History has happened here, and history isn’t always nice. But this is what happened and this is where it happened.

Columbus Parkway is a nightmare of traffic. It bears little resemblance to back in 1969, but the park is still relatively quiet. It has certainly lost its rustic atmosphere.

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I was in Vallejo for another reason, and the hopes I can find the strike point of NorCal Rapist. But no luck as yet. Many more cases need probing into. Let’s hope they do not go unsolved and come to symbolized diabolical mystery and the ingenuity of dark minds.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

The ZODIAC Step=by=Step

In order for me to nail my guy as the Zodiac Killer it is not necessary to put back together every aspect of his life, but tracing his rather strange stepfather may help to explain Steve’s visits to the Bay Area. His mother at this time had remarried yet again and was no longer living in the Bay Area. Though they had long been divorced, his stepfather had remained in the Bay Area working as an mechanical engineer at an aircraft plant. He would eventually return to Kansas by 1970.

The stepfather was a shy, quiet man. He never remarried after Steve’s mother left and divorced him. He never had children. He never had celebrated a holiday in his life– not even the 4th of July. This is the man who had raised Steve and gave him his surname. Steve must have celebrated it by 1969, if only in the military. But that I do not know.

On July 4, 1969, Steve was not in a position to celebrate the 4th with his family, and his quiet stepfather might have been in Kansas with his ailing father. This perhaps leaves an east bay apartment unattended, and Steve might, just might have dutifully checked on his stepfather’s mail once in a while.

There is also Steve’s mother’s new husband. It is necessary to check on the properties he held in the east Bay Area.

Again, none of this is necessary to dryly expose ZODIAC– but it helps to explain how someone an hour away from the Bay Area continued to visit the places he had once known so well. The Zodiac Killer had slipped through the dragnet, and this is probably why. His lair was far removed from his killing fields, and the police didn’t suspect a visiting killer.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

Q-True Crime Agenda– 2017

I try and convey some of my most controversial points subtly, in a round about way. It saves us all grief should something turn out amiss in one’s future predictions, or if a deduction was minus a significant fact that mitigates it.

So much has been claimed on the web. It’s an unfiltered forum and many with great conviction have come forward to reveal, sadly, great error in their deductions. We need only recall the dogma asserted against a particular car dealer being the ZODIAC. Error is innocent, so there is no need to mock.  But it is true that most of the glaring error in naming suspects has been avoidable error.

Despite writing a book on the ZODIAC Killer, which is now except for the last chapter finished, I devoted a lot of web space to my real life investigation, including putting back the crime scenes as they had been. Lots of traveling was involved, lots of photography. In fact, I developed a love for photography. It was necessary that the ground floor be re-laid in ZODIAC because of the decades of folklore that had come to change it all.

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For EAR/ONS it was necessary to reveal the ground floor so that now, as it stands at the brink of worldwide popularity, it could not be built upon by folklore.

My agenda, however, has ben a real one, and I have revealed it before. I have three targets in my sight– ZODIAC, EAR/ONS, D.B. Cooper. Each is to be solved unequivocally. My investigation will solve them or contribute significantly to absolute solution. Despite the nobility of that comment I intend to solve them.

I don’t like people who do not have a competitive spirit. So long as they don’t undermine another (that’s not really competition), competition is a healthy motivation. Out stride another. Better oneself. Progress.

You can’t get into a major university without showing the necessary enthusiasm.  Some detective proclaiming how dispassionate he is is not going to accomplish squat. Enthusiasm makes the lightbulb come on. Routine processing does not.

But the lightbulb must come on based on knowledge. For example, 50 year olds were never viable for being ZODIAC. He had a young voice and was described as between 25 and 30.

I proceed along the evidence, and even more importantly, along the clues. I’ve said it many times– clues are everything. When investigated they lead to evidence.

True crime buffs read me with a filter. They tune out dogma because publishing has so destroyed the credibility of the genre with its S&M rubbish of “solved” books by authors who reveal a lack of knowledge on the specific crimes of which they are solving and show more a desire to blame “daddy.”

Haight-Ashbury-Quasar

Cold case makes one go back and study the history of the time. History sharpens investigative skill. Context is everything. History is not processed. It is investigated. It is uncovered. Context is discovered. Historians should tackle cold cases far more often. I think I’m the only one.  ZODIAC’s era was an exotic one.

As it stands now, in 2017 I can say with great certainty the ZODIAC Killer case will be solved. For 4 years I have tracked my suspect, and I can finally say it is time to finish it. How soon thereafter will a solution to EAR/ONS come? That I am not so sure. D.B. Cooper is a little stickier, but in 2017, free of ZODIAC, and having reduce the pursuit of EAR/ONS to knocking off or confirming one of three, I will have more time to follow the trail of a Portlander from a Canadian background. There will be more on that soon.

But ZODIAC tumbles first. Let us talk more about Steve “Beard” or Steve Wilcox in the next post. I know I am putting myself out there where I don’t want to be, but several things have to be said to distance him and the method via which I came to him than all those that have been blithely promoted as ZODIAC over the decades. He ain’t daddy. He wasn’t entirely the unsuspected. But he was the in-investigated. He was only processed. I found more. Lots more.

Embarcadero freeway

*         *          *

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.

The ZODIAC– First Analysis in HorrorScope.

Outtake from Chapter 9 of HorrorScope— “ZODIAC”– by Gian J. Quasar.  This is the first analytical chapter in the book. I take the reader through the entire crime spree chronologically in the book, so it is necessary to develop and present as I go, as if you are reliving it. This chapter follows the Lake Berryessa account because this is the first time we have a face and can discuss enough evidence that relates to ZODIAC.

 

Up until this point the Zodiac’s crimes looked spontaneous, even sloppy, the MO of a random drive-by shooter. Only in print had he invoked some highly dubious cult fringe benefit. From the looks of his victims, his claims didn’t have to be taken seriously unless he wanted nothing but teenyboppers in the afterlife. And Napa’s sketch supported Vallejo’s witness sighting. This was no hippie gone bad. He was a lovers’ lane killer, a vengeful or gutless thrill seeker . . . but now this. Now this strange hood.

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Lake Berryessa was not convenient and the attack was not spontaneous. Zodiac had labored on creating a hood to shield his face, which means he intended a daylight attack. He took the unnecessary risk of walking ¼ of a mile from where he had parked. He could have gone to a lovers’ lane and shot another couple. But he didn’t. He seems to have intended knifing a couple, and this required a remote location and distance from a road where he could spend sufficient time to bind them. This was not possible by a drive-by lovers’ lane at night. Yet there aren’t many places where he could have found daytime victims. Parks are out of the question. It would take a remote but not so remote recreation area. It is this fact that makes the attack at Lake Berryessa an enormous clue.

Of all the vacation lakes it is only Lake Berryessa that was the best for an extended attack away from a road. More importantly, it is the only one where one could find young couples. Students— couples— came from Angwin. How many can we place there that day?— Brian, Celia, Wayne, Denise, John, Helen, the three coeds. Attacking here not only argues for a sinister premeditation or need to knife a couple, but it reveals a necessity to knife a young couple.

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The crime scene at Lake Berryessa, as seen from McKenzie Point in 2012.

Stalking Knoxville Road is not going to tell anybody that on a given day they are assured of coming across a young couple. A one-time fishing trip isn’t going to reveal this either. The young, heavyset man had protracted knowledge of the area. This is not surprising. One consistent thing ran through the Zodiac’s MO so far. He had quite an acquaintance with rural areas, a knowledge that could only have come over a period of time. He knew on a given day he would be assured of coming across a young couple here.

When his authorship of the Lake Herman Road murders was questioned by Jack Stiltz, he quickly responded bragging how he had cleverly affixed a pencil flashlight to his pistol and in that way just sprayed down Jensen like using a hose.

This little bit of gratuitous bragging subtly betrays Zodiac’s longstanding connection to rural areas, more so than his MO. It is one thing to stream a circle of light across one’s ceiling and walls and see the dark dot that represents the gunsight. It is an entirely different matter to think this is going to work in real life. It requires putting it into action. Zodiac would need rural land somewhere, accessible by night, where he could test it and fine tune his gunsight. It would not be a leap of faith to say he knew some of these backroads because he had access to land somewhere nearby or frequently hunted. He knew the petting spots; for some reason he knew those Vallejo backroads. His MO at Lake Herman Road required someone with enough time alone at night and some piece of rural land somewhere in the vicinity to test his “invention.”

Lake Berryessa and Lake Herman Road come together to reveal that the sloppy, spontaneous Zodiac was actually far more cerebral in his preparations than his drive-by shooting would suggest. The pencil flashlight shows he came to the dark Lake Herman Road that night fully prepared to kill a couple. The preparations for his attack at Lake Berryessa cannot be denied.

Combined with this exoticism of his outfit there remained the demented thrill seeker’s way of needlessly confessing to the police.

The confession calls compared:

 

Vallejo                                   Napa

I want to report a double          I want to report a murder;

murder. If you will go               no, a double murder.

one mile east on                      They are two miles north

Columbus Parkway to the          of park headquarters.

public park you will find             They were in a white

the kids in a brown car.               Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

They were shot with a                   I’m the one who did it.

nine millimeter luger. I

also killed those kids last

year. Goodbye.

 

The calls reveal how Zodiac chose his words carefully. In contrast to the letter confessions, Zodiac never begins the call with “I just killed” likely because he feared that the operator could possibly start a recorder. Instead Zodiac reports the basics and then in his last line confesses to having committed the crime. The young voice with the demented thrill motive had a careful mind. But from the point of view of someone simply wanting to “collect slaves,” why was this necessary?

The portrait drawn is a confusing one: a young man, not unhandsome, but dresses obsolete. He murders hastily. He confesses over the phone in order to get the law to the crime scene. Then he brags in print and invokes some arcane cult motive. It couldn’t all be a ruse or he wouldn’t have designed that hood.

Ephemeral to this portrait is his car. Thanks to the coeds’ details about the late model Chevrolet it is possible to identify it as a 1966 or 1967 Impala. This was indeed not a car for a young man. Therefore it is possible he drove a car, a new car, he did not own. Like his clothes, it seemed suited to an older man. Was the brown car (Corvair?) used for the Blue Rocks Springs Park attack his own car? What about the mid-sized car with “no chrome” seen by James Owen in the turnout on Lake Herman Road?

67Chevroletimpalaskyblue
Chevy Impala

 

Cars were certainly a clue. It was clear that Zodiac didn’t mind driving distances and had the time to do so. Lake Berryessa is far from any real settlement. Then he drove 45 minutes to Napa, a direction which indicates he was headed back to the Bay Area or Vallejo. Yet he mailed his letters from San Francisco, which is about 45 minutes from Vallejo where he had begun his crime spree.

When combined with the Zodiac’s modus operandi, the bland face on the composite tells us a few things. He was not a hippie or crazed looking cultist. His obsolescent look might not have even been too significant. After all, this was a rustic lake. But the sinister black hood is frightening. Put together, one thing is written clearly: his symbol and name had come to mean something important to him. One cannot say that his alter ego was only one on paper. Nor was he a man who had found killing just as thrilling as he had written in his simple syntax.

Zodiac was evolving before us. He went from being a heavyset, plain looking man who didn’t take credit for his killings, to one who then did both by phone and then by letters and an elaborate cipher, then to becoming that alter ego in real life.

*         *          *

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.