January 6, 2021

“Dear Editor: I am the killer of the 2 teenagers last Christmas at Lake Herman,” wrote the Zodiac Killer to three San Francisco newspapers in 1969. As editors continued reading the letter, they read the gruesome details of the crime, which weren’t known by authorities at the time. This was a series of letters the Zodiac sent, all of them describe in depth how the murders were committed and poking fun at the police for their inability to solve it.


While it’s possible more have been committed by him, the Zodiac is attributed with four attacks. The first one being killing of the teenage couple David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were shot near their car near Lake Herman. Like a lot of killers, the attacks became more violent and sadistic as time lead on.


Then on August 1, 1969, letters began being sent to newspapers in the San Francisco area. They were also written with strange codes and symbols, further confusing the police as they realize they have to solve puzzles in order to solve murders. In fact, there was one that was written completely in code that people call the 340 Cipher.


340 Cipher (Unknown Source)

But in December of 2020, the Cipher was decoded by three private citizens who’ve dedicated part of their lives to solving it. Software developer in Virginia David Oranchak, applied mathematician in Australia Sam Blake, and computer programmer and warehouse operator in Jarl Van Eycke were credited — after using their team in the Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) — by the FBI for being the ones who deciphered it.


“Over the past 51 years, CRRU has reviewed numerous proposed solutions from the public–none of which had merit,” stated the FBI.


It took Oranchak 14 years to crack the code. He and Blake were able to discover 650,000 solutions to the cipher, which is when they consulted Van Eycke to run their results through his programs. It took a while until suddenly on Dec. 3 of this year, the words “trying to catch me” and “gas chamber” appeared. Two days later, the team submitted it to the FBI, and the rest is history. Another hit they got was the mentioning that a man who claimed to be the Zodiac was a fake.


As excited as he was, it was disappointing to see just how low the Zodiac stoops in these letters.


“The message in that decipher,” says Oranchak, “I don’t see it as being helpful to [victim’s families]… It’s just intended to hurt people and to make them afraid.”


This letter is only one of three ciphers, which Oranchak is skeptical about finding solutions to due to their short length. Though he does believe the 340 Cipher can possibly aid those looking to solve the other two.


There’s no doubt about that after one reads the letter, though unlike most of his previous letters, there’s grammar and spelling mistakes. If one were to look at previous letters, there’s scratched out words that indicate he wanted them spelled right and correct grammar with only a few instances where there’s a lack of periods. The 340 Cipher is odd in that paradise is spelled at “paradice” and there’s no periods or commas in sight. Another odd thing is unlike his other letters that are quick and to the point, there are confusing phrases, all of which could be read here:


“I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me that wasn’t me on the TV show which brings up a point about me I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradice all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me where everyone else has nothing when they reach paradice so they are afraid of death I am not afraid because I know that my new life is life will be an easy one in paradice death.”


I myself have some theories that the 340 Cipher has a deeper meaning if you consider the misspellings and lack of grammar. Give it a read and comment what you think!


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About the Writer
Erin Brody is a Writing and Publishing senior from West Homestead and is the Editor-in-Chief/Director of Operations of The SIREN Media Group. She particularly enjoys investigative journalism and crime... writing and researching it, of course.

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