Welcome to another monthly post of The Witching Hour! Today, we will be looking into some recent news in the crime community: the cracking of the Zodiac code. After over half a century of mystery and unanswered questions, the 340 Cipher has been translated. Let’s look at how it was deciphered and what it means in regard to the investigation.
The Zodiac killer is one of the most infamous serial killers in United States history, and he remains unknown. The Zodiac killer terrorized California in the late 1960s, attempting to murder seven individuals. Two of his attempted victims, Bryan Hartnell and Michael Mageau, survived their attacks. The other five; David Faraday, Betty Jensen, Darlene Ferrin, Cecelia Shepard, and Paul Stine, succumbed to their injuries. The Zodiac killer not only sought to physically attack people, but also to torment the police and public by sending letters to brag about his crimes. Several of these letters included codes and cyphers, including the 340 Cipher.
The 340 Cipher had remained unsolved for 51 years, until on December 11, 2020 news broke that a trio of codebreakers from around the world had cracked the code. The trio consisted of a Virginan software developer, a Belgian computer programmer, and an Australian mathematician. The software developer, David Oranchak, had been trying to decipher the code since 2006. Using a computer program, the trio attempted 650,000 different combinations until they were unable to find the phrase “gas chamber” in the list of characters. This fragment enabled them to reverse engineer the code. To break the code, the team even had to decode some of the puzzle by hand!
The cipher was a homophonic cipher, which counteracts any decryption by the frequency of letters by having multiple symbols represent a letter. The code was also not read in the typical left-to-right style of typical literature. Instead, it has to be read in a diagonal line, which made decoding it even more difficult. After thousands of ameature codebreakers and years of scriutinity, the cipher was finally cracked. The message reads as followed (including a misspelling of the word “paradise”, being fully written in capital letters, and no punctuation):
“I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME THAT WASNT 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”
The message makes references to several key notes of the investigation, including a caller who claimed to be the Zodiac on a television show. The writer also returns to a previous point made where the Zodiac believed that his murders would gain him slaves for the afterlife. While this mystery is solved, there still remains two unsolved ciphers. One of which is believed to contain the Zodiac killer’s name. However, the remaining two codes are short, making it difficult to solve with the wide array of possible phrases and words that they could be. Hopefully, time will also crack these ciphers.
Hope you enjoyed this breaking true crime news! Thanks for listening to the Witching Hour and make sure to stay updated by following us on instagram: @thewitchinghour.khdx!
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