Some chubby guy solved the Zodiac case maybe (UPDATE)

Senior Editor
07.28.11 21 Comments

After 41 years, someone has finally solved the case of the Zodiac killer, and as usual, it was a stubbly fat guy. Okay, he may not have really solved the case, but Corey Starliper thinks he cracked the previously-undeciphered code from a letter the Zodiac Killer sent to the San Francisco Chronicle, a letter which ends, according to Starliper, with the words “My name is Leigh Allen.” As in Arthur Leigh Allen, a Zodiac suspect who died in 1992. In the 2007 David Fincher movie, Zodiac, Allen was played by John Carroll Lynch.

After the decryption of the first code, Zodiac sent many more communications to law enforcement and the media, including his most famous: a 340-character cipher, mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle, according to To this day, the cipher has not been completely cracked.

According to Robert Graysmith, in “Zodiac”, [the book] tips received by police after Darlene Ferrin’s murder indicated that the killing was connected to the U.S Virgin Islands. Starliper believed that the “340” of the 340 cipher was significant, and had some tie-in with the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was then that he found out that 340 is the area code for a portion of the U.S Virgin Islands — not an insignificant connection.

“So that’s what I started with,” said Starliper. “I thought, there’s no way … that Zodiac is going to be prosaic enough not to mention the U.S. Virgin Islands in this code. This is where it gets even creepier. 3+4+0=7. Right. So you get 7+0=7. 707…707 are the area codes for Vallejo, Napa, and Solano. So I figured, why not start this with Caesar code using 3,4.”

Caesar code is a substitution type cipher where an encoder has “simply replaced each letter in a message with the letter that is three places further down the alphabet.”
This doesn’t mean the 340 is such an easy task to decode, considering the fact that the original 340 cipher is full of symbols: >, +, and ▲ being just a few of the signs found in the code. To combat this problem, Starliper extracted symbols and changed them to letters they could correspond with. For example, a ^ or < symbol could be interpreted as inverted or sideways “V”s.

“I first went in there and I did that,” he said. After everything symbolic had been interpreted alphabetically, he started applying reverse Caesar shifts. He found the first two letters to be “K” and “I”.

“What are the next two going to be? right? I figure, what’s the first word he’s going to throw in there? Kill,” said Starliper. “And I was able to keep going from there.” For the first few lines, the pattern remained constant, but it changed beyond that. He said he was able to figure out the non-patterned series that by finding “similarities in the numerical sequence.”

Starliper split his work into two sessions of 6 hours and 3 hours. When he was done, he had decoded the following text:


Arthur Leigh Allen was a prime suspect during the Zodiac investigation. When Sherwood Morrill, a handwriting expert, examined Allen’s writing, he told investigators that the writing was “similar, but not the Zodiac killer’s”, according to “Zodiac Unmasked” by Robert Graysmith. Allen also passed a polygraph exam during the investigation.

These facts don’t bother Starliper.

“Leigh Allen in that situation was forcing his handwriting to look different from the way that he normally wrote,” said Starliper, referencing the work of detectives.

Allen died in 1992 at age 58. [via the FosterCityPatch]

Now, obviously, I’m no codebreaker (STOP ASKING ME TO DECODE STUFF, YOU GUYS, SERIOUSLY!), but is it just me, or did that explanation sound more circuitous than Jeff Goldblum hacking the aliens’ computer in Independence Day? “So I heard my daughter sneeze, and I thought, ‘that’s it!’ Sneeze, boogers, snot, sound — what’s the sound of a sneeze? That’s right, atchoo. Gesundheit, achoo, choo — What choo talkin’ ’bout Willis! From the TV show! Different Strokes! Different Strokes, Stroke Me by Billy Squier, Mr. Drummond, Gary Coleman.. Coleman Grills! That’s it! The heir to the Coleman grills fortune is from Cincinnati, Ohio! Ohio, chili, the Cincinnati Reds… That’s it! The killer used a red pen! Because red is the color of blood! And that’s how I knew there was a blood stain on a map of the fake declaration of independence in Nic Cage’s snake drawer. It’s really pretty simple when you think about it.”

Plus it’s hard to believe because his name is Corey. There are no smart people named Corey.

UPDATE: Throwing more cold water on Corey’s theory, it seems the 340 area code he cites in his solution wasn’t created until 1997. Thanks to Caleb for the tip.

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