Has the Code of The Zodiac Killer Been Cracked?

Corey Starliper believes he has solved the 41-year-old "340" cipher and has identified the legendary serial killer who terrorized northern California.

OUTSIDE SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- To most, the word “Zodiac” conjures up images of astrological symbols and the positions of stars.

But Corey Starliper, a Tewksbury native and hobby code-cracker, thinks of a serial killer of the same name.

Starliper also thinks that he has solved a cipher devised by Zodiac that has remained unsolved for over 40 years.

Zodiac was the name taken by a murderer who operated in the San Francisco area, including Napa, Solano, and Vallejo counties, in 1968 and 1969. Zodiac sent encrypted communication to area newspapers, taking credit for killings and warning of more to come, according to Robert Graysmith, who personally investigated the murders and wrote several books on the case.

Police attributed seven murders and two attempted murders to Zodiac because of information he was able to provide that was unavailable to the public, though the number of unconfirmed victims may be much higher.

The first coded communication was a three-part cipher sent in portions to the Vallejo Times-Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner on July 31, 1969, according to “Most Evil”, written by Steve Hodel. The complete cipher contained 408 characters and was published on August 2 and 3, 1969 in accordance to Zodiac’s demands. It took just a few days for the code to be deciphered.

“The first one was cracked by a history teacher and his wife,” said Starliper. “What I’m driving at was the first code was cracked by amateurs. So they figure that any communication after that would be able to be cracked by amateurs.”

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 zodiackillerfacts.com. To this day, the cipher has not been completely cracked.

Starliper, however, believes he has found the solution to that code.

“The first time I saw this code was a couple of years ago, and I knew that it could be cracked,” he said. “It was just instinct, I had a gut feeling that it could be cracked. Any code created by man can be cracked by man.”

A 2007 movie entitled “Zodiac” was what sparked interest in Starliper about the case.

“I saw the movie first, and when I saw the movie, (I had) instant interest in it,” he said, snapping his fingers. “When I read the book, I was ... just hungry for more when the book ended.”

Starliper describes the Zodiac serial killer case as “extraordinarily consuming.”

“I became absolutely obsessed with the case, to the point that I’d look up from Graysmith’s books ... and realize that I’d actually forgotten to eat.”

Starliper said that after becoming interested in the code, he abandoned it for some time, but after that, an idea for breaking the code came to him almost by “accident.”

According to Robert Graysmith, in “Zodiac”, 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,” according to http://www.simonsingh.net/The_Black_Chamber/caesar.html.

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.”


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.

The discovery of a solution to the code wasn’t “disturbing”, as Starliper said he had heard it described, but invigorating.

“To me, I found it exciting, that I was actually able to get into his head when nobody had for over 40 years,” said Starliper. “It was a high. One of the best highs I had ever experienced was cracking something that nobody else had cracked in over 40 years.”

Starliper didn’t let it rest at just solving the code. He tried to get in touch with the counties where the murders originally took place and received little response.

“But Napa, after I sent them the solution to the code, said that they would delve into the case later on in the year. Which to me means, 'you know what kid ... leave me alone.'”

Along with a lack of progress contacting Solano, Vallejo, and Napa counties, Starliper has contacted the San Francisco Cold Case Unit and Special Investigative Unit without response.

“I didn’t want it getting lost in the mix. I wanted to contact someone directly,” he said. “It’s frustrating that ... interest in the case has dropped off, because at one time it was one of San Francisco’s highest priorities. It’s disheartening to know that the authorities have basically shut the door on it.”

He even sent the code to a cryptographer, who, after looking over the solution, said that it appeared “not valid,” according to Starliper.

“That really ticked me off,” he said. ““With a code that constantly changes a pattern ... you can’t attack it using brute force. There are people who have tried. Out of all of the solutions that I’ve seen this one has the highest readability and probability for accuracy that I’ve ever come across.”

What Starliper hopes to do is to apply his number patterns to the other unsolved ciphers that Zodiac sent to the police.

“What I really mean to do by cracking these codes ... my main goal, is to figure out, for one, exactly who did it, and to bring peace to the families of at least some of Zodiac’s suspected victims,” he said.

Shirley Martin December 30, 2012 at 10:45 PM
All but Jonas posting here are total morons. You are calling the Zodiac killers, grammar sub-par but yet none of you can spell plain English yourselves. And by the way it's Anonymous- We don't forgive- We don't forget We are Legion. Get it right!
Sara Steward February 08, 2013 at 04:52 PM
The Zodiac Killer case is by far my favorite. I'm choosing him as a topic to do a huge project on currently, in my junior year in high school. Finding out that someone is still interested in this case makes me really happy. I think it's fantastic that someone is still interested in it and this code being cracked amazes me. You're awesome, Corey Starliper!
hi February 23, 2013 at 06:01 PM
I totally agree. I read this and I was shocked. The little things are what determine the cracking of a cipher. Not the big, obvious things, otherwise any amateur could crack it
Troy February 23, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Corey didn't crack the code. It's just made up b.s. Anyway, the "Zodiac" has been dead for years so who cares?
Jack Reno March 03, 2013 at 05:52 AM
zodiac was Arthur Leigh Allen. Too many things point to him . There has been no definitive proof that the bloody print on the cab was left by the killer. Crime scenes are contaminated daily. No definitive proof that the partial DNA sequence obtained wasn't contaminated or even left by the letter writer to begin with. A sponge could have been used to moisten the glue strip and a contamination could have happened in the handling years ago prior to DNA sequencing. And handwriting isnt a exact science and can be easily altered. Zodiac wasnt writing book's just brief letters . Common sense indicates it was Allen after a serious look at the overwhelming circumstantial evidence Taken as a whole its mathematically absurd to assume it wasnt him. Before you bash me take note.....I'm not a armchair detective. I lived this case my whole life. My now deceased father was directly associated with the actual investigation . He said it a million times " It's not what you know , It's what you can prove ! " and there were ton's of ego's involved just like there are now. skip the books, skip the websites and movies. It's been solved . It just wasnt punished !
Rudy Ramos March 06, 2013 at 06:40 AM
Someguy think that Zodiac=Arnold=Man at la vern theatre and mall when famous people from the trump show asked Rudy Ramos is that your friend "just for that I don't want you to have gifts untill you see ain't your friend" I am friends with Jeff Shipley not zodiac, so I should get all the gifts on the Donald Trump Show, but I have got nothing yet because Donald Trump will not cross the street because gets rich off the air time because Jhon the la vern sheriff did all the wrecks ask Zodiac and someguys word on t.v. or can kill someguy IT WAS JEHOVAH GOD CLOSE MAYBE
Rudy Ramos March 06, 2013 at 06:48 AM
I am someguy/Rudy Ramos I am the one in 20 years to solve the refigerator and "no will ever score higher" by Jeff Shipley in his garage at 1442 north san antonio upland ca where a streamliner went 306 mph and broke world record 2006 Jeff Shipley has another streamliner but owns only one which can go 400 mph for world record of summers brothers who jeff helped when younger. Jeff Shipley wants a sponsorship for 100k and someguy wants the gifts from across the street why my own 2 eyes behold the whole world accross the street. I am not paying for america nor will anyone great and rich because trump and sherieff attack rudy ramos all the time
Rudy Ramos March 06, 2013 at 05:55 PM
I am Rudy Ramos 12-16-1974, but I never dated Mashall zodiacs daughter, nor I have dated any of zodiacs daughters or sons, so I think absurd for Luke Perry to say break up with Mashall at montclair plaza. I never went out with Mashall, and I don't appreicate the sheriff from the trump show sleeping with Mashall which is a double which should be a sherieff and the rest of the women, so I don't know who the gifts are for CITY CARDS gift from the Donald Trump Show is for Rudy Ramos not Jhon the la vern sheriff for doing the cars wrecks as Zodiac on t.v., so I need gift CITY CARD GIFT ASAP, but I don't know where CITY CARDS lives, or I don't know his full name or ID ask Zodiac from Someguy
Rudy Ramos March 06, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Rudy Joseph Ramos Figure out this where I park in boneli park the man other side of aquaduct parks where I park the man other side of aquaduct parks the front page on newspaper shows zodiac killed more poeple in boneli park, but I saw that same white truck which chaffey college proffesor Jeff Shipley drives at my house in the ally 628 verde vista pomona Ca 91767 but that man and Jeff Shipley are almost twins. the whole world does nothing to Zodiac/Jeff Shipley across the street because less I want to ask Jhon La vern sherieff why is that man in the boneli park all the time, and I got pulled over 20-30 times when I did nothing wrong because you want the gifts for your self like City Cards gift ask Zodiac for City Cards Gift who does is it for?
Oliver Cloasoff March 12, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Trying to decipher your comments may prove more difficult than Zodiac's cipher.
Rudy Ramos March 12, 2013 at 03:33 AM
I am Rudy Ramos, and I don't believe Donald Trump is good for business because prior to several wrecks Donald Trump said lets put someguy in a wreck on national t.v I was in 6 wrecks while yelling and screaming across the street mario lopez hates Rudy Ramos then 5 minutes later I got into an almost fatal wreck yes and no because the man that cut my uhaul truck off at 60 mph matches one of zodiacs son problem Donald Trump and sherieff don't want Rudy Ramos in the house, moreover Persila Presly has 2 uhaul trucks and a limo in front of me another wreck I got in Persila Presly limo was there in 5 minutes, so I hate sherieff for appears doing the wrecks because " soon the whole world will cross the street the same man on the trump show yells and screams and makes fun of Rudy Ramos, so I can't have the gifts, but I never did a wreck with zodiac. I left zodiacs house and then I got in wreck next day, but I never did a wreck with my whole with zodiac because Christian,so I know the blue van from mountain wreck was the same blue van at montclair plaza. I saw it in the ally then I got in a wreck 5 minutes later and the sheriff said I was on lsd and tried to take license and took blood test and took Rudy to mental institution and I lost all my benefits, but I got everything back several months later, but I want to know in person by america who are the gifts for on the Donald Trump show. I am an honest person zodiac is Arnold figure it out where I go the man other side aquaduct goes.
Kay March 29, 2013 at 01:31 AM
I think this is very great if we have time to visit this place. i love it much. Thanks. http://www.zypokerchips.com
Ralphie March 29, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Sorry, everyone, but I cracked the code several years ago and subsequently turned over all of my supporting documentation to the FBI cold case unit. For those of you who might have missed it, here is the deciphered text: "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine"
CrowSan April 17, 2013 at 01:14 PM
Hi, I'm pretty new to the Zodiac killer story but I was just curious about a few things, Could Mr Starliper tell us how long a chain of letters in his de-cyphered message are understandable using one of the substitution cyphers he used? i.e. if the first part of the message KILL/SLF/DR/HELP/ME/KILL was de-coded with the same substitution (and "kill" was encoded by the same 4 symbols/letters) this would strengthen his argument considerably. The partial DNA profile they obtained from the stamps: did they manage to get a "sex" match to a male from this? I suppose it's not inconcievable he got his wife/family to post the letter for him. Personally I believe that the 340 cypher is just gibberish. ROT (rotation) and substitution cyphers are amongst the simplest codes (I realise I am using code and cypher interchangably here - sorry!). When Zodiac's first code was cracked so quickly it probably irked him (the average IQ of serial killers, especially disorganised ones < 100 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer so he probably anticipated it causing more head-scratching). Then as a joke/punishement he just made up the others. This would have had several effects i) restored some of his damaged pride a bit ii) wasted police time/resources trying to crack it iii) amused him. Book Cyphers are (almost) as uncrackable as one-time-pads. Although they compared the 340 to 30000 books http://zodiackillerciphers.com/wiki/index.php?title=Corpus_search_results with fairly weak results.
Kim Dessaussios April 20, 2013 at 09:27 AM
Top 10 reasons Arthur Allen is not the Zodiac Killer; 1) He passed a lie detector test, although this test is not 100% accurate, you have to take it into consideration. 2) DNA ruled him out, same consideration as #1. 3) He does not fit the physical description, at all. 4) He does not fit the profile ie; The FBI Brace or The FBI Serial Killer profile. 5) Allen would not no the Mikado from a wheelbarrow. 6) His voice was not recognized by survivors or Police Dispatch 7) Handwriting does not match. 8) Two complete searches of his residence produced -0- evidence. 9) The guy who made the accusations about Allen was a felon, and did not like Allen, and was trying to get time off his sentence for naming the identity of the Zodiac. 10) (a) Blue was not his favorite color. (b) He was not intelligent enough to have pulled off the crimes and cover his tracks! If law enforcement cleared Allen, as bad as they wanted him to be the Zodiac, no way, you are completely lost in this investigation, PERIOD! I saw the best suspect I have seen thus far on youtube, the guys name is Wysling, according to my friend in law enforcement he is considered one of the top suspects in this case currently? I don't know exactly what it means, but, the guy is strange to say the least! Kim
Joseph Covino Jr April 29, 2013 at 06:53 AM
This new crime suspense thriller novel advances fresh new heretofore un-heard of LEADS(not far-fetched theories or outlandish suspects)in this case, check it out: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/san-franciscos-finest-joseph-jr-covino/1112187069?ean=9780943283333
Marcelo Leandro July 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Nice job!!!!But the !people are stranger"
Marcelo Leandro July 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Jon Hopwood July 18, 2013 at 10:06 PM
The 340 area code didn't come into being until 1997. Once I read that the 340-Virgin Islands connection as significant, I stopped reading. Does anyone even bother to do simple research to verify things? Was the Zodiac Killer also some kind of psychic who could tell what the area code of the Virgin Islands would be 30 years later??? Ludicrous.
Troy July 19, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Three of us have mentioned what you did but people seem to just want to believe it... I don't remember seeing a response from Corey either. My guess is that the real Zodiac is dead and he took his DNA with him....
Dix August 17, 2013 at 05:04 PM
http://www.zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=133&fullsize=1 a copy of the letter to melvin belli. http://www.zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=188&fullsize=1 a copy of part of the map letter.
Dix August 17, 2013 at 05:10 PM
to all skeptics of the message. i did my research and it may hold some validity aside from the name possibly. On december 20th 1969, The Zodiac sent a message to melvin belli stating he needed help to keep from killing again and that he was controlling what was inside him. in this letter, his handwriting was smoothe and looked almost woman-like. the beginning of the letters to the editor looked the same way and as the letters went on, the writing changed drastically and became very messy. I have noticed this pattern with almost all of the letters. just check your facts and your spelling before blatantly telling someone that they are wrong..
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Eric Shields November 01, 2013 at 01:41 PM
I'm sure someone has noticed this, but the word "her" appears in the first row and the word "body" appears in the second row, only with space between the letters. maybe this means something
Serena November 07, 2013 at 04:34 PM
In response to Kim D: 1) Lie detector tests are inadmissible in court. One of the most prolific serial killers in the US, Gary Ridgeway, passed a lie detector test more than once. If you are deluded enough to believe your lie or mentally ill enough, you can pass a lie detector test easily. 2) Someone more than likely tainted the crime scene. Zodiac was very careful about wearing gloves/staying covered up and DNA falls EVERYWHERE with skin, hair and the like just from walking around the scene. Think of how much skin falls off of you by just walking around or touching something. 3) Witness testimony is tenuous at best. When Bundy was on trail for the Chi Omega murders and the murder of Kim Leach, the detectives relied heavily on the only living witness, DaRonch and sisters at the Chi Omega house the night Ted attacked some of the sisters there and non of them could say with 100% certainty that he was the man they saw. There is something called Negative Bias Theory where the victim tends to focus more on the gun or act of violence itself rather than the perpetrator. 4) That doesn't necessarily mean anything. Profilers could be wrong and that's not even an exact science; more of a guideline to point them in the right direction. 5) That doesn't mean anything either. 6) It is very easy to disguise a voice and there is pretty much no way anyone remembers the EXACT pitch of someone's voice, especially under duress. 7) It is easy to disguise handwriting, if the person is ambidextrous then even more so. Also say if a person is bipolar or schizophrenic and they enter a psychotic state or are medicated it is very easy for the handwriting to change. Read this thread (although it is from people who suffer mental illness and not doctors, I've personally see a person's handwriting change dramatically with manic state.) http://forums.psychcentral.com/other-mental-health-discussion/142305-correlation-between-mental-illness-handwriting.html 8) He could have had somewhere he stashed evidence or knew to get rid of everything after each crime. Although it is common for serial killers to keep "trophies" from their victims, it is not always the case. 9) Just because someone is a felon, doesn't mean their suspicion or concerns are not valid. 10) It is very easy for someone, especially a sociopath or someone who has dedicated their ENTIRE LIVES to perfecting the act of killing people to act stupid. Fairly often, the terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" are used interchangeably but they are two completely different things. Psychopaths have it in their capabilities to COMPLETELY pull the wool over someone's eyes. Look at Bundy, Dahmer, and Gacy who all seemed outwardly normal and maybe even a little idiotic (except Bundy who was has an IQ of 124, was "middling bright", and attended law school as well as majoring in psychology and before that Chinese) and covered their tracks for a long time without raising suspicion. In fact, Dahmer should have been caught earlier when a 14 year old victim of his escaped, was found by two women who subsequently called the police, questioned, and released into Dahmer's care only to be killed. You have to be a certain kind of cunning to pull that off. And many people though Dahmer was a complete idiot.
Davie Jones November 10, 2013 at 06:32 PM
This guy didn't solve identity even show called mystery quest says they have it solved on YouTube so far no official data show case is solve
Arthur Curtis December 06, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Serena wrote, "2) Someone more than likely tainted the crime scene.Zodiac was very careful about wearing gloves/staying covered up ... and DNA falls EVERYWHERE with skin, hair and the like just from walking around the scene. Think of how much skin falls off of you by just walking around or touching something." So someone passed by the crime scene, got his hands in the taxi cab driver's blood and then managed to get fingerprints on the median between the two doors. That's quite implausible. The bloody prints were made by the killer when he was wiping down the cab. He leaned forward and grabbed the median for support. Police and medical personnel were checked to see if they left those prints. If the Zodiac was wearing gloves when he murdered the taxi cabdriver, why would he be seen wiping down the interior of the taxi cab? In his next letter, he essentially admits he was worried about leaving fingerprints with his story that he put two coats of contact cement on his finger tips before committing the murders (this incidentally, won't work). Concerning your excuse for why the DNA evidence from the stamp is meaningless, you wrote, "DNA falls EVERYWHERE." Yes, it does but the DNA from the stamp came from the dried saliva/glue mix that had been protected from contamination all these decades by the stamp covering it. Serena also wrote, "7) It is easy to disguise handwriting, if the person is ambidextrous then even more so. Also say if a person is bipolar or schizophrenic and they enter a psychotic state or are medicated" You obviously need to read more about handwriting analysis. It is not possible for a person to write cursive letters at a normal writing pace and then to produce similar cursive that is nevertheless altered enough that experts say two different people wrote it. By the way, there is no evidence Arthur Leigh Allen was ambidextrous, bipolar, schizophrenic or had psychotic states. Serena, in 2003, a writer's palm (made when a writer rests his palm on the writing material) was discovered on one of the Zodiac letters by SFPD document examiners. It also didn't match Arthur Leigh Allen's print. I bet you can come up with reasons why that evidence is also worthless. You're one of these people who wants to throw out all the evidence because it exonerates their pet suspect, usually Arthur Leigh Allen. ps I didn't address Serena's other counterpoints because of length, not because they're valid. For example Serena's eyewitness identification discussion is pointless because in the Zodiac's case, witnesses aren't identifying someone, they are stating the killer they saw could not possible be a certain person, e.g. Arthur Leigh Allen.
Rick A. Roberts March 02, 2014 at 03:56 AM
Here is my deciphering of the identity of the Zodiac Killer. The message reads, "TENDONLONHONRNTH", or "TEN DON LON HON RATH". "MY NAME IS - DON HONRATH". Rick A. Roberts
Rick A. Roberts March 02, 2014 at 04:08 AM
Randall Scott Clemons April 11, 2014 at 10:10 PM
i solved the all the zodiac ciphers and sent it to the police and fbi this morning.. chack it out for yourself http://340cipherhalloweencardconnection.blogspot.com/2014_04_01_archive.html


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