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Zodiac ‘340 Cipher’ Cracked by Code Experts 51 Years After it Was Sent to the S.F. Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle ^ | Dec. 11, 2020 | Kevin Fagan

Posted on 12/11/2020 1:16:26 PM PST by nickcarraway

The solution to what’s known as the 340 Cipher, one of the most vexing mysteries of the Zodiac Killer’s murderous saga, has been found by a code-breaking team from the United States, Australia and Belgium.

The cipher, sent in a letter to The Chronicle in November 1969, has been puzzling authorities and amateur sleuths since it arrived 51 years ago. Investigators hoped the Zodiac, who killed five people in the Bay Area in 1968 and 1969, would reveal his name in one of his many ciphers, but there is no such name in the 340.

According to code-breaking expert David Oranchak, the cipher’s text includes: “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me. ... I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradice (sic) all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”

Oranchak, a 46-year-old web designer who lives in Virginia, has been working on the Zodiac’s codes since 2006.

“This is exciting,” Oranchak said in an interview Friday. “We’ve been sitting on the solution since last Saturday. When I first started looking at the Zodiac ciphers all those years ago, I thought, ‘Oh, I can just write a computer program and solve it,’ but it’s been kicking my a— all this time. Until now.”

Cameron Polan, spokeswoman for the FBI’s San Francisco office, confirmed Oranchak’s claim Friday. In a statement emailed to The Chronicle, she said:

“The FBI is aware that a cipher attributed to the Zodiac Killer was recently solved by private citizens. The Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for the FBI San Francisco division and our local law enforcement partners.

“The Zodiac Killer terrorized multiple communities across Northern California, and even though decades have gone by, we continue to seek justice for the victims of these brutal crimes,” she continued. “Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time.”

This is the second time a Zodiac cipher has been cracked. The first, one long cipher sent in pieces to The Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Vallejo Times-Herald newspapers in 1969, was solved by a Salinas schoolteacher and his wife.

Known as the 408 cipher, it said little beyond: “I like killing because it is so much fun.”

To crack the 340 cipher — so named because it contains 340 characters — Oranchak teamed up with two fellow, amateur code crackers and ran the bewildering set of symbols through special software programs. His teammates were Sam Blake, a mathematician in Australia, and Jarl Van Eykcke, a warehouse operator in Belgium.

“I could not have done this without them,” Oranchak said. “All of us in the crypto community on the Zodiac figured the cipher had another step beyond just figuring out what letters belonged to the symbols, and that’s just what we found here.”

Oranchak’s findings started leaking out on some of the many Zodiac amateur sleuth forums, such as zodiackillersite.com, over the past couple of days, causing much excitement in that widespread world of true-crime buffs.

In most ciphers, like the 408, the solution consist mainly of figuring out which letters are represented by certain symbols. In the 340 cipher, it turned out the alignment of the words runs diagonally down the page, and they occasionally they get shifted over a column.

It’s a complicated bit of code creation, Oranchak said, but a basic scheme for it can be found in at least one U.S Army code manual from the 1950s.

As the team began breaking down the methods in the cipher, they unpeeled a couple of phrases that let them know they were on the right track. There were references to “gas chamber” and “the TV show,” which seemed to refer to Jim Dunbar’s “AM San Francisco” show on KGO-TV that aired in October 1969. On that show, Dunbar and attorney Melvin Belli took a call from a person claiming to be the Zodiac, and he said, “I don’t want to go to the gas chamber.”

In the solved cipher, the Zodiac writes: “That wasnt (sic) me on the TV show.”

Kevin Fagan talks Zodiac on radio Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan will talk about the Zodiac at 1:06 p.m. with Pat Thurston on KGO radio (810 AM) and at 2:20 p.m. with Jeff Bell and Patty Rising on KCBS radio (740 AM).

Text of the 340 Cipher The solution to the 340 cipher, according to Oranchak’s team:

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

Cipher video To see a video about cracking the code, go to: //bit.ly/2W8muCC

“We knew we had something because of the Dunbar show,” Oranchak said. “One of the interesting things about this is that it forces the minimum date of the cipher’s construction — maybe he had one and adjusted it, but it couldn’t have been in that form prior to Oct. 22, when the Dunbar show aired ... when The Chronicle got the 340 letter.” The Chronicle published a story on the letter and the cipher on Nov. 12.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: btkkiller; california; code; cryptography; davidoranchak; epigraphyandlanguage; sanfrancisco; serialkiller; zodiac; zodiackiller
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1 posted on 12/11/2020 1:16:26 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Amazing. I sure wonder who he is/was


2 posted on 12/11/2020 1:19:04 PM PST by Persevero (I am afraid propriety has been set at naught. - Jane Austen )
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To: nickcarraway

Bkmrk


3 posted on 12/11/2020 1:19:30 PM PST by RushIsMyTeddyBear
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To: nickcarraway

In before the “Drink Your Ovaltine.”


4 posted on 12/11/2020 1:21:08 PM PST by Yo-Yo (is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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He creates a cipher that takes 50 years to crack, but misspells a basic word. 🤔


5 posted on 12/11/2020 1:22:58 PM PST by proust (Justice delayed is injustice.)
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To: proust

He misspelled a lot of words, deliberately. By the way, when you misspell a word in a code, you make it harder to decipher.


6 posted on 12/11/2020 1:24:52 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

It sounds like he could be ruled out as being Dr Hodel the black dahlia killer, but maybe not.


7 posted on 12/11/2020 1:25:25 PM PST by Yaelle
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To: nickcarraway

sounds like a muslim... and paradice, he’s a gambling addict... quadraplegic... should be easy to find in california.


8 posted on 12/11/2020 1:27:23 PM PST by teeman8r (Armageddon won't be pretty, but it's not like it's the end of the world or something)
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To: nickcarraway

He likely didn’t quit killing. He more likely tried to kill the wrong person and is pushing up daisies somewhere.


9 posted on 12/11/2020 1:27:59 PM PST by Seruzawa (TANSTAAFL!)
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To: nickcarraway
51 years, no solid suspects -

Never caught any traitors during the Vietnam War, never found who's funding a coordinating Antifa.

Wasted a ton of money trying to frame our president -

yup, that's our FBI..

10 posted on 12/11/2020 1:28:59 PM PST by Chainmail (Remember that half the people you meet are below average intelligence)
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To: nickcarraway

I just assumed OJ deciphered it while looking for the real killer.


11 posted on 12/11/2020 1:32:22 PM PST by burndoubt (I'm the most pleasant mother pheasant plucker that ever plucked a mother pheasant)
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To: nickcarraway

He misspelled a lot of words, deliberately. By the way, when you misspell a word in a code, you make it harder to decipher.

Yup. If someone deliberately misspells words, if makes the encryption more opaque as you can’t use standard word frequency checks to try and identify common words in the cypher.


12 posted on 12/11/2020 1:33:13 PM PST by Flick Lives (My work's illegal, but at least it's honest. - Capt. Malcolm Reynolds)
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To: Persevero

Isn’t this the one where Zodiac was supposed to name himself? Or am I confusing it with something else?


13 posted on 12/11/2020 1:34:20 PM PST by Spirit of Liberty (It's morning in America again!)
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To: nickcarraway

Paradise, California, was once known as “Paradice”. (Source, GNIS, USGS)

Do not think it is a misspelling. I think he left a clue on purpose.


14 posted on 12/11/2020 1:37:48 PM PST by bunkerhill7 (That`s 464 people per square foot! Is this corrrect?? It's NYC.)
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To: Flick Lives

In all passphrases I use, there are intentional misspellings of really oddball and nonsense words.


15 posted on 12/11/2020 1:38:54 PM PST by wally_bert (I cannot be sure for certain, but in my personal opinion I am certain that I am not sure.)
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To: nickcarraway

Yes, it was his MO. I have read many books, stories and articles on this elusive serial killer.


16 posted on 12/11/2020 1:39:51 PM PST by babyfreep
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To: nickcarraway

17 posted on 12/11/2020 1:43:23 PM PST by aMorePerfectUnion (I'd rather be anecdotally alive than scientifically dead... )
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To: nickcarraway

“It’s a complicated bit of code creation, Oranchak said, but a basic scheme for it can be found in at least one U.S Army code manual from the 1950s.”

Zodiac killer must-have served/drafted into the Military as a radio operator in the 1950s. Could have seen action in the Korean War.


18 posted on 12/11/2020 1:45:24 PM PST by DEPcom (Fight for Trump)
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To: Seruzawa
He likely didn’t quit killing. He more likely tried to kill the wrong person and is pushing up daisies somewhere.

19 posted on 12/11/2020 1:46:02 PM PST by Bratch
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To: aMorePerfectUnion
SMH Ted Cruz was born after the Zodiac Killer started killing.
20 posted on 12/11/2020 1:46:10 PM PST by nickcarraway
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