Zodiac Killer revealed by his love of comic books, according to the author
Zodiac killer continues to loom large, half a century after his murders terrorized Northern California: New movie villain The Batman, Paul Dano’s Riddler, torments Batman with ciphers similar to those used by the Zodiac. This week marks the 15th anniversary of David Fincher’s film Zodiac, about the failed quest to discover the never-revealed identity of the killer. And every year, it seems, an internet sleuth finds a new suspect.
Author Jarett Kobek is unlike any other. In the last episode of Bret Easton Ellis podcasthe lays out the argument for his new book, How to find the zodiacthat the Zodiac Killer may have been a previously unnamed suspect, an obsessive comic book and sci-fi fan named Paul Doerr, who was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to the Bay Area.
An important caveat: Doerr is no longer there to defend himself. He died in 2007, the year of Fincher’s Zodiac has been freed. And no one has been charged in the Zodiac murders, despite decades of investigation.
Kobek argues that the Zodiac’s letters to the police and newspapers included several pop culture references from the time of his crimes that were so obscure and specific that they narrowed the Zodiac’s list of possible suspects significantly. For example, he noted that a “Halloween Card” that Zodiac sent on October 27, 1970 included the curious phrase, “By fire, by gun, by knife, by rope” – four ways the Zodiac planned to kill its victims, in order to make them its slaves in the afterlife.
“In the background, on the cover, there was a ‘wheel of death’, and on the wheel of death it says ‘by knife, by rope, by gun, by fire.’ It’s a clear quote. It never existed anywhere else,” Kobek explained to the American psycho author.
Read also : Zodiac Screenwriter on his overly long spec script and conversations with David Fincher about the “passage of time”
He also told Ellis that with this clue he was able to narrow down the list of potential suspects.
“In 1970 when this letter was written, the comic book collection didn’t exist. There were about 2,500 people who picked up back issues of comic books,” Kobek said. “For someone to have this comic in 1970 really clearly delineates them as something else.”
From this possible clue, Kobek began looking for comic book collectors in Northern California. He also suspected that the Zodiac lived in Vallejo, where one of the murders took place, so he Googled Vallejo fanzines. One of the first results — It’s here – includes a letter from a certain Paul Doerr seeking to meet other fans: “Several attempts have been made in an international SF organization and I hope that one of them will succeed. I would love to join,” Doerr writes.
“And the letter looks a lot like Zodiac,” Kobek told Ellis on the podcast.
After finding the letter, Kobek says, he discovered many other Doerr writings and compared them to the letters of the zodiac. He says they have similar writing styles, and even abbreviations. He discovered that Doerr shared the zodiac’s unusual fondness for encrypted messages. And that Doerr was on the mailing list of a group that held Renaissance fairs near Lake Berryessa at the time of a Zodiac attack there in September 1969.
During the attack – as Fincher’s film horribly depicts – the killer wears a medieval executioner’s hood.
Kobek explains that the easiest way to obtain such a balaclava, at the time, might have been affiliation with groups who liked to dress up in medieval clothing for fun.
He also argues that Doerr looks like a police sketch of a Zodiac suspect, and – most amazingly – once published what Kobek describes as a “murder confession” in a fanzine called green egg.
Kobek says Doerr wrote a letter to green egg in 1974 in response to a father who said that his daughter was under the control of a commune. Doerr, said Kobek, told the father that he had to kill the commune chief and that he could tell him how to do it.
“He says something like, ‘I can personally teach you the techniques to do this.’ And then the next paragraph starts off being like… ‘You probably shouldn’t be reading this part of the letter, but I was in a similar situation a few years ago and now there are a lot of people who aren’t there at because of that.”
The passage ends ominously: “The only good enemy…”
Another possible link: “Zodiac in one of his letters talks about making a bomb. He does it in two letters, but the first letter of 1969 is much more of a real bomb,” Kobek told Ellis. “What he suggests building is an ANFO bomb, made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. I find in one of Doerr’s zines that he published something very similar to what Zodiac wrote — he uses the same language, he uses the same abbreviations.
Fincher’s film examines the suspicion that a convicted pedophile named Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac Killer. But there is exculpatory evidence against Allen being the Zodiac Killer, Kobek says — and no exculpatory evidence for Doerr.
“You can browse anything that Arthur Leigh Allen has,” Kobek told Ellis. “You won’t find a murder confession, much less one that’s in print.”