The Zodiac Killer Profile

Driven by an obsessive need for attention and celebrity, the Zodiac was a thrill killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area and actively supplied the public, police and press with codes, letters, phone calls and items taken from his victims. He needed to be worshiped and feared and would do or say almost anything to keep his name in the papers.

Born: Unknown

Died: Unknown

M.O.: Most often shot couples in secluded areas

Signature: Sent the police and newspapers letters and ciphers about his murders. Motivated by a savage rage and a craving for infamy and attention

Victim Count: Claimed to have killed 37; 5 verified kills and 2 injured

Best known for: His rifle crosshairs symbol and obsessive need for media and public attention, despite keeping his identity a secret

“I like killing people because it is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangerous animal of all. To kill something gives me the most thrilling experience. It is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl.”

“School children make nice targets. I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire and then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.”

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The Zodiac manipulated the press and terrorized the masses by sending major newspapers twenty-two verified letters, ciphers and other materials. In one of his ciphers, the Zodiac talked about torturing his victims, whom he called his “slaves,” upon death and rebirth into Paradise. The Zodiac’s letters were also riddled with spelling and syntax errors too deliberate to be genuine and his handwriting was sloppy and overly childish. This illiterate but terrifying character that he made himself out to be and the outlandish nature of his correspondences won him constant free space in the newspapers and kept the public talking about him.

A curious combination of charismatic psychopath and withdrawn, sullen loner, his tone varied from arrogant and brash to whiny, demanding and insecure when he didn’t get the attention and validation he craved. This suggests that beneath the Zodiac’s outward narcissism and self-aggrandizement, he harbored deep insecurities that may have stemmed from childhood neglect.

For the most part, he targeted vulnerable couples in secluded areas. After one of his more public attacks, witnesses told police that he was eerily calm and took his time cleaning up. On one occasion, he even boasted that a police officer headed to the crime scene walked right past him. However, not everything the Zodiac said or claimed to have done can be believed. Both a compulsive liar and a narcissist, the Zodiac had a habit of grossly inflating his victim count and exaggerating his achievements to elevate himself in the public eye.

When his hold of terror over San Francisco waned, the Zodiac demanded that the entire city wear buttons with the Zodiac’s crosshairs symbol on them in a desperate attempt to gain it back. It didn’t work. By 1974, the Zodiac had faded from the media, either incapacitated or apprehended for unrelated crimes, but he wouldn’t be forgotten. The serial killer’s interactions with the press would forever immortalize the mythos he created around his dastardly deeds.