Zodiac 340 Cipher Solution
In 2012, after watching the movie, "Zodiac",
I began toying with the 340 cipher, and came to what I felt
was 90-95% of the solution. (Please see the 2012 solution Image and 2020 proposed full solution links
at the end of this document.) Note that for working ease, I
assigned a number to each cipher character and that there were
'leftovers' when it came to uncovering words towards the end
of my 2012 solution (33 ,39, 40, 61). Those numbers have been
assigned letters in the 2020 solution. If you are not
familiar with the Zodiac case, please see these important links.
To simplify things for now in a nutshell:
cipher is, ironically, an encrypted word-search with strong
allusions to the killer's identity and, as the FBI
thought, a major message contained near the middle of it. The
message clearly shows it's a word search: “Hoot at the
Halloween. Circle the words to seeh the helot hell.”
('Circle the words' is the crucial part. Please
note: more about how the decoding was done is here. For now
suffice it to say, I used letter frequency and a home-spun
little computer app as a
A couple of interesting things to note about the main message are: the term, 'helot' suggests a familiarity with military history and humans as game (in keeping with the 408 reference to "The Most Dangerous Game"). Furthermore, the main message foreshadows the Zodiac Killer's Halloween card sent the next year to the San Francisco Chronicle, on October 27th 1970.
[Aug 8/20: There is also a major
message with regard to the Zodiac's symbol. If we consider
the 'O' before 'Logic' to be a zero, then we can make the
sentence, "End the 0 (zero) logic", which nicely explains
the Zodiac's symbol of a circle with a cross through it.) With
'Leroi' (Le Roi) circled as well, that 'O' is at the center of
a word cross.
Once decoded, in addition to a variety of ominous and other
words (like 'roast', suggesting his bomb threat, and
later threat of killing 'by fire'), we often see the name 'LEE'
(5 times, 7 if 33 is 'E'), and at one particular part (over 14
squares and down 15, and then reading upwards) what appears to
be the Zodiac toying with the full name, Arthur 'Lee' Allen.
Although not all letters are present for the full name, we see A,
then 39 (possibly 39 is also 'T'), H, R, then Lee, and
then ALL. That is,
ATHR LEE ALL, which in a word-search context nicely
alludes to the Zodiac's real identity, without fully naming him.
That said, in conjunction with the frequency of LEE, the
circumstantial evidence starts to look more than appetizing.(See
Image below: please note I've circled every word on paper
copies, but the image here doesn't show all words discovered in
the search.) Similarly, in the upper left quad, is 'ALEEN',
which contains, LEE, while suggesting ALLEN as well. Likewise,
moving upwards from the A of 'AT' in the main message, is AELLN,
which also suggests ALLEN. (Toying with the name ALLEN may also
be something the Zodiac did with the indecipherable, "My name is
_" cipher, as it begins with AEN....possibly to suggest Allen,
without the 'L'. It's interesting, that if you turn the line
after "My name is" upright...you get a lowercase 'l'. He could
have used a colon or comma at that part. Perhaps that's pushing
it just a little, but maybe not.)
In the word-search we see the Zodiac possibly thinks of himself
as 'sly', 'wise' (like a Halloween owl) 'coy'
and 'wry'. (The way 'coy', 'wry' and other related words
intersect suggests design, as does the use of related words like
'halloween', 'owl' and 'wise' within the same word-search.) He
uses logic (but may be 'theologic'al: hence the outfit
he wore). As well, possibly in accordance with a murders-near-water
theme, we see 'Chlorine' (circled) and "Pool' (also 'Loop' - using the 'o' in 'helot'). Of
course, chlorine may also be a reference to deadly gas.
[Some speculation: In the word-search are three instances of 'Leo',
perhaps suggesting Lee thinking of himself as 'King of the
Zodiac'. Not beyond reason, but perhaps weighty in conjecture;
or maybe not. If '33' is 'E' then 'Sire' intersects with 'Leroi'
(Le Roi = The King, in French) near the top.
Also, the proximity of 'kill', 'sire' and 'leroi' conjure up
notions of the prior Martin Luther King assassination....Is the
Zodiac implying something here, or trying to take credit?
Interestingly, around the zero 'O' in the 'zodiac symbol
message' is 'erl, le, i, he' (from left to right), which could
be some kind of phonetic statement. Is this perhaps an earlier
cipher than the 408, but submitted later? Or was he thinking of
someone else known as, 'The King'? Regardless, the notion of
'king' definitely appears in the search. In fact, if you
use 'ing' triplets to solve this, one dead-end leads to some
instances of 'king' in the solution, almost as if the Zodiac
knew that would be the case.]
Near the section that suggests the entire name, and near two
instances of Lee (using part of one Lee), is also the
name 'el rey' (on a diagonal). I can't recall for sure if
this name has special importance (I'm returning to this after 8+
years), but think I've read/heard it's a place, restaurant or
tavern connected to one of the victims. If so, given the
proximity of words together, it seems as if it were carefully
crafted to suggest Lee at the scene of el rey. (This is similar
to how the creator of the word search places owl in
relation to the main, "Hoot at...." message.)
I was in public school at the time of the Zodiac killings, and word-searches were starting to become very popular in newspapers. Therefore, I believe he drew on this, perhaps due to his relationship with the San Francisco Chronicle. It seems as if 'circle the words' (or something longer like, 'circle the words to hoot at the hallloween owl') is possibly a segment of a common word-search's outer instructions, embedded into the search itself. It's possible the Zodiac reworked a search that had been in a recent paper at that time. I haven't checked this, but that would be very strong evidence if discovered.
Since Arthur Leigh Allen (commonly know as 'Lee'), did not
become a suspect until after the cipher was presented, we
must wonder why the high frequency of the name Lee and such
a strong allusion to Arthur Leigh Allen are present in the
By encoding a word-search into a cipher, the Zodiac was able to
tell us something about himself, allude to his
identity, yet remain illusive. Fifty years down
the road even writing about the 340, after solving it, presents
some very convoluted challenges.