How Did The Zodiac Killer Get His Name?

The Zodiac Killer was a serial murderer who committed a series of bloody homicides in California from the 1960s to the 1970s, and possibly beyond. While history is filled with a depressing line-up of bloodthirsty and murderous nut jobs, the Zodiac Killer remains a household name. How did he get his special sobriquet, and why is it so enduring in pop culture's serial killer fixated memory?

Before getting into the specifics of how this killer acquired his name, it's important to provide a bit of context. As described by, in 1969 the offices of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper received a coded note. When decoded, it read, "I like killing people because it's so much fun." This chilling message was the prelude for a spate of murders throughout Northern California. While this killer's methods were as gory, twisted, and horrific as you'd find with any number of serial killers, he had two unique traits that have kept him in the public eye to this day: first, his taunting messages to the police and press; and second, his use of ingenious ciphers (or codes) — one of which he claimed would lead to his true identity when decoded. In each of his messages, he included the same catch phrase: "This is The Zodiac speaking." The prosaic answer, therefore, is that the Zodiac Killer got his name by naming himself. 

But that doesn't shed light on why his name became so infamous. According to Science Blogs, four coded messages were sent to police and press by the Zodiac Killer. The first message was decoded within a week by a school teacher. However, the remaining codes, including the one allegedly leading to his identity, were never cracked. As described in another article by, one cipher in particular (dubbed the Z 340) is still considered by modern cryptologists to be one of the most challenging encoded messages ever devised. The Zodiac Killer was scrupulous, arrogant, and probably brilliant. 

The Zodiac killer created fear and horror through a spate of bloody murders, possibly lasting over a decade. Lacking the typical fatal flaw of eventually becoming sloppy, the Zodiac Killer joins the rare handful of memorable serial killers whose identity, as of this writing, remains unknown. His epithet has stuck around because he devised a seemingly unsolvable puzzle, and left a coded trail in his wake that no-one has been able to follow.