Graveyard Shift

Terrifying Theories About the Zodiac Killer  

Jason Robbins
11k votes 2.5k voters 339.7k views 12 items

List Rules Vote up the most compelling theory about the infamous killer.

Who was the Zodiac Killer? In case you've been living off the grid in a literal man-cave in the Ozarks for the last sixty years or so, here's some quick background on the killer who kept Northern California in the grip of fear from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s:

The mystery of the Zodiac began on August 1, 1969, when three separate California newspapers (San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Vallejo Times Herald) received nearly identical letters by someone claiming responsibility for two recent attacks on couples parked in their cars, attacks that left three dead and one survivor with gunshot wounds to the face, neck, and chest. Along with the letters, each paper received a third of a cryptogram, which, once solved, explained that killing was better than sex and that the victims would be Zodiac's slaves in the afterlife.

Many killings, letters, and cryptograms followed until the mid-Seventies, when the pattern ceased. But the Zodiac Killer was never discovered or arrested. He (or she) remains one of the most infamous uncaught serial killers in history. But myriad theories abound as to his identity. Let's explore the most intriguing of those, shall we?

The Zodiac Killer Was Identified by His Son
The Zodiac Killer Was Identifi... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Terrifying Theories About the Zodiac Killer
Photo:  The Most Dangerous Animal of All/Harper Collins

In 2014, Gary Stewart published the book The Most Dangerous Animal of All, in which he claimed that his father, Earl Van Best, Jr., was the Zodiac Killer. Evidence included the similarity between Best's visage and the police sketches of the Zodiac, claims that Best's name appears in the Zodiac's cryptograms, and a scar on Best's right index finger that matches that in a fingerprint left at a Zodiac crime scene.

Furthermore, publicist Chris Harris claims that he saw Best at a diner in 1969, near the site of one of the killings. Harris was in the area at the time making a documentary about the Zodiac when he sat beside a man who resembled Best. According to Harris, Best turned to him and said, "You have no idea what it's like to have to kill."

Is this plausible?
The Zodiac Killed Couples Because He'd Been Rejected
The Zodiac Killed Couples Beca... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Terrifying Theories About the Zodiac Killer
Photo: The Zodiac Killer/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A man named Randy Kenney claims his friend Louis Myers admitted to being the Zodiac before he died in May 2002 of cirrhosis of the liver. Myers claimed he was motivated to kill couples because he had suffered romantic rejection.

Myers went to high school with two of the victims and worked at the same restaurant with a third. He was also in the military, giving him access to the type of boots the Zodiac wore. In fact, he had been deployed to Germany for two years, during which time there was a lapse in all communications from the Zodiac.

Is this plausible?
The Zodiac Killer Was a Vietnam Vet
The Zodiac Killer Was a Vietna... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Terrifying Theories About the Zodiac Killer
Photo: San Francisco Police Department/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

It's very uncommon for a serial killer to just stop killing, but this seems to have been the case with the Zodiac - unless he was imprisoned, died, or moved out of the country, that is. Some have suggested the Zodiac was deployed to Vietnam and killed there, ending his crime spree. This would also explain why the killer wore military-issue boots of a type mostly worn by the Navy - and why witnesses at one scene described his as having a crew-cut. 

Is this plausible?
The Zodiac Was Also a Child Molester
The Zodiac Was Also a Child Mo... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Terrifying Theories About the Zodiac Killer
Photo: BlackBear51/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

Arthur Leigh Allen was a convicted child molester who allegedly told friends that he was the Zodiac. He wore a Zodiac wristwatch, which is where some theorize the Zodiac got his name, as the brand uses the same crosshairs symbol as the logo that the killer used when signing letters. Police found a typewriter in Allen's trailer matching the brand and typeface used to produce one of the Zodiac letters. But no hard evidence ever surfaced linking him to Zodiac, and he died in 1992.

Because so much circumstantial evidence linked Allen to the killings, but his DNA and handwriting did not match any found on the Zodiac's letters, some have theorized Allen had an accomplice: he would carried out the murders, but a different man wrote the letters.

Is this plausible?