My Name Is Cipher Solution


My Name Is LetterAt a length of 13 symbols, the Zodiac Killer's My Name Is cipher is very short. In fact, it's so short that it's unlikely any proposed solution will be universally accepted unless it can be corroborated with other evidence in the case, which is unlikely to happen at this late date...

One could consider these circumstances and conclude that there's really no point in trying to solve the cipher; if the solution will be unverifiable, why bother? You will probably be unsurprised to learn, I disagree. Apart from the intellectual challenge of trying to decipher the cryptogram's meaning, the almost certain motivation that drove the killer to create the cipher suggests that it may indeed conceal some version of the killer's true name which, in turn, means the cipher may be one of the best remaining opportunities that we have to actually identify the Zodiac.

While these circumstances mean that I cannot say to an absolute degree of certainty that the solution I am about to propose is correct, what I can say is that it's reasonable — unlike much of the Zodiac killer cipher speculation out there. It's based on a solid understanding of ciphers and thorough knowledge of the case. It makes sense from a number of different perspectives. Moreover, this solution is, in an important structural way, similar to my proposed solution for the killer's 32 cipher (which I am not going to go into at this time).

My Name Is Cipher Solution — Step 1

The first observation to make regards the three repeated symbols in the middle of the cipher. As others before me have noted, the symbol is a taurus sign enclosed within a circle. Some people refer to it as an eight within a circle; but, we can tell it's a taurus symbol because, if you look closely, you can see that the top of the eight is not closed.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

A straight-forward solution would suggest that we should replace this symbol with a letter. However, there are multiple reasons to conclude that this straight-forward approach is incorrect. First, the high repetition rate of the symbol makes the likelihood of it representing a single letter low. Even though these symbols may exist within different parts of a first and last name, having a single letter that appears three times in the span of five letters is improbable.

Second, the symbol itself is telling us something. In all of his writing, the killer used this encircled taurus symbol a total of zero other times. Beyond its rarity, the symbol is also intricate, if not ornate. The author is using this special symbol to serve a special purpose. It's not the same as the other symbols. Its uniqueness is meaningful.

So what purpose is it serving? I submit that the author is using this symbol to divide the cipher into four different sections.

My Name Is Cipher Solution — Step 2

Our next step is to try to make sense of the different sections. Fortunately, the final three sections have a familiar structure that is often associated is a name, in particular: first initial, middle initial, and last name. Not only does this possibility make sense from a structural perspective, but it also feels like a logical choice for the killer to make: instead of providing a complete name, he's using some initials.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

Understanding this structure, we can begin to see the implications of the symbol repetition. Specifically, the middle initial is the same as the last letter of the last name.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

Furthermore, two letters of the last name are shared with the first section. Here we can begin to see the purpose of the initial section. It should be some type of easily inferable word or phrase that, once solved, will provide part of the solution to the last name. It's an extraneous aid to decipherment.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

Lastly, since the symbols for the first initial and the first letter of the last name are used nowhere else in the cipher, they are both completely unconstrained and therefore they each can represent any letter.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

My Name Is Cipher Solution — Step 3

Turning our attention to the first section, we have an extra four symbols. One of these symbols, however, is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum from the encircled taurus symbol in that it has appeared in nearly every communication authored by the killer. That symbol, of course, is the zodiac symbol.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

This symbol has a meaning, and we know what the meaning is; it represents the killer's murderous persona: the Zodiac.

Assuming this is correct, we have three unknown symbols and the zodiac symbol right before a first initial, middle initial, and last name. What three-letter word or phrase could precede the Zodiac in this context. Really, there is only one possibility that makes sense: I am.

My Name Is Cipher Solution

Additional Support

My Name Is Cipher - Possible Clue

Did the killer leave a clue to the cipher if the form of the first two words of the subsequent sentence?

There is one more reason to believe that the first three symbols of the cryptogram encipher the phrase I am. The killer wrote I am right under the symbols. It's a very comfortable stretch of the imagination to consider that the killer chose this sentence and the left alignment of the cipher (instead of indenting it) specifically to provide a clue to the cipher's decryption.

Full Solution

Putting all of these pieces together, we arrive at the following solution where:

  • The encircled taurus symbols have been replaced with periods.
  • The two completely unconstrained letters (each of which can be any letter) are shown as underscores.
  • The single unknown letter that represents both the middle initial and the last letter of the last name is shown as X.
I A M [the Zodiac] . _ . X . _ M I X

There are a couple of possibilities that fit these constraints; the strongest is probably the following (I've removed the first section since it is no longer serving a purpose). As you can see, the first initial remains unknown; the rest, however, have been assigned.

? . T . S M I T

Now, if we entertain the possibility that the killer may have opted to omit a letter from his last name in the interest of reducing the probability that somebody might actually solve the cipher, we arrive at what the Zodiac might have called a rather interesting possibility:

? . T . S M I T H


Anybody know a man who fits the following?

  • Is or would have been approximately 80 years old
  • Middle name starts with the letter T
  • Last name is Smit or Smith
  • Lived in Southern California in 1964
  • Lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969

If so, let me know 🙂

Michael Cole


  1. Richard Grinell 23 February, 2016 at 03:34 Reply

    I have seen many theories on this cipher and this is a better dissection than most, however I am still unconvinced by all of them, including my own for that matter. When I look at his initial opening gambit, the Zodiac states “This is the Zodiac speaking. By the way have you cracked the last cipher I sent you. My name is….”
    Then what follows, in theory, should flow seamlessly, so taking your example we have ” This is the Zodiac speaking. By the way have you cracked the last cipher I sent you. My name is I am the Zodiac …..T Smith” for example, and thereby from an English language standpoint, appears disjointed, although I accept that Zodiac was hardly a grammatical beacon of excellence. However, as always, another well presented article Mike. In view of your belief that these three symbols to be Taurus symbols and the similarity of the other symbol to be an upside down Aries symbol, it smacks of the Zodiac horoscope and calendar. Take a look at this calendar representation (link below) and bearing in mind a full moon is regarded as full above 95% illumination, and the date of April 20th 1970, the date this letter was mailed, can you see another connection to this cipher, whether meant by Zodiac or not. Then visit the further link for another clue.

    • Michael Cole
      Michael Cole 23 February, 2016 at 08:04

      A good dose of skepticism is a healthy thing; so, of course, I cannot fault you for being skeptical.

      In my view, whatever disjointedness is present is not a concern. The first two sentences are simply an introduction. The “My Name Is —” phrase makes the connection to Dr. D.C.B. Marsh’s challenge, and the cipher has whatever structure the killer chose for it. That it might be something other that a straight forward name is not surprising, to me at least.

      The inclusions of the Aries and Taurus signs and their relation to the date is an interesting point. I continue to believe, however, that the date itself was only chosen because of the the six-month anniversary of Marsh’s challenge.

      As an aside, it’s notable that April 20th is Hitler’s birthday and, relatedly, the day on which the Columbine massacre happened — Harris and Klebold specifically chose the date of the latter to coincide with the former. Undoubtedly, it’s a coincidence in terms of the Zodiac letter, but it’s an interesting one.

  2. Aquiman 1 March, 2016 at 12:31 Reply

    Interesting take, Michael. But I have to agree with Richard, that “My name is… I am the Zodiac” etc. is disjointed – though I understand how you might infer that “I am” could be a clue. You may well be on the right track (at least one more logical than many others). Instead of “I am”, perhaps the first three letters are simply “The” and the Zodiac symbol is just “Zodiac”. You’d be left with “My name is… The Zodiac (name)”. Not that it gets you any closer to an actual name, but it does flow a bit better.

    Regardless, I’ve enjoyed reading your take on many aspects of the case. Well done site. Thank you.

    • Michael Cole
      Michael Cole 3 March, 2016 at 08:13

      Thanks Aquiman. For those who know where to look, there is actually a previous incarnation of this solution that I contributed, many years ago, to the digital landscape that is the internet. In that version, I considered the possibility that the first three symbol instances could represent “THE” with the zodiac symbol simply meaning “Zodiac,” as you suggest.

      But, in the intervening years, I’ve come to appreciate that the killer’s persona is definitely “The Zodiac.” This point is something that Graysmith never fully understood — hence the book named simply Zodiac and the constant references to “Zodiac.” And since the book was so popular, many others have followed suit, most notably Fincher in the form of the movie that’s largely based on the book.

      Nevertheless, because of this interpretation, and given the potential “I am” clue, I now, personally, do not believe that “THE” is a likely solution to the first three symbols.

  3. John 14 June, 2017 at 21:03 Reply

    I think the whole thing is his actual name, including the zodiac symbol. His first name is Dana or Gene, or some short name with 2 vowels.

    I am __ A __ A or __ E __ E. I’m not aware of any male names with I, O, or U with that pattern.

    If it’s Dana, then the last name is __ A __ __ I __

    If it’s Gene, then the last name is __ E __ __ I __

    Of course, I have no idea if this theory is any better than others.

  4. Beebs 9 July, 2017 at 21:23 Reply

    Really enjoy your site and, like you, am fascinated by the Zodiac case.

    In regards to the never ending quest to decipher – my strong suspicion is that “his” name is not in any of the ciphers. He had promised in the first one to reveal himself and instead lied – which is hardly surprising, since he doesn’t play by a sense of fair play. He enjoys to taunt above all else, in my opinion.

    More to the point, with a number of cryptographical experts failing to find a solution along with dozens (perhaps hundreds) of eager amateurs It seems hard to believe his unsolved ciphers are real.

  5. Tony 12 July, 2017 at 15:10 Reply

    As for “The Zodiac” that’s referencing a style of murder but if you change it to Zodiac, it’s personifies and tells the tale of a man meaning that Zodiac is more then just enjoying a kill but rather that is another one of himself…. a bit hard to explain but yeah.

    • Tony 12 July, 2017 at 16:13

      Hey wanted to let you know, Robert Graysmith’s Original name was Robert Gray Smith before he had it changed. Go ahead and look it up.

  6. CJ Short 22 July, 2017 at 00:22 Reply

    I, too, have been hung up on Robert Grey Smith (changed to Greysmith later on as an adult.)

    I’m fascinated that there are still responses to this page, which I stop by and check every few weeks for a year or so now

  7. Linda L. Fraser 22 September, 2017 at 14:31 Reply

    Dear Michael:
    You will truly love my work!
    I have fully completed and solved the three (3) Ciphers left behind by the Zodiac.
    The American Cryptogram Association suggested I contact various website Authors,
    like yourself, in hopes you would know of the FBI Agent that I should contact that is:
    1) familiar with the Zodiac Killer Case and
    2) would have the knowledge and authority to review my work and authenticate / verify
    that I have solved all three (3) remaining Zodiac Cipher Codes.

    I have fully deciphered the:
    1) 8 November 1969 – 340 Cipher
    2) 20 April 1970 – Name Cipher / 13-letter Cipher
    3) 26 June 1970 / 26 July 1970 – Mt. Diablo Code.

    I have Canadian Copyright Registered my work under:
    1) Book: “Code Game” – Canadian Copyright #1143041 and
    2) Book: “Mt. Diablo: The Zodiac’s Masterpiece” – Canadian Copyright #1127310

    I sincerely look forward to hearing back from you with the FBI Agent that I
    should contact.

    Very Best,
    Linda L. Fraser

    • Michael Cole
      Michael Cole 24 September, 2017 at 12:51

      Thanks for your comment, Linda.

      The right person to contact at the FBI, to the best of my knowledge, is Daniel Olson. Here’s a link that has the contents of a letter from him regarding the Zodiac ciphers.

      I have to point out that there is a much higher probability that you’ve simply convinced yourself that your solutions are correct, than that they are actually correct. Many people would argue that the same statement applies to my two proposed solutions. It’s just the nature of the problem…

  8. Joseph Hamilton 8 December, 2017 at 18:37 Reply

    If the three Taurus symbols represent spaces then Zodiac has a four letter first name, two middle initials and a four letter last name.
    Assuming a likely range of birth years for an American serial killer active in 1969, Zodiac’s first name is most likely John, Paul, Jack, Carl, Fred, Earl, Gary, Dale, Leon, Glen, Dean, Jose, Dick, Neil, Tony, Joel, Mike, Karl, Otis, Mark, Juan, Alex, Bill, Gene, Hugh, Lyle, Ivan, Emil, Alan, Eric, Lynn, Dave, Karl, or Kent.
    Depending on the first name the last name would most likely be Aijn, Alba, Albu, Baak, Baar, Baas, Bean, Bret, Cino, Cola, Cole, Dean, Eads, Earl, Fear, Fini, Finn, Frei, Gaal, Grec, Grey, Haak, Haas, Head, Hier, Holt, Jain, King, Lupo, Maas, Naim, Neal, Peak, Pini, Rais, Read, Rios, Solo, Ughi, Vega, Volk, Voll, Wade, Wolf, Zini or Zino .

    Any suggestions on how to proceed further?

  9. james 15 December, 2017 at 04:38 Reply

    I have a question I know for a fact that I have solved this cipher so I was interested if anyone knew of any reward money available for solving it . And no I’m not telling anyone till I have revealed it publicly. I’m extremely confident that my solution will stand up to ANYBODY’S SCRUTINY including the F.B.I. the C.I.A , N.S.A. I garuntee you I have solved but I don’t want to go unpaid for my work so if you know about any prize money or reward I will be grateful for that information. I did a quick search but found nothing

    • Michael Cole
      Michael Cole 15 December, 2017 at 07:23


      There is no reward for solving this cipher, apart from the gratitude of many an interested person. If financial compensation for your time and effort is what you want, then you’re better off spending your energy elsewhere…

      The truth is, you’re just the latest person to guarantee a solution to one of these ciphers. It happens, not infrequently.

      The fact that you are guaranteeing a solution to this cipher tells me that you don’t understand ciphers well enough to have solved it. A solution to this cipher, even the correct one, cannot be guaranteed; unless, I suppose, you are the killer (I’m assuming you’re not).

      I’m sure this is not the response you wanted. For that, I apologize. But, reality often cares little about what we want…

  10. Mason Grycuk Revisited 15 December, 2017 at 16:32 Reply

    Mr. Cole,

    I would like to hear your thoughts on Craig Bauer’s (et al.) 340 cipher “solution” promoted on the recent History Channel, “Hunt for the Zodiac Killer.” David Oranchak is also part of that five-member expert code team assembled by computer scientist, Dr. Kevin Knight for Karga Seven Pictures, Inc.

    Please help me. I’m finding it difficult to reconcile their confident “solution” results with the many years of past cautions/guides/lectures like this one by Oranchak:

    These are intelligent academics and researchers who must have known what (contractually) they were entering, surely we can’t just put it down to the editing tricks of a TV production company.

    I hope your very next blog post will discuss and clarify this topic. Thank you.

    • Michael Cole
      Michael Cole 17 December, 2017 at 13:54

      Thanks for your question. Please, call me Mike.

      I’m a bit busy at the moment, working on my book in what little time I can wrestle away from that pesky thing known as a day job…

      I don’t buy the solution. There are too many “degrees of freedom” (as discussed here).

      I’m pretty sure some of the people shown on the show do not truly believe this is the solution either; of course, Craig surely does. I have mixed feelings about this series. Obviously, it’s nice to increase the level of exposure for the case of the Zodiac. But, it’s sad that it falls into some of the common Zodiac pitfalls. Also, several of the best cipher minds in the Zodiac community are involved with the production. So, the very people who are normally available to provide objective analysis, are apparently constrained in ways that they typically would not be.

      I would give the link you provided more weight that the information communicated by the show.

      In my view, cipher solutions are like combinations. So, when you hear the tell-tale characterization “this is the best solution I’ve seen” (a paraphrase), you should be immediately skeptical. It’s like saying, this combination may not work, but it’s the best one we’ve tried so far. When solutions get close, everything falls into place, which removes remaining ambiguity, exceptionally short ciphers notwithstanding.

      Does anybody have any doubt that the solution to the 408 cipher is correct? Of course not. If and when a solution to the 340 is truly found, it will likely enjoy the same level of acceptance.

    • Joseph Hamilton 18 December, 2017 at 10:20

      One of the cipher experts on the show said something that I have not heard before. (Keep in mind I am a novice.) He said a code is not truly known to be cracked until it produces “actionable intelligence.” One reason the Enigma machine in WWII “worked” is because if it said the Luftwaffe was going to bomb Coventry tomorrow night then, sure enough weather permitting, the Luftwaffe bombed Coventry the following night. In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. What actionable intelligence does Baur’s solution provide? For that matter what actionable intelligence did the solved Z480 provide? Short of checking in paradise to see if some souls are waiting at the will call window for the Zodiac to show up I don’t see anything to verify or any way to verify it.

      But let’s say both ciphers are truly cracked and it leads to somebody, what then? The suspect could readily admit to writing the ciphers but could very plausibly deny having killed anyone.

      As I see it the only communications that warrant serious scrutiny are the ones with details of the Lake Berryessa and Blue Rock Springs shootings and with Paul Stine’s shirt tails. And it is not clear to me that the writer of the Paul Stine letters provides his bonafides to the earlier shootings.

      The TV show made this glaringly obvious: there is no consistent modus operandi in any of these killings. It reminds me of the case of Henry Lee Lucas about twenty-five or thirty years ago. The word got out through the law enforcement grape vine that Lucas would confess to any homicide you presented him with. Of course, he had to first take a quick gander at the case file to “refresh” his memory. Detectives were flocking to him from all over the country. By the time he raised the white flag he had admitted to 300 killings. In the Zodiac we may have a Henry Lee Lucas in absentia.

  11. Joseph Hamilton 16 December, 2017 at 20:05 Reply

    Craig Bauer’s solution reads (I have added spaces for clarity unless otherwise indicated):
    BY THE GUN BAREL AIM [space]
    AME TO BE OVER PIG IS [space] M
    ANGRY DANGEROS [3 spaces] I

    The next (last) seven lines are “gibberish” according to Bauer except that the third of these lines is:

  12. Joseph Hamilton 17 December, 2017 at 07:31 Reply

    I’m sorry. My computer must have autocorrected and I didn’t catch it.. RICHARD should be misspelled as RICHERD.

  13. Joseph Hamilton 5 January, 2018 at 21:26 Reply

    Hi Theodore,
    Certainly a one-for-one letter match could be an erroneous assumption but as Mike points out above in his reply to Mason, you have to decide how many degrees of freedom you are going to allow yourself. The more degrees the less credible is the solution.

  14. john chandler 14 January, 2018 at 13:08 Reply

    Decoded Confession letter. Pines to Palms to Forest to Lake Hemet. Follow trail to dead end. Cut Rune on tree to mark grave. To prove this look at the word “off” look for the word forest and at the word ” street” for cut rune on tree.
    Use original letter with correct spacing. Email me for access to my notes.

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