At 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 — 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.
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.
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.
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 🙂