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.

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