[For other entries in this series, please see: Ten Days of Count Marco]
There they are. Just over 2300 words written by the hand of Marc Spinelli, better known as Count Marco, on and around the Fourth of July in 1974. Almost certainly, some idea contained within this hard-to-take-too-seriously collection of words so offended the man who had been the Zodiac that he felt compelled to write to the San Francisco Chronicle for what was likely his last time.
So, what exactly was it that Count Marco had done to invite the unwanted attention of the notorious Bay-Area serial killer? There are some intriguing possibilities. But, if we consider the question from a few different angles, there are multiple reasons to believe that the motivation came from one particular Count Marco column, namely the July 3 installment: Your Mirror Can Also See Inside You.
From the simplest perspective, Count Marco’s column is about the subject of psychiatry and psychology and the killer’s letter has multiple references to psychology. In this sense, the letter is very much an “in-your-face” type of response. Spinelli rails against psychology and the killer proclaims the Count has a “psychological disorder” and “suggests” he see a “shrink.” This is very much in line with what we know of the killer through his other letters in that there is a definite element of taunting and also a bit of a sense of humor.
Another insightful question to consider is this: what, precisely, is the author’s issue with Count Marco? Sure, the killer uses some insulting language, but the phrase that really indicates his problem with Spinelli is that he “…always needs to feel superior.” As an aside, this is quite a statement for someone who once wrote: “The police shall never catch me because I have been too clever for them.” I would say the letter writer knew a thing or two about needing to feel superior. But, I digress. Returning to the subject at hand, if we scan the Count Marco columns looking for specific instances of superiority and arrogance, there is one statement that sticks out like a sore thumb – from the same column:
You don’t need psychiatry. All you need is the Count Marco column.
Certainly, Spinelli made a living out of finding entertaining ways in which to enrage Bay-Area housewives, and more often than not doing so involved a substantial dose of immodesty. But even in this context, the above statement is a bit over the top. This is exactly the type of statement that would invite the criticism that the Count “always needs to feel superior.”
Finally, in my estimation, the specific mention of “the Count Marco column” is significant. Spinelli writes “All you need is the Count Marco column,” to which the killer responds: “cancel the Count Marco column.” While one could argue that these words are a likely choice for somebody taking issue with Count Marco, I think it’s more probable that the phrase is a direct response to the statement that motivated the killer to write.
Also worthy of note is that the timing of this scenario fits quite well. The “Mirror…” column was published on Thursday, July 3rd. The killer had Friday (the Fourth of July) and the weekend to craft his response, e.g. what he was going to say, how he was going to say it, how he would sign the letter and what approach he would use to attempt to disguise his handwriting. Under these circumstances, the letter was probably finished and possibly mailed during the weekend. This chain of events is perfectly consistent with the known Monday postmark.
Of course, all these observations beg the question: why did the killer take such offense at Spinelli denigrating the profession of psychology and psychiatry? But alas, that’s a topic for another day…