Marc Spinelli - aka Count Marco

Count Marco as pictured on the inside cover of his 1960 book “Beauty and the Beast.”

The last time the Zodiac killer wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle under the persona of the Zodiac was the “Exorcist” letter which he sent on January 29, 1974. In the months that followed, the same man is believed to have sent three additional letters to the Chronicle. Many people believe the last of these letters, the Count Marco letter, represents the final authentic communication from the killer.

In this short letter, the author, using the pen name “the Red Phantom,” took issue with long-time advice (sexploitation, really…) columnist Marc Spinelli, better known as Count Marco. The letter writer must have been pleased with his results; Count Marco, upon learning he may well have been threatened by the Zodiac killer, decided his fifteen-year career as a columnist was adequate and consequently called it quits.

It’s never been clear what exactly it was in the Count Marco columns that motivated the killer – assuming it was him – to write the letter. To consider this question more thoroughly, I’ve collected many of the Count Marco columns from the time frame of the letter. In the interest of striking a balance between thoroughness and brevity, I’m going to post the ten columns that preceded the mailing of the Count Marco letter, one every couple days or so. In all probability, whatever it was that offended the killer to the point of action is contained within this subset of the columns.

The letter was mailed on July 8, 1974. The ten columns leading to that day are as follows:

Also be sure to check out the conclusions post.