With the following excerpt from the first third of the 408 cipher, the Zodiac Killer forever linked his crimes with the story of The Most Dangerous Game.
I LIKE KILLING PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN IT IS MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
The original version of this well-known work started life as a short story, written by Richard Connell and published by Collier’s in 1924. The adventure revolves around a world-class hunter named Rainsford who survives the sinking of his ship, only to find himself stranded on the ominously named Ship-Trap Island. Soon, he’s introduced to the island’s primary inhabitant, General Zaroff, an elegant but bizarre Russian. Zaroff, a fellow hunter, slowly reveals that he has tired of hunting wild animals because they are incapable of presenting a real challenge to his superior skills. Instead, he now hunts the most dangerous game: man. In the inevitable conclusion, Rainsford struggles to stay alive as Zaroff hunts him.
This universal theme of “hunter turned hunted” compelled many others to retell and adapt The Most Dangerous Game throughout the Twentieth Century. Perhaps the most successful adaptation was the 1932 film of the same name. Made by RKO pictures, the movie starred Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and Fay Wray — interestingly, the film was made alongside the iconic King Kong, which prompted writers to conjure up a damsel-in-distress, love-interest role for King Kong star Fay Wray.
Many knowledgeable Zodiac researchers, myself included, believe this movie was likely the killer’s motivation for the clear reference to The Most Dangerous Game. I, personally, believe there is another hidden gem in this movie which may well explain another aspect of the killer’s motivation for referencing the story. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to discuss that topic just yet…
The total run time is approximately an hour. It’s not a bad movie; at least it’s better than Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (in my humble opinion, anyway…). I invite you to watch it and share your thoughts in the comments.
There was also a Nov. 26, 1966 episode of Get Smart and a Jan. 16, 1967 installment of Gilligan’s Island that were take-offs on The Most Dangerous Game. Did Zodiac watch these episodes? Has anyone checked through television listings for the San Francisco area to see if these episodes were rerun on local stations around the times of the murders or the time the Most Dangerous Game letter was written?
Interesting Dan. It’s amazing how many different places references to The Most Dangerous Game show up. This site has a pretty good list. I remember watching Wedding Crashers and Vince Vaughn’s character referring to it; that was a surprise.
In terms of people checking the television listings for those episodes, I’m not aware of anybody having done it. I suspect the killer’s desire to reference the story or film was more deeply rooted; i.e. I doubt he was inspired by such television shows. Of course, on the other hand, who knows?