"Finding out there’s no Zodiac would be like finding out there's no Santa Claus," writes Bill Black for MEL Magazine—which may explain why a whole bunch of people are no fan of Thomas Henry Horan. He's a semi-retired community college writing professor in St. Louis. He also previously worked as a detective and has read the entirety of the 2,500-page case file on the Zodiac killer as compiled by four California police departments—something only a handful of people have done. His conclusion: the five murders attributed to the Zodiac killer were committed by various people, and the letters were a hoax likely carried out by someone with access to the police reports. Black begins by detailing the five "canonical" murders, which took place between December 1968 and October 1969.
Taken in isolation, the crimes seem unrelated: no shared methodology, no matching ammunition, no repeated fingerprints. What was the evidence? Four letters, a phone call, and a note on a car door, all claiming them as the work of one killer. Black details some of Horan's conclusions. Here's one: In the first letter, sent after the second murder, the killer wrote that he would offer details "only I + the police know" as proof of his hand in the crimes. "Girl was wearing paterned [sic] slacks," reads one line. Except Darlene Ferrin was wearing a "blue and white flowered slack dress," which is akin to a jumpsuit with bell-bottom-like legs. Horan posits that the writer wasn't the killer who mistook her outfit, but read "slack dress" in the police report as "slacks." Read the full story for more such examples, which Black admits left him "thrilled." (Read more Longform stories.)