Melbourne mathematician and very smart individual Samuel Blake has been recognised by the FBI as part of a team that managed to decipher a coded message sent by the infamous Zodiac Killer, after more than fifty years.
Per ABC News reports, Blake worked to decode the message, known as the ‘340 Cipher’, along with two other cryptologists, and a University of Melbourne supercomputer known as Spartan. Side note, that’s a great name for a supercomputer.
The Zodiac Killer, who has never been identified (although the internet seems to think it’s found him), sent the letter in question to the San Francisco Chronicle on November 8, 1969. It bears a distinctive circle with a cross through the middle.
Blake, who cracked the code along with cryptographers David Oranchak, from the US, Jarl van Eycke, from Belgium, said that the team tested more than 650,000 possible reading directions for the cipher but came up with nothing.
They had a breakthrough when a search turned up a particular combination of words – “GAS CHAMBER.” The fact that a creepy-ass phrase like this turned up amidst a “sea of noise” was enough to get their attention.
The team was able to correct an “error Zodiac made in his diagonal enumeration”, and from there, it all fell into place.
It had been hoped that hoped that this note might reveal the killer’s name, as had been promised in letters to other newspapers. Unfortunately, it did not, offering only taunts to police and disturbing insights into his state of mind.
The text of the letter reads:
I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME
THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW
WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME
I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER
BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER
BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME
WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE
SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH
I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS
LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH
The team sent their findings to the FBI, who approved their solution to the code within a day.
— FBI SanFrancisco (@FBISanFrancisco) December 11, 2020
The Zodiac Killer murdered five known victims between December 1968 and October 1969 (with two others surviving the attacks), but once claimed to have murdered 37. The killer was never caught, and the case remains open with the US Department of Justice.