For some reason, we can’t help but be fascinated by the various theories and mysteries of the world’s most infamous serial killers. Of course, there’s no one more notorious than the Zodiac Killer, the anonymous serial killer who taunted the San Francisco Police Department in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
After five confirmed victims (and a possible 32 more), the Zodiac Killer made a name for himself by sending coded letters to the media and the police. But Peacock’s two-episode documentary, Myth of the Zodiac Killer, posits that there could be more than one Zodiac Killer. So how many Zodiac Killers were there?
How many Zodiac Killers were there? It’s possible that there was more than one.
The Zodiac Killer first taunted the SFPD in July 1969, just before the infamous Manson murders. In Myth of the Zodiac Killer, investigative journalist Thomas Henry Horan theorizes that there were multiple people behind the Zodiac killings … and that they could have been connected to Charles Manson. He says that after the Manson murders, the Zodiac’s letters and murders became more erratic and newsworthy. After all, the Zodiac wanted attention.
While the Zodiac couldn’t be Charles Manson himself (the Zodiac murders continued after Manson was already in prison), it could have been a group of people not unlike the “Manson family.”
The Myth of the Zodiac Killer director Andrew Nock told the New York Post, “It’s very unusual for cold cases to have this much information. But if you read all the police files, you see that there’s very little linking these crimes together. Different weapons, different M.O., different victim profile, even eyewitness statements, different locations -— or a trophy being taken from one, but none of the others …”
Although he tries to disprove Horan’s theory in the documentary, the theory holds water because of those factors. Horan believes that multiple killers combined to create the myth of the Zodiac. Media and police then fueled the fire that the Zodiac was one person instead of many because that’s a more intriguing story. However, the documentary also disproves Horan in multiple ways—mostly that police already considered many of his theories and ruled them out.
Still, the most likely theory is that just one Zodiac killer is responsible for the deaths attributed to him and that he’s likely dead. However, other copycat Zodiac killers have popped up over the years.
There are a few other Zodiac Killers who have popped up over the years.
The most well-known copycat Zodiac Killer was the New York Zodiac Killer. Heriberto “Eddie” Seda was active in New York City from 1990 to 1993 before he was caught in 1996. He killed three people and injured six others, and like the Zodiac Killer, he sent menacing coded messages to the NYPD. The difference, of course, is that Seda was caught. His story was also told in Netflix’s Catching Killers.
Additionally, a juvenile killer known only as Boy A to protect his identity in Kobe, Japan, was also called a Zodiac killer. He beheaded special-ed pupil Jun Hase with a chainsaw, left his body in front of the school for students to see, and put a note in Hase’s mouth. Police commented that the murder and the note were reminiscent of the Zodiac. He also confessed to murdering 10-year-old Ayaka Yamashita.
Finally, a South Korean serial killer, Lee Choon-Jae, was often compared to the Zodiac Killer. He operated from 1986 to 1994 and took the lives of at least 15 women and girls in Hwaseong. These were known as the Hwaseong murders. In 2003, Bong Joon-ho (who directed the Oscar-winning film, Parasite) told the story in Memories of a Murder.
Because the South Korean Killer and the Zodiac Killer were both prolific and elusive, their cases and stories were often compared in the media and film. But that was the only tie between the two. When Choon-Jae was later caught in 2018, he could no longer be compared to the one and only Zodiac.
So there are at least three other killers who have been compared to the Zodiac Killer, and while experts agree that the original Zodiac Killer is likely just one man … anything is possible.