On the night of December 20, 1968, David Faraday had his first date with Bettie Lou Jensen. They were young, normal California teenagers—he was driving his family’s station wagon, and she was supposed to be home by eleven o’clock. As with most adolescent couples, Faraday and Jensen didn’t make it home before curfew. Shortly after eleven, a passersby found the young couple lying on the ground in a place known as Lovers’ Lane—a dark, normally deserted stretch of road near Lake Herman. They’d been shot to death…murdered by a man who would become infamously known as the Zodiac Killer. These are the first two Zodiac murders, and they haunt that old Lovers’ Lane to this day.
The Zodiac killer’s reign of terror lasted for several years, imprisoning Northern California in a wave of suspicion, terror, and futility. The killer was suspected of having occult affiliations, which lines up with his behavioral characteristics and those of serial killers in general. People who commit these types of crimes often believe that the killings confer some kind of supernatural power upon them. As forensic psychologist Dr. Katherine Ramsland said in an article for Psychology Today:
“…None suffered from an overt delusional disorder, but each had developed a sense that exercising the ultimate power yielded secret knowledge and made them special. Ted Bundy called his dumping grounds his church. Throw malignant narcissism into this mix and they become high priests (in their own minds) of a ritual that taps the raw energy available along the boundary between life to death. Some believe that no one stands closer, save the victims, to this liminal experience. Therefore, murder gives them privileged access to a rich quantum field, which bestows on them the aura of dark magic.”
With the Zodiac’s use of occult or astrological symbols, the ritualistic precision of his kills, and the savagery of those deaths, this diagnosis seems to fit the bill. Like Jack the Ripper, he delighted in taunting both police and press with his overt superiority. Like Ted Bundy, he considered himself a higher sort of being–a superhuman, dealing death to the inferior.
Serial killers often are nicknamed—a way to identify and demonize men whose actions are so horrendous and inexplicable that it’s easier to think of them as monsters rather than human beings. But this monster’s identity is still unknown, a serial killer who eluded justice despite the gloating letters he sent to newspapers, letters where he called himself the “Zodiac” after the police had given him the nickname. After he assumed the persona, his letters began with the same chilling sentence: “This is the Zodiac speaking.” Those letters included cryptograms, messages written in code. Only one of those cryptograms has been deciphered, except for the last eighteen letters:
“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 DANGEROUE ANAMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERENCE IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL THE BEST PART OF IT IS THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE EBEORIETEMETHHPITI”
The Zodiac’s collection of “slaves” for the afterlife includes five known victims. Two more were injured but survived. The killer boasted in his letters that there were thirty others in a stretch of time from 1963 to 1970. Police, however, suspect the Zodiac in only four more cases. Despite the letters, police artist sketches from survivors of Zodiac attacks, and the fingerprints left at the crime scenes, no one was ever arrested or charged with the murders. Investigators have followed thousands of tips, and have cleared hundreds of suspects. A search of the FBI’s files on the Zodiac killer is depressingly huge, with page after page of suspect fingerprints that were compared to the Zodiac’s, only to come up with the same phrase time after time: Latent fingerprints previously reported in this case not identical of
*name blacked out*.
The desperation of law enforcement to find this murderer grows with every page. Despite all that work, the Zodiac’s identity remains a mystery still. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many murders he actually committed. In the end, San Francisco and Northern California were held hostage for years by the image of a masked and hooded man, who thought killing was fun and his victims his slaves throughout eternity.
But, the first confirmed Zodiac killings were the murders of David Faraday and Bettie Lou Jensen on that dark, deserted road by Lake Herman. Just like Jack the Ripper’s aura drenches Whitechapel in London, the Lake Herman Road site is permeated with the Zodiac’s mystique. Even now, Zodiac graffiti from his letters can be found spray painted on the signs and road barriers around the site. The location is haunted by its history, and paranormal investigators believe it’s haunted by something else.
A look at the crime scene on Google earth gives you an idea of how deserted and isolated the spot is even until today. A perfect place for a pair of young lovers to park. A perfect place to murder a pair of young lovers too. A perfect place for a haunting.
A perfect place to investigate.
Paranormal researchers have captured EVPs and photographs at the Lovers’ Lane site. Investigators claim to be psychically attacked by an entity, not just at the site but even when discussing the case at other, unrelated locations. A newspaper office where one suspect allegedly worked as an editor is notoriously haunted by an entity claiming to be the Zodiac. Considering the murderer’s belief that those who he killed would be his slaves after death, it makes sense that the crime scenes would be haunted.
Behaviorists have put together a picture of the man behind the crimes: a highly intelligent man who was masquerading as illiterate, who hated women, who felt insignificant in his existence but who was empowered by being the Zodiac…finally feeling like he was somebody instead of a nobody.
But the element that pulses strongest throughout the Zodiac’s dealings with the police and the media is power. He felt powerful because he killed without reason and got away with it. He felt powerful because he created puzzles no one could fully solve. He felt powerful because he could creep up on couples in parked cars and kill them without remorse or witnesses. And he felt powerful because he believed every soul he murdered was then his to command throughout eternity–his slaves, as he put it. They would make him more powerful still.
It’s unlikely the Zodiac killer is still alive today. Survivors described him as being in his late thirties or early forties almost half a century ago, so he’d be in his eighties or nineties if still alive. Chances are that he’s joined his victims in the afterlife and one does have to wonder–do his victims somehow empower his entity? With the occult implications of the Zodiac case and his ability to evade capture, it’s not difficult to imagine that he was drawing from some kind of power that enabled him to pull off the perfect crimes. This type of thing happens again and again in occult murders…the idea that a murderer’s arcane power increases with every person he dispatches.
And on Lake Herman Road, where empty fields and scruffy-looking clusters of trees dot a vacant landscape, reports of paranormal activity stretch back to the early 1900s. A woman in white has been reported frequently in the area, and a young man carrying a hatchet. But the real haunting on Lake Herman Road takes place in a small turnabout, where once kids liked to park their cars and go necking. Two teens died there in 1968, the victims of this murderer who saw himself as some occult demigod. Are they haunting the scene of their violent deaths? Does their killer? Or do all three haunt the site, the victims driven before their murderer as the slaves he claimed they are?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if this weekend, we all found out?