Atascadero State Hospital and Arthur Leigh Allen Message Board: Arthur Leigh Allen: Atascadero State Hospital and Arthur Leigh Allen

By Ricardo (Ricardo) ( - on Sunday, October 27, 2002 - 07:53 pm:

What do you think about the connections between Atascadero State Hospital and Arthur Leigh Allen?

Arthur Leigh Allen told the police that the weapons and bombs found at his house in 1991 belonged to someone who had been at Atascadero. Did the police ever consider the possibility that Allen had an accomplice as the Zodiac?

Also, there were witnesses who claimed Allen told them that someone at Atascadero had given him codes they claim they saw Allen have. If this person at Atascadero existed, was he the same one who Allen said gave him the weapons and bombs? Was this ever investigated? When the police or reporters interviewed Allen, did they ever ask Allen about the person (or persons) at Atascadero? (By the way, did Allen ever admit to having the codes at all?)

By Nick (Nick) ( on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 12:14 am:

If the walls of Atascadero could speak there would be many mysteries solved. I spoke with notorious serial killer Charles Hatcher many years ago regarding his stay at Atascadero during the '70's. He said there were always guys talking shop, like they were proud of the sick things they'd done. He also said there were always those claiming to be this or that killer, like it was a badge of honor or something.

I seriously doubt that Allen investigators ever interviewed staff or patients at Atascadero regarding the Zodiac case. Even with a court order they would have gotten little cooperation. It's just the way it was at the time, particularly in California. There was a wide chasm between law enforcement and the mental health profession back then, understandably so. They had seperate goals. It's gotten better today.

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 05:46 am:

Here's what oneof the walls might say:

If Allen hadsuch a friend at Atascadero, No. 1 candidate is Muharem Kurbegovic a/k/a the "Alphabet Bomber". In the early 70's, he was arrested for the locker bombing at LAX and sending chemical terrorist threats through the mail. He did his stretch at Atascadero at the same time Allen was there. He was tried much later and I believe is now at San Quentin doing LWOP.

There are two strong circumstantial connections with Boom-Boom, as he was affectionately known by his fellows in the LA County lockup. First, one weapon of choice was a pipe bomb of a very particualr design. He had devised a very specific trigger mech involving a certain battery power source, switch and ignitor. This was definitely not the mechanism from Z's bus bomb diagram. I wonder if the details of Allen's pipe bombs or diagrams are available. If so, I could compare them to Kurbegovic's. There are two key components that could connect them.

Second conection concerns Kurbegovoc's nom de guerre. Police and news reports attribute it to his choice of target supposedly running in alphabetical order. Not necessarily so. Kurbegovic obsessively developed elaborate numerological interpretations or supposed encoding and decoding of various writings to connect with supposed FBI conspiracies and the like. Again, if the details of Allen's supposed codes were available, I could give a fairly authoritative opinion on whether they more closely resemble Z's or Kurbegovic's.

Any one have these details or a source?

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 10:39 am:

I think it's important to consider the timeline of Allen being at Atascadero, and when Z's codes and bomb plans were disseminated, if any serious consideration is to be given to a possible connection/association/collaboration between Allen and a psychiatric patient/inmate.

Allen worked at Atascadero 1961-62, and was committed there 1974-78. In order for Allen to have been Z, and for his codes and bomb plans to have been influenced by such a person -- barring a wholly coincidental connection between them that had nothing to do with Atascadero -- the patient/inmate would have had to have been at Atascadero in the early 60s, since Z's codes, etc., predate Allen's commitment by nearly five years. Unless the Alphabet Bomber, or any other inmate at the hospital, had been incarcerated during Allen's stint there as an employee, it seems highly unlikely that any such association would have occurred. If it did and if the Bomber, or person of similar expertise, in 1961-62 or within a few years did endow Allen with the requisite knowledge to construct his codes or bomb plans, then this person would have been someone who was already criminally active at the time, and had already developed his penchant for codes and bomb making.

Allen being in collaboration with the Bomber in the 70s would presuppose the fact that Z's codes and bomb plans were a product of the 60's. Even if the items that Allen is alleged to have possessed, i.e. weapons, codes, came from an Atascadero inmate, I can't see how they could have retroactively influenced Z's writings, unless Allen had them prior to 1969. And if Allen/Z was merely influenced by press coverage of the bombings and letters, it would still require pre-1969 knowledge. I don't know how long the Alphabet Bomber was active before his arrest, but I doubt that it spanned at least the five years between 1969 and 1974. Is my reasoning here faulty?

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 12:26 pm:


"Allen being in collaboration with the Bomber in the 70s would presuppose the fact that Z's codes and bomb plans were a product of the 60's."

Yes I think there is a flaw in this reasoning.
It makes the underlying assumption that Allens bomb and cipher material are or were connected to Z's.

Z's materials certainly were products of the 60's, or at least certainly predated Allen's Atascadero years.

Allen's bomb materials were definitely post Atascadero, and his cipher material is of indeterminate date and character.

Remember, the 1972 search turned up absolutely nothing, and the bomb material was turned up in the 1991 search. The Allen cipher material was turned up only in unspecified reports of friends and family, if at all. Maybe Tom can fill us in on who exactly said what exactly and when exactly to whom about Allen's ciphers. I can't find it anywhere.

I am distinguishing between Allen's codes and bomb plans and Z's. They may have been related, but that's what we're questioning, so we can't assume that conclusion. Allen's were seen in his house, and we do not know how closely they resembeld Z's. At least one report says Allen's bombs or bomb materials, or diagrams, were pipe bombs: Z's were not. This site says they were gravel bombs like Z's. I can't for the moment locate the original source material for either of these descriptions.

Allen's codes were describes as being "like Z's" but that could mean anything or nothing; we would have to know in what way and to what extent there were similarities, and when exactly they were seen in his home. Again, this site says his family and friends told police that the codes had symbols "identical" to tose in the Z ciphers, but I have not seen the original source of those claims.

My own hypothesis is that the Atascadero material -- if that's what it was -- was probably independent of any Z connection. it was all post-Z i.e 1974-78, but it attracted Allen at the most because he had already been associated with Z and it was somewhat Z-like.

Allen goes to Atascadero, having been investigated as a Z suspect and somewhat taken with the association with a notorious serial killer. He meets Kurbegovic, who is the real deal as far as notorious killers go, and has a similar fascination. He sees Kurbegovic's materials -- bomb diagrams, numerology charts -- and has the same kind of fascination. He takes or is given copies by Kurbegovic and they are seen by various people over the years, including turning up in the 1991 search.

They are Z-Like enough for the casual observer to make a connection. There are specific differences between Z's bombs and ciphers that I could recognize in a second, if I had a detailed enough description of the Allen materials, or the materials themselves. Yes, I have seen the Kurbegovic materials. In fact, I would expect the Kurbegovic materials to be in his LA jacket, so that anyone with access to the Allen materials could make the comparison at least on the bomb stuff. I take it the Allen codes were never actually recovered or described in any detail.

Sidebar: Now, it may seem implausible that someone like Kurbegovic could be allowed to have such materials while incarcerated, but I assure you he passed such materials in and out of the LA county jail regularly, and I have no doubt that he had them in Atascadero and probably has them now.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 02:28 pm:

Peter, as always, a well-thought-out summary of your position. But, with all due respect, I think you failed to regard my last post in its proper context.

Ricardo opened this thread with his basic premise that Allen possessed weapons, bombs and possibly codes, some or all allegedly obtained from "someone who had been at Atascadero." He goes on to question if, on this premise, Allen, as Z, could have had an accomplice.

You went on to suggest that The Alphabet Bomber might have been such a "friend," if Allen did in fact have one at Atascadero.

My post was a response to Ricardo's premise and your elaboration on it. As for my "underlying assumption" that Allen's possession of weapons, etc., had any connection with Z, if you re-read my post, carefully this time, I think you'll see that I began my line of reasoning with "In order for Allen to have been Z . . ." All that follows from that point argues the unlikelihood that Allen, as Z, could have been influenced by post-1969 factors. If nothing else, I feel that my line of reasoning rejected the premise that anything Allen might have procured from his 70s term at Atascadero would have had any relevance to Z's activities.

Please don't be so quick to "assume" that whatever opinions I proffer are biased towards Allen, and thereby avoid any knee-jerk misrepresentations that only serve to insult my integrity and objectivity.

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 03:07 pm:

Easy, Bill:

You are the last person whose integrity and objectivity I would question. And I even hesitate to question your reasoning, except when you ask whether it is faulty. Even then, I was confining my response to your question to the paragraph in which it appeared, which began "Allen being in collaboration with the Bomber in the 70s would presuppose the fact that Z's codes and bomb plans were a product of the 60's".

Of course your intitial premise at the top of the post is as usual impeccable. I agree that in order for both to be true -- for Allen to be Z AND for Z influenced by the Atascadero friend it would have to predate his incarceration.

The second premise, however ""Allen being in collaboration with the Bomber in the 70s would presuppose the fact that Z's codes and bomb plans were a product of the 60's", is more problematiical to me. Perhaps I misread what you meant by "presuppose' and it struck me as a truism that Z's codes and bomb plans were from the 60's: they all occurred 1970 or earlier. It is also a truism that Z could not have been influenced in that time from anything that occurred later. Your line of reasoning eliminating Atascadero as a Z influence is likewise impeccable, but I inferred you were arguing that it is less likely that Allen dug Kurbegovic at Atascadero because all Z's influences had to be earlier. That implies an assumed connection between Allen and Z.

It is a matter of logic, certanly not of objectivity, and I was addressing only the logic.

I think all of this supports the conclusion that Allen did meet Kurbegovic, or someone like him, at Atascadero in 74-78, and that that this, rather than any Z connection, explains the Allen bomb material and possibly any cipher material that may be verified.

So bottom line is we agree on the conclusions and just seem to get there by different paths.

BTW, Kurbegovic was active for a very short period of time, and until his arrest in 1974, I think within a month of the LAX bombing, the vast extent of his numerology material was not public. Before becoming a bomber, he was a chemical weapons terrorist wannabe, so all in all it is as you imply, not in the cards that he or anyone else at Atascadero was a Z influence at all.

I think the Atascadero connection says a lot about Allen and nothing about Z.

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Monday, October 28, 2002 - 03:13 pm:

SO, are we back on message?

Tom: Any likelihood of getting a specific description of the bomb materials / diagrams from the '91 search? Or any more detailed or direct information on the Allen ciphers? I would only need to know one or two things about eaxh of them to make an enlightening contribution on the topic.

By J Eric Freedner (J_Eric) ( - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 07:05 pm:

Would the doctors and "wardens" of Atascadero allow inmates to freely talk to one another about how to make bombs and devise secret codes? Isn't that the sort of behavior they are trying to modify? The way you guys are going at it, sounds like Atascadero is Terrorism 101.

It seems unlikely that strange diagrams or codes would be allowed to go out of there.

Bill Baker, maybe you can answer this one: was a 4-year stint in the Mental Hospital the usual length at that time? Seems a bit long for child molestation but I am not familiar with that subject. How DO inmates there occupy themselves for that long a time period--are there school courses they can take? If so, wouldn't it be interesting to know what ALA studied?

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 07:53 pm:

Eric, I'm sorry but I don't really know, not without reading the court order which placed him there. I'm assuming that ALA was committed to Atascadero as an alternative to state prison, where any remedial therapy he would have received as a mentally disordered sex offender would have been comparably less effective than in a more conducive hospital-type environment. It was clearly longer a commitment than would be expected if he was placed there strictly for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. As you probably know, by the way, he spent far less than 4 years there; I think Tom has the actual dates of admission and release. From my own experience with people I've arrested that have been sent there, I simply don't recall the lengths of time they were confined. In cases, of course, where defendants have been judged incompetent to stand trial due to their mental state (which is not the case here), they could be held indefinitely until which time as they are deemed capable of assisting counsel in their own defense and able to stand trial for their crime(s).

Although I've been to a number of state-run mental hospitals (no, not as a patient/inmate, although at times I probably would have qualified for admission!), including Atascadero and Camarillo, I have no idea how the patients/inmates occupy their time, but I would suspect that their free time would be somewhat structured in accordance with their particular rehabilitation and therapy regimen. As for schooling, it would seem likely, but I just don't know. Almost certainly, they would have access to reading material, the subject matter of which I would again suspect should have been dutifully monitored and recorded in their patient files. But this is all guesswork on my part. I wouldn't think that interaction and private conversations with other patients had any closer or more restrictive monitoring than would be found in a prison setting, although I should think that hospital personnel would be making notations in their files as to their associations.

Lastly, once more I must plead ignorance as to the screening of outgoing mail. I know that in a jail or prison setting, both incoming and outgoing mail is routinely read, and sometimes censored, by officials, with greater emphasis on the incoming mail, for obvious reasons. How closely hospital personnel would screen outgoing mail, if at all (it would make sense that the patient's outgoing mail should be reviewed for purposes related to their progress, as well as thought processes, for treatment keys), is something I know nothing about.

Not much help, but perhaps there are other posters who might be more knowledgable about such things.

By J Eric Freedner (J_Eric) ( - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 09:36 pm:

Thanks, Bill. What you say makes sense to me. I would surmise there would be a lot of random testing for drug use, that sort of thing. Perhaps "time off sentence" for successful completion of mandatory or elective education. Let's see if anyone out there can maybe shed a bit more light on this. 4 years seems a real long time. I had the impression ALA was there maybe 2 years with additional time on the outside on probation. I had a friend in jail for a year (spousal abuse) but other than that, have no first-hand experience in such things.

By Warren (Warren) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 07:55 am:

I think Allen's "Letter from Atascadero", on this site courtesy of Tom, gives some insight to these matters.

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 07:58 am:


I think I can help with this one. As I think Bill might confirm, prison can provide advanced degrees in criminal skills and knowledge. Atascadero is not all that different . While technically a hospital, it is specifically dedicated to the treatment of those (who at least used be) called "criminally insane". Keep in mind the old punchlne "I may be crazy, but I aint stupid". Inmates in any such institution have unbelievable resources for getting thigs into, out of and around these institutions. They also have a surprising amount of unstructured time.

As it happens, Allen was at Atascadero at the same time as one Muharim Kurbegovic, better known as the "Alphabet Bomber". "Boom-Boom" (his prison handle)was at Atascadero for treatment because he was initially found incompetent to stand trial. After his "release" from Atascedero (to LA County jail) he was convicted of planting a bomb that detonated in a locker at LAX, you may recall. I believe he is now in San Quentin. His stock in trade, in addition to the bombs themselves, included a vast quantity of bomb literature, including pipe bomb designs, and incredibly convoluted and complex alpha-numeric cryptology, including not only codes but alpha- numerological interpretations of the writngs of others.

I had occassion to examine a lot of this material in 1979, when Kurbegovic was out of Atascadero in LA County lockup awaiting trial for the LAX bombing, among other things. On one occassion, LA County Sheriffs deputies intercepted a 1/2 inch thick file of documents Kurbegovic was passing OUT of jail to his court-appointed investigator, which included bomb diagrams and cryptology material. They initially confiscated the material in the mistaken belief that it was being smuggled IN, then released it when it was pointed out that the defendant had had it with him during his entire incarceration, including at Atascadero.

Long story short, I have no doubt that Allen had access to just about any such material you could imagine, and very likely knew Kurbegovic and his ... uh... work.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 09:11 am:

Is it at all an impossibility for ALA, were he Z, to have contributed to some extent to Kurbegovic's expertise in bomb designs and cryptology? It does appear that ALA brought out with him upon his release, some materials later found in his home which ALA said belonged to a fellow inmate at Atascadero (see archived posts).

By Alan Cabal (Alan_Cabal) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 11:34 am:

The tutoring seems more likely to have gone the other way.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 02:17 pm:

I am fortunate enough to have experienced our mental health institutions as both a medical student and as a visitor (a friend of mine was in for a short time). Luckily, neither experience exposed me to the criminally insane (I got exposed to those in the ER instead). My knowledge is limited, but I'll give it a go:

They have very structured days which focus on treatment for whatever issues they're dealing with. Any conflicts with other inpatients are facilitated by mental health professionals (counselors and whatnot). I know they read and watch t.v. and stuff. Some of them are encouraged to write journals, etc. Those who have artistic talent are encouraged to express themselves this way.

Keep in mind, these are my observations in: 2 facilities- may not be representative of other locations

Also, these observations are made in the late 90s, early 00s. Mental health and how we treat our mentally ill has changed dramatically since the 70s. What I describe may not be what was going on back then.

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 04:34 pm:

Muskogee: Whatever happens anywhere else, and whatever is Supposed to happen in California institutions, Kurbegovic had all his written materials in Atascadero. When LASO discovered them, they told me one reason they were so concerned was that most if not all of of the bomb components were likely readily avaialble in the lockup.

Bill: Good point. Certainly not impossible, but highly unlikely IMHO. I think Alan C has it right on this one. Kurbegovic was an engineer by training and an accomplished serial bomber before he went to Atascadero. I haven't seen any of ALA's material of course, but I can tell you that if ALA educated Kurbegovic, rather than the other way around, he was way beyond anything indicated by the sloppy, primitive bus bomb letters. Boom-Boom's bomb stuff was drawn by hand, to be sure, but showed drawing skill and quality that you would see in a Popular Mechanics or Popular Science of the time. His cryptology was strictly alpha-numeric, at least as far as the symbology goes, without any of the other symbols evidenced in Z's stuff or in the descriptions of Allen's.

Come to think of it, there was also a strong geometric component to it, as his methodology had to do in part with the geometric relations of letters on the printed page, and numerical values associated with the letters and positions.

By Peter H (Peter_H) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 04:39 pm:

Bill, PS:

"It does appear that ALA brought out with him upon his release, some materials later found in his home which ALA said belonged to a fellow inmate at Atascadero (see archived posts)."

Another good point. i wouldn't be at all surprised if MK were the fellow inmate.

By Mike (Oklahoma_Mike) ( - on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 06:58 pm:

I worked at a state hospital (yes, I know I'm setting myself up again, but I did WORK there, and not as a patient) in Oklahoma for 6 years, and know the workings of such institutions, at least in the 70's and early 80's. I know the names Atascadero and Camarillo from that time as we actually had several occasions to treat patients who had been at those institutions. There was still a strong connection between Oklahoma and California dating back to the depression when so many Okies moved to CA, and still had relatives back here.
I can only speculate on what Atascadero was like at the time ALA was there, but I know enough about the system to make educated guesses.
I suspect that at that time there was lots of free time, with patients mostly 'warehoused'. Security at such facility would mainly be focused at keeping people IN. Patients would have lots of occasion to talk privately and such, to exchange letters and all. The library would not likely have bomb-making materials but might well have books on chemistry, electicity etc. for those inmates working on a GED. I don't know if any college level or such would have been taught then. Paatients could have discussed bomb making, killing, etc. without anyone knowing. PAtients are observed, but 2 guys talking quietly over by the window wouldn't be monitored that close, it would be those more agitated and overtly dangerous who would get most of the staff attention.
Mail would likely have been censored in and out. By 1980, that was no longer the case, mail of the average patients was not read. I do not know what type of committment ALA was on, and that would make a difference re: mail, visitors, etc. Maybe Peter knows something about the CA committment laws of that time period. In Oklahoma up to 1972 any patient committed lost their rights until discharged and restoration of gights by a judge. But after that, only those who specifically had rights taken away by the court lost all their rights and those they did were reinstated automatically upon discharge.
One humorous event this brings up was one patient who had escaped from Camarillo and made it all the way back to relatives in Oklahoma, who then committed her for treatment here. She was quite paranoid and was afraid of me, accusing me of being the Hillside Strangler! For the record, I was not.