The Gareth Penn Show Message Board: General Zodiac Discussion: The Gareth Penn Show

By Tom Voigt (Admin) ( - on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 12:24 am:

Some years ago Gareth Penn wrote an extremely hard-to-find Zodiac book titled Times 17. (You'll be lucky to find a copy on Ebay or anywhere else.) In the book he named his suspect, a fellow named Michael O'Hare.

Having never had contact with Penn, in May of this year I contacted fellow Zodiac Webmaster Jake Wark to forward an invitation to the Task-Force Meeting that was held on July 4. Jake did, and Penn e-mailed me this response:

Date: 5/24/2002 11:25:52 -0700
From: Gareth Penn <>
Subject: conference

Thanks for thinking of me. I'm scheduled to be at sea on a research cruise then, so I probably won't be able to make it. If the cruise should fall through, I'll make the effort to attend.

If you will send me a mailing address, I'll forward a copy of a paper which could take the place of an oral contribution. It is the nucleus of an invited 90-minute presentation which I gave to the International Association of Forensic Sciences conference at UCLA in August 1999, and it also represents the core of a paper which was accepted by the peer-reviewed journal Cryptologia. Any conference attendee who is interested in knowing what I think could find out by reading it.

Gareth Penn"

Penn seemed very personable and I immediately offered him the opportunity to engage in a "Q&A" session here at the message board, just as author Mike Kelleher did earlier in the year. I stressed to Penn that it would give him a great opportunity to provide ordering information to thousands of people who might be interested in his book. Penn responded that he had concerns about such an online forum but would consider it. Internally I wondered why he would be so hesitant, unless he simply couldn't back up his research methods and conclusions.

A few days ago I received an e-mail from a man named Dan who attended school with Penn's suspect, Michael O'Hare. Dan wanted to join my message board, as he felt his information would exonerate O'Hare. Not knowing if Dan's info about O'Hare was legitimate, I forwarded his e-mail to Penn for confirmation. Penn immediately began bombarding Dan with e-mail. (Penn's e-mail to Dan were CC'd to me.)

In one e-mail, Penn wrote of the media's fascination with suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. Penn wrote of Allen:

"Why a child molester would branch out like that is not clear to me."

Needless to say, Penn's comment about Allen aroused my curiosity. Penn seemed to be implying pedophiles couldn't be serial killers, which is not only wrong but an extremely weak arguement against Allen's viability as the Zodiac. I e-mailed Penn and cordially challenged him to support his opinion. Here is his response:

"I didn't write that a pedophile couldn't be a serial killer. I wrote, "Why a child molester would branch out. . .is not clear to me.""

Duh, Gareth; I can read.
Was he being evasive to mask his ignorance of virtually everything non-O'Hare related? It sure seemed that way, but I wanted to find out for sure. Later that day I e-mailed Penn again, letting him know I didn't mean to "misquote" him. I explained I was merely curious of his opinion because he's a very intelligent guy who knows the Zodiac case well. He replied by vaguely comparing me with one of his ex-girlfriends and ending our relationship. Allrighty then!

Here's my final e-mail to Penn:

Date: 7/30/2002 02:29:51 -0300
From: "Tom Voigt" <>
Subject: N/A

Just for kicks I displayed our e-mail exchange regarding Allen to a
couple of friends and a relative who aren't Zodiac buffs. The
consensus? You are very evasive and an odd bird. Me thinks you simply
aren't as smart as advertised.

Speaking of ex-girlfriends, you remind me of one of mine: nit-picky,
insecure and history.


If O'Hare is the Zodiac, you'll most likely find out by logging on to
my site. I'll be sure and credit you, though.

Now that The Gareth Penn Show has been canceled, life goes on. Dan is now a member of the message board. O'Hare is enjoying life as a successful Berkeley professor. Penn, meanwhile, remains the only person in the history of Napa County to ever be booted out of Captain Ken Narlow's office. Now I know why.

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 01:05 am:

Dan and Alan Cabal are members of the board, and Penn is left holding the bag or whatever. I'm honestly not surprised that he's not interested in a straightforward discussion in an open forum on a level playing field, because he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. While he might actually be intelligent enough to be in Mensa, that doesn't mean squat as far as I'm concerned, especially when one takes into account the tripe he has published thus far. But what I really want to know is why he's accusing an innocent man of the Zodiac crimes, and why he manufactured the story about how he "discovered" Z's "true identity" by browsing through a non-existent book at the Napa County library.

So much for the Gareth Penn show. It would have been a hoot.

By Mike Kelleher (Mike_Kelleher) ( - on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 05:59 am:

A little piece of history to add . . .

Back in early 1998 when I was beginning to put the Zodiac book together, I contacted Penn (among others). By that time, I had read "Times 17" although I wasn't quite sure that I understood much of it. Anyway, I wanted to offer Penn a forum for his ideas, if they made sense for the book. At first, he was very becoming, so I put forward a few questions about Zodiac and his theories. He replied by giving me a puzzle to solve, telling me that he would answer my questions only if I could solve his puzzle.

So, that kind of displacement tactic made his intention obvious to me. I had experienced that kind of thing all my professional life.

And, as they say, the rest is history . . .


By Sandy (Sandy) ( - on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 09:02 am:

I spoke to Penn in 91. I found him to be arrogant,and a few french fry's short of a happy meal! He gave Z too much credit in the brain dept.I believe he "was" one lucky creep,and that is about to change!!

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 04:30 pm:

Mike: that sounds like very childish behavior on Penn's part. I am forced to wonder why he feels he must engage in playing pointless juvenile games. I guess he's not really much of an investigator if he thinks he has to resort to such puerile tactics in order to discover whether one is worthy of his time or not. With an attitude like that, I have to wonder how anyone gets along with him (if anyone actually does). Based on the few communications we've seen from him over the last three years, he certainly hasn't evoked much in the way of feelings of camaraderie among those here on this board who are truly dedicated to solving this case, which doesn't really appear to be the case with him. Oh, well, such is life.

By Mike Kelleher (Mike_Kelleher) ( - on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 04:51 pm:

Hi Ed:

Yeah, it is childish and probably indicates that he just doesn't want to put his views in a public forum. I've been a Mensan for decades and have seen this kind of behavior over and over again. There is a certain ego-driven, defensive behavior that can take over -- the kind of behavior that closes down to new ideas and feels threatened by challenges of any kind. Now, that isn't meant to dump on any fellow-Mensan because I've also experienced it in academia with fellow-PhDs, which is why I don't enjoy teaching very much. Too much elitism and not enough of a "real world" diet.

In my opinion, Penn didn't want me poking around, asking questions. I noticed that he became very aggressive with Jake when he asked a few questions, now aggressive with Tom along the same lines. I think that kind of behavior speaks for itself and, in the end, just closes down new ideas and alternative views. It is the polar opposite of what the scientific method and open-mindedness is all about. Unfortunately, it's a common flaw with many otherwise "intelligent" individuals.

Ok, soapbox off. Sorry . . . it's one of my few hot buttons but, as you can see, it's still very, very hot after all these years. Tom, I'm sure this is off-topic. My apologies.


By John Prisk (Prisk29) ( on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 11:43 pm:

Is it just me or does Penn's "childish behavior", and his need to "engage in playing pointless juvinile games", and desire to force people to jump through hoops for his own seemingly selfish enjoyment seem very zodiac-like? Seems like he may be working on one or two delusions of grandeur (or three, or four....).

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 01:14 am:

John, I had the same thought myself. Penn seems to have found his niche in terms of gratifying his ego. Having done quite a bit of research of Ted Kaczynski I can see how tough it must be for someone who is highly intelligent to get out into the real world and find that no one is going to celebrate you simply because you're "smart." A certain number of clever people are going to make material contributions to the world, while another number are never going to amount to much more than being clever. It's the latter class that develop the ego problems.

By Kevin (Kevinrm) ( - on Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 01:43 am:

Then there is the "common sense" factor. From my 40 years of busy living and interaction with multitudes of other individuals, I have found one thing to be true: what you gain in one area (high intellegence), you usually lack in another (not knowing or having a clue why buttoning up your dress shirt all the way without wearing a tie looks bad, better known as "common sense").

The Z case is one where common sense is far more valuable asset, and O'Hare being Z is not what I call "common sense".

By Alan Cabal (Alan_Cabal) ( on Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 06:14 pm:

IQ tests are a crock. When Binet was asked what intelligence was, he replied, "It is what my test measures." I scored a 168 on the pathetic thing and I can barely tie my shoes. Can you spell "savant"?

Penn is one exceptionally hinky and rude dude. I'd like to hear what Dan has to say about MH2O.

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 12:35 pm:

I think IQ tests just test how well one can actually take a test...

By Tom Voigt (Tom_Voigt) ( - on Friday, August 02, 2002 - 12:03 am:

Based on Penn's behavior with Jake, I'm sure I can expect a letter any day threatening a lawsuit for posting his e-mail.

Fear not! If I receive such a letter, I will post it right here.

By Kevin (Kevinrm) ( - on Friday, August 02, 2002 - 10:43 pm:

Just wondering, has anyone ever called his bluff? Sound like that's all these threats ever amount to...

By Scott Bullock (Scott_Bullock) ( - on Saturday, August 03, 2002 - 12:00 pm:

Considering the opinion that G. Penn has of himself, you'd think his ideas were made of pure gold and that pigs could be made to look beautiful with a touch of lipstick. Instead, you couldn't buy one of his books if you wanted it like it were Christ's last Gospel. Go figure. He's so convinced that his theory, for lack of a better word, is correct, that he can't even comprehend the most rudimentary of facts that render it useless. The knowledge to be gained by a rerun of The Simpsons is more beneficial than anything Penn has ever penned. You've been warned.


By Jake (Jake) ( - on Tuesday, August 06, 2002 - 03:43 pm:

Having had a very similar run-in with Penn, I'm not at all surprised at this turn of events. Given the certainty that he professes in his theory, Penn is notorious for avoiding scrutiny: without exception, he's demurred when asked to take part in any sort of Q&A session where his statements might be openly challenged or subject to rebuttal (see "The Latest from Gareth Penn" at my site, linked below).

This is a shame, I think, because I do believe that there is something -- somewhere, buried maybe -- to what Penn says. Granted, he's built a mountain out of a molehill, but there's just enough in T17 and TSP to make me think that we might all be missing some salient feature of the cryptograms.