Penn's Non-Zodiac Writings Message Board: Other Suspects: Penn's Non-Zodiac Writings

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 02:15 pm:

I just did a search at Yahoo for "Gareth Penn", and found two letters to the editor written by a Gareth Penn of San Rafael, CA, which would seem to fit with the Penn we all know and love. The personality of "our" Gareth Penn seems to shine through in the two letters, as well.

They're short, and are as follow:

Letter to Time Magazine, July 11, 1994 issue (re: a review from their June 20, 1994 issue about a new production of "The Mikado" in which the reviewer mistakenly attributed the lyrics to Sullivan and the music to Gilbert):

Let's see, now. Sullivan wrote the words, and Gilbert wrote the music. Holmes is the doctor, and Watson the detective. Harpo had the cigar, and Groucho tooted the auto horn. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Gareth Penn San Rafael, California


The second letter is to the editor of Scientific American and appeared in the July 1996 issue:


In "Urban Planning in Curitiba" [March], Jonas Rabinovitch and Josef Leitmann write, "As late as the end of the 19th century, even a visionary like Jules Verne could not imagine a city with more than a million inhabitants." What an impoverished imagination poor Verne had! All he had to do was imagine something that already existed. By 1850 the population of London was over two million, and Parisians numbered more than one million. Closer to (our) home, greater New York City's population in 1900 was over three million.

San Rafael, Calif.


Just a little food for thought . . .


By Esau (Esau) ( - on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 04:45 pm:

Just a thought here.... Does anyone know Penn's age? Does he resemble the Stine or Lake Berryessa composites in any way?

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 08:58 pm:

Gareth Sewell Penn was born January 1, 1941 in Monterey County. I'm not 100% sure if this is THE Gareth Penn, but if our Gareth was born in California, then this is his b-day.



Simply search on Surname: Penn, Given Name: Gareth.

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 11:40 pm:

More on Penn (still no picture) . . .

"Gareth Penn [clicking on Gareth Penn offers the e-mail address] has had a checkered career, having been at one time or another a medievalist, artillery surveyor, free lance writer, economic researcher, reference librarian, and receptionist in a robot factory. He is currently working as librarian both for PRBO and the National Marine Fisheries Service in Tiburon. Gareth publishes The Birdbrain each month a library newsletter which keeps staff informed, amused and often amazed."

Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) Website, "Staff at PRBO"

The above bio closely mirrors one offered by Jake Wark in his review of Times 17 at, which describes Penn as:

"[a] scholar in medieval literature and historical linguistics, a trained artillery surveyor and reference librarian, and a member of American Mensa . . . "

Jake Wark, review of Gareth Penn's Times 17

As for his current activities, Penn is the librarian at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration at their Santa Cruz/Tiburon Laboratory. The NOAA lists Penn's e-mail address as


By Jake (Jake) ( - on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 10:56 am:

AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgh!!!! How do I get Amazon to remove that review?! Honest to gosh, the nonsense that comes out of my mouth sometimes...

Penn was featured on one of the documentaries that Tom is offering. It was shot in the late '90s, and his full beard hinders a match to the composites. He does, however, wear glasses.


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 07:25 pm:


I declined to post the full review out of deference to you, as it was posted in 1999, and I know that your views regarding Penn have changed a bit since then. I don't know how to get a review removed from Amazon, but I do know that, as of yesterday, your review was "helpful to 12 of 12 users". I'm sure that just brightens your day.

Does anyone have a pic of Gareth Penn? If so, would you be willing to scan it/post it/e-mail it? I find the guy to be an interesting *possible* suspect (since he was already mentioned as a suspect by VPD in 1981, he has acknowledged as much, and is a "public figure" with regard to the Zodiac case, this statement isn't intended to imply that he is the Zodiac or is a viable or current suspect of any law enforcement agency), as I believe he was ruled out based on handwriting and fingerprints. We now know that that is not a foolproof way to rule out a suspect.


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 07:07 am:

Another Gareth Penn writing sample:

Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 14:26:31 -0700
From: Gareth Penn <>
Subject: journal quality

Another set of criteria for judging the quality of journals is set forth by Geoffrey K. Pullum in "Stalking the perfect journal" (The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax, University of Chicago Press, 1991). I rated our current journals according to his list and then plotted the results on a Cartesian grid with "price" and "perfection" axes. The big losers were California Fish and Game, Marine Fisheries Review, Natural Resource Modeling, and Copeia; the five that came closest to providing the perfect combination of attractants: Limnology and Oceanography, Biological Bulletin, American Naturalist, Technometrics, and Fishery Bulletin.

Do try this at home. Here are Pullum's criteria:

1) Date of receipt accompanies each contribution.
2) Cover indicates the month of publication.
3) Author addresses are spelled out, including ZIP Code.
4) Table of contents is printed on cover.
5) Range of page numbers covered in each issue is printed on the spine.
6) First-to-last page numbers appear on the first page of each contribution.
7) Footnotes are printed on the same page as the passage footnoted.
8) Each issue contains a preview of the contents of forthcoming issues.
9) Style sheet is included in every issue.

Gareth Penn, NMFS Tiburon Laboratory, 3150 Paradise Drive, Tiburon CA 94920
415/435-3149 x 220 (voice) 415/435-3675 (fax)

But people have always eaten people! What else is there to eat?
If the Juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made them of meat!

Michael Flanders




By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 08:29 am:

Here's an interesting note with regard to the "signature quote" of Gareth Penn in the previous message:

Michael Flanders was the lyric-writing half of the British duo of Flanders & Swann. One of the pair's first shows featured a song parodying Gilbert and Sullivan.

"The first revue they contributed to, Oranges and Lemons, featured the song In The D'Oyly Cart, a send-up of Gilbert and Sullivan. The show started in 1948, and ran for a couple of years."



By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 08:36 am:

If anyone's interested in the Gilbert and Sullivan spoof's lyrics, here they are:

In the D'Oyly Cart

lyrics by Michael Flanders

I've been a little maid from school
Since I was just a tiny tot.
With Jack Point's gags I've played the fool
Till I'm the only point they've got.
I've toured through all the English-speaking nations
And can no longer play my part in Patience.

For one man in his time
Plays the same old part...
Can you wonder then that I'm
A little tired of D'Oyly Carte?

Three little Savoyards are we, tra-la-la-la, tra-la-la-la,
Started in 1893, tra-la-la-la-la-la.
With Gilbert and Sullivan we've toured from dump to dump, tra-la-la-la
And Sullivan and Gilbert can take a running jump
(From year to year and dump to dump
Can go and take a running jump).
Three little Savoyards are we, tra-la-la-la, tra-la-la-la,
Started in 1893, tra-la-la-la-la-la.

Dear little town of Nanki-Poo
(Smile, turn, pace to the right),
Canst thou believe my heart is true?
(Terrible house tonight!)
One that with tender passion fired
(Turn, pace, hand over heart),
Woe to the day that we were hired
By D'Oyly Carte!
Why is it so admired,
This business first inspired
By former artists long retired
From D'Oyly Carte?

Anything new is disallowed
(Turn, pace, wait for the pause)....
Blasphemous change would shock the crowd
Following in their scores!
Novel approach is not required
(Bounce, out of the part);
We've done our best,
But we need a rest
From D'Oyly Carte.

But the copyright's expiring in a year or two, no more,
And then at last we'll have the chance to settle this old score.
We'll buy back Covent Garden, and have the operas rewritten
With new words by J.B. Priestley and new tunes by Benjy Britten.
Till the end of this light operatic coma,
We're going off to sing in 'Oklahoma'!



By Tony (Mahalo) ( - on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 11:46 pm:

Whoa....I have a version of that by Lynard Snynard. I think the lead singer is Adam Van'Z' Ant .........zynchronicity..???!!!

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 10:35 pm:

Spencer: did you read my post regarding Penn's suspect status? Also, I was considering offering him as a suspect in that one thread and giving three reasons why... but if you want to, go for it.

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:15 am:

Ed, I can't recall seeing your post re: Penn as a suspect, but you could very well be right. At the very least Penn is very intelligent and quite a character (from reading his postings/letters-to-the editor he seems stranger than fiction; I wouldn't want to face him on Jeopardy).

I'll just pass along the following few Penn missives (Z-Brit fans take note that they all appear in The Economist, a London-based periodical. It's also interesting to note the short amount of time between each letter:

As previously stated, all letters that follow come from The Economist's letters page:

December 16, 2000
SIR-Lexington (November 18th) informs us that America's presidential electors "take their name from the princes of the Holy Roman Empire". The editors of the "Oxford English Dictionary" disagree. The first documented use of "elector" in English, in 1467, is in the sense of "one who has the right to vote in election to any office or dignity", and the context of that citation is the election of guild officers. The first documented instance in English of "elector" as a translation of the German word Kurfurst (literally, "choose-prince") is from 1529, some 61 years later.

We then have knights electors (first attestation: 1628). The word was in widespread use, applied to plenty of contexts other than the workings of the Holy Roman Empire long before the American constitution was written. And of course, by that time, it had been centuries since German electoral princes had actually elected anybody, being electors in name alone. Frederick the Great was elector of Brandenburg, but that did not stop him from waging war on the Holy Roman Empire.




In the interest of brevity (okay, too little too late), I'll post one at a time.


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:18 am:

Number 2, from The Economist, Letters:

August 26, 2000
SIR-Lexington attributes the invention of the acronym WASP to sociologist E. Digby Baltzell and dates the coinage back to 1964. The "Oxford English Dictionary" cites no fewer than three examples, from as many different authors, of WASP used in this sense, which predate Baltzell's publication. Lexington's rhetorical conceit that Philadelphia is the perfect venue for a WASP political party because Baltzell lived there is,
judging from the actual historical record, rather in tatters.

GARETH PENN Tiburon, California

Note: These are being posted in reverse-chronological order (it just started that way).


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:22 am:

Number 3, from The Economist, Letters:

January 29, 2000
SIR-The first political jurisdiction to give women the vote was the Territory of Wyoming (which now styles itself the "Equal Rights State"), in 1869. New Zealand waited 24 years to see if Wyoming was going to come apart at the seams before taking the step itself. Colorado, Utah, and Idaho followed Wyoming's lead about the same time that New Zealand did.

Stinson Beach,



By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:25 am:

Number 4, from The Economist, Letters:

October 16, 1999
SIR-In your article on Bill Bradley's health-care proposals ("Bradley's NHS", October 2nd), you attribute the riddle, "What goes on four legs at dawn, two legs at noon, and three legs at sunset?" to the "ancient oracles." Then you answer it: "Man, of course." In fact, this riddle originated with the Greek Sphinx who was laying waste to Thebes until Oedipus came along and answered it, thereby destroying the monster and freeing the city from the scourge. Those who answer this riddle correctly not only destroy monsters; they go on to marry their own mothers and beget children on them, and then gouge out their own eyes.

Too bad for you that you answered it correctly.

Tiburon, California


Note the different cities listed, that's a little weird.


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:28 am:

Number 5, from The Economist, Letters:

August 21, 1999
SIR-It is no wonder that leftwing activists of the 1960s and 70s have had such an easy time making the transition to the ruling class ("Greens grow up", August 7th). The cartoon with your article shows a bell-bottomed, longhaired, v-sign-flaunting hippie with a Mercedes logo on his Tshirt. Obviously, his class loyalty is dubious at best.

Stinson Beach,



The next one is the last one (really, I promise).


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:30 am:

Number 6, from The Economist, Letters:

January 9, 1999
SIR-As the grandson of a man who spent his youth stringing barbed-wire fences across the American West for a living, I was very interested to read "The wiring of America" (December 19th. I was surprised, however, that you did not mention that in the latter part of the 19th century a greater quantity of steel was used in the manufacture of barbed wire than in any other product in America.

You should also be aware that tumbleweed was introduced from Russia late in the last century. It might have been more to the point to write that tumbleweed is part ofthat landscape now just as surely as barbed wire, rather than the other way around.




I hope you enjoyed yourselves.


By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:36 am:

Last Penn-ism for tonight.

This one appeared as a letter-to-the-editor in the San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 1997:

Editor -- Don Lattin (Sunday, November 9) offers a Latin etymology for the word "skibby," which he has found in his grandfather's diary and infers to be a private term for sexual intercourse. One wonders why he did not simply turn to the Dictionary of American Slang, which identifies "skibby" as a noun meaning "A Japanese or sometimes Chinese prostitute or mistress, especially one consorting with Occidental men."

The sexual connotations are clear without having to resort all the way back to Latin "scibile," which when you get right down to it, means only "That which is knowable" and is attested (according to Lewis & Short, A Latin Dictionary) only in the works of third-century Roman author Tertullian and the fifth-century satirist Martianus Capella, both of whom one might think to have been just beyond the leisure-reading horizon of a bowling promoter like Mr. Lattin's now-celebrated forebearer.

Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, it would seem more natural for a Catholic -- as I assume Grandpa Lattin was -- to have made "scibile" into "shibby," since that would conform with Church Latin pronunciation. (cf. the fabulous motto of the Boston Latin School cafeteria, "he knows the faith," i.e. "fidem scit.")

GARETH PENN Corte Madera

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:44 am:

Spencer: check out my post on Monday, June 18, 2001 - 06:06 pm about Penn...

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 01:05 am:


Excellent post. Penn's detailed explanation as to how he could have been in Riverside to kill Cheri Jo Bates while preserving an alibi is very interesting. Reading that reminds me of the way ALA played games with the police (whether he was Z or not, it was a risky move).

It makes one wonder, however. If (and this is a huge if) Penn is Z, then perhaps the Cheri Jo Bates murder wasn't a Z crime, making Penn free to play his "maybe I'm Z game" safely, knowing that he couldn't possibly be implicated for the Cheri Jo Bates murder. Of course it's probably more plausible that he isn't Z and felt free to play his game without risking anything. Either way, he's one interesting character.

Good night, I'm off to catch some Z's . . .


P.S. You can post the three reasons for Penn as a suspect, although I appreciate the offer (you got there first).

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 02:04 am:

The following is the latest (I think) non-Z Penn-ism:

It comes from the "Letters from Listeners" of National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition Saturday," airing 20 July 2002:

"Last week Dan Charles reported on the 25th
anniversary of the most recent great blackout
in New York City. Gareth Penn(ph) in California
says he was in New York for the blackout, both
in 1965 and 1977. He writes, 'The local news
media reported numerous stories of selflessness
and public-spiritedness on the part of New
Yorkers, such as the organization of bucket
brigades to deliver water to apartment-house
dwellers. When I got back home to California, I
was amazed that the national news media had
reported only about the civil disorder, as if the
many acts of selfless New Yorkers had never
happened. It came to me then that nobility does
not sell newspapers.'"

I find it interesting that Penn realized in 1965 that "nobility does not sell newspapers." This, of course, being just a year before some believe that Z began communicating with the newspapers.


P.S. What sort of twisted b@stard listens to NPR?

By Spencer (Spencer) ( - on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 02:05 am:

By the way, the (ph) in the above post is from the transcript -- it indicates that the spelling of the name is phonetic.


By Alan Cabal (Alan_Cabal) ( - on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 06:36 pm:

I listen to NPR sometimes, just like I listen to G. Gordon Liddy sometimes. I'll admit to being pretty twisted, but every now and then it suits me to shut up and listen to what other people are saying. All kinds of people.

I think Penn was referring to the negative reviews of the '77 blackout in his reference to "nobility."

I was living out here then, but the movie NETWORK had just come out, and my friends back home said people all over town were flinging their windows open and yelling, "I'm mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Penn might just be a real rude guy with a fixation. It's interesting that he was in NYC. His suspect is originally from NYC.

Maybe this letter drops a clue as to the origins of Mr. Penn's fixation.