SLA letter Message Board: Letters: SLA letter

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Saturday, December 21, 2002 - 01:58 pm:

This might just be my personal density but I can't find the SLA letter on the site. I'm pretty sure the same person who wrote that one wrote the citizen letter and that it's likely it was zodiac.

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Saturday, December 21, 2002 - 02:43 pm:

I've looked all over this website, including of course on the Letters page, and can't find the SLA letter. Could someone please tell me where it is?

By Ed N. (Ed_N) ( - on Saturday, December 21, 2002 - 05:50 pm:

I don't believe it's posted here at the site at all. You're not missing much, it was apparently never authenticated as being from the hand of Z.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Saturday, December 21, 2002 - 08:30 pm:

The Red Phantom letter wasn't authenticated either, right Ed? I'd like to see it, if Tom or anyone else happens to have it amongst their collectibles. I seem to recall seeing it at one time or another, but where, I don't know. What with all the recent exhibitions of pseudo-Z letters/envelopes, it's whetted my appetite for pseudo-analysis of handwriting.

By Tom Voigt (Tom_Voigt) ( - on Sunday, December 22, 2002 - 01:06 am:

As far as I know, the Red Phantom letter was authenticated, the SLA letter was not.

By Tom Voigt (Tom_Voigt) ( - on Sunday, December 22, 2002 - 01:18 am:

Park, at one time I included the SLA letter at my Zodiac Letters page.

Here's a link.

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Sunday, December 22, 2002 - 10:35 pm:

Thanks, Tom.

The handwriting in the SLA letter bears several similarities to Zodiac's; checkmark r's, lines that veer down towards the lower right in the same way, dots forward from their i's, and the characters that look different look like conscious alterations (the E in Editor, the uppercase A.) The similar pseudonyms ("a citizen," "a friend",) handwriting and subject matter (current events and killing) lead me to believe that both were written by the same person. The sarcastic tone of both belies an irreverent attitude toward the subject, which seems to imply a pronounced lack of feeling about it. Also, I've read about more than one serial killer who strongly identified with pillage-and-plundering vikings (Wayne Nance is an especially good example) and although Zodiac was more a Count Zaroff and G & S man it wouldn't surprise me if he was interested in them as well; killing being his favorite thing to do, I'm sure he knew plenty of words for it. The fact that killing is the main subject of both letters is also of course a point of suspicion. If it was announced publicly that these were suspected Zodiac letters it is interesting, though far from conclusive, that no one wrote a follow up letter claiming responsibility, even an anonymous one, and clearing up the misunderstanding. Also, I can't think of another good reason why either letter would have been written; if taken at face value they seem very strange, but taken as sarcasm they seem consistent with Zodiac's mentality level and sense of humor. Tell me if you think I'm grasping at straws but I see reason for more than a little suspicion here.

The handwriting in the Red Phantom letter looks completely different from Zodiac's to me, though it also looks kind of contrived. What things were there about it that led the analysts to conclude it was from Z? There seems to be a bit more room for alternative motives with it than the other two, although it's interesting that no one ever wrote to clear anything up with it, either.

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Sunday, December 22, 2002 - 10:47 pm:

Also, correct me if I'm wrong but it appears that if the Red Phantom letter was from Zodiac, it's the only one that doesn't make any kind of reference to killing. And it seems it would be out of character for him to say that an antifeminist newspaper columnist has a pathological need to feel superior, even in jest, given his arguably negative view of women.

By Lapumo (Lapumo) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 04:46 am:

When comparing the handwriting on the SLA letter to that in the Red phantom letter they do look much different.However when you compare the handwriting on the envelopes(addresses) they are quite similar.Both are addressed identically and both of these are the only two samples where
"California" has not been abbreviated.
In turn the Red Phantom letter was posted two months to the day after the "badlands" letter.
If this is Zodiac its the third time he had posted on the "anniversary" of a previous post.
The "my name is" posted four months to the day after "Belli" and the "little list" letter posted one month after the "Mt.Diablo" letter.

By Juno (Juno) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 10:53 am:

Rather penn-ish, i'd say.

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 02:58 pm:

"Rather penn-ish, i'd say."

Can you elaborate?

By Juno (Juno) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 04:40 pm:

Penn likes to expound on etymological aspects of words, as well as correcting people who make mistakes in that area. There is a thread somewhere, maybe in "other suspects" that contains links to some of his letters to editors/journals.

sorry to cut this short, but i'm at work.
Hope that helps.

By Ed N. (Ed_N) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 07:23 pm:

As I recall from Times 17, Penn claimed that he took every unit of Old Norse that he could find, and even went as far as locating the only five books in the Bay Area that Z might have used to see if "SLA" happened to mean anything in another language. Needless to say, he said that that only heightened Narlow's suspicion of him. In Times 17, Penn has this tendency to cast suspicion on himself, and I think it's pretty well founded.

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 09:13 pm:

I would be more inclined to expect Zodiac to already have known what the word meant. People who are as in love with their hobby as Zodiac was often tend to enjoy reading about it and its history and pick up bits of related information. Old Norse was a language that was spoken by a culture that at least in part glorified killing to the point that their version of heaven was a place where they could do it every day, all day long, forever. Such a fantasy and its host culture may hold particular appeal to someone like Zodiac. Knowledge of that Old Norse word isn't hard to come by anyway; I'm sure plenty of kids who play Dungeons and Dragons know it. Isn't it the root of the english word "slay," or closely related to it?

Hope I'm not sounding too much like Penn here, by the way. I haven't read anything by him but from everything I've heard he sounds like a nut.

By Juno (Juno) ( - on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 10:54 pm:

The thing with penn is...he likes to rub people's noses in their boo boos, as Z said.

In his writings on the matter, he goes to rather great lengths to point things out that are not very obvious, yet acts as if one is an idiot for not noticing or understanding them right off the bat.

In a nutshell, he comes off like an egomaniacal Z, who wants to gleefully point people in the right direction because they are too inferior to have picked up on his "clews" It's like he wants it solved and is revealing everything except saying "i did it"

As far as o'hare goes--i don't know what to think. He seems like a straw man suspect propped up by penn in order to enable him to point the blame at someone else. I'm sure there must be a connection there between them, though what it is i do not know. It must be something that is best kept quiet, considering O'hare has never gone after penn.

Penn is virtually appearing to explain everything, and some of it is so idiosyncratic that no one could get it other than the "author" of the crimes. Much like Joycs's symbolism in Ulysses. Yet Penn, the mensan, saw it all so clearly...

He makes several vague leaps in lgic as well, such as the "chance" happening upon of O'hare's name in a book not in the library in which he claims to have found it. And if i remember correctly, there is a lot to do with his suspect's mother's b-day being repeated over and over as well. why? he never says. Motive for the crime? He never really gets around to that either.

Man--i'm tired.

in a nutshell--it's like he did something and wants to tell the world, but he can't. So he tells the world and blames it on someone else (or an accomplice).believe me--penn seems to be the kind of person who couldn't take a shizit without bragging about it to someone, let alone commit the z crimes.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Saturday, December 28, 2002 - 02:48 am:

Park Grubs,
I was the first to publish the full SLA note and envelope in a book on Zodiac.I obtained the letter many years ago from Z expert Dave Peterson.Dave firmly believed the SLA job was from Zodiac.I hold the same view.
All of Morrills reports concerning Zodiac missives, as well as disputed communications,is now in the possession of one of his former students.
Unlike the other Experts,Morrill FOCUSED on Zs writing.I knew the late Document Expert Henry Silver and he had become an expert on Abraham Lincolns writing and the National Archives would always contact Silver when authentication of a possible(yes,there were forgeries)Lincoln document was discovered.
Like Silver in his focus of Lincolns writing,Morrill had dedicated a goodly portion of his valuable time in carefully studying another,but evil personage,Zodiac and his writing style,etc.;he was the best expert on Zodiacs handwriting.
Unless we see writng under a very high powered microscope,we fall short of really ascertaining all of the twists and turns of handwritng samples.It opens a whole vast world of detail.
I believe Morrill determined the '74 SLA note was from Zs hand.We will see if this is so in time.
I posted quite a bit of info on the SLA note as have other posters.I pretty much stand alone in advocating a Zodiac authorship-no zroblem.

By Warren (Warren) ( - on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 10:07 am:

Oh Howard! Stand ye not alone against the philistines. I've always thought the SLA letter a genuine Z screed, and quite chilling. I also think he was so excited when writing it that he slipped and wrote "Slay" instead of "SLA".

By Warren (Warren) ( - on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 12:54 pm:

and upon further review... I see many similarities between the SLA letter and ALA's handwriting samples produced as a result of the search warrant (found in Tom's ALA timeline). Undoubtedly, this has been noticed and posted but I'm too lazy right now to search, it being the holidays and all.

By ParkGrubbs (Parkgrubbs) ( - on Friday, January 03, 2003 - 09:54 pm:


The first time I ever saw the SLA letter I felt strongly that it was from him. Same (or very, very similar) handwriting, it's about killing, signed in a very similar way to the Badlands letter, and it seems more likely for Z to do something like that than for someone to waste paper, ink and postage on anonymously giving the editor this totally worthless and by itself uninteresting piece of information.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Sunday, January 05, 2003 - 01:57 am:

Please note as an FYI,that the 1/29/74 Exorcist envelope has an eight cent Eisenhower(Z seemed to like wartime prezs-Lincoln,Eisenhower and Roosevelt) stamp and that the SLA note mailed only about two weeks later 2/14/74 has the same kind of stamp.A link?All other '74 Z missives have different stamps.
Past posts on this and more from the Z posters are of interest.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Sunday, January 05, 2003 - 12:01 pm:

Maybe I'm just being unimaginative, as Douglas and others here have described as being a typical shortcoming of law enforcement, but it's long been my contention that the stamps used (not their positioning, which has some arcane significance to the sender, not unlike the propensity for mail-bombers to invert stamps [Doug probably has greater insight into this practice]) were whatever was being issued routinely at the time.

When I buy stamps from the post office or other outlet at any given time, and I don't specify a particular series (Christmas, celebrities, etc.), I will receive one of the current generic stamps. Presently, first-class stamps have variations on an American flag theme. Every few months the generic issue will change. Going back to the time in question, I'd venture to say that presidential stamps were standard issue. With the war in Asia still waging, patriotic themes, such as prominent symbols of America, would have been expected.

Recognizing that Z utilized all manner of symbolic and hidden messages in his missives, he could well have created yet another with his choice of stamps, but my unimaginative side tells me that this is not the simplest of explanations.

By Linda (Linda) ( - on Sunday, January 05, 2003 - 02:13 pm:

I agree with you, Bill. I think that you're probably right on this and that the simplest explanation is the correct one. I think that in brainstorming to try and make sense of something that appears insolvable, the simplest of explanations is overlooked. I think the type stamp is just as you say; however, there may be something to note on the over-postage that I believe Z used in many, if not all of his correspondences (also, the positioning may have meant something). If I'm not mistaken, Kaczynski, too, as the Unabomber, tended to over-postage his bombs when they were sent (maybe his correspondences, too). DOUG...IS THIS CORRECT?

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Sunday, January 05, 2003 - 03:40 pm:

Linda, you're right about the use of more stamps than would be necessary, along with their common inversion, on many mail-bombs and other insidious mailings; I'd forgotten to mention that in my previous post. The over-postage might be added insurance that it is delivered (and not postage due), but the upside-down or sideways application of the stamps doesn't have any obvious purpose other than whatever significance the sender attaches to it. Knowing how thorough Doug has been in his study of TK, which undoubtedly extends to the characteristic mentality of mail-bombers, he probably can shed some light on why these stamping practices are so prevalent.

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Sunday, January 05, 2003 - 05:23 pm:

I'm not certain, Bill, but I'd say the over-posting has to do with the fact that most mail bombers aren't confident enough to take their parcels to the post office window to be weighed. They more-or-less have to guestimate the amount of postage, and in most cases it's probably better, from their perspective, to be safe than sorry.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) ( - on Sunday, January 05, 2003 - 05:52 pm:

Sounds more than reasonable. I wonder, though, about the inverted stamps, if this is a pattern of known significance to mail-bombers and the extortive terrorist types.