The Riverside Desktop Poem (Crime of Torture Poem)
The Riverside Desktop Poem (Crime of Torture Poem) was found etched/written into the bottom side of a student desktop around December of 1966. This was around 1-2 months after the Cheri Jo Bates murder which took place in the end of October 1966 outside of the Riverside Community College library. The involvement of the Zodiac in this murder is still a subject of controversy. Many of the investigators (especially handwriting experts) have ascribed this poem to the Zodiac. We will consider some new aspects of the poem which support the contention that the Zodiac group (the same group that would identify themselves as the Zodiac and Zodiac killer in 1969) was in fact responsible for this crime as they would subsequently claim in 1971.
The first body of new evidence concerns some scratches present on the unfinished pine desktop. When these scratches were investigated under high magnification, it was observed that they form a single, connected pattern. Look at the original high-resolution scan of the desktop poem below and compare it to the modified version below it. The scratches appear to form three letters, M (or W), L (or V) and F (green, blue and red, respectively). The three letters forming the pattern are presumably the initials LMF which are fully explained in the book. Notice how the text of the first half of the poem is contoured to the tri-colored pattern as if this pattern was used as a guide to position the text of the poem.
Artwork on the Desktop Poem
We saw how a pattern of the initials LMF formed a template for the first half of the poem. What about the second half? Look at the section of the poem cut from the bottom half of the poem. There are three items outlined in the modified cutout below which are of interest. Two are drawings and the other one represents a letter N.
We will start with the letter N. If the upside down V placed over the lowercase letter n of “won’t” is combined with the apostrophe next to it, it forms the letter N. The lowercase letter n below it is a mirror image of the uppercase N. This generates two of the letter N, or NN. There is a letter L (rotated about 90 degrees) above the outlined drawing on the right and a letter Y below the same drawing. When combined they spell “LYNN”. This is exactly like the embedded “LYNN” in the “Bates Must Die” letters described in the book. In that case the initials LM were given (maiden name initials) as opposed to LMF (married name initials). The LMF initials show up again on the Zodiac Halloween card and envelope. The presence of the initials LMF and the name “LYNN” hidden on the desktop poem provides new evidence that this was the work of the Zodiac group. Look at the original and notated forms of the cutout of this section of the poem to see how this was done.
The outlined drawing on the left side of the poem cutout appears to be one person cutting the throat of another person (see the picture below). There is a dark spot at the top of the drawing which may represent blood gushing from the wound. This drawing is relatively faint and can be difficult to see at first. If you have trouble seeing it, look at the two dark dots and the dark spot next to them at the top of the drawing. The two dots are the victim’s eyes. The other dark spot is the blood coming from under the victim’s chin. Visualize the victim’s head (it is on its side) using these points of reference. Just below the victim’s head is the murderer’s head. The shaded crescent to the left is the hair, there are faint dots for eyes, the nose and the mouth, and to the right, the killer’s right arm raised up cutting the victim’s throat. Moving downward is the faint outline of a body and shaded scratches used to form two legs (inverted V shape). The dark ink in the groin region seems to suggest that the killer was sexually aroused by the violence.
To the best of my knowledge, these observations are new. It is amazing to think that this depiction of the murder sat in plain view for over 50 years. I have looked at the picture of the desktop poem numerous times over a period of two years and thought that these were just black smudges. It was only when they were studied under high magnification that their significance became apparent.
The Three Faces
The drawing on the right side of the poem is somewhat complex (See cutout below). The drawing appears to be a “totem pole” with three faces on the top. It starts at the end of the word “time” and angles upward to the right. There are faces drawn in on different sides of the pole. Then, there are the three more prominent faces drawn at the top. These three faces are drawn in a manner that brings the faces on Mt. Rushmore to mind. The first one has a pointed hat, the second one (profile) has a large nose and the third face is bald on top with spikes of hair or possibly ears. These three faces have a familiar look to them. I don’t know if this is what was intended by the artist, but they look like the tin man, scarecrow and lion from the Wizard of Oz movie.
Embedded Proofreader Cipher Hidden in the Riverside Desktop Poem
The Zodiac embedded ciphers into every letter (and inside every one of the four ciphers). The cipher components were designated by calling attention to certain letters (or words) in the body of the letter. The Riverside Desktop poem is no exception. In this case, the poem writer wrote over some of the letters to render them darker. This type of overwriting is described in detail in the book and was utilized on multiple occasions. Look at the Desktop poem in low zoom so that it can be seen in its entirety on a single page or screen. Do you see the darker letters and/or words standing out? These are the letters that form the cipher message. There are 31 of them. In some cases the letters need to be examined under high magnification to verify whether or not the letter is intended to be darkened or, instead, if the ink pen trace has only random dark spots (ink pens can leak little blobs of ink and this happens randomly when writing on unfinished wood). When the letters are examined under high zoom, the intent can be seen—either the letter was smoothly or completely overwritten or, the dark spots are spotty and disconnected. Once all the letters are identified, they form a pool of scrambled letters that need to be rearranged into the hidden message (this is called a transposition cipher similar to those found in various newspaper daily puzzles for example). This process of finding the cipher components is routine and was utilized to find the hidden, embedded message in every one of the Zodiac’s communications. The Desktop poem is re-created below with the cipher letters colored red. The pool of letters and the unscrambled solution follow.
First, notice the punctuation marks included in the list. The slash is written darkly on the first line of the poem. The letter ‘o’ of the word “to” has a dot in it, a period. The dot on the second letter ‘i’ of the word “spilling” was darkened and the comma portion of the semicolon was overwritten as well. This generates a period and comma which are enclosed in parentheses at the end of the line. This gives us two periods, a comma and a backslash to punctuate the solution. Note that the letter ‘e’ in the first occurance of the word “clean” appears dark on low zoom but can be seen to have intermittant dark spots at higher magnification and therefore is not a cipher component. Look at the letter ‘e’ in the word “clean” two lines down to confirm this result.
This solution relates to the Desktop Poem artwork. In particular, the reference is to the drawing on the left side of the cutout. We are being told and shown that the Zodiac found this sense of power, holding Cheri Bates’ fate in his hands, erotic. While the Zodiac never sexually assaulted his victims, he presumably became aroused by the experience. This connects to the comment in the Confession letter where he wrote “HER BREAST FELT VERY WARM AND FIRM UNDER MY HANDS”. We can now “get the picture”! Notice the signature, RH, at the end of the solution. Every Proofreader cipher (that’s what I named these embedded transposition ciphers) solution bears this signature. It represents the transposed initials of the Zodiac’s mother’s maiden name.
This message content is completely consistent with the cipher messages hidden in the other letters sent in regarding the Riverside Community College murder of Cheri Jo Bates in 1966. This message, presented here for the first time, was discovered only after the publication of the book and is therefore not presented in the text of the book. It illustrates what is meant by finding solutions to the ciphers that read like plain, everyday English language as opposed to choppy, cryptic solutions with no information content. It is safe to say that anyone can read this message and understand its meaning. If you find this message interesting, you will love the book!
For reference, here is a screenshot of the solution from the Anagram Artist program showing that the 31 letters in the pool unravel into the message shown above. When all the letters are used up, the word “MATCH” appears indicating that a solution has been found.