Was Zodiac’s 1990 “Secret Pal Christmas Card” a Rayograph? Another Coded Message from Dr. George Hodel Announcing His Return to the U.S. and the SF Bay Area by Way of Another Taunting Man Ray “Clew”?

February 3, 2007
Los Angeles, California









Last week I received the following email/comment from a regular contributor to this blog site, Mr. Luigi Warren. He writes:
Steve: Found a couple more possible thoughtprints. These are from Zodiac’s last missive, the 1990 “Secret Pal”/”Gonna Keep You Guessin” Christmas card mailed to the SF Chronicle a few months after GHH repatriated to the US, leasing a penthouse just minutes from the paper’s office (“always needs to feel superior”). One is that the included photocopy of the mailbox keys is quite reminiscent of Man Ray’s celebrated “rayographs” of the 1920s. Then there’s the postmark of Eureka, CA, a logging/Gold Rush town located almost 300 miles north of San Francisco. Apart from the obvious connotations, “Eureka” is the name of Edgar Allan Poe’s last book, in which he purports to solve the riddle of existence. Poorly received on publication, some Poe researchers believe it contains hidden messages. Birds of a feather! LW
For those readers, not familiar with LW’s reference, in my second book, MOST EVIL (Dutton 2009) in Chapter 14, pages 168-173, I included new information on a “Secret Pal Christmas Card” believed mailed by Zodiac in 1990. (The same year George Hodel relocated from the Far East to his penthouse suite in downtown San Francisco.) The card, mailed in December from Eureka, California (240 miles north of San Francisco) like Zodiac’s previous mailings, was addressed, “Editor, San Francisco Chronicle, 901 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103.”
Included in the card was a Xeroxed paper showing a key chain and keys. See below photographs.












Zodiac’s 1990 Christmas Card read:
(Interior of card)
Not only was the handwriting/printing identical to my father’s, but even more remarkable was the fact that the “new” Secret Pal Christmas Card” was not “new” and was manufactured and printed by the same company as a companion card to the 1970 “Halloween Secret Pal” mailed by Zodiac to the SF Chronicle in 1970. The same card that contained the Ogham cipher in which George Hodel as Zodiac signed his real name, HODEL.















Ogham Cipher seen as return address on envelope and as signatory to card spells- HODEL
The above 1970 Halloween Card, mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle contained the identical taunting theme promising that the sender would name himself. (In the above card he actually followed through but as a coded cipher.)
1970 Zodiac card reads:
(Interior of card)






Yves Person’s solving of the cipher signature as published in MOST EVIL II (Rare Bird Books 2014)










George Hodel’s unique “Saddle M” from personal correspondence shown in comparison to “M” on 1990 Christmas Card.






George Hodel’s 1990 Christmas Card hand printing compared to letters from Gladys Kern (1948 LA Lone Woman Murder) and Cheri Jo Bates(1966 Zodiac Murder) mailed to police by their killer. How many identical letters to you count? (I count 22.)
These revelations with the latest publication of MOST EVIL II in 2014 presenting M. Yves Person’s cracking of the Ogham Cipher leave no doubt that both cards, printed in the 1970s, by the same company, offering the same message (promising, then withholding the name of the “Secret Pal” (one for Halloween and the other for Christmas) were authored and mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle, by Dr. George Hill Hodel. Clearly, based on our new evidence, that is now a given.
As seen above, in his updated 1990 Secret Pal Christmas message, George Hodel included a Xerox photo of a keychain and keys. (Believed belonging to an unknown Post Office Box.)
Was this, as our friend, Luigi Warren has questioned–a Rayograph? Another indirect homage by George Hodel to his fellow surrealist and longtime friend, Man Ray?
I think Luigi has very likely provided us with new keys (pun intended) to George Hodel’s unique method of taunting and announcing his 1990 return to the Bay Area as Zodiac by way of yet another homage to his good friend Man Ray’s art. (I’ve lost count, but this would be about the 12th “Murder as a Fine Art Clew” from GHH specific to Man Ray’s artworks.)
Rayograph: noun
Photograms were used in the 20th century by a number of photographers, particularly Man Ray, who called them “rayographs”. His style capitalized on the stark and unexpected effects of negative imaging, unusual juxtapositions of identifiable objects (such as spoons and pearl necklaces). …made by placing leaves and pieces of material onto sensitized paper, then left outdoors on a sunny day to expose. This produced a dark background with a white silhouette of the object used.
Man Ray early rayograph, “THE KISS” (1922)















Keys and key chains (shown above) were one of Man Ray’s favorite objects for use in his Rayographs.



From his 39th-floor penthouse George Hodel for the last decade of his life (1990-1999) was literally looking down on the San Francisco Chronicle’s office just one-half mile away.
Many thanks to Luigi Warren and the rest of my readers for their ongoing commentaries and email contributions.
As my brother Mike regularly reminded his KPFK HOUR 25 radio listeners:
“There is no question out there that the “Group Mind” cannot answer.”


  1. Luigi Warren says:

    “Criminal egotist find pleasure in laughing at police.” – Charlie Chan

    “I am now in control of all things.” – Zodiac

  2. “Dr. Zodiac is a man of great ego. He enjoys using power to dominate lives of others. …We are destroying web of spider, now let us find spider.” Charlie Chan

  3. I don’t know about the Zodiac killings,
    but reading ‘The Black Dahlia Avenger’ was a real experience –
    alot of investigation went into that, and even Steve Kay would
    have moved to charge George Hodel with the Black Dahlia murder.
    A fascinating piece of work!

    • Hi JG: Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. The sequel Most Evil (Dutton 2009) unlike BDA, did not claim “case solved” but, did however, make a strong and compelling case that GHH should go to the top of the list of suspects on the Zodiac killings, and I suggested that LE get DNA on Zodiac and compare to my father’s full profile DNA now in my possession. However, with my ongoing investigation and publication of Most Evil II (2015) and with the cracking of the authenticated Zodiac cipher, I am now claiming “Case Solved.” Best Regards, Steve

  4. Can I ask what your thoughts are on this comment by George Hodel:

    “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia –
    They can’t speak to my secretary now because she’s dead”

    If Dr. Hodel’s secretary died 2 years before Elizabeth Short,
    could she have known that Dr. Hodel knew the Black Dahlia?
    I’ve been wondering about this comment for years.

    • Jersey: Yes, suggest you read the updated BDA II (2014 edition). That is exactly what George Hodel is referencing on the taped statement. He overdosed his personal secretary, Ruth Spaulding in May, 1945, eighteen months prior to his murder of Elizabeth Short. GHH knew and had been acquainted with Elizabeth Short since 1943, sent her the “A Promise is a Promise” telegram in ’44 and on the DA tapes admits to killing both Elizabeth Short and his secretary and describes it in detail. “Put a pillow over her head. …I think they may have figured it out. etc.” The reference he makes is that if Ruth Spaulding had still been alive she could and very likely would have connected him to Elizabeth Short as a girlfriend and former patient. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and Ruth was not just his secretary, but also his girlfriend.

      • Wow, the more I read on this case, the more tangled it gets!
        I originally bought and read your book when it first came out,
        found the photo analysis fascinating (the photos in your father’s
        album vs. ES’s photos), and read the entire book cover to cover,
        in no time, chilling!
        I will make it a point to read your next book, can’t wait!
        I assume LE has dna on the Zodiac killer, that will be
        very interesting to follow……..

  5. Ann Loray Bartels says:

    Steve, hello. It’s your almost cousin Loray. I was reading the new info on your website for the 70th anniversary and new evidence. I noticed an obvious connection to two of the Man Ray pieces ” Querelle” and ” The Kiss” even though they were 20+ years apart. I cannot help but feel it’s more than a connection to the just artist’s style. Do you feel there is a possible clue not previously known about the earlier piece that perhaps GHH knew? Maybe something related that prompted Man Ray to do a similar piece later as a gift to GHH. I did notice the following exert listed as a quote from page 77 of Millers book “In our dream life we live indiscriminately in past and future.”. It almost seems on point. The inner circle certainly liked to be cryptic in their meanings, and there is no doubt the tributes to each other exist. Perhaps 1922 has some clues and ties the past into their lives. Could the earlier piece be a tribute to another potential crime or acquaintance in which GHH shared an admiration of ? It seems too much of an important piece Ray did for GHH, and to be so similar, I feel the earlier piece must have been equally if not more important to Ray. I just don’t see Ray creating a custom piece for such a close friend not being completely unique in style, unless he made it intentionally similar for a reason. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Hi Ann Lory B: Well, certainly cannot rule it out as possible. One of the missing pieces of GHH to Man Ray for me remains, “When did the first meet?” Evidence seems to point towards post-1940, after MR arrival in Hollywood. But, cannot rule out an earlier meeting. Did my mother meet him earlier when she went to Paris in the Thirties? The LIPS theme was fairly common in many of the surrealist works early on, and I am sure it is symbolic and open to multiple interpretations and meanings. So many “riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas” it was their way of game playing and communicating between each other, so the interpretations are endless. To my mind, GHH’s “Modesto Lovers” gift to Juliet Man Ray after MR’s passing is most telling. A sexual and violent reinterpretation of MR’s original. All my Best, Steve

  6. Hello Steve;
    I tried searching however I did not find anything regarding the signature on the Riverside Poem of “r? h”
    does the “r” mean anything to you?

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