Paul Avery, San Francisco Crime Reporter and the Important Role he Played in the Search For Zodiac: Reintroducing the Three Zodiac Composites

October 20, 2021
Los Angeles
SKH Note:  I am reintroducing some previously published facts from my earlier books/investigations as a reminder to readers in preparation for new/additional information that will be forthcoming in the about to publish “Early Years” 1920s/1930s on November 6.
SFC reporter Avery played a key role for decades in his attempts to identify Zodiac and his discovery and linkage to the Riverside PD, Cheri Jo Bates’s murder will, as we shall soon learn, will prove to be a solid and invaluable thoughtprint.  
Newspaper Reporter Paul Avery Twenty Years post Zodiac
Reporter Paul Avery Nov.17, 1987 (Note newspaper artist Barros older Zodiac composite in the background, which has been mostly ignored by “Zodiacologists” and “armchair detectives” and bloggers  for the past fifty years, but clearly, as the article shows, NOT BY ZODIAC EXPERT PAUL AVERY.)

Paul Avery – San Francisco Reporter/Leading Expert on “Zodiac”

Excerpt from Wikipedia on Paul Avery Bio:

San Francisco Chronicle career

Avery joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1959. In the second half of the 1960s, Avery took a leave of absence from the Chronicle and moved his family to Vietnam. In Saigon, Avery co-founded Empire News, a freelance photojournalism organization. He expanded Empire News, opening a branch in Hong Kong, before returning to San Francisco, in 1969 after three years in Asia. In the mid-1980s, after working for The Sacramento Bee and writing a book about the Hearst kidnapping, he signed up with the then- Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, where he stayed until his retirement in August 1994.

Zodiac Killer

Avery reported on the Zodiac case, a series of killings that began in December 1968 and ostensibly ended with the death of a San Francisco cab driver in October 1969. At the time, Avery was a police reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.[2]
For a long time, it was thought that the Zodiac‘s activities were limited to the Bay Area, but Avery discovered a 1966 murder in Riverside that he linked to the Zodiac.[2]
The Zodiac soon wrote Avery (misspelled by the Zodiac as “Averly”) a Halloween card, warning, “You are doomed.” The front of the card read, “From your secret pal: I feel it in my bones/you ache to know my name/and so I’ll clue you in…” Then inside: “But why spoil the game?”[3] Just as quickly as the threat was made public, a fellow journalist made up hundreds of campaign-style buttons, worn by nearly everyone on Chronicle staff, including Avery, that said, “I Am Not Paul Avery.” It was at this time that Avery began carrying a .38 caliber revolver.[4]

Obituary Here

I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.

                                                                                 P.T. BARNUM
Below we see the Halloween Card sent to SF Chronicle reporter Paul Avery in 1970 from Zodiac.
Observe that Zodiac has misspelled the reporter’s name as-AVERLY not AVERY. It is my belief that George Hodel, (himself a former reporter for the SF Chronicle in 1932) was very much aware of the famous quote, attributed to P.T. Barnum, deliberately misspelled the name, as his own personal affront to his fellow journalist.  (As a point of interest, that same quote has been attributed to: Mae West, George M. Cohan, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain. ) See the interesting article HERE.
Note on the envelope below Zodiac signatory in the upper left (return address) has a cipher or sigil and is signed “Z” as well as reproduced again as Zodiac’s signature in the interior, lower right of the card.

After threats from Zodiac, SF Chronicle reporter Paul Avery’s request to carry a concealed weapon.

Yves Person, Paris France High School teacher cracks the Zodiac Halloween Card “You Ache To Know My Name and so I’ll clue you in” and reveals it contains five ancient Ogham letters which read: H O D E L.  See solution below and video HERE. 

Zodiac Composites- Primary Mythstakes

In the Zodiac lore, the largest collective myth has to do with Zodiac’s AGE.
Despite verbal and written evidence to the contrary most readers continue to believe Zodiac was somewhere between “25-30.” NOT SO.
Here is the 1969 SFPD Wanted Bulletin that clearly states Zodiac is “A White Male 35-45 years.”  SFPD Officer Donald Fouke, who participated in the drawing of the below composite and was the only known witness (along with his partner officer Zelm) to stop and talk with the suspect. (Zelms independently confirmed this as fact.)  Officer Fouke in later interviews stated, “Zodiac was closer to the high end of that age.” (45 years).

Below original composite is compared to Dr. George Hill Hodel. GHH while age 61 at the time of the SFPD Paul Stine murder could easily pass for a much younger man, say in his “mid-Forties.”

Dr. George Hill Hodel compared to Neal Adams composite

“Great Crimes Of San Francisco” – Published Jan. 1, 1974

In another “the Gods are laughing” moment the hunter and the hunted share nearby gravesites in San Francisco Bay.

“He plunged himself into the billowy wave
and an echo arose from the suicides grave. 
titwillo   titwillo titwillo

(Excerpt from The Mikado)

(Dr. George Hill Hodel committed suicide in San Francisco
by ingesting an overdose of pills (Seconal) in 1999)

Zodiac Letter to San Francisco Chronicle Jan.29, 1974



On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And I said to him, “d***y-bird, why do you sit
Singing Willow, titwillow, titwillow’?”
“Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?” I cried,
“Or a rather tough worm in your little inside?”
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied,
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
He slapped at his chest, as he sat on that bough,
Singing “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And a cold perspiration bespangled his brow,
Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!
He sobbed and he sighed, and a gurgle he gave,
Then he plunged himself into the billowy wave,
And an echo arose from the suicide’s grave –
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

Now I feel just as sure as I’m sure that my name
Isn’t Willow, titwillow, titwillow,
That ’twas blighted affection that made him exclaim
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And if you remain callous and obdurate, I
Shall perish as he did, and you will know why,
Though I probably shall not exclaim as I die,
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

Newspaper article Avery Links Riverside Bates Murder to Zodiac



  1. Patricia ONeill on October 21, 2021 at 6:19 pm

    Steve, does the “signature” or sign off on the Zodiac letter to the SF Chronicle 1/29/74 refer again to the Ogham letters described in the SF Chronicle article describing GHH’s Halloween letter to Paul Avery in 1970? In an article you presented in Oct. 2015 you linked GHH to 25 serial killings and at the end of Zodiac’s 1/29/74 letter to the Chronicle in the lower right hand corner Zodiac prints “me – 37
    SFPD -0”! Not hard to imagine 12 more unknown or unidentified murders to the public eye, but well documented in the killer’s memory! And the grisly count could well be higher! The excuse that “present day crimes leave us no room for further investigation” is CRIMINAL IN ITSELF!!. We owe it to ourselves & future generations to bring to light these crimes. If we don’t, the killers then become victorious over the civilizations they prey upon and there is nothing or no one to stop them!! Hopefully, Steve, your work will snowball into a force outing the heinous acts committed & commitment to saying “No More”💪!! ✌️😎🌵

  2. Steve Hodel on October 21, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    Patricia O:
    No, don’t think that strange configuration relates to Ogham. Something yet to be discovered?
    Definitely has a meaning, as everything GHH did and said and wrote had meaning. Just not yet understood. The “Me 37” definitely relates to his crimes. Of course, much more to be revealed in “The Early Years” to publish in a few more weeks. And, as I’ve said many times, “his past crimes link him to the future and his future crimes link him to his past.”

    • Patricia ONeill on October 21, 2021 at 9:09 pm

      Reading more on Zodiac in SF & did you by any chance know Martin Lee? As I recall he became Chief of D’s after my Uncle Jim’s departure from the job & held that position for many years! Watched one of his videos on the Zodiac
      & he was cautious, somewhat… no, very vague, mentioning Zodiac’s dislike, dismissal of police! Have to admit, Marty Lee was probably one of my biggest crushes as a young teen. Met him frequently at gatherings at my aunt & uncle’s….he was then a young policeman (we could never use the word “cop”!). Yep, I was quite smitten!! Nice guy. RIP Marty.

      • Steve Hodel on October 21, 2021 at 9:38 pm

        Patricia O:
        No never met/knew Martin Lee that I can recall. The only detective I had any contact with in my days was Toschi’s partner, Bill Armstrong. Nice guy. Level headed. They were teamed up working the Zodiac crimes, which were off my radar back then.

  3. joey on October 22, 2021 at 5:10 am

    Hey Steve do you know if the artist Neal Adams is also a comic book artist? cause we have one and if so i have a lot of his work.
    Also i don’t understand when it says your dad killed himself? i thought he died of a heart attack?

    • Steve Hodel on October 22, 2021 at 10:24 am

      Yes, it’s the same artist. He has become quite famous for his comic book renditions and drawings.
      George Hodel in last year or two of his life developed a very bad heart and was being treated by his top heart specialist in San Francisco. But, in the last year he feared becoming paralyzed which would eat of his and June’s life savings so he decided to take his life by ODing himself on Seconal. He wrote R/Xs to June and when she had enough saved up he took them. Because he was seen regularly for his heart condition and was in an advanced age, his doctor signed the death certificate and no autopsy was required. Only June knew he had taken an overdose. Body cremated days later and end of story.

  4. Karen on October 22, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    I can’t remember if you ever discussed this piece of “art”:

    Another Surrealist, dismembered woman.

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