When I was a kid, we lived in the East Bay Area of San Francisco. We lived there until the mid 70’s. We lived in Martinez, which is right next to two of the murders, Benecia and Vallejo. We also had a summer shack (almost literally a shack w no indoor plumbing lol) at Lake Berryessa, another site of one of his murders.
I was in grade school, probably fourth or fifth grade, and just becoming aware of the world outside of school, family, etc. This is when Zodiac started his spree and was all over the news and newspapers. This is just my memories, such as they are.
We got the newspaper every morning and my dad would read it at the kitchen table before going to work. Then us kids would have breakfast, and since I was a voracious reader, I started reading the newspaper every morning.
The first Zodiac-related thing I remember is that there was a newspaper reporter that Zodiac was writing too. This was the paper we got, the SF CHRONICLE, and I remember the photo of the note, on the front page with the mysterious drawing and codes.
I started following the cases as they unraveled, but never saying anything to my parents because they would have taken away the newspaper.
I spent a lot of time at the library trying to ‘crack the code’ and become famous for solving it, like any grade schooler would want to. I finally told a friend and we had our secret Zodiac ‘club’ where we would write pretend letters in a pretend code of our own we made up. We wrote gory stories about it all. We had a scrapbook of all the newspaper stories we could find.
For some reason, the only one that really sticks with me, that really surprised me as a kid, was the taxi driver. No idea why that one gave me nightmares, maybe because it was someone killed while at work? But it bothered me so much I stopped following it thereafter. My friend and I threw away the scrapbook, stopped trying to crack the code, and I never read another Zodiac item until I was in my thirties. I had developed a fear of being in a car after dark and would get straight up panicked over it. We stopped riding the school bus, and would go home different routes, sure he was tracking us.
What I rarely see mentioned is that one year Zodiac threatened to take children during Halloween. And so, much to my grade school pals distress, our communities cancelled Halloween!!
Because of Zodiac. All the kids were so upset, because its a big deal to a kid, especially way back then.
The adults set up parties for the kids, but we were not allowed to trick or treat, so no candy hauls. In spite of the novelty and fun of a Halloween party, something none had experienced, the lack of candy hauls was a big deal. No party made up for this.
There was a lot of fear, reading the papers and the notes sent to reporters, nightmares, new phobia’s, wondering if the guy at the gas station was him, attempts at cracking the code, writing stories about him, and the sad, sad cancellation of Halloween, the most sacred of kids holidays.