MALIBU, CA—Saying he had wanted to talk about the subject for years but feared it would damage his career, beloved entertainer Dick Van Dyke confessed Wednesday to being the infamous Zodiac Killer, the serial murderer who terrorized Northern California more than four decades ago.
The 87-year-old actor, singer, comedian, and dancer, best known for his pioneering TV career and roles in films like Mary Poppins and Bye Bye Birdie, spoke at length with reporters about the ghoulish Bay Area execution-style murders, marveling at the fact that he was never caught.
“I am the Zodiac,” said Van Dyke, using the pseudonym of the man who claimed to have killed 37 people and once dared authorities to find him as he continued to “collect slaves for the afterlife.” “The murders, the taunting calls to the police, the letters, the cryptograms sent to local newspapers—that was all me. I just assumed someone would put the pieces together at some point, but I never got credit for any of it.”
Shaking his head, he added, “All those books about the Zodiac Killer, and not one mentions the eyewitness accounts of the murderer as a gangly, loose-limbed man with a toothy grin and a spring in his step who would whistle as he approached his victims, arms akimbo.”
While only the first of the notorious cryptograms he coerced newspapers into publishing in 1969 was ever solved, Van Dyke confirmed that his identity would have been revealed had his later clues been deciphered, noting that one of the encrypted messages begins with the words “HI I AM DICK VAN DYKE FROM TV AND FILM I AM THE ZODIAC KILLER.”
In addition, the four-time Emmy Award winner said he was shocked that fans never made any connection between the murders and an old running gag from The Dick Van Dyke Show, a joke in which his character would grow exasperated and shout at co-star Mary Tyler Moore that he “sure could stand to blow off steam by heading down to Lover’s Lane and slitting the throats of a couple teenagers right now.”
“There was brief time when I thought Julie Andrews was on to me,” Van Dyke said as he recalled the filming of Mary Poppins, which reportedly coincided with his earliest murders. “One time she found me in my dressing room caked in sweat and muttering to myself about the thrill of hunting humans, and I could tell it made her uncomfortable. I’ve got to hand it to her, though—right after that she went out there and nailed ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ in one take.”
“But that’s the kind of professional Julie was,” he continued. “She never let stuff like that affect her performance.”
According to Van Dyke, he soon found himself juggling two full-time occupations. He would commute regularly between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, commit cold-blooded murder, send greeting cards to the San Francisco Chronicle signed with the Zodiac Killer’s trademark crossed circle, and then return home in the nick of time to appear in his next big feature film.
The iconic serial killer and 2013 SAG Lifetime Achievement Award winner said there were times he slipped up, and noted that if viewers look closely at certain scenes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, they can see the claw marks on his neck from a young woman who had fought back before he had a chance to shoot her repeatedly in the chest.
Van Dyke went on to tell reporters that by the mid-1970s he had grown tired of the hectic pace and, having experienced runaway success in his life’s two greatest endeavors, decided to slow things down a bit.
“Even now, though, I’ll occasionally take a part in a movie, and I plan to keep killing people as long as I can,” he said. “The truth is, I’m really good at it. I killed three people yesterday. And I hope to kill more today.”