Ep. 68: Zodiac (2007) A Nighthawks True Crime Special

The American serial killer who dubbed himself “Zodiac” began his reign of terror in 1968 and was never officially identified or captured. 50-years later, the mystery and the allure of the Zodiac crimes remains the white whale for many professional and amateur investigators alike.

The obsession over the case is the centerpiece theme to the 2007 film “Zodiac” from film auteur David Fincher. You may remember Fincher from such films as Fight Club and Seven (“Alien 3 doesn’t get enough visual love.” -Matt), but Fincher takes his first bite of (mostly) non-fiction in this Police/Journalism procedural. From Fincher’s take on the obsession surrounding the case, from Robert Downey Jr.’s worst case scenario performance in Paul Avery, to Anthony Edwards’ Bill Armstrong escaping the case with his soul, we see a complicated and woven tale. Not only about an enticing mystery, but about the price tag that comes with trying to solve it.

In solidarity with our Hello Sweetie Podcast Network sisters over at “This is the Place,” the Nighthawks bring you this extra-long True Crime special. Much like Zodiac is about obsession, the Zodiac episode is also about the grander phenomenon of True Crime as a societal interest. Why is this particular genre doing so well in this day and age?

It’s a hot take, right off the griddle and onto the blue plate special, at the conceptual Nighthawks Diner. Pull up a spot in the booth, get comfy, and lets talk about movies and True Crime.

Mentioned in the Epsiode:

Book on Austin’s Servant Girl Annihilator- The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth

From Matt’s If/Then- The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

This is the Zodiac Speaking Documentary (this isn’t our video or our channel)-

From Trevor:

In the episode, I mention my trip through Holcomb, Kansas; the backdrop of Truman Capote’s seminal “Non-Fiction Novel” In Cold Blood.

In Cold Blood covers the crime, investigation, incarceration, and execution of two men convicted of murdering the Clutter family, of Holcomb, in 1959. A brutal crime that shook the community to its core, and still seemingly serves as a bitter, albeit prominent chapter in Kansas history.

The Clutter family memorial was placed here in 2009, 50 years after their murders.
Holcomb still seems to have a very tangible discomfort for their place in history. A town that would otherwise escape the notice of most passersby.
However, being thrust into the spotlight, first by the brutal crimes themselves, and then to be the launching platform for the ostensible mainstream adoption of True Crime as a literary genre, is probably not the best way for a town to be on the tips of tongues across the country.
Even 50 years removed from the tragedy, when this monument was placed, one will notice a few key things.
Several dense paragraphs outline the lives of the Clutter family before the horrific murder. However, their deaths are not mentioned until the very final sentence.
Also not mentioned are the names of the men who were arrested and convicted of the crimes.
Finally, and probably most telling, there is absolutely no mention of Truman Capote or In Cold Blood.
The Clutter family headstones. Bonnie and Herb.
The Clutter family headstones.
Nancy.
The Clutter family headstones.
Kenyon. The jacket for In Cold Blood was placed on the spot where Truman Capote would be famously photographed, standing next to the gravestone. The jacket seemed to have been there for some time.
The Finney County Courthouse in Garden City, Kansas.
This is where the murder case against the killers of the Clutter family was held.
The Holcomb Community Park and the Clutter family memorial are located near the Clutter’s home, where the murders took place. One can assume that the erection of the memorial in 2009 was meant to dissuade looky-lous like myself, from bothering the current residents of the home.
The hotel where Truman Capote stayed while researching and writing In Cold Blood. The hotel staff seemed unaware of this fact, or simply did not want to regard it.
This was as close as I felt comfortable getting, which was a good deal away. This picture is taken with maximum zoom.
The home of the Clutter family still stands, and serves as a private residence still. From what I can tell, still looking much like it did in 1959.
This was it. This was the moment that punched me in the gut.
It finally all clicked. I had seen the pictures, I had heard Capote’s description. But to see the actual isolation of where this home was, and what it would have looked like 58 years ago, which is to say even less lit and more isolated… It all came together.
My brain finally had all the cogs, and snapped them into the right places in the right order. Standing here in this moment, during the late afternoon, the whole thing played out vividly in my mind’s eye. Right from where I was standing.
The darkness. The sounds.
It was a sobering moment.
No longer was this an academic curiosity, peppered with the thrill of discovery as I found where each location was, and successfully navigated there. This was flesh and blood. Legitimate human tragedy. The victims had names, faces, hopes, dreams…
Something I think I’d lost given the buffer of nearly 60 years and a whole lot of pop culture.

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