Significance of the Bob Vaughn Subplot in Zodiac (2007)

David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac stands out as one of his finest, if not one of the best cinematic offerings of the century. Fans loved it because of its perfect balance between fascinating police procedural, sinister plotline, atmospheric horror, and terrific acting, making it one of the best crime thriller movies of the century.  

In one of the scenes, when cartoonist Robert tracks down Bob Vaughn, he goes to an apartment to investigate more about Bob Vaughn and the Zodiac killer, where things become grim and unsettling. After that scene, there is no mention of Bob Vaughn again, prompting viewers to question the need for Bob Vaughn’s subplot in the movie. 

This article will clear all the doubts regarding the need for the subplot of Bob Vaugn in the Zodiac movie.

What was the significance of Bob Vaughn in Zodiac?

The significance of Bob Vaughn’s subplot or the basement scene in the movie shows how far-gone Geysmith was in his investigation that he used to see Zodiac everywhere and in every person. Through Bob Vaughn, Fincher wanted to portray the unhealthy obsession of Graysmith to find Zodiac (the killer). 

He became so paranoid in doing so that his wife left him. Another possible reason to showcase the subplot of Bob Vaughn is to show that the scene of two people talking and the spooky atmosphere were all made up by Greysmith and were not happening in real life. 

Bob Vaughn was a genuine person (a professional organist) who used to play the organ in silent movie theatres in 1968. Based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, he was never incriminated as Zodiac by law enforcement. 

Graysmith became ludicrous to solve the case and find Zodiac. Fincher may have used the subplot of Bob Vaughn to confound the viewers regarding the actual identity of the murderer.

Who Was the Zodiac Killer?

There are a few theories that suggest who could be the zodiac killer. Let us discuss them in brief:

Gary Francis Porte

Gary Francis Poste was a US air force veteran who became a house painter in California. The 80-year-old Poste died on August 23, 2018, from sepsis, septic shock, dysphagia, and vascular dementia.

According to the Case Breakers, a group of more than 40 retired police detectives, journalists, and military intelligence personnel, Gary Francis Porte might be the key suspect and the Zodiac murderer. The team concluded it based on the forensic evidence, photos, and some of the serial killer’s coded notes found in the darkroom of Poste. 

According to the San Francisco Chronicles, a relative of Poste accused him of attempting to murder him with a hammer. His ex-daughter-in-law accused him of being a serial killer as well. Ms. Wynn relocated from California to avoid Poste.

A police report obtained by the US version of The Sun documented the incidence of Poste pushing his 74-year-old wife into a wall that broke her pelvis in four places in 2016. However, the local authorities had not publicly confirmed Poste as the Zodiac murderer. 

Arthur Leigh Allen

Many theories suggest that Arthur Leigh Allen could be the Zodiac killer and is the only publicly named killer by the police authorities. Arthur was a former elementary school teacher and a convicted sex offender who died in 1992. 

The police suspected him as the killer because he had ties with Riverside and was close by the area of Lake Berryessa on the day of the attack on Cheri Jo Bates. 

Arthur also owned a Zodiac wristwatch, which was similar to the one owned by the killer. Officers suspected him of murder because of his unusual words and look, which resembled the drawings provided by the eyewitness. 

There was, however, no conclusive proof against him to prove he was the Zodiac killer. As a result, we still do not have a definitive name for the Zodiac killer.

Rick Marshall

Rick Marshall could be the Zodiac killer because he lived in Riverside around the time of the murder of Cheri Jo Bates and then moved to a San Francisco apartment, which was close to the murder spot of Paul Stine. He also used to work for the KTIM radio station, where the call letters resembled the cryptic symbols used by Zodiac in his letters.

His fingerprints, however, did not match those recovered from the Zodiac letters or the crime site. The handwriting check also made it inconclusive to consider him the Zodiac killer.

How Many Zodiac Killings Were There?

According to his letters, Zodiac serial killer claimed to have murdered 37 people. Still, there were only five known victims: Betty Lou Jensen (16 years old), Cecelia Shepard (22 years old), Paul Stine (29 years old), and David Faraday (17 years old), and Darlene Ferrin (22 years old). 

Here is the chronological order of his attack: 

  • David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20, 1968, on Lake Herman Road in Vallejo.
  • Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau on July 4, 1969, in a parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo.
  • Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell on September 27, 1969, at Lake Berryessa near Napa.
  • Taxi Driver Paul Stine on October 11, 1969, in the Presidio Height neighborhood of San Francisco.


Who Was in the House in the Basement Scene From “Zodiac”?

When Graysmith visits the home of a man who may know Zodiac suspect Rick Marshall. The man leads him to his dimly lit basement, where Greymaster hears the footsteps of someone in the house.

According to some onlookers, there was no one upstairs. Its purpose was to mislead and cast doubt on Allen’s identity as the Zodiac murderer. When the old guy disclosed that he, not Marshal was responsible for the movie posters, Graysmith became frightened. His heightened anxiety may have caused him to perceive any sounds as a possible second person in the house.

One theory suggests that there were two Zodiac killers. It’s conceivable since the handwriting samples looked to have been written by both right and left-handed people. So, the person walking upstairs could be the second murderer or projectionist, Rick Marshall, the prime suspect of the Zodiac killer.

Why Do the Police Think Arthur Leigh Allen Was the Zodiac Killer?

Because of the solid evidence presented to them by Robert Greymaster, police believe Arthur Leigh Allen is the Zodiac killer. The following evidence may have led the authorities to assume that Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac killer: 

  • The killer sent the first letter to the police in July 1969, after the murder of Darlene Ferrin, and they kept coming until police went to see him at work. As a result, he kept low until January 1974 because he thought the police were after him. In 1974 police received three letters because Arthur may have become comfortable assuming that police were not after him.  
  • Coincidentally, when police caught Arthur in 1975, they did not receive any letters from the Zodiac during his imprisonment. However, they received the first letter from Zodiac two years, only after Arthur got released from prison in 1977.
  • Apart from the evidence presented by Robert Graymaster, Mageau (second victim of Zodiac) met the police authorities and identified Arthur from a police mugshot as the Zodiac killer in 1991.

Were They Ever Close to Catching the Zodiac Serial Killer?

Yes, during the murder of Paul Stine, neighbors witnessed the crime and contacted the authorities to report a white guy shooting a taxi driver. However, the police were close to catching the Zodiac killer, who killed the taxi driver but let him off the hook because they assumed the Zodiac killer to be a black man and did not go behind the murder of Paul. 


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