Howard Davis, the man behind the Zodiac/Manson conspiracy hoax, enjoyed the endorsement and promotion at a website owned and operated by Tom Voigt of Voigt had a long history of promoting frauds and crackpots at his website, including Robert Graysmith, Steve Hodel, Blaine Blaine aka Goldcatcher, Raymond Grant, and Sandy Betts. By inventing suspects and creating bogus mysteries, Voigt did his best to drive traffic to his fading website and generate money in the form of donations. Voigt begged visitors and members of this site for money which he claimed would be used to fund his amateur investigation of the Zodiac crimes. Most of the donors had no idea that their donations were used to fund Voigt's lifestyle as an unemployed Bigfoot hunter and Zodiac con man. Tom Voigt and Howard Davis had established a mutually profitable relationship-- Voigt over-looked Davis' history of fraud while Davis praised Voigt and helped to raise money for This relationship began in the late 1990s and continued even after Howard Davis was exposed as a fraud and his Zodiac/Manson conspiracy hoax was debunked.

Davis had been telling his story of a Zodiac/Manson conspiracy and official cover-up since as far back as 1997, when his book THE ZODIAC/MANSON CONNECTION first appeared. Davis had claimed that famed Manson prosecutor endorsed his theory but, when interviewed on the matter, Bugliosi stated that the entire scenario was “pure, unadulterated insanity,” and “preposterous on its face and obviously 100% wrong.” Unquestionably disturbed by the story, Bugliosi unequivocally stated, “I reject it completely out of hand.” Howard Davis claimed that his former brother-in-law had told him of the massive conspiracy to conceal the fact that Manson and his followers were behind the Zodiac crimes. When interviewed, the brother-in-law not only refuted Davis’ entire story, but referred to him as “nutjob” with no credibility. The brother-in-law also cited Davis’ documented history of making sensational claims in the past, referring to Davis’ book WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF MORMON? Once the story of the cover-up was debunked by Davis’ source, Bugliosi and others, many observers assumed that Howard Davis would stop spreading the story. However, Davis had no shame and continued to tell his story to anyone who would listen.

After my articles exposed Davis as a fraud, Davis and I were invited to speak at the premiere of a documentary film titled HUNTING THE ZODIAC. The film featured Davis, Tom Voigt, Zodiac crackpot Sandy Betts, and others, and the entire event was promoted by as a "Zodiac Task Force Meeting." Other guest speakers included retired investigator Bill Baker and former Vallejo police dispatcher Nancy Slover. Voigt and others in his online clique urged me "not to rock the boat" by reminding the audience of Davis' downfall and disgrace. Voigt's decision to invite, endorse and promote an already-exposed fraud like Davis as a credible guest speaker made the event seem like a task farce meeting.

On March 3, 2007, I walked into the lobby of the Four Star Theater in San Francisco for the screening of HUNTING THE ZODIAC. A rather excited man approached with a quick question.

“You’re Mike Butterfield, right? Hey – so, what’s the deal with the whole Manson-Zodiac cover-up thing? Is any of that stuff true?”

I referred him to my website and my article about my own attempts to investigate the matter.

He quickly responded, “I read that. So, it’s bullshit, right?”

I replied, “As far as I can tell, there’s nothing to it.” The man nodded.“Thought so. Thanks.” He disappeared into the theater.

Once I found a seat inside, a familiar voice rang in my left ear. “You’re Mike Butterfield, right?” I turned in my chair to see Howard Davis.

Davis was first on the list of guest speakers. Like many other naive observers, I believed that Davis would be wise enough to avoid the cover-up story and further damage to his fading credibility. I was wrong.

Howard Davis stepped to the front of the theater and addressed the audience. He began by mentioning his work with an amateur code-breaker.

“Anyway, um, today, um, I met her for the first time, Deborah Silva, she’s been doing work on, um, the Zodiac codes, and, in my view, at this time, I feel it’s quite stellar. And, uh, experts are being consulted, and so on. Uh, she’s done a marvelous work, and no axes to grind, and no prejudices on both sides. So, um, in the weeks to come, our website – the Zodiac/Manson connection, the name has changed, dot com – uh, Jim Nelson, the webmaster, is here, he’s got some books, some Zodiac/Manson Connection books, you want to read that. Once again, this our viewpoint, our opinion, and I encourage you to talk to others, and examine other websites that have other suspects. There are people that have no suspects, and that’s fine. We’re all interested in the case, so that is our, um, our medium.”

Davis then launched into yet another telling of his already-debunked conspiracy tale. “Uh, one of the thing that I wanted to bring out is that I was drawn into this case relative to a suspect. It started with a casual conversation. And, I, uh, I have never talked about the entire situation, uh, not even to my some of my closest friends. But, many of you were drawn into the area of suspects, to Arthur Leigh Allen, and that’s fine. It was due to what’s now been called ‘The YellowBook,’ the book called ZODIAC by Robert Graysmith. And you’ve left that, many of you have left that and gone on to just examining the suspects themselves. And that’s fine. We have all, that are suspect-oriented, have gotten a tip from somebody or we read a book, and we leave that behind. And it up to each one of us, as individuals, to determine when we should stop, or if we should continue. That’s a personal choice, a personal decision. Others will agree, some will be on the fence, some won’t. But one thing that we should continue to focus on, we have a common interest, and that is the case itself, and its ultimate solution. And I think that’s where our main, chief focus should be. We’re not always all going to get along because of suspects and because of case fact. We have never had somebody confess to the Zodiac crimes and give us all the detailed information that many of us engage in debate on. So, I think that that’s where it’s headed.”

“Anyway, over time, it took several years, and there were a lot reasons for it, in 1987, I began my trek into the Zodiac case, and I became suspect-oriented. Others, as I said, have not. And, uh, over the years, I’ve developed a lot of information, some of it will be on the website, some of it I have chosen not to publish at this time and later on it will be published. But, um, it is a very difficult thing, I’m speaking for all of you now who have suspects or that are examining the case – to do this. Many times there’s limitations of funds, limitations relative to time, there are people that don’t want you to give their name, and it makes you not a credible person. They put certain stipulations on, if I give you this information, you’re not going to do this or that. So, it can become very, very difficult, so it is a frustrating thing, and I’d like to applaud all of you that have spent many years actually on the case...”

“So, I’m not going to say much more, but do watch our site. When we post some of this material in the future, it’ll go up suddenly, and that’ll be, uh, that’ll be that. Right now, we’re gonna be consulting with experts and so forth, we wanna be cautious. It’s a very difficult case, as I said before, the suspect has never been ID’ed, as it were, and, uh, identified, and questioned thoroughly, and so, therefore, some of the things that we debate about, are being debated because this person has never given us, uh, all the detailed information. And that debate will go on, and that’s good.”

Davis then asked the audience to donate money to Voigt’s website and amateur efforts. “Try to support the site – that’s very, very important....It’s a humanitarian thing...”

An audience member asked Davis to explain his interest in Bruce Davis. The conspiracy theorist responded, “My suspect is Bruce Davis, second-in-command in the family. Many of the subject matter that comes from the Zodiac case relates to the things that he was familiar with. Of course he was in many of the areas. I was able to place him in Lake Tahoe. If Donna Lass is a Zodiac victim, he was there working, he had a fake driver’s license. Uh, I can put him in many of those places. And, I’ve written to him, under another name, many, many years ago, and any time I touched on a Zodiac-related matter, which, he, we were not discussing Zodiac, he would always avoid it, even down to – he wouldn’t admit that he owned an old Studebaker, that sort of thing. So, um, there are a number of reasons that I have looked at him – it wasn’t because of my source. It was because I found it fascinating that things lined up. And it takes many, many years to find out about him, because of the fact that he was so secretive. I know people that knew him. And, he was the most feared in the family next to Manson. It wasn’t Tex Watson they were afraid of, it was Bruce Davis. And, uh, he had the kind of character and background I feel that would make him a viable suspect.”

“Now, when you talk about Manson, people think of gore, they think of all the stabbing, they think of all these things, and of the so-called ‘stupidity,’ and the all the rest of the plot, but, when you single Bruce Davis out, and you look at him intimately, and you talk to people that knew him intimately, you get a different picture. So, I’m up against a lot of prejudice, and I realize and I appreciate that. That just happens to be my suspect. Other people have a lot to overcome, as it were, with their suspect. Those who don’t have a suspect, there in a little better position, uh, they contribute a great deal to case fact and so forth. So, there are just a number of reasons why I, uh, have continued to, of my own free will, to investigate him. There are some things I have not brought out yet, there are some things that I’ve discovered recently even. There are some things that will be brought out eventually. Also, too, his childhood friend questioned him, and he said he would not talk about the Zodiac matter because he had never been convicted or had never been charged with those crimes. So, I thought that was rather strange. But there again – everybody can bring up these kinds of things relative to their suspects. This is a personal thing with me, it’s not anybody else’s suspect, it’s mine. And I take full responsibility for it, and I have to take the hits, and I have to take some of the accolades at times, when people say, hey, he was there, he did do this, or whatever.”

Davis continued to ramble on for a few minutes until he accurately interpreted the impatient body language of the event host and returned to his seat.

I was stunned. Having watched the events unfold as Davis’ entire conspiracy tale was debunked, even by his own source, I never believed that Davis would expose himself to further embarrassment and humiliation; yet, sitting there, that day, I realized that Howard Davis was a man without shame, and that he was absolutely indifferent to the fact that he had been exposed as a fraud. In his mind, Howard Davis did not care about those who knew he was a fraud; he was only concerned about winning the minds of the gullible and preserving his diminishing reputation in the eyes of those who already believed in him. The fact that the over-whelming majority of those who followed the case now realized that he was nothing more than a shameless opportunist in search of fame did little to discourage Howard Davis. He marched on, determined to continue his dishonest campaign and tell his conspiracy tale to anyone naive enough to believe him.

Davis eventually approached me and sheepishly addressed the situation. I informed him that his brother-in-law had clearly failed to corroborate his story and, more importantly, had adamantly denied that he had ever told the story in the first place.

Howard Davis responded, “He’s in denial.”

At that moment, the lights dimmed in preparation for the screening of the film. I turned to Davis and quietly replied with obvious sarcasm, “There’s a lot of people in denial, Howard.”

During his speech, Davis had spoken of the difficulties he had faced in his so-called “research” of the Manson/Zodiac theory, and said, “Many times there’s limitations of funds, limitations relative to time, there are people that don’t want you to give their name, and it makes you not a credible person.”An interesting choice of words, given the facts. When I attempted to investigate Davis’ claim that he possessed direct knowledge of the solution to the Zodiac case, he was reluctant to provide the name of his source. Ironically, that source then stated that Davis had no credibility. The only reason that Howard Davis had been deemed to be “not a credible person” was the fact that Howard Davis had proved as much, beyond any doubt.

Davis repeatedly referred to new and important information concerning the Zodiac codes and other issues that would be published on his website in the near future; to date, the website has not displayed any important new material. Instead, the website featured a document purportedly from a company that had conducted a voice-stress analysis of a brief, telephone testimonial recorded by Davis regarding the veracity of his conspiracy story. According to the document, the analysis proved that Davis was telling the truth. When I attempted to verify this information, I called the company in question only to receive an odd recorded message. Repeated efforts to contact the company proved fruitless, and messages inquiring about the results of the Davis analysis received no response.

Watching Davis repeat his cover-up story made me physically ill. I took the podium after his speech, and although part of me wanted to address his tall tales, I was well aware that I was attending a largely social function where rocking the boat and disrupting the peace was not the order of the day. So, I addressed the audience, answered questions, and then returned to my seat.

In the following months, the debate concerning the cover-up story raged on the message board at, and the members began to fall into three basic categories: 1) A small group who believed in and defended Davis, including the owner, Tom Voigt and other prominent members, 2) Those who did not believe Davis but were afraid to contradict Voigt and the others who did, and 3) Those who did not believe Davis and viewed the entire cover-up episode as proof that he was a fraud who was not to be believed or trusted. The members of this third group found life on the message board at difficult as Voigt and the rest of Davis’ defenders essentially shouted down all criticism of the theorist. Eventually, Voigt began to censor postings which were critical of Davis; later, he simply deleted any and all posts concerning the issue in an effort to shield Davis from further criticism or exposure. Such censorship was not new; in 2000, I was banned from Voigt’s website simply because I had asked important questions regarding the credibility of another source Voigt had championed, Arthur Leigh Allen’s original accuser, Don Cheney. In the years since, most observers agreed that Cheney has no credibility, and even the Vallejo detective who had originally endorsed the witness expressed his own doubts. Voigt’s need to silence critics of Howard Davis eventually led to the end of my association with his website.

Today, Howard Davis is a prominent and respected member of, where he continues to tell his stories, promote himself and peddle his book with the endorsement and praise its members. Voigt himself often refers to the theorist as “the esteemed author, Howard Davis.” When I questioned Voigt’s decision to silence legitimate, fact-based criticism of Davis and the obviously unwise protection of a fraud, Voigt wrote, "I'm not going to risk my relationship with Howard because two people on the planet care if Howard told a lie 15 years ago," and, "I don't know that Howard's a fraud, but even if I did, HE HELPS ME WITH MY GOAL. Please read that last sentence until the meaning registers."

The meaning was not lost on me – the truth doesn’t matter to Howard Davis and Tom Voigt.

Tom Voigt claims that solving the case is his goal, and, at the same time, he claims that Howard Davis is an honest, esteemed and reliable friend. If solving the case was my number one goal, and I had a reliable, honest, trusted friend who claimed to have direct knowledge of the solution to the case, I would check out the information provided by my friend. Tom Voigt never made the slightest effort to question Davis on this matter or investigate his story of a cover-up.

That day, in that San Francisco theater, I watched as Howard Davis preached to the crowd, and I realized why some had referred to him as a “snake-oil salesman.” He seemed convincing; his voice resonated throughout the room while he repeatedly declared his respect for Tom Voigt, for the amateur community, the case researchers, those in law enforcement, as well as the Zodiac victims and their loved ones. Some members of the audience may have been moved by his performance, but I was not impressed. Davis had been exploiting this case for more than a decade and, in all of that time, he had never made any serious effort to investigate his own story. When asked in whom he had confided over the years, Davis told me that the list included his wife, a co-worker, an aged detective (in Colorado, if I recall correctly), another retired member of a law enforcement agency with no ties to the Zodiac investigation, and Davis’ mother. Put simply, Howard Davis had launched a book, a website, a theory, and a career, he had spent years posing as an expert on both the Manson and Zodiac cases, and he had constantly claimed to be in search of justice in the name of the victims, but he never bothered to investigate the best tip he had ever received.

The words of Howard Davis still ring in my ears: “One thing that we should continue to focus on – we have a common interest, and that is the case itself, and its ultimate solution. And I think that’s where our main, chief focus should be.”

His sincerity seems as genuine as his conspiracy story.