Writers who are unfamiliar with the Black Dahlia case have a terrible time keeping the facts straight, as shown in the latest coverage by Christine Pelisek in the Daily Beast. There are the common mistakes and one can almost track them as they spread virally until they become “commonly known.” The incorrect middle name, Ann, for example, originated in the Los Angeles Times and has even infected the FBI file. You can be sure that people who refer to “Elizabeth Ann Short” don’t know what they are talking about.
But even though I have spent years researching the case and I thought I was familiar with most common mistakes, I don’t know where Pelisek got some of her nonsense.
Now, almost 70 years after 22-year-old Elizabeth Short was found posed and mutilated in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot, her throat slit and her body sliced in half at the waist and drained of blood, one man and his dog think they may have sniffed out a clue.
A downtown parking lot? Her throat was slit?
No one has ever been charged with the gruesome slaying, despite years of police work, nearly 50 discredited confessions, and intense media attention—heck, there was even a movie. Original detective files have long been destroyed; theories linking the case to the Cleveland Torso Murders of the late 1930s and the Lipstick Killer murders in 1940s Chicago have come up short.
Leslie Dillon was arrested on charges of killing Elizabeth Short , but the case against him disintegrated before he could be arraigned. The original detective files are kept at LAPD headquarters and some of them were recently displayed at the Los Angeles Police Museum.
Of course, sometimes a writer is fed misinformation:
[Steve] Hodel, a crime writer and former LAPD detective who has written two books about the Black Dahlia case (a nicknamed bestowed by the tabloid press), is convinced that his father George Hodel, a surgeon, killed Short after a romance between the two turned ugly. He also believes his father killed close to a dozen women in the 1940s in his Hollywood home and then gruesomely posed them in different locales around the city.
The Los Angeles Herald-Express frequently nicknamed murder cases, but the Black Dahlia wasn’t one of them. The paper referred to the killing of Elizabeth Short as “The Werewolf Murder.” Elizabeth Short got the Black Dahlia nickname at a drugstore lunch counter in Long Beach as a riff on the current movie “The Blue Dahlia.”
George Hodel was never in practice in Los Angeles as a surgeon nor was he a member of the American College of Surgeons.
Did I mention that there’s nothing to show George “Evil Genius” Hodel and Elizabeth Short ever met?
And there is no record of a killer in the 1940s who left posed bodies all over Los Angeles. It’s true that there were a number of grisly killings of woman in that era, but their bodies were not posed.
Aside from the doggy evidence, Steve Hodel’s own research points to some persuasive clues. Hodel started working on the case after his father died in 1999, leaving behind secret photos of a woman who looked like Short. After digging through an old grand-jury file, Hodel learned that the LAPD had placed bugs in his father’s house in February of 1950, two months after he was acquitted for molesting his 14-year-old daughter, Hodel’s half-sister “There were 18 detectives assigned to pick up Dad and take him down for questioning in the spring,” Hodel says. “While they were questioning him they sent out detectives who put microphones in the rooms. They did this for six weeks.”
What was claimed at the time was that two photographs found in Dr. George Hodel’s belongings showed Elizabeth Short. In fact, the photos look nothing like Elizabeth Short and one woman – Marya Marco – has since come forward to say that she is the woman in one of the pictures. Elizabeth Short’s family also says that the photos aren’t her, not that it makes any difference to the George “Evil Genius” Hodel franchise.
George Hodel’s house was bugged from Feb. 18, 1950, to March 26, 1950, 36 days.
In one of the picked-up conversations, George Hodel, who is speaking to an unidentified visitor, says: “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary because she’s dead.” (Police investigated Hodel as a possible suspect in his secretary’s poisoning but later dropped the case.)
Nobody ever investigated George Hodel as a suspect in his “secretary’s poisoning” because she died of an overdose of sleeping pills in 1945 – way before the Black Dahlia case of 1947.
And I’m going to snip a bunch here…
Unfortunately, Buster can pick up almost every form of human decomposition, which means that he can be alerting on everything from crematory ashes, fetuses (George Hodel was known to perform abortions at his home), human blood, old human remains, you name it.
There is nothing to show that George Hodel ever performed an abortion, not at his home or anywhere. It’s too long to get into here, but I have done a lengthy study of the history of abortion in L.A. and there is no way George Hodel could have been performing abortions at his house.
Some of these mistakes are new and some of them originated in the George “Evil Genius” Hodel franchise in which he supposedly committed every unsolved killing in Los Angeles for decades – with police complicity because he knew which local powerbrokers had venereal disease. And yes, as ridiculous as that sounds, the argument is at the heart of the George “Evil Genius” Hodel franchise.
I guess this was supposed to be “cute animal story meets Jack the Ripper.” And don’t let the facts get in the way. But Los Angeles deserves better treatment than this junk. Much better.