Black Dahlia: How Do People Get the Story So Wrong?

Haunted History Podcast

This popped into my inbox this morning and golly it’s amazing just how many mistakes some crime buffs can pack into one blog post. Then again, the Internet.

Ready? Let’s find five obvious errors.

It is written in stone that the Black Dahlia story must begin with the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s body. In reality, Betty Bersinger was pushing her daughter in a stroller as she walked down to the stores in Leimert Park to run errands. The Black Dahlia myth demands that the willful, disobedient child runs off into the weeds and finds a body. (Extra points if she cries for “Mommy!”) But no. That didn’t happen.

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Once again, the Internet gets it wrong.

Elizabeth Short’s body was found in the city of Los Angeles, making it an LAPD case. The FBI had no jurisdiction.

Haunting History Podcast, 2019
But let’s do drag in the FBI, because it’s the FBI. Trivia note: The FBI file is labeled Elizabeth “Ann” Short, which ought to be a warning about the quality of what it contains. Elizabeth Short had no middle name.

The LAPD refuses to give anyone access to its Black Dahlia files, noting that it is an open case.

HauntingHistoryPodcast, 2019

Which means this is nonsense. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has released its redacted files on CD, but that’s quite different from the LAPD.

Government jurisdictions in Los Angeles are tricky things and confuse many people, like James Ellroy, who repeatedly writes that the Los Angeles COUNTY district attorney has some sort authority over the CITY of Los Angeles Police Department. Nope. Separate agencies.

In the last months of her life, Elizabeth Short posed for some pictures at John Marshall High School. She’s 22 in these pictures.

Haunting History Podcast

Oh dear. Elizabeth in high school. Tell me, does she look like she’s a teenager in this picture? Really?

And then there’s the photo of Elizabeth Short taken in 1946 when she stopped in Indiana en route to Los Angeles.

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The Internet loves, loves, LOVES to speculate about the man in this picture. Is it “Ed Burns?” Is it “Mack Wayne Edwards?” Nope. Not taken in Florida and she was 21.

I could go on, but my head will explode.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Another Good Story Ruined, Black Dahlia, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Homicide, LAPD and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Black Dahlia: How Do People Get the Story So Wrong?

  1. Justin says:

    How’s the book progress coming?


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