Black Dahlia Murder – 13 Horrifying Facts

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The Black Dahlia Murder – Why The Horrifying Case Remains Unsolved

No case has stumped investigators more than the killing of Elizabeth Short, aka “The Black Dahlia.”  On January 15, 1947, the 22-year-old, budding actress was brutally murdered in South Los Angeles. The mystery of who did it remains today, as do many disturbing questions surrounding the case. Here are 13 horrifying and frightening facts about the murder. Beware, a few of them may keep you awake at night.

Black Dahlia Identified
Los Angeles Times Black Dahlia news coverage

1. THE BLACK DAHLIA “ELIZABETH SHORT” GOES MISSING

On January 9, 1947, Elizabeth Short returned to her home in Los Angeles after a brief trip to San Diego with Robert “Red” Manley, a 25-year-old married salesman she had been dating. Manley stated that he dropped Short off at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and that Short was to meet her sister, who was visiting from Boston, that afternoon. The next time anyone reported seeing her was six days later in a vacant lot— brutally murdered.

Black Dahlia crime scene photo
Black Dahlia crime scene photo of the covered body

2. THE BLACK DAHLIA GRUESOME CRIME SCENE

The Los Angeles Police Department noted that the naked body of the once beautiful 22-year old was cleanly sliced in half, just above her waist. The body methodically posed with her arms raised over her shoulders, and her legs grotesquely spread in a twisted display of seductiveness. There were cuts and abrasions across her body, her intestines were removed. Her mouth slashed from ear to ear – a gruesome cut known as a Glasgow Smile. Investigators believed she had been tied down and tortured for several days due to the rope marks on her wrists, ankles, and neck.

Black Dahlia Crime Scene Photo
Black Dahlia crime scene photo of the dismembered body.

3. BLACK DAHLIA BODY SCRUBBED AND DUMPED

Surprisingly was no blood at the crime scene, no blood on the body, and there was none on the grass beneath the corpse. Investigators determined that the young woman had been murdered somewhere else, drained of blood, then cleaned before the killer dumped her body in the vacant lot overnight.

 

Black Dahlia Autopsy Photos
Black Dahlia autopsy photos

4. THE BLACK DAHLIA AUTOPSY REPORT

The autopsy revealed multiple lacerations to the face and head. There was no sperm present on the body because the killer had washed the body clean. There were numerous cuts in a criss-cross pattern over her pubic area, and her pubic hair had been removed by hand. Most of the damage done seemed to have been postmortem, including the victim’s body’s severing at her waist. The official cause of death was “hemorrhage and shock” due to “concussion of the brain and lacerations of the face.”

Black Dahlia Mugshot
Mugshot of Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. She was arrested in 1943 for underage drinking in Santa Barbara.

5. BLACK DAHLIA MUG SHOT IDENTIFICATION

Despite her maimed body, the Los Angeles Police Department managed to pull fingerprints off the corpse. They worked with the FBI and got a hit since the victim previously had been arrested for underage drinking in Santa Barbara.  The young woman turned out to be a 22-year-old Hollywood hopeful named Elizabeth Short.

6. BLACK DAHLIA MEDIA FRENZY

At first, the news media referred to the case as the “Werewolf Murder” because of how the body was mutilated. But soon, newspapers dubbed Elizabeth Short the “Black Dahlia” since she had black hair, wore black flowers, and dressed in tight black clothing. The grisly nature of her death, coupled with the victim’s attractiveness, sparked widespread media coverage at the time that resulted in salacious headlines. News reports portrayed the Black Dahlia as everything from a sex fiend escort to a lesbian who seduced men for money and lavish gifts before dumping them cold when they expected something in return.

7. BLACK DAHLIA FBI PROFILER

FBI criminal profiler and author John Douglas believed the killer must have known Elizabeth well and had some emotional attachment to her. The horrific violence inflicted upon the body and leaving the body on public display would indicate that the killer wanted the world to see Elizabeth Short and the wrongdoings that he believed she had done to him.  Douglas described the killer as a white male, in his late 20s or older, with a high school education. He lives alone, works with his hands, and is comfortable with knives and blood – possibly a butcher or slaughterhouse worker.

8. BLACK DAHLIA MURDER CONFESSIONS

The Los Angeles Police Department estimates that over 500 fame-seekers have confessed to the grisly murder of Elizabeth Short. There was a waiter who phoned the police saying his guilty conscience forced him to confess. A couple of hours later, a woman claimed Elizabeth stole her man, so she killed her in retaliation. Then, there was an Army corporal who swore he chopped her up with a cleaver. The only problem was he was in New Jersey at the time of the murder, and no cleaver was involved in the killing.

Black Dahlia Lipstick Murder Crime Scene Photo
Lipstick murder crime scene photo

9. BLACK DAHLIA KILLER LINKED TO “LIPSTICK MURDER?”

Newspapers began linking other murders to the Black Dahlia case. Many thought the so-called “Lipstick Murder” was connected since a badly beaten female body was found with a bizarre message scrawled on the victim’s stomach in red lipstick: “F**k You. B.D.” It was surmised that “B.D.” stood for “Black Dahlia.” Police also discovered another mutilated young woman near where Elizabeth’s corpse was found. Neither of the cases was solved.

Black Dahlia Murder
Black Dahlia evidence Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office

10. BLACK DAHLIA MYSTERIOUS LETTERS

A big break came when the LAPD received a mysterious package with letters cut-out from newspapers that said: “Here are Dahlia’s belongings. Letter to follow.” The box contained Elizabeth’s address book and some other small personal items. Soon, another letter arrived where the suspect promised to turn himself in. But he never did.  Detectives believe that after becoming convinced that he would not be identified, the killer might have taunted the police and newspapers with the knowledge he had that no one else did.

Cleveland Torso Murders
Cleveland investigators Investigators look at the dismembered head of one of the victims.

11. BLACK DAHLIA KILLER LINKED TO THE “CLEVELAND TORSO MURDERS”

Some think the Black Dahlia’s killer is the same person responsible for the so-called “Cleveland Torso Murders .” Thirteen victims were slaughtered from 1934 to 1938. All of the bodies had been decapitated with all the finesse of a butcher, often cleaving the torsos in half, and some drained of their blood. Several of the male victims were castrated and others were cleaned with a chemical solvent. The killer was never caught.

12. WHO KILLED THE BLACK DAHLIA – THE PRIME SUSPECTS

Dozens of suspects have been questioned, and two are almost always near the top of the list. Leslie Dillon was a bellhop and mortician’s assistant who knew a surprising amount of details about the case when the cops hauled him in for questioning. Many in law enforcement are convinced he was at least an accomplice, but there was never enough evidence to charge the guy officially.

Perhaps the most famous suspect is Doctor George Hodel, who ran an L.A. venereal disease clinic in the late 1940s. Hodel’s chief accuser is none other than his son, who happens to be a former cop. In his book, “Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story,” Steve Hodel claims his father’s handwriting matches some strange letters the police received, supposedly written by the killer.  He also came across photos of a woman who resembles Elizabeth Short in his father’s belongings and is convinced his dad’s medical background would explain the body’s clinical cuts. George Hodel died in 1999 and was never charged with the murder.

13. THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER CASE IS STILL OPEN

The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Depart officially have an open case of the Black Dahlia murder, and today, the Biltmore Hotel serves a Black Dahlia cocktail of vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, and Kahlua. The drink, perhaps appropriately, tastes bitter.

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