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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Did George Hodel Kill the Black Dahlia?

On Friday, before I got off work, I saw a strange book in the museum shop and knew that I had to have it:

Even if I didn't buy the premise - surrealism, and the Black Dahlia! I had to have it.

Heretofore I've been blasé about the George Hodel hypothesis - a surgeon with friends in the movies and with surrealist connections (notably his friend Man Ray) whose son has become convinced that his father murdered and bisected Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. I have always leaned toward John Gilmore's assertion - that an itinerant, creepy loner named Jack Anderson Wilson killed the aspiring actress, as well as an heiress named Georgette Bauerdorf. Always leaned toward that assertion, that is, until now.

Certainly I do not think that surrealist art, which I admit is full of distorted and bisected "muses," is the cause of Elizabeth's death - surrealism is about the unconscious, what intrigues and frightens us, and certainly would have many parallels with a notorious crime that also intrigues and frightens us. However, the facts about Hodel are fascinating - and unsettling. Enough so to allow me to change my mind.

I have not read the book Black Dahlia Avenger by his son Steve Hodel, and I must say that the two photographs allegedly of Liz Short that Hodel found in his father's possession, do not resemble her at all. But there are many other details - too many to recount here - that have piqued my curiosity - and my alarm. I think there's something to this.

Certainly Hodel's book is more plausible that the trash written by Janice Knowlton, who only has "repressed memories" [remember that fad?] on her side, and who behaved rather disgracefully toward the person who has maintained what I consider to be the authoritative online resource on this crime.

So at this point I am in a holding pattern as to the merits of this new hypothesis. I must add that none of these books have supplied enough information for the LAPD to officially reopen the case.

Another resource I've found is this haunting film, a visual timeline of the crime and its aftermath, put together by a filmmaker named Larry Harnish. Masterful work, Larry! Larry also has his own hypothesis as to the murderer's identity. I think his is quite plausible, too.

Of course the last thing I could want would be a deep connection between surrealism and this murder, but in the final analysis this crime is surreal: from Elizabeth's father having faked his own death, to her tragic loss of Matt Gordon, to the incarceration of cleared murder suspect Red Manley in an insane asylum, to the false confessions and the mystery of her whereabouts in those final days.

Some feminists have accused surrealism of being anti-woman, of bisecting and fragmenting the female form out of hatred, but I am with with Dorothea Tanning (wife of Max Ernst) when she asserts:

Intellectually, they [the surrealists] flew close to the flame. Instinctively they were far from knowing the perverse appetites they so admire and glorified. As for emulating the fantasies of Sade's personae, they didn't even try...

As for these fragmented images of women, she add:

They were disguised hymns to her mystery. I don't believe that even in the most romantic moments of literary history have writing men so adored the idea of woman.

Nor do I. It follows therefore that the death of Elizabeth Short is surreal because life is surreal. Whether surrealism contributed to her death or not, via the misguided "artistic" expression of a violent wannabee, remains to be seen. But it does not surprise me that she could have become a sort of surrealist heroine to the artists in George Hodel's circle, including Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, and if this is the case, then it illustrates Tanning's comments above.

It is a sad fact that bourgeois society, while pretending to be so righteous, tends to glorify the criminal (Charles Manson, the Zodiac Killer, PTK, etc.) rather than the victim of a famous crime, whose name is all too often unknown to the public - but Elizabeth Short is an exception.

This crime is named after her - not her murderer. It is she who walks in the minds of those like me who are fascinated with her story. It is her charm and her beauty that stares out of photographs and into the hearts of people like me who want to solve this crime. Whoever her murderer is, he could never be as interesting as she was.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Kristine! Love the comments, sorry I can't commit to reading regularly, found the link via Dawkins' comment about the to-do.

Surely, it's "BTK" (for Blind, Torture, Kill, the sick and sadistic motto and plan of that sick and sadistic individual) not "PTK" (Phi Theta Kappan - no comment). :)
- Eh N.
Because, as in xkcd, ghu forbid that somebody be wrong on the internet(s).

Have a good week! Happy cheap-Easter chocolate-shopping!

March 23, 2008 7:50 PM  
Blogger Michiel said...

Great article! Just finished Gilmore's "Severed". What's your opinion?

May 08, 2008 10:30 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

You know, Michiel, the more I learn about this case, the weirder it gets. I was really convinced that Jack Anderson Wilson killed Liz Short (and I still recommend Severed to everyone interested in this case), but now I’m not so sure.

I have not read Steve Hodel’s book, but Exquisite Corpse, while fascinating, does not connect the dots to George Hodel for me.

I wonder if Wilson had the know-how to slit her body as it was found without making a mess of things, though. I really recommend taking a look at the hypothesis by Larry Harnish. I think he’s definitely onto something.

May 08, 2008 2:58 PM  
Blogger Michiel said...

Thank yoy for responding. If you have any crime related questions let me know.



May 12, 2008 3:56 PM  
Anonymous AlterBerg said...

The whole case would serve awesomely well as a script for the next David Lynch movie !

February 13, 2011 7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hodel wasn't a surgeon. The photos claimed to be Eliz Short found in his possession wasn't Short. Short's own family said so. There are dozens of other claims Hodel's son made in that book that turned out to be false. Hodel's son was an ex cop trying to sell a book. That's it. Short was killed by Bugsy Seigel because she was pregnant by Norman Chandler. It was covered up by crooked cops on the payroll of the mob. Nice neat job with all the bases covered. People think Hollywood is freaky today---its a nursery school compared to the days back when the mob ran it.

April 16, 2011 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS :after Bugsy and his buds tortured and killed her Short's body was bisected by Dr.Les Audrain who also removed her uterus. He was a scummy doc who was also on the mob payroll. He performed back alley abortions and his name was found among Short's
possessions. Bugsy himself was wiped out by mob bosses just a few months later because of his growing insanity and willingness to use murder to solve any problem. Donald Wolfe's book "the black dahlia files" pretty much wraps up the Eliz Short murder which went unsolved in its day due to crooked cops diverting the investigation.

April 16, 2011 11:06 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Anonymous, I agree with you about Hodel; initially, the case looked intriguing, and I have yet to read the younger Hodel's book. However, those photos are definitely not Elizabeth Short. In fact, they look nothing at all like her! I am left with the uncomfortable impression, however, that Hodel, being an egomaniac who dropped passive-aggressive hints ("Suppose I did kill the Black Dahlia," etc.) may have out of a need for attention written two of the letters to the police, aside from the letter included with Short's personal belongings, which was unquestionably sent by the real killer. You and I are in agreement: Hodel did not do it.

I question Harnish's hypothesis, also. It seems doubtful to me that a doctor bordering on dementia could have accomplished such a gruesome display of surgical precision. That connection to Short's sister is startling, but nothing more than another coincidence.

I am aware of this latest hypothesis, that Bugsy Siegel did it; unfortunately, I have not read that book yet, either. Be sure that I will. However, I did come across another suspect, that of a young doctor who, after Short's death, drowned himself after accusing himself of the crime.

Thank you for visiting and for your comments. Unlike some investigators, I do wish this case to be solved, so that it can stop being a "mystery" and restore dignity to her, the victim.

April 16, 2011 2:06 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

For those who are interested, the book to which Anonymous refers is The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder that Transfixed Los Angeles.

I just requested it to be made available on Kindle.

April 16, 2011 10:53 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Sorry, Anonymous - I don't buy it. Short was not a "starlet," and she was not pregnant at the time of her death. I appreciate that Wolfe dug through all of this newly-released archival material, but he does not connect the dots between Siegel, Chandler, and Short. This strikes me as another conspiracy theory, and all the claims of it being "seamless" and of Wolfe having lived in L.A. (so what?) makes it very doubtful in my eyes.

June 21, 2011 11:52 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I have received word that my article, which mentions the Black Dahlia murder case and the various scenarios put forth by the various authors (Gilmore, Pascios, Knowlton, Wolfe, and Hodel) will be published in the new year in a major magazine.

At this point, I am thoroughly disappointed in all of these writers, but particularly Wolfe and Hodel for their inaccuracies. None of them have connected the dots, Gilmore included.

Hodel just wrote on his blog about how a psychic sense an "evil presence" in his father's former room. Oh, right. Incidentally, the younger Hodel has gone on to accuse his father of being the Zodiac Killer as well.

We are safe in writing off Steve Hodel's hypothesis.

November 20, 2011 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Bernadette said...


Take the time to read the book. You will agree 100% that George Hodel was the murderer. A dozen murders bearing similarities could not possibly go unsolved had they not been committed by the same person...someone whom the LAPD was protecting!

July 25, 2012 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a pagan cult murder?
This WAS NOT simply a crime of passion.
This girl suffered a very long gruesome torture,
Look people, they fond feces in her stomach!
Anyone look at the photos of the body?!

There had to be more than one perp.

August 11, 2012 4:14 PM  
Blogger Blitz said...

Here we are some years later and this case once again made headlines in2013, as a cadaver dog found four areas of decomp. In the home of Dr. Hotel, Frank Lloyd Wrights Snowden House. These samples are currently being analyzed. Hotel was a very ill man, he did in fact molest his 14 year old daughter for the pleasure of others to see and by many accounts this group held many perverse party's at this home. Fact: police records of the wire tapped investigation into Hodels life and home just weeks prior to him leaving the country document him and another man harming a woman in the basement, statements referencing the killing etc! He knew he would never be indicted because he had conducted abortions and treatedsexually transmitted diseases of many famous Hollywood elite. The destruction of the Hollywood fantasy or better stated the importance in keeping the facade alive at that time that our heros were clean,morale Americans protected him in his own mind and rightfully so. He knew that Orsen Wells, john Houston , Man Ray ond associated movie studios and powerful people who enjoyed the secrecy perversions and who reviled in each others genius that the rest of us simple folk could never understand nor appreciate we're above us all in every way, these people at thier core knew they were elite, smarter, more beautiful and better in eveyway thus they enjoyed her death as a huge secret of the club! Man Ray understood as did Orson Wells and John Houston immortalized Dr. Hodel in his ode to him, Chinatown. Just look a little closer and it all become clear. This was Hodels power and his place amongst the genius, the elite the rich and the famous!

March 10, 2013 12:31 AM  
Blogger Robert Wallace said...

Aloha Kristine:
At 62 years of age, I have reviewed and been extremely fascinated with so many perplexing unsolved and arm--chaired debated cases. . .from Jack The Ripper to the Beautiful Thelma Todd, to John F./Robert F. Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Elizabeth Short and Zodiac murders. Recently, after watching the TV movie on ' The Green River ' murders--it struck me that it took some twenty years to finally solve who the killer was; why have Zodiac, The Black Dahlia, Kennedy's and Hoffa cases taken forever it seems, and still no conclusive resolution?
Especially with respect to the Kennedy's and Hoffa--there must be existing files that authorities are hiding from the public on purpose!
As Americans, we have the right to know. History should be complete and right; I remember some years ago, the lady who flew the same route as Amelia Earhart commented when asked what she believed happened to her, said ' It doesn't matter, she only wanted to remember her for what she did ". I whole--heartedly reject that. . .History should be exact, our heroes shouldn't be marginalized!

July 12, 2015 2:51 PM  

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