The Black Dahlia case is perhaps the most influential murder in the history of Los Angeles. This murder involves a dark-haired woman who disappeared after being dropped off at the Biltmore Hotel in January of 1947. The woman’s name was Elizabeth Short, and although she had not found fame before her disappearance, she became known all around the country the following week when her torso was discovered.
When Betty Bersinger and her daughter were walking along a relatively barren street on the morning of January 15th, the women saw what they thought was two pieces of a mannequin. Shockingly, this was not to be the case, as, upon closer inspection, it was actually a female who had been severed in two at the waist. The poor woman had been mutilated, slashed across the face from ear to ear, and her intestines removed. The cold-blooded killer had also washed the body before leaving it to be discovered.
A Media Frenzy Erupts
The brutal murder quickly caught the attention of the media, and the news spread across the country. Investigators interviewed more than fifty suspects. Some were other females, some were males, and some even confessed to committing the gruesome murder.
The young woman was an aspiring actress in Tinseltown, and the glamour associated with being a starlet, along with the fact that the murder went unsolved, created a mystique that still surrounds the case today. Whenever a beautiful, seemingly innocent person dies an awful death, the media runs with the story.
Even today, people around the country find this story fascinating. Elizabeth Short was born in Boston and lived in Florida before moving to L.A. to become an actress, so people across the country felt a connection to her. Her story is considered to be one of the first major crimes to capture the nation’s attention after World War II.
Folks in middle America were intrigued by the case, as the very idea of an aspiring actress moving to Hollywood to find fame and fortune and ending up brutally murdered could itself be the premise of a box office thriller. The moniker “The Black Dahlia” is, in fact, a reference to a film called The Blue Dahlia that had been released a year earlier.
A Cultural Icon
This unsolved Los Angeles murder case has been referenced in tv shows and video games and has inspired bands, art projects, and college theses for decades. Author James Ellroy wrote a best-seller based on the case, and that book was even turned into a film in 2006.
Part of the influence this murder has had on pop culture is the fact that it will likely never be solved, so it offers constant fodder for conversation. As with any tale that gets told over and over, the story has also evolved and taken on a life of its own. In fact, most individuals who have an opinion on the case are actually basing their beliefs on a great deal of misinformation.
This factor may be the very reason this case remains Los Angeles’ most famous murder. As the tale has evolved over the years, new theories are constantly being introduced, just as the Jack the Ripper killings in 19th century London inspired countless hypotheses.
One such modern theory came about when former homicide detective, Steve Hodel, came forth and stated that his father George, a physician, had killed the woman. In 2013, a cadaver dog searched the man’s former home and reportedly indicated the presence of human remains, but the body, of course, had already been found in 1947.
As you may expect with such a high-profile case, many L.A. residents have developed their own personal connection with the murder, and many have their own stories to tell. Bartenders around the city claim that Elizabeth Short was last seen at the bar where they work, not the Biltmore Hotel. Some believe the young woman may have been hitchhiking and got into the wrong car, while others believe she had gone on a date that went terribly wrong. A Los Angeles Public Library librarian even tells of a psychic who came into the library looking for maps of the city during the time of the murder, so she could use her clairvoyant abilities to solve the case.
The newspapers at the time had a working relationship with the Los Angeles police department that allowed them access to photographs and theories related to murder cases. They often published suicide notes and pictures of murder and suicide victims, many of which had been altered. Even the photo of Elizabeth Short’s body that was published had a blanket superimposed over it.
Some newspapers even got away with fabricating details of the case. The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, for instance, claimed that the Black Dahlia had been wearing a tight skirt and blouse, perpetuating the theory that she had been sexually promiscuous. This newspaper actually fooled Elizabeth’s mother into flying to L.A., believing that her daughter had won a beauty contest. When she arrived, they told her the actual news, guaranteeing that they had the scoop of the mother’s response to this horrible tragedy.
The Los Angeles Herald Examiner has also contributed to the mystery that surrounds the case through the loss of evidence. They claim that their microfiche for the last half of January 1947 was stolen many years ago. Before the rise of television and the internet, the newspapers were the primary source of current news all around the country.
The Case Is Cold, But Crimes Have Not Stopped
As the case of the Black Dahlia has gone cold, it still inspires intrigue more than seventy years later. The Biltmore Hotel offers a Black Dahlia cocktail that visitors must try when they visit the hotel bar. Other women were killed in Los Angeles around the same time, and many have been murdered since, but none have captured the imagination of the country the way this one woman’s death has.
Investigation techniques have evolved since 1947, and those who are accused of crimes such as murder must often mount a strong defense to stand up to the accusations of authorities. If you have been charged with such a crime, it is vital to secure the representation of a legal team with the knowledge and experience to help you face the courts. Visit the website of The Law Office of Stein & Markus today to find out more.
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