a picture of Black Dahlia

a picture of Black Dahlia

One of the most haunting unsolved murder mysteries was that of Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dahlia. In July of 1946, she came to Los Angeles in the United States to become a famous actress. Unfortunately, that never happened for her. She was found naked and horribly mutilated on the morning of January 15th, 1947 in an empty piece of land close to Leimert Park. A woman named Betty Bersinger was walking with her daughter. They saw Elizabeth’s body and mistakenly thought it was a mannequin from a nearby store.

The horrors of the Black Dahlia crime scene have confounded police and investigators for decades. Her body had been severed in half and completely drained of blood. Her body also had several bruises and cuts. The most horrific scar was one across her mouth to her ears. It’s most noticeably recognized from the Joker in the media, but it became known as the Glasgow smile.

The Crime Scene

But the odd thing was that there was no blood on the scene. Police guessed that her killer had mutilated and washed her at a different location before leaving her body. The coroner in Los Angeles at the time, named Frederick Newbarr, discovered that she had been raped. Her cause of death was actually cerebral hemorrhaging. Newspapers started referring to her as the Black Dahlia after a movie that was in theaters while all this was going on—The Blue Dahlia, which starred actor Alan Ladd and actress Veronica Lake.


Investigators interviewed more than 150 suspects. From students at the University of Southern California’s medical school to a physician named George Hodel. His son, Steve Hodel was a homicide detective in Los Angeles. He worked on the Black Dahlia case, accusing George of killing her and other women. George was one of the police’s biggest suspects, especially when he decided to flee the United States several times. Once in April of 1950 right before he was going to be arrested by another detective named Frank Jemison.

George apparently started a family in the Philippines. Then he decided to move back into the United States in 1990, but died nine years later at the old age of 91. He was never charged for the murder of the Black Dahlia.

In 2016, Steve told a newspaper called The Guardian that, “My judge and jury are the public,” and he never stopped collecting evidence against George.

Cultural Effect of the Black Dahlia

Since then, Elizabeth’s murder has inspired several movies in Hollywood and even a novel written by author James Ellroy, whose own mother was raped and murdered when he was a boy. Her murderer was never found and it became a cold case that has caused many people to search for answers that have never been found. Ellroy related heavily to the Black Dahlia case.

At one point, the investigators were able to find partial fingerprints on a package with Elizabeth’s items inside, which had been sent to newspapers, but the envelope had been cleaned with gasoline, just like her body had been, so they never figure out who sent it or why. The Black Dahlia case remains unsolved.