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The Chilling Mystery Of The Black Dahlia is a video made by Ryan Bergara and Brent Bennett, uploaded onto YouTube on April 1, 2016. It was the fourth episode of the first season of BuzzFeed Unsolved: True Crime, and was the fourth episode overall. You can find it here.

Description[]

What happened to Elizabeth Short?

Notable Events[]

This episode was one of the only episodes where Brent Bennett co-hosted.

Background[]

On January 15, 1947, the body of twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short was discovered by Betty Bersinger on the block of 3800 S Norton Avenue in Los Angeles, California while on a morning stroll.

Elizabeth's body was cut in half and had been drained of blood, making it so pale that Bersinger originally thought it was a mannequin. It was cut with surgical precision with no trauma to internal organs or bones. Most famously, her mouth was cut from each side to her ears in a smile. Because there was no blood on the ground, police theorized that the body had been moved there after she was murdered.

Before arriving in Los Angeles, Elizabeth had spent time with a man named Robert Manley in San Diego. Manley had driven her to Los Angeles and helped her check into the Biltmore Hotel. However, some state that after Manley left the Biltmore Hotel, Elizabeth headed to the Crown Grill Bar, now known as Club Galaxy, which were her last known whereabouts.

Although there are many different rumors as to why she was nicknamed "The Black Dahlia" by the press, the FBI's official website lists her "penchant for sheer black clothing" and the movie The Blue Dahlia, which was out at the time, to be the reason.

Nine days after the discovery, an envelope addressed to the Los Angeles Examiner read "Here is Dahlia's belongings. Letter to follow," in cut-out letters from movie advertisements. The envelope contained Elizabeth Short's Social Security card, birth certificate, snapshots, and an old address book. Gasoline was rubbed on the contents, possibly to remove fingerprints from the sender. This letter, however, was not the only one sent to press. There were many others, including a postcard that read "turning in Wed Jan 29, had my fun with police," from a "Black Dahlia Avenger."

Robert Manley, Joseph A. Dumais, Dr. George Hodel, Jr., and many others were all suspected; Manley because of his proximity to Elizabeth; Dumais because he had confessed, and Hodel because of connections to Elizabeth and similarity to the killer's profile and skillset.

Ryan and Brent drive around Los Angeles and explore the main places of the case: where Elizabeth was found, the Biltmore Hotel, Club Galaxy, and the outside of Hodel's house and medical office.

Robert Manley died on January 16, 1986 due to an accidental fall, and Dr. George Hodel, Jr. died on May 16, 1999. It is unknown when Joseph A. Dumais died, but he could have been the Joseph A. Dumais that died in 1975. Elizabeth was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, in Oakland, California.

Although the case has been dropped for over fifty years, L.A. District Attorney Stephen Kay aptly concluded his feelings in 2003: "Based on the results of Steve [Hodel's] investigation, I would have no reservations about filing two counts of murder against Dr. George Hodel."

Theories[]

  • Robert Manley murdered Elizabeth Short.
    • Manley was originally suspected because of his proximity to Elizabeth―he had dropped her off at the Biltmore Hotel. However, Manley returned to San Diego before her death and passed a polygraph test, and when administered sodium pentothal, or a "truth serum," was proven innocent.
    • Manley was committed to the Patton State Mental Hospital in 1954 when he started hearing voices, making his mental stability and/or statement possibly null.
  • Joseph Dumais murdered Elizabeth Short.
    • Dumais claimed to be blackout drunk with Elizabeth in San Francisco a few days before the discovery of her body. When asked if he thought he had killed her, he said yes.
    • Dumais was dismissed because evidence later proved he was on his military base, Fort Dix, the day of her death.
  • Dr. George Hodel, Jr. murdered Elizabeth Short. This theory was popularized by his own son, Steve Hodel, who, although he was five years old at the time of the murder, later became an LAPD detective and investigated the case.
    • Hodel was known to be a secretive and abusive person, as he was accused by his daughter of sexually assaulting her and apparently had a secret room in the house where his children were not allowed to go. This would line up with the psychological profile of a murderer.
    • Hodel studied surgery in medical school and ran the Los Angeles County venereal disease clinic, which would contribute to the surgical precision of the cuts on Elizabeth's body.
    • Photos of a woman who was thought to be Elizabeth were found in Hodel's photo albums. Forensic artists disagree on how similar the two look, and tests were ultimately inconclusive.
    • When police planted listening devices in his home, George was heard saying "supposing I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead," and "this is the best payoff I've seen between law enforcement agencies, and I'd like to get a connection made in the D.A.'s [District Attorney's] office." As the LAPD was notoriously corrupt at the time, this would have made sense as a cover-up, along with the fact that around the time Hodel was emerging as a clear suspect, physical evidence was lost and the case was dropped.
    • In 2012, Steve Hodel returned to his father's house in Los Angeles with a police dog that indicated the scent of human remains. Soil samples taken from the alley of the Hodel house came back positive for human remains as well. Although Elizabeth was not buried there, these results indicate that George Hodel was not "the biggest stranger to murder."

Quotes[]

  • Brent (on the sender of the Black Dahlia letters): "Or it could have just been some random person who had sent these letters, and it's not the killer."
    • Ryan: "Why would you pretend to be, uh, a killer?"
    • Brent: "Why would a killer kill someone in the first place?"
  • Ryan: "However, when administered sodium pentothal, which apparently is a truth serum, uh―"
    • Brent (laughing): "What?"
    • Ryan: "I'm not fucking with you, that is literally what it is―"
    • Brent: "So they got fucking Snape on the line and said 'hey, give us your truth serum...' This is why cases are unsolved, because they're working with 1947 technology."
  • Brent (on George Hodel's recording): "He sounds like a 1950s mobster."
    • Ryan: "'They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead! She's dead, copper!'"

Trivia[]

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