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The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia Murder

Discovered January 15, 1947

The murder of Elizabeth Short has intrigued, mystified, even disgusted the city of Los Angeles for more than half a centruy.

Elizabeth Short, a 22-year-old wannabe actress, spent several years moving around, gaining odd jobs. Her passion for servicemen and aspiration to be famous made her a "different" woman of her time. She reportedly hooked up with a variety of men and women (one reported to having been Marilyn Monroe).

Her name evolved from her black hair and black attire. Some say she was named the Black Dahlia before her murder in January of 1947, others say the name was applied by journalists to sensationalize the crime.

On January 15, 1947, a passerby spotted her nude body in a vacant lot near Hollywood. Her body, cut in half, was bruised and beaten. Grass had reportedly been forced into her vagina, and she had reportedly been sodomized after death. Rumors of henna in her hair and BD carved into her body, as of yet to this outlet, have not been verified.

Upon the release of the murder in the press, several men and women admitted to the crime. But the police could not validate anyone's story. The case, notoriously, attracted several false confessions, and later surfaced more interest when James Ellroy wrote The Black Dahlia in 1987.

To date, according to the LAPD, the case goes unsolved. Though Janice Knowlton has authored a book naming her father as the killer, police have not reported Ms. Knowlton's statements or information as holding any water at all.


Elizabeth Short in the Morgue...

While not as clear as many other photos I've run across, this one shot depicts probably the most gruesome image of Elizabeth Short. It's elements are disturbing and realistic. To think that even today, a body simply is placed on a metal table in a practically bare room.

For those with more of a stomach, you can view the face, upper torso, or lower torso at closer ranges.

    Graphic from Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder; Amok Books, Spring 1998, ISBN 1-878923-10-2, $14.95 U.S. Used by permission.

Just added: a facial morgue shot of Beth Short. Note: This image is graphic. If you are are subject to a weak stomach, or nightmares, it is recommended you do not view this image.

To view the image, click here.


Amateur Sleuths:

During the LAPD's initial investigation of the Black Dahlia murder, the following occurred:

  • Just a few days after the finding, two homicide officers sat in a restaurant, discussing the case. After returning to headquarters, they got a call from a man, stating he just spotted the killers. The gentleman was a waiter in the restaurant, and his named suspects were the two officers.
  • A woman walked five miles to tell detectives that if Short were buried with an egg in her hand, the killer would be found within a week.
  • An astrologer asked the hour and date of Short's birth, then promised to provide the murderer's name within a few days.
  • One wanted Short's right eyeball, saying that he would "photograph" the final image reflected and would return with a photograph of the killer.
  • In at least three cases, landlords reported suspicious actions of tenants they had been vying to evict.
  • A Barstow, California woman told a bartender, "I know who killed Beth Short, and if the reward is big enough I'll talk." Two officers discovered the woman knew no more than what was in the newspapers. She was trying to get back at two boyfriends who had walked out on her, and tried to implicate them in the crime.


False Confessions

Among the several to falsely confess to the Black Dahlia murder are:

Joseph Dumais:

This corporal combat veteran was reported to military police by another soldier. The two had quarreled over money. After returning from a 42-day furlough, Dumais was found with bloodstains on his clothing. He also had a slew of newspaper clippings about the murder. Dumais, nonetheless, was fascinated that he might be a suspect, stating, "It is possible that I could have committed the murder. When I get drunk I get rough with women." Dumais was sent to a psychiatrist.

Daniel S. Vorhees:

This then-33-year-old former restaurant employee called the police, telling them to come get him. He was brought in, and he mumbled, "I killed her." But when asked about details, he replied, "Ah, I'm not going to talk to you anymore. I want to see my attorney." He was jailed - but not as a suspect - as a mental case.

John N. Andry:

This pharmascist boasted about his ability to cut up bodies. When the police arrested him, he first insisted he had killed Beth Short. Later, he said, "Well, I'm capable of doing it." Then he admitted that he was kidding.

Woman

A woman told police, "Elizabeth Short stole my man so I killed her and cut her up." Then, since she didn't know specifics, she admitted to having made the story up.

Man

A man was arrested for intoxication after he couldn't even pick Beth Short out of an array of photographs.

Man

A drunkard hopped from bar to bar, telphoning police, about the murder. Eventually a bartender held him for police.


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The Black Dahlia Web Site is Pamela Hazelton. All Rights Reserved. Last update: June 13, 1999.