Shelved Dolls – Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short – It’s Not The Murder Story You Think You Know (But It Is Terrifying And NSFW)

A more likely suspect was William Heirens, who was found guilty of murdering  Suzanne Degnan and who scrawled on a mirror “For heaven’s sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself.” Since Elizabeth’s body was found on Degnan Boulevard, it’s possible it was meant to act as a kind of “arrow” to Heirens’ other crime.

Jack Anderson Wilson was strongly implicated in the book Severed. He was said to be a small time gangster with connections to Bugsy Seigel – and he was acquainted with Elizabeth before her death. However, evidence beyond that hasn’t been seen to hold up.

LAPD homicide cop George Hodel was also pointed to by son, because he claimed his father was photographed with someone who looked like The Black Dahlia.

And these are the likely suspects. Want to know the unlikely suspects?

Woody Guthrie and Orson Welles. Welles because the mannequins he used in the House of Mirrors scene in Lady From Shanghai looked suspiciously like Elizabeth’s corpse, and Woody because of some sexually explicit letters he wrote.

The takeaway from this is – pretty much anyone can be blamed for the Black Dahlia murder. You can pick someone at random, in your office, and claim they were a time traveler who killed her and you’ll have about as good a case as anyone.

But maybe what’s most terrifying isn’t that unresolved nature, or even the pictures of the body – it’s that Elizabeth Short, really, wasn’t a wild sexpot who was out looking for trouble, as all the newspapers anted to suggest. She was just a 22 year old girl who wore a lot of black. That is to say, she was just like you or me. And if something so terrible can happen to her, then terrible things can happen to all of us.

Next week: Empress Sisi! A comparatively happy story.

Additional reading:

FBI Records

TruTV – The Black Dahlia

Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder

The Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story


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    • Chelsea

      Have you seen the Sissi movies? They are the opposite of her life. But the costumes were nice! LOL

    • Maggie

      Oh dear god, your ending gave me goosebumps!

    • Sarah!

      Steve Hodel wrote a couple of books about his dad maybe doing this. They are extremely interesting but you have to kind of suspend your disbelief in order to get into them. Especially the second one where he implicates his father in like, 45 of the most famous murder cases of the last 60 years.

    • BeccaTheCyborg

      My suspect of choice is Frank Sweeney, a former doctor who almost certainly committed the Cleveland Torso Murders, and was in LA at the time.

    • Sabrina

      This was fascinating! So basically, do they not even have an idea of why someone would have wanted to murder her? No secret lovers, no super bad something with her dad? Her life seems pretty unextraordinary for a murder this brutal.

    • Laura

      I love, love, love the Shelved Dolls feature! I’ve already obsessively read about all the women you’ve profiled, yet I still learn something new every time. Can’t WAIT for the Sisi article!

    • Em

      You should do Sisi, definitely. I’m in the middle of her (poorly translated) biography, and she’s really interesting. Also, bought Mitford’s Pompadour bio after reading your take on her. I really like this series of yours!

    • Matzukado

      I absolutely did NOT click on the page with the picture (my psyche is far too fragile) but I just wanted to say that as someone who has had a passing interest in this case, this article added an extra dimension that I never knew about. I’m realling enjoying this series, thanks for writing it.