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

This is what horrifies me most: after the story got out, reporters from The Examiner called Elizabeth’s mother, Phoebe Short, and told her that her daughter had won a beauty contest. Phoebe talked to them excitedly all about Elizabeth before they informed her that her daughter was actually dead.

Her mother claimed she’d had a letter from Elizabeth in San Diego two weeks ago, and that “as far as I know, she was working in a naval hospital there.”She also said that Elizabeth was considering moving to Chicago to be a fashion model.

The coverage in the Los Angeles Herald was much more sensational, and claimed that Elizabeth “prowled Hollywood boulevard.” It later suggested that her lifestyle set her up to be a victim. Short was supposedly set up to be… literally chopped apart? Surgically? The newspapers during this period are insane.

Basically, there is an implication that she brought this on herself by wearing a sheer blouse. That also indicated that she was a prostitute.

She was not wearing a sheer blouse.

The newspapers made that up to get more attention for the story.

She was also said to have been a drunk who’d been out lounging at the Biltmore bar before getting killed. Again, she was once picked up for underage drinking, but her autopsy showed almost no presence of liquor, and the mention of the Biltmore was PR hype.

PR hype. For the Biltmore. Oh, God, and we think publicists today can sink low.

The New York Times later (in 2004) ran a retraction claiming that Short was not a prostitute as they had previously claimed. There was, seriously, no evidence of that, despite the fact that Elizabeth is constantly depicted as being a wanton woman in an outfit the newspaper made up for her. The sexy, sexiness is, at best, traced back to that one time she got picked up for underage drinking with sailors.

That did not stop people from later coming up with a rumor that Short was having an affair with Marilyn Monroe.

Honestly, it’s not even certain that she had the equipment that would be required of a prostitute. It’s quite possible she never even had sex, despite being turned into a sex symbol.  The picture of her anatomy indicates that her genitals were deformed in a way that would render sexual intercourse impossible  – she was said to have infantile genitalia, a case of genitals that have never fully developed. However, this theory is deemed unreliable.

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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.