The mystery of who killed the Black Dahlia, aka 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, in Los Angeles in 1947 has eluded police investigators, as well as true crime enthusiasts, for well over half a century. There have been plenty of theories batted around, of course, with the brutal manner in which she was killed – mutilated, her body sliced in half at the waist – providing the biggest potential clue.
Retired police detective Steve Hodel has long suspected that his father, physician George Hodel, was the man who killed Short, and as many as 10 other women. Following his father’s death in 1999, the younger Hodel discovered photographs of a women resembling Short amongst his belongings; further research revealed that George Hodel had indeed once been a suspect, and in a 2004 interview with CBS, he said that his father had a secret room that he and his siblings were barred from ever entering. That’s where he believes his father killed his victims, including Short, some of whom he lured in as one of the only doctors at the time who performed abortions. There’s other potential evidence as well — Hodel’s handwriting is similar to the handwriting on notes the killer sent to police, and shortly before Short was murdered, Hodel bought bags of concrete of the same brand and size as those found near her dead body.
But a big question looms — WHY? Steve Hodel didn’t have a close relationship with his father, who abandoned the family when he was 9, moving eventually to the Philippines. But over the course of his investigation into his father’s past, he’s developed a new theory about what might have inspired the Black Dahlia murder — Man Ray. The famous surrealist artist was a family friend back in the 1940s, and according to The Guardian, “Two of Man Ray’s photographs, Les Amoureux and Minotaur, do bear a chilling resemblance to Short’s mutilated body.”
Steve Hodel believes his father wanted to emulate Man Ray’s surrealist style to create a “masterpiece” of his own, “a crime so shocking and horrible it would endure, be immortalized through the annals of crime lore.”
The Guardian has done a more extensive interview with Hodel about his overall investigation into the Black Dahlia murder and George Hodel’s possible involvement and it’s worth a read. This quote in particular stuck out. Asked what his dad would think of his theory and investigation, Hodel replied, “I don’t know. I’m guessing he’d be proud of me.”