January 15 1947 - Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) Is Found Disembered

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On January 15th, 1947, Elizabeth Short, known after death as the Black Dahlia, was found murdered in a part in LA. Her corpse had been cut at the waist, and a smile had been carved into her face from ear to ear.

Elizabeth had moved from Boston to California and was an aspiring actress. Her posthumous name came from the murder mystery The Blue Dahlia.

To this day, her murder has not been solved and it remains one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history.


Elizabeth Short was the 3rd of 5 daughters, born July 29th 1924 in Boston. Her father built mini golf courses, but when the stock market crashed, they became broke. His car was found abandoned near the Charles River, and it was assumed that he jumped to his death.

After undergoing lung surgery at age 15 for bronchitis and asthma, the Short family was told to move to a milder climate during the winter months for her health, so she was sent to live with family in Miami during the winter and remained in Medford the rest of the year.

In 1942, she received a letter from her father saying that he was not dead, but had started a new life for himself in California. She moved there to be with him, but they argued constantly and she moved out.

She stayed with friends and a boyfriend, an Air Force sergeant who abused her. After being arrested for underage drinking, she was supposed to go back to Medford, but opted for Miami instead.

In Miami, she met an Air Force Officer who was training for deployment in World War 2. He proposed marriage and she accepted, but he died in a plane crash less than a week before the end of the war.

The relocated back to LA, where the lived for the remainder of her life. She worked as a waitress and rented a room behind a nightclub. It is said that she wanted to be an actress, but she had no acting credits to her name.


On the morning of January 15, 1947, her naked body was found severed in a vacant lot in an LA park. Area resident Betty Bersinger found the body while on a walk with her 3-year-old child.

The body had been severed, drained of blood, and washed. She had been dead nearly 10 hours at the time of discovery. Her mouth was slashed from ear to hear. Her body was covered in cots, and her intestines were tucked beneath her. Her corpse had been posed with her hands over her head and legs spread.

Trying to learn more about the victim, the Los Angeles Examiner called her mother, saying she had won a beauty contest. After they pried all of the personal information about Elizabeth they could from her, they let her know that actually, she had been murdered.

Shortly after the murder, someone called the editor of the Examiner to congratulate them on the coverage of the case, and to keep their eyes peeled for some mail. They received a manila envelope with her birth certificate, business cards, photos, and an address book. They had all been cleaned similarly to how the body was cleaned. Fingerprints weren't able to be analyzed.

On March 14th, a suicide note was found in a shoe next to a pile of men's clothes by the ocean, saying: “To whom it may concern: I have waited for the police to catch me for the Black Dahlia killing, but have not. I’m too much of a coward to turn myself in, so this is the best way out for me. I couldn’t help myself for that, or this. Sorry Mary”. No clues have officially come from this.

Mark Hansen, the name on the mailed address book, was a suspect. It was revealed that he had been rejected for sex from her and that could have been the motive. But ultimately, he was cleared of suspicion, leaving nearly 150 suspects.

The Examiner continued to receive cryptic notes, but nothing ever came of them. The media began to sensationalize her death, and the police allowed the spreading of false information to keep secret her official cause of death.

Many stories claimed she would get guys all worked up, and leave them hanging. Others claimed she was a lesbian.

Police think she was killed in the outskirts of LA and her body was transported into the city to be dumped. They think the killer must have been a surgeon or doctor due to the cuts on her body.


There are still 2 main suspects talked about today, though the case is still cold and nobody has been charged.

The first suspect, George Hodel, was a physician who ran a clinic in LA, satisfying the idea that the killer may have been a doctor. He was on the list of 6 primary suspects. He died in 1999, but his son wrote a book called "Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story" accusing his late father of the murder.

He claims that his father's handwriting matches the strange letters, and uncovered photos of him with someone who looks like her. However, he's been discredited since he has begun accusing his father of other unsolved murders like the Zodiac killings.

Another suspect is Leslie Dillon, a mortician's assistant who knew a suspicious amount about the murder when brought in for questioning. Though he was let go after a run in with a dirty cop, some never forgot about him and believe him to be the killer.

People will likely speculate on this murder for years to come, as it is completely baffling that a crime so gruesome was never figured out. It has been 73 years since her body was found, and we are still just as far away from finding who did it as we were then.


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Dahlia

2. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/572113/the-black-dahlia-murder-facts

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