The Mysterious Case of Black Dahlia

9 min read
The Mysterious Case of Black Dahlia

Black Dahlia is the nickname given to a brutally murdered American lady in 1947 — her body was cut in half and severely mutilated.

Elizabeth Short was born in Boston, the third of five girls.

She grew up in the suburb of Medford, Massachusetts, but since she had asthma and bronchitis when she was 16, Elizabeth was sent to spend the winter in Miami. In the following three years, she would live in Florida amid the chilly months and spend whatever remains of the year in Medford.

Elizabeth Short c 1945 00010417-thumb-576x720-62871

When she was 19, she set out to Vallejo, California to live with her dad, who was working at the close-by Mare Island Naval Shipyard on San Francisco Bay.

In mid-1943, Short and her dad moved to Los Angeles, but she later on accepted a job at the post trade at Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg Air Force Base) in Lompoc, California. She soon moved to Santa Barbara, where she was arrested on September 23, 1943 for underage drinking. She was sent back to Medford; however, she chose to come back to Florida.


While in Florida, Short met Major Matthew Michael Gordon, Jr., a decorated United States Army Air Force officer, then at the 2nd Air Commando Group, where he was training for deployment to the China Burma India Theater of Operations. She told her friends that he had proposed to her while he was recovering from injuries from a plane crash in India. She accepted his offer, but Gordon died in a second crash on August 10, 1945, less than a week before Japan’s surrender ended World War II.

Matt Gordon Flying Tiger c. 1943 | Stay at Home

Short came back to Los Angeles in July 1946 to visit Army Air Force Lieutenant Joseph Gordon Fickling, whom she knew from Florida. Fickling was positioned at NARB, Long Beach, and Short would spend the last six months of her life in southern California, generally in the Los Angeles zone.

The Murder of Elizabeth Short

WARNING: This contains graphic content

On the morning of January 15, 1947, the naked body of Elizabeth Short was found in two pieces along the west side of South Norton Avenue halfway between Coliseum Street and West 39th Street in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. A neighbour, Betty Bersinger, found the body around 10:00 am as she was walking with her three-year-old girl. Bersinger at first thought it was a disposed of store mannequin. When she realised it was a body, she raced to a close-by house and telephoned the police.

Short’s extremely ruined body was severed at the waist and depleted completely of blood. The body likewise had clearly been washed by the killer.

Elizabeth Short body | Stay at Home

Short’s face had been cut from the sides of her mouth to her ears, making an impact called the ‘Glasgow grin’. Short also had various cuts on her thigh and bosoms, where whole partitions of flesh had been cut away. The lower portion of her body was situated a foot far from the upper, and her digestion systems had been tucked conveniently under her buttocks. The body had been “postured,” with her hands over her head, her elbows twisted at right points and her legs spread. Nearby, the investigators discovered a sack which contained beads of watery blood.

A post-mortem examination expressed that Short was 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall, measured 52 kg, and had light blue eyes, chestnut hair, and gravely rotted teeth. There were ligature marks on her lower legs, wrists, and neck. The skull was not cracked, but rather Short had wounds on the front and right half of her scalp, steady with hits to the head. The reason for death was determined to be the slashes on her face and stun from the blows on her head and face.


Correspondents from the Los Angeles Examiner reached her mum, Phoebe Short, and told her that her little girl had won a stunner challenge. It was only after they have gotten the necessary information that they broke the news that her little girl had been killed. The daily paper offered to help her go to Los Angeles to help with the police examination, offering to pay for her plane ticket and accommodations. But it was again a ploy, since the daily paper kept her far from police and different correspondents to secure their scoop.

The Los Angeles Examiner later sensationalised the case: The dark-tailored suit Short was most recently seen wearing turned into “a tight skirt and a sheer pullover” and Elizabeth Short turned into the “Dark Dahlia,” an “adventuress” who “lurked Hollywood Boulevard.”

| Stay at Home
Envelope addressed to the Los Angeles Examiner from the alleged murderer. (via

On January 23, 1947, a man claiming to be the murderer called the editorial manager of the Los Angeles Examiner. He offered to mail things he swore are Short’s and the next day, a bundle landed at the newspaper’s headquarters containing Short’s business cards, photographs, names composed on bits of paper, and a location book with the name, Mark Hansen decorated on the spread. Hansen, an associate at whose home she had stayed at, promptly turned into a suspect. One or more others would compose more letters to the daily paper, marking them “the Black Dahlia Avenger,” after the name given Short by the daily papers. On January 25, Short’s tote and one shoe were reportedly seen on top of a garbage can in a back street a short separation from Norton Avenue.

Theories and Speculations

Because of the case’s notoriety, throughout the years, more than 50 men and women have admitted to the murder and the police were overwhelmed with tips. Some even volunteered their own family to be suspects. Sergeant John P. St. John, an investigator who worked on the case until his retirement, expressed, “It is amazing how many people offer up a relative as the killer.”

ElizabethShortGrave | Stay at Home

Short was buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. After her sisters had grown up and married, Phoebe Short moved to Oakland to be close to her girl’s grave. She came back toward the east drift in the 1970s, where she lived into her nineties.

“Dark Dahlia”

As indicated by daily paper reports, shortly after the murder, Elizabeth Short got the nickname “Dark Dahlia” supposedly from the film The Blue Dahlia. Los Angeles County lead prosecutor agents’ reports expressed that the epithet was developed by daily paper columnists covering the murder. Los Angeles Herald-Express columnist Bevo Means, who met Short’s associates at the medication store, is credited to have coined the “Dark Dahlia” name.

Lake ladd trailer | Stay at Home
Some sources attribute the Black Dahlia name to the 1946 film noir The Blue Dahlia. (via

Various people, none of whom knew Short, claimed to have seen her between January 9, the last time she was seen, and January 15, the date when her body was discovered. Police and head prosecutor specialists investigated each of these claimed sightings; however, none proved to be real sightings of Short.

A record in the Los Angeles County lead prosecutor’s documents titled “Developments of Elizabeth Short Prior to June 1, 1946” states that Short was in Florida and Massachusetts from September 1943 through the early months of 1946 and describes her life during this time. In spite of the fact that a mainstream depiction amongst her colleagues was that Short was a prostitute, the Los Angeles lead prosecutor’s jury demonstrated there was no current proof that she was ever a whore.

3119 | Stay at Home
Elizabeth Short, known as the ‘Black Dahlia’, was murdered in 1947. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images via

A broadly flawed talk likewise holds that Short was not able to have sex in view of an inherent deformity that left her with “puerile genitalia.” The Los Angeles County head prosecutor’s records expressed that the specialists addressed three men who reportedly had slept with Short, including a Chicago cop who was also a suspect. The FBI documents looking into the issue additionally contain a message from one of Short’s alleged sweethearts. Found in the Los Angeles lead prosecutor’s documents and in the Los Angeles Police Department’s rundown of the case, Short’s post-mortem examination depicts her reproductive organs as anatomically typical, in spite of the fact that the report notes confirmation of what it called “female inconvenience.” The post-mortem additionally expresses that Short was not and had never been pregnant, as opposed to what had been asserted preceding and tailing her passing.


The Black Dahlia murder investigation was led by the LAPD, but they also employed the assistance of many officers from other law enforcement agencies.

Around 60 people admitted to the murder, for the most part, men. Of those, 25 were viewed as practical suspects by the Los Angeles District Attorney. Over the span of the examination, a few new suspects were proposed. Suspects include Walter Bayley, Norman Chandler, Leslie Dillon, Joseph A. Dumais, Mark Hansen, Dr. Francis E. Sweeney, George Hill Hodel, Hodel’s companion Fred Sexton, George Knowlton, Robert M. “Red” Manley, Patrick S. O’Reilly, and Jack Anderson Wilson.


Some speculators connected the Short murder and the Cleveland Torso Murders, which occurred in Cleveland somewhere around 1934 and 1938. The first LAPD specialists investigated the Cleveland murders in 1947 and later marked down any relationship between the two cases. New developments implicated a previous Cleveland Torso Murders suspect, Jack Anderson Wilson (a.k.a. Arnold Smith). However, Wilson died in a fire on February 4, 1982.

Short’s murder was also connected to the 1946 murder and dissection of six-year-old Suzanne Degnan in Chicago. Captain Donahue of the Los Angeles police additionally expressed openly that he thinks both murders were “likely connected” because Elizabeth Short’s body was found on Norton Avenue three squares west of Degnan Boulevard and Degnan was the last name of young Suzanne.

There were also striking similarities between the written work of the Degnan payoff note and that of “the Black Dahlia Avenger.” Both used a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters (the Degnan note includes this sentnece: “Blaze This FoR heR SAfTY”), and both notes contain a comparative deformed letter P and have a word that is formed exactly the same. Convicted serial killer William Heirens served life in jail for Degnan’s murder and was suspected to have been the Black Dahlia Murderer.

To date, the Black Dahlia case remains to be one of the most mysterious cases of all time.

The Mysterious Case of Black Dahlia | Stay at Home

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