Crime scene tape with blood splatter on wooden background. Crime scene tape with blood splatter on wooden background.

The Gruesome Story of the Black Dahlia Murder

The Black Dahlia Murder is one of the most talked about unsolved murder mysteries in American history. I’m sure you must have heard of it. It is said that the mystery behind her murder shocked the nation.

So, what actually happened to Elizabeth Short on the dreaded morning of January 15th, 1947? In this article, I will shed some light on the life and death of Elizabeth Short and how she became an unfortunate victim.

The Day of the Crime

On the fateful morning of January 15th, 1947, in Los Angeles, California, a woman was walking with her child in the neighborhood of Leimert Park when she made a shocking discovery. As she passed by a nearby vacant plot, she found the cleanly severed, naked body of an unknown woman. This woman was later identified as 22-year-old Elizabeth Short.

The name “Black Dahlia” was coined by the press after knowing about Short’s liking for black clothing. The body was positioned in such a way that it initially appeared to be a mannequin. Strangely, there were no traces of blood at the scene, indicating the victim had likely been murdered elsewhere.

This was the beginning of an extensive murder investigation that led to one of the biggest manhunts in history. Due to the gruesome nature of the crime, it garnered significant media and public attention worldwide. The murder was brutal, but the lack of any concrete evidence or suspects sent the Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into a frenzy.

Image from police bulletin
Source: FBI

Let Me Introduce You to Elizabeth Short

Born on 29th July 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts, Short was the third of five sisters to parents Cleo Alvin Short Jr. and Phoebe May Sawyer. After her father’s presumed death in 1929, Elizabeth, at the age of 15, underwent lung surgery due to bronchitis and severe asthma and moved to Miami, Florida, during her high school years, though she dropped out before she could finish.

In 1942, Short relocated to California after discovering that her father was indeed alive. She started living with him, but they had disagreements, which led her to move out shortly after. She then took a clerical job at the Base Exchange at Camp Cooke near Lompoc, Santa Barbara.

However, she was soon arrested for underage drinking and lost her job as a result. In addition to that, she entered into an abusive relationship with an Army Air Force officer. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles through one of her army contacts and was last seen working as a waitress. She had aspirations of launching her career in Hollywood as an actress before her death.

The Deadly Murder and Subsequent Investigation

Gruesome Black Dahlia Murder
Source: Freepik

Six days prior to her death, Elizabeth had taken a trip to San Diego with a married salesman by the name of Robert “Red” Manley, whom she was supposedly dating. As per FBI records and Manley’s testimony, he had dropped her off in front of the Biltmore Hotel.

This was Short’s last sighting before her body was discovered. The LAPD and FBI played a crucial role in the preliminary investigation, as they were able to quickly identify the body as Short’s within an hour using her fingerprints. This was possible because her prints were already in the police database from a prior offense.

The Murder That Schoked Everyone

Her murder was so horrific for its time that it created a serious uproar among the general public. As per the autopsy report, her body was cleanly cut in half from her torso with all the blood drained out, and her body was washed clean; there were severe lacerations on her breasts, right forearm, ligature marks on her wrists, ankles, and neck.

Her face was lacerated from her lips to her ears, giving her the infamous “Glasgow Smile.” There were signs of blunt force trauma on her head, although no fractures were detected. Bruising was also observed in her anal canal, indicating potential signs of sexual assault, but no traces of semen were found during testing. The reported cause of death was internal hemorrhaging.

The Black Dahlia Murder
Source: Freepik

Details about the Investigation

From the appearance of the crime scene, the police suspected that the perpetrator possessed significant medical knowledge, particularly in anatomy. As a result, the police investigated students from USC Medical School in Los Angeles.

As additional details about Short’s life were uncovered, she became an even greater enigma. The police treated everyone as potential suspects, but three individuals emerged as the primary suspects in the investigation.

  1. Mark Hansen – An influential nightclub owner who was interested in Short romantically
  2. Leslie Dillon – An unknown caller having vital information regarding the murder case who had sent letters to the press informing about the killer
  3. George Hodel – An American Physicist whose daughter was friends with Short.

As the investigation progressed, more suspects emerged, but all without any solid evidence, and none of them were ever charged with murder.

The Role of Media in the Investigation

Role of Media in The Black Dahlia Murder case
Source: Freepik

The case, horrendous nature, became an immediate sensation among the media and press. On January 21, 1947, a person called the editor-in-chief of The Examiner newspaper, claiming to be the killer of Short. Hence, the exclusive coverage of the case for a scoop began by various newspapers.

The press portrayed Elizabeth as a daring and extravagant woman with numerous romantic interests, further sensationalizing the case and turning it into a tale of revenge. With multiple individuals confessing to the murder, the reports became chaotic, and the media’s involvement frequently hindered the investigation.

However, after some time of turning it into a spectacle, the case reached a stalemate and was ultimately declared unsolvable by the investigative team due to insufficient evidence.

The Mystery Still Remains

Though 70 years have passed since the Murder, countless speculations and conspiracy theories continue to emerge. Numerous books and movies have been created based on this true event.

From the law enforcement officials who worked on that case to the general public, everybody seemed to have some theory about who killed Elizabeth Short. But we may never know why she was killed and who was her killer. As time continues to pass, one cannot help but question if this was truly a perfect murder.

History is filled with many such dreaded murder mysteries that are not only spine-chilling but also portray the complexities and cruelties of the human mind.

Last Updated on May 19, 2024 by Pragya


Shriparna Bhattacharyya
  1. For a very long time, I did not know the truth behind it all. You managed to break down all my preconceived notions and open my mind up to other possibilities. This is so well researched and thorough.

  2. If I have to say about the article, It was really well Informed and covered every aspect of the case, It felt like I was watching a live documentary on the case.
    About the case, It spent chills down my spine< i am out of words and not in a state to say much,.

  3. What a gripping dive into the haunting mystery of the Black Dahlia Murder! The details are chilling, and the article sheds light on the enduring intrigue surrounding Elizabeth Short’s tragic fate. True crime enthusiasts, brace yourselves for a riveting read!

  4. Media Coverage is one of the most important aspect of any news, just like you mentioned it became an immediate sensation, this is so true. Also, the first part of your post about the day of crime is quite relevant and genuine and I hope people will get the exact news about this topic with the help of your post!

  5. The story of the Black Dahlia Murder gives me chills. The mix of a mysterious victim, a gruesome crime scene, and lots of media attention makes it a really gripping but also unsettling tale. It makes you realize how some mysteries never get solved, leaving us with more questions than answers.

  6. The notable events in your post are to the point that can easily be understood and not exaggerated at all, which I found the best part of your writing. It was a really famous incident but still can’t say what’s true or false but your facts seems genuine to me.

  7. This article provided a gripping overview of the Black Dahlia Murder mystery, unraveling the chilling details surrounding Elizabeth Short’s tragic fate. The historical context and the intricate investigation add layers to this unsolved case. Truly a compelling read into a dark chapter of American history!

  8. This murder mystery is quite interesting. I feel so sad the way poor girl was murdered. I wish the murderer would have been caught and severely punished.

  9. Following the horrific discovery of Elizabeth Short’s death in 1947, the Black Dahlia Murder continues to be a mystery in American history. The horrifying events surrounding her life and death are explored in great length in this essay, which also covers the horrific crime scene, the media craze, and the eerie investigation. This unsolved mystery’s legacy enthrals us and makes us consider the sinister nuances of human nature.

  10. I must say this article have covered most of the things, it was really shocking and filled with terro. I don’t know how can someone kill others like this, with this much cruelty and the fact that the killer never got punished is another horrible thing

  11. Intriguing article! The Black Dahlia murder remains one of the most enigmatic and chilling mysteries in American history. The details surrounding Elizabeth Short’s gruesome death continue to captivate and disturb, leaving us with more questions than answers.

  12. This article shines lights to the darkness to the murder case of the lady black Dahlia. Such tragic happened with 22 year old Elizabeth Short but the mystery didn’t get solved due to lack of evidence.

  13. I found this article truly captivating, delving into the story of the black Dahlia murder. I was thoroughly engaged throughout by the way the article unfolded the different parts of this mysterious story. The depth of detail and the exploration of the investigation made it a truly great read.

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