This article is about Elizabeth Short and her murder. For other uses, see .
Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 – January 14 or 15, 1947), known posthumously as "the Black Dahlia", was an American woman who was found murdered in the neighborhood of . Her case became highly publicized due to the graphic nature of the crime, which entailed her corpse having been mutilated and severed at the waist.
A native of , Short spent her early life in and before relocating to California, where her father lived. It is commonly held that Short was an aspiring , though she had no known acting credits or jobs during her time in Los Angeles. She would acquire the nickname of the Black Dahlia posthumously (after the owner of a drugstore in Long Beach, California told reporters that male customers had that name for her), as newspapers of the period often nicknamed particularly lurid crimes; the term may have originated from a murder mystery, , released in April 1946. After the January 15, 1947 discovery of her body, the began an extensive investigation that produced over , but yielded no arrests.
Short's and the details surrounding it have had a lasting cultural intrigue, generating various theories and public speculation. Her life and death have been the basis of numerous books and films, and her murder is frequently cited as one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history, as well as one of the oldest unsolved cases in . It has likewise been credited by historians as one of the first major crimes in post- America to capture national attention.
Elizabeth Short was born in the section of , , the third of five daughters of Cleo and Phoebe May Short (née Sawyer). Around 1927, the Short family relocated to , but eventually settled in , a Boston suburb, where Short was raised. Her father built courses until the , when he lost most of his savings, leaving the family broke. In 1930, her father's car was found abandoned on the , and it was assumed that he had committed by jumping into the . Believing her husband to be deceased, Phoebe moved with her five daughters into a small apartment in Medford and worked as a bookkeeper to support them.
Troubled by and severe attacks, Short underwent at age fifteen, after which doctors suggested she relocate to a milder climate during the winter months to prevent further respiratory problems. Her mother then sent her to spend winters in , , with family friends. During the next three years, Short lived in Florida during the winter months and spent the rest of the year in Medford with her mother and sisters. In her sophomore year, Short dropped out of .
Relocation to CaliforniaShort's arrest photo from 1943 for underage drinking Major Matthew Michael Gordon, Jr.
In late 1942, Phoebe received a letter of apology from her presumed-deceased husband, which revealed that he was in fact alive and had started a new life in . In December, at age eighteen, Elizabeth relocated to to live with her father, whom she had not seen since she was six years old. At the time, he was working at the nearby on . Arguments between Short and her father led to her moving out in January 1943. Shortly after, she took a job at the at Camp Cooke (now ), near , living with several friends, and briefly with an Air Force sergeant who was reportedly abusive to her. Short left Lompoc in mid-1943 and moved to , where she was arrested on September 23, 1943 for at a local bar. The juvenile authorities sent her back to Medford, but she returned instead to Florida, making only occasional visits to Massachusetts.
While in Florida, she met Matthew Michael Gordon, Jr., a decorated officer at the . He was training for deployment to the of . She told friends that he had written to propose marriage while he was recovering from injuries from a plane crash in . She accepted his offer, but Gordon died in a second crash on August 10, 1945, less than a week before the Japanese surrender ended the war.
She relocated to in July 1946 to visit Army Air Force Joseph Gordon Fickling, whom she had known from Florida. Fickling was stationed at the in . Short spent the last six months of her life in , mostly in the ; shortly before her death, she had been working as a waitress, and rented a room behind the Florentine Gardens nightclub on . Short has been variously described and depicted as an aspiring or "would-be" actress. According to some sources, she did in fact have aspirations to be a film star, though she had no known acting jobs or credits.
Prior to murder
On January 9, 1947, Short returned to her home in Los Angeles after a brief trip to with Robert "Red" Manley, a 25-year-old married salesman she had been dating. Manley stated he dropped Short off at the located at 506 South in Los Angeles, and that Short was to meet her sister, who was visiting from Boston, that afternoon. By some accounts, staff of the Biltmore recalled having seen Short using the lobby telephone. Shortly after, she was allegedly seen by patrons of the Crown Grill Cocktail Lounge at 754 South Olive Street, approximately 1⁄2 mile (0.80 km) away from the Biltmore Hotel.
DiscoveryShort's body as discovered on January 15, 1947
On the morning of January 15, 1947, Short's naked body was found severed in two pieces on a on the west side of South Norton Avenue, midway between Coliseum Street and West 39th Street (at ) in , Los Angeles. At the time, the neighborhood was largely undeveloped. Local resident Betty Bersinger discovered the body at approximately 10:00 a.m. while she was walking with her three-year-old daughter. Bersinger initially thought she had found a discarded store . When she realized it was a corpse, she rushed to a nearby house and telephoned the police.
Short's severely mutilated body was completely severed at the waist and drained entirely of blood, leaving its skin a pallid white. Medical examiners determined that she had been dead for around ten hours prior to the discovery, leaving her time of death either sometime during the evening of January 14, or the early morning hours of January 15. The body had obviously been washed by the killer. Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth to her ears, creating an effect known as the "". Short had several cuts on her thigh and breasts, where entire portions of flesh had been sliced away. The lower half of her body was positioned a foot away from the upper, and her intestines had been tucked neatly beneath her buttocks. The corpse had been "posed", with her hands over her head, her elbows bent at right angles, and her legs spread apart.
Upon the discovery, a crowd of both passersby and reporters began to gather; reporter was among the first to arrive at the scene, and took several photos of the corpse and crime scene. Near the body, detectives located a heel print on the ground amid the tire tracks, and a cement sack containing watery blood was also found nearby.
Autopsy and identification
An of Short's body was performed on January 16, 1947, by Dr. Frederick Newbarr, the Los Angeles County coroner. Newbarr's autopsy report stated that Short was 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall, weighed 115 pounds (52 kg), and had light blue eyes, brown hair, and badly decayed teeth. There were ligature marks on her ankles, wrists, and neck, and an "irregular laceration with superficial tissue loss" on her right breast. Newbarr also noted superficial lacerations on the right forearm, left upper arm, and the lower left side of the chest.
The body had been cut completely in half between the second and third , thus severing the intestine at the . Newbarr's report noted "very little" (bruising) along the incision line, meaning it had been performed after death. Another "gaping laceration" measuring 4.25 inches (108 mm) in length ran longitudinally from the to the . The lacerations on each side of the face, which extended from the corners of the lips, were measured at 3 inches (76 mm) on the right side of the face, and 2.5 inches (64 mm) on the left. The skull was not fractured, but there was noted bruising on the front and right side of her scalp, with a small amount of bleeding in the on the right side, consistent with blows to the head. The cause of death was determined to be hemorrhaging from the lacerations to her face and the shock from blows on the head and face. Newbarr noted that Short's anal canal was dilated at 1.75 inches (44 mm), suggesting she may have been . Samples were taken from her body testing for the presence of , but the results came back negative.
Prior to the autopsy, police had quickly been able to identify the victim as Short after sending copies of her fingerprints to Washington, D.C. via Soundphoto, a primitive of the era; the prints matched those given by Short during her 1943 arrest. Immediately following Short's identification, reporters from 's contacted her mother, Phoebe Short, in Boston, and told her that her daughter had won a . It was only after prying as much personal information as they could from Phoebe that the reporters revealed that her daughter had in fact been murdered. The newspaper offered to pay her airfare and accommodations if she would travel to Los Angeles to help with the police investigation. That was yet another ploy since the newspaper kept her away from police and other reporters to protect its . The Examiner and another Hearst newspaper, the , later sensationalized the case, with one article from The Examiner describing the black tailored suit Short was last seen wearing as "a tight skirt and a blouse". The media nicknamed her as the "Black Dahlia" and described her as an "adventuress" who "prowled ". Additional newspaper reports, such as one published in the Los Angeles Times on January 17, deemed the murder a "sex fiend slaying".
Letters and interviews
On January 21, 1947, a person claiming to be Short's killer placed a phone call to the office of James Richardson, the editor of the Los Angeles Examiner, congratulating Richardson on the newspaper's coverage of the case, and stated he planned on eventually turning himself in, but not before allowing police to pursue him further. Additionally, the caller told Richardson to "expect some souvenirs of Beth Short in the mail".Envelope addressed to the Los Angeles Examiner from the alleged murderer
On January 24, a suspicious manila envelope was discovered by a worker: The envelope had been addressed to "The Los Angeles Examiner and other Los Angeles papers" with individual words that had been cut-and-pasted from newspaper clippings; additionally, a large message on the face of the envelope read: "Here is Dahlia's belongings [,] letter to follow". The envelope contained Short's , business cards, photographs, names written on pieces of paper, and an address book with the name Mark Hansen embossed on the cover. The packet had been carefully cleaned with , similarly to Short's body, which led police to suspect the packet had been sent directly by her killer. Despite the efforts to clean the packet, several partial fingerprints were lifted from the envelope and sent to the for testing; however, the prints were compromised in transit and thus could not be properly analyzed. The same day the packet was received by the Examiner, a handbag and a black suede shoe were reported to have been seen on top of a garbage can in an alley a short distance from Norton Avenue, 2 miles (3.2 km) from where Short's body had been discovered. The items were recovered by police, but they had also been wiped clean with gasoline, destroying any fingerprints.
Police quickly deemed Mark Hansen, the owner of the address book found in the packet, a suspect. Hansen was a wealthy local nightclub and theater owner and an acquaintance at whose home Short had stayed with friends, and according to some sources, he also confirmed that the purse and shoe discovered in the alley were in fact Short's., Short's friend and roommate, told investigators that Short had recently rejected sexual advances from Hansen, and suggested it as potential cause for him to kill her; however, he was cleared of suspicion in the case. In addition to Hansen, the Los Angeles Police Department interviewed over 150 men in the ensuing weeks whom they believed to be potential suspects. Manley, who had been one of the last people to see Short alive, was also investigated, but was cleared of suspicion after passing numerous examinations. Police also interviewed several persons found listed in Hansen's address book, including Martin Lewis, who had been an acquaintance of Short's. Lewis was able to provide an for the date of Short's murder, as he was in visiting his father-in-law, who was dying of kidney failure.
A total of 750 investigators from the LAPD and other departments worked on the case during its initial stages, including 400 sheriff's deputies and 250 officers. Various locations were searched for potential evidence, including storm drains throughout Los Angeles, abandoned structures, and various sites along the , but the searches yielded no further evidence. City councilman Lloyd G. Davis posted a ,000 (equivalent to 9,598 in 2017) reward for information leading police to Short's killer. After the announcement of the reward, various persons came forward with , most of which police dismissed as false. Several of the false confessors were charged with .
Media response; decline
On January 26, another letter was received by the Examiner, this time handwritten, which read: "Here it is. Turning in Wed., Jan. 29, 10 am. Had my fun at police. Black Dahlia Avenger". The letter also named a location at which the supposed killer would turn himself in. Police waited at the location on the morning of January 29, but the alleged killer did not appear. Instead, at 1:00pm, The Examiner offices received another cut-and-pasted letter, which read: "Have changed my mind. You would not give me a square deal. Dahlia killing was justified."
The graphic nature of the crime and the subsequent letters received by the Examiner had resulted in a media frenzy surrounding Short's murder. Both local and national publications covered the story heavily, many of which reprinted sensationalistic reports suggesting that Short had been tortured for hours prior to her death; the information, however, was false, yet police allowed the reports to circulate so as to conceal Short's true cause of death——from the public. Further reports about Short's personal life were publicized, including details about her alleged declining of Hansen's romantic advances; additionally, a who was an acquaintance of Short's told police that she "liked to get guys worked up over her, but she'd leave them hanging dry." This led some reporters (namely the Herald-Express's Bevo Means) and detectives to look into the possibility that Short was a , and begin questioning employees and patrons of in Los Angeles; this claim, however, remained unsubstantiated. The Los Angeles Herald-Express also received several letters from the purported killer, again made with cut-and-pasted clippings, one of which read: "I will give up on Dahlia killing if I get 10 years. Don't try to find me."
On February 1, the reported that the case had "run into a Stone Wall", with no new leads for investigators to pursue.The Examiner continued to run stories on the murder and the investigation, which was front-page news for 35 days following the discovery of the body. When interviewed, lead investigator Captain Jack Donahue told the press that he believed Short's murder had taken place in a remote building or shack on the outskirts of Los Angeles, and her body transported into the city where it was disposed of. Based on the precise cuts and dissection of Short's corpse, the LAPD looked into the possibility that the murderer may have been a surgeon, doctor, or someone with medical knowledge. In mid-February 1947, the LAPD served a warrant to the , which was located near the site where Short's body had been discovered, requesting a complete list of the program's students. The university agreed so long as the students' identities remained private, and background checks were conducted, but they yielded no results.
Grand jury and aftermath
"No lead had any conclusions. Once we'd find something, it seemed to disappear in front of our eyes."
Sgt. Finis Brown, on the various dead ends in the case.
By the spring of 1947, Short's murder had become a , with few new leads. Sergeant Finis Brown, one of the lead detectives on the case, blamed the press for compromising the investigation through reporters' probing of details and unverified reporting. In September 1949, a grand jury convened to discuss inadequacies in the LAPD's homicide unit based on their failure to solve numerous murders—especially those of women and children—in the past several years, Short's being one of them.
In the aftermath of the grand jury, further investigation was done on Short's past, with detectives tracing her movements between Massachusetts, California, and Florida, and also interviewed people who knew her in and , but the interviews yielded no useful information in the murder.
Suspects and confessions
The notoriety of Short's murder has spurred a large number of confessions over the years, many of which have been deemed . Since the initial investigation, over 500 people have confessed to the crime, some of whom had not even been born at the time of her death. Sergeant , a detective who worked the case until his retirement, stated, "It is amazing how many people offer up a relative as the killer."
During the initial investigation into her murder, police received a total of 60 confessions, most made by men.
In 2003, Ralph Asdel, one of the original detectives on the case, told the Los Angeles Times that he believed he had interviewed Short's killer, a man who had been seen with his sedan parked near the vacant lot where Short's body was discovered in the early morning hours of January 15, 1947. A neighbor driving by that day stopped to dispose of a bag of lawn clippings in the vacant lot when he saw a parked sedan, allegedly with its right rear door open; the driver of the sedan was standing in the lot. His arrival apparently startled the owner of the sedan, who approached his car and peered in the window before returning to the sedan and driving away. The owner of the sedan was followed to a local restaurant where he worked, but was ultimately cleared of suspicion.
Suspects remaining under discussion by various authors and experts include a doctor named Walter Bayley proposed by the former Los Angeles Times copyeditor Larry Harnisch, (whom biographer Donald Wolfe claims impregnated Short), Leslie Dillon, Joseph A. Dumais, Artie Lane (a.k.a. Jeff Connors), Mark Hansen, Dr. Francis E. Sweeney,, Hodel's friend , George Knowlton, Robert M. "Red" Manley, Patrick S. O'Reilly, and .
Theories and potentially related crimesPolice search for remains in the , 1936; some journalists and law enforcement have speculated a connection between the Cleveland crimes and Short's murder
Several crime authors as well as Cleveland detective Peter Merylo have suspected a link between the Short murder and the , which took place in , between 1934 and 1938. As part of their investigation into other murders that took place before and after the Short murder, the original LAPD investigators studied the Cleveland murders in 1947 but later discounted any relationship between the two cases. In 1980, new evidence implicating a former Cleveland torso murder suspect, Jack Anderson Wilson (a.k.a. Arnold Smith), was investigated by Detective John P. St. John in relation to Short's murder. He claimed he was close to arresting Wilson for Short's murder, but that Wilson died in a fire on February 4, 1982. The possible connection between Short's murder and the Cleveland murders received renewed media attention when it was profiled on the series in 1992, in which biographer suggested Ness knew the identity of the killer responsible for both cases.
The February 10, 1947 murder of Jeanne French in Los Angeles was also considered by the media and detectives as possibly being connected to Short's killing. French's body was discovered in west Los Angeles on Grand View Boulevard, nude and badly beaten. Written on her stomach in lipstick was what appeared to say "Fuck You B.D.", and the letters "TEX" below. The Herald-Express covered the story heavily, and drew comparisons to the Short murder less than a month prior, surmising the initials "B.D." to stand for "Black Dahlia". According to historian Jon Lewis, however, the scrawling actually read "P.D.", ostensibly standing for "police department".
Crime authors such as Steve Hodel (son of George Hill Hodel) and William Rasmussen have suggested a link between the Short murder and the 1946 murder and dismemberment of six-year-old Suzanne Degnan in , . Captain Donahoe of the LAPD stated publicly that he believed the Black Dahlia and the Chicago were "likely connected". Among the evidence cited is the fact that Short's body was found on Norton Avenue, three blocks west of Degnan Boulevard, Degnan being the last name of the girl from Chicago. There were also striking similarities between the handwriting on the Degnan ransom note and that of "the Black Dahlia Avenger". Both texts used a combination of capitals and small letters (the Degnan note read in part "BuRN This FoR heR SAfTY" [sic]), and both notes contain a similar misshapen letter P and have one word that matches exactly. Convicted served life in prison for Degnan's murder. Initially arrested at 17 for breaking into a residence close to that of Degnan, Heirens claimed he was by police, , and made a for Degnan's murder. After being taken from the medical infirmary at the Dixon Correctional Center on February 26, 2012 for health problems, Heirens died at the on March 5, 2012, at 83.
Additionally, Steve Hodel has implicated his father, George Hodel, as Short's killer, citing his father's training as a as circumstantial evidence. In 2003, it was revealed in notes from the 1949 grand jury report that investigators had Hodel's home, and obtained recorded conversation of him with an unidentified visitor, saying: "Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary because she's dead."
In 1991, Janice Knowlton, a woman who was ten years old at the time of Short's murder, claimed that she witnessed her father, George Knowlton, beat Short to death with a clawhammer in the detached garage of her family's home in . She also published a book titled Daddy was the Black Dahlia Killer in 1995, in which she made additional claims that her father her. The book was condemned by Knowlton's stepsister Jolane Emerson in 2004, who deemed it "trash", saying: "She believed it, but it wasn't reality. I know, because I lived with her father for 16 years." Additionally, LAPD homicide detective John P. St. John told the Los Angeles Times that Knowlton's claims were "not consistent with the facts of the case".
's 1994 book , suggests a possible connection between Short's murder and that of , a socialite who was strangled to death in her West Hollywood home in 1944. Gilmore suggests that Short's employment at the , where Bauerdorf also worked as a hostess, could be a potential connection between the two women. However, the claim that Short ever worked at the Hollywood Canteen has been disputed by those such as the retired Los Angeles Times copyeditor Larry Harnisch (see ).
The 2017 book Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell focuses on Leslie Dillon, a who was a former mortician's assistant, and his associates Mark Hansen and Jeff Connors, and alleges that Sergeant Finis Brown, one of the lead detectives who had links to Hansen, was corrupt. The book posits that the motive for the killing was that Short knew too much about the men's involvement in a scheme for robbing hotels. She suggests that Short was killed at the Aster Motel in Los Angeles where the owners said that on January 15, 1947, they found one of the motel's rooms "covered in blood and fecal matter". The Los Angeles Examiner stated in 1949 that LA Police Chief WIlliam A. Worton denied that the Flower Street [Aster] Motel had anything to do with the case, although its rival newspaper The 'Los Angeles Herald' placed the murder as taking place there. Eatwell is working on a TV documentary and a revised edition of her book is due to be released in the Fall of 2018.
In 2000 Buz Williams, a retired detective with the Long Beach Police Department, wrote an article for the LBPD newsletter The Rap Sheet on Elizabeth Short's murder. Williams' father Richard F. Williams and his friend Con Keller were both members of LA's Gangster Squad investigating the case. Williams Sr believed that Leslie Dillon was the killer, and that when Dillon returned to his home state of Oklahoma, he was able to avoid extradition to California because his ex-wife Georgia Stevenson was second cousins with the Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson II, who contacted the Oklahoma governor on Dillon's behalf. Keller believed Mark Hansen was the killer and said Hansen had spent some time at a Medical surgical school in Sweden which would explain the precise dissection of Short's body. Keller also said that Hansen would stage elaborate parties at his Hollywood house and the members of the Los Angeles Police Department along with the Chief of Detectives would attend and perhaps later aided Hansen in a cover up. Williams' article says that Dillon sued the LAPD for million but that the suit was dropped. Former Los Angeles Times copyeditor Larry Harnisch disputes this. He claims that Leslie Dillon was cleared by police after an exhaustive investigation, and that the LA District Attorney’s files positively placed Dillon in San Francisco when Elizabeth Short was killed. Harnish claims that there was no LAPD massive conspiracy and coverup, and that Dillon did in fact receive a financial settlement from the City of Los Angeles, however he does not produce concrete evidence to prove this.
Rumors and factual disputes
Numerous details regarding Short's personal life and death have been points of public dispute, and the eager involvement of both the public and press have been credited as factors that complicated the investigation significantly, resulting in a complex, sometimes inconsistent narrative of events. According to Anne Marie DiStefano of the Portland Tribune, many "unsubstantiated stories" have circulated about Short over the years: "She was a prostitute, she was frigid, she was pregnant, she was a lesbian. And somehow, instead of fading away over time, the legend of the Black Dahlia just keeps getting more convoluted."Los Angeles Times editor Larry Harnisch has refuted several supposed rumors and popular conceptions about Short and her murder and also disputed the validity of John Gilmore's 1994 book , claiming the book is "25% mistakes, and 50% fiction". Harnish also had examined the district attorney’s files (he said that Steve Hodel has examined some of them pertaining to his father along with columnist Steve Lopez) and contrary to what Piu Eatwell has said in her book, the files show that Dillon was massively investigated and was determined to have been in San Francisco when Elizabeth Short was killed. Harnisch speculated that Eatwell either didn’t find these files or she chose to ignore them.
Murder and state of the body
A number of people, none of whom knew Short, contacted police and the newspapers and claimed to have seen her during her so-called "missing week", between her January 9 disappearance and the discovery of her body, on January 15. Police and DA investigators ruled out each alleged sighting; in some cases, those interviewed were identifying other women whom they had mistaken for Short. Short's whereabouts in the days leading up to her murder and the discovery of her body are unknown.
Shortly after the discovery of her body, numerous Los Angeles newspapers printed headlines claiming that Short had been tortured leading up to her death, a claim that was denied by law enforcement, who allowed the claims to circulate so as to keep Short's actual cause of death a secret from the public. Some sources, such as Oliver Cyriax's Crime: An Encyclopedia (1993), state that Short's body was covered in burns inflicted on her while she was still alive, though there is no indication of this in her official autopsy report.
In Severed, John Gilmore states that the coroner who performed Short's autopsy suggested in conversation that she had been forced to consume based on his findings when examining the contents of her stomach. This claim has been denied by Harnisch and is also not indicated in Short's official autopsy, though it has been reprinted in several print and online media.
"The Black Dahlia" name
According to newspaper reports shortly after the murder, Short received the nickname "Black " from staff and patrons at a Long Beach drugstore in mid-1946 as wordplay on the film (1946). Other popularly-circulated rumors claim that the media crafted the name due to Short's adorning her hair with .
However, reports by investigators for the state that the nickname was invented by newspaper reporters covering her murder; Los Angeles Herald-Express reporter Bevo Means, who interviewed Short's acquaintances at the drugstore, has been credited with first using the "Black Dahlia" name, though reporters and have been alternately named as its creators. While some sources claim that Short was referred to or went by the name during her life, others dispute this. Both Gilmore and Harnisch agree that the name originated during Short's lifetime and was not a creation of the press: Harnisch states that it was in fact a nickname she earned from the staff of the Long Beach drugstore she frequented; in Severed, Gilmore names an A.L. Landers as the proprietor of the drugstore, though he does not provide the store's name. Prior to the circulation of the "Black Dahlia" name, Short's killing had been dubbed the "Werewolf Murder" by the Herald-Express due to the brutal nature of the crime.
Alleged prostitution and sexual history
Many books claim that Short lived in or visited Los Angeles at various times in the mid-1940s, including Gilmore's Severed, which claims Short worked at the Hollywood Canteen. This is disputed by Harnisch, who states that Short did not, in fact, live in Los Angeles until after the canteen's closing in 1945. Although some of her acquaintances and several authors and journalists described Short as a or a during her time in Los Angeles, according to Harnisch, contemporaneous proved that there was no existing evidence that she was ever a prostitute. It attributes the claim to confusion with another woman with the same name. Harnisch claims that the rumor regarding Short's history as a prostitute originates from 's 1977 novel True Confessions, which is based in part on the crime.
Another widely circulated rumor (sometimes used to counter claims that Short was a prostitute) holds that Short was unable to have because of a congenital defect that resulted in "". Los Angeles County district attorney's files state that the investigators had questioned three men with whom Short had engaged in sex, including a Chicago police officer who was a suspect in the case; FBI files on the case also contain a statement from one of Short's alleged lovers. Short's autopsy itself, which was reprinted in full in Michael Newton's 2009 book The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes, notes that her was "small"; however, no other information in the autopsy is provided that would suggest her reproductive organs were anything other than anatomically normal. The autopsy also states that Short was not and had never been pregnant, contrary to what had been claimed prior to and following her death.
Another rumor—that Short was a —has often circulated; according to John Gilmore, this rumor began after Herald-Express reporter Bevo Means was told by the deputy coroner that Short "wasn't having sex with men" due to her purportedly "small" genitalia. Means took this to mean that Short had sex with women, and both he and reporter Sid Hughes began fruitlessly investigating gay bars in Los Angeles for further information.Short's grave in Oakland, California.
Short is interred at the in . After her younger sisters had grown up and married, their mother, Phoebe, moved to Oakland to be near her daughter's grave. She finally returned to the in the 1970s, where she lived into her nineties. On February 2, 1947, just two weeks after Short's murder, California Republican assemblyman was prompted by the case to introduce a bill calling for the formation of a ; the state of California would become the first U.S. state to make the registration of offenders mandatory.
Short's murder has been described as one of the most brutal and culturally enduring crimes in American history, and magazine listed it as one of the most infamous unsolved cases in the world. Consequently, Short's life and death have been the basis of numerous books and films, both fictionalized and non-fiction.
Among the most famous fictional accounts of Short's death is 's 1987 novel , which, in addition to the murder, explored "the larger fields of politics, crime, corruption, and paranoia in post-war Los Angeles", according to cultural critic David M. Fine. Ellroy's novel was adapted into a by director . Both Ellroy's novel and its film adaptation bear little relation to the facts of the case. Short was also portrayed in heavily fictionalized accounts by in the 1975 television film Who Is the Black Dahlia?, and again by in the series (2011) (the latter features Short in the plot line of the episode "").
- Various sources list Short's official birth name simply as "Elizabeth Short", including copies of her registered birth certificate, showing that no middle name was given at birth.
- Short is often referred to or characterized as an aspiring actress, though she had no known acting jobs or credits to her name.
- Crime historian Dirk Gibson cited Short's murder as one of the first majorly-publicized murders to "grip" the nation's attention after World War II, while in her work American Murder, likens the case to the majorly-publicized in the mid-1990s.
- In the mid-twentieth century in the United States, juvenile courts considered individuals until the age of twenty-one.
- Gini Graham Scott states in American Crime that Short was sighted at the Biltmore on January 9, though a Los Angeles Times article published in 1997 calls into question the validity of this, noting that mention of the Biltmore sighting "cannot be found in heated news accounts of the day, which reported on every conceivable contact anyone had with Short in the so-called 'missing week' before her death".
- Short's autopsy notes her bottom teeth were in a significant state of decay. In Severed, John Gilmore writes that Short allegedly plugged her cavities with wax, and this supposed fact was reprinted (albeit with pointed skepticism) in a 1997 Los Angeles Times article.
- Janice Knowlton claims that it was Robert Manley who identified the items as belonging to Short, while Cathy Scott states that it was Hansen.
- The Cleveland Torso Murders, which occurred between 1934 and 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio, were investigated by . Some biographers, such as Oscar Fraley, claim Ness knew the identity of the Cleveland killer, who was also responsible for Short's killing in Los Angeles.
- Varying claims about Short's life leading up to her death—including such claims that she was a prostitute, among other things—have been alleged and refuted by different sources. A 2016 article in the New York Daily News highlights the "Black Dahlia" name and Short's whereabouts from January 9–15, 1947 as key points of contention and intrigue.
- Harnisch claims that Short went by the "Black Dahlia" name in life, while other sources, such as a 2016 New York Daily News article, dispute this claim. Some sources, however, still claim that Short went by the name in her life.
- In his 2001 book Torso: The Story of Eliot Ness and the Search for a Psychopathic Killer, Steve Nickel describes Short as a "common street prostitute, hooked on alcohol and drugs", posing nude for photos and living with a lesbian lover. Though these claims have persisted in crime biographies on Short, some journalists, such as the Los Angeles Times' Larry Harnisch, dispute their validity, as does Alexis Fitts in a 2016 article published in The Guardian, and Bob Calhoun of SF Weekly.
- John Gilmore notes in Severed that Short's genitalia was apparently too undeveloped to allow for intercourse, as noted by the deputy coroner who performed her autopsy. This claim is disputed by Hélèna Katz in Cold Cases: Famous Unsolved Mysteries, Crimes, and Disappearances in America, and by Michael Newton in The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes.
- . Blackdahlia.info. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2010. Copy of Short's registered birth certificate showing that no middle name was included
- ^ Harnisch, Larry. . Archived from on December 30, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
- Harnisch, Larry (September 15, 2006). . Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
- Steeves, Heather (February 14, 2014). . Maine Today. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
- Greenblatt, Alan (September 30, 2009). . . Retrieved September 12, 2017. Arbitrary as such reasoning may sound to modern Americans, 21 stuck as a threshold age through the 19th century and into the 20th.
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