Famous Crimes: The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia was the nickname of Elizabeth Short, the victim of a gruesome murder that occurred in 1947 in Los Angeles, California. Short's murder was highly publicized due to its horrific nature and newspapers that were covering the story began referring to it as the Black Dahlia murder. To this day, the murder of Elizabeth Short has gone unsolved. Over time, there have been many suspects and widespread speculation regarding the crime. The story has also been the subject of several film and book adaptations. The Black Dahlia murder is one of the oldest unsolved murder cases to exist in Los Angeles history.

About Elizabeth Short

Elizabeth Short was born on July 29, 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts, and spent her early years living in the suburb of Medford. One of five children, Short was born to parents Phoebe May Sawyer and Cleo Short. Shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, Elizabeth's father parked his car on a bridge and disappeared, leading many to believe that he committed suicide; her mother moved the family into a little apartment, also located in Medford, and began working as a bookkeeper. Short later discovered that her father was indeed alive and was living in the state of California. When Elizabeth was 19, she traveled to Vallejo, California to live with the father who had left her years earlier.

Short and her father moved to Los Angeles but an altercation that occurred in 1943 caused her to leave. At this time, she found work at Camp Cooke, located near Lompoc, California. From Lompoc, Short moved to Santa Barbara. While in Santa Barbara, Elizabeth was arrested for underage drinking which led to the juvenile authorities sending her back to Medford. Following her return to Medford, Short moved to Florida, with occasional visits back home to Medford, Massachusetts. Short met a man in Florida who was said to have proposed to her but later died from injuries sustained in an airplane crash.

Elizabeth decided to return to Los Angeles in the summer of 1946 to visit an old boyfriend that she had met during the war, while she was living in Florida. Short remained in the southern California area, mainly Los Angeles, until her death.

The Black Dahlia Murder

Elizabeth Short's body was found in Leimert Park, Los Angeles on January 15, 1947. She was found nude, and her body had been severed in half and drained of blood. It was also apparent that in addition to having been drained of blood, the body had been washed by the killer. Her face was cut by the killer, from the corners of her mouth out towards her ears, creating the effect of a smile. Short's body also had multiple cuts as well as entire sections of flesh that had been removed. Her body was left in a posed position with her hands over her head. Elizabeth's elbows were bent and her legs were also spread. Detectives discovered a cement sack near her body, that contained watery blood droplets/ They also found tire tracks, and a heel print on the ground.

Short's mother learned of her death in a cruel manner. After Elizabeth's body was identified, reporters contacted her mother and told her that her daughter had won a beauty contest. It was only after prying personal information from Phoebe was she told that her daughter was actually deceased. Reporters continued to sensationalize the case, leading to the name the Black Dahlia.

In 1947, someone contacted an editor at the Los Angeles Examiner claiming to be the killer. The next day, a packet arrived at the newspaper that contained information about Elizabeth Short, including her birth certificate. Unfortunately, this information did not lead to the killer being apprehended and to date, more than 50 people have confessed to the crime due to its notoriety. Each time a new movie or book is released, more tips are given to police, however the killer is still at large.

There have been many misconceptions surrounding the murder of Elizabeth Short, From rumors that she was working as a call girl, to having lived in Los Angeles during times that cannot be verified, there is a lot of misinformation available about Elizabeth Short and the Black Dahlia murder. Given the continued public attention surrounding the case, there is hope that one day the killer will be identified.

More Information on the Black Dahlia Murder


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