The Black Dahlia - Unsolved Mysteries of the World

The Black Dahlia - Unsolved Mysteries of the World

When writing one of my mysteries, I often reflect on crimes that have actually happened. You may have heard the old saying, “truth is stranger than fiction,” and history often provides a resource when concocting a plot for a mystery novel.

One of America’s great unsolved mysteries was the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. Ms. Short or more commonly referred to as The Black Dahlia was thought to be an aspiring actress that went from visiting with her sister at her hotel to a bar and then was found several days later in a field in Leimert Park, part of Los Angeles by a woman out walking with her daughter. At first, the woman believed the body only to be a discarded mannequin.

The body was mutilated, drained of blood and severed in two, which was the reason the person who discovered the body believed it to be a mannequin. Over the years, they have made many books and movies about the killing. When you read some of the details and the speculations by law enforcement over the years, it’s understandable why elements of the murder could find their way into crime novels.

According to reports, Elizabeth Short was dropped off at a hotel in Los Angeles where her sister was staying by a married man that she was dating. People believe they spotted her at a club a short distance from the hotel later on that evening. Then, several days later, on January 15, 1947, her body was discovered. Reports suggest that the body was moved to that location. There was further speculation that the cuts were done with such precision that the killer likely had some level of medical training.

The killer then taunted the authorities by sending letters to one newspaper made up of words cut out of the paper and providing some of Ms. Short’s personal items. Over the years, there have been several suspects and elaborate theories. Was she pregnant? Could this be the work of a serial killer with similar patterns from killings across the country? Could it have been a mob hit, a jilted lover, or someone who wanted to be her lover and she had no interest in that?

When you read the case of the Black Dahlia, there is so much for a writer or screenplay author to draw on. A young, attractive, aspiring actress dating a married man. If she had gotten pregnant, could that have been a reason for the killing? Could she have threatened to tell the man’s wife about their relationship? Could the man’s wife have killed her? The way the cuts were precisely done and that the body was in an area close to a medical school. Could it be a physician or someone training to be a physician? An attractive woman out at a club before she disappeared. Could she have caught the eye of her killer or was it someone she knew that may have laid in wait for her outside? The letters sent to the newspaper, composed of different words cut out of newspapers. How many times have we seen that in the movies?

The lure of Hollywood has made it into many works of fiction, including my book, Hot Iron. I have doctors in my story; I have attractive women found murdered with some interesting tells. The hunt for a killer. The only difference is that in my story, there is an ending. We will have to wait to see if in time an ending comes to the story of the murder of Elizabeth Short.

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