Spell-Checking A Serial Killer: Reexamining LA’s 1944 Georgette Bauerdorf “Bathtub Murder” Note Update 2016

Los Angeles, California
August 13, 2016

THE BAUERDORF NOTE- Update 2016

bauerdorf note EM dashes fnl

Photograph of actual Note typed by Bauerdorf Killer (Red spots were placed on paper by killer to mimic blood. Analysis by LA Sheriff’s crime lab showed substance to be the medical antiseptic–IODINE.)

 

In my original investigation of the 1940s Lone Woman Murders, I presented evidence which I believe linked the 1944 Georgette Bauerdorf murder to other crimes which occurred both pre-and-post Black Dahlia. I won’t here review all of that linkage, but want just to focus on and update one particular aspect of that investigation–The Bauerdorf Note.

LAT retyped bauerdorf

First, let me restate some points originally presented in 2003 in Black Dahlia Avenger- pages 306-308:

Nearly a year after the murder, an article appeared in the Examiner on September 21, 1945, that read almost like an epitaph. The story included a typed note from someone claiming to be her killer. Below the headline the paper ran Georgette’s picture, along with the note, in which the killer taunted the police and promised to revisit the Hollywood Canteen within the month. The note, exactly as the self-proclaimed killer typed it, read:

 

To the Los Angeles police–

Almost a year ago Georgette

Bauerdorf, age 20, Hollywood

Canteen hostess was murdered

in her apartment in West Holly-

wood–

Between now and Oct. 11–a year

after her death–the one who

murdered her will appear at the

Hollywood Canteen. The murderer

will be in uniform. He has since

he committed the murder been in

action at Okinawa. The murder

of Georgette Bauerdorf was Divine

Retribution–

Let the Los Angeles police arrest

the murderer if they can–

 

            An eleven-year-old student named Marilyn Silk had found the note on her way home from school. Written on a sheet of personal notepaper and stuffed inside a dirty envelope, the missive was lying on a stone retaining wall near Fairfax High School in Hollywood. The newspaper also dropped a clue that had not been disclosed to the public at the time of the homicide a year earlier when it reported, “There was the suggestion by friends that she [Bauerdorf] was accompanied home by a man in uniform.”

(SKH Note-  May have been an error in reporting actual location of note as the teenager’s home is literally at or adjacent to the Bauerdorf residence. My guess is she found the note in front of the Bauerdorf residence and turned it in to school authorities upon arriving at Fairfax High School.)

Bauerdorf Murder Location

           

          

What struck me in the Bauerdorf case was its obvious similarity to the later Dahlia killing, in which the suspect also taunted police via notes to the newspaper. The Bauerdorf suspect promised police that he would appear at the Hollywood Canteen in uniform by October 11. (Father’s birthday was October 10.) The killer’s “Let the Los Angeles police arrest the murderer if they can” echoes the words used two years later in the pasted message to the police in the Dahlia case: “We’re going to Mexico City–catch us if you can.” The killer’s need to seek recognition and publicity for his crimes was a way to exert control both over the police and his victim. Announcing that Georgette’s murder was not a crime but his dispensation of “Divine Retribution” also bears an eerie resemblance to what Elizabeth Short’s killer would say two years later when he called himself the “Black Dahlia Avenger.”

 

The Bauerdorf Note

            Other similarities in both the Elizabeth Short and Bauerdorf homicides are, in my opinion, striking enough to be considered thoughtprints linking the same suspect to the two crimes.

            In both cases, the notes the suspect wrote to the police suggest that he had some experience as a journalist. In the Bauerdorf murder note, the taunting letter opens with a lead paragraph similar in style to the lead paragraph of a morning newspaper in which the “what, when, where, and who” are all answered.

 

To the Los Angeles police–

 (when) (who)

Almost a year ago Georgette

Bauerdorf, age 20, Hollywood

     (What)

 Canteen hostess, was murdered

           (where)

in her apartment in West Holly-

wood–                                                             

The killer tells us the “why” in his next sentence, where he identifies the crime as an act of retribution, and in so doing identifies himself indirectly as an “avenger.”

            In the pasted Dahlia notes, the killer again demonstrates journalistic knowledge, this time as a headline writer, in his two separate taunts to police:

‘Go Slow’

Man Killer Says

Black Dahlia Case

 

Followed in a few days by:

Dahlia’s Killer Cracking, Wants Terms

                These are not notes from a streetwise thug, but professional headlines. So professional, in fact, that true-crime author and commentator Joseph Wambaugh told television viewers in the Learning Channel’s production Case Reopened: The Black Dahlia that:

“Obviously, journalists sent the letter. Cutting and pasting newsprint as was done in a B-movie clichés of the era. The same cruel and unscrupulous reporters who elicited background information from Mrs. Short, the mother, by claiming her daughter had won a beauty contest. But, at the end of the day, they didn’t prevent the case from being solved.”

 

[Author Note- Wambaugh’s observation above referencing his belief that “unscrupulous journalists sent the notes” was made on the television show in October 1999, some four years before the publication of my book.]

                                     

There exists another clue to the identity of the letter writer in his unique method and manner of typing, seen in six different locations in the Bauerdorf note, in which he unconsciously leaves two separated dashes (–) at the end of some of his sentences. In the Bauerdorf note, these double-dashes follow the words: “police–“, “Hollywood–“, “Oct. 11–“, “death–“, “Retribution–“, and “can–“.

In the long letter Father sent me on June 4, 1980, referred to here as The Parable of the Sparrows, which he typed himself rather than giving it to his secretary or wife to type, there are five separate instances where he used his unique double-dash endings:

Page 2

“plastic coating–“

 “mirror film– “

Page 3

                “for Dorero–“

“to her–“

“Remember–“

The use of these double-spaced dashes is such a rarity that their appearances in the Bauerdorf note and in my father’s letter to me set off a loud alarm.

Exhibit 56a shows how the original note appeared in the September 21, 1945, Examiner article along with Georgette’s photograph. A separate Los Angeles Times article on the same date informed readers that detectives believe red iodine stains visible on the typed paper were placed there by the suspect to represent blood. Exhibit 56b is reproduced from my father’s Franklin House sales brochure, prepared in 1949, and shows him seated atop his desk, which pictures an old Royal typewriter (enlarged as an insert). This typewriter could well have been the instrument used to type the Bauerdorf note and those of some of the later crimes.

Exhibit 56a and 56b

GHH bauerdorf typed noteghh typewriter final

GHH Royal typewriter on desk enlarged in upper left insert.

Mystery Writer Jon L. Breen-

In August 2003, Jon L. Breen, the highly respected, veteran mystery writer and two-time MWA Edgar Award winner wrote an early critique of my book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder. Breen’s thoughtful critique entitled “Daddy Did It” was published in the Weekly Standard on August 18, 2003. His six-page review was well balanced and pointed to what he then considered being some of the strengths and weaknesses of in my investigation. One of the weaknesses highlighted by Jon Breen was from the section currently under review–the Bauerdorf Note. Here is the extract from Mr. Breen’s 2003 critique:

“Hodel obviously is not required to make an iron clad case…Still; reasoning that is far-fetched or obviously erroneous serves to cast further doubt on his main case. For example, Hodel compares one of his father’s typewritten letters with one purportedly from the killer of Georgette Bauerdorf, victim of a 1944 bathtub murder. Hodel assumes that using a double hyphen to represent a dash is somehow unusual. On the contrary, it is standard. Word processing programs do it automatically.”

   Mr. Breen ended his 2003 review with the following:

“So what is the final verdict on Black Dahlia Avenger? Its accounts of cover-ups and civic corruption are all too believable, and much of the circumstantial evidence it presents against George Hodel is persuasive. …Has Steve Hodel solved the case? I think so, but he has some tidying up to do for the paperback edition.”

Five years later, he included his original full review of Black Dahlia Avenger in his excellent book, “A Shot Rang Out: Selected Mystery Criticism” (Ramble House 2008) adding the below P.S.:

Postscript 2008: Hodel did, in fact, include additional material to strengthen his case…One writer who believes his solution is Orson Welles biographer, Simon Callow, who examines the evidence against Welles with some admiration in Orson Welles: Hello Americans (2006) before averring that Hodel’s conclusion is definitive. [Emphasis mine–and ‘thank you” Mr. Callow.]

An English Teacher/ Tech Editor Proofs Bauerdorf Note

“The writer {Bauerdorf Note] had both masterful/arcane knowledge of English punctuation as well as of specialized typographic/printer(!) conventions.”

A few years back I received this welcome and informative e-mail from a high-school English teacher and former tech-writer/editor.  “P.M.” had this to say about the Bauerdorf Note, excerpted from his longer e-mail:

Dear Mr. Hodel:

I’m almost done with your fascinating & engaging book, which I bought
after finishing James Ellroy’s “My Dark Places.” I’m a retired (63)
tech writer/editor from Silicon Valley & Microsoft (Redmond WA) with a
Calif. Credential to teach H.S. English. So…
Those double dashes were more than a personal peculiarity: in
the age of typewriters, they were the accepted substitute for what’s
called an “em” dash, a punctuation mark similar in use/meaning to a
semicolon but less formal (precedes amplification of meaning, etc.).
They weren’t on typewriters, so people used 2 dashes instead. The single/shorter dash (“en” dash) and hyphens have different usages &meanings. So the writer using them (your Dad) had both
masterful/arcane knowledge of English punctuation as well as of
specialized typographic/printer (!) conventions. Hmmm…

 

                                                                                                        P.M., South Carolina

            Thank you, P.M. for setting the record straight on what I in 2003 ignorantly referred to as my father’s seemingly, “unconscious characteristic of using double-dashes.”

 

EM and ENA Quick English Lesson for Dummies (like me)

em·dash or em dash
( m d sh ) n.

A symbol ( ) used in writing and printing to indicate a break in thought or sentence structure, to introduce a phrase added for emphasis, definition, or explanation, or to separate two clauses.(Its name derives from being the width of an m in printing.)

en·dash or en dash
( n d sh ) n.

A symbol (- ) used in writing or printing to connect continuing or inclusive numbers or to connect elements of a compound adjective when either of the elements is an open compound, as 1880-1945 or Princeton-New York trains.(Its name derives from being the width of an n in printing.) 

In the below exhibit I have reproduced both the killer’s original 1945 typed Bauerdorf Note and the LA Times retyped reproduction of it both of which were published in the newspaper.

Note that in the killer’s typewriter written note on the right we see he was forced to use “double dashes” [highlighted with red arrows] since the EM dash was not available to him.

However, when the newspaper reproduced the killer’s note, [left] they correctly replaced his intended EM dash, with actual ones, which were available to them on their linotype machines. [Also highlighted with red arrows. Note they missed reproducing two of his EM dashes which I have indicated as green arrows.]

 

Bauerdorf Note- “To The Los Angeles Police”

bauerdorf note EM (2)

 

          

In the below exhibit I have extracted the sections of my father’s original 1980 Parable of the Sparrows Letter, wherein he demonstrates his continued use of the typewritten “double dash” in place of the EM dash. The letter, also written on a typewriter, predated computers by just a few years. I believe the first commercial use, making the EM dash available on WordStar and DOS, was offered just two years later, in 1982-1983.

 

GHH EM DASHES LTR

 

Author’s Note

A massive amount of circumstantial evidence linking George Hodel to the Georgette Bauerdorf Murder underscoring it as one of the “Lone Woman Murders” has surfaced since the original publication of BDA. That information/evidence has been presented elsewhere in my writings, including my updated 2014 edition of Black Dahlia Avenger II. This blog merely examines and updates the information pertaining to the Bauerdorf Note.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Dear Steve, In going over the murderer’s Georgette Bauerdorf note, I just have to say that I have never heard of someone writing a note and then spilling, on purpose, a substance to represent blood. Maybe I’ve just not come across it or heard of it before, but it seems unusual to me. Thanks and keep up the good work!
    Best wishes always!

  2. As mentioned in both BDA and MOST EVIL he was copying the MO and Signature of one of his inspirations, “Jack the Ripper.” JTR used red ink in his taurnting letters to the police/press to mimic blood. So, I believe GHH did the same. Just a variation on the theme. Since he was a medical man who had iodine in his “black bag” why not use that? And he did.

  3. Yes, those double dashes are rare & clues continue to stack up against your dad. These women, although gone for years, still deserve justice!!!

  4. I’ve been reading your blog and am convinced the Bauerdorf murder was committed by Dr. Hodel. The iodine on the note is simply too compelling to be ignored. Also the fact that the killer used a bandage or some type of medical gauze to gag her. It’s too bad there was probably no way in those days to trace that piece of “cloth” as they referred to it (or sometimes they called it a washcloth?), to track it to where it had been manufactured and conclusively prove that it was medical in nature. I am going to read your book soon, maybe you go into that element more. But it certainly would have been a great lead. I’m wondering if they just let that potential clue drop or whether it simply wasn’t possible to track it down? This is an amazing blog, I couldn’t stop reading!

  5. DD: Yes, I agree that the case is circumstantially very strong on Bauerdorf.
    Re. the “gag” as you will discover in BDA I (be sure to get the July 2006 paperback ed. with the two updated chapters) I do cover the LASO detectives follow-up. It was an ace-bandage of a type not found/sold in LA for about a decade prior to the crime. Also, LASO contacted and investigated the two Chicago Lipstick “Bathtub Murders” that followed the Bauerdorf killing by just 8-12 months. They felt they could have been connected. (I argue and present evidence in my second book, MOST EVIL, that THEY WERE. All my best, Steve

  6. Rob Wilcox says:

    Leaving a crucial note in a dirty envelope that might never have been found or, if found, made public seems very odd. It is certainly not consistent with the behavior of the Elizabeth Short killer.

  7. The actual details of how and where the Bauerdorf Note was found are sketchy at best. There may have been a “report to police” that simply was not reported by the press? Consider some of the other Lone Woman Murder Notes: Boomhower Note written on a purse and left in a phone booth. Kern Note mailed to police and received two days before body found. Short Note left in glove compartment of Cab with orders to take it to the press, “I have your cab number.” 1947 Santa Monica Lillian Dominguez Note left under door of Furniture Store on back of card of Mexican Restaurant stating, “I killed that girl in Santa Monica. I will kill again.” (Summarized in BDA II edition 2012) Chicago Lipstick Murder Notes posted on telephone pole near crime scene in lipstick and a note tied to a rock and thrown in yard. In light of those examples, the Bauerdorf Note is not that inconsistent. SKH

  8. we tend to think of things like they happen today.
    when i was a kid, every mom had iodine in the medicine cabinet. doctors would have it in their bags but it would be in almost every household. it would seem more related to jack the rippers note (copycat) because iodine was very common back then. the other points seem strong but not the uniqueness of iodine. could you please investigate my dad, i think he killed or caused my mother death. yeah, you are probably busy with this one but, it sucks to have an evil dad, as you and i know, mike

  9. luigi warren says:

    Steve, I see from an article “South Pasadena High Picks Selling Team” (LA Times, Jun 5, 1923) that your father could be a stickler on spelling when he wanted to be — probably punctuation and grammar, too. GHH seems to have been in the papers a lot as a kid — perhaps that became an addiction. BTW, I also noticed a George Hodel – not 100% sure it was your father – involved in a Pasadena Players production of the Restoration comedy “Way of the World” (“Congreve’s Old Drama is Revived”, LA Times, Nov 30, 1924). I searched and could not find the “promise is a promise” language in the text of the play, although it does deal much with promises and the idea of “worldliness.” So, maybe another angle on the mystery telegram to Elizabeth Short. -LW

  10. Your investigations continue to fascinate with their detail and complete and thorough explanations!

    • BS: Thanks Bob. I am so grateful for the individual contributions/emails from readers like the English teach/tech writer, “P.M.” here in the Bauerdorf Note, who immediately identified how unique and skillful was the punctuation in the letter. Have had so many contributors, over the years who have, like P.M., become my “partners” in the investigation. They have contributed so much to advancing the evidence. skh

  11. Jim Henson says:

    Steve,
    Is any of the evidence from this murder or any of the other “Lone Woman Murders” still in possesion of the LAPD?

    While reading this, I was reminded of the earlier “White Gardenia murder” of Or a Murray. Were you aware that in 1938 a book called “Death Wears a White Gardenia” by Zelda Popkin was published by Dell books? The plot of the story is not similar to the circumstances of Mrs. Murray’s murder, but the title really stand out.

    I’ve read your latest book… twice and am again very impressed with your investigation! Keep up the great job of exposing the truth!

    Regards,
    Jim Henson

    • Jim: Today’s LAPD has to my knowledge never even looked at the linkage of the “Lone Murder Woman’s.” They are seemingly unaware that the Department was investigating them “as connected” back then. The problem is they don’t want to look. If they look they will discover, what the original investigators KNEW and I discovered, at least nine serially connected murders from the 1940s. LAPDs position today is, “We don’t have time to look at them. We are too busy with current investigations.” Which, of course, is total BS.

      As far as the “White Gardenia Murder” don’t know if you saw the blog, but I am convinced GHH’s inspiration was taken from a Suspense Theatre broadcast of “The White Rose Murders” that occurred just a few weeks prior and aired starring, Maureen O’Hara. See link here. http://stevehodel.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3669&action=edit
      It is also quite possible that George and Elizabeth Short actually attended the airing in Studio A in Hollywood as they did the later 1947 Jack Carson broadcast just ten days before her murder. We now know that George and Man Ray were acquainted with Elizabeth in 1943 as we have the new BDA II discovery of Man Ray’s painting, “L’Equivoque”.

  12. The note shows more than an understanding of the em dash. It also shows a good understanding of how to properly break lines. The alignment is called “ragged right,” and it’s not so easy to get it to look good. Ideally, you don’t want any singleton words, or for one line to be greatly longer than the next. They should overlap fairly well, and they do. Making this work on an old typewriter probably required for the writer of the note to compose it to fit, somewhat on the fly, which is something journalists had to learn to do—rephrase to help with copy fitting.

    It looks like he also was familiar with at least one particular editorial style that provides conventions for how to treat specific terms numbers, etc. The use of numerals in “age 20” and the treatment of the date “Oct. 11” reflect typical journalistic style, which sought to save space. Often as an editor I see that authors handle these details in a messy, unstructured way, and they also tend to treat the terms as they sound, such as “age[d] twenty”and “Oct. 11th.” The use of the ordinal for a date is especially prevalent ime among people who don’t work in publishing, and I’d expect that tendency to be stronger in the past before word processing.

    • Angela: Thanks for the additional professional editorial input. Much appreciated and very interesting observations. Regards, Steve.

      • You’re welcome, Steve. I’ve also worked in research in a couple of different areas, and although on this blog I may be preaching to the choir, should anyone read this comment, the amount of data you’ve accumulated stuns me. And I haven’t even seen all the data yet! Major, high-stakes decisions are made with much, much less information than you’ve uncovered, and with far less analysis. Obviously, in a court of law the standard would be “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but I already see you’ve met that standard regarding the BD murder, and that LAPD certainly could have met that standard had there been no coverup.

        On a different note, as a woman who like so many others has been on the receiving end of violence and misogyny enabled by institutionalized power structures, I greatly appreciate your work in shining new light on these victims and showing respect for them. Thank you.

        • steve hodel says:

          Angela: Again, my thanks. I started out in 1999 confident that I would be able to exonerate my father from any criminal activity as relates to the Elizabeth Short “Black Dahlia” investigation and within eighteen months by simply following the evidence, discovered he was, in fact, a super misogynist and master sadist. My “hot button” has always been the abuse of power, which is what George Hill Hodel was all about in the extreme. In recent years I see a slow but encouraging trend toward recognizing just how universal the problem is, especially toward women, so am somewhat encouraged. Again, my best.

  13. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: The mellifluous sentence “He has since he committed the murder been in action at Okinawa” doesn’t sound like one a “youthful prankster” would invent– unless he had a predilection for “stilted elegance” and “meticulous speech.” -LW

    • Steve Hodel says:

      LW: Agreed. And, it does sound like someone who is definitely keeping up with the War. The typewritten note appeared in the Examiner newspaper on September 21, 1945. See below link to “The Battle of Okinawa” which “action” was fought on Okinawa from April 1-June 22 and was the largest invasion in the Pacific, lasting 82 days and known as, “Operation Iceberg.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Okinawa

      • Luigi Warren says:

        Steve: Something about this story puts me in mind of the Zodiac / Count Marco letter. According to his obituary, Marco Spinelli was badly wounded at Tarawa atoll (“the toughest battle in Marine Corps history”) in 1943, but never spoke publicly about his wartime experiences. The bio on the flap of “Beauty and the Beast” portrays Marco as an aristocratic playboy with no reference to the war. Spinelli was widowed before his service in the Pacific, and it looks like he was working less than a half mile from the Roosevelt Building in Los Angeles by the late forties. Makes me wonder if GHH knew Marco back then and the odd “hell-hole from whence it came” dig in the Red Phantom letter was a reference to Tarawa. I guess that remark could be a number of things — some kind of anagram or puzzle, a JtR reference, or pure gibberish. It is curious. -LW

        • Steve Hodel says:

          LW: Yes, could be or not be. One of my new favorite and cautionary word definitions that I’ve got posted on my wall by my desk is “SCOTOMA- The Mind sees what it chooses to see.”

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