Former South Pasadena High School Spelling Champion George Hodel Feigns Illiteracy as Part of his Black Dahlia Avenger, Lipstick, Zodiac Crime Signatures

June 21, 2017
Los Angeles, California

 

 

George Hodel 1923 South Pasadena Year Book

Los Angeles Daily Times June 5, 1923
In the early 1920s teenager, George Hodel attained the highest Public School test scores of any student in the State. Based on those results he became part of one of the most famous psychological testings of that day. George was selected to be one of the students included in  Stanford professor, Dr. Lewis Terman’s “Genetic Studies of Genius.” The test students became colloquially known as “Terman’s Termites.”  (Over the past 90 years, five separate books have been written on this study which had the students send in “progress reports” every five years during their lifetimes. GHH was still sending in his at age 85.)
Samples of George Hodel Feigning Illiteracy in Chicago Lipstick, Black Dahlia Avenger, and Zodiac Notes
“Get $2,000 Reddy & waite for word…  Chicago Lipstick Killer (1946)
“To Hearld Express, Los Angels…”  Black Dahlia Avenger (1947)
“…we went to gether …I went to investigaate…” LA Avenger (Gladys Kern, 1948)
“I first pulled themiddli wire…her lips twiched…” Zodiac (Cheri Jo Bates, Riverside, 1966)
” I am mildly cerous as to how much money you have on my head .” Zodiac, SF, 1969)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: 6.21.17  9:00 p.m.

From Black Dahlia Avenger, Chapter 13: THE LAPD AND THE PRESS: THE AVENGER MAILINGS
January 29, 1947
The Examiner engaged questioned-document expert Clark Sellers, considered by most to be one of the nation’s leading forensic handwriting experts of the day, to review and analyze the hand printing on the postcards it had received from the purported suspect. Sellers had gained public notoriety as one of the chief forensic experts who testified for the prosecution in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, in which he connected handwriting samples from the suspect, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, to the ransom note and helped the state win a conviction.
In his expert analysis, Sellers told the Examiner:
“It was evident the writer took great pains to disguise his or her personality by printing instead of writing the message and by endeavoring to appear illiterate. But the style and formation of the printed letters betrayed the writer as an educated person.”
The Examiner also revealed that Sellers had conducted “microscopic tests” on the Black Dahlia message and made “several important discoveries the nature of which is being withheld.”
A second questioned-document expert, Henry Silver, was also contacted to analyze the original note the killer had sent with the victim’s belongings, as well as some of the later postcards received by the press. Silver said:
The sender is an egomaniac and possibly a musician. The fluctuating base line of the writing reveals the writer to be affected by extreme fluctuations of mood, dropping to melancholy. The writer suffers from mental conflict growing out of resentment or hatred due to frustration of sex urge. Because the last letters of many words are larger, it reveals extreme frankness. The writer is telling the truth. Furthermore, he can’t keep his secret and feeds his ego by telling. There is a fine sense of rhythm present, showing the penman to be either a musician or possibly a dancer. He is calculating and methodical.
            In my 2003 investigation I hired my own independent court-certified Questioned Document Expert, Ms. Hanna McFarland, who conducted her own handwriting analysis and confirmed in her expert opinion that at least four of the handwritten notes were authored by George Hodel. She also examined an original handwritten sample of my father’s writing in my possession and opined:
“…It appears that all three handprinted letters (TEV, in the handwritten word STEVE) were highly connected, this is unheard of, and would indicate the type of exceptionally high intelligence and forethought that might be found in a master chess champion such as a Boris Spassky or a Bobby Fischer.”

 

GHH handprinted STEVEN showing the TEV connection as described by QDE Hanna McFarland.

 

 

Comment from LW re. Zodiac “Red Phantom” Letter mailed to San Francisco Chronicle on July 8, 1974:

Steve: Despite the zany spellings and wackiness of the Zodiac missives, the “Red Phantom” note implies the killer was in fact perfectly literate, possessing an artistic hand, a musical sense of rhythm and cadence, and the easy authority of a physician dashing off a script. The Phantom’s focus on SF Chronicle sex columnist Count Marco, a dandy and faux European aristocrat with links to 1940s Hollywood, offers yet another “clew” as to the Zodiac’s real identity. -LW

Below is a copy of that letter which I do believe was written by GHH and mailed some six years after the first SF Bay Area Zodiac crime was committed in the summer of ’68.  In my sequel BDA II I make the comparison (below) to the unusual letter ‘h’ seen in the 1948 BD Avenger Glady’s Kern Note which appears identical to the “h” letters in the Red Phantom Note some twenty-six years later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Prepared Zodiac Lexicon of Misspelled & Unusual Words
(From 24 Zodiac letters over twenty years  – 1969-1990)

Zodiac Lexicon

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: Despite the zany spellings and wackiness of the Zodiac missives, the “Red Phantom” note implies the killer was in fact perfectly literate, possessing an artistic hand, a musical sense of rhythm and cadence, and the easy authority of a physician dashing off a script. The Phantom’s focus on SF Chronicle sex columnist Count Marco, a dandy and faux European aristocrat with links to 1940s Hollywood, offers yet another “clew” as to the Zodiac’s real identity. -LW

    • Steve Hodel says:

      LW: Agreed. And thanks for pointing out the 1923
      LAT article mentioning GHH perfect score in the HS spelling contests. I’d missed that article.

  2. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: You have pointed out that the idea for the misspellings appears to have been appropriated from the JtR case, along with certain other crime signatures (the dripping pen, the severed ear). I see the first book-length treatment of the case came out in 1929 — Leonard Matters’ “The Mystery of Jack the Ripper: The World’s Greatest Crime Problem.” Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger,” featuring a JtR-like murderer who calls himself the “Avenger,” was released in the US in 1928. Matters’ book apparently covers the case including the purported Ripper letters in some depth and detail. Matters’ claimed JtR was a physician on a revenge trip. Today his story of an obscure deathbed confession to this effect is generally dismissed as a fabrication. I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to read Matters’ book. Might there be a giveaway in there that it was an inspiration? -LW

    • LW: Thanks. Was unaware of the book, as I’ve never really got stuck into the JtR lore. Just superficially noting the various links. Will try to find and check it out. The timing in ’29 is perfect though. I think GHH was at his most impressionable stage and had already committed a number of crimes. I’ll see if I can find a copy. SKH

    • L.W.
      P.S. Found a copy (1964 reprint) and ordered from the U.K. so should have it in a week or so. Thanks again. skh

      • L.W. P.P.S. Just rewatched Hitchcock’s 1948 film, ROPE starring James Stewart, John Dall, and Farley Granger. The film adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play, which I want to order and read in its original, as changes were obviously made to the film adaptation. Hamilton obviously based his play on the Leopold and Loeb “Crime of the Century” from that time period, which occurred in May 1924. (GHH would have covered it for the LA Record as a young crime reporter.) This fits right in with GHH’s thinking of that day. GHH the elitist who also saw himself as a Nietzsche super intellect, above the law, not bound to conform like other mere mortals. A lot of GHH speak in the film and I’m sure he would have read the play back in ’29 and probably saw a performance of the play whenever it opened in the U.S. from the U.K.

        • Luigi Warren says:

          Steve: The choice lines from ROPE (e.g., “the Davids of this world merely occupy space”) are completely “on the nose” and mesh with the Zodiac’s use of “As Some Day it May Happen” from THE MIKADO. I wonder if the infamous glasses found at the Leopold & Loeb crime scene suggested “fake clews” left at GHH crime scenes. The story of the 1920s Nietzschean thrill killers has been retold in COMPULSION (1959) and SWOON (1992). Leopold & Loeb’s notoriety inspired William Hickman (“The Fox”), GHH’s exact contemporary. His grisly 1928 murder of Marion Parker looks like a model for the 1946 murder of Suzanne Degnan. Hickman’s egoistic posturing sent a young Ayn Rand (recently arrived in Hollywood from Russia) into a bit of a swoon, as her critics are always eager to point out. -LW

          • LW: Yes, seen both Compulsion and Swoon and Orson Welles (Clarence Darrow) closing argument to the judge against capital punishment is still used in many law schools as one of the best summaries ever given. Was not aware of the Ayn Rand worship of Hickman’s Horrors. Interesting. skh

        • Luigi Warren says:

          Steve: The parallels with Leopold and Loeb are striking. From well-to-do families, exceptionally intelligent, skipping grades to gain early admission to college then showing delinquent tendencies, obsessed with crime. Per Wikipedia, Loeb “spent most of his time reading detective novels,” while Leopold “was particularly fascinated by Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of supermen.” GHH’s interest in crime went far beyond Dickie Loeb’s — as you show in BDA, he was poking around crime scenes as a kid reporter, riffling through murder victims’ personal effects, offering sly commentary on their tastes in art and home decoration, etc. Remy de Gourmont might have the Nietzsche role in the GHH story. This “aristocrat of letters” is hardly a household name today, but here’s how he was characterized in a 1922 article in THE NATION by Ben Ray Redman:

          “The comparison of Remy de Gourmont and Friedrich Nietzsche is almost inevitable. The Frenchman is to the younger generation of today what the German was to the younger generation of yesterday: nearly an idol, a treasure-house, and an inspiration.”

          Like Nietzsche, Gourmont’s worldview was highly individualist and elitist, derogating the “repressions” of traditional morality in favor of a radically subjectivist, naturalistic ethics. There’s a lot more sex in Gourmont’s philosophy, and it is ultimately more nihilistic than Nietzsche’s. GHH’s grandiose statements to the DA at the time of his incest arrest and the “nymphs and satyrs” theme running through his story (right up to his funeral arrangements) might have been inspired directly by Gourmont’s writing.

          The following lines from MR. ANTIPHILOS, SATYR seem ironic in this context:

          “You see my innocence. I protest, then, with all the strength of an honest, though libertine satyr, against the use of the term ‘satyr’ by your newspapers which apply it to men, — yes, to men, by Jupiter, who kidnap young girls, rip their bellies, slice them to pieces! A satyr would never do such idiotic things.”

          Well, almost never!

  3. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: In her writer’s notebook Rand asked: what if somebody with Hickman’s independence, daring and resourcefulness pursued rational, productive goals? An alternative what-if: what if a youth with those qualities but still criminalistically-inclined stayed one step ahead of the law and honed his game for another 40 or 50 years? GHH might be viewed as but one of a small crop of prodigy-psychopaths that emerged in the 1920s — the one that got away. -LW

Speak Your Mind

*