CBS “Suspense Theatre” Radio Show Is Inspiration for George Hodel’s murder of victim, Ora Murray, labeled by the press in 1943 as, “The White Gardenia Murder” 

Sixty-seven years after the crime was committed, I believe I have found a signature link to the brutal murder of Mrs. Ora Murray, one of the eight “Category I  (definites) “L.A. Lone Woman Murders”, which was  originally summarized in my 2003 publication of Black Dahlia Avenger:

Ora Murray, The White Gardenia Murder

Below is a brief summary of the crime M.O. (For those wanting a fuller description read BDA Chapter 23, pages 294-306,
Ora Murray Summary BDA Ch. 23.pdf.)

On the evening of July 26, 1943, Mrs.Ora Murray, age 42, accompanied by her sister, Latona Leinann, went out for a night of dancing at the Zenda Ballroom, located in downtown Los Angeles at 7th & Figueroa. (One block from Dr. Hodel’s medical office at 7th & Flower.) The victim, married to an Army sergeant stationed in Mississippi was temporarily visiting her sister in L.A. At the dancehall the two women met and danced with a man described as: “Paul.”  The sister would later describe “Paul” as being “tall and thin, very dapper and a very good dancer. He was wearing a dark double-breasted suit and a dark fedora.”  Paul claimed to be from San Francisco, “just down to L.A. for a few days.” Paul, after a number of dances offered to drive Ora Murray to Hollywood and show her the sights. Mrs. Murray accepted and Paul after driving and dropping her sister, Latona off at her home, then left with Ora to show her Hollywood.

Some eight-hours later, Ora Murray’s partially nude body was found on the grass at the Fox Hill Golf Course in West Los Angeles. She had been severely beaten about the face and body and the cause of death was found to be, “constriction of the larynx by strangulation.” Ora’s killer had ceremoniously wrapped her dress around her body like a sarong and then carefully placed a white gardenia under her right shoulder. Based on this unusual M.O. the press dubbed the crime, THE WHITE GARDENIA MURDER. The investigation was handled by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide as it was just outside of the city limits.

WHT GARDENIA MURDER.jpg 

 

1943 Copycat Crime To CBS Suspense Theatre “White Rose Murders” Radio Broadcast Goes Unnoticed

During my free time, one of my favorite pastimes is listening to OTR (Old Time Radio) programs. A few days ago, I was reviewing an on-line index of the old CBS Suspense Theatre dramatizations,  and one of the titles caught my eye. It was called, THE WHITE ROSE MURDERS. The show was broadcast from CBS’s then relatively new COLUMBIA SQUARE PLAYHOUSE STUDIO located at Sunset and Gower. (Just 1.5 miles and a five minute drive from George Hodel’s Franklin House.) The radio dramatization starred the beautiful 22-year-old actress, Maureen O’Hara and was broadcast from Hollywood on- JULY 6, 1943, just twenty days prior to the commission of the “White Gardenia Murder” of Ora Murray.

The radio mystery-play, written by the then popular mystery novelist/screenwriter, Cornell Woolrich runs 30 minutes.and tells the story of a “homicidal manic” who frequents downtown dancehalls in his city, where he meets, dances with and charms women and then lures them out into the night and beats and strangles them to death. As a signature to his kill he leaves a carefully placed “white rose” next to the dead body. In the vernacular of the day, the police detective describes him as “a chain killer” and as the story opens the city is in terror as the unidentified suspect has just slain his 4th victim.

For your listening pleasure, here is a link to the complete WHITE ROSE MURDERS radio broadcast as it orginally aired from the Columbia Square Playhouse, in July, 1943.

Frankly, because of the huge popularity of the Suspense Theatre shows, introduced by, “The Man In Black,”  I am surprised that neither the public nor apparently anyone in law enforcement, made the obvious connection between the radio dramatization and the Ora Murray murder that followed, just three weeks later. Suspense Theatre’s,”The Man In Black” introduces the story as, “A study in homicidal mania.”  Click below to hear the full half-hour radio performance:

42 1943-07-06 TheWhiteRoseMurders WM.mp3

Those of you who have read my sequel, Most Evil: Avenger, Zodiac and the Further Serial Murders of Dr. George Hill Hodel will have a fuller understanding of the importance of this newly discovered link to the 1940s. Why?  Because, in my father’s later serial killings it becomes an important and recurring theme which he uses as part of his murder-signature. In the crimes of the 1960s he expands his Murder As A Fine Art from the surrealistic plagiarism of Man Ray’s photography as seen in his Black Dahlia Murder, and places it on a much broader canvas. As detailed in Most Evil George Hodel expands his killings, his “masterpieces,” beyond Modern Art and into the world of Music, Film and Literature. This is why this new discovery, demonstrating another example of his early plagiarism of Cornell Woolrich’s short-story, adapted to radio, is so important. It reinforces the theory that George Hodel in his 1940s killings was not just adapting Man Ray’s art to murder, but shows he was adapting, copying and committing his murders within weeks after the public presentation as a macabre murder mystery. Within two weeks of the fictional White Rose Murders broadcast to the public, I submit, George Hill Hodel made it REAL by following the script and selecting as his dancehall partner, Ora Murray, whom he would dance with, charm and then beat and strangle to death on an isolated golf course as his own plagiarized- White Gardenia Murder.

In Most Evil we examine several different murders which I believe my father “adapted from film,” and used in his real life killings.  One of these, Richard Connell’s, The Most Dangerous Game was unquestioningly used by the Zodiac Killer as part of his signature M.O. and subsequently included in his letter writing campaign to the press and police.     

Below is a complete list of all the Suspense Theatre programs. I note that The Most Dangerous Game is listed as being performed at the CBS Theatre. Starring Joseph Conrad, it aired on February 1, 1945. How many more of these “fictional” stories might George Hodel have adapted to real life and real death? Drop me an email if you find one!
suspense theatre complete programs 42-62.txt
 

 

Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short and George Hodel positively identified as attending CBS’ Columbia Square Playhouse in 1946-7. Retired BHPD Chief of Detectives identifies George Hodel as, “the dapper man who showed him a Chicago police officer’s badge.”

 In my 2009 sequel,  MOST EVIL, Jack Egger, a former DA investigator assigned to the Black Dahlia investigation, who later became a Beverly Hills Police Captain and then the Head of Security to a major Hollywood film studio, makes a positive ID of George Hodel as the man he saw with victim Elizabeth Short just days before her murder.

Jack Egger, as a young man, before entering  law-enforcement originally worked as the head-usher at CBS Columbia Square Radio Playhouse at Sunset & Gower. He worked there seven years, from 1941 to 1948. (With a break in employment when he joined the service in June 1945, returning to CBS in October, 1946.) Bizarrely, this establishes that Jack Egger was working at the radio theatre in July, 1943 when Maureen O’Hara performed, “The White Rose Murders” broadcast.

On February 7, 1950, DA Lt. Frank Jemison and LAPD Sgt. Finis Brown interviewed Jack Egger at the L.A. DA’s Office, Hall of Justice, Los Angeles. (I am in possession of the complete interview as found in the DA Hodel-Black Dahlia Files.)

In that interview, Jack Egger informs the detectives that he had seen Elizabeth Short attend CBS radio show programs, “at least twenty times and she was usually alone.” He then goes on to describe the last time he saw Elizabeth Short which he believes was on a Wednesday, and was either, January 1st or January 8th, 1947. (Just days before her murder.) Egger informed detectives that Elizabeth  was with a man in his, “early Forties, 5-10, 180, penetrating eyes.” They came to the front of the line of people waiting to see the popular, Jack Carson Radio Show. The man presented a “Chicago police officer’s badge” and Egger, acknowledging that it was a common practice to show courtesy to police officers, and assuming that the man was in fact a legitimate police detective, then escorted both Elizabeth Short and the man to Studio A to see the show.

In December, 2003, some eight-months after the publication of BDA, I located and met with retired Beverly Hills Police Department Captain Jack Eggers who positively identified George Hodel as the man he saw accompanying Elizabeth Short to the CBS radio show and as the same man who presented a police badge and identified himself as a Chicago police officer. See MOST EVIL pages 46-50 for complete summary of the Egger investigation.

Also, contained in these same DA Files are the reports documenting Elizabeth Short’s travel to Chicago and her personal investigation into the Chicago Red Lipstick Murders in June 1946 while George Hodel was temporarily stationed as a UN doctor in China. Additional DA investigation and documents in my posession show that the LA DA was actively corresponding with Chicago PD and investigating and attempting to identify the “Unknown Chicago Police Officer” as a suspect in the Black Dahlia Murder. (Obviously, they were unaware that George Hodel was in posession of the Chicago police badge and representing himself as an officer in Hollywood.) 

 

                                                        Circa 1946 

 “Chicago Police Officer” George Hodel             Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short

ghh es.jpg 

                                             

 CBS,  Columbia Square Playhouse Studio, Sunset & Gower, Hollywood Studio A (photo on right) is actual location where George Hodel (impersonating a Chicago police officer) and Elizabeth Short attended and watched  the performance of the Jack Carson Show in early January, 1947, just days before her murder.

CBS & Studio A.jpg 

   Exterior of CBS, circa 1940                  Studio A                                

Below is a photo of 22-year-old, Maureen O’Hara in L.A. Times display ad from 1943 showing how she appeared at the time she performed the CBS “White Rose Murders” at Hollywood’s Columbia Square Playhouse. The ad for “Woodbury face powder” assures its users they can have a complexion just like the beautiful Maureen:

                                    L.A. Times  August, 1943

 
Maureen OHara 1943 ad for Woodbury powder.jpg 

 AS A SIDE NOTE- 

Upon viewing the beautifully designed1943 ad above my mind immediately was directed to my file photo of the advertisement/sales brochure personally designed by George Hodel’s for the sale of our Franklin House in 1949.  Obviously, his plagierizing was not limited to “Fine Art.” Note how his expert eye for marketing and layout capture ande mimick the professional advertisements of his time.

GHH designed Franklin House sales brochure, 1949:

 

franklin sales brochure by GHH.jpg 

 

 

 

12 Comments

  1. Hooday on April 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Here’s something I’ve often considered when thinking of your father’s crimes:
    With all of his night-life and dance club activities, its surprising no one independently identified him as, “Oh yeah, that’s Dr. Hodel. He comes in here all the time.”
    How do you account for this lack of identification of someone you would think would be well known to the regulars at these places.
    This dance hall was a block and a half from his medical offices. Do you think he did not come here often? Or only when he wanted a score?
    What do you think?

  2. Steve Hodel on April 24, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Hooday:
    It’s a good point. But, have to take them case by case, each with its separate set of facts.
    In the Ora Murray “White Gardenia Murder,” which was investigated by the LA Sheriff’s the case was “solved” within six-days. They thought they had their man “Grant Terry” who was tentatively identified by the sister as “looking like the suspect, Paul.” An arrest warrant was obtained and the case forgotten about until he was picked-up a year later. Then another six-months before his trial and the facts established it was a wrongful ID because the defense established Terry was across town with one of the prosecution’s star witness’ (his girlfriend) when the real killer, “Paul” was talking with the victim at the dancehall. Unlike the movies, the detectives back then didn’t really go back and revisit old/cold cases, especially if they got the wrong guy. They just moved on to the next one.
    Now, in applying your question to the Elizabeth Short, Black Dahlia investigation we know they did exactly that and they found numerous witnesses that connected GHH and Elizabeth together before the murder. But, that info remained secret and sealed off from public knowledge until we got into the DA Files in 2003.

  3. Dean Grase on August 24, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Eggar remembers seeing Short at CBS studio on either January 1 or January 8 1947, I thought she was in San Diego on those dates without transportation.

  4. Steve Hodel on August 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    DG:
    Los Angeles is an easy two-hour drive from San Diego. There is no way to document or account for Elizabeth Short’s movements 24/7 for the entire month she stayed with the Frenches. For example, in BDA I document one very reliable account of Elizabeth’s presence in L.A. by cabdriver, Glen Chanslor. That incident occurred on December 29, 1946. See BDA pages 144-145. She could have easily made multiple trips during that time period. Egger’s sighting could have been during that time period. While the actual day may be in dispute, what we know from the DA documents is that Egger did see her at the radio show with a man he identifies as George Hodel, who badged himself to Egger as a Chicago police officer, just days or a week before her murder.

  5. Jeffrey Kimbel on December 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Ora Murray was my grandfather’s first wife. I would love to obtain any information possible on her for my family records. Her daughter, my aunt, just passed away a week ago, and I was unable to get much information from her due to her failing health. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to contact me at …. Thanks!

  6. Steve Hodel on December 6, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hi Jeffrey: I will contact you at the numbers/email provided. Regards, Steve

  7. Joelle Miller on February 28, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Ora Murray was my grandmothers mother and Ora’s sister Eirleen is my great Aunt and sister to my grandmother. My younger sister contacted you a while back ago but we just really never talked about it. It wasn’t until a few years ago my mom sent me a framed photo of her mom and grandmother Ora. My grandmother never talked about her mom or her moms death. All I know is that when my grandmothers parents divorced she went and lived with her dad and Aunt Eirleen went to live with her mom, Ora. I guess I’m just curious about my great grandmother and her life and her passing. I will provide my email address if you could send me any information on Ora and her life. Or if you have any questions. Thank you!

    • Steve Hodel on February 28, 2016 at 12:44 am

      Dear Jolle: I really don’t have any additional information on your great grandmother Ora Murray other than what is presented in my book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder (Latest ed. is Skyhorse Books 2015). She is referenced in that book on pages: 142, 259-265, 353 and 359.

      • Joelle Miller on February 28, 2016 at 7:13 pm

        Thank you for responding. I have look at and read some of your book. I find it very interesting. I will have to sit down and read it from start to finish. Again thank you for responding.

  8. Luigi Warren on April 13, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Steve,

    I notice that, in addition to making WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956) based on the Chicago Lipstick murders, Fritz Lang did another press-centric noir called THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953) implicitly referencing both the White Gardenia and Black Dahlia murders.

    Another example of what almost seems like a running dialog between GHH and Hollywood is LURED (1947), which features an erudite serial killer who taunts the police with poems inspired by the work of Charles Baudelaire. The movie even includes a mini-lecture on Baudelairian-Decadent aesthetics in relation to “murder as a fine art.” Definitely something “in the air” at the time.

    -LW

  9. Steve Hodel on April 13, 2017 at 11:30 am

    LW: White Rose Murders, Blue Dahlias, now Blue Gardenias, a whole lot of cross-pollination going on for sure.

    While the City Sleeps has a lot of interesting connections. Written by Charles Einstein originally published by Dell as, “The Bloody Spur” (1953) then same year republished as, “While the City Sleeps” with a separate cover, “Second Printing, Now a Hit Movie.”

    Where it really gets interesting is that turns out Einstein was a columnist (mostly Sports) for the San Francisco Chronicle. See obit link below. He was at the SFC from 1965-1970, ironically the very same years that GHH committed his crimes as Zodiac. (1968-1969)

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Charles-Einstein-S-F-sportswriter-and-2571360.php

    Haven’t seen LURED, but sounds like it was made for George. I’ll check it out. Thanks. SKH

    • Steve Hodel on April 13, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      P.S. LW: I take it back. I did see LURED. Just had forgotten. (Happens more and more these days.) Interesting, but nothing really grabbed me other than the obvious similarities. But, with dad’s photographic memory, he likely was taking pieces from this and that for decades.

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