Black Dahlia Avenger: – A Surrealist Crime- Dr. George Hill Hodel, Man Ray, The Minotaure and Murder as a Fine Art

  From Thomas De Quincey’s- Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts (1842):

“People begin to see that something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed–a knife–a purse–and a dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping,   light and shade, poetry, sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature…

                Like Aeschylus or Milton in poetry, like Michael Angelo in painting, he has carried his art to a point  of colossal sublimity; and, as Mr. Wordsworth observes, has in a manner “created the taste by which  he is to be enjoyed.” To sketch the history of the art, and to examine its principles critically, now       remains as a duty for the connoisseur….”


                                                                                The Society of Connoisseurs in Murder

                                                From Thomas De Quincey’s–Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts (1842)



Man Ray Hollywood sketch- November 1940

man_ray_untitled_1940.jpgThis 1940 sketch by MAN RAY was one of the first drawings completed during his “Hollywood Years” shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles in the fall of 1940. Man Ray would remain in Hollywood as a close friend and family photographer to George and Dorero (Dorothy) Hodel for more than a decade before temporarily returning to Paris, France in the summer of 1947 and then permanently relocating in 1951.


The key to understanding the serial crimes of Dr. George Hill Hodel has been found in his love for and homage to – SURREALISM. 

As both nihilist and misanthrope this wannabe Dadaist used that art-movement’s “Manifesto” in part as his personal guide to and justification for his serial killings.

His unique M.O. and Signature was to commit his murders by plagiarizing from: Art, Literature, Film and Music. This was the method of his madness.

During the 1940s through the 1960s  he held whole cities hostage by way of his serial crimes in: Los Angeles, Chicago, Manila, Philippines and very possibly the San Francisco Bay area.

As a “marketing genius” George Hodel played and taunted both the press and the police by sending dozens of taunting letters threatening to “Kill More” knowing full well his megalomaniacal actions would guarantee him page-one, above-the-fold headlines.   

Below link is a PDF to the complete Black Dahlia Avenger Chapter 19 in which I first identified more than a half-dozen surrealist connections to the Black Dahlia Murder.

Chapter 19 Surrealism Connections BDA 2002.pdf 

 See link below for separate articles and BDA FAQs under Surrealism Connections Ray Surrealism Connections


For the Record–

From the beginning and continuing throughout my ongoing investigation I continue to believe that neither Man Ray nor any of his fellow surrealists were ever active, knowing participants or accomplices to my father’s crimes(s). [With the two exceptions of artist, Fred Sexton and abortionist, Charles Smith.]

 It has always been and remains my position that I believe his surrealist friends knew or suspicioned HIS CRIME(S) only AFTER they occurred. The only finger that has ever been pointed at Man Ray by any witness that could even be considered a “crime” came from my half-sister, Tamar and related to his taking nude photographs of her when she was age-11. But, she underscored this revelation with the fact that he never did anything or had any physical contact with her.

As I follow the evidence after a decade of investigation, these facts remain unchanged. That said, the evidence continues to build that George Hodel’s crimes were INSPIRED by a twisted mind that admired and perhaps even worshipped the works of his surrealist friends and the evidence is strong that his crimes were in HOMAGE to MAN RAY, and others George Hodel considered to be HIS fellow Dadaists. George Hodel “exhibited” Elizabeth Short as a human sculpture posed for all to see and “admire.” His surgeon’s scalpel was his paintbrush and her bisected body was his canvas. Her murder and posing was HIS MASTERPIECE.

Black Dahlia Crime Scene-  A surgeon and wannabe Dadaist’s homage to his friend Man Ray’s two greastest works: THE  MINOTAURE & LES AMOUREUX, THE  LOVER’S LIPS

In this photo I have compared Man Ray’s 1933 Lovers Lips photograph in which HE COMBINED the two themes of the lips and a woman’s bisected body.  Compare this to George Hodel’s combining of the surgically carved lips [not slashed as the myth would have you believe] with the bisection and posing in imitation of Man Ray’s 1934 Minotaure photograph depicting a woman’s surgically bisected body with hands posed overhead.


 minotaure 1.JPG


 Below is a POST BLACK DAHLIA MURDER photo taken many years later in France. Here we see Man Ray standing in front of his painting of a bisected body holding a pair of lips and he is giving us a wink and a nod. Compare the Man Ray lips he is holding to the lips in George Hodel’s photograph of the nude woman. [Possibly Elizabeth Short, or another Lone Woman Murder victim, as no positive identification has yet been made.]


lovers 2.jpg 


The Man Ray-Hodel Family Connections throughout the 1940s:

Hodel family Man Ray.jpg






Below is a 1944 Man Ray sculpture given to his friend George Hodel in 1948

My father placed this artwork in a 1999 Butterfield & Butterfield auction but kept his identity anonymous. The piece was identified only as, “The Property of a Gentleman.” George Hodel died just weeks before the auction date and sale


butterfield ghh mr sculpture.jpg

 Man Ray sculpture on display in George Hodel’s Manila Penthouse office circa 1989.

ghh man ray manila097.jpg


“Modesto Lovers” commissioned by George Hodel in Manila and hand delivered and given as a gift to Juliet Man Ray by George in 1986, some ten years after the death of Man Ray. Note the comparison to Man Ray’s original.  I quote from my original reference in BDA Chapter 19 in describing George Hodel’s Modesto Lovers:

lovers compare.jpg BDA Chapter 19:

Did George Hodel specifically commission this drawing and provide the artist with all of the details to be included, or did Modesto merely use his own creative energies and imagination, independent of his patron? The answer may be hidden in the work itself and what it appears to represent. First, the work is a form of flattery: it’s an imitation of Man Ray’s “lovers’ lips” that extend across the horizon. However, unlike the Man Ray work, the lips in the Modesto are not full red, and the bottom lip is only partially covered. Also, the irregularity of the bottom line in the Modesto suggests dripping blood rather than lipstick. And directly above the lips are three human phalluses. To the left of the lips is a blue canal the shape of a vagina, above which a squadron of nine yellow and ten blue oval-shaped objects seems to be flying, each with its own trailing sperm-like tail.”


George & Dorero photo gift from Man Ray 1946 as Butterfield 1999 auction cover photo



1999 butterfield jpg.jpg 



Recently discovered Man Ray book inscription to George Hodel 1949 sold in acution for- $5,000

1948 MR Greetings to GHH.jpg



  1. Ruby on February 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I love modern art, but this piece is disturbing. I don’t understand the desire to depict a scene like this or to consider it “art.” I love abstract art & very modernist pieces, but I dislike creepy, strange, etc. Who would want to hang this on their wall? Anyone who’d hang this or something similar on the wall needs to seek immediate help! Your mom looks so very sad & depressed in the Man Ray pics. She almost seems to be saying, “I’ve seen & been through way too much.” I remember in your book you say you believe she was a hedonist. I’ve thought it interesting that many people who live this lifestyle seem to have deep emotional pain. I’m sure she was a very lovely woman who was caught in a circle of very bad men (after reading what your first husb did to your sister, blc & wht Hollywood films have never been the same).

  2. Ruby on February 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I’m wondering if you have any idea Juliet’s reaction to the gift of “Modesto Lovers?” If someone presented me with a gift like that, I’d run the other way. Although, I guess she was used to strange art. I have seen an abstract piece from Man Ray that I liked but knowing a little about him, I’m not sure I’d want to own anything of his. A female cousin of mine is an artist. She painted a disturbing pic of violence/violation of women but it was to get a reaction from people to discuss this topic. I’m guessing these artists weren’t thinking about that. Do you suppose these graphic paitings/drawings are things they wanted to do women? I’ve tried to research this topic but it’s difficult. I’ve lived in two communities, with two separate serial killers. One murdered my neighbor back in the 70’s & was caught, but the other resurfaced after taking a break for years. Luckily he was caught as well. I just want to know why someone would think half a body, strangulation, bondage of dolls, etc is art? The 2nd serial killer, in my community, covered a doll’s head with plastic & left it as a “calling card.” Were these artists depraved?

  3. Margaret Kelly on June 15, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I am not so certain that Man Ray didn’t know that his buddy George Hodel was a murderer.Just look at some of his work,in particular a painting he did after his breakup with a woman named Lee. In the painting,it looks like half of her face is scraped off! He may not have been part of the actual “kill club” but he may have encouraged George,Fred and the other murderers.

    • Steve Hodel on June 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Margaret Kelly: Oh, there is no doubt that HE KNEW. Only question is WHEN? Many in the “inner-circle” of my father’s friends were aware, but remained silent mostly out of fear. He outlived them all. Man Ray and many of the surrealists depicted women as being tortured or brutally dominated. Many of them were misogynists. I go into much more detail in my sequel, Black Dahlia Avenger II. Regards, Steve

  4. Sylvia on June 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Steve, are you familiar with the Man Ray quote: “Lipstick is the red badge of courage”?

    • Steve Hodel on June 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Sylvia: No, but love to hear it. Can you provide it to me? thks s.

  5. Sylvia on June 15, 2016 at 11:35 am

    HI, Steve. I re-read your books every couple of years or so to allow the information to filter through my brain again. A am currently re-reading Most Evil and decided to do some research on Man Ray. As an art enthusiast, I was familiar with him in the art history context, but not in the context of evil, violence and the humiliation and subjugation of women. I Googled “Man Ray” and among the many results that came up, there was one entitled “Famous Quotes by Man Ray.” One of them was: “Lipstick is the red badge of courage.” I then Googled “quotes by Man Ray” which resulted in many website results of his quotes, with the above quotation always included among them.

    From what I can piece together through further Internet research, Man Ray worked not only on his individual artwork during the 30s, but also with the fashion industry and soon the two merged. In 1938 Harper’s Bazaar did a spread on fashion which included the application of lipstick. I do not know if Man Ray was shooting the spread or if he was simply being quoted, but this was when the quote was attributed to him. I have tried to find a copy of the article, but have had no luck so far.

    As a side note, I went to “YouTube” to find what was included concerning May Ray. This is a treasure trove of insight into his mind. Different videos offered include home movies by Man Ray, among them a filmed dance by Julia that, frankly, made me very uneasy because of the HUGE smile she kept on her face through its entirety. Another that I think you should look at, if you haven’t already, is one entitled “May Ray Fotografs.” The photograph that is used as the cover for this montage of photos is of a woman reclining, her head and torso lower than the rest of her body. The photo appears to me to show a woman bisected with her arms above her head like Elizabeth Short. The similarity to Short even includes the perception that her hips and legs are not aligned with her torso. The photo is shown again later in this montage with no notes included concerning the year it was taken or any other info.

    I’m sure the whole experience of discovering all these horrific things about your father has been very debilitating for you. Perhaps if people continue to talk and investigate, other forensic material will come to light. I know if would be very meaningful to have that type of surety.

    Thank you, Steve, for doing the right thing and continuing your investigation. Thank goodness, June turned over the photograph album belonging to your father that set you on this quest. Much can be learned about the criminal mindset of such killers and that is a good thing.

    As a side note, in trying to understand more about who your father was, can you list any music that you remember playing at the parties on Franklin Street? I’ve read the info on the Mokado, but wondered what, if any, popular music was playing in the background of this surrealistic living nightmare.


    • Steve Hodel on June 16, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Sylvia: Thank you for the information. My father never played piano again after his teenage years. He had a tremendous hatred of his mother and consequently because she pushed him so hard at playing, he never went to it again after his teen years. Only once did I hear him play piano in Manilia for a “Happy Birthday” for one of my half siblings circa 1960 while I was visiting them in Manila.My mother when married to John Huston and living in NY became close friends with George and Ira Gershwin and they and my father all loved their music.

  6. Jorge Barraza Ugalde on August 23, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Hi,Steve. In the crime of the black dahlia your father was accompanied by Man Ray and Max Ernst, cut and placed the body in the form of LopLop (alter ego of Ernst).Elizabeth Short has an extraordinary resemblance to Leonora Carrington, on the internet you will find a photograph of her with Max Ernst taken by the disciple of Man Ray. 

  7. Dylan J Nev on September 24, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    Hello Steve, I’m writing because it seems none of the images attached to this page are loading, I just started digging into your work and website and I’d love to be able to see the images on here because they provide a great deal of very important context to your writings here. Hopefully there’s something that can be done to fix it and I hope you see this message soon. Very very interesting stuff here.

    • Steve Hodel on September 24, 2018 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Dylan: Yes, unfortunately those images didn’t transfer when my website was switched over about six or eight years ago. So, many graphics did not carry over. I don’t have time to go back and locate and physically add the many older graphics, but have updated in more recent blogs. Suggest you use key words to search on my blogsite such as: Man Ray, surrealism, Duchamp, Copley, murder as a fine art, minotaur, etc. and those should take you to updated writings with graphics. Regards, Steve

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