George Hodel "Parable of the Sparrows" Letter- "An Enigma inside a Mystery"

In both Black Dahlia Avenger (Arcade Pub. 2003) and again in MOST EVIL (Dutton Pub. 2009)  I printed my father’s four-page response to a letter I had written him four months earlier,.on Christmas 1979, I wanted to tell him how much I loved and respected him.

In March, 1980, I received father’s response, mailed from his office/ residence in Manila, Philippines.
In light of what we now know related to his serial killings, I believe this thirty-two-year-old communication gives us the best look into both George Hodel’s  fragmented personal philosophy and psychology, and I will let his own words speak for him.

Below I have attached a PDF copy of the original letter as well as a reading of it by actor, Malcolm Hillgartner from the Brilliance audio-book.

in his reading of the complete book, Malcolm did an outstanding job of capturing the feel and flavor of Dr. George Hill Hodel. The book closes with Hillgartner reading my father’s original 1925 poem, INFERENCE, which in many respects, “Say’s it all.”

George Hodel’s original 1980 Letter as PDF

Parable of the Sparrows Ltr 1980.pdf

 Here is Malcolm Hillgartner’s reading of my father’s letter.


Here is Malcolm Hilgartner’s reading of George Hodel’s 1925 poem- INFERENCE



  1. Ryan on January 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Audio isn’t working. Thanks

  2. Steve Hodel on January 17, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Ryan: Might check your sound system? Mine seems to work fine on the links.

  3. Tony on September 28, 2014 at 1:13 am

    No pdf file linked.

    Thank you.

    • Steve Hodel on September 28, 2014 at 2:10 am

      Tony: Sorry lot of the links and attachment from the older blogs are not working since the switch over to a new server in 2014. Sorry. The Parable of the Sparrows Letter is reproduced in full in both BDA and Most Evil. steve

  4. François Houle on September 29, 2014 at 10:06 am

    “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

    Churchill 1939

  5. luigi warren on July 30, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Steve: I see several similarities between the Riverside desktop poem tentatively attributed to Zodiac and GHH’s “Inference:” (1) the overall style (absence of rhyme and meter); (2) overall morbid tone; (3) fixation on the color red; (4) ragged/pulsating line with lines diminishing down to single words; (5) three-fold repetition-with-variation (spurting-dripping-spilling vs. rising-curling-writhing, etc.); (6) calligramme/concrete poetry stratagem of using text layout to create a graphical allusion to the content (pictorial representations of “dripping,” “writhing” and “waning.”) Both poems strike me as pretty clunky, but the Riverside one is more so — then again, it’s more of doodle than the “Fantasia” piece. That Zodiac should be a wannabe poet is interesting in itself, of course. -LW

    • Steve Hodel on July 30, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      LW: Agree with all of these observations.

      • luigi warren on August 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

        Steve: Re-reading GHH’s dispatches from the Peggy Donovan and Teresa Mors murder scenes presented in “BDA” does nothing to allay my suspicion the Riverside desktop poem and “Inference” have the same author, who is also the author of the Bates “Confession” letter. Regarding GHH’s punning on Teresa Mors’ name, I wonder if there is a reference in there to “Santa Teresa Mors et Vita” (1870) by the Belgian artist Felicien Rops. Rops was a friend of Baudelaire and illustrated his more extreme, banned poetry. From GHH’s mini disquisition on the Larry Darwin succubi batiks in the same article, it’s obvious the 16-year old was already quite a connoisseur. On a quick review of Rops’ ouevre, I think it might be even more relevant to the development of GHH’s erotic imagination than the later and comparatively wholesome work of Man Ray. -LW

        • luigi warren on August 27, 2016 at 1:32 am

          Steve: Some other Rops works that strike me of particular interest include the frontispiece to Baudelaire’s “Les Epaves,” “The Werewolf,” “The Sacrifice,” “The Cold Devils,” “The Idol,” “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” “A Dinner of Atheists,” “Holocaust” and “Naturalia.” The last one (“Naturalia”) is annotated with the following quote from Molière: “Avec la permission de Monsieur, je vous invite à venir voir l’un de ces jours, pour vous divertir, la dissection d’une femme, sur quoi je dois raisonner…” -LW

  6. luigi warren on August 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm


    If we accept, as seems likely, that the desktop poem is the work of the killer and Bates’ killer is Zodiac, than the mere fact that Zodiac is a poet narrows the suspect field considerably. If we use the population of California as a proxy for the number of people in the right place to be the Zodiac, we start out with a pool of ~10M males. The shoe size and glove size are going to bring it down around 10X, to roughly 1M. If we use college graduate as a proxy for Zodiac being an educated person, as he evidently is, that will get us down to ~100K. What fraction of college-educate males write poetry as adults? It’s not as many as 1-in-10, surely, but probably more than 1-in-1000. So call it 1-in-100. That gets us down to the order of 1000 non-excluded individuals.

    If we could magically call up a list of that 1000 people, we could score and rank order them based how much evidence there is that they have violent tendencies. Obviously, the vast majority are going to barely register in this phase of the analysis. Of the few promising candidates, the analysis can be refined based on whether the evidence points specifically to homicidal tendencies, esp. sadistic violence marked by misogynistic anger and desire for revenge against the female sex, associated taunting of the police and newspapers, cat-and-mouse games, and so forth.

    We could also score the short-list based on the plausibility that each of the non-excluded individuals has a familiarity, specific interest or connection with the Tim Holt Red Mask comic, Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, the Most Dangerous Game, The Mikado, The Sniper, the Dali sequence from Hitchcock’s Spellbound, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper and Count Marco’s “Beauty and the Beast” advice column. Also, what is the likelihood that the individual has familiarity with SE Asian afterlife-slave mythology referenced by the Marquis de Sade? And, what is the likelihood that the individual is a highly proficient typist, is skilled in paste-up, and has access to teletype paper and a military PX? After that winnowing and scoring process, we can get down into the weeds on the more subjective questions such as poetic style comparison, handwriting analysis, subtle textual cues, and the more abstruse references and encoded messages which Zodiac may have hidden in the Halloween “clue” card.

    IMO, anyone who thinks you “jumped the shark” when you proposed GHH as a Zodiac suspect just hasn’t been paying attention.


    • Steve Hodel on August 21, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      LW: I like your mathematical probabilities breakdown and presentation. Very impressive. One of the questions that I asked myself when I started looking at the Riverside Cheri Jo Bates murder (besides the fact that it had been connected to Zodiac by some in law enforcement) was: Why would GHH go to Riverside? Any connection to the community? The answer was YES. To my knowledge, U.C. Riverside was and remains the only academic library/institution that had preserved a full/original copy of George Hodel’s 1925 publication of his FANTASIA MAGAZINE. His desire to make copies of that edition (which I know he did) could well have taken him to the university on one of his trips to the U.S. in 1966. UC Riverside campus is only 4 miles from the Bates crime scene at Riverside City College. (It is a less than ten-minute drive between the two campuses.)

      • luigi warren on September 19, 2016 at 11:26 pm

        Steve: Is there a chance your father contacted Wisteria Hartmann directly to access the courtesy copy of Fantasia her father would have received as a contributor? Maybe that even connects somehow to the page with his poem being missing, e.g., at some point SH tore out the page to file separately for some reason. -LW

        PS: An à propos excerpt from Ezra Pound’s “Canto 80:”

        as for the vagaries of our friend Mr. Hartmann,
        Sadakichi a few more of him,
        were that conceivable, would have enriched
        the life of Manhattan
        or any other town or metropolis
        the texts of his early stuff are probably lost
        with the loss of the fly-by night periodicals…

        (Quoted in “A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes,” Michelle Legro, 2013)

        • Steve Hodel on September 22, 2016 at 1:30 am

          LW: Certainly possible, but kind of doubt it. Whatever his source was on the magazine being stored at UCR, I think he likely went there and obtained copies. skh

          • luigi warren on September 22, 2016 at 8:01 am


            It seems a bit of a coincidence that Riverside ends up with the one existing copy of Fantasia when they also archive the papers of one of its contributors. And, if Fantasia came to UCR via another source (not SH), how would GHH even come to be aware of that, pre-Internet and WorldCat? OTOH, if it was Hartmann’s courtesy copy we can easily envisage how he could have tracked it down to make a copy, either before or after it was physically deposited at the library.

            It would be helpful if UCR could provide info on not just when, but how, the item came into their hands.

            From the Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1959:

            EXHIBIT — A library exhibit, “Sadakichi Hartmann, Man of Letters Extraordinary.” Manuscripts, photographs and letters of a lecturer, art critic, journalist, poet and publisher of his own writings. Collected and loaned by his daughter, Mrs. Wistaria Linton, through the courtesy of the University Library, Riverside. In the Main Library Wednesday through May 20.


          • Steve Hodel on September 22, 2016 at 10:41 am

            LW: Yes, SH Collection could be the original source of Fantasia Magazine and UCR could have been in possession of the copy well before the “catalogued date” of 1969. Say, a decade earlier when Wistaria loaned her father’s material on exhibit in ’59, which as we know, predates Riverside’s Cheri Jo Bates murder in 1966.

  7. luigi warren on August 21, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Steve: Thanks, I do believe the Riverside crime is the “missing link” and the Zodiac case would be viewed completely differently if the authorship had been acknowledged from the get-go. However, on the question of U.C. Riverside holding a copy of FANTASIA, I think the acquisition might post-date the crime. I say that because I see U.C. Riverside holds the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy which it acquired from one Dr. J. Lloyd Eaton of Oakland, CA in 1969. (Eaton looks to be an interesting fellow, BTW). That seems a likely route for the acquisition, unless you have information to the contrary. -LW

    • Steve Hodel on August 21, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      LW: You may be correct on the acquisition date. Maybe I will contact RC Riverside and see if I can obtain an acquisition date on Fantasia? Even if it predates, still will always remain speculative. skh

  8. luigi warren on August 21, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Steve: It’s worth checking out, surely. It’s possible Riverside acquired the Eaton Collection because of a pre-existing interest in this kind of material, or that Eaton’s materials were already on loan before being formally acquired. But, I wonder if Eaton got a copy directly from your father, since he was at Berkeley and UC Medical School (MD ’28). -LW

    • Steve Hodel on August 21, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      LW: Yes. Agreed. I’ve emailed a request to UCR Special Collections requesting if they can provide me with the acquisition date on the GHH Fantasia magazine.

  9. Steve Hodel on August 22, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Below update from UCR Special Collections indicates it appears the Fantasia entry occurred in 1996, so most probably my father went to the UCR Library some six years after returning to U.S. in 1990. Based on that I’d say he was in Riverside in 1966 for some other unknown reason.

    Dear Steve,

    Thank you for your interest in Special Collections & University Archives.

    I can verify that Fantasia is in our collection. I’ve examined the catalog record and the record was created on August 23, 1996, so based on this it’s my best guess that we acquired the item on or around this date.


  10. luigi warren on August 22, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Steve: Nice to know for sure. The vast bulk of the Eaton Collection (said to be the largest fantasy/SF collection in the world, including almost 100,000 “fanzines”) was amassed after the initial acquisition, so the copy of Fantasia was probably caught up in that sweep. My hunch is Riverside was a side trip, maybe an unplanned detour on the way back to LA from Palm Springs or thereabouts after the suspect got to brooding and felt an itch to do his “thing.” The poem suggests a state of extreme depression. -LW

  11. luigi warren on September 27, 2016 at 1:07 am


    The Parable of the Sparrows might be another residuum of GHH’s youthful Poe fixation:

    Is all that we see or seem
    But a dream within a dream?

    Your father seems to have taken that notion very seriously, given his remarks to the DA after the incest arrest.

    Still on Poe, the early short story “Berenice” is worth a read in the light of the “Clouded Past of a Poet” profile, Fantazius Mallare, and the Black Dahlia and Cheri Jo Bates murders.


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