Black Dahlia Avenger/Zodiac: Unexpected Help from Home and Abroad- Announcing the 2015 Inspector Clouseau Award Honorees

December 4, 2015
Los Angeles








Each of the three above named individuals contributed a major piece of evidence which helped solve the serial crimes now collectively known as the Black Dahlia Avenger: LA Lone Woman Murders and the San Francisco Zodiac Murders.

While each one has been previously recognized for their invaluable contributions in my past writings, I would like to take the opportunity to again identify the critical role each played in contributing to the overall investigation.

Working LAPD Hollywood Homicide in the 1970s and 80s our unit established what became known as the “Inspector Clouseau Award.” It was a prized honor, named after the bumbling detective, Jacques Clouseau, in the Pink Panther films played by actor Peter Sellers. The award was given out on occasion to  a detective(s) who had solved a particularly difficult “Hollywood Whodunit” that required a lot of legwork, and some special sleuthing skills.

I  am reinstating that forgotten honor and here announce the three winners of the 2015 Inspector Clouseau Award.

The envelope, please…

Inspector Clouseau Award No. 1 goes to:
Dan Lackey fnlfff

Dan “The Man” Lackey

Dan Lackey is an electrical engineer from Mississippi nearing retirement, who enjoys internet research, history, and music.

Dan has been in touch with me by email for many years and had read and was very familiar with my investigations as presented in  BDA, Most Evil. And BDA II (2012).

In the summer of 2013 Dan forwarded to me a new discovery. He had located a 1943 Man Ray painting entitled, L’Equivoque, which he suspected could well be the source of the “crosshatch” surgical markings which the killer had carved into the right hip of victim Elizabeth Short. His initial findings and my follow-up investigation are summarized in BDA II (2014 ed.) in Chapter 26- Murder as a Fine Art: The Hodel/Man Ray Nexus

Dan’s discovery not only resulted in an additional proof that George Hodel used his close friend, Man Ray’s art as part of his crime signature but also helped establish the high probability that the victim actually personally posed for Man Ray as the model in his original L’Equivoque artwork in Hollywood in 1943.

equivoque final es compare








For this and his other ongoing contributions Dan “The Man” Lackey is presented with the 2015 Inspector Clouseau Award.

Inspector Clouseau Award No. 2 goes to:

Sue Wilshire color - Copyfff






Ms. Susan Wilshire

Susan Wilshire resides in the United Kingdom.  She attended art school and was trained in designing, and is currently a Deputy Chief Inspector with the police force.

Ms. Wilshire had read and was thoroughly familiar with my first publication, Black Dahlia Avenger and at the time she contacted me, was just finishing reading the new evidence provided in its sequel, Black Dahlia Avenger II. She was aware of the Surrealists, Man Ray and William Copley and their connections to my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel and his “Murder as a Fine Art” crime signatures as identified in both books.

Her initial e-mail contact came on 5 September 2014 where I was provided with information and photographs she had found in a rare art book that had been authored by Man Ray and published in 1948 in Beverly Hills by his close friend and gallerist, William Copley.  The book, Alphabet for Adults, was an Abecedaire and contained whimsical alphabet letters drawn by Man Ray.

ABC Book, a primer (after the first four letters of the Latin alphabet: A, B, C, D) is a visual medium (paper, poster, embroidery) with all the symbols of the alphabet, almost always listed in the alphabetical order.) The primers were a medium of instruction for children.
French Wikipedia

Man Ray’s Alphabet for Adults (1948)











In the below photograph we see three samples from Man Ray’s adult alphabet: A for anchor, E for Elephant and K for kimono, with each drawing containing the shape of the letter concealed within the object; the anchor, the elephant, and the kimono. He is whimsically playing with the letters as words.

Our earlier review and analysis of the separate artwork contributions of Man Ray, William Copley, and Marcel Duchamp (post-Black Dahlia) were without benefit of this new information.

As we add this new knowledge to the former, let us consider the fact that Alphabet for Adults was a 1948, Man Ray /William Copley collaboration.  Created and published by the two surrealists in Hollywood, less than one year after the Black Dahlia murder (January 15, 1947).  The book was first offered for sale at the Copley Gallery in Beverly Hills in a limited edition of 500 copies.

Was this collaborative book of whimsical anagrams and word play the inspiration for William Copley’s 1961 drawing, “It is Midnight Dr. ____.”? Did Copley, as we have previously speculated, disguise the letters: H O D E L, as surgical tools, and place them in his drawing, as a variation on the theme that he and Man Ray presented some thirteen years earlier?

Another word play?


Alphabet for Adult lettering compared to Copley’s 1961 “It is Midnight Dr. _____.”

Ms. Wilshire’s e-mail communication included the additional comment:

More interestingly if you seek out the image he has drawn which relates to the letter Q which he denotes as “quarrel” the drawing albeit simple, depicts two people face to face and looks like a view of courtyard looking South toward living room of Sowden House. Some other images I also think are interesting.

Man Ray’s Letter “Q” for querelle (quarrel)











Man Ray’s Alphabet for Adults, contains the above drawing of the interior of the Sowden/Hodel residence showing a man and woman “quarreling” as represented by the letter “Q” for quarrel. At the time of publication Man Ray was Dr. George Hodel’s family photographer and was close friends with George and his wife, Dorothy. (Dorero) The eye-shaped object included in the drawing is a Man Ray sculpture entitled “Le Occuliste” gifted by Man Ray to George Hodel in 1948, the same year it appeared in his art book.

A more complete detailing of her remarkable discoveries can be found in Chapter 9 of Most Evil II.

For these and other ongoing contributions, Ms. Susan Wilshire is here presented with the 2015 Inspector Clouseau Award.


Inspector Clouseau Award No. 3 goes to
yves person 300dpi fnlfff





Yves Person

Yves Person is a high school teacher who works and resides in France. He teaches literature in a Paris suburb.  Yves is also an artist and is extremely familiar with my previous Black Dahlia and Zodiac investigations as presented in my three previous books.

On 2 July 2014 Yves contacted me by e-mail with the following message:

Dear Sir,
Have you ever noticed that Zodiac’s signature was a compound of two ogham « letters »? The letter on the left side is for “H” and the letter on the right side is for “L.” The Irish name of the first “letter” is “beithe”, that means “flash,” “flame” and the other is called, “uath,” the old-Irish word for “scare.” The dots remain mysterious.
I read your first book shortly after it was published, and it deeply changed my mind upon the real meaning of XXth century (namely, in the fields of ideology and culture).
Best regards from France.

I had never heard of the Ogham language or its alphabet and after a quick review of its origins I immediately contacted Yves and within two days discovered that he had in fact solved the authenticated Zodiac cipher signed by Zodiac in 1970.

This mysterious cipher had been written by Zodiac on both the “return address” portion of the envelope and then reproduced as a signatory on the inside, “You Ache to know my name” Halloween Card mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Yves Person’s solution (along with additional connecting evidence as provided in Chapter 10 of Most Evil II) leaves no doubt that the serial killer known as Zodiac, who taunted the press and police claiming he was “crackproof,” actually signed his real name, disguising it as an obscure 4th century Ogham anagram.


Ogham /ˈɒɡəm/[1] (Modern Irish [ˈoːm] or[ˈoːəm]Old Irishogam [ˈɔɣam]) is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the early Irish language (in the so-called “orthodox” inscriptions, 4th to 6th centuries), and later the Old Irish language (so-called scholastic ogham, 6th to 9th centuries).

In Scotland, a number of inscriptions using the Ogham writing system are known, but their language is still the subject of debate. It has been argued by Richard Cox in The Language of Ogham Inscriptions in Scotland (1999) that the language of these is Old Norse… [Emphasis mine.]


Ogham writing on standing stone (Photo courtesy of Jessica Spengler)

1970 Zodiac Card

envelope halloween card


ME II back jpg -2


Zodiac halloween card fnt int back


cipher zodiac solution avi

Yves Person Zodiac Cipher Solution

Yves Person’s cracking of the Zodiac cipher is what I describe in Chapter 10 of Most Evil II as, the Rosetta Stone.

(Rosetta Stone (noun) A key to some previously undecipherable mystery or unattainable knowledge. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

His discovery and revealing of the five concealed Ogham letters that spell out the killer’s signature as H O D E L is irrefutable. There is no other logical alternative explanation.

 For this and other ongoing contributions, M. Yves Person is here presented with the 2015 Inspector Clouseau Award.


cipher color








  1. Derek Andrews on December 11, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Steve

    Just read your Inspector Clouseau Awards and something struck me when reading of the Ogham letters.

    Perhaps I’m doing what a detective should never do (!) and trying to fit evidence to a person of interest (now much more than that of course) rather than trying to match the person to the evidence but…………………

    The “identity” diagram was in the card that stated “You ache to know my name”. Ache ? Usually you’d say “yearn to” or “long to ” or” wish to ” but aching bones are what a doctor deals with.


    Derek Andrews
    Northampton UK

  2. Steve Covey on December 11, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I’m totally engrossed in your book, ‘Black Dahlia Avenger’ and on p. 340 my own ‘thought print’ re: Elizabeth Short’s letter to Major Matt Gordon occurs:

    … a popular song of the late ’20’s. (GREAT job, btw … I can’t imagine what you must have gone through writing this book, but thank you for coming forward and setting the record straight — I’ve been a ‘Black Dahlia’ fan since the Lucie Arnaz movie of the ’70’s — and even grew them in my gardens once in western NY (!).)

    Steve Covey (Retired Music Teacher … and fan of ‘Baby’ Rose Marie)
    Tucson, AZ

  3. luigi warren on June 21, 2016 at 9:19 pm


    In addition to the relatively straightforward “H” monogram, the putative encryption of H-O-D-E-L into an Ogham-based cipher/glyph/sigil, the Tim Holt/Red Mask comic book allusions and the Dali reference, I also note an apparent reference to Man Ray’s famous work “Tears” in the depiction of the eyes, a possible allusion to GHH’s prior arrest record in “4-TEEN” (Tamar was 14, he was done “4-TEEN”), possible visual allusions or puns involving Franklin Avenue, Frank Lloyd Wright (Junior) and the zigzag motifs and “Jaws” facade of the Sowden House further embedded in the cipher, possible spelling out of the street number 5-1-2-1 in the grouping of eyes next to the cipher, and the perhaps interesting way the word “MED” depends from the “PEEK-A-BOO YOU ARE DOOMED!” message. How much of this is really there is hard to say but, thinking back to Ray’s “Alphabet for Adults,” maybe the card really is “overloaded” with clues, as advertised.



    • luigi warren on July 4, 2016 at 2:12 am

      Speaking of visual puns, I understand from the Zodiac forums that the pumpkin on the front of the “clue you in” card is a Zodiac addition, probably some sort of sticker. Why would Zodiac paste a “pump-kin” over the skeleton’s crotch like that? Could this clue, like “4-TEEN,” be a reference to GHH’s rap sheet (one prior for incest and oral copulation with his fourteen year old daughter)? -LW

      • Steve Hodel on July 4, 2016 at 3:01 am

        Pretty esoteric pun, even for George. I think more likely he did it in keeping with the time of the year theme as Halloween feel on October 31st that year. GHH mailings as noted were frequently sent on anniversaries of his other crimes. (Cheri Jo Bates, also on Hallowween Eve, October 20, 1966.) Or, just could be happenstance timing on his return to Manila as he passed through San Francisco Bay Area.

  4. luigi warren on July 4, 2016 at 10:16 am

    It’s interesting that the Halloween “clue” card is actually a collage based on “found objects.” The skeleton on the inside of the card is apparently also pasted in, like the pumpkin-crotch, possibly cut out of another card with an X-Acto knife. Then we have the Dali/Ray-style eyes and textual additions, probably done with liquid paper as you have described. All rather Duchampian. If the standard for esoteric here is Man Ray (the “Alphabet for Adults” sketches and the crotch-face in “L’Equivoque”) and Duchamp (“Fountain” and “L.H.O.O.Q”), then maybe we need to get more Freudian to decode it.

    • Steve Hodel on July 4, 2016 at 11:30 am

      Considering all of the game-playing is coming from the very twisted and diseased mind of a Freudian psychiatrist himself, the allusions/delusions are practically endless. At some point, to paraphrase Nancy Reagan, “I just say whoa.” (Interestingly, Zodiac in one of his writings, the Count Marco letter, Zodiac (the psychiatrist) say’s, “Put Marco back in the hell-hole from whence it came-he has a serious psychological disorder-always needs to feel superior. I suggest you refer him to a shrink. …” He signs the communication “the Red Phantom”.

      • luigi warren on July 6, 2016 at 12:51 am

        The “Red Phantom” may reference an obscure hand-tinted silent film variously dated 1907 or 1908 (1907 being the year of GHH’s birth) that was screened in Mill Valley a few months before the letter was mailed. It shows a demonic magician in a black skeleton outfit making several young women disappear. In October 1962 someone signing as “Chicago” wrote Count Marco’s advice column: “Instead of sneaking up on women like a red phantom with black paint, you should work openly and usefully for this free and generous country which feeds your nasty face.” Curious.

      • luigi warren on July 7, 2016 at 1:54 am

        Tom Voigt has presented evidence that Zodiac’s letter imitated or parodied “Count” Marco’s handwriting tics, further suggesting specific, personal enmity. I see from Marco’s obit that he attended Woodbury College in Los Angeles. If I have it right the campus was at 1027 Wilshire Boulevard when the “Count” was of college age (late 30s-early 40s), about a half-mile from the Roosevelt Building and the Biltmore. Perhaps they did know each other from those days.

        • luigi warren on July 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

          “Broadcasting” newsletter of June 27, 1949, places Marco on the faculty of Woodbury, so it looks like he returned to the Wilshire Blvd campus after service in the Pacific during World War II. He would have been about 30 at that time. In later years he was quite the show boat and man-about-town, riding around in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce. He married young but his wife died in 1938. “Count” Marco’s extreme chauvinistic views echo those of “Baron” Harringa, although possibly it was all just a put-on. He certainly offended a lot of people.

          • luigi warren on July 9, 2016 at 2:32 pm

            More on “Count Marco” & “Red Phantom:”

            “Broadcasting” newsletter of 10/3/49 identifies Marc H. Spinelli as supervisor of the radio-television department at Woodbury College. Woodbury’s co-educational campus occupied a stylish Art Deco building 0.4 miles from GHH’s Roosevelt Building office (go NE on Flower, take first left onto Wilshire). A connection through Honolulu is also conceivable. In a 1962 column entitled “Ugliest Americans Are Feminine Gender,” Marco talks about hanging out with William Lederer (of “Ugly American” fame) at a Honolulu cocktail party. So, it seems possible Spinelli’s part-time residency in Honolulu started while GHH was still there in the 1950s and stemmed from his wartime history with the Pacific rather than being a later retirement move. So far I haven’t found anything to confirm or preclude this idea.

            The “red phantom” reference in the 1962 reader’s letter (apparently also recycled for a 1969 column) is probably less left-field than it appears without contemporary context. I came across a photo of Marco (thymeisnow blog) in a Zorro-like getup, probably from an early 60s TV or publicity appearance. Like Zodiac, Marco enjoyed a bit of cosplay. And the Count had that whole Bela Lugosi look going on. The stuff about being grateful to this country probably relates to a running joke where his audience thought (or pretended to think) he was a visiting European count sneering at oafish Americans. Guess you had to be there. Certainly seems like Zodiac was an attentive reader of the “Beauty and the Beast” column, whether or not he had a personal acquaintance with Spinelli.

            Another possible connection of interest uncovered by Zodiac researchers is an obscure 1939 play entitled “The Red Phantom” by Eloise Keeler, who resided in Mill Valley at the time the San Rafael-postmarked Marco letter was mailed. At first glance it looks like the play is more Agatha Christie than Alfred Hitchcock and I wonder how interesting it would have been to GHH, but it is at least a murder mystery. I lean to the connection being coincidental but it does seem possible GHH and the author crossed paths. Born in 1905, Keeler was an actress/playwright and a noted member of Berkeley bohemia in the early thirties. Her father was poet/artist Charles Keeler and her brother was celebrated criminologist Leonarde Keeler. Keller mentions in a newspaper interview that some of her 1930s plays were put on in small Hollywood theaters and that she went down to Los Angeles on occasion for that. I can find no indication of whether “Red Phantom” was ever staged in Hollywood or anywhere else for that matter.

            Needless to say, any nexus between Marco or Keeler and GHH, if it exists and can be found, would be a game changer in the field of “Zodiac Studies.”

        • luigi warren on August 13, 2016 at 11:12 pm

          Steve: Just received a used copy of Count Marco’s “Beauty and the Beast.” It has a full-page personal inscription to the original owner. As with the similar inscription unearthed by Tom Voigt, there are the exact same elongated hyphens after the salutation and before the sign-off that Zodiac mimicked in his “Red Phantom” letter. Uncanny. -LW

          • luigi warren on August 14, 2016 at 12:43 am

            Steve: BTW, the hyphens are not regular em-dashes, like those in the Bauerdof note, but represent a distinctive handwriting tic of the Count’s which Zodiac seems to ape in the Phantom letter. I’m convinced Zodiac had seen Marco’s handwriting somewhere. Maybe he attended a talk/book signing, maybe he picked up a signed copy at a jumble sale, maybe he crossed paths with Marco in Hollywood or Honolulu. -LW

      • Luigi Warren on December 11, 2018 at 9:46 am

        Steve: The 1962 letter to Count Marco referencing his “sneaking up on women like a red phantom with black paint” may have been alluding to an incident from the sensational 1961 trial of womanizing West Covina physician Bernard Finch and his redheaded mistress Carole Tregoff, both convicted in the murder of Finch’s wife. By Marco’s own account, in a 1980 SF Examiner profile, he snuck up behind Tregoff in court and spread her hair as if he were examining her dye job, leading to a photo that appeared in papers across the country. Tregoff was defended by Geisler and Neeb, GHH’s old crew from the incest trial. Starting to make sense now… -LW

        • Luigi Warren on December 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

          Addendum: The SF Chronicle rented Count Marco a maroon 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom for the outing to LA City Hall where he stalked Tregoff at the murder trial. I don’t think there can be much doubt that the origins of the “Red Phantom” are to be found in this incident. -LW

          • Holly Toschi on September 8, 2023 at 5:57 pm

            Hi Luigi-

            Interesting info. Curious: how did you learn that Count Marco was driven in a maroon (Bohemian red) Phantom? Is there a pic or article somewhere? I’ve looked and can’t find.


        • Luigi Warren on December 14, 2018 at 11:22 am

          Addendum II:

          Interesting that the “nasty face” taunt from the 1962 “red phantom” letter and the “feel superior” taunt from the 1974 “Red Phantom” letter both echo the dialog Ben Hecht gave to Rhonda Fleming’s nymphomaniac character in SPELLBOUND. Almost as if “Chicago” was channeling Tregoff through Fleming and Hecht in some sort of fantasia.

          There is also a 1969 “red phantom letter” to Marco’s column, identical to the 1962 letter except for the addition of a couple of sentences which include the “Clu Clucks Clan” (cuckold?) taunt. Conceivably a case of the editors re-cycling an unexpurgated version of the older letter to fill column inches.

          In addition, Graysmith quotes from an anonymous 1971 letter to the Count, signed “Faithful Savant,” purporting to relate to a belated Christmas gift of tea. It does look pretty suspicious, especially in light of GHH’s “Fifth Dynasty Tea” promotion.

  5. luigi warren on July 4, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Right, a Freudian psychiatrist who specialized in counseling the criminally insane and claimed to be unsure “whether someone is hypnotizing me or I am hypnotizing someone” when arrested for having sex with his own daughter. Of course, we should note that GHH beat the rap — apparently he was just demonstrating hypnosis at a house party when his close pal Fred Sexton happened to rape the girl and tried to shift the blame to his host to avoid going to jail. Stuff happens!

  6. Marja Milton on January 16, 2024 at 9:16 pm

    Have you seen this? “Man Ray considered a grid of squares, “the basis for all art…..” “.

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