George Hodel Boy Genius Age 9 to Perform at LA Shrine Auditorium at Fall of Bastille Celebration – Boy Peacenik Poet Morphs to Become Genius Serial Killer
July 5, 2016
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles Evening Herald: July 14, 1917
…”This little French boy to is declared to be a genius along several lines. At the age of 9 he is in the seventh grade at school and has already written many poems. Recently his verses have been on the European war. One of them, written a short time before the fall of the Russian Czar reads:
Armies; scattered; withered–what for?
What has Europe gained by war?
When will cannon’s mouth be cold
From killing by the hundredfold?
German’s strength and England’s flower
Ruthlessly destroyed for lust and power!
Rulers’ jealousy, monarchs’ hate;
Not the sudden turns of fate,
Has made this murderous field!
When will kaiser, king, and Tzar
Be no more, human lives to mar?
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SKH Note: As one of the many investigative ironies note that immediately adjacent to this “George Hodel Boy Genius” article the Evening Herald reports a Los Angeles murder. “Man Beaten To Death At Own Doorstep” which goes on to describe, “Angeleno’s Skull is Crushed by Gas Pipe: Finger Print is Clew.” As we know, George, the young genius will grow up not to become a concert pianist or poet, but rather a serial killer, with one of his favorite MO’s being to crush his victim’s skulls by way of blunt force trauma. (Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short, Jeanne French etc.) Also, note the then common spelling of the word “Clew” which would be regularly used in GHH’s later articles as a crime reporter for the LA Record newspaper in the Twenties. He would also continue to use this unique spelling in his letters to the press in the Sixties and Seventies, as Zodiac.
PPS. The Evening Herald’s reference to “this little French boy…” is due to the fact that French was the Hodel family’s first language for George growing up. Both of his parents, though from Russia, spoke fluent French from living in France before coming to the U.S. through Ellis Island in 1901. (Recall on the Jeanne French murder in 1947, the suspect is reported to be speaking French with the victim just prior to their leaving a restaurant and her being murdered.)
I was just wondering——–and I realize this takes us a considerable distance from murder cases—-but did George’s parents speak French in order to give George the advantage of knowing that language, or had they, even in France, spoken it between each other? It just seems to me that Russian Jews would most likely speak Russian and/or Yiddish, and, on meeting a fellow émigré in France, would continue in that language regardless of the ambient language.
Despite its Ukrainian location, Odessa is today almost exclusively a Russian-speaking town, but prior to WWII, perhaps a third of the population was Jewish and had Yiddish as a home language.
Richard: Yes, I agree with you. The whole grandfather/grandmother Goldgefter/Leov family background is pretty much out of focus because of almost a total absence of any real information. My father never spoke of or provided any information. He never even acknowledged any Jewish connections. It was a family rumor that Esther Leov Hodel was related to Royalty. (Possibly the Russian prince Troubetsky connection in Paris?) I seem to recall June at some point mentioning his parents connected to Roman Orthodox church, but ?? Never any references to them being practicing Russian jews or speaking Yiddish? I think that since they spoke French for many years in Paris, they continued using it as their primary language in the U.S. as they learned English? Interesting the 1917 article refers to my father as “a little French boy.” (Born in downtown LA) Other rumors about smuggling out money/jewels from the Czars Treasury to the U.S. Clearly, my grandparents were connected to some top society people in Paris and likely in Russia going back pre-Revolution, but just no available hard information. Regards, SKH
Dear Steve, I find it interesting that your father writes this poem against the war and against the killing of (hundreds) of thousands of people and then grows up 180 degrees opposite of that and becomes a “one man army” against society and kills many people on an individual basis? What turned him into this I wonder?
I think Dr. Michael Stone has a good idea in his work that if you can classify a person and study them and learn what influenced or turned them into serial/torture killers it may do society good as a whole – rather than just turning criminals loose on society to inflict whatever harm they will and say afterwards, “Oh well the system failed – what more could we have done or say – the psychiatrists found him to be “cured” ?”
I think your family going far back may have been connected to royalty. Just about all the royals from whatever country spoke French as their lingua franca. Maybe it was safer, even in those earlier times, to not be identified as Jewish. A person might live longer! The pograms date back quite far into the past.
All those victims – may they rest in peace.
Kathy from Arizona
Steve: “A promise is a promise to a person of the world” — the words of the anonymous telegram found in Elizabeth Short’s effects — sounds like it could be translated from a French source (book/poem/song). A “person of the world” has almost no currency as an idiom in English but “les gens du monde” (society people, cosmopolitan, etc.) is idiomatic in French — e.g., one can easily Google up several instances from Baudelaire. I’ve tried finding the complete sentence using Google (including a few variations such as promesse/voue/serment, personne/gens/citoyen). No luck so far, but someone with access to a full-text database of French literature such as ARTFL miight do better. I think it’s an interesting loose end. -LW
LW: I agree. This one (the telegram to ES in ’44) has haunted me since the get go. As mentioned in BDA June always told me that “George his whole life considered himself a person of the world.” That is why the telegram jumped out at me when I read it. The question being was this just something GHH told ES in conversation, and she wanted to become, like him, “a person of the world.” Or was it from some specific quote. (Or just simply something he plagiarized/borrowed from his favorite poet, Baudelaire’s writings?) I too have Googled the quote and tried to find a “thoughtprint” but so far NADA. I still think it will eventually show up. Sometimes I wonder if my father EVER had an original thought? Will give an example of this in my next blog, which is along these lines and on point. skh
Interestingly, “a person of the World” expression is very common in Russian and would be easily understood by Soviet Jewish intelligentsia. In 1945-53 Stalin had a political campaign against “cosmopolitism”. It was anti-Semitic in nature, because Jews, in Stalin’s view, did not have any roots, which would make them “persons of the world” literally….
First time I ever heard that reference was from his wife, June Hirano Hodel. I recall her telling me, “Your father has always considered himself a person of the world.” That’s why it registered to me in the message to ES.
Steve: Should have added movies to that list of possible sources. Not sure how the war impacted showing of French movies, but no doubt LA had art houses back in the day. Maybe this pops up in some classic movie like Cocteau’s “L’éternel retour” or Marcel Carné’s “Les visiteurs du soir” — date night fodder for “person of he world” GHH? With the cryptic telegram we seem to be in the realm of the vows of lovers, courtly love, etc., which reinforces the idea of a French source. Perhaps GHH thought to play Pygmalion with ES, she lost interest after a while, and he didn’t take it too well… -LW
There is a similar article to the one about your father that was printed in the San Fransisco Call on September 27th, 1913, with the title: “GIRL GENIUS OF 8 IS PLAYER, COMPOSER, MUSIC PUBLISHER” about a little girl from Oakland named Elizabeth Short. She was thought to ” claim the distinction of being the youngest musical publisher on the Pacific coast.” The Sacramento Daily Union also printed an article two years later on September 24th, 1916, with the title: “YOUNG PIANIST TO APPEAR HERE—-Elizabeth Short, Ten Years Old, Will Be Presented at Tuesday Clubhouse October 13.” This article describes this Elizabeth Short as “the youngest pianist on the Pacific coast.” How ironic!