New York Times Bestselling Author Steve Hodel

George Hodel, Surrealism, Man Ray, Dali and New Zodiac Connections

February 20, 2019
Los Angeles, California
It keeps happening!  (It is what my dear brother Mike Hodel on his KPFK program ‘Hour 25’ used to call- “The Group Mind.”)
This email received from a reader, Todd Jaeger, on Jan 30, 2019:
Maybe I’m just seeing things after reading your books, the way one sees all the cars on the road that are the same as the one you just bought, but I was looking at a website about a Man Ray exhibition at the Copley Galleries in 1949 and one particular photograph stood out. About six images down the page (link below) is a photograph of two pieces, one is the well-known “The Lovers” piece and the other appears to depict a woman with arms over head and a surgeon’s scalpel cutting across the body with a stream of blood on the floor. I don’t remember if you made reference to this in your books, if so then I’m just late to the party.
Above we see Man Ray’s “Black Widow” (1915) painting on exhibition in Beverly Hills at his close friend, William Copley’s Gallery circa 1949. Man Ray’s painting depicts a woman posed with her hands above her head in the Minotaur position. A bloody surgeon’s scalpel is bisecting her body with blood flowing out of her lower left leg. On the adjacent gallery wall we see Man Ray’s Les Amoureux “The Lovers”

Is it mere coincidence that these two artworks (The Minotaur and The Lovers) would be paired and placed together by George Hodel’s two close friends?
 As Todd Jaeger, correctly points out, in the gallery they are paired together, just as I believe my father had suggested in his macabre Black Dahlia crime signature, using a surgeon’s scalpel to carve the grotesque “Lover’s Lips” on the face  of his victim, then posing her in the Minotaur position as an homage to his friend Man Ray?
 Was the gallerist/artist William Copley and his good friend Man Ray, in the exhibition, just two years later, providing a very public yet secret homage back at George Hodel?  Was this their way of saying, “We Know”?

Also, let’s keep in mind that just prior to this exhibit Man Ray and Bill Copley had published their “Alphabet for Adults” (1948) which included a drawing of the interior of the Sowden/Franklin House as the letter Q for quarrel with the “L’Occuliste, (as an eye-witness, to the quarrels in the Hodel courtyard.)  Man Ray gifted his “Occuliste” (Witness)  sculpture to George Hodel in 1948, which would have been just shortly prior to this Beverly Hills exhibition at Copley’s Gallery.


+ Emak Bakia translates from the Basque language as, “Leave me alone.”
 On February 12, 2018 I received the following Email from a reader, “Alexander L”:
                                        Mr. Hodel,
There is a 1926 Man Ray short film titled “Emak Bakia”. The film can be found on YouTube. The film does not seem related in any way to the subject of the Dahlia killing, but at about 8:14 into this film, there appears a silhouette of a body, posed similarly to how Short’s body was positioned. The silhouette also appears segmented or divided at the arms, leg, and between the legs. Maybe you have already seen this image from the Man Ray film I am referencing.
I thanked Alex for the reference and yes, I had seen the early (1926) Man Ray experimental film.
However, I had not reviewed it in many years and went to the 8:14 position identified by Alex.
Not only is the woman “segmented” but she is literally posed in the Minotaur position and physically bisected on screen.
See for yourself, I have edited the video to show just that section.

emak bakia fnl

Thank you, Alex. I totally missed this in my earlier viewings. I am continually grateful to readers like you that keep adding to the mass of evidence.

For full viewing of Emak Bakia Man Ray film click HERE.  (16 minutes) 


Once again, a reader/friend comes through with a startling “new clew.”
This email came from a friend and fellow investigator, Karen Smith, retired  Major Case Detective formerly with the Jacksonville Florida, Sheriff’s Office.
January 17, 2019
Hi Steve!
Don’t know if you’ve seen this before, but it’s a 1935 Man Ray photo titled “Laboratory of the Future”. If you zoom in, you’ll see the Zodiac symbol on the back wall, and it looks like the table below the sphere has painted symbols of the Zodiac constellations/animals on it. Thought you might find it interesting. 😉
Here’s the Man Ray photo image Karen sent me which I enlarged for clarity:

“Laboratory of Future (1935)                                           Enlarged
The obvious question:
 What is the Zodiac symbol (or rather, what would become the Zodiac symbol in 1968-9) doing in the background of a photograph taken by Man Ray in 1935?
Why would George Hodel choose that symbol, as his taunting crime signatory and call himself “Zodiac”?
What is his connection to that symbol pre-zodiac?
Well, as briefly mentioned in my book, MOST EVIL , Chapter 21, page 240, here is one possible answer:

Dali’s Secret Society: Zodiac Group 

(A talk was given on January 3, 2019 by Shaina Harkness, The Dali Museum Librarian. )
“I was going to succeed by having them come and lean on me”—Dali, discussing his Secret Society, the Zodiac Group. …The Zodiac Group. In 1932 Gala [Dali’s wife] concocted an ingenious marketing plan. She created a group of 12 society figures, artists and royalty, to provide Dali with a monthly stipend in exchange for work created during their given month. For this talk Harkness has unearthed new research, shedding light on just who these Zodiac collectors were, how they interacted with Dali, and which Dali works they acquired. Come and learn about this remarkable marketing plan, these famous members, and how Dali thrived amongst the elite.
The below excerpt is from an article, “Inside Art” by Carol Vogel from the New York Times, February 24, 1995. The article describes the discovery of an original Dali painting found and purchased in a Thrift-Shop for $40.00.  The subject of the painting, “Portrait of the Marquis de Cuevas.”

“…Research turned up more information about the painting’s subject. “The Marquis was one of the Zodiac Group, which was started in France in 1932 and consisted of 12 collectors who paid a monthly sum to Dali and in return, each received one painting a year,” said David Norman, a vice president in Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art department. “Mr. de Cuevas was an elegant, cultured man who had a dance troupe and who was married to Mary Rockefeller Strong.”
The relevance to us, of course, is THE ZODIAC GROUP.  Twelve patrons supporting Dali in Paris, 1930.
Man Ray, friend to fellow surrealist Dali and living in Paris in the 1930s certainly would have known, and likely photographed most of the secret members of The Zodiac Group.
In 1935 Man Ray took the below cover photograph of Dali that appeared on Time Magazine.
     Man Ray Dali Cover Photo 1936                      Dali and Man Ray “Hanging Out” 1945  

“Art of Radio: It Reminds Dali of Wormy Apples and Dismembered Torsos”
Life Magazine, January 1, 1945
I believe that my father’s knowledge of this long forgotten “Zodiac Group” could well be the source for his choosing and naming himself, “ZODIAC.”
In resuming his macabre serial murders, and transforming his former 1940s self as “Black Dahlia Avenger” George Hodel reinvented himself in 1960s San Francisco selecting a new pseudonym, “Zodiac.”  A renewed urban terrorist, continuing his serial crimes just as he had some twenty years prior.  More secret taunts to new locations,  using cryptic symbols again taken from surrealist’s art, this time he would honor and support Dali, his homage making himself the silent thirteenth member of the former Secret Society known as—The Zodiac Group.    
Many thanks to my reader-super sleuth email contributors:  Todd Jaeger ((“The Black Widow”), Alexander L. (Emak Bakia); and Karen Smith (“Laboratory of the Future”).




  1. Luigi Warren on February 20, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Steve: At this point the $64K question might be whether Elizabeth Short was the model for the L’EQUIVOQUE paintings. Certainly looks highly suspicious. Maybe there are still more clues to that to be found, perhaps buried in the special collections of the Getty or the Fondazione Marconi in Milan. -LW

    • Steve Hodel on February 21, 2019 at 1:54 am

      LW: Absent some further documentation we may never know for sure if Elizabeth Short was, in fact, the model for L’Equivoque in 1943, but I do believe what we know is circumstantially compelling. Especially with the newspaper articles from 1944 confirming she modeled for at least two paintings that year for a local artist, Charles Smith, who confirmed he painted Elizabeth Short’s person in Hollywood and even provided names/locations for the individuals he sold his artwork to. My guess is she was given the fancy hat they found at the bus depot storage as payment for her modeling? As I recall there was some mention by her to the French’s in San Diego about “knowing an important person in Beverly Hills.” (Add to that the identical poster Man Ray did in ’69 of the Woman “The Minotaur”/Unsaleable, posed with arms above her head and her blood flowing out to form the body of the Minotaur. Circumstantial Yes. Compelling, Yes.

      • Luigi Warren on February 21, 2019 at 8:06 pm


        A Man Ray diary containing notes for artworks from the pre-war years exists, and at least couple of pages (showing ideas and sketches for LA JUMELLE) are online. Maybe something similar still exists in a collection somewhere for the Hollywood period. Even just knowing exactly when L’EQUIVOQUE paintings (and, I’d add, THE MUG DRAWING) were made could be helpful.

        BTW, an interesting new find by Tom Voigt buttresses the case that the Zodiac was filching ideas from the 57th Street gallery scene in New York in the 1960s. Voigt’s found “concrete poetry” by noted minimalist artist Carl Andre that eerily resembles the Zodiac ciphers. Check out Andre’s “Dutch Poem” for a case in point. Seems a nice tie-in with the Land Art and Brian O’Doherty links already proposed.


      • Luigi Warren on February 28, 2019 at 6:03 pm

        Steve: The catalog for the major Man Ray retrospective at LACMA in ’66 includes L’Equivoque (1943), which was loaned by an extremely wealthy collector, Joseph Hirschhorn. I believe this would be the “binoculars” (jumelle) version, not the rendition with the “hash” face — I suspect Man Ray retained that latter version and gifted it to Fondazione Marconi before his death. I doubt Hirschhorn was “H,” given his East coast base, but I suppose it’s possible. Looks like the Smithsonian might have some correspondence between Hirshhorn and Man Ray from the period in its archives. Man Ray and Juliet flew in for the opening of the LACMA show, which started on October 25. Several other potential “hot button” Man Ray works were on display, and if GHH was visiting LA at the time (as he would have to have been to commit the Bates murder in Riverside on October 30), he presumably would have attended. -LW

        • Steve Hodel on February 28, 2019 at 6:13 pm

          LW: Thanks. I think that GHH’s reason to be in Riverside in ’67 was to obtain copies of his magazine FANTASIA from the University of Redlands, which had one of the few if not the only originals of his magazine from 1925. Of course, Riverside Community College is just 15 miles away and an easy half hour drive. steve

          • Luigi Warren on February 28, 2019 at 9:50 pm

            Steve: For the record, the “jumelle” (binoculars) version of L’Equivoque is now at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. And that might just be a picture of Elizabeth Short incorporating an “H”-omage to George Hodel. -LW

  2. new reader on February 20, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Steve
    I just finished your book “Most Evil”. I want to commend you on what great investagative research you did even though it must have been difficult to uncover these pieces. I began looking at Salvador Dali’s art. Apparition of a Fruit Dish and a face on the beach and several things stuck out to me. There on the beach is a pre-cut rope and a white handkerchief and it almost appears as if there is a small child lying in the background. This was painted before the Suzanne Degman murder I believe. Not sure if you made reference to this in the other books as I have yet to read them. But thought I would point this out.

    • Steve Hodel on February 21, 2019 at 1:32 am

      New Reader: Thank you for the email re. the two Dali paintings. No, I hadn’t seen these. Problem is there are so many surrealist potential crime links that deal with crime, misogyny, sadism, that they could almost ALL appeal to the mind of a psychopath like George Hodel whose special focus was “Murder as a Fine Art.” But, the precut cord as you say, was definitely used in at least five of his crimes. Thanks, Steve

      • New Reader on February 21, 2019 at 4:42 pm

        I truly believe your father is connected to/or could be the Zodiac, I’m confident that DNA will link this shortly. Especially with the “I am the Night” series out it will propel this more into the foreground. Although it is not totally factual it still creates interest, it was what drew me to this.

        In your book you referenced how your father may have gotten the symbol of the Zodiac. As I was looking further into Man Ray’ work today I stumbled upon his “Rayographs” There are several that stand out. see the below images

        Google MAN RAY – Rayograph (gyroscope, magnifying glass, pin)

        Also I was curious why he began his aggressive spree and taunting the police with Press correspondence in 1968. Was that year specific to him? Was there a trigger?
        In 1968 There was a DaDa, Surrealism and their Heritage Art Exhibit that toured NewYork, LA and Chicago. Many of his works would have been there. The Exquisite Corpse & Rayographs were.

        he catalogue of exhibits is below.

        Perhaps he was inspired to put on a show of his own. It is depraved, I know, and could be a coincidence but it did stick out to me.

        Good Luck

  3. Chuck on February 21, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Hey Steve,

    I was wondering. Two men and one woman were scene with Short the day before/of her murder. Your father and Sexton are the likely men, but what about the woman? Is there a chance that Barbara Sherman was it?

    • Steve Hodel on February 21, 2019 at 2:46 pm

      Chuck: Hi Chuck: Yep. Could have been Barbara, or a girlfriend of Sexton’s or ? Unfortunately, when I interviewed retired officer Meryl McBride she couldn’t give me any real description on either of the men or the woman. Just “two men and a woman.” Best, Steve

  4. D J Graffuis on February 27, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    Hello Steve,
    I have always been interested in the Unsolved Crime of Elizabeth Short, Just recently purchased your books, It is AMAZING the amount of time and research that you have put into your investigating, There is no doubt in my mind that you have finally put all the Pieces together for me and have made the Connection between Elizabeth Short and the Zodiac, BRAVO to you, And Also a huge thank you for your books , There is no doubt in my mind as to who did it, Thank you again for all the time you have spent with your investigation,
    Sincerely DJG.

    • Steve Hodel on February 27, 2019 at 11:58 pm

      DJ Graffuis: Thank you for the kind words. Much appreciated. Always great to hear from a reader that “gets it.” Regards, Steve

  5. Karen Conrad on March 2, 2019 at 2:44 am

    It’s WAY too late in the night for me to be doing this- but having perused this film a few times- DANG, but a flower comes up at 11:25 for several seconds. And I’m pretty sure it’s a type of- YES- dahlia.

    Just sorted through a bunch of images- Holland Bulbs has one in their catalog just like.

    Highly improbable I know, and I disregarded it the first two times I saw it as not believable- there are so many improbabilities to this entire case…

    Is there any chance your father had a copy of this film? Do we truly know how Elizabeth Short got the nickname to begin with? I’ve understood it to be a reporter’s colorful invention- but maybe there is another explanation- an image/notion in someone else’s head.

    • Steve Hodel on March 2, 2019 at 10:03 am

      Karen C: Thanks for the comment on this. Flowers were regularly used in surrealist art especially as relates to women. Probably need to stick with the probably apocryphal statement attributed to Sigmund Freud, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
      George Hodel didn’t name come up with the name “Black Dahlia” and the source on the name was famed journalist Jack Smith who claimed he contacted the owner of a Soda Fountain Store in Long Beach who informed him that “Soldiers called her the “Black Dahlia” when she came in the name coming from a popular movie from the summer of ’46 called “The Blue Dahlia.” Once the papers started using it, then GHH in his taunting letters followed calling himself the “Black Dahlia Avenger.”
      Elizabeth Short would have been just two years old when Man Ray made his experimental film, but yes, George Hodel would certainly have seen and been familiar with it if not in the 20s then certainly by the 1940s. Best, Steve

  6. Flint Liddon on March 5, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Steve. I’m relatively new to your website although I read your first book when it first came out. Reading the BD II now. If you have already considered and discussed this please disregard: the Halloween postcard is interesting in that on the back (BY ROPE, etc.) all letters are capital except the letter I which is always lower case i. The Dahlia letter number two shows the same trait in the word “SHERRiF”.
    In the Halloween card it is obviously intentional, IMO. The word “paradise” is obviously misspelled to substitute a “c” for an “s”.
    Maybe it was the late night and lack of sleep but the letters “i” and “c” seemed strikingly juxtaposed. Do you think any of the following has any importance? “i.c.” “Eyes see”. “I see”.
    Keeping in mind the eye motif. A message? Maybe it was the late night. Lol
    I really enjoy your books and website. At first I dismissed your theory out of hand regarding a connection between Dahlia and Zodiac. But now I’m really starting to wonder. Very interesting.
    By the way. Have you ever given any attention to “twilight language”. Given the surrealists interest in eastern religion coupled with their (sort of childish) penchant for hidden messages and codes that only “the initiated” can decipher, twilight language seems right up their alley.
    Thanks for everything.
    Flint Liddon

    • Steve Hodel on March 5, 2019 at 1:27 am

      Flint L: Thanks for the comments and observations. You might want to read Most Evil I and II after BDA II and finish with BDA III. Yes, he’s definitely playing games with his upper/lower printing in many of his messages. I haven’t looked and nor am I familiar with the “twilight language” but certainly could have been an influence in his thinking and or picked up from as you say, some surrealist useage. Regards, Steve

  7. Cecilia Brown on March 5, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Well, it’s getting weirder all the time. Maybe George Hodel really did do it. I’ve just looked at all the above art work. I’m thinking about the age of Salvator Dali in the early 70s. He was friendly with Alice Cooper when I was in the presence of the group. If Dali could walk and talk in the 70s and he was two years OLDER than Hodel maybe we shouldn’t toss off so lightly the idea that Hodel couldn’t have been Zodiac. And of course he was in fine shape to kill the Black Dahlia in the 40s.

    • Steve Hodel on March 5, 2019 at 10:38 am

      Cecelia B: Yes. Suggest you read Most Evil I and II for all the details. It all comes together. I expect if the ever get Zodiac DNA it will finally be proven since I have my father’s DNA. Best, Steve

  8. Flint Liddon on March 9, 2019 at 5:19 am

    Is it possible to find out if your father was a guest at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco at the time of Mr. Stine’ s Murder?
    Flint Liddon

    • Steve Hodel on March 9, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Flint L: Doubt any registered guest records go back fifty years. But, The St. Francis Hotel would have been the type of hotel GHH would have stayed at back then. In fact, back in 2003 publication, my half-sister Tamar describes an incident that occurred when our father met Michelle “Mamas and Papas” Phillips in 1967 at the “St. Francis Hotel” as they were about to appear in their first or an early concert at the Pan Pacific. I believe on this occasion Michelle was staying at the hotel, but dad did register and was a regular guest there on his visits to San Francisco.

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