Anatomy of a Podcast: Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia- DNA Test Answers Question of Fauna Hodel’s Paternity
April 6, 2019
Los Angeles, California
I have just completed listening to the final episode (No. 8 “You Only Have One Family”) of the podcast, “Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia.
My connection to this story began exactly eight months ago, to the day, by way of an email from an individual I had never heard of, he identified himself as, Zak Levitt, a documentarian.
Here is that original email:
August 6, 2018
My name is Zak Levitt, and I’m a documentary filmmaker. You may have heard from family members that I am endeavoring to tell the TRUE STORY of your complicated family, and of course, The Black Dahlia. However, I want to make sure that what I am setting out to do was properly represented to you. This is going to be all factual, nothing fictional, and your experiences and investigation are crucial to the story. The fictional series, “I Am The Night” on TNT has no bearing on my story. You can look at it like the two OJ series that came out around the same time period. One was a fictionalized account for FX, and the other was the true documentary series for ESPN.
I would really love the opportunity to speak to you over the phone to discuss.
Thank you very much,
I advised Mr. Levitt that I was currently working with others on putting together my own ten-part documentary as a miniseries for television with the intent to “tell the true story.”
My initial response was a “thank you, but I’m going to pass on any involvement in the podcast.”
Zak persisted and followed up with several lengthy phone calls that included …”my main interest lies in the “why” you wrote BDA. This story is going to be a more sprawling look at the family, and how events can have a ripple effect through the generations, rather than only focusing on the Black Dahlia.”
…OK. I’m speaking to so many members of your family. You’ve made so many appearances to speak over the years. It would be strange not to have you as even a small part of this story. I’m hoping we can figure something out. Looking forward to discussing further. Zak.
…Following up again. Steve, I’m hoping at the very least that I can interview you, one on one, either in person or over the phone, about your findings/investigation detailed in your books. We can stick to what you’ve already written or spoken about. I want to make sure that the facts are represented correctly.
I responded back to Zak by email:
…”Give me a call at my home number and we can discuss further. I’m not really clear on what your project is and we can take it from there depending. Best, Steve”
Zak and I had an approximate ninety-minute conversation and after hearing how well backgrounded and prepared and knowledgeable he was,–I was hooked.
I agreed to do the family interviews and provide him with any and all material he required to in his words “to make sure the facts are represented correctly.”
The rest is, as they say, HISTORY.
I’m looking at my Gmail In-Box “Sent and Received” with Zak Levitt and incredibly it shows an exchange total of some “587 Emails” over the past eight months. (Quick math- Figure half his/half mine so that’s 294 emails each over 240 days= 1.2 emails per day. (That’s a far distance from, “I’ll pass.”)
To be clear, my “involvement” related to, in Zak’s words, “making sure the facts were represented correctly.” This would solely relate to my (Steve Hodel’s) personal knowledge of our family history, and my Black Dahlia investigation. I had no contact with other family members, so each interview was coming directly from that individual Hodel family member and was his or her subjective/objective knowledge as they experienced it, without influence from others.
Zak as Executive Producer, documentarian, writer, and editor then was tasked with the Herculean job of trying to take all of the hours of individual interviews (from my count ten Hodel family members along with another half dozen or more outside “experts”, and archival audio, and trying to piece them all together in a cohesive eight-hour podcast.
To my mind, and apparently based on the massive number of positive “reviews and comments” (over six-thousand on iTunes alone) along with the National No. 2 ranking for the Root of Evil Podcast, Zak’s production received extremely high acclaim and resulted in a massive amount of listener “downloads.” My congratulations to Zak and to all of the hard work he put into making the production as a huge success.
As many readers know, Zak’s production was hosted by my niece Fauna’s two children, (my grand nieces) Rasha and Yvette along with major cooperation and participation from their aunt/my niece, Deborah Elizabeth (Fauna II). Also, interviewed throughout the eight episodes were my three nephews, Peace, Love and Joy Hodel, as well as my brother, Kelvin “Kelly” Hodel. Each one of them providing their unique and intensely personal insights into a major dysfunctional “pattern of abuse.”
As presented in its entirely the “True Story of the Hodel Family” as told by individual family members is almost beyond comprehension and the dysfunctionality is horrific and heartbreaking.
For myself, as the second eldest living Hodel family member, listening to my nieces and nephews “tell their individual experiences being raised by their mother,” Tamar, my half-sister was beyond heartbreaking.
I had no idea, no comprehension of just how much each one of them, Deborah Elizabeth (Fauna II), Peace, Love, and Joy had individually suffered at the hands of their mother, Tamar.
My brothers and I had experienced child neglect and had been regularly subjected to our mother’s alcoholism and on at least three separate occasions as young children were “taken into protective custody by law enforcement” and placed in Juvenile Hall. But, that abuse was different. It was our mother harming herself and consequently we three boys needing to be protected by the State and be provided food and lodging.
That was far different from the kind of harm that was forced upon Tamar’s four children. Their abuse, their harm was DIRECT. It was ongoing, active and immediate.
My niece and nephews suffered far more than I could have imagined and to hear it related by each one of them, tore at my heart. I had never cried for them before because I never knew.
Listening to them tell their individual stories of child neglect, sexual abuse and being raised in a home without experiencing any real love was painful.
When I heard it from their mouths on the podcast for the very first time it was visceral, it hurt, and it hurts me now.
All four children had it BAD. Fauna II the worst.
I knew from my later research into my half-sister’s life that Tamar was a lousy mother, had elevated manipulation to an “art form” and that all of her children had suffered. But, until hearing it out of their own mouths, I just didn’t know how bad it had really been for them.
The Cycle of Abuse was passed on from father to daughter and Tamar passed it on to all four of her children. Her first child Fauna, adopted at birth, and raised by a Black family in Sparks, Nevada, who renamed her “White Patty” was as correctly observed by her daughters, “Saved by the Ghetto.”
Of course, Fauna, and her two daughters, Yvette and Rasha had their own heartbreaks and difficulties spawned as a result of Tamar’s lies that “Fauna’s father was Black.”
But, in a very real sense, that’s another story as told in Fauna’s own biography, “One Day She’ll Darken” and as later presented in the yet unreleased 1991 film, “Pretty Hattie’s Baby.”
The “Good News” as revealed in the Root of Evil podcast is that I believe the cycle of abuse IS NOW BROKEN.
Speaking for Tamar’s children, for Peace, for Joy, for Love, and for Deborah Elizabeth (Fauna II) it is my confident belief that all four are DOING NO HARM.
In adulthood, they, each in their own way have become strong and independent. They love their children and each has become a positive, caring human being.
I say, BRAVO to each one of you. Born to the DARKSIDE each one of you has independently walked through the fires and into the LIGHT. A huge hug and kiss to each of you.
And to Yvette and Rasha, who I know even less than my nieces and nephews, I say the same. Both of you are clearly survivors. You too have been tested and survived.
Thank you for hosting the Hodel Story. Both of you were amazing and your contributions cannot be underestimated.
Together, the two of you, with the untimely death of your mother in 2017, “carried on for your mother in a time of great grief and sadness.”
Still, you were able to bring Zak’s words to the public and give them Life and Feeling and Love.
Hugs and kisses to you and your loved ones from a great-uncle who is most proud of your contributions to the Hodel Story.
Finally, one very important question needs to be addressed and answered as relates to both the TNT miniseries “I Am The Night” and its companion podcast, “Root of Evil.”
Was Dr. George Hill Hodel the father of Fauna Hodel?
We are now at the end of the podcast and the question remains?
This comes as a surprise. Why? Because, to my knowledge, that very question was asked and answered during the research and investigation conducted by Executive Producer, Zak Levitt.
As I understand it, both Tamar’s and Fauna’s children, my nieces and nephews were all present in one room at the conclusion of Episode Eight.
They were gathered together and asked the following question–Do you believe George Hodel was the father of Fauna Hodel?”
Some answered, “yes” others “no.”
After having been given Fauna Hodel’s DNA profile, Zak Levitt presented Rasha and Yvette and their aunt and uncles the opportunity to find out the answer together. The results proved to a scientific certainty that Fauna Hodel’s parents were not related, therefore Dr. George Hill Hodel was not the parent of Fauna.” He was NOT HER FATHER.
This information was originally intended to be included and revealed to the public in the final Episode Eight of Root of Evil, but was removed or omitted apparently at the request of TNT?
2018 DNA Test Eliminates George Hodel as Parent of Fauna Hodel
Steve: I can see why the IATN screenwriters went with the father-is-the-grandfather angle — so perfect, dramatically — and can’t really blame them. However, unlike the story arc of Fauna confronting GHH in the Sowden House in the 1960s, it’s not obviously fiction. It’s as well you’ve squelched this notion before it takes hold as mythology. -LW
Before listening to this podcast I was sure
I was certain to win the my childhood was more F up than yours contest. I am so wrong. The most astonishing thing is how well all of you guys turned out.
The Hodel Family is truly amazing. When you went to juvenile hall was it in Lincoln hights? thank you keep up the great work,
STEVE WPR: Well, happily hand over the MFU Family Trophy back to you and take the Silver Medal, but guess it’s too late now.
Initially book downtown LA Juve then transferred to the dreaded, MAC LAREN HALL in El Monte. (Finally closed down in 2003) Not a cool place. Also, were sent to a place called “Matthews Cottage” which I have very little memory of other than picking walnuts in a grove at the property. (Or was that MacLaren?) Thanks for the kind words. Steve
Yes, the question is answered but the answer was not shared publicly… why?
It would seem one of the seminal questions in both TNT’s fictional “I Am The Night” and the ‘true-story’ account of the Hodel family members in Cadence13’s podcast: “Root Of Evil” is that of the parentage of Fauna.
For Cadence13 to have answered that question via DNA testing, which positively rules out George Hill Hodel as her possible father, and then not reveal the result is baffling.
It seems very strange and beyond baffling that the recording of episode eight would not reflect the DNA result as presented, in person, to the Hodel family members.
It is understood that TNT’s “I Am The Night” is fictional dramatic entertainment where truth was not the watchword; whereas Cadence13’s podcast, “Root Of Evil”, was billed as a true story. I can also understand TNT’s desire to allow the fictional assertions, allusions, or inferences in “I Am The Night” to stand that George Hodel is, could be, or might have fathered a child (Fauna) with his daughter Tamar.
That said, it makes no sense that TNT would want the truth edited out of Cadence13’s episode eight’s podcast regarding who was or was not Fauna’s father.
Perhaps TNT can provide an answer as to why they apparently did not want the DNA evidence proving George Hodel did not father Fauna to be made public in episode eight of “Root Of Evil”.
Yes, I too am curious as to the answer. I’ve gotten to know the producer, Zak Levitt through conversations and emails as a man of high integrity, as demonstrated in his product, the Root of Evil podcast.
I have to believe Zak fought hard to present what he knew was not only a burning question to/for Hodel Family Members, but also to his listeners.
Clearly, this will not be the last word on this subject.
I am glad to hear that you are working on a doc about the true story. Looking forward to it.
I was very encouraged that the cycle of abuse seems to have stopped. Great podcast.
Hey Mr. Hodel.
If it is not too personal, could you tell us anything about your father’s youth? I just have a feeling that he came from old L.A. money.
Also, are In-N-Out burgers really as good as they say?
Matthew M: My father’s youth is “complicated” and plays a very important part in what will become his unfolding psychopathy starting at a very early age. Just too much to cover here, but a few bullet points: musical prodigy age 9 (piano); one of “Terman’s Termites” with a stratospheric IQ of 186, Cal Tech student at age 14, and on and on. See BDA for complete details.
Not really “LA Old Money”. His father and mother came through Ellis Island circa 1903 from Russia, via Paris where she was a practicing dentist. The source of their money is cloudy at best. Grandparents comfortable, but not really super rich. But, well off enough to have a top Russian architect come from Moscow to build their private residence in South Pasadena in 1923.
And, as to your final question. In and Out Burgers are pretty damn good. Let’s give them a 7 on the 10 scale. Regards, Steve
Really enjoy all your hard work Mr. Hodel. Would love to see you do a podcast on everything you have gathered on the case and murder of Elizabeth Short, told through your eyes.
Sandy L: Thanks Sandy. Working on that. Hoping to do a ten-part miniseries Documentary to tell the whole story and all the crimes. Maybe it will happen this year or next? Best, Steve
Would love a ten-part miniseries documentary from you. I just finished the podcast (and reading all of your books) and it is all totally fascinating (the TNT special was not good but at least it sparked my interest to learn more). I am particularly struck by the connections of your dad to the killings in San Francisco. Too many coincidences for it not to be him. Very interested in hearing what the CNN documentary on “Very Scary People” say about Zodiac this coming Sunday night. Looking forward to your next book.
Derek W: Wow, fast reader. Quite an undertaking. Yes, while I haven’t seen the miniseries, I think the overall reviews are “just fair.” Have no knowledge of the “Very Scary People” but have to assume since no contact from them that GHH is probably not mentioned? Best, Steve
Hi Uncle Steve: I am insulted that TNT insisted that we remove the DNA test results from OUR PODCAST….when clearly the movie was fiction ” based on a true story” why continue the biggest lie of all? Haven’t we been through ENOUGH as a family????
Hi Fauna Elizabeth:
Yes, very disappointing. I know that producer Zak Levitt at Cadence 13 pushed hard to keep it in the final episode as he was all about getting the TRUTH out, whatever that might be. I can’t help but wonder since the “I Am the Night” miniseries is going on sale for $15.00 that the decision makers at TNT (who sponsored the podcast) may have been concerned. You know, the famous quote from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.” When the Senator after telling the real story of what happened and giving it to the press, the Editor say’s “This is the West Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=363ZAmQEA84
Do you think that the fear of the truth being released to the public on the podcast (DNA PROVES DR. GEORGE HODEL NOT THE FATHER OF FAUNA HODEL) might hurt their box office sales for the soon to released streaming video might have impacted their decision? One can only wonder. Love, Uncle Steve
Hi Steve, I just listened to the podcast and after reading the above am not surprised that they went with the GHH as the father scenario. I agree that leaving it out was purely for financial reasons. Unfortunately, in the end they want the juiciest of stories. Hmm. What a let down if George Hill Hodel was not the father of Fauna 1. Either way, I commend your hard and extensive work in peeling the layers of your dad’s homicidal actions. Please remember your own soul though, don’t get too caught up in someone else’s evil.
Julie: Thanks, but suggesting Fauna was George’s daughter in a fictional account is one thing. When you present “the true stroy” and it is 99.9% accurate and includes the truth that the DNA tests were conducted and the results absolutely proved George was NOT HER FATHER and the executive producer of the show conducts the interview and presents the evidence to the family and records it for public airing, it should have not been removed from the episode. The public has the right to know the truth of it. So, to my mind, whoever made the decision to overrule/override the producer Zak Levitt, for TNT “business interests” made a wrong decision.
I’ve been a fan of yours since reading your first book in 09! I admire how you put everything out there, how you review and revisit the evidence, most importantly for the purpose of healing and breaking the cycles of family violence, abuse, and trauma. Incest, family violence , and neglect devastated my mom, and the patterns of abuse and trauma continued to the younger generation. I feel so much of it stems from a “Superiority Complex”, which grows from inner anger. They treat others as inferior and the abuser is protecte! (Not the victims of abuse), thus the cycle is allowed to continue. I didn’t think I would like the “I am the Night”, but I did. I hope you have watched it by now, esp the last 2 episodes. Although it’s fictional as you correctly point out, I feel it gives a hopeful ending as “Fauna” is not lost anymore. She’s free from the hold of Hodel. I look forward to your ongoing work.
Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
No, still haven’t seen any of the I Am The Night episodes.
No real desire to for multiple reasons. Both Fauna and Tamar have passed away now.
Stay tuned, more to come. A miniseries documentary and “The Early Years” which will present what I believe are my father’s murders from the 1920s and 1930s. Best, Steve
The surrealist art connection was a revelation to me. I had often wondered about the deliberate staging of the Black Dahlia’s corpse. The surrealist connection was a real revaluation to me.
I was wondering, do you believe that GHH saw his art pieces as temp installations or do you believe that he would have photographed his victims or “artwork” in order to make sure he could share it with what he considered his surrealist artist peers?
In the case of the Dahlia, the media and law enforcement performed that task for him, but in any of the other murders?
I feel badly for the children of your sister, but I also believe that the psychological, physical, and emotion damage, she suffered, and the betrayal by every adult in her life from earliest memory…..It’s trauma to horrible to imagine. Tamar and her inability to understand or show love? It’s textbook survival technique of the mind. I believe she was cognizant of that fact, when she split the difference between races. She was helpless to change it. And indeed it would have taken many years, much work, counseling and therapy to repair a psyche as badly shattered as hers. She seemed to have seen the value in her children, much as she had learned was valuable about herself. No man seemed to ever stand by her. Not one of her children’s father’s. Not her mother, not her father. . She was ill equipped, alone and it’s heartbreaking. Especially for her children.
Her second daughter, Fauna 2, which that name. She needs her own name really. She seems to still need support and help. I hope she is still working to heal. And I hope she gets her own name and identity. How bout Butterfly 🦋 Or Flora 💐?
Carrie: Thanks for kind words. Much appreciated. Yes, I agree that Fauna II (Deborah Elizabeth) received the most psychological damage from Tamar, though the impact on my three nephews was also horrendous. But, all four are survivors and seem to have powered through it and have become positive, effective adults. Let’s hope it ends NOW.
As to my father’s “Murder as a Fine Art” crime signatures, they are complicated, intense and quite varied, through the decades. One really needs to read all five books to see how they unfolded in different ways with different victims. But, Elizabeth Short, without question was his “masterpiece” and we have just in recent weeks learned that he did apparently, photograph it as a “trophy” and for his fellow surrealist to view and enjoy as well as sending it to either the press and the police as a taunt. See my recent blog below.
You can also use the search box at my blog site http://www.stevehodel.com/blog an enter keywords such as “surrealism” or “Man Ray” etc. to obtain additional information.
I can’t get the podcast to play on any platform. Any ideas why?
Sara: Should work? Try this link. If not maybe check with people at Cadence 13?
To Fauna Elizabeth, I just finished the tragically fascinating story of your family.
I am amazed at your strength and resilience. I have been impressed with your grace, forgiveness, and honesty.
I understand your forgiveness of your sister but it saddened me that she was upset with you taking on her name. It seems a childish grudge to hold especially in light of your abusive upbringing.
Thank you for sharing your story in hopes that anyone else in danger will find help.
Did the police ever investigate the basement of the house where they heard the screams and then the sounds of digging? Did anyone investigate that? I have listened to the podcast, but haven’t read your books (yet). Maybe that question is answered there? Just curious if there are, or were, bodies there..
Yes, it is covered in my books.
Turns out the DA investigators after hearing the online probable murder of the unidentified woman in the basement (after taking no action to rescue her during their live stakeout) did suspect a body or bodies might be buried in the basement. The secret DA/Hodel Black Dahlia Files did contain an investigative follow-up report (copied and included in BDA II) showing they did interview a plumber who had serviced the residence basement post stakeout and they asked him, “Did you see any signs of digging in the basement?” The plumber replied that “He wasn’t looking for anything like that and just did his job clearing the pipes and left.” So, clearly they suspected bodies might have been buried in the basement, but took no further action and no indication that they made any physical inspection. Of course then, sixty-years later we have the cadaver dog, “Buster” alerting to human remains on the property and soil samples confirming the presence of human remains. All forwarded to today’s LAPD whose only response is, “We are too busy with current investigations to take a look at old cases.” Best, Steve
Man, this story is just incredible. Thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to checking out your books. Loved the podcast.
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the podcast. Here’s a link to the suggested reading order. Book 6 “In The Mesquite” would be the last to read not pictured at just published.
Also, what order do I need to read the books in?
Sorry didn’t see your email. Here is the suggested reading order:
Best reading order is: BDA I, II Most Evil I, II, BDA III, In The Mesquite, The Early Years Part I then Part II.
After listening to Root of Evil a second time (my all-time favorite true crime podcast), I explored your blog again and found this entry. I can’t believe I never heard they found out GHH is not Fauna’s father! Could they not do a bonus episode, even now, to explain this turn of events?
Is there any knowledge of who the real father was beyond an Italian man (as read in your May blog)? If not, reverse DNA research could be done to figure him out and his role in this saga. Maybe one of your dad’s frequent guests? It would make a great addition to the podcast as referenced above. More research to do! I have done some of this reverse ancestry research and find it fascinating.
So many more questions: I am a bit confused trying to remember but it seems that Tamar let Fauna believe this paternity lie until both of their deaths, is that right? Why do you think Tamar carried on this lie with Fauna that GHH was her father if she loved and respected him so much in spite of all the incest? I’ve heard she was manipulative; but what was the payoff in saying this? Having all others hate him while she looked forgiving and kind? That would’ve required some deep-seated hatred. Could it be done as some sort of proof that he did have sex with her when she wasn’t believed the first time? Wasn’t Fauna told this lie while GHH was still alive?
Please live to a ripe old age. So much more to research with this man. Are there any private diaries, letters, etc of Man Ray out there or any info from other surrealists that state they may have suspected the Black Dahlia was his work?
Just to be clear, no Tamar always maintained the truth of it and told Fauna the truth when they connected in adulthood. Tamar told Fauna her father was an Italian male in San Francisco who gave her liquor and raped her. This was confirmed by the DNA testing conducted during the making of the Root of Evil podcast and was set to be the final “reveal” in the last episode but TNT pulled it thinking that it was better for them and the I AM THE NIGHT miniseries to let the public and viewers think that maybe GHH was her father. (Fiction rather than the Truth.) I also personally think that Fauna may have wanted it left mysterious and up in the air as to who her real father might be, as it plays well in the Chinatown scenario, “She’s my father, she’s my sister.”