April 12, 2019
DINNER WITH JOHN JOHN
In film director David Lynch’s new book, Room to Dream (Random House 2018) he presents us with a never before revealed anecdote that directly relates to the Black Dahlia Murder investigation. Here it is in his own words from Room to Dream, pages 353-354:
(The reference to this dinner meeting can also be found repeated in an article in the Hollywood Reporter published on 2/22/19. Here is the link to that article.)
(SKH Note- David Lynch’s reference here to meeting and having dinner with LAPD Detective John St. John must have occurred sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. To my knowledge, St. John and his partner Det. Kirk Mellecker (who I trained in Hollywood Division in the early Seventies) did not receive the case until then. It was handed down through the years from Harry Hansen, to Pierce Brooks, to Danny Galindo, and eventually to John St. John and Kirk Mellecker. I documented my lengthy interview with Detective Mellecker in BDA and he indicated he and John St. John tried to “look at the case in 1976 and 1977 and then we got hit with the Hillside Strangler and everything after that until the late eighties.” )
As a rule, I give scant credence to these decades-old, “Did you know this about the Black Dahlia Murder” stories.
Mostly, they are made from whole cloth, pure fabrications and are nothing more than, “he said this, she said that” myths with no real substance.
But, in Mr. Lynch’s case, I will admit to making an exception. I believe his anecdote is TRUE and ACCURATE.
Some years back I reenacted the drive from our Sowden/Franklin House to the crime scene in an attempt to determine the exact distance and drive time.
I chose January 16th (the day after Short’s body was found) so as to also establish the ambient lighting as it would have been in 1947. I began my drive from the rear alley behind our home on Franklin Avenue, at 6 a.m. in darkness. I drove due south on Normandie then west on what was then “Santa Barbara” (now Martin Luther King Ave) then north on Degnan Ave (which becomes Norton Ave) to the crime scene, stopping at 3815 S. Norton Ave. The drive took me 25 minutes and upon my arrival, it was still dark outside.
Based on witnesses’ statements of his seeing a man in a dark sedan at the location standing by his car for about four minutes I waited the same time and then drove north, heading back to the Franklin residence.
As I drove from the scene, it was still dark outside, but daylight broke within five to ten minutes of my departure from the scene and it was full daylight upon my arrival back at the residence.
A Trophy to Memorialize his “Masterpiece”
” Then he turns away and goes to his briefcase, pops it open, and takes out a beautiful, glossy black-and-white photo that he lays on the table in front of me. It’s a picture of the Black Dahlia lying in the grass, and it’s in mint condition.
…then suddenly I knew what it was. That picture was taken at night with a flash, and that opens up a whole realm of possibilities regarding that case.”
David Lynch, Room to Dream page 354
It makes total sense to me that my father would photograph his masterpiece. How could he not? The perfect Surrealist artwork –his Murder as a Fine Art had to be memorialized. To be expected.
But, the larger question is- How and when and where did LAPD come into possession of this photograph?
As I see it, there can be only one answer. An answer as dark and macabre as the crime itself.
Like his other letters and taunts following the crime, GEORGE HODEL MAILED THE PHOTO TO THE POLICE.
UPDATE April 18, 2019
SKH Note- George Hodel fancied himself a skilled artist/photographer and in his teens in the 1920s took numerous art photos in and around Los Angeles. He even had a “one-man-show” in Pasadena circa 1924. (I will be displaying more than a dozen of these photographs in the future publication of “The Early Years.” Here is a sample of some self-portraits he took from that time period. along with their handwritten titles in as we can see GHH’s familiar block letters.
Because of his love of photography, George had his own DARKROOM at the Sowden House where he developed and processed all of his own photographs.
From this new information to my mind, it is highly likely that after taking his “night photo of Elizabeth Short” at the crime scene, (a trophy to immortalize his “masterpiece”) he returned home and processed and mailed a print directly to the press and police. This would be something that LAPD would keep secret and likely insist if the press had a copy that they NOT REVEAL IT.
Incredibly, this act would remain secret for seventy-two years and not be revealed until David Lynch’s public disclosure in his book and magazine article.
Below is a 1969 diagram of the interior of the Sowden/Hodel residence showing the location of George Hodel’s “DARKROOM.”
The word “darkroom” can be seen as a typed inclusion on the original survey diagram.
This is unchanged from the 1940s and would remain as a darkroom until the remodel circa 2003 by the new owner, Xorin Balbes.