Hollywood Fictional Miniseries “I Am The Night” Eclipses The Truth As Presented In Two Hodel True Story Family Biographies: “One Day She’ll Darken” and “Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder”
Only in Hollywood’s Dreamland using the words “Based On” or “Inspired By” can you see a simultaneous blocking (eclipse) of both the Sun and Moon. This rare phenomenon occurred on March 4, 2019, with the airing of TNT’s television miniseries, “I AM THE NIGHT,” Finale, Episode 6, “Queen’s Gambit.”
The dual eclipse, fortunately, was short-lived lasting less than an hour and has now mercifully “moved on” to allow sun and moonlight (truth) to again fall to the earth’s surface.
Full Disclaimer– I have not seen any of the six episodes of “I Am the Night” and based on comments from friends and family members, along with a few online reviews I’ve read, I doubt that I ever will. I did view a trailer, which was enough to tell me where they were going and what they had done.
Apparently, the IATN script took factual truths from my niece, Fauna Hodel’s biography, “One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel” (Outskirts Press 2008) along with biographical and investigative crime signatures and summaries from my book, “Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder” (Arcade 2003) and Skyhorse Press 2015) and presented them in a fictional six-part fabrication or “reimagining” of the truth.
For those that have seen the miniseries, and wonder what is true and what is fiction? Here is a partial list of biographical FACTS to “set the record straight”:
FACT– Fauna’s book “One Day She’ll Darken” published in 2008 ends with her meeting her mother, my half-sister Tamar.
FACT– Fauna never met her grandfather (my father) Dr. George Hill Hodel in his lifetime.
FACT– Fauna never visited our home in Hollywood, the Sowden/Franklin House until after George Hodel’s death in 1999.
FACT– Three “verbatim” letters attributed as written by my mother, Dorothy (“Dorero”) to Fauna’s adopted mother in Sparks, Nevada were never written. In Fauna’s biography, she invented them (though claiming they were true). I confronted Fauna in 2009 asking why she had detailed, lengthy untruths in a purported true biography? Her answer, “Well Steven, sometimes you have to take creative license in a story for dramatic effect.” The truth being, my mother never had contact with Fauna’s family in life, nor was she aware of Fauna or her story until meeting her only one time in 1974 after Fauna met her biological mother, Tamar.
FACT– Dr. George Hill Hodel never followed or surveilled Fauna in life, nor did he have anything to do with stopping the making of “Pretty Hattie’s Baby” a film documenting Fauna’s life story made in 1990 that was stopped in production due to “financial disputes.”
FACT– The film, “Pretty Hattie’s Baby”, Fauna’s biography, was completed in 1990. However, there was no reference or mention of the “Black Dahlia” nor was there any reference to my father being revealed as the killer, until my book was published twelve years later in 2003.
FACT– Dr. George Hill Hodel had nothing to do with the alleged Los Angeles murder of Fauna’s cousin, “Johnny” nor did he (nor I) have any knowledge of that crime. Nor do I to this day? Full name, location, circumstances?
FACT- The character “Jay Singletary” (Chris Pine) is purely fictional and had no real role in Fauna Hodel or George Hodel’s life or in the real Black Dahlia investigation.
FACT- The large “treatment room” in the basement where George is seen painting Fauna does not exist. There is no large room in the basement. Nada. This was filmed in an off location clinic or hospital? At the time George and my family lived there the basement was only a small storage area with dirt floors. Open support beams. Barely enough floor room to bury a body. George used the open dirt area to store a few boxes and it was the “punishment room” when we three boys misbehaved. “Go to the basement, I’ll be there shortly.” A leather razor strap on a nail was used to spank us.
FACT– Dr. George Hill Hodel sold the Sowden House in 1950 and never again returned to the residence. He was not in Los Angeles during the Watts Riots of August 1965 and was living full time in Manila, Philippines.
FACT– Dr. George Hill Hodel was not a “gynecologist” he specialized in the treatment of venereal disease. Mostly as Head of L.A. County Health Department and served as an administrator as “V.D. Czar.”
FACT– Dr. Hodel, though a major fan of surrealism, had no “surrealist” or “modern art” on display at the Sowden/Franklin House.
FACT– Tamar Hodel, my half-sister as relates to the Black Dahlia Murder only knew and was able to communicate two facts to her children, including Fauna after reuniting in 1972. Those two facts were:
FACT- a) Police detectives in transporting her to the court during the incest trial in 1949, mentioned: “they suspected her father, George Hodel might be the killer of the Black Dahlia.”
FACT- b) Her stepmother, Dorothy Hodel (my mother) told her about an incident where “George Hodel might have overdosed his personal secretary because she had written some manuscripts about him.” (Tamar had no further information or name on the secretary. Only later in my investigation post-publication 2003 and updated in a later edition, would I identify her as Ruth Spaulding and discover that LAPD investigated our father as a murder suspect in her OD.) These two facts, “George Hodel possible Dahlia Suspect and OD secretary) were the sum total of her personal knowledge about our father and all that Tamar could truthfully have communicated to her children prior to the publication and findings in my book, Black Dahlia Avenger.
FACT– In my conversations with Tamar as late as 2003, it was her stated belief that our father “did not kill Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia.” She informed me that she had spoken with “a good friend who is one of the best psychics in the world and he checked it out and said, ‘No, your father didn’t kill her.'” Tamar also in 1998 communicated by email online with Janice Knowlton, the author of, “My Daddy Is The Black Dahlia Killer” and was assured by Knowlton that her father, (also named George) “did it.”
Based on her communications with Janice Knowlton which were reinforced by Tamar’s psychic friend, Tamar believed our father innocent. (Of course, she had no idea of my ongoing investigation at that time and what I had discovered.)
FACT– Tamar was adamant, and never in doubt, that Fauna Hodel’s father was “a White, Italian Male in San Francisco who gave me drinks at his house and raped me after I returned and was transferred up there from Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles. “(November 1950).
FACT- George Hodel at that time of Fauna’s conception (early November 1950) was living in Territorial Hawaii and teaching at the University of Hawaii and could not have parented Fauna Hodel.
FACT– ROOT OF EVIL: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia was created to counterbalance the fictional TNT produced I AM The Night (IATN) television mini-series.
FACT- Root of Evil, a separate podcast, was produced by Zak Levitt and Cadence 13 though it was sponsored by TNT, who produced IATN. The final installment of the podcast, Episode No. 8 “You Only Have One Family” aired April 3, 2019, answered the question, “Was Dr. George Hodel the father of Tamar’s daughter, Fauna Hodel?”
FACT- Root of Evil Producer Levitt in a dramatic taped sit-down with Tamar’s children (Peace, Love, Fauna Elizabeth, Yvette, and Rasha) presented DNA results proving that GEORGE HODEL WAS NOT THE FATHER OF FAUNA HODEL TO A SCIENTIFIC CERTAINTY.
Incredibly, as reported in an earlier blog, TNT Producers after listening to the final episode of the Root of Evil, podcast, which included the sit-down Q&A with Tamar’s children and the revelations of the DNA results, insisted that those truths be removed from the already finalized podcast.
They insisted that the truth that Fauna was not the daughter of George Hodel be edited out as it currently existed in the final episode and withheld from public knowledge even though the final episode of the fictional TV series I Am The Night had aired one month prior on March 4, 2019, and the complete IATN series was CONCLUDED.
Root of Evil -The True Story, Episode 8, with the dramatic DNA results that Fauna was not George’s daughter was not scheduled to air for another full month- April 3, 2019.
Because of TNT’s insistence, that information (Fauna’s real parentage) be withheld from the public, sadly hundreds of thousands of listener’s (Root of Evil was rated NO. 1 podcast in the nation last week) who wanted to know the truth of it, have been denied.
See Fauna Elizabeth Wilson (Fauna II) Facebook comment below on April 11, 2019 and author/journalist Sheila Weller’s response to Fauna.
Deborah Elizabeth Wilson “Fauna II”
FACT- Tamar Hodel did not name both daughter’s “Fauna.” (“Fauna I and Fauna II”) Her daughter, Deborah Elizabeth Wilson Hodel chose to use the name “Fauna” on her own in later life for personal/psychological reasons as explained in the Root of Evil podcast. Tamar named her Deborah Elizabeth Wilson as shown on the birth certificate info below from Ancestry.com
The name “Elizabeth” likely was chosen by Tamar from an incident that occurred between Tamar and her father, George Hodel.
As documented in my book, BDA, Tamar was given a toy doll from her mother, Dorothy Barbe for her 12th birthday in March 1947. (Just two months after Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short’s murder) Tamar went to her father and asked him “to help her name her doll.” George told her to name the doll, “Elizabeth”, which she did.
Fast forward to Tamar’s marriage to folksinger, Stan Wilson and the birth of her real daughter some seven years later, in 1954 and we see on the birth certificate Tamar’s chosen name Deborah Elizabeth Wilson. Again, there are no accidents.
FACT- George Hodel DID NOT select and name Tamar’s first child, “Fauna.” The name was selected by Tamar, knowing her father had named her after a poem by Robinson Jeffers, decided to follow his lead, and unbeknownst to her father, who was in Hawaii and had no involvement in the birth, selected the name Fauna from a second poem written by Jeffers. George Hodel had no involvement in the selection or naming.
As indicated, hosts of the “Root of Evil” podcast Tamar’s daughters, Rasha and Yvette were present and interviewed at the sit-down DNA disclosure and at that time were informed “to a scientific certainty” that George Hodel was not their mother’s father.
While it has been nearly two months since both daughters were informed of the removal of the DNA results from the podcast, we are still waiting for both Rasha and Yvette, as the podcast’s ” spokeswomen” to voice their public condemnations of TNT’s decision to withhold the truth of their mother’s known paternity.
I am informed that both of Fauna’s daughters, as the primary hosts of “Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia” will soon be providing a public statement of condemnation as relates to TNT’s decision to withhold the truth that GEORGE HODEL IS NOT THEIR MOTHER’S FATHER and their further conviction that the public has the right to know that truth.
Rasha (lt) and Yvette (center) with their mother Fauna Hodel
(Fauna died from terminal cancer on September 30, 2017)
Closing Scene from I Am The Night Episode 6 Fauna Hodel (India Eisley) pointing a gun at George Hodel (Jefferson Mays)
In this scene Fauna asks him:
“AM I YOUR DAUGHTER GEORGE?
The room depicted in this scene is not located at the Hodel Franklin/Sowden House.
Appears to be a hospital or clinic room probably somewhere in L.A.?
AV/TV CLUB REVIEW
by Noel Murray 3/4/19
Fauna Hodel (India Eisley) in a scene from “I Am The Night” Finale Episode 6 “Queens Gambit”
“I Am The Night ends on a flat note”
It [“I Am The Night miniseries] also wildly fabricates incidents, to an extent that borders on the irresponsible, given that a lot of people who watch this show won’t know anything about the real Fauna Hodel, and will come away thinking she was actually abducted and nearly murdered by her own grandfather/father. None of that happened.
AV/TV Review of TNT’s miniseries, “I Am The Night”
I Am The Night is nominally based on the late Hodel’s memoir One Day She’ll Darken, which is why the miniseries is framed as her story. But it’s not her story. It’s only barely related to the narrative in One Day She’ll Darken. Aside from a scene or two, and aside from the basic facts of Fauna’s life—that she was given away at birth to a black woman in Nevada, raised as biracial, and later found out about her real family’s scandalous part when she went looking for her biological mother, Tamar—I Am the Night either ignores or grossly distorts its source material.
It also wildly fabricates incidents, to an extent that borders on the irresponsible, given that a lot of people who watch this show won’t know anything about the real Fauna Hodel, and will come away thinking she was actually abducted and nearly murdered by her own grandfather/father. None of that happened.
It might’ve better if Sheridan had ditched the book altogether. This becomes especially obvious in the finale, which tries (and largely fails) to pay off what’s been the weakest element of I Am The Night’s premise: Fauna’s search for self.
Every time I see a new update from you, I have to sit quietly with my mug of hot tea in hand and dissect all the new information! Ugh, I wondered why the TNT series (I did watch it, but with jaded eyes of course) purposely concocted the “Hollywood” version of this story, but I guess it was to be expected. I admire you, and all of your family members, so much for being steadfast in your truths.
Ellece Bill-Schmitz: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Best to you and yours. steve
Thanks, this clears up a lot of lingering questions I had about Fauna’s autobiography, especially as it relates to GHH. It’s a shame Fauna took license with her own story, it only muddles the truth. It seems she wanted to play up the GHH connections following your own investigation. I very much appreciate your dedication to the truth, which is already strange enough. Or as Joe Friday puts it, “Just the facts.”
Ted: Yes, I agree. Thanks for the support. Steve
Totally agree with your assessment of the TNT mini series. The main thing it did for me is get me started on a quest to know more, which led me to listening to the podcast and to reading your books for the true story. Now I’m reading “One Day She’ll Darken”. By the way, on a different note, the RELZ channel recently aired and will air again tomorrow (Wednesday) the episode “Zodiac: The Shocking Truth”. The one thing I found interesting from the episode when I saw it last week was that a movie about Zodiac was released in the early 70s and the police were so hopeful that Zodiac would show up to a showing that they placed a box outside the theater with slips of paper for people to fill out. The question on the slips of paper was about why the viewers thought Zodiac was killing people. The patrons didn’t realize there was an officer inside the box waiting to receive the slips to compare the handwriting samples to the Zodiac’s ciphers. The police believe Zodiac never showed, however, and were disappointed. This made total sense to me knowing that during that time your father didn’t live in San Francisco and only visited from the Philippians. There is a good chance he never had the opportunity to view the movie. I had never heard this part of the story before.
Derek W: Yes, I recall the “sting operation” on the film. Had the timing been right and GHH happened to be on one of his trips to the U.S. and been in San Francisco, I’m sure he would have gone. But, more likely he was sipping Port in the Philippines. Best, Steve
This story has fascinated me to no end. I am hoping that a documentary series will be made with all the amazing facts and work you have done. Someone needs to take this to Netflix as it seems there is so much interesting family history still to be told and possibly discovered! I loved your books and the podcast, can’t wait for more!
Garcia: Thanks. Am attempting to do just that. Need to present this as an eight-part documentary presenting all of the facts so the public can “get it” without having to weight through five lengthy books summarizing the investigation. (sixth book pending). Thanks for your support. Steve
I watched the series and with anything that is ‘based on a true story’ I knew there would be a substantial amount of poetic license. As a work of fiction I enjoyed it immensely. As for the podcast, it was on another level. Such an Intriguing story and it put the Tv series into perspective. Disappointing to hear about cutting the DNA evidence out of the podcast. Thanks for all your hard work Steve.
Rachel M: Yes, so glad to see that Exec Producer Zak Levitt obtained a “No. 1 podcast in the U.S.” ranking last week. He earned it. Thanks for your support. Steve
I just finished watching the series a couple of weeks ago and I was fascinated. So, I decided to listen to the podcast. Imagine my disappointment when I learned of how much they had changed or fabricated for the series. Tamar and Fauna’s stories are compelling enough without the need for changes. I’m really very disappointed that TNT forced Yvette and Rasha to remove the information about the DNA testing. George did plenty of terrible things, no need to unfairly add to the list, especially when the key players are no longer here to defend themselves.
Joan: Yes, agreed. But, it wasn’t Rasha and Yvette who TNT forced to remove the DNA revelations from the podcast. TNT insisted that the Executive Producer, Zak Levitt remove his findings and DNA results from the script and remove his interviews with the family members informing them their grandfather was not Fauna’s father. Zak created and wrote and edited the entire podcast front to back. He was totally in charge of all aspects. Rasha and Yvette read from his script as “co-hosts” of the show.
My understanding is that Zak went to battle with the powers that be at TNT, but, ultimately, they had the final say on it and forced him to remove all of it. I know he fought the good fight, but… Steve
I started the miniseries knowing nothing of GHH or The Black Dahlia murder. It intrigued me enough to seek out more information. That’s when I happened upon your book, BDA, to which I followed with Most Evil straight after. The intricacies of it all are completly mind boggling.
My information journey is far from over, but I needed to take a moment to thank you for being a seeker of truth. For continuing your quest for it, and for not shying away from it when so many would have.
Most importantly, thank you for sharing it with the world.
Renee: Thanks for the kind words. Very much appreciated. Stay tuned. A lot more seeking yet to do. Best to you and yours. Steve
I am SO glad I read this before watching IATN. I just finished the podcast, and it truly was amazing! So well done! I am glad you decided to participate in it… it would not have been the quality it is without your thorough investigations and your personal experiences.
Your family’s story is intriguing on so many levels, but also sad and disturbing. One of the things I really loved about the last episode was everyone’s way of saying “we broke the cycle”. You, and the others, represent all the GOOD in your blood… intelligence, love, gentleness.
Thank you for your willingness to share! And, as others have said….. GET YOUR OWN PODCAST OR DOCUMENTARY! 😉
You have a great voice and SO many stories (true ones) to tell.
In the meantime, I’m buying and reading your books! 👍
Hi Lori: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Hope to get a miniseries out “down the road” to help visualize the story/investigations.All Best, Steve
Having already read your books, Steve, and Fauna’s memoir, I was disappointed with “I Am the Night”. The truth is far more interesting than this highly dramatized story. I found myself hitting pause on the DVR and explaining to my husband what was made up. That didn’t last very long though since it was mostly fiction. That would have been too much explaining. The best part was seeing the real Sowden house.
Steve, have you ever considered doing your own podcast based on the cases you worked as a detective? I just heard the new episode of Hollywood & Crime about the Rodney Alcala case and was surprised and delighted to learn that you were the detective! I would love to hear more about your long career.
Emily C: Hi Emily. I haven’t seen the I Am The Night series, just the trailer, but yes it is 90% pure fiction. Fauna Hodel never met George Hodel in life and was never at the Sowden House until long after his death in 1999. As to your question, not a podcast, but am working with some top people to try and put together a miniseries/documentary telling the full story. Maybe eight-part series? Working to try and make this happen, so stay tuned. Haven’t heard the Alcala podcast, but yes, I arrested him way way back in 1971 and extradited him to LA from New Hampshire on a child rape and attempt murder. Here’s a four-minute news video interview I did some years back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8loalAm27o Best, Steve
Thanks for the video! I will be watching eagerly for your miniseries. -E
Hi, Steve. I wondered your thoughts about Fauna admitting to you she allegedly fabricated some information in her book like leading people to believe ‘maybe’ George was her father, the letters from your Mom, etc. And your thoughts, if you can, on Fauna’s kids Rasha and Yvette becoming ‘instant’ Black Dahlia experts. You’ve put in the time. You’ve put in the research. I’m not certain Fauna’s kids have and seem to be parroting information from Fauna and Tamar which may or may not be factual. I believe you wanted to get your truths out first before them to head off potential misinformation. Thanks.
My contact with my niece (Fauna I) was quite minimal during her lifetime. Maybe three in-person contacts each lasting no more than an hour or so? When I confronted and asked Fauna why she used fictional letters from my mother (whose name she misspelled and signed phonetically as “Dorraro”, it was actually spelled, Dorero) her response was, “Well, sometimes an author has to take creative license.” After that, I had no desire to have any further communications with her and had no further contact. I had no prior information that a television series (I Am The Night) was in production and being made and that Fauna I was credited as a “co-producer” in the six-part miniseries. First I knew of it was when I saw the trailer on YouTube a month prior to its airing in 2019. As far as Rasha and Yvette and the “Root of Evil” podcast, as I’ve indicated in other references, initially I “passed” on any involvement. Eventually, after being contacted multiple times by director/producer, Zak Levitt, he convinced me that the podcast was “being made to tell the true story, as opposed to the fictional, “I Am The Night” version. Wanting to insure that the truth be told as accurately as possible, I caved and agreed to be interviewed in hopes that it would help keep the podcast truthful. My interviews were separate from the others and I had no idea that the production would be “co-hosted” by Rasha and Yvette. I had and continue to have great respect for Zak Levitt who did a masterful job in putting it all together and keeping it as honest as possible. As you know, he attempted to and actually recorded a Hodel family session (I was not there for it) where they revealed in a final episode the DNA findings that George Hodel was NOT Fauna’s father. Sadly, the powers that be decided that this conflicted with the “story” they had presented in the fictional miniseries IATN, so against Zak’s strong opposition, it was removed from the final podcast recording and the truth as my half-sister Tamar had told it, “Fauna’s father was a White Male Italian who took advantage of me in San Francisco ” (as reported in BDA) was held back from the public. Once again reinforcing the old adage from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”, as told by the city editor, Maxwell Scott. When Senator Ransom Stoddard provides the editor with the real/true story of the shooting and Scott tears it up, Stoddard says to him, “You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott? And the editor famously replies, “No sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And so it goes. The producers of “I Am The Night” which included Fauna Hodel, knowing the truth, made a decision to go with the fiction (the legend). Truth be damned. “Let’s let the viewers continue to wonder and think, well maybe George Hodel was Fauna’s father and grandfather? It sold well in Chinatown, so….”
Steve, thank you for publishing and sharing your exhaustive work re your family, your father, and Elizabeth Short. In 1947, several years before I was born, my mother lived in LA off of S. Hoover/Vermont (?), not far from where ES’s body was discovered. At that time Mom was 22 and planning her June wedding to my father who lived in Boyle Heights. My uncle was a newly-minted LAPD traffic cop who later became a detective in various departments, such as you did; he retired in the late 80s or early 90s. Growing up, I heard The Black Dahlia mentioned countless times, so I’ve been interested to hear about the details. I watched IATN last year (meh – so obviously embellished) and – because we’re in lockdown again and my tv is broken – have been listening to podcasts and just discovered Root of Evil…which had seemed believable, and yet now I know a victim of corporate manipulation. I admit, though, that your family’s story has confused me – possibly because it’s so extreme, and I really need a family tree illustration, or something, to help keep it straight. I look forward to an audio series that you put out independently. Best to you.
C. Murray K:
Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
I didn’t see the I Am the Night series, but mostly fictional. Fauna Hodel never met my father before his death and was never at the Sowden/Franklin House.
Stay tuned. Much more to come. Will do a miniseries in 2021 and working on the two final “Early Years” books which cover his crimes in the Twenties and Thirties..