Black Dahlia “Unidentified Man” Real Identity Made Public After 67-Years of Secrecy (updated)
March 22, 2021
Los Angeles, California
Black Dahlia Avenger’s “Gerald Moss” real name is-
Elizabeth Short and George Main
Strip photo was taken in Indianapolis, Indiana 1946
In a 2005 updated chapter of BDA, I informed the public that
I had identified and conducted a follow-up interview with the “Unidentified
Man” seen in the above photograph. (This was the first and remains the only non-police interview ever conducted and identifying George Main since his chance meeting with Elizabeth Short in 1946.)
At the time of my interview, he was eighty-three years old and living in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. In the updated chapter, to protect his privacy, I gave him the pseudonym of “Gerald Moss.”
Click Here for explanation of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson role in photo ID FAQ10
Here is a capsulated summary of the facts as they relate to George Main and his photograph:
The strip photo with Elizabeth Short was taken in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1946, during the brief two-hour time that George and Elizabeth shared together on the bus and in the city.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson never identified the man in the photo (George Main), but only identified Elizabeth Short. (The newspaper text was misleading forcing the editor to make a retraction clarifying that the Johnsons only identified Elizabeth from the strip photo, and had no idea who the male with her was?) The Johnsons did identify “Mr. Barnes” from another photo found in her luggage, but LAPD has “lost” that photo in which they described “Mr. Barnes was connected with a foreign government.” (As indicated in BDA, I suspect they were shown a photo of George Hodel standing with the Chinese Generals, which he may have sent to Elizabeth from China.)
The fantasies and websites that have built up a myth that the strip photo is of “Ed Burns”, the real Black Dahlia killer, are false. No “Ed Burns” ever played a part in any official police reports that I have seen, either LAPD or the DA. As far as I can tell, he only exists in the minds of his creators.
Based on my investigation it appears that at some time the killer was in possession of Elizabeth Short’s personal photo albums and removed five photos from them, which he then included in his mailing, “Letter To Follow”. One of these photos contained one of the four strip photos of George Main, taken in Indianapolis, IN. The other three from that same strip machine were found in her luggage.
The identity and elimination of the photograph of George Main have been known by the LAPD and the DA’s Office and can be found in their reports since 1947 and 1950. Further, both agencies confirmed that the photo was taken in Indianapolis, IN and that George Main at that time had never been to Los Angeles, California.
One copy of strip photo of “unidentified man” with Elizabeth Short (subsequently
identified as George Main aka “Gerald Moss)” mailed to press by Black
Dahlia Avenger in the week following her murder and the above shown three attached strip photos were found in her luggage a few days later. All four photos were taken at the same time and place in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1946.
The enlarged set of three photos seen in the newspaper article above and being held by Mrs. and Mrs. Johnson led to the public being misinformed that the Johnsons identified both individuals. In fact, they only identified the single photo of Elizabeth Short as checking into their hotel. They subsequently identified another male “connected to a foreign government” as possibly being “Mr. Barnes”, the man who rented the room and was with Miss Short.
Possible photo found in Elizabeth Short’s luggage that was shown to the Johnson’s who describe identifying “Mr. Barnes” from a separate photo shown to them by LAPD of “a man connected to a foreign government.” (See FAQ 10 above)
GEORGE MAIN (1921-2010) R.I.P.
While the LAPD and the LADA’s original Black Dahlia investigators
identified and eliminated George Main as a suspect shortly after the murder, his true name was never released or made public. After I discovered his true identity in 2004, I also, for George’s sake, kept his name private.
Only last week did I discover that George Main has passed
on. He lived to the advanced age of 89 and died in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. Since he has passed, I am here making his real identity public for the first time ever.
Here is a brief obituary on George Main, as posted on the
He was born August 30, 1921 in Ellwood City, PA, to the late George R., Sr. and Viola Dorothy (Flinner) Main. George was a graduate of Tech High School. He was employed with Chrysler Corporation in the computer and production
divisions, retiring in 1982. He was a member of Westside Pentecostal Church.
George is survived by his wife, Viola A. Main; step-children, Anthony Briddle
(Annette), Melvin Briddle, and Lola Kost (Dale); six grandchildren; ten
great-grandchildren; sisters, Vallie Williams and Dorothy Vance.
Washington Park East Cemetery
Greetings from the midwest.
“… taken in Indianapolis, IA.” The abbreviation for Indiana is IN. IA is Iowa.
Thanks for all your work, Steve.
Miles: Oops, ah the glories of approaching EIGHTY. Thanks, will correct it.
Ah, the mind of the detective, tying up all the loose ends….which is so compelling & important to the one doing the investigation! I know that feeling Steve, which is why I love the theme music in Bosch! “I Gotta Feeling & I Can’t Let Go”! Back in 2005/06? when I first read BDA on my way to TX (got the paperback in the airport) upon arrival I said to daughter Grace, this guy could solve the “Tucson murders”! Her response: “Mom, get off the true crime, be happy, be fun😂! “. Someday when you have a spare hour, look up the homicides of Esther Galaz & Karen Grejada here in Tucson in ‘94 & ‘96😔! Yeah, “I gotta feeling” (but a little more than that)! Well, like you I’ve done my part (reporting my facts, telling my tale) to some avail but not mystified by the silence(s). If only there was more time🤨!! But in any case you might find the cases interesting reading! Hope all going 👍 with your projects! Stay well😷!
Hi Patricia. Yes, I can relate. Only mine is, “Dad, get off the true crime stuff. Time to move back up here to Bellingham.” (Might just do that in another year?) All I want now is a dog and a barbeque. Thanks, will take a look at the Tucson Murders per your advice.
👍……thanks Steve! Added fact ……the Grejada case not officially a murder, but a disappearance, unfortunately never a trace since then. Yes, a dog, a bbq, a jaunt to the ocean now & then and the all-knowing, ongoing advice from children/gchildren makes for a perfect retirement!!😎🌵
Confused. Didn’t you [ Steve] claim George Main was George Hodel in BDA? You theorize based of their [ the Johnson’s] ID of the photo strip , p.337, p.375, p.376, p.434? Even claiming on p.434 that based off that photo booth strip ID, by the Johnson’s, accordingto you it placed GHH and Elizabeth at the Hotel!? You consistently tied ” Mr. Barnes” ,
” George Main” to your Dad in BDA as checking into the Hotel with zero evidence to prove such. It was Moss identified. Never George Hodel as you state in BDA. This makes zero sense. Please expound. This absurdity [ my opinion] is also discussed in detail in The Black Dahlia Files book.
No, I never claimed that GHH was George Main aka “Gerald Moss”. The hotel managers (Johnsons) checked a couple in on Jan 12th into the hotel with the man signing them in as “Mr. and Mrs. Barnes from Hollywood.” The Johnsons then indicated that the man wasn’t seen again until Jan 15th “acting bizarrely” and Mr. Johnson, jokingly said, that “hadn’t seen him in three days, thought maybe you were dead.” The suspect acting “shaken” turned and left the hotel. The Johnson’s positively identified only Elizabeth Short from the strip photos and not the younger male (George Main) in the photo. Police then showed them other photos from Short’s luggage and they identified a separate man “connected to a foreign government” as the person signing himself in as “Mr. Barnes” and who was with Elizabeth Short at check-in on Jan 12th. In BDA I indicated I suspected and believed that this individual in the separate photo “connected to a foreign government” could well have been GHH and included the photo of him standing with government officials in China taken in 1946, which he could have sent a copy of to Elizabeth Short? To be clear, George Main “Gerald Moss” was NOT IDENTIFIED by the Johnsons. George Main was/is the man in the strip photo with Elizabeth Short taken in Indianapolis, IN. George Main was with her about three hours in that city and was never in Los Angeles. LAPD claims “the photo of the man connected to a foreign government” is apparent “lost” so we are unable to verify if that was a photo of GHH or not? How a photo of what would have then been the “prime suspect” could be “lost” is incomprehensible to me? But, there you have it. (This information of course belies LAPDs position of “The Missing Week” and their claim she was “never seen again after walking out the Biltmore entrance on January 9th.” (Along with fourteen other witnesses that place her in various locations every day of that so-called, “missing week.”
Do you think finis brown and Harry Hansen knew who may have killed Elizabeth or do you think they really wanted justice for her
Not an easy question. While Harry Hansen got most of the credit for supposedly being the lead detective, truth is he only worked it for a few years and his partner, Finis Brown did all the real “heavy lifting.”
Assuming that LAPD and the DA’S Office didn’t confirm and really identify George Hodel until the Feb/March 1950 wire-recordings it is possible that Hansen may not have known. But, difficult to believe that Finis Brown, brother of Dep Chief Thad Brown didn’t know the truth of it. Also, a stretch that he would not have let Hansen in on “the secret” at least in the years following my dad’s fleeing the country.
My sense of it is that they knew and chose “to remain silent” just as “the brass” did.
Did the detectives keep Elizabeth short memory book, and trunk full of clothes and photo. And also do you think gatekeeper Brian Carr wants people to think that Elizabeth short missing evidence was thrown out but in fact it’s probably locked up somewhere
As difficult this investigation was for you, I want to thank you for doing what you did. Finally, Elizabeth’s soul can rest in peace, knowing the people know the truth, and have not forgotten her. God love you Steve. I’m from Sydney Australia. XO
Thanks for the kind words from DownUnder. Much appreciated.
I’m a 22-year-old french woman who just discovered the case
I’m fascinated about your determination after all these years. I have a question for you : some people say that the media had made the investigation particularly difficult. You agree with this idea ? I really want to understand this aspect. Also i’m very surprise by the posterity of the case, that even now in France we still talk about it. The impact and the symbolic is very powerfull.
Bravo from France for all your hard research work
Merci! Thank you for the kind words. Much appreciated.
Yes, “The Press” was a major factor in sensationalizing and immortalizing the Black Dahlia Murder.
They “played it” to the max. “Beautiful young naked woman; surgically bisected and posed on a vacant lot, and the name “Black Dahlia.” All came together in 1947 as one of the major newspaper stories just before TV news was beginning to take hold. Six major Los Angeles newspapers each vying for “the scoop” to beat the competition. The reporters were usually out ahead of the police knocking on doors, getting info, and publishing it in the dailies. Their efforts were responsible for creating many of the major myths about the victim, Elizabeth Short. “She was a drunk. She was a druggie. A Prostitue. A lesbian lover killed her.” On and on and none of it true. So that was “the bad of it.” The “good of it” was that the information published in the dailies helped me immensely in pursuing the case fifty-three years later. Today’s press would never be given that much leeway. Stay tuned. Much more to come as we are just beginning to adapt my books to a miniseries for televison. Also, I will be publishing “The Early Years” my investigation into my father’s crimes in the Twenties and Thirties. Expect to publish at about the time the miniseries is released. Also, I was priveledged to give a PowerPoint lecture back in 2004 or so at the Pompodou Centere on my investigation with a focus on the crime signature, “Murder As a Fine Art.” Loved my visit to Paris and that city. Beautiful city beautiful people. All my best, Steve.
Merci beaucoup for your response, Black Dahlia is such a complicated case to analyse… Thanks for the kind words ! I’m glad to know that you loved your stay in Paris ! In my case I hope to come visiting America one day 🙂
Courage for all your projects.
j’ai également découvert le livre BDA de Steve il y a de cela 2 ans. Je l’ai lu en 3 jours tellement son enquête est absorbante. C’est incroyable de se dire que 50 ans après, il est encore possible de trouver autant de preuves.
Certainement le livre le plus marquant que j’ai lu et ses autres bouquins sont aussi intéressants si tu ne les as pas encore lu.
Aftermath29 Msg to Eva translated in English:
I also discovered Steve’s BDA book 2 years ago. I read it in 3 days so his investigation is absorbing. It’s amazing to think that 50 years later, it’s still possible to find so much evidence.
Certainly the most striking book I’ve read and his other books are also interesting if you haven’t read them yet.
Hi Steve –
Thank you for your diligent research on this absorbing case.
I just happened upon your blog. Fascinating. I recall the aftermath of the Black Dahlia murder from my childhood in Los Angeles in the 1950s.
Perhaps you might recall me from our neighborhood poker games in Echo Park and Silverlake in the early 1970s. For a while I worked with your brother Mike.
A few years ago I attended a book signing by James Ellroy in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the Q&A I asked about the BDA work, and Ellroy threw a hissy fit. Why should he be bent out of shape that someone has come up with a more plausible identification of the serial murder who affected him personally? Go figure.
Hi Amelia Sue:
Sure miss those poker games. Help me pay the rent back then, which was an outrageous $125.00 a month.
For several references to brother Mike here on my blog site just enter “Mike Hodel” in the search box. He is missed. Yes, Ellroy regularly throws temper tantrums after first totaly endorsing my book as “Case Solved” then realizing he was no longer the Big Man In Town on all things “Black Dahlia” and both our books were optioned for movies. So, he pissed backward and said, “No no, I was wrong Hodel didn’t solve the murder. My mistake.” Then from there, he chose to exercise his “right to remain silent” and refuses to talk about the investigation, so when asked, it gets his blood up for sure. Very strange bird and of course his novel was all fiction and other than using her name and the dump site location, had nothing to do with the actual crime or investigation. Stay Well and Best Regards, Steve
have you ever heard of the Fort Myers 8? unsolved serial murders from the 90’s of 8 men found in 2007 most havent been identified, my cousin was one of them and i will keep the case alive while the police seem to be sitting on their ass. thanks for your time.
No, not familiar with those crimes. Sorry for your loss.
LE “not doing anything” is sadly not confined to your area.
Same here and in many parts of the nation. Good Luck with your efforts.
in re: Ed Burns. The author brought up the letter ‘t’ from “I am too cowardly…” to above the “e” in Ed. Making it Ted Burns.