Author Correction to “The Early Years: Part I- Chapter 4 -Father Patrick Heslin: Second Note to Archbishop Hanna Not A Thoughtprint

Thanks to an astute reader and long-time “honorary Detective II”, Dr. Luigi Warren, I have a “For The Record” correction to make in The Early Years Part I, Chapter 4, as relates to the “Father Patrick Heslin murder.”
What I initially interpreted as a George Hodel thoughtprint in a taunting letter sent to Archbishop Hanna was in fact, NOT A THOUGHTPRINT, as proven by the further sleuthing of Dr. Warren, who discovered the additional message text. His findings prove that my initial interpretation based on incomplete information was incorrect.
(Bottom of page 196 to top of 197, reads):
“Let’s play a game. Below is a reproduction of the second ransom note delivered to Archbishop Hanna at his San Francisco church. It followed shortly after the first lengthy typewritten and handprinted note confirming the kidnap of Father Patrick Heslin.”

And continues to page 200:

Taken at face value, in reading the above note, my original logic was sound. Clearly, the torn note sent to Archbishop Hanna, and printed in the newspaper appears to end with, “Please forgive this act. ib
But, it does not.
Thanks to the sleuthing of one of my regular readers, Dr. Luigi Warren, we discover that in fact, as printed in another newspaper, another source, missed by me, the note actually continues on and reveals that what I thought was a taunting intellectual thoughtprint left by George Hodel, was in fact incorrect.
Here is the full text of the killer’s message as found in a separate newspaper article. (The full handwritten text was not shown, just the complete message as written by the killer and addressed to Archbishop Hanna.)

 Sacramento Bee, Aug.10, 1921
It reads:
                   “Don’t be surprised to get this. It is to tell you, Father Heslin, is not dead. Neither is he injured yet. Fate has made me do this. Sickness and misery has compelled my action. I must have money. Please forgive this act if you can. Have $15,000 ready. You will hear from me very soon. The manner in which this is to be paid will be revealed to you in my own way very soon. In fact now that the excitement is died down Father Heslin is brave and says for you help him. Have money ready for my future instructions. You will hear from me very soon. You will know I am the right person as will have the piece of paper that fits on this letter.”
Major Kudos to Dr. Warren for his follow-up correction and discovery of the additional text of the letter which clearly establishes and allows us to eliminate what initially appeared to be a George Hodel taunting thoughtprint, as something completely different, as just part of a larger ransom demand.











  1. Luigi Warren on November 20, 2021 at 3:00 pm


    Continuing to plow through contemporary news accounts. More items of interest:

    1. Haven’t seen any sign that the question of the small, dark Hightower “pal” seen in the Pacific Building was taken up in the trial. In fact, it seems clear that the prosecution was laser-focused on promoting the single-perp theory and avoided anything that might revive the earlier official narrative of an accomplice. Watsonville police did hold and question an individual suspected of being the Pacific Building “pal” at the direction of San Francisco detectives on August 19, but declared he was not the man.

    2. An unnamed San Francisco paper received August 20 a paste-up note contrived from words cut from newspaper articles: “Held prisoner in Chinatown by two men. One man is the foreigner who told me what I told Hightower. Have nothing to write with. Hope someone will find and mail this. — Dolly Mason.”

    3. Have to wonder if “Doris Shirley,” Hightower’s girlfriend and the acknowledged template for “Dolly Mason,” was one of the inspirations for GHH’s Spider Woman / Lady Doom archetype. Hightower would have seen it that way, judging from his published remarks. Seems Hightower’s bravado in thinking he could get away with collecting the reward for “discovering” Heslin’s body might have been founded on two things: (a) not being the diminutive driver who took off with Father Heslin and (b) if push came to shove, Doris would alibi him as he had the goods on her. Only, the prosecution flipped the script, using whatever they had on Doris to get her to break his alibi. Per the Examiner, she had been “Queen” of a bandit gang in Denver just months earlier, and had narrowly escaped prosecution with the rest after her wild spending of loot from a bank robbery led to arrests. Prior to that she was associated with a man “mysteriously shot and killed” in Minneapolis.


    • Luigi Warren on November 20, 2021 at 9:40 pm


      Very interesting profile of Hightower’s squeeze up until the day after the Heslin murder, Doris Shirley aka Edna “Mickey” Carroll:

      Lives of Ten Men Linked With Demure Girl Refute Belief That ‘Woman Pays’
      Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, 8/21/21
      One Dead, Six in Prison But ‘Mickey’ Carroll Goes Free.
      All Maintain Undying Love Though for ‘Brown-Eyed Beauty.’

      Hightower acknowledged, once cornered, that Doris was the model for “Dolly Mason,” the woman whose favors he supposedly shared with Heslin’s killer. Suggests a possible scenario is GHH hooked up with Doris in San Francisco and sold her and (directly or indirectly) Hightower on the idea of a kidnap-for-ransom plot, then turned it to his own ends, leaving Dolly to split and Hightower to take the fall.


    • Luigi Warren on November 21, 2021 at 3:12 pm


      Further to the idea that young George might have got his start as a murderer from a woman, it might be relevant that female accomplices seem to show up pretty regularly in his later kidnap-murders. Also, consider the following items from GHH’s “greatest hits” over the years (interpretations my own):

      1924 – “Merlin Gazes at Cracked Mirrors” – dual allusion to Tennyson’s Arthurian poems “The Lady of Shalott” and “Merlin and Vivien.” Vivien, the harlot, feigns love for Merlin and skips away leaving him imprisoned forever inside an oak tree.

      1925 – “Inference” – Demon child is conceived in temple of Cybele, mother goddess.

      1970 – Halloween Card – Veiled allusions to Lady Doom comic book, 1947 “Black Widow” movie and “Spider Lady” character, Man Ray’s “Spider Woman” and “La Fortune III,” Graves’ “White Goddess.”

      January 1974 – The Exorcist Letter – Father Karras falls down a flight of stairs to his death during exorcism of a satanically possessed girl played by 14yo Linda Blair.

      February 1974 – Hearst Family Letters – I believe these two letters primarily hint at GHH’s participation in the 1926 Aimee McPherson imbroglio, taking inspiration from Patty Hearst’s kidnapping by the SLA. However, note the SFO letter falsely/humorously claims the idea for Hearst’s kidnapping came from “Miss Angla Davis, who gives orders and idees to our brass.” Angela Davis, at 26yo, was charged as a co-conspirator in the kidnapping and murder of a Marin County judge in 1970 (she was acquitted.) The Palo Alto letter brings up Hearst’s “cheap liaison with the trollop Marian Davies” which is said to have led to Hearst’s murdering Thomas Ince per gossip reportedly exploited by Aimee McPherson to get herself off the hook for her fake kidnapping story.

      May 1974 – Badlands card – references Charlie Starkweather-Caril Fugate killing spree. Accomplice Fugate was youngest ever female convicted of first-degree murder, 14yo when crimes occurred. I suspect the “recent events” mentioned in the letter refers to Patty Hearst’s reemergence as the machine gun-toting “Tania” after joining the SLA (e.g., see cover of April 29 TIME magazine.)

      July 1974 – Count Marco letter – I believe this references Carole Tregoff, the 20yo redhead who conspired with her lover, wealthy, sexaholic Los Angeles doctor Bernard Finch, to kill Finch’s wife, first in a lurid murder-for-hire plot then a straight shooting. (In a notorious publicity stunt, former beautician Marco was dispatched to LA, showed up at City Hall for Tregoff’s murder trial in a red Rolls-Royce Phantom, snuck up on Tregoff from behind during a break and exposed her dye job to a SF Chronicle photographer.)


      • Luigi Warren on November 21, 2021 at 3:38 pm

        P.S. For good measure, we should throw in the “Woman of the Snow” from KWAIDAN for the Halloween Card references. -LW

        • Luigi Warren on November 21, 2021 at 3:50 pm

          P.P.S. I almost forgot, it looks like there is another dual Tennyson reference in the Halloween Card — the very same one as in the 1924 GHH self-portrait. The Lady of Shalott, doomed by a magic spell when she takes a forbidden peek out of her tower at Sir Lancelot passing by, and Merlin trapped by a magic spell in the hollow of a tree as “bare-grinning skeleton of death” Vivien waltzes off into the woods. Underscored by the overarching SPELLBOUND motif. -LW

      • Luigi Warren on November 22, 2021 at 2:05 pm


        The SF Examiner dubbed Doris Shirley “Nemesis Girl” in stories on 20 August and October 3. The nickname appears in a big headline above her picture on the witness stand in their 20 August story.

        From Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth:”

        “Nemesis carries a wheel in her other hand to show that she is the goddess of the turning year, like Egyptian Isis and Latin Fortuna, but this has been generally understood as meaning that the wheel will one day come full circle and vengeance be exacted on the sinner.”


  2. Steve Hodel on November 20, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    My read on this case is that there never were “two men.” Just GHH alone and by himself. I believe that Hightower’s story is basically the truth, but he lied and modified certain parts which cast suspicion on his original statements to police and that was enough to lay a case on him. As, you have likely noted in later cases, very common for LE to modify witness statements and make a two-man caper, “just one” visa versa, to fit their own scenario. (Think “The Inglewood Babes” investigation.) Tabloid journalism always went over the top with these high-profile crime stories.

  3. Patricia ONeill on November 20, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    Steve, quick read here & once again jumping into the (almost middle) of TEY P1….. several things jumped out at me in reading about Father Heslin’s murder!
    1. Having spent many a beach party at Half Moon Bay in youth, I can feel the damp sand, sitting below a sandy, soft cliff, pretty chilly as always! Not a place a strong grown man (Hightower) who had planned the murder, would hide the body (IMO)!
    2. Yes, a young thin teen could dig a grave here, pehaps not caring that the body could be found in perhaps a short time after due to sand erosion from the wind and damp fog!
    3. And if ransom money the object here why the brutal beating to the head which could have killed the priest then & there?!
    4. And that brutality leads me to the real motive behind Father Heslin’s murder….uncontrollable anger!! I myself in this quick read do not see that kind of anger in Hightower.
    5. On pages 184-186 you infer that GHH could have been visiting, friends/relatives in the Bay Area & could easily obtain a driver’s license at that young age & yes, that was possible even in my childrens’ teen years😣!
    6. The murder itself was severe & brutal….tire iron beating to the head, 2 gunshot wounds! The killer was insatiably filled with hatred and anger! Didn’t see that in description/readings on Hightower.
    So here is where my amateur detecting come in as I say….. the killer was the victim of physical/sexual/emotional abuse by Father Heslin. And the Church while not sweeping this murder under the rug was probably relieved to have this murder solved and forgotten. This is where you would say: “Just the facts ma’am!”🤣. And Luigi Warren’s “ibid” observation is factual, relevant to the personna of GHH👍! But I just had to get my ideas out here!,

    Going to be able soon to sit peacefully/quietly in another week and enjoy this Part One!

  4. Steve Hodel on November 20, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    Patrica O:
    All good points.
    GHH wouldn’t have had to be “street legal with a driver’s license” to drive a car. He would care less.
    I am confident he was driving at that young age, as he got his “chauffer’s license” at 17 by faking his age as “21”. So, he probably had phony ID for a regular license even younger.
    I don’t think the act was “personal” again, I think he was driven by the Urban Terrorist theme. Demanding attention “above the fold.” The fact that he didn’t know the priest’s name when he wrote the letter and had to add it in later, after the fact, points to “any priest in the fog.” As we know, he constantly made demands for money, but never followed up on collecting. No robbery motive on Fr. Heslin either. All just “part of the Game.”

  5. Barry Guerrero on November 21, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    It occurs to me that perhaps Father Heslin’s ‘banishment’ from S.F. to a more provincial church out in the boondocks (Pacifica), could have been ‘common knowledge’ enough among folks in S.F. for GHH to pick up the scent, and choose Heslin for their ‘ransom’ victim. Hightower might have been interested in the ransom money, but GHH clearly wasn’t. He wanted to kill and then see Hightower, or someone else, take the fall. That behavior would perfectly fit the pattern of GHH’s future killings. If true, it must have been quite a thrill for a 14 year old. The perfect adventure for a future avenger.

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