A New “Early Years” Reader Discovers New Thoughtprints Adding Further Circumstantial Evidence Connecting George Hodel’s Early Crimes To His Later Crimes As “Black Dahlia Avenger” and “Zodiac”

December 10, 2021
Blaine, Washington
Greeting from my new home in Blaine, Washington.
Just within the past four days, I have received some remarkable comments/observations from two “EarlyYears” readers, who have both completed their reads on Parts I and II. The first, posted just two days ago, on December 7th,  was from Larry Stevens. Our Q&A can be found HERE.

Ms. Evans website can be found HERE
The second reader,  Ms. Viktoria Evans, an artist/writer sent me her comments yesterday, and to my mind, they, like so many other contributors,  show some remarkable, “out of the box” thinking that could well be classified as GHH thoughtprints. Again, I’ll let her words and graphics speak for themselves.
Author’s Note-  For those of you who have not yet read the two “Early Years” editions, be warned there are “spoilers” as relates to several of the early crimes and you may want to first read the books before reading the below commentaries. 
Viktoria’s initial email to me received December 7th. All of the graphics below were prepared by Viktoria Evans:

Hi Steve,

I hope this email finds you well.
Right to the point: I noticed handwriting in the Big “T” 1924 CalTech yearbook that appears to be that of a young George Hodel, the Editorial Assistant. It is strikingly BDA/Zodiac styled.

It seems likely that he annotated and designed some of the pages. I looked at the 1923 and 1925 yearbooks and the style is nothing like that of 1924.
Dear Editor 
Style of cut out heads with comical quip, “THESE CAME OUT AHEAD” (p.214)
Hell-hole compared to Hell-en 
*Sinclair Smith obtained his Ph.D. that year at CalTech. He was born March of 1899 but on the 24th not the 20th and he died May 18th 1938 in Pasadena. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Smith_(astronomer)
This was all very bizarre to come across. Thoughts?
SKH Note- The reference here by GHH to Sinclair Smith’s premature death (he wouldn’t die for another fourteen years) and “Smut” is quite puzzling? Other than demonstrating George’s obvious childlike immaturity it sounds personal, so possibly he may have had a problem sharing the limelight with another “boy genius at Caltech”?  “To Be Determined.”  See articles on Dr. Smith having lunch with Einstein in 1931 and his Los Angeles Times photo and obit at bottom of the post. 
My response to Viktoria on Dec. 8th:
Hi Viktoria:
Excellent sleuthing.  Very impressive.  You are truly underscoring my frequent statement that “George Hodel’s future proves his past and his past proves his future.”
Hope it’s OK with you if I present your findings on a blog, giving you full credit of course.
I have to ponder your linkage for a bit, but it really hits home. We are hearing the same voice and seeing the same ” layout ” in the 40-year-old, Black Dahlia Avenger, as we see in the 14-year-old “Assistant Editor” of the Yearbook.  Huge Kudos.
Viktoria’s response back on Dec. 8th:

Hi Steve,

Present away – I attached the images I was working on, please feel free to use them. Nothin’ like saving time.
I have been looking for other possible connections between the yearbook and his BDA/Zodiac letters, i.e., similar words and phrases.
1. This may be nothing but the way he hyphenated the name Hellen caught my eye (as if to say, she puts the Hell in Hellen).
Hell-hole compared to Hell-en 
This one is just weird:
Smut. Sinclair Smith R.I.P MAR.20 ’99 – MAR.20 ’24
sinclair smith.png
*Sinclair Smith obtained his Ph.D. that year at CalTech. He was born March of 1899 but on the 24th not the 20th and he died May 18th 1938 in Pasadena. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Smith_(astronomer) Maybe they were friends?
I’ve finished The Early Years Part I and am nearly through Part II. The books are fascinating – the work you’ve done is phenomenal. Thank you!
(In this email Viktoria attached a PDF with additional graphics. See below.)
Again, huge KUDOS to Viktoria on discovering this apparent linkage. I do consider them to be actual GHH thoughtprints.*  The handwriting match is undeniable, as is “the voice” which is that of an immature 14-year-old college boy genius cast in the role as “Editorial Assistant” in writing for Caltech’s 1924 yearbook.
Fast forward some twenty-three years and while “the boy” is now “a man”, a respected physician who recently was the Head of LA County Health Department’s VD Control, having just returned from China, having served in UNRRA with the honorary rank of “Lt. General.”
Still, as the “Black Dahlia Avenger” in his 1947 kidnap/torture-murder of Elizabeth  Short, we  hear the same arrested immature voice of the 14-year-old student, (the “Assistant Editor of 1924) and see his cutting and pasting out of human heads and writing his childish notes to the police and press. “This is the werewolf killer” etc.
Again, twenty years later, in 1968-69 as “Zodiac,” we see the identical handwriting and hear the same childish taunts, the same words written, “Dear Editor” using his 1924 “copy.” And as Viktoria has noted even down to the same hyphenation, where young George writes “Hell-en” and the aging Zodiac writes, “Hell-hole”.
*Thoughtprints- ” The ridges, loops, whorls of the mind. A collective of our motives, a paradigm constructed from our individual thoughts, these elusive prints construct the signature that will connect or link us to a specific time, place, crime, or victim.”

Articles on Dr. Sinclair Smith’s achievements:

Dr. Sinclair lunches with Einstein in 1931:



  1. Joakim on December 10, 2021 at 5:23 pm

    It almost appeared like the Zodiac demanded an important movie about himself (as 1980 came closer & closer) in his letter.

  2. Luigi Warren on December 10, 2021 at 11:42 pm


    That “Dear Editor” matchup is great. Have always had the sense that the Dahlia and Zodiac letters reveal the mentality of a mischievous child. That was GHH’s secret life, behind the clubbable, man-of-reason façade (just like Rhadini in CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND.) If your theory about the Heslin case is right — and I strongly suspect it is — then everything was “locked in” before GHH’s 14th birthday. Even the “Lady Doom” archetype is there at the outset, I reckon, which in turn spawns his self-justifying “Avenger” myth. Exactly as GHH spelled out in his 1925 poem, “Inference.”


    • Steve Hodel on December 11, 2021 at 12:10 am

      Yep. Viktoria Evans’s discoveries definitely qualify as thoughtprints.
      Again, we need to think of thoughtprints and liken them to the separate points that contribute en mass to allow a criminalist to make his or her “positive identification.” The general acceptance in the U.S. is 8-12 points, however, it is generally much higher in Europe. The UK requires 16, France 17, Germany 12.
      How many thoughtprints are required to make a positive ID? Hard to say, but in the past twenty-two years, I would guesstimate we are well into a 100+?

      • Luigi Warren on December 11, 2021 at 12:32 am

        Speaking of potential thoughtprints, an odd one from the Heslin case relates to a “peculiarly-phrased declaration” in a withheld portion of the ransom note in which the kidnapper claimed he had lost $6500 due to the laws of the Catholic Church on divorce. Seems they couldn’t connect this “delusion” to Hightower (divorced but neither he or his wife were Catholic) because I see no further discussion of this tidbit after it was reported as being of “extreme importance” on the front page of the SF Examiner of 8/8/21. Just seems like it might be one of those quirky George things — like the widow who misses her insurance payout because of spilling some tea in “A Sad, Sad Story” or the Spanish American War widows left with pensions of $25-$50 a month because of William Randolph Hearst in the 1974 Hearst Family letters. -LW

        • Luigi Warren on March 24, 2022 at 12:33 am


          Hope you are well settled in the new home. I’ve been spending a bit of time lately going through the Heslin case coverage systematically, start to finish. I haven’t noted any real game changers over my original, more haphazard pass, but several items of interest came up. Here’s a couple of them:

          1. The censored line from the ransom note finally emerged in the reporting of closing arguments, where it was quoted by the defense because it seemed to have no relevance to Hightower (Sac Bee, 10/12/21): “You dam Catholics made my wife believe that she was not married to me at all and she got a division of property amounting to $6,500, and your damned bunch must make it good.” Oddly specific and legalistic.

          2. Another interesting aspect of the ransom note is the claim that two intermediaries would be involved in the handling of the envelope containing the cash, who would think they were handling a package of “dope.” I found a contemporary article on the mechanics of the San Francisco drug scene (School Children Made “Dope” Peddlers, Oakland Tribune, 8/14/21) which makes this more comprehensible.

          These items might not point specifically towards GHH, but perhaps they offer food for thought.

          Best regards,


  3. Patricia ONeill on December 11, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    Wow! LW & Vicktoria Evans are really super sleuths in spotting the “thoughtprints”! Now once pictured, I do see the startling similarity in the pictorial layout in GHH’s Cal-Tech yearbook and his Zodiac/Dahlia notes years later. Yes, the Hell-en punctuation too! And of course Dr.Sinclair Smith unfortunately fell into GHH’s “hate path” ….pure intellectual jealousy! But again I return to Fr. Heslin & the blank ———line that GHH fills in later. Did he really forget his name? I don’t think so! Could that have been purposely filled in later to throw police off? IMO GHH was very aware of Heslin’s travels through CA parishes and even at his young age may have researched Colma as a fairly isolated area to carry out his revenge. This is just my take on the young GHH……but take the parental betrayal (suspected sexual abuse by his own mother & perhaps father as described by Tamar about her grandfather) and the possible abuse (IMO) by a cleric he may have turned to for help at a very young impressionable age, and you have a time bomb!! Unforunately GHH fell into that 40% who go on to repeat their abuse on others. Again the core personality comes to the forefront and that sometimes is beyond the ability of the serial abuser/killer to control. This is why your books should be well used by educators, MD’s, psychologists as we do have a severe problem right now in our culture & civilization and it desperately needs to be addressed!! Ok, off my soapbox!

  4. Dan Lackey on December 11, 2021 at 9:59 pm

    Hi. Steve,
    The “group think” keeps expanding, doesn’t it? I remember thinking, when I first saw the CalTech 1924 yearbook, that the heads on pg. 214 were oddly familiar. The head labeled “Bob”, in the bottom left corner particularly struck me as looking like the “werewolf killer”, minus the net, of course. I was so struck with the similarities with the heads, that I didn’t notice the handwriting being GHH’s. Vicktoria’s observations were spot on, and Luigi Warren’s in-depth comments always expands our understanding. Mike Hodel’s concept of “group think”, has really played a part in unraveling the complex web of GHH’s criminal career. Your research inspires your readers to seek to find clues & thought prints and then post comments. Now, your other readers are inspired to seek even more. The community keeps growing.
    Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to you & yours
    Dan Lackey

    • Steve Hodel on December 11, 2021 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Dan:
      Yes, I often think of brother Mike’s contributions on his KPFK “Hour 25” SciFi program.
      I think he used the term, “Group Mind” and was convinced that almost any question could be answered when put out there over the airwaves to his listeners. You and a few others were the early contributors and it keeps expanding as serious readers focus their thinking on the now forty-nine separate crimes. Very encouraging.

  5. Luigi Warren on December 12, 2021 at 10:56 am


    More thoughts on the Heslin case, based on reading and digesting much of the contemporary coverage including accounts of the trial…

    Several oft-repeated stories about Hightower look pretty weak on close examination:

    a. He was a religious (or anti-religious) fanatic.
    b. He stupidly gave away that he already knew the position of Heslin’s corpse during the dig.
    c. He was forensically linked to a typewriter that produced the ransom letter.
    d. He used a “baker’s alphabet” to write the postscript to the ransom letter.
    e. He tried to recruit a co-worker to another ransom plot back in Utah.
    f. He had a plan to attack would-be captors with his “infernal machine.”

    Things I tend to believe about the case:

    a. The car Hightower hired at 6 pm and someone dropped off around midnight on 8/2/21 was the one used to kidnap Heslin around 9 pm.
    b. The .45 revolver Hightower legally purchased several months before arriving in San Francisco was the unrecovered murder weapon.
    c. Hightower was up to something illegal at Salada Beach involving the tent he brought under a false name in the run-up to the kidnapping.
    d. The person who wrote the ransom note postscript also wrote the “TUBERCULOSIS” warning on the tent — or imitated the crude lettering.
    e. Any or all of Hightower, Doris Shirley and GHH were involved in the kidnapping plot.
    f. Hightower could well have been a patsy, set up to take the fall by GHH and/or Doris Shirley.
    g. It’s worth considering the idea that Doris Shirley was the small, heavily-disguised motorist with a “woman’s voice” who lured Heslin away.

    Best regards,


    • Luigi Warren on December 19, 2021 at 8:05 pm


      Regarding the possibility that Doris Shirley/Dolly Mason was the disguised motorist-kidnapper, or at least was GHH’s accomplice:

      1. She reportedly had been an aspiring actress with designs on Hollywood.

      2. She could drive. In courtroom testimony she mentions doing the driving on at least one outing with Hightower. Reportedly, her cash purchase of an automobile was what led to the arrest and life imprisonment for armed robbery of her bandit “husband” in Denver before she proffered an alibi, skipped town and became Hightower’s “wife” in early ’21. (This is the husband right after the 1920 bootlegger “husband” who was mysteriously shot and clubbed to death in Minneapolis.)

      4. Assuming that, as seems likely, the rented Ford was the one used in the crime, someone had to drive it to Colma, or deliver it to a third party who did the abduction — Hightower or Doris being the obvious candidates.

      5. Doris’s story when she came forward to deny being Dolly Mason and nix Hightower’s alibi changed — at first she was never in the Ford, then she was in it briefly but Hightower let her off to eat dinner alone downtown, and she later went to a show with Lee Putnam, the mixed up, callow scion of a well-to-do family whom she legally married while hunkered down incommunicado at a resort hotel under the DA’s protection.

      6. Doris’s alibi for the evening of the 2nd was her husband, Lee Putnam (Leigh Eugene Vincent Putnam, 1897-?) Plus, the DA assured the public that the couple’s story about their show date checked out completely — she described the program accurately. Doesn’t seem that impressive given that the DA was clearly shielding Doris to get Hightower who — unlike her — could be connected directly to Heslin’s grave, the tent linked to the grave, the suspect rental car, recent outings to Colma and Salada Beach, the weird “infernal machine” and a missing revolver of the same caliber used to shoot Heslin.

      I haven’t been able to find out what became of Doris and Lee. The last report had them heading to Baja on honeymoon after the trial. According to the SF Examiner, Lee’s respectable parents were concerned he was being used as a human shield by Doris and I kind of suspect that is correct.

      Even if Doris was the “wheel woman,” we still have a possible personal appearance of GHH in the record in the recollections of three witnesses who told the Examiner of seeing Hightower with a diminutive, well-dressed, Armenian-looking “office man” in the Pacific Building, whom the paper speculated was his “secret pal” on the Heslin kidnap-murder. Granted, these accounts have less weight coming in the wake of the publicity around Hightower. Still, the physical description is probably a better match to GHH than we have from the Heslin residence witnesses and there is a hint of something child-like about the subject in the language of the reporting. It also seems to me on close reading that the “secret pal” could have been tailing Hightower rather than meeting him up with him, which might fit with other indications that Hightower was set up, with or without Doris Shirley’s approval.


      • Steve Hodel on December 19, 2021 at 8:28 pm

        I still think that the kidnap suspect of Father Heslin was a young GHH wrapped in a long duster and driving goggles no way could either witness identify him. Add to that the “foreign-sounding broken English” which was a favorite of GHH’s as seen in his later letter writing.
        Post apprehension of “witness Doris Shirley” hard to believe anything she said to LE. I think they wanted Hightower and had her say anything to help “make their case.” I think seeing/reading Hightower’s account of “the truth of it” in his papers post-incarceration would be extremely revealing. Maybe I can get permission “down the road”?

        • Luigi Warren on December 21, 2021 at 3:43 pm

          Hi Steve,

          A Merry Christmas to you. Hope you are settling into your new home.

          My sense is that, just as many newspaper stories insinuated at the time, Doris Shirley is the key to this case. Very likely she and GHH were Dolly Mason and the Greek of Hightower’s story. I think there are factors pros and con as to which of the two was the disguised motorist. A good scenarist could come up with many different storylines consistent with the known facts, varied as to the complicity of Hightower or Shirley, the extent to which they were dupes or co-conspirators, whether there was any opportunistic or premeditated effort to set up Hightower, who was the motorist, who (if anyone) was at the beach waiting for the car, who mailed the letter in San Francisco, etc. It really is a fascinating whodunit.

          I think the Shirley “Nemesis Girl” angle could explain much of GHH’s subsequent criminal career and the psychological fixations which show up in his missives — the “blighted affection” leading Hightower to a suicide’s grave, the “blight of love” (“deception”) in the Peggy Donovan poem, “death is feminine,” Lady Doom and the Death Wheel, the Black Widow/Spider Lady, Merlin and Vivien, the female accomplices, the addictive association of sex and murder, the deep well of misogynistic rage and sense of being an “avenger” delivering “justified” punishment to womankind, the allusions to Patty Hearst, Starkweather and Fugate, Finch and Tregoff, etc. George likely had some oedipal issues before this event, but this would send him off the deep end for sure. Just makes a whole lot of sense to me.

          Best regards,


          • Steve Hodel on December 21, 2021 at 4:08 pm

            LW: Yes, psyching out the psychiatrist in GHH’s case would be a full-time job for a staff of say a dozen shrinks and still would be open for a dozen interpretations.
            Bottom line, whatever the causes, he was a misogynist and a misanthrope and would be avenged for whatever perceived wrongs he was made to suffer as a child and young man. Men, women, children all would feel his wrath. He would give no quarter. He would force the world to take notice by making his crimes as sensational as possible. How? By making them so horrific they would demand HEADLINES. Cities were terrorized and held hostage in fear. This would be his signature. In Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Manila, and in San Francisco. A modern-day Moriarty- a Master Criminal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_Moriarty

        • Luigi Warren on December 31, 2021 at 10:56 pm


          Let’s hope there’s something in there that could narrow things down a bit. One strawman scenario which conforms well to the evidence and Hightower’s various cover stories might be as follows: (1) bootlegger’s “queen” Doris gets involved with charming-but-manipulative boy wonder GHH in San Francisco; (2) he sells her on a plan to land smuggled booze in return for a piece of the action; (3) Doris sweet talks Hightower into furnishing the lookout tent, car and gun; (4) GHH pulls his “caper” and leaves his marks to deal with the mess. So, a bootleg deal gone wrong (as lead to the murder of Doris’s last-but-one “husband,” Earl Cavanaugh) with a twist. Obviously, many variations on this basic scheme could be imagined. Food for thought.


          • Luigi Warren on January 3, 2022 at 11:51 am


            A happy new year to you.

            I’ve found a lot more coverage on Doris/Dolly dating from four months before the Heslin case, back when her bank robber “husband” Tom Coleman was busted in Denver. Extraordinary stuff. I will eat my hat if she was not at the heart of the Heslin affair. If GHH was involved — and I think he probably was — they would have made a highly combustible pairing, and she must surely have been the original “Lady Doom.”

            From some of the fragmentary details reported about her early life, I believe I have been able to find specifics on her birth and death on Ancestry.com, although her every changing names confuse things. If I am not mistaken, she took the name of a famous French poet and fabulist in her later years and died in Las Vegas in the 1970s.

            A couple of useful sources: The Monroe Journal, April 29, 1921, p1-2 and The Daily Deadwood Pioneer Times, April 26, 1921, p.1.


  6. Dan Lackey on December 12, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Steve,
    Group Mind sounds a lot better than “group think”. (That is what happens, when I write comments late at night). Anyway, Mike was right & your site has demonstrated it.
    Regarding thought-prints: The similarities between those of the BDA & Zodiac are so numerous that his personality comes through clearly. Even many of those who comment on the Zodiac Killer site are speculating that the 2 crime sprees were carried out by the same person. Yet, they can’t bring themselves to admit that person was GHH.
    All the best,

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