A Further Examination of William Copley’s “It’s Midnight Dr. ______”: Black Dahlia Crime Scene Address Concealed In Surrealist Painting

June 15, 2022
Birch Bay, Washington

“It’s Midnight Dr. ____”

William Copley 1961


Original Tiled Master bathroom Sowden/Franklin House as it appeared in 1947

The photo below “It is Midnight Dr. ____” shows Dr. with a medical bag, surgical tools spelling HODEL MD, and a nude female who is either dead or unconscious at his feet.  The tiles in the background are identical to those shown above in the photo of Hodel’s master bathroom as it appeared in 1947.

An Explication of Surrealist’s Hidden Clues
in Wm Copley’s: “It’s Midnight Dr.___”
In Wm Copley’s 1961 painting: “It’s Midnight Dr. ____” the artist arranges a standing clothed male figure carrying a ‘medical bag’, a reclining nude female figure, and six (6) ‘medical instruments’ on a grid background that could represent square tiles. This grid is twelve (12) tiles across and fifteen (15) down for a total of 180 tiles. What Surrealistic Puzzle could this pose? One interpretation by Mr. John Scott from Australia suggests the answer could be found in the artist having created a grid that contains 12×15. spaces or tiles.
If you put those two dimensions side by side you have: 1215. To the Surrealist artist what could the numbers 180 (12×15) and 1215 mean? In finding your way with a compass, it has 360 degrees. Regardless of your direction of travel, if you want to go in the opposite direction you go 180 degrees the other way. If we speculate that the idea of a canvas with a grid containing 180 tiles is meant to represent the opposite and we see the grid is 12 by 15 then the opposite of 1215 (or one, two, one, five) is five, one, two, one or 5121.
If we combine this information with the previously ‘discovered surrealistic clues’ in the painting: a male figure holding a doctor’s bag, whose hatband spells: GEORGE HODEL; six instruments that spell: HODEL MD; all standing/arranged above a nude woman, what could this grid represent?
Mr. Scott suggests that the reverse/opposite of 1215 is 5121 which is the numerical address of the Sowden/Franklin house, e.g.: 5121 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles CA.
This speculation and deduction confounds the concept of ‘coincidence’. If the grid is numerically representative of Dr. George Hodel, MD’s residence address and inside that residence is a bathroom floor and walls set with square ceramic tiles, then it is reasonable to deduce, (particularly if the woman is representative of Elizabeth Short before her bisection/hemicorporectomy), that the grid is representative of that residence’s bathroom floor, i.e. the Black Dahlia killing floor. (rjs 11.11.19)
Hodel residence at 5121 Franklin Ave., Hollywood

Copley painting reveals/identifies killer with five hidden “clews”:
  1. Depicts a doctor as killer.
  2. Depicts surgical tools spelling his name- HODEL MD
  3. Depicts location of surgery as tiled bathroom identical to Hodel master bathroom.
  4. Designs doctor’s hat to hide and spell HODEL
  5. Conceals actual numerical address of murder in graph as-5121
  6. In separate artwork Copley depicts himself lying supine in the Minotaur position (as was victim Elizabeth Short) with the initials G.H. on a wall above him depicted as Glove and Hat.
    (See blog here: https://stevehodel.com/2019/10/10/surrealist-artist-william-copleys-new-hat-trick-a-third-drawing-and-clue-to-black-dahlia-whodunit/)

Surrealist Artist William Copley’s New “Hat Trick” – A Third Drawing and Clue to Black Dahlia Whodunit?


  1. Dennis Effle on June 18, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    Fascinating. More layers to add from the surrealistic minds of Copely and Ray. Your investigation keeps paying dividends as the years roll bye. Awesome work!

    • V on June 18, 2022 at 3:09 pm

      Did you or your graphics department change/alter the floor from the original Library of Congress/historical picture? Here’s the link…

      • Steve Hodel on June 18, 2022 at 3:14 pm

        V: Not sure what you mean “alter the floor”? I superimposed the Copley female onto the original bathroom floor to demonstrate as compared to Copley’s painting. But, no, the original photograph in the background was not altered?
        Just enlarged to show how the tiles match Copley’s.

      • V. on June 19, 2022 at 6:25 am

        The original picture of the bathroom floor in the link shows 2 rows of tiles coming off the bathtub step towards the opening/door. If you zoom in you can also see in bottom right hand corner that the two rows seem to end at the door jamb. Your picture has 8 rows of tiles on the floor and in a different pattern. It is nothing like the original picture. That’s why I ask. What is the source for the superimposed picture?. It has all the earmarks of the original Library of Congress/historical picture (shadows, highlights, reflection of light off the tiles, etc) yet as stated- your picture seems to have an altered floor with an addition of tiles in order to accommodate your superimposed picture. Here’s the source link to the original:

        • Steve Hodel on June 19, 2022 at 7:19 am

          V: There has been no alteration of any of the bathroom photographs by me-period. The photograph source would have been the Library of Congress. Whether it was a second photograph from that source or not, I cannot say? As you say it has all the “reflections” as the original.
          P.S. I checked with the guy that normally helps me with my graphics. He doesn’t recall doing the graphic,so could have come from some other source on the internet or? He advised me if he added the body and tiles it was an unfinished work that he may have sent me some years ago. Regardless, not sure what if any relevance it has to anything other than to show her body on the tiles?
          And this additional just received from my friend and author and editor, Robert Sadler, author/retired Dallas PD police officer:
          FYI: To Whom It May Concern:

          I found in my files the image of the Sowden House bathroom with the cut-out Copley figure superimposed over the extended floor. ‘V’ is correct the original photo, referred to, only shows two rows of tile on the floor directly in front of the tiled tub/shower structure. The original photo was not altered, it was added to or augmented. The resulting graphic was not intended to be considered or construed as ‘the’ or ‘an’ original photograph.

          Robert Sadler update:

          This file does not show the my actual ‘history steps’ used to copy, using a ‘Rectangular Marquee Tool’ the existing row of tiles (in the original) on the floor and then ‘paste’ additional copies to fill out the ‘additional’ rows, over which a crudely cut-out of the Copley nude figure was superimposed. These additional ‘rows’ are clearly copies and show repetitions of marks on the original tiles.

          It is my memory that this graphic was done as exercise for demonstration/example, for Steve and our discussion at the time. Had it been for publication, I would have been more precise with the additional rows so that they would have carried forth the same perspective lines as the original tiles. And the cut-out would not have been as crude. Additionally the graphic would have carried a caption explaining its perceived relevance, vis à vis the reclining nude figure in Copley’s “It’s Midnight, Dr. _____” to the potential similarity to the tile floor in the Sowden House bathroom and the tile floor beneath Copley’s nude figure.

  2. m on June 19, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    Just thinking about this looking at some of Copley’s paintings – and keep in mind I’m no expert on his work – Copley used a lot of bright colors but this is mostly black – suggesting midnight or the “black” dahlia?

    • Steve Hodel on June 19, 2022 at 2:13 pm

      M: Well with all the linkage to GHH no question his references were to the Black Dahlia Murder for sure.

      • Bill Schmidt on June 19, 2022 at 4:38 pm

        Great great,Absolutely the greatest work as always.
        Please don’t tell me you ran away back to washington??!Washington??!!
        We need you in Los Angeles! Let the riff raff get out of our beloved L.A
        Love you native son Mr Hodel

        • Steve Hodel on June 19, 2022 at 5:11 pm

          Bill S: Thanks for the kind words, Bill. Much appreciated.
          Yes, moved up to Birch Bay, WA (which resembles the small fictitious town of “Thunder Bay” in the classic film, “Anatomy of a Murder.”) last November. Turned 80 and wanted to be closer to my two sons, Matthew in Bellingham and Michael, his wife Joyce, and my two grandkids in Seattle. Always be a special place in my heart for my birthplace, Los Angeles. (Harry Bosch and I were both born at Queen of Angeles, between Hollywood and DTLA.) Promise to keep a couple of fingers on the pulse of LA for sure. Best, Steve

          • Patricia ONeill on June 20, 2022 at 8:19 am

            So so true, Steve! You can take the kid out of CA, but you cannot ever take the CA out of the kid!! Speaking of geometric art again, the placement of GHH’s figures on the tiled floor immediately reminded me of one particular student I had who perseverated on death & drawings on such, always encased in squares or triangles of heavy black lines. Fortunately, hospitalization, residential care was provided for the student! I do think the drawings were the outstanding clues which prompted swift action by counselors & doctors! 👍🌵

  3. François Houle on June 21, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    To the Surrealist artist what could the numbers 180 (12×15) and 1215 mean?

    Could the answer be in the title ?

    It would have been difficult to do 00h15.

    • Steve Hodel on June 21, 2022 at 5:24 pm

      Francois H:
      Not sure what you mean? The simplest interpretation is simply the reverse of 1215v which is the actual physical address of the crime scene. Dr. ____ home address of 5121 Franklin Ave.

      • Francois Houle on June 21, 2022 at 7:49 pm

        I thought that 1215 would maybe refer to the time (15 minutes after midnight).

        I saw the reverse address after, and you are right, it is probably a better interpretation.

        • Yolanda Camacho on June 25, 2022 at 9:58 am

          Ancestral healing might help, Steve. Heal the ancient wounds of your forefathers and foremothers. All the spiritual wounds of those who have gone before you far into the past. It works! It would help you. They would thank you!

  4. Ron Roffel on February 6, 2023 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I looked over some of your latest squad room blogs and was struck by something in the Copley painting you show here.

    Copley placed the nude in such a way that the lines separating columns 6 and 7 appear to bisect her where Elizabeth Short’s body was bisected. He even drew an upward curve at the waist where the incision might have been. Another thing just occurred to me: would the procedure have been done between the 6th and 7th thoracic vertebrae? Since artists are careful to place their lines where they want, it is possible that the tiles provide evidence that Copley is giving us another clew in the painting.

    Just a thought.

    • Ron Roffel on February 6, 2023 at 3:33 pm

      Hi again, Steve,

      Just had to correct my comment above: it would have been the lumbar vertebrae, not the thoracic vertebrae. My bad.

      • Steve Hodel on February 6, 2023 at 3:41 pm

        Ron R:
        Yeh, I don’t think there is a clue to the bisection there. The incision is between the 2nd and 3rd lumbar and I seriously doubt that Copley would be hip to that medical requirement. Coroner, yes, but the average joe or jane no. Copley has given us a lot of clues in his painting. The name HODEL and the street address 5121 (backward in the tile numbers) and possibly the name again in the hat brim. Expect there may be some clue to Elizabeth Short’s name or “Black Dahlia” yet to be found, but he didn’t hold back much in this painting for sure.

  5. Joshua on June 22, 2023 at 6:06 pm

    Something I noticed and was curious if it was considered…. on the first surgical tool there appears to be a drawing of vaginal lips and on the bottom tool, what may be interpreted as a nipple. I was looking for more anatomical parts that may have been drawn into the tools, but it’s a bit hard to see. Possible significance to the 7 slash marks on the scalpel too?

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