Black Dahlia “A Standalone Murder” Myth Denied By LAPD Det. Harry Hansen Who Suspected Many of Lone Woman Crimes “Might Be Connected”
August 8, 2022
Birch Bay, Washington
I have written and spoken numerous times in the past that the three greatest myths in the Black Dahlia Investigation are:
Let’s take a reexamination of Myth No. 2- “A Standalone Murder. None before, none after.”
You will hear and read from some of the self-professed “experts” who like to perpetuate this myth. They will tell you that “LAPD, and specifically assigned Det. Harry Hansen, said, ” It was an isolated murder and not connected to any others.” NOT TRUE. (They push this myth because their own “theory and suspect” could not have committed the other serial crimes, so they need the Black Dahlia Murder to be a standalone murder.) These are flat-out lies. LAPD and other agencies always believed there existed the possibility of a serial killer and SAID SO.
An article in the Los Angeles Examiner of March 14, 1947, headlined “Dahlia Case Similarities Checked in Fourth Brutal Death Mystery,” offered an eleven-point list of similarities provided by LAPD that detectives believed strongly supported the theory that the murders of Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French, and Evelyn Winters were all related.
The article notes:
“Checking similarities between the death of Miss Winters and the Short and French killings, police listed the following:
1) All three girls frequented cocktail bars and sometimes picked up men
2) All three were slugged on the head (although Mrs. French was trampled to death and Miss Short tortured and cut in two.)
3) All three were killed elsewhere and taken in cars to the spots where
the bodies were found.
4) All three were displayed nude or nearly so.
5) In no case was an attempt made to conceal the body. On the contrary
bodies were left where they were sure to be found.
6) Each had been dragged a short distance.
7) Each killing was a pathological case, apparently motiveless.
8) In each case the killer appears to have taken care not to be seen in
company with the victim.
9) All three women had good family backgrounds.
10) Each was identified by her fingerprints, other evidence of identity
having been removed.
11) Miss Short and Miss Winters were last seen in the same Hill Street area.
On June 17, 1949 the Daily News published an article, “Nine unsolved L.A. murders baffle police.”
…”Homicide detectives say they are not sure that one man is responsible for all the killings–but they are wondering and investigating the possibilities.”
Citizen News, 1949: ” 9 ‘Dahlia’ Murders Unsolved”
…”Police are not overlooking the possibility that a single slayer committed all of Los Angeles’ horror murders.”
Louise Springer Murder June 13, 1949
LAPD Paid Police Informant G. Glenn Martin personally KNEW and was friends with both victim Louise Springer and George Hodel and identifies him as her killer as well as Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short.
Glenn Martin 1954
Steve Hodel examines 1949 Glenn Martin’s “In Case of Death” letters
If I wasn’t convinced before, (Which I was) the Martin letter sealed the deal. Martin knew both Springer and GHH personally and was already a police informant. That’s much like a few witnesses to Short’s missing week knowing her personally which strengthened their credibility when they ID’d her. Myth #2 destroyed.
Why did George Hodel like San Francisco (I assume he liked the town because he resided there)?
George loved San Francisco Bay Area. Eight years of medical school in his youth. Columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1932 reviewing all the various ethnic locations within the city. He and June in contemplating their relocation from Asia to the U.S. told me their decision came down to either Los Angeles (his city of birth) or San Francisco. They chose San Francisco and found the highrise apartment in DTSF on the 39th floor.
Steve, the statement made by Glenn Martin about a letter he wrote to be opened in case one of his daughters was murdered shows how frightened this LAPD informant was for his & his daughters’ lives!! It was 1949 & Tamar had bravely outed GHH for the incest! In the 40’s GHH was in his “heyday” and CA was his “playground”! How could the LAPD (& I’m including the “buddies” he had in the SFPD) ) dismiss so much horror in their “paradise”?! I’m quoting my dad, “the swimmer” two days before his death as he sat in his sunny Burlingame backyard about 12 years after his SFPD retirement: “You know this is all bulls***”!! Many people knew the horrors going on there , and it was all quietly washed away in the beautiful surf!😓. On a lighter
note …..Steve, c’mon of course your dad picked San Francisco to reside in ‘cause we all know it’s
THE CITY!! 😉👍! 😎🌵
Yep, and we know from “The Early Years” just HOW MUCH GHH had on Thad Brown and William Simpson. No way was he not going to slide. As you say, he loved “THE CITY.” Had to choose to return there. He left his heart in San Francisco.
👍…..sounds like a great project, Steve! But you just also may be busy giving talks after the airing of your docuseries🤗! When that happens I do hope you will put a good amount of emphasis on the mental health aspects of sexual, emotional abuse experienced by more children, teens in our country than we realize. And the aftermath(s) are overwhelming to an entire society😞. Too bad we didn’t have all this knowledge in our 30’s, 40’s when we had much more energy. But you never know what ideas will blossom in our present & coming generations…….your books are & will be a valuable resource to them. I don’t have books to leave but as one SIL said to me recently, “Pat, I know I’m gonna hear your voice again & again……and again…… and etc……. Now that’s a compliment, right??! 🤣. Do take time to relax & enjoy this retirement!
If your theory about the Heslin case is right, GHH’s connection to San Francisco might go back even further than that. We also see indications of familiarity with SF/Oakland in the 1926 Aimee McPherson kidnap hoax, predating GHH’s premed studies at Berkeley. That is where the first rendezvous with the “Revengers” was set.
I find it interesting that GHH’s late-life reinvention as a globe-trotting business research expert in some ways recapitulates Alexander Zelenko’s profession and lifestyle at the time of the Heslin affair: an “international man,” with bases of operation in downtown SF and New York, supervising diverse business research activities. This was only a year before the architect’s “lifelong friends” the Hodels had him build a house as a 15th birthday gift for their son. Makes me wonder if GHH could have done some kind of summer internship at Zelenko’s office, just a few blocks from several key locations in the Heslin story.
I wonder, do you have any recollection of GHH speaking of Zelenko, or of how he made the surprising leap from physician/psychiatrist to market research guru?
Hi Luigi. No, he never made any reference to any of his “early years” activities, and never mentioned Zelenko or any other individual during our times together. He was closed lip and in retrospect, very careful not to mention anything about his past. The only reference I recall was his “confirming” my query about “Folly.” I do think you are correct that an “internship with Zelenko in SF” would be very likely. Puts him at the right place at the right time. A summer vacation, a temp job, with some drinking, womanizing, and a “thrill kill” and taunting of SFPDs finest then back home to LA for a follow-up sensational murder just six-months later! Got to love those summer vacations.
LW……Re your statement: “…..recapitulates Alexander Zelenko’s profession and lifestyle at the time of the Heslin affair.” While I do see the connection(s) relating to GHH’s time spent in SF before driving to the remote dreary town of Colma & committing the murder of Father Heslin, I see Colma & the killing of Fr. Heslin as GHH’s main reason for driving from LA to SF in the first place! GHH as a young teen (IMO) was looking for acceptance & some semblance of family relations & affection. A Catholic priest befriends him😞. Believe me, Heslin may have been “outposted” to Stockton for nefarious reasons but could easily doff his collar & priestly garb for drives (every priest I knew had a nice car!) down to Pasadena on a weekend. Why does GHH, a highly respected, talented surgeon pursue a secondary specialty in psychiatry? Because he wants some “clews” as to why his life has become such a nightmare! And again IMO he places Fr. Heslin in the same “stew pot” as his parents who abused & emotionally deserted him. GHH was a young boy in a very vulnerable position. GHH’s anger escalated thru his teens due to lack of concern and abuse………the rest is history😞.
Patricia: Well, I just see it differently — as more a case of “Cherchez la femme.” I think if GHH was the phantom motorist who kidnapped Father Heslin, it most likely started off with an encounter between the “Nemesis Girl” at the heart of the case, William Hightower’s traveling companion, Doris Shirley, in downtown San Francisco. Something along the lines of: sophisticated wunderkind George charms Doris, experienced hooker Doris shows George a good time, George hears all about Doris’s latest “rescuer” William and his hunt for a get-rich-quick scheme to keep Doris in the style to which she has become accustomed, invents his own scheme to impress her, involving landing some contraband or loot on Solana Beach — only he’s too young to rent a car, and he needs a hideout on the beach and a gun for protection, but maybe William can help out and they can share the spoils. Then George does his own thing and leaves Doris and William to talk their way of it. -LW
First of all, Elizabeth Short murder just seems too calculated for a first time murder, so many of the victims looked similar and were around the same age as well. I’m actually surprised anyone would think that the Lone Women Murders weren’t connected.
Also I am working on a historical fictional graphic novel inspired by your father and the Black Dahlia/Lone Woman murders, I would love to hear your thoughts about it if you ever wish to contact me.
Keep up the great work, loved the Early Years book!
Thanks. Still focused on the factual crimes and hope to see the docuseries out next year.
Thank you for the response, I am looking forward to the docuseries! Do you have any evidence of where George Hodel was during the Chicago Lipstick killings?? The handwriting in that case was similar, and even the “For heaven’s sake catch me Before I kill again!” message is very similar to the “I will give up Dahlia killing if I get 10 years” letter. Not to mention the fact that lipstick was also used on one of the Dahlia victims. I just feel like there are too many coincidences to ignore.
My healing circle sends you wishes for a week of peacefulness and connection to your ancestors. A deep, cleansing breath and thoughts of your forefathers and foremothers. They will thank you.
LW, Patricia, et al.
I see it a bit different. Granted and with the caveat that this is all supposition on our part as to what/how things came together pre and post kidnap of Fr. Heslin.
I don’t think that Hightower had any connection with GHH prior or subsequent to the crime.
Have to be pretty sure that GHH had no preselected priest in mind when he doorknocked the country parish. (We know this from the blank (to be filled in) name on his note.) I see him doing the caper on his own then “celebrating” by hooking up and getting drunk (or high?) with a loose opportunistic woman in DTSF. As was his hubris, he couldn’t avoid bragging about and hinting about his clever crime by flipping a pancake hint to his “lady.” Then along comes Hightower, who listens to his lady, “Dolly Mason’s” story and picks up on the hint, “a chap frying hotcakes” and being familiar with the highway sign. He checks it out. Hightower likely finds the body (or possibly not?) then sees an opportunity for $ reward and goes to the Catholic Church and authorities. What really points me to this thinking is the note found in Hightower’s room after his arrest. It reads:
“Aug 10-Dear Miss Dolly
I believe there is something to what that drunk told you. I know what he meant by the chap frying hot cakes, and I found to caved-in places, but not caves and something is or has been buried there, for the sand is loose as ashes. If it is a booze cache, we will get it as soon as the hunt for that priest dies down, so it will be safe. I am beginning to think it might have something to o with the priest, anyway. Try to remember all the things he said and watch for him. His talk about killing a man and the big black pistol may not be booze talk at all for I found an empty .45 shell at the place. See me at once as there is a reward offered. WA HIGHTOWER, General Delivery.
I believe I have read just about every significant California news report on the case and the trial, and also the chapter on the case in Nick Harris’s book “Famous Crimes.” Harris, of Nick Harris Detective Agency fame, was the one who came up with the idea of forging the second, “regretful” ransom note to flush out the perps — something I suspect GHH parodied in future crimes as part of his lifelong “game” with the authorities. To me, the evidence linking Hightower to Solana Beach, Colma, the tent, the car and the murder weapon points to his direct but not necessarily witting involvement. There are other things, too — his unusual interest in machine guns and pyrotechnic gadgets, for example. Can it be a coincidence that these things are referenced in the real ransom note?
The letter Hightower left with General Delivery could easily have been a ruse to buttress his story. Or, it could be that he and Doris (“Dolly”) really were in the dark about what George did, still thinking it might involve “buried treasure” but starting to suspect that it was connected with the priest’s kidnapping. Per the Chronicle of 8/21/21, a busboy reported seeing them together just before Hightower went to the Archbishop’s residence, with Doris showing Hightower a photo which she hid on being observed. Recall that the Model T which Hightower rented the night of the crime was dropped off in the middle of the night by an unknown party, and one of Hightower’s stories about that night was that he was supposed to be meeting up with a bootlegger. Seems possible the couple were “caught in a web,” just as Aimee McPherson claimed to be five years later.
Steve & L: Answered like the true scientific/detective people you are! But to me as a mom, teacher who has worked & lived among a fair amount of young boys, the persona of the 13 year old GHH makes its first stunning appearance to me in the Fr. Heslin murder! When this murder first appeared to me in TEY I immediately remembered (a memory over 60 years!) sitting among my mom, aunts as they whispered about Heslin’ tragic demise in Colma. (In later years I certainly feel no sorrow for Heslin!). In reading the murder account in TEY, I could not mesh the anger/brutality with Hightower’s and girlfriend’s personalities……did they know/meet w/GHH, yes! But believe me GHH used them to divert suspicion(s) from him. Reading about the murder event, I’ve seen that anger in boys at that young age, heard similar fantasies of getting even etc. and unfortunately seen it carried over to tragic adulthoods………and how those tragic adulthoods affected the lives connected to these men. OK…. I hear you saying “just the facts ma’am” so I’ll quit here. But all your books, Steve, point (to me) to my most important statement: Find, look close, hard at the bottom line here, and most important, address that abuse of a young & very intelligent young man! Both tragic and extremely dangerous, far reaching to everyone😱!
I was interested to learn that a major Hollywood serialization of the French super-criminal story FANTOMAS ran in US movie theaters in the runup to the 1921 Heslin case. The films have been lost but you can still read synopses and reviews in contemporary newspapers. Funnily enough, I believe the first ever newspaper reference to GHH appears in the San Francisco Chronicle of September 8, 1912, noting “Master George H. Hodel” sailing for Europe from San Francisco with his mother — putting him in Paris just around the time the original, smash-hit FANTOMAS serial hit the theaters, and also in time to catch the tale end of the similar ZIGOMAR serial. Regardless of any question of abuse, I would not underestimate the role of mischief, adolescent rebellion, will to power, and the influence of popular and classic literature and movies on his developing imagination. I also think, based on his childhood anti-war poetry, that he would likely have absorbed anti-establishment and anti-clerical views from his reading, which could have influenced the choice of Father Heslin as a target.