Surrealist Artist William Copley Reveals Black Dahlia Clew Number 7- Man Ray’s Lover’s Lips

January 7, 2023
Birch Bay, Washington
And, right on the heels of Clew No. 6 (four days) comes CLEW NO. 7  another Man Ray/William Copley “production”.
See the graphic below for Images 1 through 5.
In 1933 Surrealist Man Ray painted “Observatory Time, The Lovers” (Image 3), showing the outsized bright red lips of his former lover and muse, Lee Miller, floating in the skies above the Paris observatory. This became one of Man Ray’s most famous images.
In 1947, twenty-two-year-old, Elizabeth Short,  (known to the world as “The Black Dahlia”) was tortured, mutilated, murdered and her body surgically bisected and posed in an open field some six miles south of Dr. George Hodel’s residence at 5121 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, California.
Included as one of the ghastly mutilations to Elizabeth’s body was the surgically well-rounded incision carved into her cheeks which extended on both sides of her mouth,

Elizabeth Short’s posed body at the vacant lot. Clearly, the incision can be seen as carefully rounded
and not the mythological “jagged cutting” which was later photographed at the Coroner’s Office after multiple sutures were sewn into the mouth to close the wound after the autopsy was performed. In my opinion, a surgeon’s scalpel was used to perform this wound, which is consistent with all the other cuttings (hemicorporectomy, excision of right breast, hysterectomy, lacerations to the pubic region, cuttings to upper lip, and removal of rose tattoo and flesh from her left thigh).
As indicated in my previous writings it is my opinion that these were deliberate wounds in imitation of my father’s good friend, Man Ray’s earlier artworks. Specifically his “Observatory Time, The Lovers”). “The Minotaur”  and his painting, “L’Equivoque” to which it is believed the victim, Elizabeth Short personally posed for the painting in 1943.
In 1961, William Copley (friend to both Man Ray and Dr. Hodel), painted, “It’s Midnight, Dr.____” (Image 4). In this painting, we see two human figures. In the upper left, we see a male wearing a hat and holding what is clearly a “doctor’s bag” in his right hand.
At the bottom of the painting, we see a nude female, lying on her back beneath a background of ‘tiles’. (As previously noted in my writings and blogs, the man’s hat may well conceal and spell out the name GEORGE HODEL in block letters in the horizontal and vertical lines in the hatband.
Finally in the upper right of the painting are five surgical instruments that in my opinion again spell out the name HODEL M.D.
In 1999, after the death of my father, his wife June, gave me his personal photo album.  (Image 1).
 My father’s album contained numerous photographs of family members, my grandfather, my mother, and my brothers. All were taken by my father and developed and likely printed in his personal darkroom at the Franklin residence.
In looking at the face of the young unidentified female in my father’s photo album  (Image 2), I asked June if she knew this person? Her response was, “No. Somebody your father knew long ago.”
Two days after receiving the album, in a phone conversation with my half-sister, Tamar, I was informed by her that “The police that took me to court from Juvenile Hall in the Incest Trial back in 1949 told me they thought our father had committed the “Black Dahlia Murder.”
Thus began my investigation in 1999 to show my father could not have committed the horrendous crime which as we know, led me in exactly the opposite direction, resulting in a massive amount of clews and evidence linking my father, George Hill Hodel, MD as the killer of Elizabeth Short, as well as the eventual uncovering of the secret Hodel/Black Dahlia Files locked in the DA’s vault for fifty-five years.
Graphic by Robert Sadler 
My investigation led me to believe that the photo (Image 2) in my father’s photo album (Image 1) was likely Elizabeth Short.
I believe the photo (Image 2/2a), was taken late at night or early morning of the actual torture murder on January 14-15, 1947.  In my opinion, the victim was likely drugged and unconscious when posed against an upholstered chair in the living room/office at our then-home at 5121 Franklin Avenue. (Later the secret Hodel Black Dahlia Files and other police documents established that my mother and we three boys were away for several weeks staying with our uncle in Los Angeles during the January 14-15 time period.)
In 2013 I contacted Dr. Robert Frischholz, (2001 International Scientist of the Year) and the CEO of BioID, one of the world’s most respected Facial Recognition Laboratories, located in Nuremberg. Germany. (See original 2014 blog –
Dr. Frischholz’s original findings of a “90-95% match to Image 2 to known photos of Elizabeth Short have now in 2023 increased to a “95-98% probability” the photograph is Elizabeth Short due to improved advances in computer technology.
It is highly probable that the GHH photo (Image 2/2a) was staged and taken by my father prior to the victim’s actual murder. It is my belief that in preparation to taking the photograph, George Hodel, using lipstick actually drew and reproduced his good friend Man Ray’s Lovers Lips over the victim’s own lips. (Image 2b).
Further, it is my belief that William Copley, in his 1961 painting, “It is Midnight Dr. ____” created some sixteen years after the crime, was providing multiple “clews” as to the name and the location of the murder as being, “Hodel MD and has given us the actual address “5121” revealed in his numbered tiles as explained in an earlier blog.
It is also my belief that William Copley, in addition to the above-mentioned “clews” went a step further and revealed his knowledge of Dr. Hodel’s homage to Man Ray’s “Lover’s Lips” cuttings to the victim’s mouth and included a “back at you” in his own artwork. I believe he has literally drawn the “Lover’s Lips” on the face in his own painting and put them on the face of the killer, Dr. George Hodel.
In the graphic (Image 2b), red color is superimposed over the lips in black and white (Image 2a) to demonstrate the similarity between (Image 3b and Image 2b1).
Likewise extracted from Copley’s “It’s Midnight, Dr.____” is the head (Image 4) of the male figure identified as George Hodel, MD whose figurative lips appear to simulate the lips in Man Ray’s “Observatory Time, The Lovers”. Images 4a, 4b, and 4c are progressively larger views of Image 4. And the lips in Image 4c were superimposed with red to demonstrate their similarity to Image 3.
Man Ray was hugely despondent and heartbroken when his muse and lover, Lee Miller rejected and left him. He immortalized her in one of his most famous artworks.  Fellow surrealist George Hodel also paid tribute to his wannabe lover, Elizabeth Short, who rejected his advances. How? By slow horrific torture, and then posing her as his “surreal masterpiece” and immortalizing her in death as one of the world’s most horrific murders ever committed-establishing his crime signature of “Murder As a Fine Art.”
The close connections of GHH to Man Ray to William Copley are undeniable and well documented. Each is paying secret and surreal homage to the other. Winks and nods hidden in their separate artworks and only now, some seventy-five years later, do we, the public, ‘get it”.
Author’s Note- Huge KUDOS to Robert Sadler, who has been assisting me in creating graphics (as above) for over a decade. Robert, a retired Dallas Police Officer, mystery writer, poet, and photographer has been my “partner” and I couldn’t ask for a better friend and “sidekick”. Mucho Gras Amigo.


  1. Dennis Effle on January 7, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    Wow! Once again I’m speechless at the thoroughness and detail of your continuing investigation. Long after the fact that your work has convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, of Dr George Hill Hodel’s guilt in this case, you keep adding nails to the coffin. This information must reach a wider audience and it’s my hope that your current project of a multi part documentary on this case does just that. Congratulations once again on furthering the advance towards justice for Ms Short as well as the other lone women murders in the Los Angeles area during that time frame. Good work, Detective!

    • Steve Hodel on January 7, 2023 at 10:07 pm

      Dennis E:
      Thanks Dennis. So many “purloined letters” laying in plain sight.
      I’m really a bit surprised that both Copley and Man Ray would be willing to present their “clews” knowing that “The Minotaur” was still out there lurking in the woods. Maybe their perceived “friendships” with the beast gave them a feeling of insulation from his wrath.

      • Patricia ONeill on January 8, 2023 at 1:01 pm

        Rather than a feeling of insulation, Steve, I strongly feel both Man Ray & William Copely admired & envied GHH’s ability to “ draw” with his surgeon’s knife & his ability to charm his victims into intimacy! Man Ray & Copely were voyeurs as GHH worked his talents on these living canvasses! There is one shred of decency here when as a young teen, your father professed his love for the older woman and his desire to marry her & be a father to their child she was then carrying. Her mocking refusal to this proposal, saying “get lost”!! sealed GHH’s mental demise which lasted a lifetime. Again my quote from mentor/psychiatric social worker as I worked with socially & academically challenged youths ages 6-22: “You’ve heard of a woman scorned?………well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!” How true!! Bright men (all three, brilliant perhaps) reduced to terrifying, unstoppable predators savoring their abilities to be cruel! Take note here all professionals working, caring for youth: Learn & identify the signals in schools, medical treatment, social activities, sports. Lots more learning and caring for youths & their family situations imperative worldwide! 😔🌵

        • Steve Hodel on January 8, 2023 at 1:10 pm

          Patricia O:
          Oh, I agree. By insulation, I meant that they felt more personally emboldened due to their friendship to George, to publically display, albeit hidden, their knowledge of his crime and give their own “clews” in their later artworks. Yes, I think that all these men (Man Ray, Copley, Duchamp) were psychologically linked as ‘kindred spirits” with their avowed worship to the “Divine Marquis De Sade” and the common love of their need to subjugate (and worse) to women.

  2. Joakim on January 8, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Donatien de Sade was seen as a liberator by some. I´m not saying he was, I´m just saying how he sometimes was perceived.. The mind appeared to be his true playground.

  3. Barry Guerrero on January 8, 2023 at 8:05 pm

    I’ve read all that you have presented here very carefully, Steve. I’ve reexamined the size and shapes of the lips. I think you’re absolutely right. I believe the photo is of Elizabeth Short, and I believe you may have the context of the photo correct as well. I think you the correct motive too.

  4. kkd on January 14, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    I agree with you. Please read the text regarding the photographic series by Man Ray entitled Fetishistic Mise-en-scène for William Seabrook is considered the function of simulation in scenes of erotic violence. See how closely one of the staged images in this series looks closely like they are murdering this woman, also holding an object close to her breast. Could this show how the Black Dahlia was murdered?

    Did William Seabrook commission the BDM from Man Ray?

    Here is the cited website:

    • Steve Hodel on January 14, 2023 at 7:15 pm

      Yes, have mentioned the Seabrook connection a number of times in the past. This is most thorough summary I’ve seen. Thanks. Identical feet, hands, neck tied and bound, cutting to rt breast, cutting to public area. All similar. Certainly an “inspiration”.

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