The Spot Where the Black Dahlia’s Body Was FoundOct 15th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
One Haunted Hollywood locale that I had wanted to stalk pretty much ever since first moving to Southern California in 2000 was the spot where the dismembered body of Elizabeth Short, aka the “Black Dahlia,” was found on the morning of January 15th, 1947. Over six decades later and the case is still one of the most well-known, talked-about and sinister unsolved murders in the history of the City of Angels. I avoided the location for over thirteen years, though, because, for some reason, I had it in my head that the area was dangerous (which, as it turns out, could not have been further from the truth). But when I saw the site detailed in the The Crime Issue of Los Angeles magazine this past July, I decided that I had to bite the bullet and finally dragged the Grim Cheaper right on out there just a few days later.
Elizabeth Short was born in Hyde Park, Massachusetts on July 29th, 1924. In 1946, after years spent adrift in the Bay State, as well as Illinois and Florida, Beth, as she liked to be called, headed west to California to make a go of it in Hollywood. Her tenure there, which not much is known about, was not successful or long, and Elizabeth spent most of her time waiting tables and moving from boarding house to boarding house. As I mentioned in my July 2008 post about the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, the wanna-be starlet was last seen by a doorman on January 9th, 1947 as she walked out of the property’s east doors and made her way south down Olive Avenue. Six days later, her naked body, which had been cut in two, was spotted lying face-up in a vacant field by a housewife named Betty Bersinger. At first, Betty thought the lifeless figure was a broken store mannequin. When she realized the form was actually a dead body, she rushed to a nearby residence and called the police.
The responding detectives were shocked at the heinousness of the crime. Elizabeth’s body had been severed at the waist, then thoroughly cleaned and all of her blood drained. There were three-inch gashes on each side of her mouth, one breast was slashed open, rope marks marred her wrists and ankles, and a section of flesh had been removed from her thigh and then inserted into her body. No blood or other evidence was found at the scene, though, leading police to believe that she was killed and mutilated elsewhere. Newspaper reporters helped obtain Short’s fingerprints, which were then sent to the FBI in Washington, D.C., and thanks to an underage drinking arrest in Santa Barbara and an army base mailroom job application, she was identified quickly. When a photograph of the 22-year-old beauty was released to the press, Short became a media sensation. Her exotic nickname – which she was given thanks to her raven-colored hair and penchant for wearing black – only fueled the frenzy.
Upon seeing her picture in the paper, an acquaintance named Robert “Red” Manley came forward saying that, on January 9th, Elizabeth had asked him to take her to the Biltmore to meet her sister from Berkeley, whom she was going to move in with. Walter first helped her check her luggage at a bus station and then drove her to the hotel. He left her in the Biltmore lobby at 6:30 p.m. According to hotel employees, Elizabeth subsequently paced the lobby for several hours before departing. What happened from that time to when her body was found six days later is a mystery. (Walter was initially considered a suspect in the murder, but was absolved after passing a lie detector test.) In a very odd twist, on January 24th, a package was mailed to the Los Angeles Examiner containing several of Short’s belongings, including photographs, her birth certificate , her social security card, and her address book. Gasoline had been used to wipe the package clean of any identifying fingerprints. Then, the following day, Elizabeth’s purse and one high heel were found in a dumpster a few miles from where her body was dropped. According to the TruTV website, the killer later sent 13 letters to the police and the media. And while more than thirty people supposedly confessed to the crime, it was never solved. The case of the Black Dahlia murder remains open to this day.
The vacant lot where Elizabeth’s body was found is now a jarringly normal neighborhood of one-story tract homes. And while there seems to be quite a bit of confusion online as to the exact spot where Short was dropped, according to the coroner’s inquest, the site was 54 feet north of the fire hydrant located in front of 3831 South Norton Avenue.
I counted off 54 feet north from the fire hydrant and wound up at the spot pictured below. Elizabeth’s body was found on the patch of grass behind me, in what is now the front yard of the house located at 3825 South Norton Avenue.
The exact spot, denoted with an orange X in the image below, is situated on private property, which is why I did not pose there. You can check out a picture taken of the crime scene on the day that Elizabeth’s body was discovered as compared with a current photo of the area on Flickr here.
The site is also a filming location. Scott Michaels, of the Find a Death website, took Bridget Marquardt, Holly Madison, and Kendra Wilkinson there – in a purple hearse! – during a private Dearly Departed tour in the Season 2 episode of The Girls Next Door titled “Girls Will Be Ghouls.”
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Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Elizabeth Short’s, aka the Black Dahlia’s, body was found on South Norton Avenue halfway between West 39th and Coliseum Streets in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles. The exact spot, according to the coroner’s inquest, was 54 feet north and a few feet west of the fire hydrant located in front of the house at 3831 South Norton Avenue, which puts her death site in the northeast corner of the front yard of the house at 3825 South Norton Avenue.