It’s almost Halloween and people everywhere will be telling their best spooky stories by firelight. But some of the most terrifying tales weren’t dreamed up in the minds of Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft; they actually happened.
One such story is the legend of the Black Dahlia. A beautiful young starlet trying to make a name for herself in Hollywood, murdered in the most grisly way imaginable. It’s been nearly 70 years since the body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short was discovered nude, mutilated and suggestively posed in a Los Angeles field.
Before the murder, the mystery and the haunting legend, Elizabeth Short was just an average girl with big dreams from Portland Maine. Her mother was born in Milbridge and met and married her father in Portland. As the daughter of a travelling salesman, Elizabeth spent her childhood moving back and forth between Massachusetts and Maine.
Short was born in Boston on July 29, 1924. According to Portland Press Herald archives, Short lived in Portland with her family from 1926 to at least 1928 in a house that still stands on Montreal Street in the Munjoy Hill area.
She was the third of five daughters born to Cleo and Phoebe Mae Short. Her father abandoned the family when Elizabeth was 5 years old. She developed a fascination with Hollywood and the cinema as a very young girl, and by her teens, she had set her sights on becoming an actress.
In the mid-1940s, the rebellious young girl threw caution to the wind and left New England for the first and last time in her life. In Los Angeles, she worked as a waitress, lived in a shared apartment with other Hollywood hopefuls, and dated around a bit. Her dreams of stardom never came true.
Short’s body was found on January 15, 1947. She had been neatly cut in half, drained of blood, and her mouth had been cut from ear to ear creating an eerie forever-smile. Due to her jet black hair and the Dahlia flowers she was reported to have frequently worn in her hair, the media dubbed her the Black Dahlia.
Although several suspects and theories have surfaced over the past 7 decades, the strange and brutal murder has never been officially solved. It is Hollywood’s most famous cold case. The Black Dahlia dominated headlines once again in 2013 when retired police sergeant Paul Dostie, author Steve Hodel, and a police dog named Buster conducted their own investigation.
Buster detected the scent of human decomposition in the home of Dr. George Hill Hodel, who had long been considered a likely suspect – even by his own son. According to Hodel’s son, a recording exists between his father and an unknown person, during which Dr. Hodel allegedly states,
“Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary because she’s dead.”
Elizabeth Short will likely never receive the justice she so deserves, but her memory will live on as Hollywood’s most famous victim of circumstance; and as one of New England’s dearly departed natives.