The Truly Horrific Crime Scene Of The Black Dahlia

Chances are you've heard of the "Black Dahlia" murder, even if you don't know details about it. Thanks to a distinctive name based on a well-timed movie release (The Blue Dahlia in 1946, about a man who murdered his wife, whom he suspects of cheating), the Black Dahlia murder has stuck in our collective consciousness for nearly 75 years. There have been countless mass murderers and atrocities in the intervening decades, war crimes and genocide, serial killers such as Ed Gein and his torso hanging and human skin lamps, and horrific depictions of inhumanity in some of our most popular entertainment, such as on Game of Thrones (whatever this says about us as a species). Even among all these, the Black Dahlia stands out: one single woman, on one single day.

Reason being? The cruel, perverse ritualism of the murder. The abuse unleashed on the victim's corpse. The nigh-blasphemous measures that the murderer went through to expunge whatever possessed him, figuratively speaking. Think this sounds hyperbolic? You won't, once you hear the details.

As the BBC says, Elizabeth Short, a petite, would-be Hollywood starlet with short, curly black hair, returned to the glamorous Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on January 8, 1947. As soon as her body was discovered a week later — part of it, at least — a media circus ensued. Suspects were interrogated, but no one was charged. To this day the case remains unsolved. 

Mutilated and tortured in profane, horrific ways

Bear with us, please, because the Black Dahlia crime scene was truly disturbing. No shame in stopping at any point.

Betty Bersinger and her daughter were the first to come across Ms. Short, in Leimert Park east of Crenshaw, then a largely undeveloped area of Los Angeles. Bersinger saw what she thought was two halves of a mannequin in a field, but it was actually the victim, spread eagle on the ground. 

She'd been severed neatly at the waist, as The Guardian says, precisely at the bottom of the lumbar spine above the hips, "the only spot where the body can be severed in half without breaking bone." Her stomach contained feces, which she'd been forced to eat leading up to her death. Her genitals had been mutilated, and her anus dilated as though sodomized, per Medium. Flesh had been carved off of her and inserted into her vagina and rectum along with pubic hair. Her right breast had been cut completely off, and she'd been given a "Glasgow smile" — lips cut from the corners out to the ears. Her uterus had also been completely removed. Finally, she'd been completely washed and cleaned so that there wasn't a drop of blood on her body. There were no traces of semen.

Since then, the Black Dahlia murder, as it came to be called, has risen to nearly mythological status and been made into numerous films and TV shows.