The gruesome torture slaying of Elizabeth Short, infamous as the Black Dahlia, is one of the most spectacular unsolved mysteries in the history of crime in America.
A beautiful, poverty-stricken 22-year-old who aspired to become a movie star, Elizabeth Short wore her hair in black curls and dressed in chic, stylish black. Friends in the sleazy L.A. underculture she frequented during the 1940s called her the Black Dahlia after a popular movie of the time, Blue Dahlia.
Its a name that has resounded for decades in American criminology since January 15, 1947, when the Black Dahlias tortured body was found posed in a trash-strewn field in Los Angeles, a Joker style grin carved in her face from ear to ear, half her blood drained from her body and her torso literally cut in half with surgical precision. Other things were done to Short which are too gruesome to describe here -- sexual things of a necrophiliac nature -- she was literally strung up with wire and abused in extremely bizarre ways before being bisected.
The death of the Black Dahlia was followed by six similar murders along with a series of taunting notes to the police and local newspapers.
The killing was so sadistic and cruel that it sent shock waves resonating through popular culture: it influenced the hard-core, tough-talking detective fiction of Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane in the 1950s. It upped the ante on Hollywoods film noir movement, which painted the human heart a shade darker for shocked filmgoers. It sparked a lurid genre of L.A. fiction and films such as Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, and an upcoming film on the Black Dahlia herself by crime novelist James Ellroy which will star Hilary Swank as the ill-fated femme fatale.
Who killed the Black Dahlia? Traverse City attorney William Rasmussen thinks he knows the answer to a crime that has plagued armchair detectives and real ones too for the past 58 years.