There are so many factors of the unsolved Black Dahlia murder that are intriguing, harrowing
and incomprehensible, that it continues to fascinate us many decades later. From the moment
the body of Elizabeth Short was discovered on the morning of January 15, 1947 she was
inscribed forever in the annals of not just true crime, but in so many different branches of our
collective history. It’s the story of heading Westward for a new beginning, the pitfalls of
following a Hollywood Dream, inequality, immorality, brutality, social change and the fate of
lost souls, all of the things that continue a powerful grip on us. But in interviewing Steve Hodel,
another, equally compelling dimension arises, the parent-child relationship and its many
complicated and unruly components. It’s something most of us struggle with and relate to, but
which, when faced with these difficulties in their most extreme form, as in this case, it forces
even the most stoic among us to reflect on family dynamics and what we can never know, or
what we may not want to, about the most significant people in our lives.
The lengthy passage of time since Elizabeth Short was murdered has a lot to do with how deeply ingrained her story is in our culture. We’ve had many years to look back on the case and examine it from every angle, going back time and time again as we have an opportunity to appraise it from the perspective of each new chapter in the American experience. In quite the same way, author and retired LAPD detective Steve Hodel has been able to leverage this opportunity to investigate the case thoroughly as well as to gain an objective perspective despite the level of discomfort potentially posed to him as a result of the man he has determined to be the perpetrator of this gruesome murder.
“Doors keep opening for me that shouldn’t be opening,” Steve says, when describing the
seeming endless number of clues and mounting evidence against the man he’s concluded is the
primary suspect in this case. That man, the offender in this notorious unsolved crime as
determined by Steve, is George Hodel, Steve’s own father. The first time Steve heard any
suggestion that George may have been implicated in the death of Elizabeth Short it was
following George’s death by suicide, from his sister, Tamar. Tamar has a harrowing story of her
own to tell about her relationship with George, one of abuse and incest, which received some
media representation in the 2019 TNT limited series “I Am The Night”, which Steve asserts was
largely fictionalized, and a companion podcast. Steve was aware of Tamar’s abuse at the hands
of their father but when he learned about the accusations leveled against him in this horrific
murder, he set out to absolve him of the charges.
What Steve found out was the opposite of what he initially believed. To his shock and horror, evidence emerged about his father’s capacity for evil, Steve invokes a Jekyl and Hyde duality when he talks about it, that to this day keeps him in a perpetual state of what he refers to as “psychologically bisected.” It’s this interpersonal drama that adds another riveting layer to the Black Dahlia murder – much like the crime itself representing a kind of loss of innocence, a shift as we see it now into the Eisenhower Era where an acknowledgement of humanity’s creeping shadow side was systematically repressed in favor of a cheerful façade, so does Steve’s discovery represent one individual’s loss of a vision of their parent as a flawed human who can
still be redeemed, to instead see that parent as capable of inflicting the greatest possible pain and evil on the world. “He outsmarts everyone but his son,” Louise says, a striking reference to the singular association that exists between a parent and their child.
When you listen to this episode, you will hear Steve go off on minor tangents and explanations of his findings that may send you in a variety of directions. He talks about police corruption and the LAPD’s inability or unwillingness to investigate George Hodel’s involvement in the murder, the surrealist art that held his father’s attention as embodied by their family’s association with photographer Man Ray, George Hodel’s esoteric interests that extended into the ontological other aspects of criminal justice, culture, elements of a noir-ish, bygone Los Angeles and more.
Let us know where your media paths have taken you, you can contact us at mediapathpodcast at gmail dot com or connect with us on social media – we’re on Twitter and Instagram as
You can view Steve Hodel’s Amazon author page here
You can listen to this episode here on the Media Path website or watch video on YouTube, it’s
also available everywhere you listen to podcasts.