The Black Dahlia at 67: Archival photos from an unsolved mystery

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's body, as it was found 67 years ago today, except that it's covered by a blanket, hiding the fact that it had been cut in two at the waist.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Will Fowler (center) from the Los Angeles Examiner was one of the first reporters at the scene of the Black Dahlia murder.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is refered to as the "Black Dahlia" case. In this picture Daniel Voorhies sits backwards in a chair facing the camera. He was questioned in the murder investigation and reportedly said at one point, "I am sick. I can't stand it any longer. I killed Beth Short".

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

After the murder the police & the newspaper received various letters and notes purporting to give information to help solve the case. Shown here is a letter with pasted letters on it reading "Yes or No?," supposedly as a followup to an earlier letter.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This is a picture of a telegram found in Elizabeth Short's trunk.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

The man looking away from the camera is Leslie Dillon, 27, alias Jack Sands, a suspect in the 2-year-old "Black Dahlia" murder.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Robert Manley (left), the Black Dahlia murder suspect, undergoes a second lie detector test as Det. F. A. Brown and Ray Pinckert monitor him. The first lie test was inconclusive.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows Robert "Red" Manley embracing his wife, Harriette. A suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Short, Mrs. Manley said her husband was at work all day Tuesday, the day before the body was found, and that night the Manley's had visited friends.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Here another Black Dahlia suspect, George Edwin McNally, is being questioned by Det. Sgt. N.E. Finn. Under discussion are the knives lying on the table, which were all found in McNally's room.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows a postcard received by The Evening Herald and Express, supposedly from the killer.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows handwriting expert Henry Silver. After analyzing the patchwork letters received by The Evening Herald and Express supposedly from the killer, Silver says the writer is an egomaniac and possibly a musician.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short, whose murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case, is shown here striking a pose at an unidentified beach.


Wednesday marks the 67th anniversary of the day in 1947 when police found the gruesomely mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, a young woman who would become known as "The Black Dahlia" and whose unsolved murder would fuel noir L.A. tales for decades to come.

To commemorate the day, KPCC contributor Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times:

What combination of circumstances makes us remember an otherwise forgettable event? Here’s the recipe, from 67 years ago Wednesday — the Black Dahlia murder. She was a young nobody, a pretty-ish drifter of a type that filled L.A. just after the Second World War. How she lived was unremarkable, hardly admirable; it was how she died, and what the newspapers said about her, that makes us remember the Black Dahlia. Elizabeth Short’s body was found, naked and cut in half, in a weedy winter bean field that, 10 years later, in the manner of Los Angeles, would be a tidy Crenshaw neighborhood.

The case is still unsolved, and it still tantalizes.

We've assembled a small selection of Black Dahlia photos from the L.A. Public Library's Herald-Examiner collection, just one of the papers that didn't hesitate to play the story as big as it could. The captions come from the collection; note the grease pencil edit marks on the photos and the extensive retouching.

To read more about the Black Dahlia case, you can read the Times'  piece on the 50th anniversary in 1992. You can also get full details from the Black Dahlia website, on which an amateur historian has collected as many of the original documents and photos available (it's not for the faint of heart).

What do you know about the Black Dahlia? Let us know on our Facebook page, on Twitter ("@" mention @KPCC) or in the comments below.

blog comments powered by Disqus