The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Homicide

The Black Dahlia -- Another Good Story Ruined






dropcap_T_1910he anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s killing is Jan. 15, so I thought I would try to anticipate the annual rehash of fiction and mistakes with a post commenting on potential sources on the 1947 case. 

People often ask me which book I recommend to learn about the crime. My answer is always the same: None.

All of the books are terrible and if you read them, you will only have to “unlearn” everything that’s wrong. Understand that I’m not just talking about the usual suspects (“Severed,” “Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer,” “Black Dahlia Avenger” and “The Black Dahlia Files”) but also books that touch on the case, like Jack Webb’s “The Badge,” James Richardson’s “For the Life of Me” and Agness Underwood’s “Newspaperwoman.”

People should especially avoid Will Fowler’s “Reporters” and Kevin Starr’s dreadful account in “Embattled Dreams,” which draws heavily on Fowler’s book, but confuses Fowler with his father, Gene!  

To be fair, “For the Life of Me” and “Newspaperwoman” have some value, but their accuracy is mixed and without knowing where Richardson and Underwood go wrong, it’s best not to read them.

I used to recommend “Farewell, My Black Dahlia,” by Tod/Todd Faulkner, which appeared in The Times on March 28, 1971, but I have decided that its errors outweigh any value it might have. For one thing, whoever wrote the introduction to the story gave Short the middle name “Ann,” an error that has gone viral in the ensuing decades and even made its way onto the label of her FBI file. In fact, she had no middle name, regardless of what you may read anywhere else.

Well, then, what about her FBI file? It is online and readily accessibly, but it’s extremely problematic. The file is heavily censored and because the FBI had no jurisdiction in the case, there is nothing in the way of original crime reports. A great deal of the file consists of wire service stories clipped from various East Coast papers. It is interesting (to a research drudge, anyway) to see how the “buro” played the Los Angeles newspapers against one another, but most people aren’t going to care about such “inside baseball” details.

How about “Childhood Shadows?”Mary Pacios is a friend and I like her. But I can’t recommend her book.

”Exquisite Corpse?” There are some books that aren’t allowed in my house. That’s one of them, along with William T. Rasmussen’s “Corroborating Evidence.”  For years, “Severed” had to stay in the garage, but I spent so much time having to debunk the book that I finally brought it inside.

The websites? Ignore them all, especially the WikiPedia article. I won’t dwell on my experience with WikiPedia, as it deserves its own post, but as far as I’m concerned WikiPedia is sinkhole of rumors and misinformation run by crackpots, factoid zealots and coding tweakers. Over the years, various “trolls” have adopted WikiPedia’s page on the Dahlia case and fought off all attempts to restore sanity. I’ll refrain from recommending my own website because it’s out of date and I want to remain above-board and avoid accusations of advocating my own research.

So what do I recommend?

I always suggest the same thing. Anyone truly interested in the case and not a collection of mistakes  and fiction should read the first few months of the Los Angeles newspaper stories, from Jan. 15, 1947, up to about March. The newspaper coverage isn’t perfect, but there are fewer errors than in any other resource.

I would recommend reading the Examiner, then the Herald-Express, The Times and the Daily News, in that order. I wouldn’t bother with any of the small suburban papers in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Pasadena, etc. 

The Times is online via ProQuest and via The Times' website. The others are in the microfilm collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. Perhaps a bit inaccessible, but anyone who is truly interested in the factual account should be prepared to do some pick and shovel work. I was told some years ago that the January 1947 microfilm of the Examiner is pretty battered and that part of the film is missing. With luck it’s been replaced by now.

And by the way, I always mark the anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s death with a donation to Heading Home, an agency that works with abused women and the homeless in her hometown of Medford, Mass. 
 
ALSO

“Black Dahlia Avenger” on the Daily Mirror




Found on EBay – Marya Marco

Marya Marco on EBay This sketch of Marya Marco by Herbert Ryman has been listed on EBay.

Ryman (d. 1989) was an illustrator and artist for Disney (he is credited with the concept drawings for Disneyland) and MGM,where he worked on "The Good Earth," "The Robe" and "The Tale of Two Cities," according to The Times.

Marco, of course, is the woman who was mistakenly identified as Elizabeth Short in a photo published in “Black Dahlia Avenger.”

The vendor says this is part of a lot of Marya Marco material obtained at an auction. Bidding starts at $9.99.

ALSO

Marya Marco
“Black Dahlia Avenger”

Grim Sleeper No. 119, Details





Grim Sleeper 119, Detail Grim Sleeper 119, Detail

A curtain or some type of fabric can be seen in Grim Sleeper No. 119, which has been identified, according to the Daily Beast, as victim Janecia Peters. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find a similar background in any of the other photos, but I couldn’t. The LAPD has removed this photo from its website and although it’s still in The Times’ photo gallery, I felt there was no point in reposting it in its entirety. 

ALSO

Grim Sleeper, Interiors
Grim Sleeper, Interiors 2
Grim Sleeper, Interiors 3
Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper No. 91
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson




Grim Sleeper, Interiors 3




  Grim Sleeper 118  
  Grim Sleeper No. 118  

Although some images show a window blocked with tinfoil (Interiors, 2) a few photos show windows blocked with  what appears to be a paper bag attached with blue masking tape.

ALSO

Grim Sleeper, Interiors
Grim Sleeper, Interiors 2
Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper No. 91
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson



 

  Grim Sleeper 88  
  Grim Sleeper No. 88  




Grim Sleeper, Interiors 2





  Grim Sleeper 22  

  Grim Sleeper No. 22  

The backgrounds in some of the photos show what appears to be a window covered with tinfoil. No. 22, above, is a frame from a video that shows this detail.  Some of the images are indistinct and I’m only including the ones in which I’m fairly certain that the background is the same or similar.

It’s interesting to notice that several types of photo technology are involved in this “series,” including video and print or digital cameras. The tinfoil arrangement in Nos. 42 (video) and 103 (still) appears to be the same and shows a small gap between the foil and the top of the window frame.

ALSO

Grim Sleeper, Interiors
Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper No. 91
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson

 

Continue reading »

Grim Sleeper, Interiors





   


Many of the photos show a woman in the passenger seat of a vehicle. The coiled cord visible through the window in Photo No. 156 made me wonder if this was taken at some sort of drive-in.

I’ve tried to collect these photos on the jump. Photos  36 and 87 appear to show the same woman, as do Photos 95 and 175.

There appear to be at least five vehicles involved, based on the interiors. One (No. 36) appears to have gray upholstered seats, one (No. 157) has a blue interior, one (No. 95) has been stripped down to the body and shows white metal, one (No. 150) has a plain interior of metal painted white. The interior shown above in Photo 156 doesn’t seem to be in any other picture.

ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper No. 91
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson

Continue reading »

Grim Sleeper No. 91





  Grim Sleeper, No. 91  

  Grim Sleeper 91, Detail  

When I first looked at this photo, I thought the item in the background might be a calendar. In fact it’s a page of display ads for a sporting goods store that has been placed over some sort of opening,   like a window covered with a heavy screen.

That’s something of a pattern in these photos. Many pictures have a window in the background that has been covered up, either with tinfoil, or cardboard and blue masking tape.

ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53.
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson

 




Grim Sleeper No. 139





  grim_sleeper139_adjust  

  grim_sleeper139_mail_slot02  

Grim Sleeper No. 139 has a bit of interesting signage that says “The Mail Slot” and gives a phone number that appears to be 419-0395. I’m not able to locate this number or business, so I’m assuming it’s defunct. Does the “82” indicate 1982? A car in the background looks like a Volkswagen Beetle but otherwise identifying the cars will take more research.

ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53.
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson

Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78






  Grim Sleeper, No. 76  

  Grim Sleeper No. 76
 


  Grim Sleeper, No. 78  

  Grim Sleeper No. 78
 

These ladies, plus Nos. 75 and 77, have a labret, or piercing, in their lower lip.   No. 76 also has a tattoo on her chest, but I’m not going to speculate on whether it says “Kendreay” because I can’t clarify the image adequately

Grim Sleeper, No. 76

 

Grim Sleeper, No. 75 Grim Sleeper, No. 76

 

Grim Sleeper, No. 77 Grim Sleeper, No. 78
Grim Sleeper, No. 77 Grim Sleeper No., 78


ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53.
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson

 




Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77






  Grim Sleeper No. 75

 
 
Grim Sleeper, No. 77
 

This is a different sort of puzzle. Grim Sleeper No. 75, top, and No. 77, have a tattoo that reads “Kendreay, RIP or HIP” and they both have a piercing (called a labret) in their bottom lips, but one woman is much heavier than the other.  

Grim Sleeper No. 75 Grim Sleeper, No. 77

 

  Grim Sleeper No. 75  

Above, No. 75’s tattoo.

  Grim Sleeper, No. 77  


And No. 77’s tattoo.

ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53.
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson




Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81




 
Grim Sleeper, No. 59 Grim Sleeper, No. 81

It seems that Grim Sleeper Nos. 59, left, and 81, right, show the same woman and may have been taken at the same time.  No. 81 is dated May 8, 2006, which may or may not be accurate.
Grim Sleeper, No. 81


  Grim Sleeper, No. 81  

Grim Sleeper, No. 81 The background in No. 81 shows quite a bit of “shade-tree mechanic” material. At left, there are some old traffic cones and some piece of a car (maybe an alternator?) in a Capri Sun box.

And here’s a set of plastic shelves full of motor oil, spray bottles, coolant (Valucraft is sold at AutoZone) and other auto-related  material. Grim Sleeper, No. 81

ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53.
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142, Deborah B. Cleveland
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson






Grim Sleeper Nos. 141-142





  Grim Sleeper, No. 141  


Grim Sleeper No. 141 appears to be a Polaroid marked Deborah B. Cleveland, Sept. 18, 2001, although there seems to have been some hesitation about the “18,” as if the writer started with 28 and changed his mind. It is also marked “B.K.A. Chocolate.” If you boost the contrast, you can see the double mirrors outside the passenger’s window, but that’s all.

Grim Sleeper No. 142 is a detail from this photo that crops out the handwriting. 

ALSO

Grim Sleeper Nos. 4 and 52
Grim Sleeper Nos. 48-49

Grim Sleeper Nos. 51-53.
Grim Sleeper Nos. 56-57
Grim Sleeper Nos. 59 and 81
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75-78, labrets
Grim Sleeper Nos. 75 and 77, Kendreay
Grim Sleeper Nos. 96-96, Maxine
Grim Sleeper No. 139, The Mail Slot
Grim Sleeper No. 149
Grim Sleeper No. 166, Ms. D. Johnson




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