Dark Dreams
Was The Black Dahlia Avenger the Red Lipstick Killer?

Devan Sagliani | 10 Jul 2015 13:15
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January 15, 1947 was just like any other Wednesday morning in sun drenched Leimart Park, a quiet neighborhood in Southwest Los Angeles, California. Betty Bersinger and her husband John had lived in the area only a short time, since 1945. They'd chosen it specifically because it was flush with newly married couples with young kids looking for the same thing they were; a safe place to raise a family. Even though there was a housing shortage, driving up the prices of available properties in the area to a whopping eleven thousand dollars on average, the war had stopped further development at their block. Lots to the south of the Bersinger's were mostly overgrown with weeds.

Around ten in the morning Betty had decided to take her three-year-old daughter Anne on a walk in her stroller as she ran an errand to pick up her husband's shoes from the repair shop. Cruising along Norton towards Crenshaw she glanced right into a vacant lot and discovered what at first she mistook for a department store mannequin, due to the unnatural whiteness of the skin and the fact it had been neatly severed in half - the two parts staged nearly a foot from each other in tableau. Upon further inspection she realized it was in fact a corpse, systematically drained of blood and scrubbed clean, severed at the waist, and carefully posed with her arms bent over her head at right angles and her intestines neatly tucked under her buttocks, while her legs were left spread suggestively wide open.

The victim, twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short, was left just inches away from the sidewalk, her lifeless blue eyes open and staring skyward, with gashes cut from the corner of her mouth to give her a grisly 'Glasgow smile' and clear evidence of having been repetitively bludgeoned. Ligature marks were present on her throat, wrists, and legs as well. There were cuts made to her thighs and breasts. In some places chunks of flesh had been sliced away altogether.

A shroud of lazy flies hovering over the body were the only harbinger to the media circus that would descend down on this poor dead woman, her family, and everyone who ever knew her from the moment Bersinger ran to a nearby house and phoned in her gruesome discovery. It was a time when reporters routinely paid off cops for good leads and followed the police dispatch the way gamblers at Hollywood Park follow their races, generally with unbeatable results. It came as no surprise that the media were at the crime scene well in advance of the authorities. Will Fowler, a former reporter from the L.A. Examiner, recalled closing Short's eyes just before the police arrived on Norton Street.


Elizabeth Short would grow to become the most infamous unsolved murder in the history of all of Los Angeles, one that to this day still remains shrouded in myth and mystery. Dubbed as 'the Black Dahlia' by Bevo Means, an eager reporter covering the case after interviewing some workers at a pharmacy a half block from where Short once stayed for two weeks, Elizabeth's brutal death has captivated the American public's dark imagination for generations now. It has spawned countless articles, a few television shows, a movie adaptation of a fictionalized version of events featuring Robert de Niro, a bestselling novel by popular author James Ellroy (who was haunted by nightmares about the Black Dahlia as a small child owing to his mother's murder), and the Brian de Palma adaptation of that book which holds little resemblance to the actual facts of the case but is nevertheless largely remembered as the official version of events by the public. The horrible crime has also been responsible for countless confessions that continue to this very day. In fact the current detective assigned to the case, a young female officer, starts by asking for the "guilty" party's date of birth to narrow down her work load. At the time of Short's death as many as sixty people came forward to admit to the crime. Most of these men were rejected for not knowing anything beyond the papers lurid descriptions, which, in the hands of William Randolph Hearst's greedy gremlins, took a prim and quiet girl with an inexplicable wanderlust and transformed her into a brazen harlot hell bent on Hollywood success who prowled the night in search of enlisted men in an effort to placate her insatiable sexual lust.

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