Manage episode 272480829 series 2781331
Welcome to episode #5 of the Black Dahlia and the Blue Dahlia podcast. This is your host Scott Tracy.
The search for “Red” is over. Robert Manley is under arrest and co-operating with the Los Angeles Police.
Manley is called “the last person to see Elizabeth Short alive” in the press. It’s not true. Beth is seen exiting the Hotel three hours later. The last person to see her was her killer. The press and police use the tag “last man to see her alive” to shoehorn Red into the role of murderer. The photos taken for the newspapers do him the disservice of making him look like a convict. I recommend you look at the film noir comparison photos on my web site. One can find books and web articles that still offer Red Manley as a suspect based on the initial police enthusiasm for his culpability. You may ignore those articles. Red Manley is a victim in this investigation; he is not a suspect, he’s not a criminal. No one with a solid foundation of the facts of the Black Dahlia case considers Red Manley a valid suspect. The police expected him to come forward earlier, but of course, Manley has hesitated because he hopes to not lose his marriage because of an affair. Manley admitted to a flirtation with Elizabeth Short in San Diego “I had a date with her … and kissed her a few times but that's all.”
Police question Manley for 12 hours without an attorney and without charging him with a crime. Manley is drowsy and the polygraph test is declared inconclusive. Manley’s Studebaker is checked for blood. There is none. There is nothing on his clothes.
The press quotes Robert Manley’s mother, Mrs. Morris Manley declared, “It’s ridiculous. He’s a wonderful son. He’s never been in any trouble in his life. They are just questioning everyone with red hair, that’s all it is.* Naturally they have to find out who did it. Everyone with red hair gets the nickname “Red.”
Manley’s wife, Harriet, and another couple maintain he is playing cards with them the night in question. His story is believable. He passes the second polygraph. Robert Manley is interviewed by Agnes Underwood. The police are playing bad cop, good reporter; with the hope a woman might get a better result. Indeed there is a helpful clue and a new fact that changes things. The clue is that Robert Manley remembers a phone call Beth made from a San Diego restaurant to an unknown person. In time it will be learned this was a phone call to Mark Hansen on January 8th at his home requesting to stay there when she returned. Not until Anne Toth comes back was Hansen’s reply.
The important fact: Manley tells Aggie it was him that mentions the Biltmore. Beth never says take me to the Biltmore Hotel.
Manley admitted to Aggie that he told Beth he was married, during the evening, and said she had told him she had been married to 'a Major Matt somebody," who had been killed. "When I walked her to the door, I told her I might be down that way again and asked if it would be all right to wire her when I was arriving. She said yes.
“… on January 7, about 3 p. m. I sent her a wire that I was arriving next day. …”She asked me if I would drive her to Los Angeles. I said yes, but I told her I couldn't leave until (tomorrow).… (returning north) we drove to Laguna Beach. There we stopped and got gas. En route she asked whether she could write to me. She said she was going to meet her sister from Berkeley, Mrs. Adrian West. “I asked where she was going to meet her, and without waiting for her to answer I said, “The Biltmore?” and she answered “yes.”
“She wrote my name and business address in her notebook, so she could write to me.
“When we got in to Los Angeles, she wanted me to take her to the Greyhound Bus Station so she could check her bags before she met her sister. I drove her to the Greyhound bus station and carried her bags in. I had to go out to move my car, but told her I would drive around and pick her up and take her to the Biltmore. I didn’t want to leave her in that neighborhood.
“When we got to the Biltmore, she said she had to go to the restroom and asked me if I would check at the desk on whether her sister had arrived.…She hadn’t.
That is the last time I ever saw Betty Short. I'll take the truth serum or anything they want to give me. And, I'll swear on a stack of Bibles and tell my minister too, that was the last time I ever saw Betty Short. I did not kill her. "But, brother! I'll never cheat on my wife again!”
A couple of points related to the interview: One, Manley makes the comment about the Greyhound bus station because the location is adjacent to skid row. He is being a gentleman. Two, The Biltmore is an emotional touchpoint for the Black Dahlia legend but the Hotel holds no more significance to the destiny of Elizabeth Short than it does for Winnie Ruth Judd; it is a place both women pass thru. There is no more of a black dahlia ghost at the Biltmore than a black dahlia ghost at the greyhound bus station. For the most part, Robert Manley gets a raw deal from the press. His mistake is his own doing and he pays for it the rest of his life; Elizabeth Short is an attractive girl, Harriet Manley is a beautiful woman.
After the Aggie Underwood’s exclusive article in the Evening Herald Express, Manley is released. Aggie later writes in her autobiography, Newspaperwoman, that she was “removed” from the Black Dahlia case. Partially true. She was promoted to city editor. One Black Dahlia writer suggests her removal is evidence of a police cover-up. Eatwell writes, “Who was trying to take the star reporter off the biggest newspaper story of the decade? Who wanted her of their back? Why?”
Eatwell doesn’t answer any of the three questions she poses in her book. ** Let me do that now. The answer to these questions is no one. Nor does Eatwell make any specific claim stating the LAPD told the Hearst Newspaper to take Underwood off the Dahlia case. How would the LAPD order the Los Angeles newspaper to remove a reporter? Aggie taken off the case—there is not much truth to that, that’s how Aggie felt. So maybe 10% true. The 90% part is that it’s a significant exaggeration to suggest this is of any importance. Firstly, this case was not the story of the decade five days in. The Hearst newspaper just stated the investigation was going to focus on a violent San Diego date who scratched Beth’s arms. There is no one for Aggie to interview in Los Angeles. At this point in the crime investigation, there is little reason to assume the murder of Elizabeth Short will be a bigger newspaper story than the Red Rose Murder, the B girl stabbed repeatedly until the knife broke off in her back or the Red Hibiscus Murder where a mother of three WWII veterans is hit with a five inch bolt, raped and dumped in a public park.
No one, on the 21st of January 1947 could assume this case will be talked about in March or April of 1947, much less 70 years later. Especially with Manley released, there is no clear investigation path forward. However, if Aggie had any valuable information to follow up with, she was now the city editor. She could assign reporters anywhere she wanted. If this is a conspiracy to silence Aggie Underwood, why would she be given more authority and more independence? She loses the byline but gains a surprising position of power in the newspaper industry; this is only the second time in American history that a woman had been in charge. Let’s celebrate that.
There is no conspiracy to silence anyone in 1947. The conspiracy conversation that Aggie is thinking about has its beginnings in 1949. Later in life, Aggie makes comments that suggest she knows who killed Elizabeth Short. This comment is likely based on DeRiver’s 1949 false entrapment and interrogation of suspect Leslie Dillon. Not based on what Aggie Underwood knew on January 21st 1947. No one has heard the names of Leslie Dillon or George Hodel in January of 1947, for example.
Returning to the fate of Robert Manley, he admits to the police that he slept with Elizabeth Short. Something he denied to Aggie, In time police will locate two other men who slept with her.§ All spoke of a lack of passion on Elizabeth Short’s part.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE Tuesday jan 21st 1947
SEARCH IN TORSO KILLING SWITCHED TO SAN DIEGO
With "Red" eliminated as a suspect, police turned to a lead supplied by him. Manley related that the second time he met the Short girl she had "bad scratches" on both arms above the elbows" which she said had been inflicted by her boy friend, a black-haired Italian who lived in San Diego and who, she said, "had been mean" to her.
Police return to Norton Ave to canvas the neighborhood with two questions: Do you know anyone in the neighborhood who is mentally unbalanced? And do you know any medical students? The common answers were No and No. Medical students: the police theory is that a young man who was rejected sexually turns violent in a fit of blood thirsty rage. A frustrated medical student would have the knife skills to bisect a body.
These two questions bifurcate dramatically. Perhaps that should be the question of the day, raise you hand if you know any mentally unbalanced medical students in your neighborhood. The violent destruction of a life is perceived to be done by an evil madman with the soul of a wild animal, could that be the same person who commits years the to study of medicine in order to save lives? It doesn’t make sense. Yes, doctors have murdered their wives or husbands and lovers. There have been four famous serial killer who were doctors. §§ My point is the question, do you know anyone who is mentally unbalanced, returns us to the werewolf conversation. If I think of a crazy med student in the neighborhood; I have a mental image of a werewolf in a lab coat that reminds me of the Warren Zevon song, Werewolves of London. His hair is perfect.
There is solid logic in considering medical students The LA ripper, Otto Stephan Wilson and the Torso Killer, Arthur Eggars both considered bisecting their victims but found the task too difficult and gave up. The LAPD with the help of the FBI discover one USC pre-med student who knew Beth, however that lead, ex-Navy Medical Corps veteran Marvin Margolis does not develop into a serious suspect.
Phoebe Short, Elizabeth’s mother, is flown out to California, the Hearst papers buy her a ticket to get an exclusive. Phoebe said her daughter loved Hollywood movies.
”Betty was a sophomore when she left high school in Medford, Mrs. Short recalled. "She had asthma. Every winter she would go south, to Florida, and work as a waitress. Then she would come back home in summer. When she was away, she always wrote me once a week. The last I heard she was working in San Diego at a hospital." But the slain girl's latest ambition, according to her mother, was to crash into the movie business. Betty had told her she worked as an “extra”.
Records at both Central Casting and the Screen Actors Guild gave no indication that Miss Short ever worked in motion pictures…the mother said that she knew nothing of the hordes of boy friends that had come into Betty's life. In Medford, she said. Bettv was known as a quiet, unassuming girl, the antithesis of the Betty whom Hollywood acquaintances described as a fast girl who had a different fellow every night and who liked to prowl the boulevard.
As I recall, Elizabeth Short wrote Joseph Fickling from San Diego that she is leaving for Chicago with a man named Jack to model and to not write her again in Los Angeles. Moving away is not what one would expect from an actress committed to making it. And why Chicago? She moved to Florida for the weather, Chicago will have brutal winter weather like Boston.
She did not tell her mother she was going to Chicago. She only wrote to Fickling about it. It is most important that she staying in touch with Fickling as he was sending her money and that was a very real lifeline to her. $100, a considerable sum in 1947, was sent to her when she was staying with the French family in San Diego.
Beth still asked Elvira French for a dollar when she left San Diego with Robert Manley in his Studebaker. In December 1946, the first time Elizabeth met Red Manley, he set her up to get a job but she never shows up to the interview.
There is another redhead in the news this day.
QUOTE A red haired man entered the murder picture in yet another way today on reports of Betty Blake dancer (who said) such a person came into the Gay Way Bar, 514 S. Main St. on the night of Jan 12. Miss Blake said the red haired man asked for Miss Short, who had been there earlier in the evening. ‡
This is Sunday Jan 12th. Beth had 3 days to live
QUOTE Investigators today threw more than 700 police, sheriffs deputies and state officers into an intensive hunt for clues. Virtually abandoning their hunt for a male killer, homicide detectives theorized that Miss Short may have been butchered by a jealous woman. They began a systematic examination of her woman friends. The theory that Miss Short may have been slain by a woman was advanced by Capt. Donohoe, … The girl had no clothing or makeup when she left San Diego six days before her mutilated body was found in a vacant lot.
Interestingly the best presentation the “woman did it” story is one printed in a St. Louis newspaper. Just as there are differences in morning and evening newspapers; outside of California, no paper is selling the story of the tragedy of a young actress. Out of state newspapers offer a vision of Los Angeles as a place of sin and regret. One example: “Unskilled, untalented and neither prettier nor shapelier then hundreds of other young women seeking fame and fortune in the entertainment world, Beth drifted about Hollywood looking for a living.” ‡‡ Cruel and dismissive compared to the glamour seeking character arc presented by the LA Times or Herald Express. An article written by a Los Angeles reporter Jim Murray appears in the St. Louis Globe Democrat. As a syndicated article for an out of town newspaper, it has a headline not written for a Los Angeles audience; QUOTE: “Violent death and crime beneath the false face of film land gaiety.” The news story takes a bite out the sunny los Angeles image in the first sentence.
QUOTE LOS ANGELES, CA— In Los Angeles murder is nothing. There were 116 murders in this city last year— the highest in the country. But every so often a murderer shows …a brutishness that marks his crime as out of the ordinary … The girl’s body was in two sections. Shocking things had been done to her youthful limbs. A tattooed rosebud had been carved out of her thigh. Her hair had been wantonly pulled— after the slaying. Her mouth had been cut in a taut, razor sharp gash before the slaying. ∞. ENDQUOTE
Remarkable. This newspaper article talks about the rose tattoo being removed and the hair pulled from her body. It doesn’t mention where the tattoo and hair were placed afterwards. I am surprised to see this in any article. We know the police have three questions that only the killer would know. As the tattoo and hair are inserted in the vagina and anal canal respectively, these facts were useful questions that the police would use to eliminate many confessors.
Eatwell claims that her suspect Leslie Dillon was the likely killer because only he knew the Black Dahlia had a tattoo of a red rose on her upper thigh which had been cut off; because this fact had not been released to the public. Obviously not true. The Jim Murray piece is published in February of 1947. Dillon is questioned by DeRiver in December of 1948.
The Murray article the quotes the police psychiatrist often. “Only a jealous woman could have so coldly and with such fervent rage torn that body after her victim was dead,” a police psychiatrist believed. Doctor Paul DeRiver’s rationalization as to why only a woman could be the murderess gets more blatant…”and only a woman could drive in the dark of the early morning hours to that site off Norton avenue and and placed the body carefully on the hillock ∏ for a passerby to see in the morning. A man would have aroused suspicion driving alone in that lonely spot at the hour. Only a woman could coldly betray by no action that her memory concealed so frenzied a slaying. Somewhere, someday, she’ll look up into a mirror and that hand that holds the cocktail glass will begin to tremble. The reflection she sees will be that of a detective”. ENDQUOTE
That is an odd piece of interpretive fiction for a news article, with the cocktail and the hand shaking in fear, and the detective in the mirror. Not sure how DeRiver knows she drinks. That’s the least of his foolishness.
DeRiver deals with criminals who confess and assumes killers need to confess to get this off their chest. Why confess if you are not caught?. Indeed that's one of the basic tenants of a serial killer is that there is no remorse; the murderer justifies the victim as the victim. There is nothing to regret when the victim deserves to die. This killer, by displaying the body is presenting a trophy.
Dr. Paul DeRiver’s push to sell the idea of a female murderer is laughable, given his efforts to exclude a male killer; only a woman could have driven a car on Norton Ave. What nonsense. DeRiver offers no science behind his interpretive claims, he is engaging in marketing a theory for the police department to the newspapers, there are no facts presented. DeRiver exhibits a level of integrity equal to the doctor recommending a Camel Cigarette in an postwar advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post. ∏∏
The article finishes with;, “the story of Elizabeth Short will join the half-forgotten shadows of other unsolved murders..that hang over this city and give it an air of apprehension and un-ease— a place of violent death and crime beneath the false face of film land gaiety.”
The out of town angle to the news stories is to focus on the scandals as they are pulling back to curtain for their readers in order to expose the darker side of Hollywood. Murray calls Elizabeth Short “a trapped, haunted desperate girl, who had blackened her record, aroused distrust in the men she sought and proved herself unwanted anywhere.” While this is in alignment with the remarks of Harry Hansen, “a girl with an obviously low IQ.” The local press goes as far as to say a girl in the wrong place as the wrong time. The police shift from Red to a female killer is expressed in the local news on this day.
"Bartenders remembered seeing the 22 year old Miss Short at the “The Dugout” on Main Street and "The Four Star" on Hollywood Boulevard, January 12, just two days before the, probable night of her slaying. C. G. Williams, bartender at the downtown spot, said Miss Short was with a blonde who "flew into a rage" ∞∞ when two men attempted "to move in on them.” One than once, Beth is seen in the company of a woman that witnesses characterized as “bossy”. Suggesting a protective perhaps even possessive attitude toward Beth when men approach them. This plays into the police lesbian angle. January 12 as you remember is when Betty Blake dancer at the Gay Way sees her. The Gay Way angle doesn’t appear in the LA Times. The word “Gay” might mean carefree time or a brightly colored party room to many in this time period but the Gay Way is a two story bar with an upstairs where there was “dancing”. This is a bar servicemen were told to not enter during WWII. After the war a fresh painted “welcome servicemen” sign appears out front. The Crown Jewel Room also has a reputation as a gay bar.Police are very aware of these locations. Unspoken but very much thought about, the idea that Elizabeth Short shows little warmth or affection to Manley and other men, leads the police and reporters to consider that Beth prefers the sexual company of women.
The Police Chef’s suggestion of a female killer has newspapers remind their readers of previous dangerous female killers in Los Angeles crime history; Tiger Girl, Clare Phillips, who killed with a ball peen hammer, Serial killer Louise Peete who shot her victims in the back and The Trunk Murderess, Winnie Ruth Judd who bisected and dismembered her best friends.
When looking at pictures of Clare Phillips or Louise Peete or Winnie Ruth Judd they do not look like monsters or Werewolves. Citizens who commit hideous and violent crimes don’t wear black hats, they look like the rest of us. It is often stated that serial killers blend in, it’s deeper than that, serial killers commit a murder and are not seen, because their personality type have always been not seen. Serial killers don’t have a cloak of invisibility to help them escape the police but a hurt that angers and motivates them, not being seen is why the killer commits the crime. A serial killer commits violence because he has been ignored; abandoned, beaten, unloved, not picked for sports or games. I admire the work of Sasha Reid, University of Calgary. criminologist and developmental psychologist.†
Reid has 645 variables in her database span from the killers’ pre-conception to death. “What was going on with the parents prior to conception? Did they live in a house with lead-based paint? Was the father an alcoholic? Was mom doing drugs or drinking during the pregnancy? Then we look at the childhood. Were they born with any abnormalities? Were their birthing complications? Maybe an umbilical cord wrapped around their necks?” ††
“Low IQ. So that’s definitely a risk factor, but not for why a lot of people think. It’s a risk factor for making friends. Kids with lower IQs tend to have fewer friends because they don’t really know how to socially engage.” Read Sasha Reid.
ONE MORE THING
One can walk into the Gallery Bar in the Biltmore Hotel lobby in downtown Los Angeles and order the Black Dahlia Cocktail. A drink made from citrus vodka, Chambord and Kahlua. The idea of that is revolting to me. I stayed at the Biltmore a few years ago and avoided the bar for that reason.
There is no restaurant in Brentwood that serves a Ron Goldman Punch. No bar in Hollywood serves a Peg Entwistle Fizz. How can we celebrate murder with a libation? I believe the answer is our culture doesn’t perceive that the Black Dahlia is Elizabeth Short. The story of Elizabeth Short is a morality tale, a warning to all young Red Riding Hoods to not stray, true life fairy tale written in stolen blood, grimmer than Grimm’s. The Black Dahlia represents a violent fate in the manner of a tarot card, The mystery of death itself is entwined with the mystery of the unsolved crime. The Black Dahlia is a trope that has more in common with a candy skull painted face one sees on the day of the dead celebrations than it has with the tabula rasa life of Elizabeth Short. Very few deaths are as remarkable to have a life of their own that is exponentially greater than the life lived. I bring your attention to a parallel legend in European culture; “L’Inconnue de la Seine”. The plaster death mask of the Unknown Woman of the Seine; a face Albert Caymus called the drowned Mona Lisa was hung on the walls of Bohemians and sophisticates. L’Inconnue became a muse for artists, poets and other writers, among them Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, and Vladimir Nabokov. ††† The Black Dahlia, certainly, a muse for James Ellroy and David Lynch, perhaps for you, as well as me.
Thanks for listening.
In the next podcast, the police, looking for a woman; find a girl. And a woman in a fur coat walks into a police station.
* Yep, every red-haired person gets called red.
**Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America's Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell
§ Comments of Harry Hansen. Farewell My Black Dahlia, 1971, Los Angeles Times Magazine
§§ H.H. Holmes, Harold Shipman, John Bodkin Adams and Michael Swango.
‡Valley Times, North Hollywood, 22 Jan 1947
‡‡Press & Sun Bulletin, Binghamton New York Feb 12 1950 page 29
∏ Hillock means small hill, such as an anthill. DeRiver is making this up. There is no significant rise of dirt on the place where the body was dumped adjacent to the sidewalk.
∏∏ “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” R. J. Reynolds solicited this “finding” by sending doctors a free carton of Camel cigarettes, and then calling on the phone to ask what brand they smoked.
∞St Louis Globe-Democrat, Sunday Feb 2nd 1947, special correspondent Jim Murray, future LA Times sportswriter.
∞∞The San Francisco Examiner 22 Jan 1947, Wed • Page 3
†Reid completed two master’s degrees: one in criminology and sociological studies and the other in applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto.
††Canadian Serial Killer 17 year old Peter Woodcock had killed three smaller children. Reactive attachment disorder can result from grossly negligent care before five years of age.
†††New York Times, July 20, 2017, At a Family Workshop Near Paris, the ‘Drowned Mona Lisa’ Lives On, Elaine Sciolino