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The Black Dahlia Murder metal band takes its name from this gruesome unsolved killing

Bruno Cooke May 12, 2022
black dahlia murder name

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The lead singer and co-founder of US metal group The Black Dahlia Murder, Trevor Strnad, has sadly died at the age of 41 – his bandmates confirmed his death on social media, reports The Guardian.

Following the sad news, it’s worth looking at the Michigan melodic death metal band’s origins. Its name, for a start, is a curious one.

A minority of those alive today will remember firsthand the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, known posthumously as Black Dahlia, and it’s from her nickname that Strnad’s band got their name.

WARNING: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS AHEAD

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Elizabeth Short died in 1947 at the age of 22

Born 29 July 1924 in the Hyde Park section of Boston, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Short was the third of five daughters.

Her father built miniature golf courses but lost most of his savings in the 1929 stock market crash. Her mother worked as a bookkeeper.

At around 10am on 15 January 1947, a woman walking her daughter in a pushchair through the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles discovered Elizabeth Short’s dead body. Elizabeth was 22 at the time of her death.

According to the FBI’s description of events, she was “sliced clean in half at the waist”. Biography’s writeup notes that “gashes” had been “carved from each side of her mouth”. No blood was found at the scene, suggesting that she was killed elsewhere.

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Contrary to popular belief, Elizabeth Short had the nickname Black Dahlia before her death

Elizabeth had black hair. She went by Beth, Betty or Bette – she didn’t have a middle name. She was 22 when she died.

On the anniversary of Short’s death last year, the LA Daily Mirror wrote a “guide for the hasty reporter”. Partly, it was in order to prevent “the more common mistakes” in reporting on the Black Dahlia Murder case.

It is apparently a common misconception that she earned her nickname after her death. She actually earned the moniker Black Dahlia “at a drugstore in Long Beach” that she visited regularly in the summer of 1946. 

A crime film and film noir by the name of The Blue Dahlia came out in the spring of 1946, which may have inspired the name, but newspapers reporting on the case didn’t coin it.

Short did not, the Mirror stresses, “exclusively wear black outfits”.

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Several people claim to have solved it but the Black Dahlia murder case remains officially unsolved

In May 2016, the Guardian newspaper reported on the story of Steve Hodel. He’s a crime author and former LAPD detective living in Sherman Oaks, California. 

Shortly after his father’s death, he found himself flicking through an old photo album. Near the back, he spotted “two pictures of a young woman, her eyes cast downward, with curly, deep-black hair”.

“My God,” he said to himself, “that looks like the Black Dahlia.” As a result, cataloguing evidence “has been Steve’s life for the last 15 years” – and that was in 2016.

Nevertheless, officially, the murderer “has never been found”. And, the FBI’s case file notes, “given how much time has passed, [they] probably never will be”.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.