My research into The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run (The Cleveland Torso Killer) started when I was looking up haunted sites in Los Angeles. I was reading about The Black Dahlia and found out that some people believe that she may have been murdered by Cleveland’s most notorious killer. I wrote a separate blog with lots of photos about the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.
First of all, don’t rely on the 2006 movie “The Black Dahlia” to tell you anything about what happened to this girl. The movie is more about fictional detectives who were both in love with the same woman while they were investigating the crime. If you watch this movie because you’re interested in the Black Dahlia story, you’ll be disappointed.
The Black Dahlia is the title given to Elizabeth Short when the media were sensationalizing her murder, but some say she had the nickname while she was alive. She was a girl from Massachusetts who went to Los Angeles to pursue acting and modeling. There are mixed reports about whether Short was a party girl with a shady family history, or a sweet good girl who just wanted to make something of herself in Hollywood. She was 22 when she was brutally murdered.
Her corpse was discovered by a woman and her daughter as they were walking through their neighborhood just outside of Hollywood. The woman said she thought she saw a broken mannequin, but it turned out to be a real body, chopped in half, and brutally disfigured, especially her face. Her mouth had been sliced open ear to ear, and flesh had been cut from other parts of her body. The coroner’s report indicated that she had been tortured in various ways before she died, including being forced to eat human feces, suffering multiple shallow stab wounds, and receiving blows to her head (which may have been her cause of death, along with bleeding to death). She may have been raped and sodomized before and/or after her death, but her body had been washed of any evidence. Her body was entirely drained of blood before she was placed in the lot. She had been missing for a week, so it’s possible that her torture lasted for days.
News of the murder spread fast. Once Elizabeth Short’s identity was confirmed, the case became even more fascinating to the media as stories of her life and lifestyle started to circulate. Reportedly, she was often out with different men that she didn’t know well, although she supposedly did not have sex with them because she may have had a condition that make intercourse difficult. It’s likely that, because she did not have a permanent place to stay, she would tease men to get them to buy her dinner and let her stay with them, but then they would soon kick her out because she wouldn’t have sex.
With details like these and newspapers in competition, the crime was highly sensationalized, and the police started to have problems with several people trying to confess to the murder for the fame, and many more people called in tips that lead to nothing. I read that reporters would go into the police department and answer the phones to intercept tips that they could investigate and “break the story”. This kept the police from doing as well at their job as they could have to find the real killer. The police weren’t able to convict anyone of the murder of Elizabeth Short, and her case is still unsolved.
Enter suspect Jack Wilson. The name Jack Wilson comes up in both the Mad Butcher of Kingbury Run and The Black Dahlia cases, but it is unknown if it is the same man or not. Cleveland Jack Wilson was a butcher who often carried his knife with him, and he was known to be into sodomy, which is what may have attracted him to his victims, who were mostly prostitutes or bi-sexuals. One woman had come forward to police to say that she believed Jack Wilson has murdered one of the Cleveland victims.
Los Angeles Jack Wilson (also known as Arnold Smith and several other aliases) wasn’t named as a suspect until long after the Black Dahlia murder. I haven’t read John Gilmore’s Severed: The True Story of The Black Dahlia, but I’ve read summaries that say that it was this author who had interviewed Jack Wilson (not sure why the author was interviewing him) and told the LAPD to consider Wilson as a suspect in 1981. Gilmore uncovered links between Wilson and Elizabeth Short, as well as Georgette Bauerdorf, a girl who may have been an acquaintance of Short and was also brutally murdered before Short. This Jack Wilson has also supposedly spoken of seeing “The Death Mask” (the face replica that police made of one of the Cleveland victims in hopes of identifying him) at the Cleveland Expo. Unfortunately, Jack Wilson died in a fire before police were able to question him.
There’s a really great chart here that shows similarities between The Cleveland Torso Murders and The Black Dahlia murder, as well as the murder of Suzanne Degnan in Chicgo. Suzanne was a 16-year-old who was killed and decapitated/dismembered in Chicago in 1946. I haven’t researched Degnan’s story or visited her site, but Chicago is close to Cleveland and travel would be easy between cities via train.
I bet the people who now live at 3925 Norton Ave. in Liemert Park, Los Angeles (just a couple miles out of Hollywood) are so annoyed that random tourists photograph their sidewalk all the time, so I only took a couple photos very quickly. I’ve seen pictures online of girls lying on the ground in this yard in the position that Beth Short’s body was discovered. I wasn’t going to go that far (although, inappropriate Halloween yard decoration may be in the future). I think this neighborhood was either being newly built in the 1940s, or old houses were on their way out as new ones were going to be built, but either way, the lot was mostly vacant at the time.
I took this photo in 2009, but I don’t think there was a house there at the time when The Black Dahlia’s body was found in the lower right corner of the yard, close to the next driveway and sidewalk.
I don’t know the copyright of this first photo below, but there were so many reporters, and their photos were all taken from similar angles. The second photo here is one that I took of the spot in 2009. It’s not clear in these photos, but in the far distance, directly down the street line, you can see the Hollywood sign from this spot.
These are the only photos I have for The Black Dahlia because there’s not much of relevance to see in Los Angeles today. Her memorial is in Massachusetts. There are some seriously graphic photos of Elizabeth’s mutilated body that you can easily find online, but be warned, the images are disturbing enough to stick with you for a while.