es-marshall-hi-2

So I’m researching information about the Black Dahlia case for the story I’m working on. I signed up for a message board full of people obsessed with the case. Like, way WAY more obsessed than I ever was. These are some seriously dedicated folks. The entire message board is a rabbit hole of craziness. Lots of good information, but also a lot of people projecting what they want to see onto the case. Completely conflicting pictures painted of who she was and what happened. An entire cast of nefarious suspects and seedy people, and a whole shitload of options for what all went down in the six days between when she went missing and when she was found.

Anyway, the good thing about all of that is that there are theories and suspects and eyewitness accounts that corroborate shit that I completely made up in my story. For instance, there’s a mysterious “Bossy blonde” woman that was seen with Beth in the weeks before her murder, and in some cases during the week she was missing. There are newspaper clips describing her. Pretty much the story as I’ve got it in my head (and writing right now) is totally feasible if you pick and choose the theories you like.

I remember at one point I was following this woman on Tumblr who ran a blog about the case. She’d apparently read a few of the books but didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about the case. She would constantly get “asks” about the case and she rarely brought any information to the table, but every other day or so she would reiterate her steadfast belief that Beth was murdered because she rejected someone who wanted to have sex with her. That was her theory. The extent of her theory. For whatever reason, that’s what she needed to believe, even though she offered no actual evidence or information or theory beyond that. It was just a general idea rather than an actual theory. She would always end the posts with “AND SHE DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE THAT WAY FOR SAYING NO” or something to that effect. It’s such a weird position to take, a jealous rage could escalate into what Elizabeth Short went through. That’s true of so many of the theories out there. It’s like people forget that she was tortured for 2-4 days, her body was washed and her hair was dyed red with henna. She was mutilated beyond recognition, sexually tortured (though not raped) and her face and head were bashed in with a blunt object. She died of head trauma and blood loss from the cuts made to her face, opening her mouth up to almost her ears. The head trauma and face cuts were made after days of degrading torture. After she died, her body was completely drained of blood, washed and cut in half, then displayed (not just dumped, but seemingly deliberately placed) like an art project. There’s no motive that explains away all of that. Unless a theory includes someone who is a complete and utter psychopath nutjob, it’s not really worth exploring. The idea that all of that was the response of a jealous boyfriend or rejected lover or mafia hitman or that she died because of a botched abortion seems kind of silly really. I’m not saying that whoever did it couldn’t have known her or couldn’t have been one of the suspects… just that seems ridiculous to speculate as to WHY they did it, because there is no why to doing something like that. The only why of it is that the person who did it was incredibly disturbed and would have done it to someone else if it hadn’t been Beth, and probably did. The only motivation for torturing and degrading a human being for days on end and then mutilating their body is severe mental illness. That’s the only motive worth entertaining.

It’s weird too because even though James Ellroy’s book was basically fiction beyond the fact that it features a woman named Elizabeth Short who was tortured and cut in half and left on the side of the road, one of the points he makes is that people project what they want to see onto the case. He certainly did. Some people in that forum see her as this femme fatale, almost monstrously insatiable man-eater, and some claim she was a prostitute and a generally terrible person all around. Then some people believe she was a sweet little sad, lost girl bullied and intimidated by the awful people trying to exploit and use her, that she rarely had sex, was saving herself for marriage, or even that she was physically incapable of having sex because of a physical deformity. Either way, it opens me up to write her pretty much however I want, because those two extremes are so far from each other, that the in between is pretty much every  possible option.

The point that I’m getting to is that really, it doesn’t much matter whether I research any more about this or not. Anything I decide to write can probably be backed up by some theory or other. As long as I have the keystone facts of the case in mind, it doesn’t really matter what else I say. It’s all game. There are so many threads in that case that go nowhere but people constantly follow them in circles. It’s the exact same thing I found in the Jack the Ripper forums and the Zodiac Killer forums. This shit drives people nuts and I’m glad I’m not compelled to immerse myself in it, because I could see how a person could very easily go into the closet and close the door and not come out for a few years.