Elizabeth Short’s murder dominated the front pages of the Herald-Express for days. But even in a murder case as sensational as that of the Black Dahlia the more time that elapses following the discovery of a crime, the fewer clues there are on which to report. The fact that the case was going cold didn’t dampen the Herald’s enthusiasm for reporting on it. As I mentioned on Thursday, the paper sought out psychiatrists psychologists, and mystery writers who would attempt, each in his/her own way, to analyze the case — and fill column space in the paper. Decades before the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) was founded the shrinks and writers whose work appeared in the Herald-Express were engaging in speculative profiles of both the victim and her killer.
One of the psychologists tapped by the Herald to contribute her analysis of the victim and slayer was Alice La Vere. The Herald introduced La Vere as “…one of the nation’s most noted consulting psychologists”. Miss La Vere, said the Herald, would give to readers:
“an analysis of the motives which led to the torture murder of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short”.
La Vere’s analysis seems surprisingly contemporary.
“Some gnawing feeling of inadequacy was eating at the mind of this girl. She needed constant proof to herself that she was important to someone and demonstrates this need by the number of suitors and admirers with which she surrounded herself.”
La Vere went on to describe the killer:
“It is very likely that this is the first time this boy has committed any crime. It is also likely that he may be a maladjusted veteran. The lack of social responsibility experienced by soldiers, their conversational obsession with sex, their nerves keyed to battle pitch — these factors are crime-breeding.” She further stated: “Repression of the sex impulse accompanied by environmental maladjustment is the slayer’s probable background.”
How does La Vere’s profile of Elizabeth Short and her killer compare to a an analysis by retired FBI profiler John Douglas? Douglas suggested that Beth was “needy” and that her killer would have “spotted her a mile away”. He said that the killer “would have been a lust killer and loved hurting people.”
On the salient points, I’d say that La Vere and Douglas were of like minds regarding Elizabeth Short and her killer — wouldn’t you?
At the time of Elizabeth Short’s murder, mystery writer Craig Rice (pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Walker Craig) was one of the most popular crime writers in the country. In its January 28, 1946 issue, Time Magazine selected Rice for a cover feature on the mystery genre. Sadly, Rice has been forgotten by all except the most avid mystery geeks (like me).
Craig Rice was invited by the Herald-Express to give her take on the Black Dahlia case in late January 1947. Rice described Elizabeth Short in this way:
“A black dahlia is what expert gardeners call ‘an impossibility’ of nature. Perhaps that is why lovely, tragic Elizabeth Short was tortured, murdered and mutilated Because such a crime could happen only in the half-world in which she lived. A world of–shadows.”
NEXT TIME: Could a woman have murdered the Black Dahlia?