Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Black Dahlia and Me

When I was a kid, my mom subscribed to three newspapers, one was the Daily News, the Harold and probably the L.A. Times. The Daily News was on the lurid side with headlines about movie stars and gruesome murders. My meek and mild mom read every paper from start to finish.

We lived in Los Angeles near Glendale in a quiet neighborhood. Every Friday night we went to the movies and always saw a double feature, a good movie and a B movie which quite often was about gangsters. We paid our money so we always stayed until the end.

There were lots of good radio shows too and my favorites were Inner Sanctum and other spooky shows.

When I was 14 and my sister 9, we had a small Philco radio that we listened to and for some reason at night we could hear police calls on it. We weren't supposed to, but of course we did anyway.

One night while we were listening, the L.A.P.D. discovered a female body that was cut in half in a vacant lot. The officers on the radio were so excited they described what they'd found in great and gruesome detail.

Sis and I finally fell asleep. During the night, I felt something on the bed. I reached down and touched--it was a leg! I screamed. Surely this was another part of that poor murdered woman, which meant the murderer must be in my room....

Mom came in and turned on the light. I didn't open my eyes for fear of seeing a bloody mess.

"What on earth is the matter in here?" she asked.

Still with my eyes shut tight, I said, "There's a leg on my bed."

"Yes, and it's attached to your sister."

Sis had probably had a nightmare and climbed onto my bed.

Mom shook her head. "You've been listening to police calls again, haven't you?"

I don't remember what our punishment was, but I also don't remember listening to any more police calls.

I can remember that night so plainly.

Many years later I attended an Edgar ceremony where I met the man who believes his father was the one who killed the Black Dahlia. I've read his book and other accounts of the investigation into the murder of the woman they called the Black Dahlia. I don't remember much about any of that, but I'll never forget the night they found her body.



Eileen Schuh: said...

Weren't things so terribly scarey when one was a child? I remember the news story about police finding babies in a freezer close to my home. I was about 7 years old. That story kept me awake for many nights.

At that time, abortions were illegal. I believe it was eventually determined the 'babies' were actually aborted foetuses. (Why someone kept them, I don't know.)

However, even the thought of abortion horrified me at that age. Do we eventually become hardened to horror or as adults, do we come to understand and accept the dark side of mankind?

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I don't think we become hardened exactly, but have learned there are many crazy people out there. As a mystery writer, I am very observant. I always notice things neither my husband or people I'm with do--sometimes wonder if that will keep me safer. On the other hand, I'm friendly to whoever I see, no matter how they look--so probably not so safe after all.


Juanita Rose Violini said...

I remember hearing that man talk about his father on one of the web radio stations. I believe he thought his father was the infamous Zodiac killer as well. Yikes!

Your posting though, gave me some thoughts about mysterys and clues being overheard by unsuspecting bystanders on their radios.

Eileen Schuh: said...

The Black Dahlia was a hermaphrodite--born with both male and female genetalia. She always presented herself as female.

The adults in my life carried on whispered speculation that it was a lover, enraged to discover her secret, who was the murderer.

I think these whispered adult conversation containing words I didn't understand made me suspect there was something even more terrifying to the story than what I heard on the radio.