Unsolved Mysteries: George Hodel and the “Black Dahlia”

In January of 1947, the mutilated body of a woman, drained of blood and severed at the waist, was found in an empty lot in Los Angeles, California. Though the victim known as the “Black Dahlia” was eventually identified as 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, her killer was never brought to justice. The Black Dahlia case has since become one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in America.

Black Dahlia Murder Unsolved After 4 YearsBlack Dahlia Murder Unsolved After 4 Years Sun, Jan 14, 1951 – Page 32 · The Times (Shreveport, Caddo, Louisiana, United States of America) · Newspapers.com Black Dahlia Murder Unsolved After 13 YearsBlack Dahlia Murder Unsolved After 13 Years Fri, Jan 15, 1960 – 22 · The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey, United States of America) · Newspapers.com Black Dahlia Murder Unsolved After 22 YearsBlack Dahlia Murder Unsolved After 22 Years Sun, May 4, 1969 – Page 17 · Independent Press-Telegram (Long Beach, Los Angeles, California) · Newspapers.com

George Hodel, Murder Suspect

The case was notable for the brutal details of the murder, and for the resulting decades-long investigation that yielded hundreds of suspects but no firm answers. The disturbing history of the LA doctor often linked with this case, George Hodel, makes him a grimly compelling suspect. His is a name well-associated with the case thanks mostly to his son, ex-detective Steve Hodel.

Steve Hodel, Son of George Hodel, Accuses Father of Black Dahlia MurderSteve Hodel, Son of George Hodel, Accuses Father of Black Dahlia Murder Sun, May 11, 2003 – 21 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Hodel’s Suspicious History

George Hodel may have been a successful doctor, but he was not a good man. In 1945, he came under suspicion as the potential murderer of his secretary Ruth Spaulding, though her death was listed as an accidental overdose. He became a prime suspect in the 1947 Black Dahlia case when Short’s injuries revealed the murderer probably had surgical expertise. In 1949, two years after the Dahlia murder, Hodel’s daughter, Tamar Hodel, accused her father of incest. He was tried and acquitted of those charges, but the whole situation strengthened the case against him as a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder.

There were a few other peculiarities that seem to point at Hodel’s guilt. His black 1936 Packard resembled descriptions of a black car seen near the empty lot the same day Short’s body was found. He had a delivery of cement bags sent to his house for remodeling the day Short disappeared, and similar bags were found near her body. And only three years after Short’s death, Hodel conveniently left the country to live in the Philippines, where he would remain until 1990.

Steve Hodel’s Investigation

After George died in 1999, Steve Hodel followed the trail of evidence that he felt proved his father’s guilt. Among his discoveries were photos that looked like Elizabeth Short, though it was never confirmed they were actually her. Perhaps most suspect of all, transcripts were found in old police files from surveillance conducted on George Hodel’s home in 1950:

Transcripts found of electronic surveillance of George Hodel's homeTranscripts found of electronic surveillance of George Hodel’s home Tue, May 13, 2003 – Page 1-10 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

The tapes also indicate that George had deals with the police. Steve theorizes that his father evaded arrest and prosecution through his high-status connections and bribery.

Tamar Hodel Quote on George Hodel's guiltTamar Hodel Quote on George Hodel’s guilt Sun, May 11, 2003 – 15 · The Record (Hackensack, Bergen, New Jersey, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

As with all unsolved cases, there’s so much more to this story. There are more theorized connections between Hodel and Short, other suspects who might be responsible, and of course, a whole slew of facts and links lost to time that we will simply never know. For now, George Hodel is still only a suspect, and the Black Dahlia case remains unsolved.

Find hundreds of articles on the Black Dahlia murder and connected suspects, including George Hodel, with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Clever Cons: Princess Caraboo

In early 1817, a mystery woman showed up in the town of Almondsbury in Gloucester, England. She seemed disoriented, and when she spoke her words were incomprehensible babble. The only thing anyone could discern was that she called herself “Caraboo.”

Spoiler alert:

Princess Caraboo IllustrationPrincess Caraboo Illustration Sat, Jul 10, 1926 – 25 · The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.com

The Hoax

The young lady was taken in by a Mr. and Mrs. Worrall, who tried to make sense of her. Several days after her arrival, a man named Manuel Eynesso (conveniently) appeared and said he could understand Princess Caraboo’s strange language. Her remarkable story, which he “translated,” was a sensational one, complete with pirates, death, and daring escape.

Caraboo's story, as translated by Manuel EynessoCaraboo’s story, as translated by Manuel Eynesso Sat, Jul 10, 1926 – 25 · The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.com

The Reveal

The story certainly caught eyes; the princess Caraboo’s story gained her national attention and she became a favorite with local dignitaries. She enjoyed her fame for several months, but the very celebrity that gave her such a comfortable life proved to be her undoing. A woman named Mrs. Neale recognized “Princess Caraboo” as none other than her old serving maid, Mary Willcocks (sometimes called Mary Baker in contemporary reports). A (likely embellished) account of the shocking reveal is recounted in this 1924 article:

Mrs. Neale reveals Caraboo's true identityMrs. Neale reveals Caraboo’s true identity Sat, May 17, 1924 – Page 4 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) · Newspapers.com

Caraboo's true history as reported by the Exeter Flying PostCaraboo’s true history as reported by the Exeter Flying Post Thu, Jun 19, 1817 – 4 · The Exeter Flying Post or, Trewman’s Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser (Exeter, Devon, England) · Newspapers.com

And so the jig was up. Caraboo’s inscrutable language had been an invention, cobbled together nonsense mixed with real words she’d learned on the road before her arrival in Almondsbury. Her convincingly foreign behaviors had been picked up here and there from sailors and travelers. The man who had “translated” her story had been in on the ruse all along.

The papers had a hey-day repeating the truth of the matter and having a laugh at the gullible Gloucester town. One article, with a bit more sympathy, even joked that Mary Willcocks’ beauty may have had something to do with it:

A jab at the susceptibility of Dr. Wilkinson to the pretty Princess CarabooA jab at the susceptibility of Dr. Wilkinson to the pretty Princess Caraboo Sat, Jun 21, 1817 – 4 · The Royal Cornwall Gazette, Falmouth Packet, and General Advertiser (Truro, Cornwall, England) · Newspapers.com

Life After “Caraboo”

A surprisingly soft-hearted Mrs. Worrall funded her travel to America, where Mary Willcocks seems to have used her fame to garner further attention with some small success. She also supposedly met and became a favorite of Napoleon Bonaparte, but that story has never been confirmed.

Mary eventually returned to Europe and married Richard Baker, with whom she had a daughter. She also took up a career selling leeches to a hospital—a job that some found ironic:

Princess Caraboo after the hoaxPrincess Caraboo after the hoax Thu, Jun 21, 1866 – Page 4 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, Kings, New York) · Newspapers.com

All in all, the one-time sensation “Princess Caraboo” seems to have settled down to live out the rest of her fairly normal life—under her real name, this time.

Find more about Princess Caraboo with a search on Newspapers.com.

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How to Add “Zest” to Your Housework

Are you making every minute worthwhile? Or are you losing time and strength with inefficient housework methods? This 1919 article advises housewives on the best way to “work like a whirlwind” and add some “zest” to typical chores.

Add Add “zest” to your housework by studying time, methods, and motions Fri, Jul 4, 1919 – 2 · The Powder River County Examiner and the Broadus Independent (Broadus, Montana, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

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Unsolved Mysteries: The Disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh

Suzy LamplughSuzy Lamplugh Fri, Dec 5, 1986 – 6 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com


On July 28, 1986, real estate agent Suzy Lamplugh went to show property on Shorrolds Road in Fulham, England, to a client she called “Mr. Kipper.” Witnesses report seeing a woman of her description arguing with a man and then getting into a car. Her own vehicle, a white Ford Fiesta, was found apparently abandoned the night of July 28, with the keys gone and her purse still inside. That night Suzy was declared missing.

Suzy Lamplugh DisappearanceSuzy Lamplugh Disappearance Thu, Jul 31, 1986 – 28 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

In the thirty years since, her disappearance has remained a mystery. No evidence exists to link her disappearance to foul play (though it is assumed), and her remains have never been found. There are, however, a couple of theories as to who is responsible.


The first involves a man name Steve Wright, who worked on the same cruise ship as Suzy when she was a beautician prior to her real estate job. In 2008, decades after Suzy’s disappearance, Wright was convicted of five murders. People began to suspect that Suzy might have been an earlier victim of his, but there have been no strong connections made between him and Suzy’s murder.

The second theory is a bit stronger. This one involves John Cannan, a convicted killer who was released from a prison hostel days before Suzy disappeared. He was known by fellow inmates as “Kipper,” the same name used by the client Suzy met the day she vanished. He bore some resemblance to the police sketch of the mysterious Mr. Kipper. But again, all evidence was too circumstantial to bring Cannan to court, and he denied any involvement.

The search for clues to Suzy’s fate has been ongoing, but evidence continues to elude investigators. For now, Suzy’s disappearance remains an unsolved mystery.

Find more on this highly publicized story with a search on Newspapers.com

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New Papers From Kentucky and Pennsylvania!

Do you have ancestors from Kentucky or Pennsylvania? We’re thrilled to announce our newspaper archives from these states are expanding!

The Paducah Sun: Paducah, Kentucky is located just past the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and is home to The Paducah Sun. Our archives date back to 1896 and contain more than 1.5 million pages from The Sun and related titles including The Sunday Chat; the Paducah Weekly Sun; the News-Democrat; the Weekly News-Democrat; and the Paducah-Sun Democrat.

These papers covered important developments in the history of Paducah including steamboat commerce and railroad growth. One historic event that made Paducah headlines was the flood of 1937. Weeks of steady rain followed by sleet caused the Ohio River to crest at 60.8 feet. Flood waters consumed the city and some 27,000 citizens were evacuated. Many residents were trapped in their homes or stranded on the upper floors of downtown buildings. Following the disaster, the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed a 14-foot high floodwall. In the early 1990s, in an effort to beautify downtown Paducah, one citizen suggested painting murals along the floodwall. In 1996, the city hired an artist to paint more than 50 murals that depict the history of Paducah.

If you have ancestors from Paducah, society columns are a great place to piece together your family story. They often mention travels, and births and deaths.

The Daily Item: Based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, The Daily Item archives go back to 1894. Thomas Edison made a mark in Sunbury in 1883 when he installed and successfully tested the first three-wire electric lighting system in a local Sunbury hotel. The hotel’s name was later changed to the Edison Hotel in his honor. Electricity in Sunbury led to one of the first electric streetcar systems in the country. In 1906, the State of Pennsylvania established a bureau to record all the state’s births and deaths. Before then, newspapers like The Daily Item published birth announcements and obituaries.

Just 13 miles from Sunbury is the town of Danville. We have archives from the Danville Morning News and the Danville News that date back to 1898. In the 19th century, Danville became an important stop along the early transportation routes that included railroads, the Susquehanna River, and roads. Does your family tree contain an orphan from the Danville area? These newspapers are a great resource for information about institutions like the Mother House of Christian Charity and the Odd Fellows’ Orphans Home.

In 1919, during the early days of aviation, Danville residents poured into the streets to see an airplane. For many, it was their first time! The government plane circled the town dropping leaflets advertising Victory Liberty Loans (war bonds) to fund the war effort.

These stories are just a sampling of many fun and historical stories in these newspapers. Get started searching our Kentucky and Pennsylvania archives today at Newspapers.com!


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Battle on Bric-A-Brac: America’s Changing Views on Clutter

If you’ve been tuning in to the new Netflix series Tidying up with Marie Kondo or read Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’re familiar with her war on clutter. As part of her KonMari Method, she famously encourages people to keep only possessions that “spark joy.”

But Kondo’s decluttering philosophy wouldn’t have been popular in the U.S. in the mid- to late 19th century. In fact, the opposite philosophy seemed to reign—the more objects on display in your home the better, particularly if you were wealthy or aspiring to be so.

The Rise of Bric-A-Brac

If you could peek into the home of a wealthy Victorian-era American family, it would probably look cluttered to our modern eyes. Bare rooms were equated with poor taste, low morals, and poverty, while displaying expensive objects was a sign of style, culture, and status. Vases, figurines, decorative boxes, fans, teacups, miniature paintings, curios, and much more filled nearly any flat surface, from mantles to tables to sideboards.

An 1891 showroom for home furnishings, demonstrating the popular Victorian "cluttered" look (The Times—Philadelphia, 10.03.1891)

An 1891 showroom for home furnishings, demonstrating the popular Victorian “cluttered” look (The Times—Philadelphia, 10.03.1891)

The Second Industrial Revolution (roughly 1870–1914) was creating an abundance of “nouveau riche” in America, people recently made wealthy by railroads, steel, and other new industries. Eager to imitate the aristocracy of Great Britain and Europe—and to showcase their new wealth and worldliness—they filled their homes with costly objets d’art. These decorative objects eventually came to be known as “bric-a-brac.”

  • Go here to read an 1887 newspaper article about bric-a-brac selling for insanely high prices

Though items sold as bric-a-brac supposedly had historical ties, antique origin, or exotic provenance, realistically it was a term for expensive items with no practical use—which is probably why an 1875 New York Times article defined bric-a-brac as “elegant rubbish.” Still, bric-a-brac was in such high demand that an industry sprung up to procure and sell it. Newspapers carried stories of people spending incredible sums of money to expand their collections, and ads for bric-a-brac sellers abounded in the papers.

Bric-a-Brac’s Decline

This “bric-a-brac mania,” as it was sometimes called, had its acme in the 1870s and 1880s. But as is the case with many expensive things, a knock-off market of cheaper, inauthentic bric-a-brac came into being. This affordable, mass-produced bric-a-brac allowed people of the middle and even working classes to embrace the trend and buy bric-a-brac for their own homes.

  • Go here to read about the knock-off market for bric-a-brac in an 1885 newspaper

The wide availability of inexpensive bric-a-brac meant it no longer implied social status and wealth, however, and its popularity among the upper class began to wane. Around the same time, attitudes about ostentatious displays of wealth began changing, and interior design preferences shifted toward simpler and more utilitarian styles. On top of that, late 19th-century America was hit by a series of economic panics—perhaps putting more nails in bric-a-brac’s coffin. Gradually, the term “bric-a-brac” began to take on the connotation that it has today—nearly synonymous with “knick-knack” rather than “objet d’art.”

The rejection of the bric-a-brac trend can be clearly seen in newspapers from the late 1880s through the early 20th century.

One Pennsylvania newspaper wrote in 1895:

And this 1906 article even provided questions to help the reader cut down on bric-a-brac:

20th-Century Clutter

The end of the 19th-century bric-a-brac craze wasn’t the end of indoor clutter, obviously. In fact, there seems to have been somewhat of a resurgence of bric-a-brac in the 1920s, though the onset of the Great Depression likely had a dampening effect.

  • Go here to read a 1926 article about bric-a-brac’s 1920s comeback

But America’s post-war economic boom in the late 1940s through the early 1970s gave people more discretionary income than ever before. Perhaps as a result of this new post-war buying power, home decor trends in the late 1950s swung back toward a “controlled clutter” look. And articles promoting “clutter rooms” (rooms devoted to odds and ends) ran in the papers in the 1960s. So is it any surprise that decluttering articles became increasingly ubiquitous in newspapers in the decades after the economic boom?

The Pendulum

America’s views on the use of clutter in home decoration seem to be a pendulum, swinging back and forth between embracing a cluttered look and its rejection. Right now, our society appears to be firmly rejecting it, as typified by the incredible popularity of Marie Kondo and her method. (Related examples of this desire for simplification are found in the “tiny home” movement and the backlash against the “fast fashion” industry.)

But as history has shown us, who knows when the pendulum will swing back the other way? So you might not need to throw out grandma’s antique tea set just yet.

Learn more about bric-a-brac by searching Newspapers.com. Or if you’re interested in reading some vintage decluttering articles, start with these:

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A Bald Head Shines Like a Good Deed in a Naughty World

From the pages of a 1906 issue of The Checotah Times comes this peculiar defense of “bald-headed bridegrooms.”

A Bald Head Shines Like a Good Deed in a Naughty WorldA Bald Head Shines Like a Good Deed in a Naughty World Fri, Jun 1, 1906 – Page 2 · The Checotah Times (Checotah, McIntosh, Oklahoma) · Newspapers.com

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Did Atlanteans Build the Bimini Wall?

In 1968, a diving expedition discovered a series of large stone formations, so square and neatly arranged that they seemed to form an intentional structure. It was called the Bimini Wall (or Road) after the nearby Bimini Island, and since the discovery there has been speculation galore about how it came to exist.

Most believe the stones to be naturally formed beach rock that sunk beneath the surface. But there is another popular and rather more imaginative theory, as evidenced by the many articles printed on the topic in the 60s and 70s. And that theory is that the Bimini Wall was once part of Atlantis.

Atlantis Found?Atlantis Found? Sun, Jan 9, 1972 – Page 17 · Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

These articles say it all.

Bimini Wall manmade?Bimini Wall manmade? Sun, Oct 27, 1974 – Page 206 · The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Orange, Florida, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Bimini's mystifying formationsBimini’s mystifying formations Sun, Sep 25, 1988 – Page 106 · Fort Lauderdale News (Fort Lauderdale, Broward, Florida, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Bimini Wall was constructed by ancient advanced societyBimini Wall was constructed by ancient advanced society Thu, Mar 28, 1974 – Page 28 · Courier-Post (Camden, Camden, New Jersey, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

From pillars to pyramids to the legendary Fountain of Youth, this little stretch of sea supposedly has it all. And to top it off, Bimini sits right at the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. With so much mystery to be found here, it’s easy to see why the Atlantis explanation might not seem so far-fetched.

What do you think—is the Bimini Wall potential proof of a mythical missing city? Or is it just naturally formed rock that got a little too much attention?

Find more on the Bimini Wall and its ties to Atlantis with a search on Newspapers.com.

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2018 in Review: Over 5,000 Papers Added!

2018 Year in ReviewHappy New Year! We’re so excited for what’s to come in 2019, but we wanted to pause a moment and reflect on all we accomplished in 2018. Last year we:

    • Added more than 5,000 new papers
    • More than doubled the number of titles in our archive
    • Added more than 120 million pages
    • We’re adding 10-13 million pages each month
    • We now have nearly a half a billion searchable pages – making us the largest online historical newspaper archive

In 2018 we continued to increase our international newspaper titles from Canada, England, Scotland, and Wales. We’ve also added Puerto Rico. Plus, we added new papers from the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Our archives have unlocked roadblocks in family history research and provided a unique tool for those searching for historical and academic data. Did you make an incredible discovery this year using Newspapers.com? Tell us about it! From our team to you, Happy New Years!



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Florida Secedes from the Union: Today in Headlines

On January 9, 1861, “Florida Secedes” appears in newspaper headlines.

January 9 in Headlines: Florida SecedesJanuary 9 in Headlines Wed, Jan 9, 1861 – 1 · The Daily Exchange (Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

The secession became official the following day, making Florida the third state to leave the Union after South Carolina and Mississippi. Nine more states would join them in the months that followed, and it would be seven years before Florida officially rejoined the Union again.

Find more like this with a search on Newspapers.com, or browse through January 9th headlines in the papers.

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