Sunday, February 22, 2009

Discover LA: Estouric Black Dahlia Tour

Other than being a great foodie town, LA has much to offer and while this blog will still be primarily about my culinary experiences, I also wanted to share with you other things about LA that have definitely made me smile, think, chuckle, appreciate and so much more and hopefully, they'll also help you discover an LA you've never known before and may want to know better.

For years, I've heard about the "Black Dahlia", but what or who it was about, I was never quite sure. Of course, I've heard bits and pieces about a bizzare unsolved murder of a woman found in the middle of the fields in the 1940s, but I was never interested enough to find out more. Then one day, I boarded "The Black Dahlia Tour" led by Estouric and I could finally understand the fascination many had with this case.

Before I go into the tour itself, I should mention that the name of the victim was Elizabeth Short and at only 24, her body was found mutilated, severed in half and drained of blood. Her face was also slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears. This is pretty gruesome stuff. Unfortunately, in our world today, mutilated bodies are becoming more commonplace than they should be, which can definitely lead to a lot of desensitization.

In 1947, when Elizabeth's body was found in that state, it sent shock waves through Los Angeles and eventually launched a manhunt unlike any other. Interestingly enough, the Esotouric Tour was more than just about the sensational aspect of this grizzly murder. It really touched on walking in the steps of Elizabeth Short up to when she disappeared.

From the time we boarded the bus and while en route to the Greyhound Station, either Richard or Kim, our guides, started giving us some of Elizabeth's biographical history. For example, she was raised back East and had 4 sisters. At a young age, she had a thing for fly boys (military pilots). She was even engaged to one who unfortunately died.

Jump forward a bit to where she was staying in San Diego with the French Family and eventually was able to get a ride from Red Manley, an acquaintance. After listening to this background, we went to our first destination, the Greyhound Bus Terminal.

Red brought Elizabeth to the the terminal because Elizabeth wanted to check in her luggage until she was able to get her bearings. At the terminal, Richard read one of the many letters found in Elizabeth's luggage, some of which were written, but never sent to a fly boy she was seeing at the time. There was something poignant about that letter, almost wistful, as she talked about the meaning of love.

After checking in her luggage, Elizabeth asked to be dropped off at the Biltmore Hotel. Not wanting to leave her alone, Red Manley waited for over 2 hours with her at the lobby before Elizabeth got him to leave by telling him her sister was coming to pick her up. Reluctantly, Red left her and soon after, Elizabeth walked over to the Crown Grill, diner by day and gay bar by night.

Like Elizabeth, our tour also took us to Crown Grill, now known as Club Galaxy. Crown Grill is the last place anyone saw her alive. A few weeks later, her body was found in front of a residential area in Leimert Park right in the middle of a field.

Visiting the location of her body dump was towards the end of the tour. As we made our way to Leimert Park from Downtown LA, we made other stops that had more to do with getting a feel of the life Elizabeth Short was living and also how life was like in LA in the 40s for young women in general, where perhaps the only meal you're going to get that day is the one you'll get on a date, whether that date was single or married, it didn't matter. Unfortunately, there would be times when you'd have to provide more than just company over a meal.

As we finally made our way to those famous fields, both Richard and Kim, founder of Esotouric Tours, would in turn discuss the actual investigation itself and also mentioned some of the suspects, one of which was Red Manley. Even with all theories and questioning of witnesses and suspects, this mystery was never solved and to this day is still a fascination for murder mystery buffs of all ages.

The fields right now are houses with only the fire hydrant a few feet away being the only original thing left from that era. It was quite peaceful, but you're left wondering if Elizabeth's restless spirit still lingers. By the way, "Black Dahlia" was the nickname friends gave her, after a screenplay called "The Blue Dahlia" with the words "black" replacing blue since she tended to wear a lot of black.

On the way to our final stop for snacks at Krispy Kreme, Kim, talked about a new theory that actually is one that sounds really plausible. Do you know what to know what it is? Then you better take the tour. :) I can't tell you everything.

Overall, I learned a lot and believe me, you'll get more detailed info about "The Black Dahlia" on the tour than I can give you here, but if and when you ever want to delve more into the story behind the "Black Dahlia", taking this tour is a great start.

To see photos I took while I was on the tour, go to:

To get information on the Black Dhalia Tour and other tours, please visit:

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