The Bravery and Heartbreak of Tamar Hodel: Was Her Father the Black Dahlia Killer?

Photo courtesy of LA Times Blog. Steven Hodel, a retired detective/writer, is Tamar's half-brother.
Photo courtesy of LA Times Blog. Steven Hodel, a retired detective/writer, is Tamar's half-brother.
Photo courtesy of Imharnisch.com./Man Ray took nude photos of Tamar when she was only 11 or 12.
Photo courtesy of Imharnisch.com./Man Ray took nude photos of Tamar when she was only 11 or 12.
The eerie, exotic house where many met a terrible fate.Courtesy of Freeform.com.
The eerie, exotic house where many met a terrible fate.Courtesy of Freeform.com.

By Gloria Siess, {"Garnetbird"}

Tamar Hodel is the daughter of Dr. George Hodel, a major suspect in the horrific torture/murder of Elizabeth Short {"Black Dahlia"}. The Hodels lived in a Hollywood Home, designed to look like an Mayan Temple, with hidden passageways and secret panels. Aside from probably being one of the darkest figures in L.A. crime History, the "good doctor" also practiced incest with his lovely daughter, Tamar, in the 1940s.

Stating that sexual activity was "normal" between Father and daughter, Dr. Hodel introduced Tamar to this form of abuse when she was 11. By age 14 he was offering her up to his guests as a sexual plaything during orgies. One of his prominent guests,director John Huston, threw Tamar down and attempted to rape her. Only Tamar's Mother saved her from this awful fate, intervening at a crucial moment. The famous artist Man Ray, took nude photos of Tamar, further violating her precious sense of self-esteem. Tamar's Father was also penetrating her sexually as this time, an act which made him seem, in her own words, "Guilt-ridden."

Tamar ran away and told authorities. The police arrested Dr. Hodel for incest and the circus began in earnest. Tamar was housed at Juvenile Hall for a year, prior to awaiting trial. I doubt if she received any compassionate counseling or intervention at this time. The 1949 trial itself was a farce of justice: relatives testified against Tamar, stating that she was unstable and prone to making up "stories." Tamar was left alone to feel the pain of her isolation and the death of her innocence. Her friend, Michele Philips of the Mamas and Papas, was horrified by Tamar's abuse, and described a run-in with George Hodel as "chilling."

No one wanted the money and security Hodel offered to be threatened, so Tamar was basically called a selfish liar. Her experiences were neither validated or treated in any humane manner. Photos of her in the excellent Black Dahlia book written by her half-brother, Steve Hodel, show a lovely woman with wounded, soft eyes. It is the face of someone who has seen the worst of human nature and survived.

The house itself became a cloistered crime scene, with Tamar's own Mother admitting that her husband had a "taste for blood." There were rooms, hidden from the public, where no one could go without permission. Taped conversations in the 1940s indicated that Dr. Hodel had been the Black Dahlia's killer: "Supposin I did kill the black Dahlia.." He said once, and went on to state it could never be "proven" as his secretary(and witness to the murder?) had left.

The name Tamar is biblical, and all too fitting. Tamar was a young,beautiful virgin in the Bible who was raped by her brother and left to live out her life in tragedy.


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Comments 6 comments

valeriebelew profile image

valeriebelew 6 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

I recognized the Tamar name irony, almost immediately. Makes you wonder if the whole thing was planned, and unfortunately, suspect that it was. Horrible story. Thanks for the write.


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 6 years ago from Northern California Author

Tamar has children now; I've seen her in interviews and she looks rather well, but her eyes are sad. Her Brother Steven is a hero in my opinion. One never know what damage lurks under the surface. No one suspected I had an incestuous stepfather, either.


Marie Tsiko 2 years ago

What a living nightmare!!!! Any NOBODY was punished 4 these injustices....makes me sick 2 my stomach.


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 2 years ago from Northern California Author

Yes, it's terrible; I felt the same way!!


Besarien profile image

Besarien 10 months ago

Never heard of the Hodels in connection to the BD murder until Sgt. Prepper mentioned it minutes ago. Thanks for this hub!


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 10 months ago from Northern California Author

Thank you for reading this!

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