Last Saturday—as we have about four times a year since Esotouric debuted in 2007—we booked a coach class bus on which to guide a large group on a tour about the unsolved 1947 murder of Beth Short, a case that shares the victim’s real life nickname, The Black Dahlia. The culmination of the tour is a moment of silence at the place where her body was discovered.
Over on Facebook in our Los Angeles History Happenings group, a few comments were made under a post about Saturday’s tour by proponents of one of many theories of who might have killed Beth Short, and to our surprise, the author of that theory showed up in the thread and made false, defamatory claims about our work.
Since former L.A. cop Steve Hodel has made a second career of promoting the evolving theory that his deceased father George Hodel is a prolific, unpunished serial murderer, it seems mildly newsworthy that he would suddenly attack us on social media in 2023. So we’re sharing his comments, and our response, here for the record. Also, we’re sharing links to our blog posts about the Hodel family’s two architecturally distinguished residences, The John Sowden House (Lloyd Wright, 1926) and The Hodel Residence and Tea House (Alexander Zelenko, 1921). We think it’s a tragedy that these fine buildings are tainted by association with unsupported criminal allegations.
Steve Hodel writes: Esotouric Tour [sic] is not interested in my investigation. They long ago put all their eggs in another basket. They are not interested in the truth of it, rather just making money off trying to keep “the legend alive.” Steve
Esotouric responds: Gosh, Steve Hodel, it’s rather rude for you to come to our thread in a group we manage and defame the ethical, victim centered work that we have done for the past 19 years to keep the memory of Beth Short alive and advocate for the preservation of historic places that evoke civic memory in Los Angeles—a city we are devoted to, and where you don’t even live.
You have never been on one of our tours or spoken with us. In fact, when we appeared together on The Dr. Phil Show, you refused to even make eye contact, much less have a conversation about your work and ours. What kind of detective doesn’t even talk to someone before forming and sharing a negative judgement?
We know that you have a long-standing beef with Larry Harnisch, who was a contributor to our original 1947project blog in the 2000s and whose theory that Dr. Walter Alonzo Bayley was involved in the likely unsolvable Black Dahlia murder case is remarkably compelling. (Bayley’s daughter witnessed the wedding of Beth Short’s sister and his family home was just half a block from the body dump site on Norton Avenue.) We have also worked with James Ellroy, another crime historian who takes issue with your evolving theory as it relates to his mother’s murder. Debunking and criticism is par for the course for anyone who claims to have solved an historic crime.
We’re not interested in debunking you, because we don’t focus on any theories of who might have killed Beth Short. The focus of our Real Black Dahlia tour is on humanizing the victim (and being compassionate to others who are experiencing homelessness and untreated mental illness as she did), understanding the culture of postwar Los Angeles, and on the methods of the investigators and journalists who shaped the story as it was experienced in real time. It is our honor to do this work, and while Esotouric is a business, we don’t do this for the money.
Update 11/1/2023: Steve Hodel has deleted his comment. His explanation, and our response, are below.
Steve Hodel writes: For clarification. I responded to several of the reader’s comments to have Esotouric contact me to let them know it would be a waste of time as Estouric is “on the record” in several public articles denouncing my “theory.” They are supporting a retired LA Times copyeditor’s theory that a doctor living in the neighborhood of the body dump killed her. I did not realize that this “Los Angeles History Happenings” was/is their (Esoutouric’s_ FB site. I do apologize for that and am removing my former comment from THEIR FB page.
Esotouric responds: Steve Hodel you are welcome to delete your comment from this community Facebook group if you wish, and we see you already have. However, it has been memorialized on our blog, along with our response to your defamatory remarks. If we have ever mentioned your theory in the press, it was only if asked. The rudeness was not in your commenting in “our” Los Angeles History Happenings group, but in posting untrue things meant to discourage tour attendance and discredit our work on a thread we started. Apology accepted IF you don’t do that again.