Tales of hauntings, murder and scary mysteries, Every week Twisted Two’s dives into a pair of uniquely terrifying true stories that are worthy of a more in depth look.
For this week, the story focuses on a bizzare story about a tree and the horrifying murder of the Black Dahlia and the confessions that came after. Get ready for scary mysteries Twisted Two’s.
#1 The Wych Elm
It was 1943, when four boys from Hagley Wood, England came across a large Wych Elm tree at the Hagley Estate which was owned by Lord Cobham. One of the boys, Bob Farmer, decided to climb the large tree to check for birds’ nests. Once near the top, he looked down at the hollow trunk below him and saw a skull.
Initially, he thought it was animal bones, But when he pulled it out to get a closer look, there was no denying it was a human skull. Because they were trespassing the boys decided to place the skull back and keep the discovery a secret. However, the youngest of the four, Thomas Willetts, felt uneasy about what they found and decided to tell his parents, who then in turn informed police.
Authorities checked the tree trunk and found the skull but also discovered an almost complete skeleton intact. They also found a shoe, a wedding band, and clothing fragments. Some distance away from the Wych Elm tree were remnants of a severed hand, belonging to the victim.
When the remains were examined closer, it was determined they were from a female who died about 18 months prior. She was approximately 35 years old with light colored hair and stood at about 5 feet tall. They placed the time of death as somewhere around October of 1941 and determined she must have given birth in the past as well.
Further investigation also revealed that she had a piece of taffeta silk inside her mouth which suggests she might have been suffocated. They believe she was placed inside the hollow tree trunk shortly after being killed otherwise she wouldn’t have fit inside if rigor mortis had set in.
Despite the detailed investigation and description of the woman, no one had come forward to provide any clues as to her identity. There were also about 3,000 missing persons cases during that time but none of those matched up to this female. A nationwide search using the dental records also proved a blank.
For some time, people forgot about the woman from the tree as war raged on in the area. It wasn’t until Christmas of 1943 when the spotlight came back on the mysterious skeleton once again. It was around this time when the first graffiti was found in the town and it read, “Who put Luebella down the wych–elm – Hagley Wood.”
Since then, the skeleton was named and called Bella by the locals and the police. Investigators were stumped as to who wrote that graffiti. Could it be someone who knew the victim, a prank perhaps or maybe it was the actual killer? There was more graffiti that soon started to show up as well. The fact the graffiti writer added the name “Bella” to the skeleton was a bit confusing. Was this really the name of the female victim? Or was this purely a fictional name just to assign to the remains?
For years since, people have tried to figure out the identity of the mysterious woman and why she was killed. Several theories have been proposed one of which was that she was a Birmingham prostitute whose name was “Luebella.” Luebella had gone missing three years prior to when the body was found but no is for sure if this lady actually existed or not. Another theory was that she was a Dutch woman named, Clarabella Dronkers, who was involved in a Nazi spy ring and was likely executed because of the knowledge and information she held.
In 1945, a more controversial theory was given by anthropologist, Margaret Murray, purporting that “Bella” was killed because of witchcraft. The severed hand, according to her, was a prominent part of a gypsy ritualistic sacrifice called “Hand of Glory.” She believes her death might have been part of an occult ritual.
The case of the body in the Wych Elm still remains a mystery. Tales of “Bella” have become local lore and the subject of various murder mystery websites. But many still don’t know who or why Bella was killed and more importantly, stuck inside that tree.
#2 Black Dahlia Confessions
When the mutilated body of a young and beautiful aspiring actress was found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles, California; it was a crime mystery that would leave everyone asking, “Who killed her?”
Twenty-two-year-old, Massachusetts native, Elizabeth Short, moved to LA in hopes of becoming an actress. But On January 15, 1947, her body was found in a vacant lot close to Leimert Park. Her body severed in half around the waist and she had been left naked for everyone to see.
When the news broke, it became one of the most sensational stories to come out of the area. Police thoroughly investigated the crime but to no avail. While they had a list of suspects, no one was ever singled out and named as the killer after all these years.
Police were inclined to believe the killer did know her personally because of the nature of the wounds inflicted on her body. Such a vicious act shows that most likley there was anger and rage involved.
Elizabeth suffered a multiple blunt force trauma wounds to the head and a gash around her mouth- that ran from nearly ear to ear. Her severed torso was cut with surgical precision and she was posed for public display as if the killer wanted everyone to see all the wrongs she had done.
Backtracking to the days when she was last seen alive, police determined Short went to the Biltmore Hotel on January 9. She told a friend she was meeting her sister there. Her then-boyfriend saw her off and the staff of the hotel also saw her alive and well. However, this would be the last time she would be seen alive. For six days, no one knew where she had gone and who she was with, until her body was found on the 15th.
Because of the case’s notoriety, there wasn’t any lack of people who actually confessed to her murder. In fact Approximately 50 people came forward saying they murdered Elizabeth but Most of them were ruled out immediately.
Among the 50, included film bit player, Max Handler. Handler said he murdered Short but later recanted during a lie detector test, saying he only said so because he wanted to get away from people who were following him. An army vet, Daniel Voorhies, also claimed he killed her and went on to say he had an affair with her in L.A. The only problem was that the timeline was off. Short was only a teenager and living on the East Coast at the time of the supposed affair.
Finally, one of the more prominent false confessions of the case is that of Joseph DuMais. The Frenchman said he killed Short and the Herald-Express newspaper even placed it on the front-page news saying they found her killer.
Dumais is a war veteran who returned from his leave with bloody trousers and a pocket filled with newspaper clippings of Short’s murder. He claimed to have dated her but suffered a mental blackout, stating, “When I get drunk I get pretty rough with women.” Despite his 50-page confession, when the police checked out his story, the facts didn’t hold up and Dumais was sent to a psychiatrist instead.
Oddly, a woman named Minnie Sepulveda, also claimed to have killed Short. Although this was proven false, it made police think of the possibility the killer could have been female.
Although there were unusual confessions, police did have a few serious and strong leads as well – some from their investigation, others instigated by people who believe they knew the identity of the killer.
One such person is retired detective, Steve Hodel, who believes his father, Dr. George Hodel, was the Black Dahlia killer. His curiosity became sparked when Steve found pictures of an unknown woman in his father’s belongings that looked almost like Elizabeth Short. Moreover, when FBI took samples of the Hollywood doctor’s home in 2012, it tested positive for human decomposition. Steve also argued the handwritten notes sent in by the killer to the police were similar to his own father’s handwriting.
Curiously, the police had Dr. George Hodel’s name on the suspect list all along but stopped short of naming him as the actual killer.
Today The mystery of the Black Dahlia murder still continues on – 71 years and counting.
So there were a two of the strangest and scary stories around. The world can be a crazy place and Twisted Two’s is sure to show you why.
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LINKS AND SOURCES:
The Wych Elm
Is this the face of ‘Bella in the Wych Elm’?
Bella in the Wych Elm
Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?
Black Dahlia Confession
False Confessions and Unlikely Suspects
Joseph A. Dumais
Confessions of a De Palma fan: The Black Dahlia