In the media frenzy that followed, rumors and speculation were published as fact and inaccuracies and exaggerations continue to plague accounts of the crime until this day. Here are the few real facts that are known about the life and death of Elizabeth Short.
Elizabeth Short's Childhood YearsElizabeth Short was born on July 29, 1924 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts to parents Cleo and Phoebe Short. Cleo made a good living building miniature golf courses until the Depression took its toll on the business. In 1930, with his business suffering, Cleo decided to fake his suicide and abandoned Phoebe and their five daughters. He parked his car by a bridge and took off to California. Authorities and Phoebe believed Cleo committed suicide.
Later, Cleo decided he made a mistake, contacted Phoebe and apologized for what he had done. He asked to come home. Phoebe, who had faced bankruptcy, worked part-time jobs, stood in lines to get public assistance and raised the five children alone, wanted no part of Cleo and refused to reconcile.
Despite her parents' difficulties, Elizabeth continued to correspond with her father. She was growing up to be an attractive young girl and like many teenagers, enjoyed going to the movies.
Her High School YearsElizabeth was not academically inclined earning average grades in high school. She left high school in her freshman year because of asthma which she suffered with since childhood. It was decided that it would be best for her health if she left New England during the winter months. Arrangements were made for her to go to Florida and stay with family friends, returning to Medford during the spring and summer.
Despite her parents' difficulties, Elizabeth continued to correspond with her father. She was growing up to be an attractive young girl and like many teenagers, enjoyed going to the movies. Like many young pretty girls, Elizabeth developed an interest in modeling and the movie industry and set her goals to someday work in Hollywood.
A Short-Lived ReunionAt the age of 19, Elizabeth's father sent her money to join him in Vallejo, California. The reunion was short lived and Cleo soon grew tired of Elizabeth's lifestyle of sleeping during the day and going out on dates until late at night. Cleo told Elizabeth to leave and she moved out on her own to Santa Barbara.
The Next Three YearsThere is much debate about where Elizabeth spent her remaining years. It is known that in Santa Barbara she was arrested for underage drinking and was packed up and returned to Medford. According to reports up until 1946, she spent time in Boston and Miami. In 1944, she fell in love with Major Matt Gordon, a Flying Tiger, and the two discussed marriage, but he was killed on his way home from the war.
In July 1946, she moved to Long Beach, California to be with an old boyfriend, Gordon Fickling, who she dated in Florida before her relationship with Matt Gordon. The relationship ended shortly after her arrival and Elizabeth floundered around for the next few months.
A Soft Spoken BeautyFriends described Elizabeth as being soft spoken, courteous, a non-drinker, or smoker, but somewhat of a loafer. Her habit of sleeping late in the day and staying out at night continued to be her lifestyle. She was pretty, enjoyed dressing stylishly and turned heads because of her pale skin contrasting against her dark hair and her translucent blue-green eyes. She wrote to her mother weekly, insuring her that her life was going well. Some speculate that the letters were Elizabeth's attempt to keep her mother from worrying.
Those around her know it that over the next few months she moved often, was well liked, but illusive and not well known. During October and November of 1946, she lived in the home of Mark Hansen, owner of the Florentine Gardens. The Florentine Gardens had a reputation as being a rather shoddy strip joint in Hollywood. According to reports, Hansen was said to have various attractive women rooming together at his home, which was located behind club.
Elizabeth's last known address in Hollywood was the Chancellor Apartments at 1842 N. Cherokee, where she and four other girls roomed together.