The bewilderment produced by surreal appearances in the Black Dahlia homicide case is unbounded, mystifying those at the crime scene and everyone else ever since.   These surreal signatures are designed to create confusion, destabilize the untrained eye, and conceal an inside reference or pun that only the inner circle of surrealists can fully understand.   Although implanted surreal messages were often intellectual or even humorous in nature, this murder represents a homicidal instance of surreal appearance, a brutal, psychopathic act for history to witness in baffled horror.


The Black Dahlia: Elizabeth Short (1924-1947)

Autopsy by Dr. Frederick Newbarr, Chief Coroner, January 16, 1947

Autopsy documented sadistic torture, culminating in homicide and subsequent bisection

Victim discovered on Wednesday, January 15, 1947

Abandoned in empty lot at 39th and Norton Avenue, Los Angeles, CA


Legend   is an early painting, later repainted in Los Angeles

Los Angeles studio, 1947, with Legend  hanging on the wall

The original Promenade was painted in 1915
Man Ray painted it again during 1945 in Los Angeles

Early art journal The Ridgefield Gazook by Man Ray, 1915
Precursor to future Dada and Surrealist journals Z and Minotaure

The original Le beau temps was painted in 1939
Man Ray painted it again in his Los Angeles studio during 1945

Juliet Browner in minotaure repose below Le beau temps
Vine Street studio, Los Angeles, 1945

Watch Man Ray's Film Le Retour A La Raison (The Return To Reason), 1923




Helene Vanel performance at Galerie Beaux-Arts Exhibition, Paris, 1938

Man Ray, Dalí and other surrealists participate in the performance

Max Ernst, Anatomy as Bride, 1921

Max Ernst, Sacred Conversation

Max Ernst, Celebes, 1921

Max Ernst, One Must Not See Reality As I Am, 1923

Marcel Duchamp, Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, 1915-23

René Magritte, The Menaced Assassin, 1927

René Magritte, La Ruse Symetrique, 1928

René Magritte, Marshes of Summer, 1939

René Magritte, Les Idées de l'acrobate, 1928

Hans Bellmer, Peppermint Tower in Honor of Greedy Little Girls, 1937

Hans Bellmer, Poupée (Doll)
Seven variations from 1934-6

Georges Hugnet, La silhouette frangée de bleu électrique, 1936

André Masson Massacres, 1928
Appeared in Minotaure, no. 1, 1933

André Masson Gradiva, 1939

Roland Penrose Octavia, 1939

Victor Brauner Magic Games, 1938

Victor Brauner Mitsi, 1939

Raoul Ubac Penthésilée, 1937

Raoul Ubac Le Combat de Penthésilée II, 1937

Two covers from the American art journal View (1940 - 1947)
The magazine is best known for introducing Surrealism to the American public
Above: Cover by Man Ray, June, 1943
Below: Cover by André Masson, October, 1943

View was banned by the U.S. Postal Service in early 1944 for no given reason, probably a reaction to published nude reproductions by Picasso
Man Ray wrote the editor a sympathetic letter while casting sarcastic barbs at postal officials
Other readers encouraged the editor to translate articles from the French journal Minotaure, specifically an article regarding the Papin sisters double homicide in 1933
Both content and readerships for View and Minotaure were closely linked

Seven covers from two French Surrealist journals
La Révolution surréaliste (1924 - 1929) and Minotaure (1933 - 1939)
Minotaure was popular in American avant-garde art circles
Minotaure was circulated in America through galleries on both coasts, and its surrealist content was reproached by mainstream periodicals such as Time


To Be- continued unnoticed by Man Ray
Catalogue for Cafe Man Ray Exhibit
William Copley Gallery, Los Angeles, December, 1948 through January 9, 1949
Less than two years after Black Dahlia murder

Birth of Venus by William Copley, 1953
Six years after Black Dahlia murder

Death of Montalita by Fred Sexton, 1955
Eight years after Black Dahlia murder

It is midnight, Dr. _ by William Copley, 1961
Fourteen years after Black Dahlia murder

Vergine indomata by Man Ray, 1964
Seventeen years after Black Dahlia murder

Natural Painting by Man Ray, 1965
Eighteen years after Black Dahlia murder

Étant donnés (Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas) by Marcel Duchamp, 1946-1966
Exhibited nineteen years after Black Dahlia murder

Étant donnés exhibit structure

Rebus by Man Ray, 1972
Twenty-five years after Black Dahlia murder

Rebus II by Man Ray, 1972
Twenty-five years after Black Dahlia murder


Salvador Dalí and Man Ray

William Copley, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp

Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp

Max Ernst, Jacqueline Breton, André Masson,
André Breton and Varian Fry, 1941

André Breton

Max Ernst

Paul Éluard

René Magritte

Raoul Ubac

Hans Bellmer


Here are excerpts from surrealist literature and influential precursors, prose ranging from intellectual libertarianism to misogyny and sadistic, criminal behavior.   All cited literature predates the Black Dahlia murder.   This material was published both in French and English, including Chants de Maldoror by Isadore Ducasse, a long, lurid poem that captivated many surrealists.   Large tracts of Maldoror appeared in Surrealism by Julien Levy, published in New York by The Black Sun Press in 1936.   Levy's startling and perceptive book introduced the American public to surrealist ideas, presenting a comprehensive review that referenced critical source material, including Minotaure and La Révolution Surréaliste.

"When surrealist methods extend from writing to action, there will certainly arise the need of a new morality to take the place of the current one, the cause of all our woe."

Surrealism: "Dictates of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, beyond all control aesthetic or moral."

"Living and ceasing to live are imaginary solutions.  Existence is elsewhere."

"Beauty will be convulsive or nothing."

- André Breton, Manifeste du Surréalisme, 1924, and What is Surrealism?, 1936

"To intensify experience – The surrealists often deliberately propose to shock and surprise, so that you may be deprived of all preconceived standards and open to new impressions. . . .   To shock as the bull-fighter first bares the nerves of his audience by the willful shedding of blood and disemboweling of defenseless horses, so that the super-sensitized public might the better respond to the grace and agility of subsequent performance."

"Hans Bellmer [promising surrealist newcomer] carries his exciting little girl dismembered in a suitcase or immobilized in the plate-holder of his camera or, built of bricks, she becomes a break-water for the high seas and a temptation for ships."

- Julien Levy, Surrealism, 1936

"Verily it must be that crime is an enchanting affair, for, in truth, from the flames by which it licks us is kindled the torch of our lust.   Only crime is sufficient, it alone inflames us, and only crime can ravish pleasure through all degrees of our sensibility."

- Marquis de Sade, Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded, 1797-1801

"The poet becomes a seer by a long, enormous, and reasoned derangement of all his senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness. He seeks himself. He exhausts in himself every poison, retaining only their quintessence. Ineffable torture, in which he requires supreme faith, superhuman strength in which he becomes among all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the one accursed—and the supreme sage!"

-Arthur Rimbaud

"The body was drained of blood- exsanguinated- and her hair and skin were washed clean."

- Steve Hodel, Black Dahlia Avenger, p. 227

"Better to wash with spittle than not to wash at all, after an entire night passed in vice and crime."

- Isadore Ducasse (Comte de Lautréamont), Chants de Maldoror, excerpt from Chant III

"Each day I traversed a narrow street; each day, a slim young girl, ten years old, would follow me, at a distance, respectfully, the length of the street, watching me with curious and sympathetic eyes. . . .   Perhaps that girl was not what she seemed.   Beneath a naive exterior perhaps she hid a huge deceit, the weight of eighteen years, and the charm of vice. . . .   I imagine her mother must strike her because she does not ply her trade with sufficient skill. . . .   Look here, maiden, I urge you never to appear in my sight, if ever again I pass through that narrow street.   It might cost you dear! Already the blood mounts to my head in boiling tides of hate. . . .   They do not love me, those creatures! . . .   Maiden, you are not an angel, and you will become, in short, like other women.   No, no!  I beg of you; do not reappear before my frowning and suspicious eyes.   In a misguided moment I might seize your arms, twist them as one would wring water from a cloth, or break them with the crackling of two dry twigs and force you to eat them.   I might, while taking your head between my hands, with a caressing and gentle mien, force my avid fingers into the lobes of your innocent brain, to extract therefrom, with a smile on my lips, an efficacious unguent with which to bathe my eyes, sore from the eternal insomnia of living.   I might, sewing your eyelids with a needle, deprive you of sight and make it impossible for you to find your way; it would not be I who would serve you as guide.   I might, lifting your virginal body with an arm of iron, seize you by the legs, whirl you about my head, like a sling, putting all my strength into describing the last circle, and hurl you against the wall. . . .   No doubt the body has remained plastered on the wall, like a ripe pear, and has not fallen to the floor; but dogs can jump high, if one does not take care."

- Isadore Ducasse (Comte de Lautréamont), Chants de Maldoror, excerpt from Chant II

Script introduction to Un Chien Andalou: "[The film is] a desperate, passionate call to murder."

- Luis Buñuel, 1929

"It is dark truths which appear in the work of the true poets; but they are truths, and almost everything else is a lie."

"One good mistress deserves another."

-Paul Éluard

"There is a surrealist light . . . the light of flashlights on murder victims and on love."

"A new vice has been given to man: Surrealism, son of frenzy and darkness."

- Luis Aragon, A Wave of Dreams, 1924


Here are excerpts from surrealist literature and biographical sources.   All cited literature postdates the Black Dahlia murder.  

"They [Surrealists] were well placed to carry out a dissection of bourgeois mores, particularly with regards to sexuality."

"It is evident that romantic love, in Duchamp’s work in particular, is reduced to a mechanical operation. The human body is posited as a machine which has no natural relation with the soul or mind."

"The overriding impression is surely one of a compulsive fetishization of the female body . . . Much of the erotic art of Surrealism has a fundamentally fetishistic character. A representative example would be the concentration on the female torso...."

-David Hopkins, Dada and Surrealism