Her smile shines from an old photograph, offering a glimpse into the beautiful world of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. But darkness lurks at the edge of the portrait.
Georgette Bauerdorf was a young socialite with a grand future—until 1944, when her life was cut short in the dead of the night. The most unsettling part of the story? Georgette’s murder remains unsolved over 70 years later.
Born to an oil tycoon in New York City in 1924, Georgette lived a life of privilege. She and her older sister attended a convent school on Long Island, where they were trained in goodness and propriety. When the girls’ mother died in 1935, the Bauerdorf siblings and their father moved to California, where Georgette was once again enrolled in a school that befit her place in society—alumnae of the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles included Shirley Temple and Myrna Loy.
Upon graduation in 1941, young Georgette moved to West Hollywood to pursue an acting career. By the age of 20, she found work at the Los Angeles Times in the Women’s Service Bureau and at the Hollywood Canteen—a dining and dancing club that catered to young men in uniform. Georgette called El Palacia her home, a grand Spanish-style house that played host to numerous celebrities. Her evenings were filled with nights out on the town; she was courted often and enjoyed the attention of her many suitors.
Exactly what happened on the night of October 11, 1944 remains a mystery. It was a Wednesday; Georgette was at the Canteen, where her role as a Junior Hostess meant she danced with and entertained the servicemen on layover in Los Angeles. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary that night. At the end of her shift, she climbed into her sister’s Pontiac coupe and drove home.
At 11:00 a.m. that following morning, Georgette’s maid and a janitor arrived to clean her apartment. They were met with an unlocked front door. The cleaners entered and found Georgette’s lifeless body face down in her bathtub, the water still running.
She was wearing the top part of a pajama set. Her hair floated in the water. When police surveyed the scene, they found little evidence of a struggle—though the coroner later confirmed the bruises on Georgette’s body suggested she put up a fight before her death. A partially unscrewed light bulb outside her front door led investigators to believe that her killer had hidden in the darkness, perhaps even entering the apartment before Georgette arrived, lying in wait to make a move.
Police assembled a rough timeline of Georgette’s final moments: They believe she came home late, ate a snack in her kitchen, and was then killed by someone who may or may not have been a stranger. A downstairs neighbor heard screaming at about 2:30 a.m., along with shouts of “Stop! You’re killing me!” The neighbor assumed it was a domestic dispute and returned to sleep. The janitor himself claimed he heard the sounds of high-heeled footsteps from Georgette’s apartment, and then a crash—as if something had been dropped—yet he couldn’t confirm if there had been a second person in her apartment. Whatever occurred, Georgette’s last moments were certainly a desperate attempt to save her own life.
In the days following the murder, police received a letter from a Sergeant Gordon Aadland. Aadland claimed that a woman matching Georgette’s description gave him a lift through Hollywood on the night of October 11. In the letter, he described the woman as appearing quite nervous, though he would downplay this claim in later years.
The killer, meanwhile, vanished into the night after the slaying, driving off in Georgette’s car. The vehicle was found some distance away, abandoned and out of gas. It was the last trace of the killer in a case that quickly went cold.
Related: Her Body Was Still Warm
Georgette Bauerdorf’s body was shipped back to New York, where it was interred in a family-owned plot in a Long Island cemetery. While much has been written about the killing, little is concretely known. Some speculators associate Georgette’s death with that of Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. the Black Dahlia, claiming that the same man murdered the two Hollywood hopefuls. Implicated in this theory is a tall individual with a limp named Jack Anderson Wilson, who plays a part—although peripherally—in both stories.
The murder remains a mystery to this day. Seventy years from that fateful night, there’s little chance that Georgette’s death will ever be solved.