Unsolved murders are all too commonplace in Hollywood. The vast majority have become infamous. Say “Black Dhalia,” “Thelma Todd,” or “William Desmond Taylor” to anyone and they’ll likely start spewing theories and suspects. Some, though, have managed to fly under the radar, but remain no less mysterious. Take the 1943 slaying of David Bacon, for instance, the actor best known (posthumously) for having played the titular character in Republic Pictures’ “The Masked Marvel.” Even those well-versed in Hollywood lore have most likely never heard of David (born Gaspar Griswold Bacon Jr.) or his murder. I only became aware of the case last year thanks to an “Entertainment Weekly” story titled “Who Killed the Masked Marvel?” that a friend, who shares my affinity for true crime and locations, tore out and sent to me. Scrawled next to a photo of Bacon’s former Hollywood Hills residence that ran atop the article’s seventh page was a note from my friend reading, “Found it! 8444 Magnolia Drive. It’s been added to and remodeled, but parts are still the same today, including the two circular front windows.” The house, which Bacon dubbed “Caste Hill,” and the killing, of course, had me fixated from the start!
It was from the hilltop property that the actor headed to his death on the afternoon of Sunday, September 12th, 1943, though the events of that day are somewhat murky thanks to the differing stories his wife, Austrian singer Greta Keller, told authorities. Keller, who was pregnant at the time, initially informed detectives that Bacon invited her to go to the beach, but that her physician advised against it, so the couple instead spent the afternoon napping and writing letters (ah, the days before iPhones!). She later admitted to fighting with Bacon, though, and then napping solo. Regardless of the circumstances, when Greta awoke around 2 p.m., her husband was nowhere to be found.
The actor wasn’t seen again until 5 that evening when his car was spotted careening down Washington Boulevard in Venice, erratically veering across the road before finally coming to a stop in a dusty bean field. Bacon stumbled out of the car, wearing only a swimsuit and covered in blood, and dropped to the ground, dying a few minutes later from a knife wound to the back at the tender age of 29.