Unsolved Mysteries of the FBI

The FBI or the Federal Bureau of Investigation is an intelligence and threat based national security organization. It’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution. This means that they are responsible for responding to threats both within our country and without, cybercrimes, and counterintelligence. It was launched on July 28, 1908 by Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte. 

It is headed by a single director who is appointed by the President and approved by the Senate; Christopher Way being the current director. The active director can only serve up to a ten year term. Under the director, roughly 35,000 people have jobs ranging from special agents to information technology specialists. Like all other branches of the government, they have their own protocols and checks and balances to make sure that they do not become too powerful. For example, you can only be arrested by the FBI on US soil for committing a federal offense in front of an agent, or giving an agent a reasonable suspicion you have committed a federal crime. They do not have the power to make overseas arrests without consent from the country they are operating in. They also cannot wire a house with recording devices without probable cause. 

The FBI has worked on a number of high profile cases, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes even the FBI can’t catch the perpetrators, leaving us with some of the biggest mysteries in crime history. Below are some of the most famous unsolved cases of the FBI. 

Alcatraz Escape

Alcatraz was a high profile maximum security prison that held prisoners from the civil war up until it closed in 1963. It has seen 14 escape attempts, all of which were foiled up until June 12th, 1962. Three inmates, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris, created fake heads out of plaster, paint, and real human hair. These were real enough to trick the night guards, and by morning they were long gone. The FBI was called in to investigate the inmates’ escape, but they remain at large to this day. They started investigating, interviewing people close to them and searching for clues. This only turned up some pieces of evidence like wood, inflatable tubing, and homemade life vests. Later, a fourth member of the escape party who was left behind in the escape attempt came forward to explain how they did it. The Anglins and Morris used rudimentary tools to loosen vents on the back of their cells  and crawl out. From there they grabbed pre-prepped supplies, made their way to the roof, and climbed down a nearby chimney before making their way to the seashore.

What happened to them after that is a complete mystery. The FBI has found no evidence as to whether they survived the attempt or died, nor have they been able to find any trace of them in the US or overseas. This case would eventually become the basis for the movie The Rock. They closed the case on December 19, 1979 due to lack of evidence, but there’s still a tip line people can call if new information is found. 

D.B Cooper Hijacking

On November 24, 1971 a man named Ben Cooper purchased a one way airplane ticket to Seattle, and launched one of the biggest thefts in FBI history. A short while after the plane took off, Cooper ordered a single drink from a flight attendant, then showed her a note claiming he had a bomb inside a briefcase and that he wanted her to sit with him. She did as instructed and he opened the case, revealing wires and a few sticks of explosives. He told her to write a ransom note for 4 parachutes and $200,000 dollars all in 20 dollar bills. 

When the plane landed in Seattle he traded the passengers and the plane for ransom and had the plane take off towards Mexico city. Somewhere during the flight Cooper did the unexpected: he jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and bag of the ransom money. The crew landed safely, but DB Cooper was never seen again. The FBI was contacted and opened an investigation, and after 5 years had interviewed 800 suspects but eliminated most. Richard Floyd Mcoy was the most likely suspect, having pulled hijackings shortly after DP Cooper, but he did not match physical descriptions. 

Some theories state that DP Cooper died on the descent, that the parachute was not able to be controlled and he was not prepared for rough terrain. This was supported in 1980 by the discovery of a rotting package of 20 dollar bills matching the serial numbers of the ones Cooper stole, but no official ruling has ever been determined.

The Black Dahlia

On the morning of January 14, 1947 a mother and child taking a walk in Los Angeles stumbled onto a gruesome sight: the murder of a young women. Despite massive cuts and other injuries she sustained, there was no blood on the crime scene, indicating this was a second location. The FBI was contacted immediately and identified the body as 22 year old Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, a young girl set to be a rising hollywood star. They identified her 56 minutes after receiving blurred fingerprints via Soundphoto (a predecessor to Fax machines). Short had already been in the FBI’s system from applying for a job within the army, as well as getting arrested previously for underage drinking. The FBI assisted in the investigation by running checks on suspects and holding interviews across the country, as well as investigating a group of students at the University of Southern California Medical School. The biggest break in the case came when the fingerprints faxed to the FBI were discovered to match the prints on a letter sent to the police by the killer. Unfortunately these prints were not in the FBI’s database and no matches were ever found. The case was forced to be left a mystery and it is likely we will never know what happened.


Editor Emeritus at The City Voice | MIPA Honorable Mention Award Winner

I am a Senior at City and I normally write the weekly book reviews! If I'm not reading, you can usually find me at the barn riding and taking care of the horses.

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