Here Are The 12 Most Brutal Case Files That Have Been Released By The FBI In 'The Vault'

In 2011 the FBI created the Vault, a modern, searchable archive where the public can access unsealed documents. The FBI Vault contains case files covering everything from political crimes to fugitives to unexplained phenomena. The Vault also has a plethora of information about notorious criminals - some cases feature profiles about what kind of people they were, in gruesome detail.

The Vault, which is the FBI's new Freedom of Information Act library, contains around 6,700 documents and various forms of media. To keep up with the digital age, scans of many old paper documents are available on the internet for anyone to read. Some of these files are relatively recent, while others are older and still unresolved, requiring further research. Certain ones are as old as the case of Jack the Ripper, as well as the notorious Black Dahlia killer


  • The Black Dahlia murder is a nickname for an infamous crime: the January 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles, CA. Authorities never found her murderer, but they had many suspects, according to letters recorded in the FBI file. Some people even confessed, but law enforcement didn't find their confessions credible.

    The file also gives detailed descriptions of the body's condition: cut in half at the waist with a breast missing and the intestines severed. The other organs remained intact, and the cut through the backbone was clean. In addition, the killer seemingly cleaned the body with a brush. The FBI special agent in charge, R.B. Hood, noted this suggested the culprit had experience working with dead bodies.

    The case file includes written correspondence with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover about the murder. In one letter with Edward Tamm, the then-assistant FBI director, Tamm suggests the FBI should have access to Social Security files to get more information about the victim or suspects.

    Those files were highly confidential and only accessed during wartime emergencies such as espionage. While Hoover and Tamm did not gain access to the files, this was an attempt to set a precedent for accessing Social Security information in high-profile crimes.

  • Nikolas Cruz

    The Parkland shooting in Florida is a recent crime compared to the Manson Family killings or Jack the Ripper, but the Vault still has a file on Nikolas Cruz. He killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on February 14, 2018.

    One thing in the files is an FBI tip line transcript from someone who reported Cruz's disturbing Instagram posts. The report came in on January 5, 2018. In the recording, the tipster gave Cruz's name and said Cruz wanted to kill himself, was into ISIS, and frequently posted pictures of guns on his account. The tipster also mentioned how in one post, Cruz said he wanted to kill people, and voiced concern about Cruz's mental health. This tip came in over a month before the shooting took place.

  • Jack The Ripper
    Photo: user uploaded image

    Jack the Ripper may not have stalked any part of the United States, but his unsolved Whitechapel crimes still made it into the FBI Vault. The 1988 file looks at how authorities conducted the investigation back when the crimes occurred in 1888 and tries to identify any faults. Supervisory Special Agent John E. Douglas, who wrote the report, says the evidence shows the victims were not sexually assaulted or tortured before death.

    After a brief discussion of the victims and crime scenes, the report launches into a profile created to figure out what type of person the Ripper was based on his possible actions before, during, and after the killings. It claims the Ripper probably worked alone and had a long history of fantasizing about violence toward women, perhaps even drawing and writing about it.

    Since the killer removed organs from his victims, Douglas suggests he had some knowledge of human anatomy. He was likely Caucasian and "[did] not look out of the ordinary," but seemed socially awkward. Douglas claims it's likely authorities interviewed the Ripper as a suspect but ultimately dismissed him because he didn't resemble a typical killer.

  • On April 20, 1999, two boys entered Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, and opened fire on their fellow students. Some people believed the Columbine High School massacre was totally out of the blue, but there are items in the Vault that suggest the killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, were planning the mass shooting for a while.

    One person who knew the boys told the FBI they were experimenting with black powder and making explosives for over a year. The file also contains parts of Harris's manifesto, in which he blames teachers, parents, and other students for his actions, saying the killings are because of what they have done.

    The FBI has a file in the Vault about a potential warning sign of Klebold and Harris's plan to kill people. Authorities interviewed an unnamed female contact from Oklahoma who said she frequented a right-wing chat room called Bob Enyart Live, where she came across a message from a teenage boy on April 19. It said something bad was going to happen on April 20, possibly in Colorado. The boy also made references to Adolf Hitler's birthday (also April 20) and the Holocaust during this chat.

  • Mississippi Burning Case

    In June 1964 a group abducted and killed three civil rights activists in Neshoba County, MS. Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were trying to help African Americans in Mississippi register to vote, when a lynch mob formed and murdered the three men. The FBI aggressively searched for anyone with ties to the killings, including police officers and prominent members of the community. The FBI referred to the case as the "Miburn" case, short for Mississippi Burning.

    The Vault files show how big the court case truly was: 100 people received subpoenas. It also shows the significant backlash African Americans experienced when they attempted to register to vote. Three men lost their jobs following registration, dismissed because they tried to vote.

  • John Wayne Gacy confessed to dozens of murders when police arrested him in December 1978. In his FBI case file, there are a few of his previous crimes and arrests with dates and locations. These include battery, sodomy, illegal substance possession, conspiracy to commit a felony, and more. The file also describes Gacy's life before the arrest, noting he once helped run several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.

    Some of the oddest and most fascinating things about the file deal with the omissions. Much of the case file has redacted information, leaving only context clues. These subjects include the St. Louis Police Department's cooperation in the arrest, a report on an investigation request sent to the Chicago Police Department, and names of various contacts concerning evidence. There's even a page entirely blacked out, save for the words "armed and dangerous" at the bottom.