FBI Investigated Lincoln's Killer ... in 1977
John Wilkes Booth intrigued the FBI over the course of the 20th century
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2014 7:00 PM CST
Updated Feb 24, 2014 9:00 PM CST
Abraham Lincoln is seen in an undated image just before he left Springfield, Ill., for his presidential inauguration in 1861.   (AP Photo/File)

(Newser) – The FBI was created 43 years after Abraham Lincoln's death, and yet his assassin has ... an FBI file? Yep, a file was opened into John Wilkes Booth in 1922 and was still active as late as 1977, Smithsonian reports. The blog Wonders & Marvels got hold of the file, and shares some highlights. The file was started when a Missourian wrote bureau Director William J. Burns saying that Booth—rumored by some to still be alive—was either the man's neighbor or corresponding with his neighbor. Burns replied that he believed the "official records" and saw no need for further action.

Yet another letter the following year prompted Burns to read a book about Booth's alleged escape, and Burns found that it had "very strong evidence in support of the old belief that Booth did escape and live many years." (Still, there's no evidence of Burns following up on it.) In 1948, the FBI received the boot Booth wore when he killed Lincoln (a doctor removed it from his injured left leg), but an ultraviolet and infrared examination of writing in the boot couldn't make heads or tails of it. Finally, in 1977, the FBI scanned Booth's diary in search of invisible writing, and couldn't find any. The FBI did confirm what had been known since 1867, though: twenty-seven sheets were missing from it. The diary can still be seen at Ford's Theatre Museum. (In other Lincoln news, a report found in a box at the National Archives in 2012 revealed how the first doctor to reach the shot president reacted.)

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Showing 3 of 19 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Feb 25, 2014 5:37 PM CST
In studying the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, I came upon a piece of legend that Booth traveled to Oklahoma to help set up the resistance movement in Indian Territory. So the tribes came in on the South's side and much like in the movie, "Wild Wild West" they were promised complete return of their lands west of the Mississippi. Not exactly good for tribes who were mostly east of the miss but hey, its better deal than Lincoln promised. But the tribes didn't know that the US would respond so violently to their support of the South and numerous new forts were established strictly for the purpose of the Civil War. These forts like Fort Arbuckle would not have existed had the tribes come in on the North's side. So one legend has it that after the assassination, the real booth fled to Indian Territory and got safe passage by the Chickasaws and died years later from his wounds that finally went gangrenous. There are numerous intersecting stories of South agents stealing gold coins shipped from Missouri and some day I would like to get a real nice gold detector and start looking for some of it. Oh, as for the worst thing for the tribes was that the US cancelled all treaties to punish them for joining the South. Those penalties were in effect for a century and some still exist.
NSA-CIApuppet
Feb 25, 2014 3:30 PM CST
If this investigation were ever concluded with some kind of consensus that the conclusion was certain: what would be the concrete benefit to anyone that justified making it a taxpayer undertaking? This is just another example of how tax dollars are frittered away with utter disregard for the taxpayers as human beings and the fact laughingly rubbed in our faces with insouciance. But it is a reminder that we all need to pull together. Divide and conquer is a classic. Divisiveness is one of the greatest protectors of governmental abuse. Fight and hate each other; leave politicians untouched.
BrushMan
Feb 25, 2014 12:41 PM CST
Booth was killed by a bullet to the cervical spine. The vertebra containing the round is encased in plastic and is kept at the Smithsonian.