The FBI Black Dahlia File, Starring Ed Burns

The Primer

Censoring by blotout is severe in the file pages that deal with Ed Burns. The printing is mono-width font style. Therefore, we usually can figure out how many characters were censored in any given blotout. Most of the file printing was done with teletype machines. Teletypes used a limited character set. Teletype alphas existed in upper-case only. Teletype files did not harbor quote marks. Normally, teletypers would put "QUOTE" immediately prior to a quotation and "UNQUOTE" immediately after a quotation. But teletypers liked brevity. They'd frequently type "Q," rather than "QUOTE," "UNQUOTE," for a short quotation, like a name. This formally documented "Q" function was used extensively: a solo "Q" is as unique as "QUOTE," "UNQUOTE." The idea is to be unambiguously understood.

The Karma

. . . It's Ed Burns, alias Barnes . . .

We've checked out the FBI-file scenery: it's syntactically stark and blottedly bleak. Now we'll explore the content . . . . . . By page eight, we sense the creepy karma of the Black Dahlia killer. We know his actual name and the alias he used the first time we saw him. So let's remove a few blotouts . . .

De-Censored FBI-File Fragments
Underlines indicate de-censored data

. . . DETERMINING IDENTITY OF SUSPECT IDENTIFIED ONLY
AS Q BARNES, FIRST NAME UNKNOWN. INFORMANT X
IDENTIFIED Q BURNS IN PICTURE AND STATES . . .

. . . AFTER THIS EVEN Q BURNS WENT TO PIECES . . .

. . . SUSPECT ADVISED QUOTE BURNS IS A MENTAL CASE . . .

. . . DEMOBILIZED PERSONNEL ARMY RECORDS Q BURNS. . . .

. . . TWENTY FIVE. QUOTE BURNS UNQUOTE PURCHASED HOUSE . . .

. . . MOTHER GONE. QUOTE BURNS UNQUOTE REMARRIED . . .

. . . ACQUAINTANCES THINK X AND Q BURNS MARRIED . . .

. . . KNOWS Q BURNS AND SAW HIM AT . . .

. . . ADVISED Q BURNS HAS ACCOUNT AT STORE . . .

. . . Q BURNS WAS IN STORE AND MADE PURCHASE . . .

. . . Q BURNS ACCOMPANIED BY . . .

. . . HIS WIFE POSITIVE Q BURNS HAS BEEN . . .

. . . STATE POLICE ADVISED Q BURNS HAS . . .

. . . ADVISE Q BURNS VERY HEAVY DRINKER . . .

. . . RECORD PERTAINING TO QUOTE BURNS UNQUOTE . . .

. . . CLINICAL RECORDS ON Q BURNS UNDER REGISTER . . .

. . . SUSPECT QUOTE BURNS UNQUOTE HONORABLY . . .

. . . RECORDS ON ONE Q BURNS WHO MAY BE . . .

. . . LAPD INDICATES BARNES DESERTER . . .

. . . WAR DEPARTMENT HAS NOT REQUESTED BUREAUS
ASSISTANCE IN LOCATING Q BURNS ALIAS BARNES
AS A DESERTER . . .
. . .

Why did the FBI continue to reference "Burns" in quotes? Rigor. They figured Barnes was one shady hombre. They wanted more proof of ID than an informant's and/or wife's "He's Ed Burns." The FBI wanted to interview the doctor who treated Ed Burns in the US Army-hospital head-case ward, in St. Louis. The FBI wanted to eye a snapped-in-1943 shot of "known-to-be" Ed Burns. The FBI verified ex-GI Ed's honorable discharge . . .

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