The FBI's vault of documents released to the public is utterly fascinating, providing access to (though sometimes heavily redacted) internal reports on topics such as UFOs, organized crime, and political and pop culture figures (from John Denver to Tupac Shakur). Though Baltimore appears in quite a few reports, my digging didn't reveal much of significance. There was a reported UFO sighting in Glen Burnie; there's a report noting the creation of a Nazi group that held a meeting in a suburban Baltimore shopping mall but fizzled out a few years later, and the investigation of a tip that a Baltimore man was going to send a bomb to Prince Charles and Princess Diana disguised as a wedding gift.

I took interest in a file of documents on legendary Sun journalist H.L. Mencken, who apparently traded letters with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover once wrote Mencken to compliment an article entitled, "Reflections on Homicide," ("Your keen analysis of this topic indicates a clear understanding of this particular phase of crime, and I am sure that your readers enjoyed your discussion.") and offered him a tour of the bureau's facilities. Later, when Mencken was writing a book on speech and language, he wrote to Hoover personally to inquire about the origins of the term, "G-Men," referring to federal agents.

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Here's Mencken's letter

Feb 10, 1944:


Hoover wrote back, describing how G-man stood for "government man" and was apparently first uttered by fugitive "Machine Gun" Kelly during his apprehension in Tennessee. "If you will recall the case, Machine Gun Kelly made numerous boasts that he would never be taken alive and that whoever apprehended him would find it rather difficult facing his machine gun," Hoover wrote. He said that when agents rushed in to take Kelly into custody, they expected gunfire but instead found Kelly standing in the corner with his hands in the air saying, "Don't shoot, G-man!"

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