Chapter Summaries

Ch. 1:  DB Cooper
Seattle, WA

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Our Story:

Mystery buff Brad Martin meets a strange old man in a roadside diner one chilly spring morning when he is on a day trip to investigate one of many clues in the long-ago disappearance of Dan Cooper, notorious hijacker. Although the man provides answers to many of his questions, Brad begins to realize that something about the old man’s story doesn’t add up. Who is this fellow, anyway? And why has he spent so many years alone in the backwoods of northern Oregon?

The Real Story behind DB Cooper

On November 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper pulled off one of the largest unsolved heists in modern history when he hijacked a Northwest Airlines flight and then parachuted into oblivion. The thin, dark-haired, light-skinned man paid less than $20 cash at the Portland (Ore.) airport counter for a one-way ticket to the Seattle-Tacoma (Wash.) airport. He wore an ordinary dark suit with loafers and a black raincoat and carried only an attaché case.

During the first short flight, Cooper revealed his intentions by passing a note to a flight attendant and telling her, ‘Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.’ He may have been bluffing; the flight attendant saw a battery and wires in the attaché case, but it later disappeared along with the hijacker. He issued a set of demands to be delivered to the pilot: first he requested $200,000 in unmarked $20 bills, then he asked for two sets of main and backup parachutes with manual ripcords. When Cooper received the requested items on the ground at the Sea-Tac airport, he let the passengers go, along with the stewardess who had originally received his hijack note. Cooper then specified that the pilot fly to Mexico City at low altitude and airspeed. The flight crew warned that they did not have enough fuel to reach Mexico under those conditions, and Cooper agreed to fly to Reno (Nev.) for another refueling instead.

A few minutes into the second flight, Cooper asked the remaining flight attendant to go into the cockpit with the rest of the flight crew.  As she looked back one last time, she saw Cooper tying something to his waist. Not long afterward, a light came on in the cockpit indicating that a door had been opened; the pilot used the intercom to ask the hijacker if he needed anything, but Cooper simply said ‘No!’ and was not heard from again. Around ten minutes later, the pilot registered a slight bump, and when he landed as agreed in Reno, the aft stairwell was down and Cooper was gone. Authorities consider it likely that Cooper launched himself from the aft stairs, into a hard rain and below-zero temperatures, without any survival gear. Manhunts scouring the approximate area where the jump would have occurred in the following months discovered no trace of the hijacker. The items he left behind on the plane - cigarette butts, a clip-on tie, and the ransom note - have yielded some DNA, fingerprint, and handwriting evidence.

Two pieces of confirmed evidence also have appeared on the ground since the hijacking: a placard blown off the aft stairwell was found in 1978, and an eight-year-old boy stumbled upon $5,880 worth of decaying $20 bills from the ransom loot near the mouth of the Columbia River in 1980. A number of possible suspects have been identified over the years, and a couple of individuals have also claimed to be Cooper himself, but none of these men has passed muster with the FBI. A parachute discovered in 2008 in rural southwest Washington State was initially linked to the case but was ruled out by the man who supplied Cooper’s ransom parachutes in 1971. Most recently, FBI Special Agent Larry Carr has pointed out that “Dan Cooper” was the name of a French comic book character of the 1960’s - a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot who was once depicted parachuting out of his plane.

The Chapters: 12 Lost Treasures

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