Nov. 24th: The Day D.B. Cooper Stole $200K and Vanished Forever

Jack Patterson's picture

WHENEVER I WATCH A MAGIC SHOW, my thought after each trick is undoubtedly the same as everyone else’s in the audience: How did the magician do that? And it’s that same wonder and amazement that has kept one of the biggest mysteries in FBI history at the forefront of the public’s mind for nearly 45 years now: The Curious Case of D.B. Cooper.

Today marks the 44th anniversary of Cooper’s infamous heist when he hijacked a Northwest Airline jet between Portland and Seattle, took a flight attendant hostage, got $200,000 from the airline as a ransom along with for parachutes while refueling in Seattle, and parachuted out the back of the plane somewhere in Southeast Washington without ever being seen or heard from again. Though Cooper likely was seen and heard by plenty of people as he went on with his life, he never reemerged as a suspect in any crime—at least, none that we know of. It remains the only unsolved skyjacking case by the FBI and is still an open case.

And it leaves us with the naggig question: How did he do that? Despite thousands of hours searching and investigating the case, tracking down leads, and analyzing all the collected data, we're no closer to answering that question, even as potential suspects have emerged in recent years. Though I may never get the answer I'm looking for, I still find the case fascinating.

Perhaps it’s my interest in airplanes since I grew up in a family of pilots (though I’m deathly afraid of heights) or the fact that nothing gets my mind going like good mysteries or conspiracies, but Cooper’s case has been of particular interest to me for quite some time. So much so, that I had to write a book about it. But not the factual kind with lots of conjecture, but the kind that gave me literary license to hash out a theory with a character obsessed with Cooper to the point that he wants to re-enact his crime.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Ariel, Washington, and stalk the woods there. It’s a fascinating—and gorgeous—place, nestled just far enough away from the bustle of Seattle and Portland. It’s the kind of place someone could easily just disappear. What I found there was a strange juxtaposition—a community that celebrates a criminal every year while posting handmade signs to remind you to obey the speed limit, a place that feels both small and grand at the same time. And I found it charming all the same time.

If you don’t know much about Cooper’s case, I encourage you to check out Brad Meltzer’s History Decoded program on Cooper here when you have some time. And if you don’t have much time, CitizenSleuths.com has a great primer here that tells you everything you need to know about the case in five minutes—but if you want to go more in depth, you can get lost on the site for hours reading about all the research and forensics on the case.

So, even though it’s not a real thing, happy D.B. Cooper Day … and I hope you grab yourself a copy of The Cooper Affair from your favorite retailer listed below:

iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K. | Amazon Australia |