PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – On the 47th anniversary of the mysterious skyjacking done by a man known to the world as D.B. Cooper, investigators and enthusiasts gathered to discuss and debate the true identity of the subject of FBI’s most famous unsolved case.
Though FBI stopped actively investigating the case in July 2016, that has not dampened the enthusiasm of professional and amateur investigators who have their own theories about Cooper’s identity.
The story is well-trodden, but nonetheless incredible. The day before Thanksgiving in 1971, a middle-aged white man with a briefcase signed his name “Dan Cooper” to buy a one-way plane ticket from Portland to Seattle.
During the flight, Cooper (later mistakenly dubbed “D.B.” in the media), handed a flight attendant a note informing her that he had a bomb in his briefcase. He wanted $200,000 in “negotiable American currency,” four parachutes, and for the plane to be refueled when it landed.
The other passengers were informed that a “minor technical difficulty” would cause a delay in landing, as the flight crew informed authorities on the ground. Upon landing, the others left the plane, while Cooper remained on board and continued negotiations.
Cooper wanted the flight to head south to Mexico, but he did not appear to have any sort of political agenda. Around that time, skyjackings done for political purposes were quite common.
After securing the money and parachutes, the plane took off. And somewhere over southern Washington state, Cooper jumped out. His whereabouts remain unknown.
In 1980, a young boy found $5,800 of the ransom money on the shore of the Columbia River – to date, the only confirmed physical evidence that has been discovered in the case.
Since the skyjacking, citizen sleuths and enthusiasts who call themselves “Cooperites” have eagerly investigated, written about and debated their theories. But who was D.B Cooper? A disgruntled pilot? A skydiver settling a bet? Maybe a swindler who called himself a wealthy Swiss baron?
On Nov. 24, the anniversary of the skyjacking, some of the most prominent investigators gathered to discuss the real identity of Cooper.
With varying degrees of certainty, many who believe Cooper survived the fall have a specific person in mind that they believe was responsible. And in the afternoon at the D.B. Cooper Conference, a group of about 50 Cooperites heard theories about three suspects.
While many of the Cooperites in attendance are old enough to remember the event, others learned about it more recently.
Darren Schaefer, 33, says a book about Cooper given to him as a gift sent him down the “rabbit hole” of other books and online forums. It eventually inspired him to produce a podcast called “The Cooper Vortex.”
Schaefer, who came to the conference from Boise, Idaho, said he consumes most of his media in podcast form and was disappointed in the available podcasts about the Cooper case.
“You tend to get conspiracy theory shows, or shows that also talk about Bigfoot and ghosts,” Schaefer told Courthouse News. “You can’t cover this in 90 minutes.”
The goal of Schaefer’s podcast, he says, is to provide a “microphone” for Cooperites in a non-confrontational manner.
Perhaps the most prominent and most confident Cooper investigator is journalist and film producer Tom Colbert, who sued the FBI to reopen the investigation.