The Strange Disappearance of D.B. Cooper

The Strange Disappearance of D.B. Cooper


– This week on Buzzfeed Unsolved, we discuss the famous case of D.B. Cooper, a case that the FBI’s referred to as one of the great unsolved
mysteries in FBI history. It’s also considered one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in US history. It’s a favorite of mine.
– Ooh. Yeah, I’ve heard of this one a little bit, just a little bit. – Oh you haven’t heard it
like I’m about to tell it. – Oh boy, okay, strap in. – Let’s strap in baby, let’s get into it. On Wednesday, November 24th, 1971 the day before Thanksgiving,
a man going by the name Dan Cooper bought a $20 one way ticket on NorthWest Orient Airlines
with cash for flight number 305 from Portland, Oregon
to Seattle, Washington. Cooper was described
as being in his mid-40s and wearing a business suit,
a black rain type overcoat, brown shoes, a white shirt, and black tie. He carried a dark
briefcase and a four inch by 12 inch by 14 inch paper bag. Before the plane took off, Cooper, seated in seat 18C ordered
a bourbon and soda. – That’s a big gulp. – [Ryan] After the plane had taken off, a little after three p.m. Cooper handed the stewardess a note. At first, she just put it in
her pocket without looking at it, but Cooper said, quote, “Miss, you better “look at that note. I
have a bomb,” end quote. – “Thanks,” and walked away. And he was like, “Hey, ah,
you might want to read that “because I’ve got a bomb, oh god dammit “Yeah, I got a bomb everybody.” – Cooper told her the
bomb was in his briefcase and asked her to sit next to him. He opened his briefcase
to show red colored sticks surrounded by an array of wires. After that, Cooper asked the stewardess to write down what he was saying
and take it to the captain. Quote, “I want $200 thousand by five p.m. “in cash, put in a knapsack. “I want two back parachutes
and two front parachutes. “When we land, I want a
fuel truck ready to refuel. “No funny stuff or I’ll do the job.” One odd detail was that Cooper asked for the $200 thousand to be
exclusively in $20 bills. The flight landed in
Seattle, and Cooper exchanged the 36 passengers on
the plane for the money and the parachutes he had requested. Cooper kept some crew members on the plane and had the plane take
off for Mexico City, requesting that the plane
remain below 10 thousand feet. During the second half of the flight, Cooper put on a pair of
dark wrap-around sunglasses with dark rims that would later become part of the sketch that
would become famous for anybody familiar with the case. – I’m just imagining a
camera just pushing in on him as he’s just like. (blows) (dramatic music) – If we were in today’s age, this guy would definitely
have headphones in playing a Spotify playlist
of epic soundtracks. – He would have one of
those shitty hover boards. – Not an actual hover board, but a shitty. – Yeah, he’d be like,
“Or I’ll do the job.” He’d take out his wheels, put em down, start moving up and down the aisle. (laughing) Knapsack, or I’ll do the job. – A little after eight p.m. when the plane was somewhere between
Seattle and Reno, Nevada, Cooper jumped out of the
rear doors of the Boeing 727 with two of the parachutes and the money, never to be seen again. One thing worth noting
is that Cooper took off his black J.C. Penney clip
on tie before jumping, a piece of evidence that the FBI was able to procure a DNA sample from. – (blows) Clink. (laughing) – With the DNA sample from the tie, let’s jump into the investigation launched to identify the man who
called himself Dan Cooper. The case was called NORJAK, standing for Northwest Hijacking,
and would last decades. The plane was intensely
searched for evidence. Desperate to find Cooper’s identity, there was extra interest in $20 bills because the FBI had
released the serial numbers of the bills stolen by Cooper. Remarkably, in 1980, nine
years after Cooper’s escape a young boy found a rotted package filled with $20 bills that matched the ransom money’s serial numbers. There was $5,800 in all. The boy found the bills on a beach at Tina Bar while making a campfire with his father. People theorize that
when Cooper jumped out, the money possibly fell
into the Washougal River before eventually making
its way to Tina Bar. That’s basically all they’ve theorized. – I’m just imagining him just jumping out and immediately just losing
grip of all the bags. Just a man plummeting
to earth with a bunch of money flying around,
and him being like. (yells) – [Ryan] Though this discovery
would ultimately lead to nothing as the FBI scoured
the surrounding beaches, finding nothing else. In the year that followed the hijacking, several letters were sent to the FBI, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times,
and The Seattle Times, either confessing to the crime, eulogizing a
recently-deceased D.B. Cooper, or claiming to be his brother. In fact, in November 1972 two men, Donald Sylvester Murphy
and William John Lewis were taken into federal custody on charges of extortion
for impersonating Cooper and selling his tell-all
story to a tabloid. – “Ha, ha, hey it’s me the Zodiac Killer. “I’ll tell you a story. “What? Oh, oh.” – Leads were tracked all over the country and more than 800 suspects were considered over the first five years
of the investigation. All but 24 suspects were
eliminated from consideration. One peculiar fact is
that the initials D.B. have no actual relevance to the case, and the FBI isn’t sure
where they came from. It was reportedly a
mistake from a wire service that caused him to be called D.B. Cooper instead of Dan Cooper, which
is how he presented himself when buying the plane ticket. The physical description of Cooper is thought to be very accurate. Two flight attendants spent
hours with him on the plane, and were interviewed separately the night the hijacking occurred. They gave nearly identical
descriptions of Cooper, saying that he was five
feet 10 to six feet, 170 to 180 pounds, in his
mid-40s, and brown eyes. People who interacted
with him on the ground gave similar descriptions. His voice was described as
low, no particular accent, but spoke with an intelligent vocabulary. The charge against Cooper
was originally air piracy, but that had a five year
statute of limitations and as time went on, with no
suspects being found guilty, a grand jury later indicted Cooper for violating the Hobbs Act. The Hobbs Act is a federal statute designed to prevent extortion. It has no statute of limitations, meaning if Cooper was found tomorrow he could be charged even though the FBI investigation has
since been called off. Before we jump into suspects,
I’d like to point out that the pilot told
officials that he himself chose the route the
plane took, not Cooper. Cooper only requested his end
destination of Mexico City, a decision that is a bit puzzling when you consider the fact that Cooper knew he intended to jump out of a plane. This seemingly eliminates the possibility of Cooper having an accomplice, as there was no coordination
about the route from Cooper, and therefore, no coordinated drop point. With that, let’s jump into the suspects. The first suspect is Richard Floyd McCoy, who is the favorite suspect of former FBI agent Russell Calame and former federal probation officer Bernie Rhodes. The two men even wrote
a book about the case. In April 1972, five months
after Cooper’s escape, the FBI arrested Richard Floyd McCoy for hijacking an airplane. When examined, the McCoy heist is definitely similar to the Cooper heist. Like Cooper, McCoy hijacked a plane and parachuted off of it. McCoy jumped out the back rear staircase of a Boeing 727, the same plane Cooper jumped out of, using the same method. Also like Cooper, McCoy
requested four parachutes and was calm during the heist. Reportedly, both of the men passed notes to the flight attendants
claiming a bomb was on board. A detail that becomes more compelling when you learn that both
Cooper and McCoy’s notes reportedly contained the
phrase, “No funny stuff.” Another suspicious coincidence
is that both crimes reportedly occurred while
Brigham Young University, where McCoy was a student, was on break. “Spring Break!” As he just falls down to his death? – “Spring Break!” (grunts) – Perhaps the most riveting detail is that according to Calame and Rhodes, members of McCoy’s family identified an object left on the plane by Cooper, an object that was never
publicly identified. Some parts of the internet seem to believe that this object was a
Brigham Young University medallion, with McCoy’s initials on it, but this seems to stem
from the Wikipedia page of the case, which makes this most likely complete horse shit. Regardless if McCoy is Cooper or not, the FBI eventually ruled
out McCoy as a suspect for the Cooper case, mainly
because he didn’t match the descriptions of Cooper
given by the flight attendants. Though, Calame and Rhodes listed the two men as looking similar. Additionally, according to FBI archives, McCoy was home with his
family for Thanksgiving dinner in Utah the day after the hijacking. Unlike Cooper, McCoy was
actually caught after his heist and sentenced to 45 years in prison. McCoy would actually escape from prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
and would later die in a gunfight with FBI agents
in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I just love how that
story has so many like oh. – He’s out.
– He’s like, “Yeah.” – He’s not out.
– Oh. – He’s out.
– Ah? – Shot to death.
– Oh. – That was a roller coaster
of emotions right there. The second suspect is Duane Weber, who claimed to be D.B.
Cooper on his death bed. His wife Jo claims that
in the hour of his death, Duane pulled her close and said, quote, “I have a secret to tell
you, I’m Dan Cooper.” (laughing) – I was trying to take a drink and I just imagined. – “Closer, closer, closer.” – “I have a secret to tell you.” – “I’m D.B. Cooper.” – “I’m the phantom of the sky.” I bet she did not see that one coming. – No, she’s probably gonna be like. – Did he cheat on me?
– Exactly. “Did you cheat on me?” – “I’m a man of myth.” – This revelation led to Jo revisiting what should have been clear clues. According to Jo, Duane had nightmares where he’d sleep talk about, quote, “Leaving fingerprints on a plane.” He also had a knee ailment that he claimed he got jumping out of a plane. Duane’s handwriting was reportedly found in the margins of a library
book on D.B. Cooper. Jo also claims Duane took her to the place where the money was eventually
found on Tina Bar beach. And finally, Jo claims that Duane had an old NorthWest Airlines
ticket for no apparent reason. 29 years after he left the case, here’s a quote from former lead FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach on Duane Weber. Quote, “He does fit the
physical description. “He does have the criminal background “that I’ve always felt was associated “with the case,” end quote. Himmelsbach also believed
that Jo Weber’s story may have credibility, but ultimately did not believe it was him. The third and final suspect
is Kenneth Christiansen, the favorite suspect of
the author Geoffrey Gray. The theory began when Lyle Christiansen, the brother of Kenneth Christiansen, saw an episode of Unsolved Mysteries and became convinced that
his brother was D.B. Cooper. Lyle also cites a deathbed confession from his now late brother Kenneth. Kenneth reportedly said, quote, “There is something you should know, “but I cannot tell you,” end quote. Kenneth was a flight purser
for NorthWest Orient Airlines, the same airline that Cooper hijacked, which would support online suspicion that it was an inside job. Kenneth also loved
bourbon and bought a house shortly after the crime, though it was apparently unassuming. Perhaps the most enthralling
part of Gray’s theory is that fact that when he
showed a picture of Kenneth to a flight attendant who’d
interacted with Cooper, she agreed that of all
the suspects she had seen, Kenneth was the closest. Though, she also said, quote,
“I can’t say yea,” end quote. Bizarrely, the FBI debunked Kenneth on the basis that he didn’t
match the description. So once again the FBI coming in hot with some weird
contradictions, I don’t know. You’re cool, FBI, I’m just saying. – You don’t wanna make
enemies of the deep state. – No I don’t especially
now with, nevermind. – Yep. – Another reason the FBI discredits Kenneth as a suspect is because Kenneth was a paratrooper just after World War II. A detail that is damning,
according to the FBI, who believes that Cooper
was not a skilled jumper. Which brings us to our next suspect, or rather theory, from
Special Agent Larry Carr, that D.B. Cooper did not survive the fall. Agent Carr took over the
D.B. Cooper case in 2007. Here’s a quote from him on the matter. Quote, “We originally thought Cooper “was an experienced jumper,
perhaps even a paratrooper. “We concluded after a few years this was simply not true,” end quote. Here’s some details that
support that narrative. Cooper jumped carrying two parachutes. However, only one of them
was a functioning chute. The other was a training
chute that was sewn shut. Furthermore, the shoot that was functional was a military chute
that was not steerable. He’s kinda starting to
sound like an idiot. – A little bit. – The whole time, he’s like, “Yeah, bourbon soda, mm bomb. “Here’s your note. “I’m a cool guy, sunglasses.” Jumps out the plane. (screams) (screams) Splat. – It’s not a splat, I
think a pine tree just. Just, “No, no, no, no.” (grunts) – “Kill me.” – Little squirrel comes up to him. “Get out of here.” – Here’s some more
details from Agent Carr. Quote, “No experienced parachutist “would have jumped in
the pitch black night, “in the rain, with a 200
mile-an-hour wind in his face, “wearing loafers and a
trench coat,” end quote. Other reasons he possibly died in the fall include him jumping into
a wooded area at night, and there was no visibility of the ground at the time that he jumped as there was a cloud cover at 5,000 feet. Obviously, this theory
loses a bit of credence due to the fact his body
or chute were never found. The last theory we will discuss comes from a group of amateur scientists that refer to themselves
as Citizen Sleuths. I got you guys, don’t worry. He’s gonna be floored. Citizen Sleuths employed the
use of an electron microscope to discover north of
100 thousand particles on D.B. Cooper’s tie. Among these particles, they discovered cerium, strontium sulfide,
and pure titanium. According to lead Citizen
Sleuth’s researcher Tom Kaye, quote, “These are what they
call rare earth elements. “They’re used in very narrow fields, “for very specific things,” end quote. Kaye stated that although these elements were rare during 1971, one place they were being utilized was at Boeing, where they were developing an advanced, supersonic transport plane. Kaye and the Citizen Sleuths posit that Cooper may have
been a Boeing employee, explaining the rare
materials found on his tie. Quote, “The tie went with
him into these manufacturing “environments for sure, so he was not “one of the people running
these manufacturing machines. “He was either an engineer or a manager “in one of the plants,” end quote. Kaye believes the key
to identifying Cooper rests with the memory
of perhaps one person in the Pacific North West who was involved in the aerospace industry at the time. If that person is you, all information can be relayed to the Citizen Sleuths via the contact tab on their
website, citizensleuths.com. The FBI called their
search for D.B. Cooper, “One of the longest and most “exhaustive investigations,”
in its history. As of 2011, the FBI case file measured 40 feet long, and covered more than 1,000 suspects, so what we presented here is
only the tip of the iceberg. The case was open for
45 years before the FBI finally closed it in 2016, though they are still willing to
listen to possible leads. What do you think happened? – I’m gonna go Occam’s Razor on this one and just assume that he
rocketed to the ground. A little juxtaposition of
him being on the plane like, “I’ll have a bourbon,” and then two hours later. (yells) – After all these years,
people are still transfixed on the identity of the cunning crook known as D.B. Cooper. But for now, and perhaps forever, the case of D.B. Cooper
will remain unsolved. What if the trench coat was like Batman where it was like a flight activated suit that allows him to fly around
like a flying squirrel? – In my mind though, I don’t imagine him being like, “Oh here comes the tree line.” I imagine him being like, “Oh, I can’t see “through the clouds, oh now I can.” – It’s just.
– Wile E. Coyote. – Plume of smoke.
– Yeah. – Oh hey there, didn’t see you walk in. That does it for this
season of Buzzfeed Unsolved, but we will be back with a
new season soon, I promise. Now I’m gonna get back to this case file. – That’s bullshit. (wolf howling) – [Ryan] Look out for a brand new season of Buzzfeed Unsolved
Supernatural coming soon.

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. DB was just the front… The plane crew was in on it. They threw DB off the plane along with some money to cover up their tracks.

  2. He chose Mexico as a destination for the purposes of sending American and Mexican resources out of the country leaving him a clear place to jump in the Sierras.

  3. so what if the FBI knew the serial numbers of all those bills? were they checking literally every single shop every day and checking their 20 $ bills for 45 years? i dont think so.

  4. ryan and shane could pack it up and leave buzzfeed and just start making their own vids of all sorts and live off their amazingness

  5. what I think is that the tie he left in that plane was intentional.
    He wanted to mislead detectives. By doing that he was able to get out the reach/sight of every1.
    That Titanium and stuff was a "Red Herring"

  6. Has anyone considered someone found him and took him to help him and eventually got stuck in the situation with him or just took the stuff

  7. As to the fact he doesn't have any particular accent. People from washington and oregon DO have an accent, its just so sublte that even people like me who have lived here out whole lives can't really explain it.

  8. Hmm…
    Nothing found, but a bag of 5.8k…

    Aliens picked him up while he was falling and he dropped the bag while they were grabbing him! XD

  9. They had a dna sample of cooper so why didnt they just compare to the suspects dna samples to see if they are a match??

  10. Anyone else think he never jumped as the pilots and flight attendants were in the cockpit and could not tell if he jumped or not

  11. He ad 2 be a high level government operative.! Jus as 2 be, or atleast had some sort of high level training, be it navy seal or black ops or SAS equivalent

  12. Anyone else see Nicholas Cage playing D.B. Cooper in like a comedy skit, just an odd thought i had with the way they're playing him in this, sounds like a Cage way of doing it? Anyone else or is it just me?

  13. my guy 100% died based on the specific location that he jumped and the windspeed. I think "non-steerable chute" pretty much clears this one up, as his trajectory should have taken him into water

  14. ๐™—๐™š๐™˜๐™–๐™ช๐™จ๐™š ๐™ฉ๐™๐™–๐™ฉโ€™๐™จ ๐™ฃ๐™ค๐™ฉ ๐™๐™ค๐™ฌ ๐˜ฟ.๐˜ฝ ๐™™๐™ค๐™š๐™จ ๐™ž๐™ฉ ๐™—๐™–๐™—๐™ฎ

  15. So the fbi set him up to die? How many "dummy" parashutes did they give him out of 4? we dont negotiate with terrorists.. but we give him $200,000 with a small crew flying at his designated altitude but following the pilots plotted course.. and fake parachutes after giving him everything else.. He boarded that plane with a brown paper bag, before he got the money.. ohh yea, he brought $20,000 with the matching serial numbers to a plane high jacking in a brown paper bag that he dropped while parachuting with a bag containing $200,000.. FBI has DNA but cant confirm suspects? Who paid the money? id bet that the money was divided up while the plane was traveling to his final destination.. the $20,000 was either planted or supposed to spread out over a wide area to confuse but i doubt anyone jumped from that plane. idk, either way we cant trust fbi either.

  16. Why would he only ask for $200,000?
    Like, I get that if you ask for TOO much, authorities become more willing to gamble with the lives of hostages, but even in 1972 you can ask for more than that.

  17. How'd he even get a bomb on that plane? Didn't they have metal detectors back then. They should've briefly checked the boarders briefcases and bags.

  18. The feds sabotaged the parachutes and gave him counterfeit 20s. No casualties, no money loss and the criminal dies by his own hands. Fuckin bow on this one.

  19. Ok but what happened to the bomb? He wouldnโ€™t have jumped with it, but the plane didnโ€™t explode…

  20. It's weird how he wanted a fuel truck for when they landed, but he jumped off before they landed. Also how he asked for four parachutes when he only used two.

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