ByKatie Granger, writer at
MP Staff Writer, come to bargain.
Katie Granger

Do you know who D.B. Cooper is?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation are officially closing the mysterious case of D.B. Cooper, 45 years after the crime itself was committed. A statement released by the Seattle division of the FBI on July 12 confirmed an end to what they describe as one of "the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history."

Active investigation on the case ceased July 8 2016, and manpower afforded to the D.B. Cooper case of the Northwest Orient Airlines flight hijacking shall now be diverted elsewhere.

Who Is D.B. Cooper?

Dan Cooper's FBI wanted poster
Dan Cooper's FBI wanted poster

One of the most intriguing mysteries in FBI history is the story of D.B. Cooper, and that's not even the name of the person in question. D.B. Cooper is a mere epithet ascribed by the media to the man known only as "Dan Cooper" who, on November 24, 197,1 hijacked a passenger plane en route to Seattle from Oregon.

The flight in question was Flight 305, and as it climbed to mid-air on its way to Seattle, the man in seat 18C handed a note to the flight attendant claiming that he had a bomb in his bag. His demands? Four parachutes and $200,000 in twenty-dollar notes.

When Flight 305 touched down in Seattle, the passengers were exchanged for the money and the parachutes, before taking off again with "Dan Cooper" and the flight crew on board. Their destination was Mexico City, but the hijacker never made it there. As night began to fall, he parachuted out of the plane in an undefined wooded location between Seattle and Reno, and disappeared.

Cooper's suspected landing zone
Cooper's suspected landing zone

Since then the FBI have spent a full 45 years investigating the case, a man-hunt spanning decades. $5,800 of the missing money was recovered 9 years later in 1980, found rotting alongside the Columbia River, but since then there's been nothing, and authorities have no idea what happened to the rest of the money.

As "Cooper" appeared to be in his forties at the time, he'd be in his nineties if still alive at all. And so the book closes on what shall likely remain one of the great mysteries in American history — but the D.B. Cooper legend lives on, as the tale of the mysterious hijacker has captured imaginations the world over. And it's been more influential than you might've thought.

The Legacy Of D.B. Cooper In Popular Culture

The only theory worth talking about [xkcd webcomic]
The only theory worth talking about [xkcd webcomic]

As the classic heist story that you couldn't make up, the legend of D.B. Cooper went on to permeate popular culture, influencing writers, musicians, directors and actors. Here's a few of our favourites:

  • The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981) which starred Treat Williams as "D.B. Cooper" — actually a Green Beret by the name of J.R. Meade.
  • Without a Paddle (2004), in which the three characters go in search of the ransom money and instead find Cooper's skeleton.
  • Prison Break (2005-2009) featured D.B. Cooper as a recurring character.
  • Numb3rs (2009) Season 6 Episode 10 charts a fictional resolution to the D.B. Cooper mystery.
  • Warehouse 13 (2012) Season 4, Episode 9 featured a version of D.B. Cooper's ripcord.

There's also been numerous songs written about his exploits, from Judy Sword's "D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?" and Chuck Brodsky's "The Ballad of D.B. Cooper," to End of a Year's "Dan Cooper" and even Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba". But our favorite D.B. Cooper reference has to be that of Kyle Maclachlan's character from Twin Peaks.

D.B. Cooper And Twin Peaks

Sherilyn Fenn and Kyle Maclachlan in 'Twin Peaks'
Sherilyn Fenn and Kyle Maclachlan in 'Twin Peaks'

David Lynch's cult hit Twin Peaks is set to return for its third season next year (sans David Bowie, sadly) a full 26 years after Season 2 ended on a shocking cliffhanger.

The main character of Twin Peaks is, of course, Special Agent Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) — the coffee-judging, doughnut-loving FBI agent who is sent to the fictional town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer. Twin Peaks became a cultural phenomenon as one of the highest rated shows of the '90s and, like D.B. Cooper, it has left its mark on popular culture, endearing even 26 years later.

But that's not the only thing Twin Peaks has in common with the D.B. Cooper tale. Did you know Agent Cooper's full name? It's Dale Bartholomew Cooper — D.B. Cooper.

A police sketch of 'Dan Cooper' and Twin Peaks' Dale Cooper
A police sketch of 'Dan Cooper' and Twin Peaks' Dale Cooper

This is no coincidence. According to the book Weird Washington by Jeff Davis, David Lynch named Agent Cooper as such in reference to D.B. Cooper and the mystery he left in his wake. An apt tribute for such a strange tale, to become a part of the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma that is Twin Peaks.

And for a while it looked as though Agent Cooper's fate would be left unresolved as D.B. Cooper's was, as Twin Peaks Season 2 left our hero possessed by the demonic Bob. Unlike D.B. Cooper though, we will see a resolution to the story of Agent Cooper when Maclachlan returns in Twin Peaks next year.

As for D.B. Cooper? 45 years later, we're probably never going to discover the truth, or the money. But maybe that's a good thing, otherwise the mystery would never have become the legend.

What do you think happened to D.B. Cooper? Tell us your thoughts on this mystery in the comments below!

Sources: FBI Press Release; xkcd webcomic; Weird Washington


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