Since I now have Bermuda Triangle II off my back, and I await only one bit to finish HorrorScope, I am beginning my next round of books. I have written the foreword to South by Northwest, my investigation and pursuit of D.B. Cooper. A foreword is the first chapter I write in a book and the last I re-write. So this can most certainly change. But here it is as it stands now. I hope it whets your appetite to finally uncover the true identity of the Jesse James of the Jet Age.
South by Northwest, Foreword by Gian J. Quasar
Not since the romanticized Old West has a villain been so glorified as D.B. Cooper. There are those who would object immediately to him even being called a criminal or villain. Villain perhaps not, but he certainly committed a high stakes crime, high not only in the dollar amount he extorted but in the risk and daring factor. Criminal this makes him. He may have been a gutsy, even brave criminal but he was a criminal nonetheless.
There is no question that his image is a cool one. He was dressed like a middle age James Bond—dark suit, thin black tie, carried a briefcase, and hid his eyes behind fashionable wrap-around shades. This is the man who claimed he had a bomb in said briefcase and made the air carrier Northwest Orient pay out $200,000.00 under threat he’d blow up the plane and the passengers thereon. As the game unfolded and all waited tensely, he drank a Bourbon. He offered to pay for it. He’d rob a corporation but not the stewardess. She declined. This was the sleek villain threatening to blow up the airplane.
For the antiestablishment movement this in itself carried cache. Add the daredevil image to his calm and cool look and there is little wonder that Cooper soon became glorified as the “Jesse James of the Jet Age.” A strange hero was born: a modern Robin Hood who robbed from a rich corporation to keep it himself.
Cooper’s daring exploit, in fact, has never been equaled, not successfully anyway. There are those copycats who tried to get away with skyjacking an airliner for cash. They displayed the same daring and risk, but each one failed. Copycats obviously have no originality.
But D.B. Cooper did. He succeeded. He was the first. He chose a stormy night. He chose to bailout over the rugged wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Surely these are clues to his character and foreplanning. Put together with every other aspect of his caper and the profile of a careful, premeditative man emerges. It paid off. He remains elusive, not just in terms of never having been brought to justice; his very identity is unknown. This is quite an accomplishment all things considering.
Dan Cooper is just the alias he used to check in at Portland International Airport. He was seen extensively and up close by the stewardesses, of course. His features were unique. A composite was done in detail. Yet no dragnet ever uncovered Dan Cooper’s true identity.
Because skyjacking is a Federal crime, the FBI was in charge. Despite the Bureau’s formidable power of collating and analyzing data, both nationally and internationally, it is a remarkable fact that they never uncovered a missing person who fit his description. There was no missing uncle. No missing brother or brother-in-law. No missing father. No person was reported missing who matched Dan Cooper.
Given their theory this fact is amazing. At the time the FBI wanted to believe that he had “splattered,” that is, after he jumped from the Boeing 727 his chute didn’t open or on that rainy and windswept Thanksgiving Eve night 1971 he was plunged into the jagged, spear-like forests north of Portland and there ended the daredevil skyjacker, clutching his ill-gotten gains. It is a fact that none of the money was ever spent, and the FBI had shrewdly taken down each bill’s serial number. So to them the quest was one to find Dan Cooper’s true identity.
Yet too many clues say he survived. But why hadn’t he spent the filthy lucre?
It is possible to still trace Dan Cooper and uncover his identity. He is not just an alias and a distinctive looking man on a Federal handbill. The clues he left behind make him trackable. He knew the 727. He gave instructions to the captain how to fly it on the getaway trip from Seattle. All these instructions made it possible for him to jump from such a huge airliner in midair. He knew parachutes. He selected one that indicated he had some military experience, though not recent experience. He knew those woods. He could not have been a stranger to Portland. From Portland he had come. No car was found abandoned and traced to a man resembling him. No suitcase had been left in a locker. No motel room guest had failed to show up again. Dan Cooper had left zero trail. Only a man who had returned to his place in society could leave no trail and yet taunt us with all these clues.
Was Cooper an adventurer or was he the desperado the FBI painted him to be? The reader will have to decide after reading this book. One thing is certain: he went to unprecedented lengths to secure his money, and it worked. Something went wrong. The money was not spent. But he got away.
All of these are clues that lead us closer to Dan Cooper.
Various psychological profiles were done on this mysterious man, based on the couple of hours he existed in the limelight and the acts he had committed. The lead FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach preferred to think that Cooper was a down-and-out loser. He hated the glorified image. Cooper was a desperate, uneducated man. Even years after the case was dormant, Himmelsbach would take his own plane and scour the woods north of Portland. It was his own desperate attempt to finally spot the red parachute and find the remains of Dan Cooper. This would remove the hero image. He was a loser unprepared to commit such a crime, and his fate was death in the woods on that dark night.
But agent Himmelsbach never found a trace of Cooper. No one has, alive or dead.
Now it is time that we pick up that trail again and relive that day, a festive Thanksgiving Eve 1971 and then follow every clue to write the aftermath and finally solve the mysterious fate of D.B. Cooper.
* * *
Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.