When the hijacker known popularly as D.B. Cooper jumped out of a Northwest Orient flight somewhere over Washington or Oregon nearly 40 years ago, he was carrying $200,000 in ransom money. It turns out he was also carrying something that a few generations of FBI agents, private investigators, writers, treasure seekers, and amateur criminologists would find nearly as valuable: the truth about who he was, and what exactly happened on the night of Nov. 24, 1971.
One thing that happened soon after is that D.B. Cooper entered into legend, lore, and even song, like this one from the Seattle singer-songwriter Judy Sword:
D.B. Cooper, where are you now?
We’re looking for you high and low.
With your pleasant smile
And your dropout style,
D.B. Cooper, where did you go?
This is the bright world of Cooper culture, in which the hijacker is a dashing counter-culture figure who stole from the man.
There’s also a darker world, an obsessive world, in which people spend decades of their lives searching for the truth about what seems like a frustratingly unsolvable mystery. Geoffrey Gray chronicles this darker world in his new book, Skyjack: the Hunt for D.B. Cooper. He also charts his own descent into Cooper-mania:
It is winter. I am now living in a cabin. It is located on the top of a mountain in the northern Catskills, upstate New York. I moved here to be alone and focus on the case. I haven’t paid any bills. I have been living out of the same pair of sweatpants since I arrived. I went to the store on Monday for groceries and I don’t know what day it is now and it doesn’t matter because Cooper sleuths do not stop the hunt for weekends.
Geoffrey Gray will join us to lead us down the D.B. Cooper rabbit hole. We’ll get his take on the most intriguing suspects (including the most recent possible break in the case), and we’ll learn why the book ends with the final clue: a handwritten recipe for cherry cheesecake.
What’s your theory about D.B. Cooper? What questions do you have for a man who has steeped himself in the case for the last four years?
More Think Out Loud
OPB | Sept. 27, 2016