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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Has Dan Cooper's parachute been found?

It was Thanksgiving eve
Back in 1971
He had on a pair of sunglasses
There wasn't any sun
He used the name Dan Cooper
When he paid for the flight
That was going to Seattle
On that cold and nasty night

-- "The Ballad of D.B. Cooper"
by Chuck Brodsky

More than 36 years after Dan Cooper bailed out of the back of a 727 into stormy night and American folklore, a parachute has been found in Washington state that the FBI is speculating could have been used by the legendary skyjacker.

It was on the night before Thanksgiving in 1971 that a man calling himself "Dan Cooper" (more often erroneously called "D.B. Cooper") boarded a Northwest Orient flight in Portland, Oregon bound for Seattle. Shortly after takeoff Cooper told a stewardess that he had a bomb, and gave instructions to have $200,000 in unmarked bills and four parachutes ready upon landing: two loaded in the front of the plane and two in the rear. The demands were met, Cooper allowed the passengers to leave and then the 727 took off again, this time headed south. About a half-hour into the flight, Cooper went to the back of the plane and was never seen again. He took the money and one of the parachutes and jumped out of the plane via the aft stairs.

Ever since that night, there have been all kinds of theories and rumors about what happened to Dan Cooper. In 1978 a 727 placard describing how to lower the rear stairs was found in the Washington woods by a hunter, and a few years about $6,000 from Cooper's haul (the serial numbers matched those of bills that were given to Cooper) was discovered on the banks of the Columbia River near Vancouver.

Some believe that given the fierce wind, heavy rain and freezing temperature along with how Cooper was described as wearing normal clothes that would not have provided much protection from the elements, the general consensus of law agencies is that Cooper did not survive his jump and that his skeleton is still laying around somewhere deep in the forests of the Northwest. And then there are others who believe that he not only did survive his caper/stunt, but that he took the money and went on a lavish spree. The story I've heard over the years is that Cooper had someone (usually a girlfriend) waiting for him, and they wound up blowing the wad at the casinos in Las Vegas.

Personally, I think Cooper made it all the way down alive. And if this parachute was his, then the following detail from the story certainly indicates that he survived the fall...

Children playing outside their home near Amboy found the chute's fabric sticking up from the ground in an area where their father had been grading a road, agent Larry Carr said. They pulled it out as far as they could, then cut the parachute's ropes with scissors.
Sounds like someone didn't want that parachute to be found. And whoever it was, they were alive long enough to bury it.

I've been a Dan Cooper buff ever since I was nine years old. This is one story that I'm certainly going to be keeping my eye on.

(And along with the radioactive cat story, this is the second post in a row pertaining to the Seattle area. Pretty weird, huh?)