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DB Cooper: Things We Know Didn’t Happen

The Cooper Caper breeds a lot of idle speculation, some of it is interesting but most of these theories end up being a real drag on those of us who know the case. So here are three theories regarding DB Cooper that need to die.

  • ”There Was No DB Cooper”  –This particular theory suggests the flight crew invented the entire story, stealing $200,000 from their own company (technically, the company was on the hook for only 20% of the ransom). Cooper was invented, and after the flight left Seattle, the crew divided the money and kept it for themselves. I’ve heard this dreck more than once now on various forums, and it deserves to die. The flight crew weren’t the only people to encounter Cooper. A ticket agent, and boarding gate agent, and several passengers all saw Cooper. The flight recorder showed a pressure bump when Cooper jumped, which could not be faked. The hijacking really happened.
  • ”Cooper Hid Inside the Plane” –When N567US landed in Las Vegas, no sign of Cooper was found on the aircraft. Some believe there are spaces on the plane Cooper could have accessed to hide himself from the FBI. And perhaps there were a few places the FBI and the maintenance crews missed… this is conceivable. However, the pressure bump was confirmed with instruments on the aircraft. Those could not be faked. Cooper jumped. This also means Cooper jumped somewhere near where the FBI believes he jumped, so you can also throw out theories involving Cooper jumping near Las Vegas.
  • ”The Money Was Planted at Tina Bar” –This theory will persist forever, or at least until the case is solved. In fact, I once believed it was impossible for three bundles to end up together on a random sandbar along the Columbia River. However, after years of examining the evidence, it is clear the money arrived at Tina Bar by natural means. The bills were exposed to the elements for a very long period of time. There is no way the money was buried on Tina Bar in late 1979 in order to fool the FBI into believing Cooper died in the jump.

DB Cooper Podcast

Busy with real life, but I thought I’d share this podcast on DB Cooper from the guys at Confluence of Events. Unfortunately, the guys make several factual errors about the case and don’t go into a lot of depth, but they’re entertaining.

D.B. Cooper Notes: March 2017

Slow month in the Cooper world. Nothing earth-shattering.

  • For those interested, TJC (Co-author of The Last Master Outlaw) has been releasing hundreds of pages of FBI documents received through FOIA requests. According to rumors, there may be many hundreds of pages more coming soon.
  • It looks like there is a small chance some of the CRT-related particles found by the McCrone group analysis could be linked to specific CRT tubes.
  • The DB Cooper Forum has been pretty quiet, a lot of focus lately has been on the Dan Cooper comic books. The comic was translated into several other languages from the original French. The problem still remains: finding a group of people who are bilingual and have no accent. French-Canadian is still the big favorite. What’s being ignored is the fact the Dan Cooper connection is tenuous. Dan Cooper is such a common name, it’s very possible it was just an alias picked at random for being remarkably unmemorable.
  • I’ll be going through the FBI files for some time, and I’ll be sending in my own FOIA request for FBI files relating to Max Gunther’s role in the Cooper case. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Redesigning Scientific Literature

Scientific literature has a traditional style and format, which evolved over many years and likely has its merits, but this no longer reflects how people read these papers:

“I start by reading the abstract. Then, I skim the introduction and flip through the article to look at the figures. I try to identify the most prominent one or two figures, and I really make sure I understand what’s going on in them. Then, I read the conclusion/summary. Only when I have done that will I go back into the technical details to clarify any questions I might have.”

– Jesse Shanahan, master’s candidate in astronomy at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut

Shanahan’s habit reflects nicely the theme from most of the people quoted in the story linked above. As it turns out, few people—especially the target audience of professional researchers—read a study the way it’s presented, which means the presentation is wrong. Scientists, researchers, academics and intellectuals now have to deal with a flood of papers as human knowledge expands. The outline of these papers should reflect this reality.

Here is how a standard paper is organized:

Abstract
Introduction
Materials and Methods
Results
Discussion
References
Acknowledgments

It should be an easy task to rearrange the sections of a scientific paper in such a way as to match the needs of the primary readership. The first change that’s required is very easy: Don’t bury the lede, the conclusions of the paper should not be buried somewhere in the middle of the latter third of a paper. Abstracts normally state the conclusions of the study, and I believe the abstract as it exists is pretty much perfect. A well-written abstract is one of the most wonderful experiences in a world of technical literature that is generally dreadful as the phrase “technical literature” implies. Therefore, the abstract remains at the top.

Next would be a “select” graphic, preferably just one graphic but two or three would be fine. A graphic is perhaps the most important element of a study, as it turns data into something visual, which is easier to grasp. If warranted, a select graphic should appear just below the abstract. Properly captioned, this should assist the readers in understanding the magnitude and importance of the results of a paper. Some papers won’t have graphics, and in its place we could perhaps find a table or equation.

The results of the paper, written in clear language, is perhaps the most important part of the paper. It is very important to not overstate the conclusions, and to make any issues of context clear and explicit. It should be the first thing people read, after the abstract. In all likelihood, the conclusions section will end up being the only section of the main body of the text to be read.

Following this should be the discussion section, including clear references to previous research in the topic (I would even bold those references to make them easier to find). These references are important—several researchers mentioned it—because it allows them to immediately see the study in relation to previous literature and they can even see any bias (such as avoiding an important previous study). The introduction section is eliminated, any concepts that have to be introduced to understand the problem or study can be mentioned in the discussion.

The actual methodology of the study is only useful to those trying to replicate the study or specialists in the field and we therefore put it at the end. It will contain all the nitty gritty details of how everything in the study was done, with all the excruciating minutiae and jargon and acronyms a subfield specialist would demand. Personally, I would still attempt to make everything in the paper accessible to non-specialists. Ideally, even the methodology section should be written in clear enough language that someone outside the field can understand how the research was done. However, as long as the conclusions and discussions are clear, the methodology section can be as incomprehensible as the authors feel is necessary to communicate their own expertise.

Finally, all the tables and graphics should come at the end, including a reproduction of anything used at the top of the paper.  A standard reference section should follow, with any acknowledgments coming at the very end. Here is the final outline:

Abstract
Select Graphics or Tables
Results or Conclusions
Discussion (with any introductory material and a select summary of previous research)
Methodology
All graphics and tables
References
Acknowledgements

A physicist friend of mine from college (we shared an addiction to handball) told me “If it’s not in the first or last sentence of the abstract, it didn’t happen.” So maybe this was all for naught.

DB Cooper Notes: February

  • Obviously, the big story in the Cooper world is still the McCrone Labs Analysis of the particles pulled from Cooper’s tie. I’ve been getting emails and have been following leads. The recent focus has been on manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest, especially Tektronix, which did some electronics work for Boeing.
  • Tektronix has a nearly complete employee yearbook from 1959 to about 1971, it has pictures of nearly every employee, about 18,000 total people. I failed to get a copy, but it wouldn’t take too long to go through every picture. This is exactly the sort of thing that can solve this case. The tie should be easy to photo-match, we know what the tie clip looks like and we know there’s some kind of tie tack on it too.
  • Whether the evidence collected will ever reach the threshold necessary to prove any suspect is Cooper is an open question. It appears that most of the guys at the Cooper Forum want either a bill from the ransom, or the parachute before they’ll even consider someone a suspect. This is an unattainable evidentiary standard. The money, even if Cooper got away with some of it, would be gone now, laundered and spent. If Cooper survived, the parachute was either buried or destroyed, and in either case it can’t be linked to an individual. In my mind, absent DNA, the only way to really connect someone with the hijacking would be a photo of them wearing the tie. From there, other circumstantial evidence should appear.
  • The “Gunther Hypothesis” got a good discussion on the Cooper Forum, and it took a bruising. No criticisms were raised that I wasn’t expecting, but even if we found out who Gunther was writing about, it wouldn’t persuade anyone the individual was DB Cooper. Again, there is an unobtainable evidentiary threshold to reach.
  • There’s still plenty of actual investigation left in the Cooper case, especially concerning the Tena Bar money find. I’m hopeful some of it gets done, but it’s unlikely since the funding isn’t there.
  • Was clicking around the NamUs database, looking at the stories behind several dozen unidentified bodies in the PacNW. The running theory among those that believe Cooper died in the jump is that Cooper was a transient, and the number of unclaimed bodies belonging to transients is impressive. These were people dead to the world before they actually died. Had Cooper been one of these people, it’s believable no one would have missed him over the Thanksgiving weekend. However, it’s hard to believe Cooper was such a transient. The tie tells a story, and even if the tie was some thrift store purchase, Cooper’s behavior during the hijacking speak to someone well socialized, possibly well-educated and certainly intelligent and familiar with aviation. It’s very unlikely he was some random hobo.
  • I’ve spent over two years on this case, and it’s probably time to move on to the next project. I’ll be following the case for the rest of my life, but I’m now looking at other topics to write about. I think I’ll be sticking to true crime but let this serve as a warning to those now following my blog because I’ve been focused on DB Cooper: I’m moving away from the Cooper case.

Skyjacker

January DB Cooper Notes

  • Sales of the book have been pretty good, thank you all. However, no one has reviewed the book on Amazon.com yet, and that tends to be a really big deal when it comes to how Amazon cross-promotes products. If you’ve read the book, please give it an honest review on Amazon.com. Print Copy Here, Kindle Edition Here.
  • I purchased an NB6 container along with an old military reserve container. Playing around with the equipment, it looks like it would be an easy matter to store some of the money in the reserve container and secure everything with paracord. The Reserve container then could be easily clipped to the main harness. There’s room for about 130,000 dollars in the reserve container (not including the parachute). I’ll have to get a parachute to see how much money could be carried with the reserve parachute.
  • Geoffrey Gray recently released some of the FBI files he had which included interviews with 305 passengers. Of interest for me was Nancy House who reported seeing Cooper with a burlap or canvas bag about the size of the attache case.
  • Shutter at the DB Cooper Forum has run several flight path simulations which have shown that the FBI map is, while not perfect, pretty close. One of the controversies of the map are the timestamps, which are not spaced at regular intervals. If the timestamps are close, and the generally accepted time of 8:13pm for the jump is also close, Cooper landed around Battleground and no farther south than Orchards.
  • Important show on the Travel Channel (tonight). Tom Kaye has some new stuff, and the teaser trailer had Geoffrey Gray on it talking about some of the passenger interviews he has from the FBI files. I’ll be updating this post during and after.

Update

Kaye’s findings that Dan Cooper worked in CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) production is interesting. Anyone who has read my book will know that I make my case on Kaye’s earlier findings regarding titanium particles found on the tie. I await to hear Kaye’s interpretation. My suspect worked a sales job in Industrial Chemicals. As such, we would expect him to be exposed to a wide range of particles like the ones listed on Kaye’s website.

 

First, Do No Harm. A Rogue One Review

Here’s something a little different, I know it’s not DB Cooper but after two years I think I’ve covered the case pretty well, it’s time to move on. The Review contains spoilers, but spoilers won’t ruin the movie for you, I promise.

With any new Star Wars movie, the first question that needs to be asked is “did it do harm to the Original?” Did the filmmakers, for reasons of convenience or avarice or ignorance, harm in some way the memory of what made Star Wars the most beloved fictional franchise in history? To quickly answer this question in regard to Rogue One: No. Not only does Rogue One do no harm, it even fixes some issues with A New Hope. This is quite an accomplishment considering the movie ends minutes before the start of A New Hope. Rogue One is a good standalone sci-fi movie, which is an accomplishment for any Star Wars film, and more importantly, a worthy flag bearer in the growing Star Wars canon.

It will forever be difficult to make a new Star Wars movie because the filmmakers have to strike a balance between originality and mimicry. Make the movie too reminiscent of the Original Trilogy and it will be accused of plagiarizing and manipulating nostalgia for the sin of greed. If the movie is too original and fails to connect to what has come before, then audiences will accuse the film of infidelity. Over time. I believe this will become a larger problem, especially as audiences change over time with shifting technological culture. Thanks to the prequels, the bar is very low right now, and the folks at Disney have cleared it by miles.

Rogue One opens… somewhere. I’m not actually sure, as we visit so many planets in a short period of time. Regardless, the Empire has come for an engineer, Galen Erso. In the course of kidnapping Erso, Imperial agents kill Galen’s wife, and a young girl, Galen’s daughter, escapes. We shoot ahead about a decade and meet the daughter again, who is now serving a prison sentence for crimes we hear about, but never actually see.

The Daughter, Jyn Erso, is rescued by the Rebels. Based on her reaction. she was rescued against her will. The rebels need Jyn, I think, because Galen Erso is rumored to have sent a defecting cargo pilot with a message to warn the Rebellion about an Imperial superweapon. I’m not even sure how the Rebels know they need Jyn Erso or where to go to rescue her, since she’s living under an assumed name. This part of the film is painfully convoluted and reeks of poor writing or failed reshoots or corporate suits interfering with the movie. I’m not 100% certain what happened, but the end result is a mess. Even the witty dialogue and pumped up action doesn’t save this part of the film from being boring. In fact, the entire movie struggles to get its main cast into a position for the big ending. There are a lot of questions about these scenes, now that I have time to think about them.

What makes everything worse about these scenes is the movie is constantly throwing references for the diehard fans. Characters from the original trilogy get glorious cameos throughout, most of which work fine, especially in the third act. But…. This forty-five minutes of the movie, from Jyn’s jailbreak to the roundtable at Yavin Base, all I can remember is the bright green light from the emergency exit sign (which is, distractingly close to the screen at my theatre) and the sound of the family behind me assaulting their bags of popcorn.

Eventually, the film finds its mojo and the audience is treated to seeing the rebel base on Yavin IV. Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, our new cast of characters, the disparate members of the Rebel Alliance, they all get crammed into a roundtable discussion about the Death Star and the future of their resistance movement. It sounds like an awful scene, now that I write it down, but it worked. We see a Rebellion on the verge of collapse before it has really started. We understand the stakes, which are even bigger than losing a planet or two to the Death Star. We see the desperation and despair. Our main characters become the catalyst for the entire Rebellion through their resolve.

Here the Big Dumb Ending starts. And it is glorious. The story comes together, the characters begin to shine, we start to connect emotionally to the people and the story, the action was exciting and reasonable, no cartoon physics or poor effects. The movie even fixed some of the nitpicker objections sourpusses like to bring up to belittle the Original Trilogy.

Rogue One has wonderful cinematography, a serious tone that captures the uncertainty created by the modern war against terrorism, wonderful performances by a vast cast of characters, including some from A New Hope (Seriously). It suffers from some combination of poor writing or poor editing in post-production. It’s far from perfect, but for half the movie I forgot about that stupid Exit sign and I have no idea if those hogs behind me stopped eating or if I was just that absorbed in the story. That’s just about the highest praise I can give a film.

Print Edition Now Available: Finding DB Cooper

finding-cooper

Available now at Amazon.com

And Createspace

Cooper Book Update

I have been busy the last few weeks formatting and editing the print edition of Finding DB Cooper. It should be ready to go by early November. I have lowered the price of the Kindle version. Once the print book is published, the current Kindle version will be replaced with the second edition, which includes about 40% more material. According to the Kindle Publishing dashboard, it can take a day or two for the new price to publish.