Contemporary Legend

“D.B. Cooper was an aircraft hijacker who parachuted out of a plane somewhere over the Pacific Northwest with a ransom of well over $100,000.  After leaving from the Portland airport, Cooper flew to Seattle where he made his demands.  The FBI, who was trying to control the situation, talked the airlines into giving Cooper his money and parachutes.  Soon after receiving his ransom Cooper demanded the pilot fly from Seattle en route to Mexico City.  On his way to the Mexico City Cooper found a way to open up the back of the plane and jumped out somewhere across the river in Southwest Washington.  With the FBI unable to find the whereabouts of Cooper people began to speculate about how he was able to escape the authorities.  The story made news headlines all around the country and rumors and speculation began to spread about what had happened to him after he jumped out of the back of that plane.  This was when the legend of D.B. Cooper officially began.  I don’t know what to believe and have heard all kinds of stories.  Some say he escaped to Canada and others say he died in the forest.  I have even heard that he is living in a small town somewhere here in Oregon and has been able to elude the FBI and disguise himself as a farmer.  While the case of Cooper will probably never get solved every now and then there is some sort of new evidence uncovered, like a bundle of twenty dollar bills or a piece of a torn up parachute.  Maybe one day we will find out what happened to D.B. Cooper but I doubt we ever will.”

My father told me that he had heard all of these stories about D.B. Cooper when he was a teenager.  The actual hijacking took place in the early seventies and my dad, along with his friends, would speculate on what happened to D.B. Cooper.  Some kids would even joke about taking an adventure to find where he landed and look for the ransom.  While the bases of the story is always the same everyone has a different idea of what actual happened to Cooper and what was the reason for being unable to find him.

The story of D.B. Cooper is an example of how folklore, more specifically legends, is able to live on even though the event occurred long ago.  This story is so popular that it has even had several movies made about it.  Most recently the comedy With Out a Paddle was made about a group of friends who traveled to the northwest in search of D.B. Cooper’s ransom money.  The movie concludes with its own version of the story as the three friends end up finding Cooper’s ransom lying next to the skeletal remains of his body.  We can also see the story of D.B. Cooper being explored in Max Gunther’s book D.B. Cooper: What Really Happened, as he tries to uncover how Cooper eluded the police.

The story of D.B. Cooper has almost taken on a life of its own as people continue to speculate on his whereabouts.  Although D.B. Cooper may already be dead his legend will live on forever.

Gunther, Max. D.B. Cooper: What Really Happened. Contemporary Books, 1985.