Practically the only thing Cooper sleuths agree on regarding the parachutes provided to the hijacker were that there were FOUR total chutes given to him at SeaTac Airport. On many other details, people disagree. Until a couple of years ago when author Geoffrey Gray, (Skyjack) released hundreds of pages of F.B.I. files about Cooper, there have only been two traditional sources of information about the parachutes. The first was a man named Earl Cossey, a parachute rigger who packed at least three of the parachutes that were provided to Cooper. The other source was the occasional news article. The game changed when Gray released those unedited files, because one of the documents plainly states where and how the chutes were acquired for the hijacker. This document, shown below in its original form, was a report written up for F.B.I. headquarters by Special Agent John Detlor.
(UPDATE: A 30-minute video has been uploaded to YouTube with Kyle’s interview. We apologize in advance for the traffic noise, which was unavoidable. The area of Bonney Lake, WA where Kenny Christiansen’s old house sits today has been built up tremendously in the last few years, but it was the place we HAD to film the video. The video is linked at the end of this article.)
Two weeks ago, a man I will call ‘Kyle’ approached me through Facebook with an incredible story. Kyle, who is a 33-year-old resident of Bonney Lake, Washington, said that he had watched a rerun of the Brad Meltzer’s Decoded TV episode on DB Cooper suspect Kenny Christiansen. While he was watching, he said, he heard the part where the cast and this writer discuss the urban rumor that Kenny had buried some cash on the empty lot (a wooded hill) he owned behind the main house.
Kyle said he was not a big fan of D.B. Cooper, although he had heard of him and knew the basic story, but few details beyond the general things known by most folks in the Great Northwest. However, when he saw the part about the possibility of buried money, he said he recognized Kenny’s house as the same place in Bonney Lake that he and some of his friends often played as kids. Not down the hill at the house itself, but up on the hill in the woods behind the house. He claimed he was the one who found the rumored money, and it wasn’t a rumor at all. It was TRUE, he said. And he could prove it.
Of course, I get contacts about the Cooper case from time to time. Some are well-meaning, others are just plain crazy. My job is to filter the wheat from the chaff. So the first thing I did was to qualify him as a witness. I checked his Facebook page, his history on Google, and his friends’ list. Everything seemed normal enough. Kyle liked to post up about his vehicle, BBQ’s, his girlfriend – basically the usual stuff you see from a normal Facebook user. I checked his employment. He was a shoe salesman for an upscale department store chain in Bellevue. He had been trying to reach me for a couple of weeks, he said.
So far, so good.But did he have any proof of his claim?
He said: “I have pictures of the money. And I wasn’t the only one who was there when we found it.”
One thing about the D.B. Cooper case that makes it different, as in:
“Mrs. Gump…your boy…DIFFERENT…”
Is the amount of internet craziness going on within Cooperland that can get really wacko sometimes. Everyone thinks they have the right suspect. Others will play games, or tell any ridiculous tale to support their angle in the case. Sometimes the angle isn’t a suspect, but something else. Cornering the internet forum traffic related to Cooper, perhaps. Not to really solve the case on such forums, but to fritter away the time discussing it. Most of these discussions rehash the same old evidence and go nowhere.
There’s nothing wrong with discussions about old DB, of course. What makes the Cooper case different is when you start proposing a certain person may have been Cooper, and submit REAL evidence about that person. Then the claws come out, the wagons circle, and the dirty tricks emerge. Fear raises its ugly head, and loathing follows.
Unlike the Jimmy Hoffa case, or Scorpio, or even Jack the Ripper – SOLVING the D.B. Cooper case would be a horror to many of the people who discuss it. This is because actually solving it would mean the end of discussion and no more mystery. To them, it’s like trying to swallow a golf ball, or being forced to eat a plateful of sauerkraut laced with raw sardines. Not a pretty picture.
The jealousy among Cooper fans is rampant and predictable. This writer was once foolish enough to open his own discussion forum on the case. I named it: The Adventure Books D.B. Cooper Forum. At first, I tried to do it nicely. Listed all the suspects and their entries from Wikipedia, posted up about our upcoming eclipse campout to Oregon, and other reletively harmless stuff. I shouldn’t have bothered, since it turned out to be a waste of time.
It wasn’t long before other Cooper fans discovered the site and we got as high as twenty members, some of them were even relatives of Kenny Christiansen, the guy they are now making the first DB Cooper movie about down in Hollywood. But then I made a BIG mistake. I let it slip that the film producers planned to name Kenny as Cooper, not as a guess, or a maybe, but as a matter of historical record. Their decision was based on evidence I hadn’t revealed to the public, and I had to sign a confidentiality agreement to keep my trap shut regarding details on the movie. My mistake was telling Cooperland about the ‘historical record’ stuff.
It was tough getting the news that Skipp Porteous, my co-author on the book Into The Blast – The True Story of D.B. Cooper, had passed away. For the last few years he had suffered from aphasia, and he began having trouble using a keyboard or communicating verbally, although his mind remained sharp as a carpet tack.
The Cooper book wasn’t his first book, however. Before forming Sherlock Investigations in New York City, Skipp had actually been a fundamentalist preacher. Over the years, he had a change of heart about that work, and detailed his journey in his 1991 book, Jesus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which is still available at Amazon. I bought a copy not long after we started working together on the D.B. Cooper case, just to get a handle on the guy who was sending me on interviews all over the Northwest USA.
In the nine years I knew Skipp, I never actually met him. But over the years I grew to KNOW him quite well. He had skills on determining when people were lying, or hiding something, or when someone needed to be questioned. In late 2008, I saw his name mentioned in an article by author Geoffrey Gray, who would later go on to write his own book on the Cooper case, Skyjack. There was a mention by Skipp that he was considering a book on the suspect discussed in the article, Kenneth Peter Christiansen, a former US Army paratrooper and an actual employee of the airline that Cooper had hijacked for $200,000.
On the day I read the article, I made a fateful decision that would change my life. I decided to contact Skipp and offer him my services as a book editor, and to possibly even publish his book. I also said I lived just down the road from where his suspect once lived, and I found the whole subject interesting.
Neither the local cops at the King County Sheriffs’ Department, or the Seattle F.B.I. have been forthcoming on a couple of issues in the D.B. Cooper case. The video below was shot in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State in October 2015. It speaks for itself:
After hijacker D.B. Cooper jumped (most likely near Ariel, WA) on November 24, 1971 it was a little more than six years before any evidence surfaced, and it wasn’t from Cooper himself. An instructional placard showing how to open the aft airstairs was found in what was described as ‘a heavily-forested area six flying minutes north of Ariel’. The placard was discovered in early 1978 by Carroll Hicks of Kelso, Washington State, while he was out hunting.
The location of the found placard has been researched pretty heavily and is well-known. Today, the area is much less forested, and has been subjected to extremely heavy logging since 1978. The exact spot can be reached today (within about fifty feet accuracy or so) with any decent car or truck. The placard was turned over to police afterward, and its location on the ground was used to help confirm the flight path of the hijacked airliner.
For GPS users, the exact coordinates are:
An embedded, interactive Google map is shown below. To begin, click on ‘View Larger Map’. Then select ‘Satellite View’ and the 3-D option for best results. Zooming in or out also helps, and yes, Google can provide directions to the site. When using 3-D, hold down your CNTL button while moving your mouse to adjust the terrain view for best results.
Adventure Books of Seattle, who investigated the DB Cooper case for several years, and has hosted occasional summer campouts for the public, has named this spot as a possible future camping location for one of those events. The idea being that it might be fun, and campers could search the surrounding area for additional items that could still be lurking in the trees and brush. These include the (probably) phony bomb, the non-working reserve chute, and Cooper’s briefcase. They were not on the plane when it finally landed in Reno, and have never been found. Perhaps Cooper actually ripped off the placard and tossed it out the back, along with those other items, to throw off any ground search later. He could have done this before he jumped. It’s doubtful he tied them to himself, as he did the money bag. You never know. In any case, we’re considering a metal detector for this camping trip. 🙂