DB Cooper – 40th Anniversary celebrations include first-ever professional symposium on America’s only unsolved skyjacking


Editor’s Note:  The following press release from author Geoffrey Gray heralds the first-ever professional gathering that will examine the DB Cooper case – the only unsolved skyjacking in the history of the United States.

Forty years ago this week, DB Cooper jumped out the aft stariwell of a Northwest Orient 727 with $200,000 tethered to his waist and was never seen again.  Further, his identity is still unknown. 

 40th Anniversary D.B. Cooper Symposium

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Portland, Oregon – Hilton Hotel

Includes a charity auction of a $20 bill from the hijacker’s ransom found in a riverbank more than three decades ago. 

FBI composite sketch "B" of DB Cooper

New York Times bestselling author Geoffrey Gray announced the line-up today for the national D.B. Cooper Symposium, a one-time event that will feature groundbreaking presentations from Cooper sleuths from around the country, and crack open new leads to the enduring mystery.  This Thanksgiving Eve marks the 40th anniversary of the D.B. Cooper case, the world’s only unsolved hijacking and a mystery that has spurned one of the nation’s largest manhunts.

 “There is no better way than to work off Thanksgiving dinner by getting back to work on the Cooper case,” said Gray, author of SKYJACK: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper. “Here you will have for the first time – and likely the last – the most dogged, devout and informed Cooper sleuths, all of whom have come together to answer once and for all, forty years later, who was D.B. Cooper.”

Gray continues: 

“Nowhere on the planet has a more eclectic group of sleuths assembled in the same room to solve such a puzzling and obsessive whodunit.”

 Gray also announced there will be a charity auction of an original Cooper bill that was given to the hijacker during the flight as ransom, and found nearly a decade later in a riverbank by an eight-year-old boy. 

 “If you think you have everything, think again,” Gray said.  “There are only a few Cooper bills left, and this is the chance of a lifetime to own a historic clue to America’s most daring unsolved crime.”

 The Symposium Schedule:

 Starting at 9:00 am at the Portland Hilton (921 Southwest Sixth Avenue), on the morning of Saturday, November 26th, the Symposium’s presenters will include Marla Wynn Cooper, an Oregonian now living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Cooper will talk about her uncle Lynn Doyle Cooper, who the FBI recently deemed their “most promising” lead in the Cooper case.  Ms. Cooper made headlines this summer when news about her uncle broke around the world.

 Editor’s Note:  LD Cooper was later dismissed as a suspect in the skyjacking as his fingerprints and DNA did match the samples the FBI had on file.  This begs the question of why the FBI proclaimed him their “most promising” suspect prior to this  introductory level of investigation.

 Arizona paleontologist and Burke Museum researcher Tom Kaye will present “Cooper: Did He Live or Die?” the findings of an intensive three-year investigation into the Cooper case.  Kaye worked with the FBI to examine physical evidence and concluded that Cooper survived the jump.  

 Editor’s Note:  Tom Kaye and his team have found shards of very rare titanium sponge on the tie left DB Cooper left behind.  In addition, they have new information on the soils of Tina’s Bar, where the $5,800 worth of ransom money was discovered in 1980, casting new light on the find.

DB Cooper's clip-on tie and shards of money. Picture courtesy of the FBI.

 Retired FBI Special Agent Ralph Himmelsbach, who chased Cooper in a helicopter on the night of the hijacking and for nearly a decade after at the Bureau’s Portland Field office, will talk about his pursuits of the hijacker, along with veteran Cooper hunter Jerald Thomas, who has been searching the woods in southwest Washington for Cooper’s bones for more than two decades.

 Veteran parachute jumper Mark Metzler, and the infamous Cooper sleuth known in cyberspace as 377, will present “What Color Is Your Parachute?”  Parachuting out of planes for more than four decades, Mark had a chance to jump out of a DC-9 and made nearly the same jump Cooper made.  He will discuss why Cooper may have been a more experienced skydiver than some FBI agents think, and how the CIA’s secret 727 airdrops in Thailand during the Viet Nam war could have inspired Cooper. 

 Award-winning artist Carol Abraczinskas and resident illustrator at the University of Chicago will present “Dan Cooper: the Comic in Translation,” a study of the French-language comic book that likely inspired the hijacker’s mysterious alias.  For the first time, Abraczinskas will detail the similarities between the actions of the French comic book hero and the hijacker.

 Airplane mechanic Ron Forman and writer Pat Forman, authors of The Legend of D.B. Cooper: Death by Natural Causes, will present “Our Friend Barb,” a discussion about their relationship with Seattle librarian Barbara Dayton, who underwent sexual-reassignment surgery before the hijacking and later confessed to the Formans that she was DB Cooper.  

Ron and Pat Forman at an air show at Thun Field in 2008, immediately after the release of their book on Barb Dayton and her confession.

 Editor’s Note:  Accompanying the Formans will be Rena Ruddell, Barb Dayton’s daughter.  She will be answering questions about her views on the skyjacking and also discussing fascinating life of her father, known as Barb Dayton .

 Portland historian Doug Kenck-Crispin will present “Bourbon, Bennies, and Twenties; Rock and Roll and D.B. Cooper,” examining the Cooper tale as a Northwest phenomenon, through its presentation in music.  Portland musician Kerry Hallett will also strum a few Cooper-inspired melodies on her banjo.

 In addition to these presentations, the Cooper sleuths will answer questions about new leads in the case.  Gray will also announce the winner of the D.B. Cooper poetry contest, still open for submissions.

 Live Auction of a DB Cooper $20 Bill

The Symposium will conclude with the auctioning of one of the last complete and legendary Cooper bills, the actual booty from the hijacking that was found by young Brian Ingram on the banks of the Columbia River in February 1980.  Brian Ingram will lead the auction, from which the proceeds will go to charity.

 Brian will also be on-hand to discuss his legendary find and collection. 

The symposium is free, although donations will be accepted.  Rooms at the Hilton are $79 per night if one mentions their attendence at the symposium.

For more information contact: Geoffrey Gray at dbcoopersjump@gmail.com or visit www.huntfordbcooper.com.  

Editor’s Note:  Yours truly will be covering this event and will file a complete report for Mountain News readers shortly after its conclusion.  After the symposium, participants will be heading 40 miles north to Ariel, Washington to join in the festivities at the 40th Anniversary of DB Cooper Daze, held every Thanksgiving weekend at the Ariel Tavern, located at the center of the 1971-72 ground search for DB Cooper.  – BAS.

Barb Dayton, standing next to her Cessna 140 at Thun Field.


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12 Responses to DB Cooper – 40th Anniversary celebrations include first-ever professional symposium on America’s only unsolved skyjacking

  1. Dan says:

    Who’s playing Oregon this Saturday? Should be a good game.

  2. Dick Thurston says:

    Looks like the only person who is not making money out of the “D.B. Cooper” affair is D. B Cooper. Last I heard his tax bill for the unreported $200,000 is up to something like $1,345,000 including tax, penalties and interest.

  3. I was invited to these events by Geoff Gray and others, but unfortunately, family commitments for Thanksgiving prevent me from attending. However, it should all be very interesting and perhaps some new clues will emerge as to the true identity of the hijacker.

    Robert Blevins
    Co-Author, ‘Into The Blast – The True Story of D.B. Cooper’

  4. brucesmith49 says:

    I am very excited to be heading to the symposium. I will be conducting an in-depth interview with Tom Kaye on the titanium issue and his other findings. Also, I want to get the – well, gossip – from Marla about what her life has been like since the LD Cooper flap passed by.

    Plus, I want to ask Ralph Himmelsbach if he ever talked with Tina Mucklow. I heard that he hasn’t, and I find that bizarre.

  5. David J Johnson says:


    So sorry that I can’t be with you folks at the weekend, but look forward to your detailed report on all the proceedings.

    Greetings to all the folks attending from Portland, UK.

    As ever,


  6. georgette says:


    See you in Ariel this Saturday. I like your idea about asking Himmelsbach why he didn’t interview Tina Mucklow. You’re not an FBI agent and you DID interview Tina. And you even took pictures of her too. Nice job. If you had listened to someone like Robert Blevins, you wouldn’t have gotten any of that stuff. You’re a smart man with superior journalistic abilities, and that’s why I read you in the Mountain News. I also find it amusing that Mr. Blevins is too afraid to attend the symposium in Portland. I think you scared him off, Bruce. See you in 24 hours.

  7. special agent REV.SEV says:

    I saw another site that led me to this site. It mistakenly said that Bruce Smith lived near Mt.Hood which is where I live. Guess they had that part wrong. They also mentioned that you (Bruce Smith) had floated the idea that the DB Cooper affair could have been an inside job aimed at implementing new search regulations. In hindsight (patriot act, 9-11, etc) this makes a lot of sense to me. Especially when you hear that the FBI is saying they are too broke to follow up on DNA and fingerprint testing of new suspects. Keep up the good work Mr. Smith.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Hi Rev. Nope, I live near Mount Rainier. Stop by and say “Hi” sometime.

      As for airline safety being the concern that launched the DB Cooper caper, the man articulating that perspective is Bob Knoss. I haven’t written too much on Bob, but I will in my forthcoming book, “The Hunt for DB Cooper – The Resurgent Investigation into America’s only Unsolved Skyjacking.” In the meantime, you can lern more about Bob in a few pages in Geoffrey Gray’s book, “Skyjack.” Also, Bob posts occasionally in the DB Cooper forum found on the DropZone.com website.

  8. Agent Deuces says:

    Mr. Smith:

    You are a terrific journalist and we await your new book. We think you will set the tone straight, without all of the egomaniacal activities of other so-called journalists, one in particular.

    A point to make, we understand that Ralph Himmelsbach (retired) did not attend the Portland or Ariel events. This is unfortunate, as we were hoping that YOU would interview him. Your earlier assertion was correct, that he never interviewed Tina Mucklow. We know this for a fact, as we worked the NORJAK case from Seattle FO, the office of origin for the case. Apparently, Mr. Himmelsbach still knows better to stay away from these kind of media-driven events. We are sure that he was warned again, even though he is in advanced years.

    Keep up, Mr. Smith. you’re on the right track.


    Mr. N and Mr. G.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks for your very kind words, gentlemen. Please keep in touch and help insure that I stay on track.

      As for the Symposium and Ralph Himmelsbach, it is true he did not show. I was disappointed but not surprised. Along those lines, the investigation – or at least the narrative of it – has swung away from the FBI and is now in the hands of private sleuths and journalists. This is not a terrific thing, necessarily, as the Bureau has much more evidence; so I encourage the Bureau to stay connected with us and help propel this hybrid alliance forward. I think we’re making progress. In retrospect, the action of SA Larry Carr to include folks like the Citizen Sleuth Team in the FBI’s investigation was very courageous and vital, even if it meant that guys like me never got to the head of the line, as did Geoffrey Gray, Tom Kaye, et al.

      I’ll have a report on the symposium, shortly. I’m working on it – just taking a break at the moment. Major developments. See y’all on the next page or so….

  9. Bob Knoss says:

    I have always avoided the spotlight in the Cooper arena for my own safety. I have been threatened more than once and take it to heart. Suffice it to say that the real information has been presented in part and accepted by most people. I have met my moral obligation. We will not be attending any symposiums on Weber, AKA , DB Cooper. I doubt that I would learn anything I really want to know. Rather, I’d prefer to forget how underhanded politics can be. Hard to do with the current slam-fest. You all enjoy yourselves and pick a believable Cooper stand-in that we all can be proud of. Wannabe RB’s fake nominee doesn’t cut muster. I see no one on the current horizon except this Shutter guy. He looks really suspicious. I’ll nominate him.

    Bob ‘Caretaker’ Knoss

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