Hunt for DB Cooper – Cooper Day Festival in Ariel – 2012

By Bruce A. Smith

 Commemorating the 41st anniversary of DB Cooper’s skyjacking – and celebrating his cultural status of a “guy who beat the system” – hundreds of Cooper aficionados and party lovers gathered Saturday at the Ariel Store in Ariel, Washington.

 DB Cooper skyjacked a Northwest Orient airliner on November 24, 1971 and after he parachuted out of the plane with $200,000 tethered to his waist he has never been seen again.  His crime is America’s only unsolved skyjacking case, and the caper is filled with so many secrets and bizarre twists, such as disappearing evidence, a missing FBI agent, and 922 folks who have confessed to the crime – that it is ranked in the top-ten of true crime mysteries.

 The Cooper Day Festival is held annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, as DB Cooper skyjacked his plane on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving.  The Ariel Store, especially its funky but spacious tavern, has become a center for Cooper fans because it was the primary watering hole for hundreds of Ft Lewis soldiers and dozens of FBI agents who conducted an extensive ground search for Cooper in March, 1972.

 This was my third trip to Cooper Day, and I had a great time.  After four years on the Hunt, I‘ve come to know many of the participants, and the professional camraderie is exquisite.  But this year featured a special highlight – dancing with a woman named Christie, who is new to the Cooper story, and her beauty and grace radiated throughout the festivities.

 I traveled to Ariel with fellow Cooper researcher Meyer Louie of Olympia, and we arrived at a surprisingly empty Ariel tavern around noon.  As a result, we had a lot of time to talk with Dona Elliott, the owner.

 It’s her 23rd “Cooper Day” festival, and she regaled us with stories about the history of DB, the environs, and how she bought the tavern for $45,000 in 1988.

 But even before the beer started flowing we dove into DB Cooper gossip, and Ms Elliott told us that she thinks FBI agent and the major Cooper investigator in the Portland office, Ralph Himmelsbach, is an “arrogant bastard,” who is “not interested in finding the truth.”  Although Dona says Ralph has been to Ariel three times over the years, there is little love lost between these two icons of Cooper lore.

 Seattle-based researcher and Cooper author Robert Blevins got to Ariel as early as Meyer and I, and he sat down with Dona and us for a quiet 30 minute chat before the tavern filled up with tourists.  The four of us jumped from story to story, and it felt quite Hamish, as they say in Yiddish, and Meyer seemed to fall in love with the tavern’s ambience and Dona’s lively storytelling.

Robert Blevins, co-author of “Into the Blast,” an account of Kenny Christiansen, a featured suspect in the DB Cooper case.


 Dona told us that she heard Cooper’s Flight 305 fly overhead that night, and she adamantly says it was much lower than 10,000 feet.  “It sounded like it was at 3,000-4,000 feet,” she declared.  Blevins made the point that a jetliner flying as “dirty” as 305 was, with landing gear down and wing flaps at a sharply curved angle, would have its engines roaring so loudly that maybe it only sounded like it was lower than the official account.

 Blevins spent the afternoon filming people as they came and went, asking about their favorite suspect and whether they think DB Cooper survived his parachuting getaway.

 Meyer spent a bit of private time with Dona and they began to hatch a plan for about a three-hour professional symposium next year at Ariel.  It’ll be composed of round-table discussions of findings by investigators and presentations by experts on details of the case. 

 Along those lines, Doug Kenck-Crispin of the Oregon historical society came and announced that his organization is having a Cooper exhibit in Portland, Oregon, starting in August next year.  In addition, there will be one in Tacoma some time in 2013, and Doug will also be sponsoring a DBC symposium on November 30, 2013 in Portland. 

Doug is becoming more than just a historian or conference host, and is doing some investigative work on Cooper as well, such as researching what kinds of organizations were using 727s as a parachuting platform, like smoke jumpers in the Forest Service.  This kind of information was top-secret in 1971, and as a result Cooper’s scheme was considered the work of a savvy master criminal.

 Doug is proving to be very tight-lipped as a Cooper researcher, as I found out when I pressed for details.  However, he placated me with a beer, and it worked.  This year.

 Doug was there with a few friends, all of whom seem to be college-aged, so it’s clear a new generation of Cooper sleuths are honing their chops.

 A big treat for me was meeting researcher Clyde Lewis, who is an emerging on-air radio personality as he is currently on 150 stations nationwide.  He is part of the George Noory Coast-to-Coast radio syndication, and Clyde explores many of the same topics as C2C, such as paranormal and hidden politics, a format he calls para-politics.  He also gives heavy coverage to DB Cooper and we talked at length.  In fact, he will be discussing the case with investigator Galen Cook on Wednesday evening, November 28 from 7-9 pm.

 Also, Clyde has a wholly bizarre connection to the case – he knew and worked with Wolfgang Gossett, one of the primary suspects in the skyjacking.  In fact, Gossett was Clyde’s mentor when he was just starting out in radio in Salt Lake City in the early 1980s.  Gossett apparently had a paranormal call-in talk radio show in Salt Lake City, and even though Clyde was just a teenager at the time, he told us, “Wolfgang Gossett taught me everything I know about researching paranormal activity.”

 Clyde has researched Gossett extensively, and had a lot to say about the personality characteristics of this notable suspect, which is one of the major clues of the case.  Clyde said that Gossett had lots of qualities that he described as a “dark side,” such as possessing a menacing quality.  Although the skyjacking is often characterized as a “victim-less crime,” Cooper nevertheless threatened to kill the 40 passengers and crew on board his flight.  In addition, Cooper seemed remarkably calm during his six-hour skyjacking ordeal.

 I found Clyde to have a great depth and breath of interests, and he is clearly an avid Cooper investigator.  He has a website that is partly devoted to Cooper, and he has aged-regressed Gossett with a beard to offer a compelling composite picture.

Clyde Lewis, right, with his videographer Wes, left, at Ariel.

 Also, Clyde is a big fan of using remote viewing to expand the DB Cooper investigation, and he said that he will make inquiries along these lines with folks that he knows are skilled remote viewers.  Also, some of the entourage who accompanied Clyde to Ariel are also passionate about using RV to pursue the truth of the Cooper case, and we had a lively chat about this unique forensic tool.

 Authors Ron and Pat Forman also came to the shin-dig, and I enjoyed several quiet Cooper conversations with them in the store’s “merchandize room.”  The Formans are the authors of The Legend of DB Cooper – Death by Natural Causes, and it is the account of their friend and fellow Thun Field pilot, Barb Dayton.  Barb confessed to the Formans in 1978 that she was DB Cooper and had done the job two years after her sex-change operation at the UW medical center in 1969.

Photo Gallery

Meyer Louie enjoying his guest singing spot, with Christie singing harmonies on “Unchain My Heart.”

It’s a party!

Meyer Louie, combining two passions – singing and DB Cooper

©  2012  Bruce A. Smith

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12 Responses to Hunt for DB Cooper – Cooper Day Festival in Ariel – 2012

  1. MeyerLouie says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Great story about our wonderful day at Ariel yesterday. It was a blast! You covered all the bases, and beautiful Christie takes a heck of a lot better picture than I do. Gosh, I must have broken your camera. Thanks for the good conversation, I enjoyed the lunch at Merwin Dam. Be well, until next time…….


    • Nice article. Guess I should have tried to look happier for the picture. I was SOOOO tired that day when I arrived at Ariel. I had worked several days in a row and had to entertain my mother-in-law (she’s nice) for the previous three days. Then it was prep the gear, hop into the truck, and make the long drive. Still, even though the picture doesn’t show it, I had a very good time.

      • brucesmith49 says:

        I understand the concern. I saw a pix of myself working a story on some county officials that were giving me heart-burn, and I looked like the grumpiest guy in the history of journalism. It was scary.

  2. Bob Sailshaw says:

    Bruce: Please tell us more about RV (Remote Viewing) and how it works. Likes your photo’s as it makes it seem like I was able to be there. Maybe next year if 377 makes it. Good story line that you tell. It is interesting that you mention that DB was calm the whole time as that was how Sheridan Peterson was even when I was telling him he had to leave my place for not paying the rent for the month he stayed at my house 10 years before the caper.

    Bob Sailshaw

    • brucesmith49 says:

      What is remote viewing?

      Great question, Bob. I will be addressing it in the near future and it will require quite a bit of science to discuss the findings of .researchers. In particular we will have to explore the wacky data and speculations coming from quantum physics and the New Physics, which is the study of how thought, emotions and expectations affect physical reality.

      This is mind-over-matter territory, but the issue can be simply reframed as saying, “How does prayer work?” If you just say, “Well God did it,” well, then what kind of methodology or scientific principles did God use? Is God consistent when he/she acts, well, Godly?

      But in the short term, let’s say just that Remote Viewing is commonly thought of as “being psychic.” The nitty gritty is, though, what does that mean? What is psychic? How does one become psychic? Can one refine psychic experiences so that they become more reliable? Can you fine-tune your psychic abilities to win the lottery?

      The quick answer is yes. The tougher question is how to do it, and to what degree are people successful at honing their psychic abilities. Where are all those lotto winners?????

      As a foundation for the discussion, we’ll have to explore ideas like quantum entanglement and non-locality. These are concepts that suggest that physical reality is more inter-connected than readily appears. These findings suggest that all of life exists within a vast field. Some call this the Zero Point Energy Field, and Lynne McTaggart has written a great book on the subject, called, “The Field.”

      So, if all of reality is contained within a field, can we explore that field and either know or influence events at other parts of the field? If so, then we have a scientific explanation for how psychic phenomena actually occur.

      Hence, if you can have some kind of contact or influence throughout the field, then one might know about events and people that have existed in that field. Time and space seem to become less relevant at this point, so knowing the truth of the DB Cooper case may be as simple as walking into the Library of Quantum Entanglement, finding the case, and knowing the who, what and why of DB Cooper.

      To access that “Library” I utilize meditative, self-hypnotic practices that I learned at the Ramtha School, and I have many pages of notes about my experiences in those trances. I’ve also enlisted the help of a fellow researcher, a hypo-therapist named Gloria Peach, who happens to advertise on the Mountain News and is also a student of Ramtha.

      Now Clyde Lewis is joining us. There is a sizeable stable of remote viewers in the world, most notably those individuals that worked as military remote viewers in the Stargate program – at Fort Meade, I believe in Maryland. David Morehouse is perhaps the most famous of them as the author of “Psychic Warrior,” and there are others, such as Joe McMoneagle, who has also written a book or two.

      Folks at the Monroe Institute in Nellysford, VA are also involved in this stuff, and that may be another source of investigation. We shall see.

      Exciting times, eh?

  3. David J Johnson says:

    Just wish I’d been with you guys. Will try to make it out next year.

    Regards to all from Portland, UK

  4. theauthors says:

    Great seeing you at Ariel, Bruce, and it was great meeting Meyer, Another interesting person we met was a guy from the UK who was there doing a story / video. Apparently the Cooper story is still really popular in the UK. We exchanged email addresses with him and he’s hoping to get more info about Barb before heading back home.

  5. Galen G. Cook, Attorney at Law says:

    Hey Bruce:

    Glad to hear you enjoyed yourself down at Ariel (especially with that new babe in your life). Good on you. Clyde Lewis called me the other day and asked me to be on with him this Wednesday, which I plan on doing. I invited Clyde to join me at Tina’s Bar in 2009, and he did. Clyde’s a good sport. In fact anyone who gets themselves a bit sandy and steps into the Columbia River at Tina’s Bar is a sport in my book. I personally invited 377 (Mark) to join me a few years ago too. He said no. I guess some folks just aren’t cut out to get a little dirt or sand on their own feet. It’s always easier to stay clean and coach from the sidelines. Part of investigating the DB Cooper case is to have some fun along the way. And I do.

  6. MeyerLouie says:

    Maybe it wasn’t the sand of the Columbia River that kept 377 from joining Galen Cook back then. Maybe it was 377’s way of distancing himself from the likes of Galen Cook, who’s reputation is suspect at best.

    • Cook, Galen says:

      Nothing like having a suspect reputation, or so says this fellow with a twist o’ names. I admit I am Quade’s bad boy #1 and booted forever from DZ. Snowmman was #2, so I sit in dubious company. 🙂 Thank god for your response column, Bruce, where I get to do battle with real thinkers who study the issues and really know what they’re talking about.

  7. Chris Nash says:

    When the hijacking happened I was in the 10th grade. Now 41 years later I would like to know the whole story. I put together a petition on the whitehouse website to offer full amnesty to DB Cooper if he would come forward and share his story. The link is I’d like an answer before I die.

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