Life at the Mountain News is becoming downright spicy. Daily, new characters from the cyber section of Cooper World are appearing here to pontificate, trash talk, or otherwise rub elbows with fellow aficionados of the Hunt for DB Cooper.
Currently, the group seems to be congregating at the commentary section of the Cooper story I posted several weeks ago announcing the publication of my book on the hijacking: DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking.”
The impetus for this immigration seems to be the closure of their old haunt at the DropZone forum on DB Cooper for reasons that are not clear, nor public. Regardless, many new folks are finding a home at the Mountain News.
Welcome, one and all. Of course we do have standards of conduct, such as no threatening behavior, foul language, or obvious symptoms of mental illness – in which case we will make a referral to the appropriate medical provider.
Readers of the Mountain News who never visited the DropZone, or DZ as its denizens prefer to call it, should know it is often a strange place, but fascinating. Hence, I am posting an overview of the DropZone from my book, and the related phenomena of the role chat rooms and Internet sleuthing have played in the DB Cooper investigation.
Simply, without the DZ, my book would have been much different.
The overview of the DZ contains a glossary of the primary voices in Cooper World who speak on the case. This section will expand, as I am learning that increasing numbers of video blog sites are digging into Norjak. As a result, the number of players here is likely to grow.
In the meantime, here is a synopsis of what our new readers are “bringing to the table.”
DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking
Open-Source Sleuthing –
The DZ, Mountain News, Sluggo and the DB Cooper Forum
Open-sourced sleuthing, where forensic information is freely shared on the Internet, is a radically new development in investigative journalism. We reporters relish these new forms of chat rooms and websites, as they allow us to bypass the usual constrictions imposed by law enforcement and corporate sources.
More than information is exchanged, however. Contacts are made and friendships formed, which in turn build impromptu sleuthing teams. Galen Cook is my most significant partner, but I also joined forces with many of the folks I have meet on the Internet, such as Meyer Louie who joined me in a search for the Amboy chute.
But since it’s open-sourced anyone can show up, including people you wouldn’t want to rub elbows with under more customary circumstances.
The Drop Zone, or more simply “the DZ,” had been one of the best online sites for sharing information about DB Cooper.
Over the years, the DZ has been the key place to exchange facts and float theories on Norjak. I’ve learned plenty on the DZ and it is a classic example of open-sourced sleuthing at work – the good, bad and ugly of it all. Some days are filled with gemstones of information; others are bland exchanges of Cooper World gossip.
But the worst days are gruesome, and the DZ can resemble a “Biker Bar” in cyber space. During these sordid moments it’s not for the timid or thin-skinned. Not only are treasured beliefs fiercely defended, but the character assassinations can be vicious.
Yet, for those who can tolerate the cruelty or side-step it, the DZ has been a place to educate oneself about Norjak. Scientist, researchers, authors, arm-chair gadflies, and even Ckret, the aforementioned FBI agent Larry Carr, have posted at the DZ since its inception in 2007.
The bad behaviors displayed at the DZ clearly indicate that the case has affected people psychologically – a dynamic I call the Cooper Vortex – the pull of emotions so powerful they unleash a self-righteousness indignation that makes smart people do very foolish things.
With all the name-calling and trash talking the DZ requires the services of a moderator, a fellow named “Quade.” He admonishes the worst perpetrators of ungentlemanly conduct; some take the hint and quiet themselves. Others don’t and get banned from further postings.
Yet, the DZ can also be as warm as the TV neighborhood tavern in “Friends.” I have luxuriated on the DZ – reading someone’s post about a charming Cooper World encounter, or tangential wafting about women. These moments make the DZ feel down-right cozy.
I cherish some of my friendships formed at the DZ. Others I simply endure.
Hundreds of people around the world read the DZ daily, with about a dozen individuals posting frequently. Many more simply come and go after delivering a pet theory or asking a burning question. Since its beginnings, over 40,000 commentaries have accumulated on 2,000 pages of text.
The most noted contributor to the DZ has been FBI Special Agent Larry Carr, using the moniker “Ckret.” I have corroborated more details on Cooper from Carr’s postings at the DZ than I have from talking to Larry directly. As a result, the DropZone has been a vital place for me.
But since the DZ is so personality-driven, I think it may be useful to illumine some of the characters:
Besides Larry, Jo Weber is arguably the most dynamic figure on the DZ. She is certainly the most prolific poster, championing the Cooper-ship of her deceased husband, Duane Weber, whom she says confessed to being the skyjacker in 1995. Jo posts thousands of words every day and has something to say on just about every aspect – and every persona – in Norjak.
Some visitors to the DZ dismiss Jo as a crank but she has deep knowledge of the case, and possesses a deep appreciation of issues that might be affecting the Cooper investigation, such as MKULTRA, the notorious CIA-run mind control project that ran concurrently with the Norjak investigation.
One of those who have slogged through Jo’s DZ rants is the aforementioned Georger, a smart guy who often gets cranky himself.
Besides being a professor at a mid-western university, Georger has unusual ties to Norjak that are both familial and professional. Occasionally, Georger makes reference to his FBI connections on the DZ, which seem to be substantive if not fully revealed in their exact nature.
Norjak researcher and DZ poster, Galen, has a wonderful description of Georger:
“He likes to cast himself as a ‘backdoor observer’ of the case, but he knows far more than he leads others to believe. G’s knowledge of the case is vast. Yet, he remains a silent player in the investigation and prefers, it seems, to engage others in the boisterous ‘DropZone’ site, where he can be as nasty as he is allowed to be.”
Perhaps the King of Attitude is Snowmman, certainly one of the smartest guys at the DZ and is the undisputed expert on all things cyber. Snow summed-up his knowledge this way: “You have to remember, Bruce, I read the entire Internet every night.”
Somedays, it seems as if Snowmman has.
Snowmman has been an invaluable aid in discovering contact information on many individuals associated with the case. Without Snow my research on Sheridan Peterson, Ted Braden, or Special Agent Dorwin Schreuder would be greatly curtailed or non-existent.
However, because of his unrepentant surliness Snowmman has been banned for life from the DZ starting in 2011.
The regal voice of sanity at the DZ haws been an attorney from the Bay Area named Mark Metzler, who sports the moniker, “377,” the signage for his favorite Boeing aircraft. 377 is an avid sky diver and a dogged Norjak researcher. His findings on the use of the 727 as a jump platform is singular, as is his analysis of NB-8 parachutes and the optimum method of exiting a 727 at 200 mph.
377 is also a buddy of Snowmman, and together they form a solid team of Cooper sleuths. I am blessed that at least one of them is a gentleman.
Sluggo Monster, aka Wayne Walker, is acknowledged as one of the most authoritative voices on Norjak, and has followed the case since 1971. He is the creator of one of the foremost Internet depositories for facts on the DB Cooper case – “Sluggo’s Northwest 305”Hijacking Research Site.”
Many of the photographs found in the Photo Gallery come from his website.
Jerry Thomas (JT) was one of those DZ contributors who “comes and goes,” which wasn’t a problem for those of us who appreciate grammar and spelling. In his defense, JT says he hasn’t figured out how to use his spell checker. Regardless, Jerry is one of the leading antagonists in the war of words with Jo Weber.
Nevertheless, Jerry is a long-time student of the case and is a beloved side-kick to Ralph Himmelsbach.
Besides Himmelsbach, JT also enjoys an elevated relationship with others in the FBI and has access to SA Curtis Eng.
JT also serves on the CS, and is featured in Geoffrey Gray’s book, Skyjack- The Hunt for DB Cooper.
Since 2010, one of the voices heard most often at the DZ is author Robert Blevins. Robert champions Kenny Christiansen as Cooper, which is the sole focus of his book, Into the Blast – The True Story of DB Cooper. Through his pronouncements on the DZ Robert has also found a way to infuriate just about everyone at the forum and in the larger Norjak investigation. Nevertheless, he attends the annual Cooper Daze festival in Ariel and reports his findings on the DZ, including his video accounts of the Cooper phenomena.
Smokin99 is also a solid researcher who has helped me locate individuals via back-door genealogical channels, such as Lee Dormuth.
Similarly, EVicki has also provided vital assistance, especially in helping me connect with Special Agent Nick O’Hara and passenger Bill Mitchell.
In addition, Vicki has touched me with her heartfelt efforts to learn the truth of her father, Mel Wilson, a Cooper suspect and convicted felon who disappeared from her life in the autumn of 1971.
Another woman posting on the DZ was Amazon. She is an exceptionally accomplished skydiver and offers fact-based commentaries on Cooper’s jump. Miss Amazona has no patience whatsoever with the forum’s fools, and I think she would smile to know that I call her, privately, One Tough Broad.
Another formidable lassie is Orange1, whose insistence on sound discussion emanates from her home in South Africa. Orange is also fiercely protective of Tina Mucklow, challenging my efforts to make contact with this witness like a mother bear defending her cub.
Bob Sailshaw is a newcomer to the DZ, only posting in 2011 after reading about my Cooper investigations in the Mountain News. Sail has a unique position in the Norjak story – he may have lived with DB Cooper, having rented a room to prime suspect, Sheridan Peterson in 1961.
Sail was visited by the FBI in their 1971 sweep, and the encounter simmered for decades until Sail’s retirement a few years ago. One evening during an idle moment perusing the Internet, Sail Googled Petey’s name and soon found us.
Robert99, MrShutter, Farflung, Hangdiver, SafecrackingPlF, and Meyer Louie and many others have all been informative and reasonable. Sadly, Meyer lost his cool one night and got kicked-out in 2012. Same, too, for Galen back in 2009.
The tensions on the DZ swelled to epic proportions in 2014, emanating especially from Jo and Blevins. In response, many Cooper sleuths broke away from the DZ and formed a new website, the DB Cooper Forum.
The forum is ably moderated by the abovementioned Mr. Shutter, and features many subsections that make it a handy tool to explore different aspects of Norjak.
Most of my in-depth Cooper material I publish at the Mountain News-WA, and I link it to the DZ and the DB Cooper Forum.
The difference between this book and the Mountain News is that the MN contains all the original stuff in its basic form – the interviews, speculations, and insights offered by the dozens of people involved in the investigation.
Author Geoffrey Gray never posts on any of the above sites. Instead, he maintains his own website “Hunt for DB Cooper:” Besides supporting his book, Skyjack – The Hunt for DB Cooper, it also offers a calendar of events and blog-like postings that are original and fresh, even if they sound wildly outlandish occasionally.