In Part One, this writer gave a general overview of the main suspects in the unsolved Cooper hijacking, the types of people who inhabit Cooperland, and links to information and research done on the case. Part Two is about the people who spend time trying to be first to solve the case for the FBI, or to assist them in doing it.
And the place where many of these people promote their suspects, offer opinions, or sometimes go crazy is over at Dropzone.com.
Dropzone is the biggest website in the world dedicated to skydivers. And although they receive heavy traffic year-round, the most visited thread on that forum is under Skydiving History and Trivia - D.B Cooper. (To simplify, I'll refer to the thread as 'DZ') The thread is moderated by Paul Quade, a skydiver with the patience of Job. Cooper fans and Cooper nuts can get carried away. Occasionally, he sends someone 'on vacation,' which means a temporary ban to cool them off. Other times, he's forced to ban them completely. It's a thankless job and very difficult. I have no bad feelings toward Mr Quade, even though I was temporarily banned not once, but twice. Both times I deserved it.
DZ is the Cooper Internet Bar and Grill, as it were. Discussions abound on every possible facet of the Cooper case. Although they don't serve alcohol, you can tell from some of the late-night posts that it's self-service all the way and no one ever gets cut off by the bartender. Still, many of the most famous people involved in the case have never posted there, or extremely few times. The kitchen is hot, and many folks can't take the heat. One of the Never-Post folks is Geoffrey Gray, the author of Skyjack - The Hunt for D.B. Cooper. He reads the thread sometimes, but due to the craziness, he stays out of it. Another is Ralph Himmelsbach, the FBI agent who was the first one assigned to the Cooper case. The few-and-far-between visitors include Galen Cook, the attorney from Spokane, WA who thinks William Gossett is Cooper, (he posts up by sending material to a proxy person, so he doesn't have to answer questions directly) and Wayne Walker - the guy with the no-BS website on the case. Sometimes a newbie comes aboard with innocent questions, but they don't usually stay long. Others point to the thread as nothing more than a game of one-upsmanship and using whatever means necessary to discredit anyone else. However, a core group of folks still hang out there and they will work together occasionally without tearing at each other like rabid dogs. 'Occasionally' is the key word here.
One interesting poster was a Seattle FBI agent named Larry Carr who went undercover on the site as 'Ckret,' and after his identity was revealed, he made important contributions to the discussion. But after a while, the rabid dogs came out. He finally quit posting and never returned. He is no longer the Agent of Record for the Cooper case. The NKOTB is Special Agent Curtis Eng, and he hasn't posted as far as anyone knows. Some folks suspect he lurks on the sidelines, trying to weed out the BS from anything helpful in solving the case. The more likely possibility is that no one at the Seattle FBI cares about Dropzone unless they are in need of a chuckle. No one really knows if Big Brother is watching or not.
Cooperland isn't all backbiting and craziness. If Cooper fans appear in public, they are generally polite and very nice. There are two main venues for them. The Holy of Holies is the yearly gathering at the Ariel General Store and Tavern, hosted by owner Dona Elliot. The other is when organizations like KickAss Oregon History set up a symposium, such as the one scheduled for August 2013 at the Museum of Washington State History in Tacoma. There are displays, speakers presenting evidence on this suspect or that one, and other things. It's okay to look like an idiot on the internet in Cooperland, as long as you don't do it in person.
The main motivator at Dropzone dot com slash History and Trivia slash 'DB Cooper' is competition. Who did it? Will I be the one to discover the truth? How can I discredit anyone else's claims? Can I find OTHER articles on Cooper to trash, ones not monitored by Paul Quade? (Answer: It happens) Will I run out of beer before I finish posting? That last part I mention because it's obvious some DZ posters' typing skills deteriorate substantially after nightfall.
Many of the filthy comments that sometimes appear on outside articles about D.B. were made by known Cooper nut Bob Knoss, a guy from Minnesota who believes the skyjacking was a conspiracy approved by President Nixon to force improvements in airline security. He believes the crew of the hijacked flight was in on the whole thing and claims contact today with hijacker Richard McCoy, who was killed by the FBI in the 1970's. When author Geoff Gray interviewed Knoss for his best-selling book Skyjack, Knoss had porn running as his screen saver and came off as weird. Gray couldn't get out of there fast enough, according to his book. As Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once said, 'so it goes'.
On the better side, there is Jo Weber, the lady from Florida who believes her late husband Duane was Cooper, and has since 1995. She was the one who created the original Dropzone thread on Cooper years ago. Jo Weber discusses a lot of points having to do with the case, and sometimes goes off on minute tangents. You have to give it to her for dedication, though. And the lady has manners.
There is a Big Rule for anyone posting at Dropzone: If you've written a book about a suspect in the case (guilty) you are going to get abuse from other posters. You should expect this as a matter of normal business. They view you as a Threat to the Discussion, because you might actually solve the case and that would be counterproductive to the discussion.
Sometimes things make sense even when it seems like they don't, and this is one of them.
My best advice to anyone interested in the case is to make the trip to Ariel, Washington and have fun at the annual DB Cooper Festival. It's held at the Ariel General Store and Tavern on the Saturday AFTER Thanksgiving Thursday. I sympathize with these people at Ariel, and I can identify with their desire not to have the case solved. What fun would it be if Cooper were actually revealed? I suppose they could dedicate a shrine to him somewhere in the bar, where people leave offerings of twenty-dollar bills in tribute. But there would be nothing to discuss anymore at the party, the mystery of it, the wondering.
And that would be boring indeed.
Part Three: My Contributions to Cooperland and the Results