How to have a party if the guest of honor refuses to speak up? For years, the annual DB Cooper Days took place in the tiny town of Ariel, Washington, a casual hangout for people obsessed with the unsolved mystery of a skydiver. In a rural tavern near the place where federal agents first carried out a vain manhunt, Thanksgiving lovers came back year after year, drank beer and danced in the November rain.
But when the owner of the Ariel Store Pub passed away and the bar closed, the annual gathering fizzled out. In addition, a new kind of community had emerged around the mystery, made up of scientific evidence and well-researched theories. A new breed of Cooper party called DB Cooper Con was flourishing in Vancouver, Washington.
This year’s Con, held at the Kiggins Theater from November 20-21, is stronger than usual, and not just because last year’s event fell victim to the pandemic. This is the 50th anniversary of the Weird Crime, and with renewed interest the lineup gathers those who have made the hunt for Cooper a pastime, job, or even an obsession.
There’s Tom Kaye, portrayed by the Seattle Met for his careful study of the Cooper cash and tie. And Bruce Smith from the same story, who has haunted conspiracies and unanswered questions for decades. The niece of a major Cooper suspect and the man who found part of DB Cooper’s fundraising in 1980 will show up. Several authors and even a passenger from the famous flight plan show.
The panel discussions range from the expected ones (“Did DB Cooper Survive”, a “Suspects” roundtable) to the somewhat stranger ones (“Other Pacific Northwest Legends: Bigfoot, Flying Saucers, Cow Mutilations”). Three nights of socializing preserve the casual atmosphere of the old Ariel parties, one around the Victor 23 Craft Brewery – named after the flight route of Cooper’s plane and serving beers like Skyjacker IPA and a pilsner named after the plane’s stewardesses.
Will the man himself, who must have been in recent years, appear, perhaps even hidden behind a required mask? It could be the only way to top the 50 years of twists and turns that the DB Cooper mystery has already given us.