Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Holy shit, the identity of mysterious airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper may have been solved

Photo: Fox Photos (Getty Images)

Everybody has at least a mild interest in true crime stories these days, but those tend to revolve around horrifying acts of violence or chilling mysteries about people who have disappeared and left heartbroken families behind. One kind of true crime story that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, meanwhile, is unsolved airplane hijackings. That’s probably because there’s really only ever been one. That one happens to be a great story that—nearly 50 years later—may have just been solved.

We’re referring to the saga of D.B. Cooper, the man who hijacked a plane on the way to Seattle in 1971, got $200,000 in ransom money, parachuted out into the night, and was never seen again. Nobody knows who the man was, nobody knows if he survived his parachute escape, most of the ransom money was never recovered (meaning he never spent it), and D.B. Cooper wasn’t even the real fake name he used to buy his plane ticket (it was Dan Cooper). The story went on to inspire countless books, a 1981 Robert Duvall movie, and a fan theory on Mad Men about Don Draper being Cooper.


According to CBS News, a TV producer named Tom Colbert, a Vietnam veteran named Rick Sherwood, and about 40 other amateur investigators claim to have identified Cooper as Robert Rackstraw, a fellow Vietnam vet who would’ve had the training needed to pull off the parachute jump. Colbert and Sherwood identified Rackstraw based on a code in some letters that D.B. Cooper had supposedly sent to the media after the hijacking, with Sherwood—a former codebreaker—saying that Rackstraw even names himself in the letters. That means, at least according to their theory, he’s just been hanging around for the past few decades wondering why nobody has congratulated him for pulling off such a cool crime. (Hey kids, crimes aren’t cool. We’re just joking.)

Colbert and Sherwood began promoting the theory earlier this summer, but now they’re so confident in it that Sherwood says he’d be “extremely nervous” if he were Rackstraw. Meanwhile, the FBI suspended its investigation into the D.B. Cooper case a few years ago and won’t say whether or not Rackstraw is or was ever a suspect, so maybe he doesn’t need to be that nervous. There’s also the fact that the letters could’ve been written by someone other than Cooper, so Colbert and his team may have just solved who wrote the letters and not who actually hijacked the plane.


Either way, if the real D.B. Cooper is reading this, please tell us how you pulled it off in the comments. We promise not to turn you in.

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