Unsolved Mystery

The Best Books, Films, and Podcasts about D.B. Cooper

Here are some easy reads and listens to dig deeper into the mystery of the Northwest Orient Flight 305 hijacker. 

By Cami Hughes November 5, 2021 Published in the Fall 2021 issue of Portland Monthly

The enduring mystery of D. B. Cooper has spawned all manner of deep dives and speculations. From podcasts to books to films, here are some of our favorites. 



Astonishing Legends, hosted by Scott Philbrook and Forrest Burgess, includes a three-part series (episodes 188, 189, and 189B) that covers the hijacking, legend, and FBI investigation. Together, the episodes total 6 hours and 45 minutes (roughly the time it takes to drive from Portland to Seattle and back) and get into lots of gritty details, so it’s perfect for any Cooper devotee.


Episode 121 of the Timesuck podcast, hosted by Dan Cummins, offers a thorough introduction with a two-hour dive into the case—great for the round-trip drive to Ariel, Washington, on WA-503, in the area where Cooper is believed to have jumped and where for decades a pub hosted an annual Cooper festival.


The Cooper Vortex is wholly dedicated to the Cooper legend. Hosts Darren Schaefer and Russel Colbert interview relevant figures and experts to the case, such as scientists involved in the investigation, friends of suspects, and citizen investigators who have dedicated their lives to solving the mystery.


After its first season looked into a century-old unsolved murder in Butte, Montana, season two of Death in the West (coproduced by former Portland Monthly editor Zach Dundas), out later this year, puts the Cooper mystery in the context of a rash of skyjackings in the US in the late ’60s and early ’70s. 




Norjak: The Investigation of D. B. Cooper, published in 1986, is by Ralph P. Himmelsbach, the FBI’s lead investigator assigned to the case. Himmelsbach offers behind-the-scenes details and his own opinions, including his belief that Cooper died in his infamous jump.


Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper describes journalist Geoffrey Gray’s own investigation into new leads he uncovers, the FBI files, and personal interviews with various Cooper-adjacent figures. It’s broken into three parts: the jump itself, the manhunt and immediate aftermath, and the current efforts of citizen detectives to solve this mystery. Gray narrates the audiobook, too. 




The Skyjacker That Got Away, a National Geographic TV special from 2009, covers the usual basics of a Cooper documentary: a hijacking re-creation, interviews with relevant characters, and an analysis into the FBI investigation. This film gets into the forensic analysis of the evidence (that was still going on in 2009) and looks into the culture surrounding the lore of the story. It also includes a jump from a modern-day skydiver wearing a business suit.


HBO’s 2020 documentary The Mystery of D. B. Cooper features great re-creations and in-depth interviews with flight attendant Tina Mucklow, copilot William Rataczak, and fellow passenger Bill Mitchell. These are interspersed with looks into various theories on the true identity of Cooper, offered by people who claim one of their friends or relatives was the hijacker. It’s a great introduction for the Cooper novice.