Hello and welcome to my current location, which is very far down a deep, dark Mad Men hole. What have I worked myself into a tizzy over this week? Oh, you know, just the idea that Mad Men may end with Don Draper as D.B. Cooper, and now I feel like the walls are closing in on me. If you're late to this whole theory party, and want to know what really happened to D.B. Cooper, let me be the one to tell you that no one is sure of that, which is exactly what makes the theory possible. Care to join me in this downward spiral?
Mad Men is quickly coming to a close, as the series finale will air on May 17. While fans can speculate all we want about what may or may not happen in the final episode, Bustle's own Lindsey Green came up a very surprising theory almost two years ago that makes even more sense now. In a Medium article titled "Where Don Draper Ends, D.B. Cooper Begins" she raised the idea that Don Draper will disappear the same way Dick Whitman did — without any trace.
But how does D.B. Cooper fit into this? Well, he was a real-life guy (using the name Dan Cooper as an alias) who disappeared without a trace too. Green's theory posits that Mad Men will end with Don Draper shedding his identity and beginning the series of events that made Cooper one of America's biggest mysteries.
As described in detail by New York Magazine, in November 1971 Cooper hijacked an airplane, claiming that he had a bomb. Everyone — from the flight attendants, to the pilots, to FBI agents on the ground — complied with his demands, which were for money and parachutes for a getaway. Cooper let all the other passengers off the flight, and then the plane took off again with only him and minimal crew on-board. Sometime after takeoff, Cooper lowered the flight's staircase and supposedly jumped out of the plane with $200,000. He was never seen again, and a majority of the money has never been recovered, either.
FBI Special Agent Larry Carr has said it's extremely unlikely that Cooper survived the jump from the plane. However, in 2007, the FBI also released details about the unsolved case, encouraging anyone with information to come forward. Then in 2011, Special Agent Fred Gutt told The New York Times that the FBI has a suspect based on a credible tip, who he declined to name but revealed died 10 years ago.
Cooper, whoever he really was, jumped out of the plane with a parachute somewhere between Seattle and Reno. Naturally, officials scoured the area believed where he might have landed, but found nothing. Also, let me reiterate again that he jumped out of an airplane, at night, and it was raining, so this guy could have ended up anywhere. Hence the unlikely chance of survival.
As The Telegraph reported, there have been over 1,000 Cooper suspects and multiple false confessions. Honestly, most of them stack up the same way as people who claim to be the lost Princess Anastasia — lots of pomp and circumstance, little evidence. Remember, this happened in 1971, when law enforcement was working with significantly less technology than they have today. The only image of Cooper is a hand-drawn sketch based on witness descriptions.
Of the $200,000 he demanded, and supposedly jumped into the night with, some of it actually has been recovered. That, however, is a whole mystery in itself. As the FBI stated, $5,800 of the money given to Cooper was found by a young boy in 1980.
Now do you see why I'm so far down this Mad Men/Don Draper/D.B. Cooper hole?
Today, some 44 years later, Cooper's case is still the only unsolved hijacking in American history, and there are a lot of things about it that nag at me. For one, it's a completely cold case. No one has ever come forward with hard proof of Cooper's real identity. Surely, if he had people who cared about him, they would have been worried enough to go to the authorities to try and piece everything together? If my husband/son/father/best friend disappeared for a few days, and then returned home looking like he had jumped out of an airplane, I would have asked a lot of questions. If my husband/son/father/best friend completely disappeared, I still would have asked questions. How has Cooper never been solidly tied to a missing persons case?
Also, where's the rest of the money he was given? If the portion found in 1980 was able to be traced to him using serial numbers, the rest of it should have turned up too. Was it just never used?
After consuming a whole lot of Cooper articles, theories, and speculation, I've come to the conclusion that I am Cooper myself. OK, I'm just kidding, but that's how much I've been thinking about this mystery. The story of Cooper is now sort of like Bigfoot, in the sense that it's more of a legend than anything else. There was a guy who boarded an airplane in a suit, got the government to fork over $200,000 with minimal questions, and then disappeared. Where is he? What ever happened to him? To the money? Will we ever know, or will this case remain open forever?
Most importantly, in the world of Mad Men, could Cooper have just been the latest alias used by Dick Whitman?
Images: AMC; Giphy (3)