Money Mystery Explained


For years people have pondered how three straps of DB Cooper’s ransom totaling $6,000 ended up buried on Tena Bar at a spot many miles from the FBI search area and flight path.

Upon reading through the FBI files and considering the evidence, I believe the explanation for how the money ended up on Tena Bar is really quite simple.

Let’s start with the notion that DB Cooper initially planned to jump from the jet shortly after taking off from Seattle. This is backed up in two ways.

First, Cooper initially demanded that the jet depart Seattle with the airstairs down, in other words, dragging upon the runway. This was rejected by the pilots after significant debate with Cooper who ultimately relented and let the jet takeoff with the airstairs up, nonetheless he demanded that they be deployed immediately upon takeoff.

Second, Cooper did not board the jet with any luggage. And, given that he couldn’t be certain that he wasn’t going to have to abort the skyjacking attempt until he actually boarded the jet, it seems likely that he had a backup plan, or a place lined up in Seattle, in case he had to simply walk off the jet in Seattle. Furthermore, if he already had a place lined up, he could also use this same place if he successfully skyjacked the jet and jumped in the outskirts of Seattle.

Needless to say, Cooper didn’t jump near Seattle. Why?

The answer to the above question begins with understanding that Cooper requested the ransom be delivered to him in a knapsack. However, this didn’t happen. Rather, the money was delivered in an open-top bank bag that did not possess a zipper, snap, drawstring, or any other method to secure the top. This meant that Cooper had to improvise and craft a solution to secure the ransom before he jumped. This took time.

Also, as the picture below demonstrates, the bank bag was likely too full to properly secure. This meant that Cooper would have to remove some of the overflow straps of twenties before he secured the bank bag with shroud lines that he cut from one of the other parachutes.

Witnesses noted that Cooper placed some of the ransom into one of the reserve parachutes. Additionally, given that the dummy reserve was missing from the jet, it stands to reason that this was the reserve that witnesses saw Cooper placing the cash into.

By the time Cooper was ready to jump, his original plan of jumping in the outskirts of Seattle was no longer feasible given that his jump window had passed. Therefore, he needed to wait for another opportunity to jump, albeit not too far from civilization because he was going to need to get back to his pre-arranged location in Seattle.

After successfully jumping and landing, Cooper would have immediately fled the area carrying the still-tied bank bag and other items. Upon reaching Tena Bar, Cooper would have buried the bag of cash in a hole along with the overflow straps of twenties that he would have retrieved from the dummy reserve before burial. The idea here is that Cooper needed to figure a way out of the area and would come back later to retrieve the ransom and perhaps other items as well.

Indeed, Cooper did return to retrieve the ransom, most likely under cover of darkness. However, upon unearthing the bank bag and overflow straps, he simply didn’t notice that three of the overflow straps were accidentally left behind and reburied, only to be discovered eight years later by Brian Ingram in 1980. The discovery, of course, taking place after years of unmitigated erosion.