Who (and where) is DB Cooper?
The next unsolved mystery: November 24, 1971. Dan Cooper was a passenger on Northwest Airlines Flight 305, from Portland to Seattle—a 30-minute flight. He was described by passengers and flight attendants as a man in his mid-40s, wearing a dark suit, black tie with a mother-of-pearl tie-clip, and a neatly-pressed white collared shirt. He took his seat, lit a cigarette, and politely ordered a bourbon and soda, for which he paid cash. Shortly after takeoff, he handed a note to a 23-year old flight attendant, who ignored it, assuming it was just the man’s phone number.
“Miss, you’d better look at that note,” Dan Cooper told her, “I have a bomb.”
The note’s exact wording is part of the mystery, since Cooper reclaimed it after the flight attendant read it, but his demands were for $200,000 in “negotiable American currency” (worth $1 million today), four parachutes, and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the plane on arrival. The flight attendant brought the demands to the captain. The airline’s president authorized full cooperation. The other passengers had no idea what was happening, having been told that landing was delayed due to mechanical difficulties.
At 5:39 p.m., the plane landed, an airline employee delivered a cash-filled knapsack and parachutes, and Cooper allowed all passengers and two flight attendants to leave the plane. During refueling, Cooper outlined his plan to the crew: a southeasterly course toward Mexico with one further refueling stop in Nevada. Two hours later, the plane took off. When it landed in Reno, Cooper’s absence was noted. Cooper (whom the media mistakenly referred to as “DB Cooper”) was never seen or heard from again. No parachute was found, and the ransom money was never used.
In 1980, a young boy on vacation with his family in Oregon found several packets of the ransom money (identifiable by serial number), leading to an intense search of the area for Cooper or his remains. Nothing was ever found. For a time, it was speculated that Mad Men‘s (fictional) Don Draper was the man who would become Cooper. In the real world, a parachute strap was found in 2017 at one of Cooper’s possible landing sites. Stay tuned.
From 1917 to 1928, half a million people were afflicted with a ghastly condition that could be part of the plotline of a horror film. The victims—very much alive and conscious—found themselves in inexplicably frozen states, their static bodies prisons for their minds.
Encephalitis lethargica (EL), aka “the sleeping sickness,” first appeared in Europe and quickly spread around the world, reaching epidemic levels in North America, Europe, and India by 1919. About a third of those stricken with the illness died. Of the survivors, nearly half eventually found themselves unable to physically interact with the world around them, all the while fully aware of their surroundings. Though occasionally capable of limited speech, eye motion, and even laughter, they generally appeared as living statues—totally motionless for hours, days, weeks, or years.
The cause is unknown, but one theory is brain inflammation triggered by a rare strain of streptococcus, the bacteria responsible for many sore throats each year. Science’s best guess is that the bacteria mutated, provoking the immune system to attack the brain, leaving the victim helpless.
None of this explains why the illness disappeared only to resurface sporadically, be it in Europe in the 1950s or in China ten years ago when a 12-year-old girl was hospitalized for five weeks with the disease.
Are such occurrences the new normal, or are they signs that EL could be planning something bigger any day? A 2004 analysis of 20 patients with symptoms remarkably similar to EL concluded that whatever ailed them “is still prevalent.” As such, history’s so-called sleeping sickness remains the stuff of nightmares.
What is Area 51?
Area 51, in southern Nevada, is a U.S. military base the very existence of which was unconfirmed until 2013, when the CIA was obliged to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from 2005. Based on historical evidence, it would appear that Area 51 supports the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons. Public satellite images, such as those available on Google Maps, don’t provide insight. Even those with security clearance to visit Area 51 are transported there from Las Vegas via an airline called “Janet,” whose planes are unmarked and which shrouds its windows upon descent.
The intense secrecy surrounding Area 51 has sparked rumors that the government uses it to house crashed UFOs and conduct lab tests on aliens. Other theories about what Area 51 is used for include: research on time travel, research on teleportation, meetings with extraterrestrials, development of a means for weather control, and activities related to a shadowy one-world government.
Where these theories come from is as much a mystery as Area 51, itself, but one thing is certain: people love a good conspiracy theory. At one point, conspiracy theorists believed the moon landing in 1969 had been faked. Hint: It wasn’t. For even more mysterious trivia about Area 51, check out the Area 51 secrets the government won’t tell you.