On November 24, 1971, the man known as D.B. Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Airlines flight 305 out of Portland International Airport to Seattle. After the Boeing 727 took off, Cooper very calmly and coolly signaled to a flight attendant that he had a bomb inside his briefcase and was hijacking the plane. After the plane landed and Cooper’s demands for parachutes and $200,000 in unmarked $20 bills were met, the 727 once again took flight, with Cooper parachuting off the plane mid-flight.
No trace or hint of Cooper was ever found.
Easily one of the most well-known hijackings in American history, the case of D.B. Cooper remains unsolved, even with subsequent information recently released by government officials, with the FBI announcing a “promising lead” in their forty-year mission to apprehend the mystery hijacker. However, writer/artist Brian Churilla has an alternative theory about the hijacking of Flight 305: it never happened at all.
The cover-up and its relation to D.B. Cooper is the subject of his new series from Oni Press, “The Secret History of D.B. Cooper,” beginning March 2012. “The book’s contention is that there was no hijacking or extortion plot,” Churilla told CBR News. “Rather, this has all been an elaborate campaign of misinformation perpetrated by the CIA to cover up a larger, darker conspiracy. In addition, it is my opinion that the recent announcement regarding a ‘credible lead’ in the case was done to specifically to discredit this book.”
In “The Secret History of D.B. Cooper,” Churilla describes Cooper as a CIA agent during the Cold War who took part in a secret operation that caused the cover-up. “The man referred to as ‘D.B. Cooper’ was a Cold War-era CIA agent who took part in a covert crusade of subterfuge code-named ‘Project Oculus,'” the writer said. “This was a program wherein agents utilized altered states of consciousness to assassinate Soviet operatives from afar. Oculus, the drug for which the project was named, was administered in liquid form directly into Cooper’s eyes; traveling through his optic nerve and into his brain. This would allow him to project his consciousness into a realm he affectionately referred to as ‘The Glut.’ This realm, which I’ve admittedly taken a lot of artistic license with, hosted a manifestation of every human’s consciousness. These etheric doubles were indelibly linked with their human counterparts, so if you were to terminate one, their corporeal double would die. This discovery facilitated an entirely new method of assassination, and the CIA began conducting operations in the fall of 1970.”
According to Churilla, the project became too much for the embroiled CIA agent, and things rapidly began to go south. “Cooper’s mental and physical health eroded very quickly, causing the line between two worlds to become blurred,” said Churilla. “He was soon beyond the control of his governmental overlords, and orders for his arrest were made.”
“The hijacking plot was a brilliant move on the CIA’s part,” he continued. “What better way to get an entire populace looking for their fugitive? Tell them he has nearly a quarter-million-dollars in a briefcase.”
Churilla depicts the Glut in “The Secret History of D.B. Cooper” as a distorted reflection of the personality of the individual inside. “I was able to take a lot of artistic license, since the information I had regarding the Glut was very limited,” he said. “What I did know was that the inhabitants were reflections of their corporeal selves, so I surmised that if someone was say, a malcontent, their double’s appearance would reflect that. Plus, as anyone familiar with my work can attest to, I like drawing monsters.”
Churilla, a native of Oregon, began the project due to a longtime interest in the D.B. Cooper hijacking and the mystery surrounding the man. “I’ve been interested in D.B. Cooper for as long as I can remember,” Churilla said. “Being a native Oregonian, I’d known about the case since I was a very small boy. In the Northwest he’s a veritable folk hero, and his story has a mystique that has made it an enduring part of American folklore and popular culture for nearly forty years.”
Unfortunately, Churilla was unable to reveal the actual spark point for the book, saying, “In regards to the project’s impetus, that has become integral to the story itself; a breaking of the fourth wall that I’m unable to really get into because I would like to avoid being subpoenaed.
“In a way, the story chose me,” Churilla continued. “I apologize for being so cryptic, but it gets explained in the book.”
While the alternative history that Churilla presents is set mostly during Cooper’s time at the CIA with Project Oculus, the hijacking still plays a major role. “The story’s climax centers around the supposed ‘hijacking.’ It culminates aboard a Boeing 727 on morning of November 24th, 1971, but the hijacking and extortion plot widely reported is a pedestrian cover story,” Churilla explained. “What really happened nearly changed the course of human history.”
“Witnesses who contradict the account presented in the book are either CIA plants or under their direct psychological control,” Churilla said.
According to Churilla, there are others involved in Cooper’s movements and actions throughout the book, mostly his co-workers in the CIA. “Namely, they are his peers in the CIA: Agent Saunders, whom he has a particularly volatile relationship, and Dr. Aubry, who administers the drugs to Cooper and monitors his condition,” Churilla said. “Also, while in the Glut, Cooper keeps seeing his long-missing daughter. He pursues her at every turn, hoping that if he can make contact with here there, he might glean her whereabouts here, in our realm.”
For the creator, the process of creating “The Secret History of D.B. Cooper” has been immensely rewarding, beyond presenting the alternative theory of the hijacking. “Writing, drawing, inking and coloring a book is extremely time consuming,” he said. “It has been a true labor of love. I’m already looking forward to the next time I get to do it.”