16 January 2017

Stranger Than Fiction

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by Jan Grape

People wonder where writers get their ideas for their stories. We've all discussed this here many times but when news comes up like things happened this week, I can only be reminded that we have to only be aware of the daily news because there are stories every day to give fiction writers ideas.

A baby girl kidnapped eighteen years ago in Florida has been found and reunited with her biological mother and father.  The woman who kidnapped the baby who was only five hours old has been jailed.
If you watch, there will be books and stories written with a kidnapped baby at the center of the story.
I probably would have written one myself, but my thought is to let this information percolate on the back burner for a time and see what rises out of the news this week.

The story goes that the woman who abducted the baby had posed as a nurse and moved to South Carolina. The biological mother was sixteen at the time and the biological father was in jail for having sex with the young mother. But the couple never gave up. The mother made pleas for her baby's return. The mother also had a birthday cake every year for her missing daughter and saved a piece and froze it every year. The husband of the woman who kidnapped the baby thought the little girl was his and he loves her dearly. He hopes he can still be someone in her life.

The young baby grew up and became interested in seeing pictures of missing and exploited children. Something made her suspect she was a missing child. Haven't heard yet what made her suspicious but as of this time has been reunited with her parents and grandmother.

The other big story to me is the "news" about the mysterious saga of D.B. Cooper. The man who high jacked a commercial airline in 1971, demanded a ransom of $200,000, and parachutes in return for releasing the passengers and jumping from the airplane and disappearing. It's been forty-five years and no trace of the man or his money has been found. Okay, money was found at one point, $5800, the serial numbers matching the ransom recorded by the FBI. But no other money has ever been spent or located.

The man who jumped from the place has actually not been identified. A nicely dressed man in a suit, white shirt and tie and who said his name was Dan Cooper paid cash in Reno for a ticket to Seattle. Back then, no ID was required. Once on board, at the back of the place, the man ordered and paid for a drink. One account even said he smoked a cigarette, which you could also do on planes back then. He then handed one of the attendants a note, with his demands and showed her what looked like a bomb in his briefcase.

The pilot followed the man's instructions getting the ransom money and the parachutes. And Mr. Cooper allowed the passengers and part of the crew to get off at Seattle Sea-Tac Airport. The man gave instructions for the speed, direction and altitude of the plane heading to Mexico. The one female attendant left on board saw the man strapping something around his body. Shortly afterward the rear staircase on the plane opened and the man jumped out. Many reports say the night was rainy, stormy and the plane was flying over a big wooded area.

I remember hearing a few months ago that the FBI was formally closing the case of DB Cooper also known as NORJAK. Northwest High-jacking. However, recently some new evidence has been discovered by one of the Citizen's Sleuth Groups who have been investigating the case for a number of years.  The J.C. Penney tie that Mr. Cooper was wearing and left on the plane when he jumped has turned up some 100,000 particles that officials believe could hold clues. Particles detected by one of the new powerful microscopes include Strontium, Sulfide, Cerium and titanium. The thinking is that the man could have worked at Boeing. He could have been an engineer or manager at one of the plants. There is hope these particles can lead to someone who remembers an employee who disappear around this time.

There is so much mystery and intrigue still about this mysterious man and the missing ransom money. I can imagine any number of new books being written with this material. Feel free to research and work out your own story.

Although the FBI officially closed the investigation if any new evidence comes to light, they will certainly will devote time and energy to solving the case.

Robert Lopresti, I'm sure you have great background information on DB Cooper, right?


Paul D. Marks said...

A couple of interesting cases, Jan. And I hope one day they figure out who DB Cooper was and what happened to him. I think that would be fascinating.

janice law said...

The Florida story is tragic all the way around.

Steve Liskow said...

Interesting post, Jan.

I think it was Neil Gaiman who said writers don't really come up with better ideas as much as they recognize the good ones that come by more quickly. Both of these are top shelf.

How many other amazing stories or unsolved crimes can we all think of: Judge Crater, Lizzie Bordon (she was acquitted, remember), Ambrose Bierce, Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Hoffa

I'm leaving off Jack the Ripper because he's pretty much a cottage industry all by himself.

My own personal favorites--both from Rock and Roll, of course--are the Bobby Fuller case in 1966 and Brian Jones's death in 1969. Scotland Yard reopened Jones's case a few years ago, but the main suspect died sometime in the 1990s.

We're never satisfied until we tweak, are we?

Unknown said...

Interesting post, Jan. I've known some writers who got story ideas from the newspaper. I've never had much luck that way, but I keep hoping. (At least it's an excuse to linger over the newspaper instead of getting down to writing.)

Elizabeth said...

Bonnie, you grew up in Buffalo didn't you? There's so much weird stuff in the Buffalo paper, I don't even miss the dearly departed Weekly World News that much any more. Here's a little gem from the maximum security prison escape a couple of years ago. The two men hid out at the Twisted Horn Hunting Club on Wolf Pond Road on Black Cat Mountain in Owls Head, New York ... such wonderful names that could be used in all kinds of stories.

Jan Grape said...

It has always been fascinating to me. I think there have been so many tips and stories they may never get to the truth. But it would be nice if they did. One article I read is about a woman in Arkansas who says Cooper was her Uncle. Also that she's writing a book about it. She has some intriguing bits of information. If true it could answer a lot.

Jan Grape said...

Really is, Janice. No doubt about it,

Jan Grape said...

Very true. TV news and newspapers. But inspired fiction not true crime.

Jan Grape said...

Wow, Elizabeth. What wonderful names for sure. Thanks for sharing those.

Jan Grape said...

Recognizing good ideas is indeed the big thing, right Steve? There have been times I thought I had a good idea but it fizzled.
The Rock and Roll stories do sound interesting.

Steve Liskow said...

The Fuller death inspired my first Woody Guthrie novel.
Never even realized it until one of my friends asked me about it and I said, "oh, yeah...right."


Jan Grape said...

I think it's most fascinating how our creative muse works. Many times we're not conscious of it at all. Brains are wonderful.

Leigh Lundin said...

Jan, I'm amazed how much detail you turned up on that Florida kidnapping case. Like you, I wonder what made the girl suspicious.

Robert Lopresti said...

Gee, Jan. I thought everyone knew the D.B> Cooper mystery was solved years ago: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/vashon-island-obituary-keeps-it-weird-with-db-cooper-fbi-sketch/