We’ve all heard our fair share of conspiracy theories. Some are innocent like the one claiming Elvis is still alive, while others are sinister, like the one claiming 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government. It’s easy to dismiss such theories as nothing more than the ramblings of crazy people – but don’t be so hasty. Just because something is a conspiracy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s untrue. The following 25 conspiracy theories were all too crazy to be true—until they weren’t.
Grab your tin foil hat and let’s get going.
Here is the list of 25 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be True
Conspiracy: The government wants to beam secret messages into your brain
It’s the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories: the government is beaming secret messages into your brain to control your thinking. It’s the kind of strange allegation that would get you labeled as neurotic if you dared to mention it. Just ask Donald Friedman. In 2003, he made that allegation. He was declared mentally ill by his psychiatrist as well as the government. But here’s the thing – he was right…
In a 2006 declassified Pentagon report called Bioeffects of Selected Non-Lethal Weapons, the phenomenon of microwave hearing was laid out, including how the technology in its most basic form could be used to communicate with individuals through Morse code. It might be a good idea to keep that tin foil hat on. It may not be so absurd after all.
Conspiracy: The government controls the news
Beginning in the early 1950s, the CIA initiative known as Operation Mockingbird eavesdropped on members of the Washington press corps. They paid journalists to disseminate CIA propaganda as part of this program, wiretapped their phones, and monitored their workspaces to keep tabs on their daily operations and visitors’ behavior. The CIA also went so far as to pay student and cultural organizations and magazines to act as front groups. Senate hearings in the mid-1970s finally exposed the covert initiative.
Conspiracy: The Dalai Lama works for the CIA
The Dalai Lama can always be found smiling. Some have wondered if his smiles have to do with the fact that he earned a six-figure salary from the United States government in the 1960s. As per declassified intelligence reports, he earned $180,000 as part of the CIA’s funding of the Tibetan Resistance at a sweet $1.7 million per year. The objective behind these payments was to interfere with and destabilize China’s infrastructure. In 1998, the Dalai Lama’s administration admitted to receiving these monies from the CIA.
Conspiracy: The government is making us ill
No, we’re not talking about COVID yet. However, there might be something to that conspiracy theory too. As early as 1932, the US Public Health Service collaborated with Tuskegee Institute on a phony syphilis treatment program. The experiment, which involved deceiving more than 400 African-American men with syphilis, was only scheduled to last six months. However, it took until 1972 for the public to become aware of the research, at which point the government was forced to terminate the experiment. For 40 years, the 400 men were frequently given harmful drugs and subjected to painful and unneeded medical procedures in the name of medicine. Even though penicillin became a known cure for syphilis, researchers hid this information from patients to keep the experiment going.
Conspiracy: The government uses our dead bodies for experiments
Conspiracy theories can be highly entertaining – until they turn out to be true. Following the nuclear bombings in Japan, the United States launched a large study to assess the impact of nuclear fallout on the human body. To do this, the government stole dead bodies. Yes, the dead bodies of babies and young children. The main reason was that they needed young tissue. So, they enlisted a global network of agents to locate recently deceased newborns and children, then retrieved samples, sometimes even limbs – without notifying or obtaining consent from the hundreds of grieving families.
Conspiracy: The government poisoned alcohol during prohibition in order to discourage drinking
Alcohol producers have been combining their products with dangerous chemicals for a long time. However, between 1926 and 1933, the federal government pushed manufacturers to add higher doses of these chemicals to their products to deter bootleggers from turning the liquor into moonshine. Unfortunately, that did not discourage the bootleggers or those who bought their goods. By the end of Prohibition, over 10,000 Americans had died due to tainted liquor.
Conspiracy: The world's richest and most powerful men have a retreat where they decide the fate of the world
Some of the world’s most influential and wealthiest men congregate at a California campground for two weeks of heavy drinking, top-secret discussions, and bizarre rituals every July. Visitors to the Bohemian Grove retreat have included renowned corporate leaders, US presidents, artists, and oil tycoons. It is said that participants are not permitted to conduct business there. Still, there has been an exception or two, most notably in 1942 for the Manhattan Project, when the discussions and approvals led to the development of the atomic bomb.
Conspiracy: The President’s wife ran the country
The President, or the First Lady in question, was Edith Wilson. President Wilson had a crippling stroke near the conclusion of his presidency, but the government felt it was in the country’s best interests to keep the news quiet. As such, his wife, Edith Wilson, made the vast majority of executive decisions for several months. Despite Mrs. Wilson’s claim that she served as a “steward,” historians who have studied the Wilson presidency concur that Mrs. Wilson was essentially President for more than a year and that she didn’t do too badly.
Conspiracy: The government wants to control our minds
The 1950s were a scary time for US citizens. The government grappled with communist spies as the cold war was heating up and those in power decided that drastic measures were in order. It was during this time that Project MKUltra was born. In order to find a “truth serum,” the CIA decided to secretly inject unwitting US and Canadian individuals with LSD and then interrogate and occasionally torture the subjects. The CIA reimbursed hospitals, jails, and colleges for cooperation and silence. In 1973, CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all MKUltra-related records, and while the plot was finally exposed, no one participating in the operation “remembered” the specifics.
Conspiracy: The FBI tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive”
From the CIA to the FBI. When the FBI wasn’t investigating crimes, the Bureau, led by J. Edgar Hoover, spent most of its time trying to keep communism from spreading in the United States. The FBI hounded various political groups, such as The Civil Rights Movement, through a secret program known as COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program). Dr. Martin Luther King was public enemy number one. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, stalked him, attempted to break up his marriage, and even wrote him an anonymous letter pushing him to commit suicide at one point.
Conspiracy: The government spied on John Lennon
Crazy celebrity conspiracy theories are always entertaining—and this one was quite true. In the same way as many other counter-culture heroes, John Lennon was seen as a threat. To fuel the fire, his anti-war songs, like “Give Peace a Chance,” didn’t endear him to the Nixon administration. The FBI decided to place Lennon under surveillance in 1971, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service attempted to deport him a year later. We won’t discuss the conspiracy theories surrounding his “assassination” just yet.
Conspiracy: The government makes use of hit-men
Following the Watergate crisis in 1975, Senator Frank Church helped establish the predecessor of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Known as the Church Committee, their objective was to investigate the CIA and FBI to guarantee they were working within the law. The Committee swiftly determined that the CIA had essentially gone into the hitman business. In addition to assassinating Mossadegh and Allende in Iran, the CIA also killed revolutionaries and rebel leaders in Central and South America, the Middle East, and Africa. They disguised their murders as car crashes, suicides, diseases, and heart attacks.
Conspiracy: The government is using social media to spy on you
Unfortunately, this one is 100% true. Thanks to the Twitter files, we also know they can find themselves in delicate situations if they meddle too much. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit that advises the public on all online safety matters and defends civil liberties in the digital world. Thanks to their efforts, we know how many user data requests our government agencies send to the most prominent platforms every year. In 2016 alone, there were over 49,868 requests for data to Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, 9,076 to Apple, and 27,850 to Google.
Conspiracy: Tobacco companies knew smoking gave cancer
During the 80s, it would have been almost impossible to find an action movie where the main character did not have a cigarette hanging out of his mouth 60% of the time. Many believed the rise in cancers of the throat, mouth, and lungs could be attributed to cigarettes. Although research showed an undeniable statistical link between lung cancer and smoking as early as the 1950s, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Philip Morris, the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturer, officially confirmed that smoking could cause cancer.
Conspiracy: The government lies to us
Today, we know this is virtually always true, and never more so than on August 2, 1964, when they manipulated the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to full U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The facts surrounding the North Vietnamese attack on the American Naval ship Maddox were already hazy by the time news of the alleged strike reached American shores. Since then, declassified intelligence documents have revealed that the Maddox provided support for South Vietnamese attacks on a nearby island, and the North Vietnamese responded in kind.
Conspiracy: Canada developed a “gaydar” machine
The truth is often stranger than fiction. It really happened.
The Canadian government employed a university professor in the 1960s to create a method for detecting homosexuality in the federal workforce. He invented a device that detected pupil dilation in response to same-sex-erotic pictures. The Canadian government used the results obtained from the device to fire over 400 men from public service, the Mounties, and the military.
Conspiracy: US military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba
Unfortunately, such a scheme existed.
Operation Northwoods was a deliberate strategy to carry out terrorist acts on US soil. If it doesn’t sound bad enough, the plans were approved by the CIA, the Department of Defense, the Pentagon’s top brass, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If carried out, it would have resulted in the murder of hundreds of innocent individuals to convince the public to support a war against Cuba. The organization even contemplated blowing up a US ship and kidnapping planes as a false pretext for war. Fortunately, John F. Kennedy, the President at the time, stopped the planned action.
Conspiracy: A fake testimony to influence a war
In 1990, in the months running up to the Gulf War, a young girl known only as “Nayirah” testified about Iraqi crimes before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. She told several tall tales about how the invading Iraqis treated Kuwaitis, horrifying Congress members. Although many people died due to Iraq’s invasion, her statement was 100% made up. She was the ambassador’s daughter to the United States, and her statement was part of a public relations campaign named “Citizens for a Free Kuwait,” organized by the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton.
Conspiracy: John Wilkes Booth didn’t act alone
According to popular belief, actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln on his own inside Ford’s Theater. However, Booth conspired with no fewer than nine additional coconspirators, including Mary Surratt, the first woman hanged by the United States government. One of the coconspirators includes George Azterodt, who failed in his assassination attempt on Vice President Andrew Johnson. Meanwhile, coconspirator Lewis Powell also tried to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward, wounding him badly.
Conspiracy: The U.S. Government employed Nazi scientists after World War II
Following Germany’s surrender in WWII, over 1,600 Nazi scientists were sent to work in the United States. In 1946, the scheme, known as Operation Paperclip, was exposed in the media, most notably in the New York Times. Some of these researchers worked on Project MKUltra. Wernher von Braun was a well-known former Nazi participant in this program. He made his mark in the US by being part of the moon landing and designing the Jupiter-C rocket that launched America’s first satellite. He also became a director within the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.
Conspiracy: The government has a heart attack gun
This entry should have been right after the CIA hitmen, but we felt it needed to shine independently. The CIA revealed their secret weapon capable of causing fatal heart attacks in 1975. It works by firing a little poison dart through clothing, leaving nothing except a tiny red dot on the skin. The dart disintegrates on impact, leaving just a little sting comparable to an insect bite. An autopsy can not reveal the toxin since it deteriorates too fast. As a result, the CIA can carry out assassinations that can not be linked to them. Lovely.
Conspiracy: The government can control your mood
Unfortunately, this conspiracy theory, which also turned out to be true, redefines the term “make love, not war.” One of the non-lethal compounds explored by the US Defense Department to disrupt enemy morale and discipline was the “Gay Bomb.” The 1994 study aimed to develop a weapon that would douse opposing troops in female pheromones. The goal was to make soldiers sexually attracted to one another, which would reduce their fighting efficiency. However, it was never pursued. Or so they say.
Conspiracy: The government can control the weather
Yes, your government can manipulate the weather. To some extent, anyway…
During the war in Vietnam, the CIA would seed the clouds to increase the amount of rain during the monsoon season. According to the CIA, this technique was used between 1967 and 1972 to wash off roads and cause destructive landslides, preventing North Vietnamese troops from moving their weapons and supplies.
Conspiracy: The Russians don’t really have Hitler’s skull
For decades, it was assumed that Hitler committed suicide after World War II. Still, many conspiracy theorists believe it was a sham and that he had slipped away at the last moment. Hitler’s skull fragment, obtained from the bunker where he supposedly died, was in the possession of the Russian authorities. In 2009, Russian authorities conducted testing on the skull fragment. The alarming findings revealed that the skull fragment belonged to a young woman, not a man. Ironically, the tests were conducted to undermine the credibility of the conspiracy theorists claiming he had gone into hiding.
Conspiracy: The government knows where the aliens are
Our government has been fascinated by UFOs for a long time (despite years of denial) and even had a program looking for UFOs as late as 2011. The five-year Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program gathered video and audio evidence of UFOs and built storage facilities to store any alien objects. While the Pentagon denies that such efforts are still taking place, the program’s director, Luis Elizondo, claims they are. And if today’s list has taught us anything, we’d rather believe Luis Elizondo’s slip of the tongue than the Pentagon’s denials.
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