25 Famous Conspiracy Theories That Actually Turned Out to Be True

Posted by , Updated on May 5, 2024

Are you struggling to distinguish between truth and falsehood nowadays?

A fair amount of conspiracy theories are floating around at any given time. From the moon landing to celebrity deaths, sometimes it’s easier to just dismiss the theories as the ramblings of neurotic crackpots. But don’t be so quick to ignore them. Just because it’s a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it’s untrue.

We’ve uncovered 25 times the crackpots got it right.

Here are 25 Famous Conspiracy Theories That Actually Turned Out to Be True.


Theory: The US Government Lied In Order to Get Support For The War In Vietnam

Destruction of Pirates in the Gulf of Tonkinhttps://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/gulf-of-tonkin

How familiar are you with The Gulf of Tonkin incident?

It was the supposed attack on American ships by North Vietnam forces that actually led to the U.S.-Vietnam War. However, it was later revealed that the August 4, 1964 incident – which led to public support for America’s entry to the war – was false. 

While the USS Maddox did engage in a legitimate battle on August 2, the misrepresented hostilities on August 4 were based on mistaken radar readings. 

The misinformation campaign, initially attributed to the CIA, was created to conceal errors made by the National Security Agency during the incident.


Theory: Scientologists Wanted To Drive Paulette Cooper Crazy

Paulette Cooperhttps://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/time-behar.html

Paulette Cooper is an American author who published derogatory content about the Church of Scientology. Her work eventually culminated in a book, The Scandal of Scientology. For the next six years, the Church ran a covert operation to discredit, ridicule, defame, intimidate, threaten, and even murder Cooper to silence her about exposing Scientology’s beliefs.

Known as “Operations ‘Dynamite,’ Daniel’ and ‘Freakout,’ their objective was to either drive Cooper insane or to persuade authorities that she was insane, which would have led to her incarceration or confinement.

Though “Freakout” was never put into effect, Daniel and Dynamite were, and the astonishing reality of the lengths to which the Church of Scientology had gone, and was willing to go, to safeguard its image was revealed in 1977 by a full-fledged FBI investigation. 


Theory: The Existence Of The Mafia

Mafia (Cosa nostra) in Sicilyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organized_crime_in_Italy

The reality of organized crime – or the Mafia – has been a part of Italian life since the end of the 18th century. At this point in time, authorities are aware of at least 6 highly organized mafia-like groups. But it’s easy to forget that at one point in time, nobody in the US believed they were real. In fact, their activities were usually attributed to other criminal elements.

The conspiracy theory started floating around in 1890 – 1891 and properly resurfaced in 1946 when the Mafia really took hold. This is also the era represented in The Godfather movies (which makes them even better, in my opinion).

It remained a popular conspiracy theory until the 1960s when they were finally revealed.




Theory: The Oil and Gas Industries Lied About Leaded Gasoline

hand-held fuel dispenserhttps://www.typeinvestigations.org/investigation/2000/03/02/secret-history-lead/

Oil companies started adding tetraethyl lead to gasoline in the 1920s. Even though scientists knew lead was a neurotoxin, the major oil companies went on to produce it and lied about its effects. 

DuPont and Standard Oil employees began dropping like flies as a result of lead poisoning. Almost immediately, a cover-up began, with officials dismissing the deaths and illnesses as the result of hard work. Clair Paterson, a scientist, fought the companies for years, even going so far as to testify in front of Congress before the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and the phaseout of lead in gasoline began in 1973. 

In 1986, all leaded gasoline was outlawed. Lead levels in people’s blood fell by 80%, and the health benefits immediately appeared. Some scientists even believe that removing lead from the environment has led to a visible reduction in crime.




Theory: The ATF Allowed The Smuggling Of Firearms Across The Border

DSS ATF USSShttp://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/atf-gunwalking-scandal-timeline/

For years, undercover police officers stood by and watched as weapons moved freely through safe houses and between borders while under orders from their superiors not to interfere. By the end of what came to be known as Operation Fast and Furious (since one of the suspects was a member of an underground car club), the ATF permitted over 2,000 illegal firearms to cross into Mexico unobstructed.

After US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed by a gun the ATF refused to remove from the streets, the “ATF Gunwalking Scandal” came to light. Many more ATF-released firearms have since been discovered at crime scenes on both ends of the border. 



Theory: Players Are Throwing Baseball Games For Money

Chicago White Sox 1919https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sox_Scandal

We all hate it when our teams lose. But it sucks even worse when you find out the players were throwing the game for monetary gain. In 1919, 8 members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of doing precisely that. 

In response, the National Baseball Commission was dissolved, and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed as Baseball’s first Commissioner. Despite the acquittals of all eight men in a public trial in 1921, Judge Landis barred all eight men for the rest of their lives. The Baseball Hall of Fame eventually defined the punishment to include exclusion from consideration for the Hall. 


Theory: North Korea Was Kidnapping Japanese Citizens

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japanhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_abductions_of_Japanese_citizens

North Korea is widely regarded as one of the world’s most repressive and secretive regimes. However, outside of Japan and South Korea, its international abduction operations during the 1970s and 1980s are relatively unknown. It is a major concern in both countries. 

Although the Japanese government formally acknowledges 17 missing citizens as North Korean captives, some speculate that there could be hundreds more. After decades of denial, North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens and returned five of them to Japan in 2002. 



Theory: The CIA Is Using Animals To Spy On People

Cat on Wallhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_Kitty

The CIA’s elaborate Operation Acoustic Kitty was an attempt to create a spy device out of a cat. The plan was to outfit felines with audio surveillance systems and to set them loose on foreign agents in the hope of picking up a secret – or six.

The project began with a single cat named Acoustic Kitty. It had surgery to insert a microphone into its ear and a transmitter at the underside of the skull. The monstrous medical procedure also included the placement of an antenna underneath its fur. The cat was taken to a park and tested in front of two random men sitting on a bench. The cat didn’t approach the men but instead ran into the street, where it was run over by a taxi almost immediately. The CIA later issued a memo stating that cats did not make good trainees… Go figure.


Theory: The Rich Wanted To Overthrow FDR

President Franklin D. Roosevelthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot

The period between Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election and his inauguration was critical for American democracy as it fell smack bang in the middle of the Great Depression. 

FDR’s plans to address the situation drew criticism from both left and right, and a lot of Americans advocated for a shift to communism or fascism. 

For some reason, this attempted coup is not talked about a lot, but a faction of right-wing financiers took it one step further and tried to replace Roosevelt with a military-led fascist government. They gathered the funds and weapons, but their plan unraveled when they approached former Marine general Smedley Darlington Butler. Instead of joining, Butler exposed the conspiracy to Congress, thwarting the traitorous plot.


Theory: The US Government Lied About Cuba To Gain Support For Their War

Northwoods Memorandumhttps://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Operation_Northwoods.html

I can see a pattern forming here; how about you?

When the US Government first suggested a possible war with Cuba in 1962, they didn’t have a lot of support. To get the public onboard, a few select individuals started the development of Operation Northwoods – a plan to commit domestic terror attacks against the public, which would be blamed on Cuba.

The plans included the sinking of boats and plane hijackings, as well as funerals for fake victims to spark public outrage.


Theory: The Magnetic Material In Money Can Be Used To See How Much Money You're Carrying

20 dollar US banknoteshttps://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328576-100-metal-detector-knows-how-much-cash-is-in-your-wallet/

There’s a longstanding conspiracy theory that the security strips on US banknotes allow hidden government agencies to monitor how much money you’re carrying using metal detectors. 

As vending machines already use these strips to verify a note’s authenticity, physicists Christopher Fuller and Antao Chen decided to put the theory to the test. Surprisingly, they discovered that big bundles of notes would have enough magnetic material to be detected by metal detectors at a distance, potentially allowing authorities to catch people smuggling cash across the borders.

If you think that’s crazy, stick around for the final three items on today’s list. We’re going all out today!


Theory: Unit 731 Had A Secret Test Site Where They Conducted Lethal Tests On Chinese Civilians

Unit 731 Complex in Habinhttps://www.pacificatrocities.org/human-experimentation.html

Unit 731 holds a special place of disgrace in the annals of history. The Unit was run by the Japanese army and murdered thousands of men, women, and children. According to narratives, most misdeeds took place in a secret bunker. However, despite its infamy, the location of this bunker could never be found, and many believed it was nothing more than a conspiracy theory. 

That all changed when Chinese archaeologists discovered a subterranean structure close to Anda that they believe belonged to the infamous Unit. This theory is supported by the bunker’s design, which features a complex maze of rooms and tunnels measuring approximately 108 feet (33 meters) long and 67 feet (21 meters) wide. Some of the rooms also appear to be labs and barracks.


Theory: The US Created A Multinational Sect In Europe After WW2

talk on Operation Gladiohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio

It’s a plot worthy of a Holywood blockbuster. A secret agency (once part of the good guys) goes rogue…

After WW2, the CIA created at least one such organization in Europe. The group was supposed to act as a “stay-behind” network of operatives to stop the Soviets from gaining a foothold in Europe. They even had secret weapons and equipment caches in place.

Unfortunately, the Italian network, known as Gladio, turned into a full-fledged terrorist organization and was later linked to an assassination attempt on the pope, bombings, and even infiltration of the Italian government.


Theory: The Government Used Propaganda At Sporting Events To Increase Enlistment Figures

Las Vegas Bowlhttps://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/11/04/millions-paid-pro-teams-patriotic-events-sens-flake-mccain-say/75141688/

We’ve all seen the opening sequence of an American football game. A giant flag is raised, and a young lady sings “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Most Americans don’t even remember a time when they weren’t seated next to some elderly guy sporting his American flag-patterned cargo shorts or when tiny American flags weren’t being sold at every stand. 

However, very few people know that the Department of Defense previously funded these enormous patriotic feats. The idea was to infuse the American people with patriotism to increase enlistment in the military. According to one 2015 expose, the NFL received millions of dollars to play along.


Theory: The East German Team Used Illegal Substances To Enhance Their Performance

Heidi Kriegerhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_in_East_Germany

East Germany only existed for about 50 years. Yet, despite its short history as a nation, East Germany routinely dominated many sporting events, most notably the Olympics from 1964 to 1988. 

The East German Olympic teams won 177 bronze medals, 192 silver medals, and 203 gold medals during their brief reign, with 40 gold medals won in 1976 alone. It was an impossible feat, but they did it. The international community was naturally very suspicious of their performance; however, nothing untoward could ever be confirmed because the country conducted its own drug testing. 

That all changed when Germany was reunified, and East Germany’s records were made public. The world was shocked to learn that the doping scandal was tightly regulated at every level of government. The health consequences are still felt by former athletes today.


Theory: The FBI Tried To Neutralize Civil Rights Activists


From 1956 to 1971, the FBI targeted activists from practically every organization in a program they referred to as COINTELPRO

During those turbulent years, Martin Luther King was America’s primary civil rights spokesperson, and the FBI regarded him as well as his cause to be on par with the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, the Congress for Racial Equality, the NAACP, and numerous other organizations working to achieve equal rights for all races. COINTELPRO called all of these organizations and movements “black hate groups,” and spent 85% of its funds trying to undermine them; the remaining 15% was spent attempting to undermine the “white hate groups,” including the KKK.


Theory: The CIA Has A Torture Program

92 year old veteran protester Erichttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_black_sites

Almost no one still believes that the CIA doesn’t have black sites. Some have even been featured on this channel. However, what exactly went on at these sites remained conspiracy theories until 2009, when President Barack Obama, in one of his first official acts as president, banned what the CIA called “enhanced interrogation techniques”. 

Torture – he banned torture, people.

Several other reports have been discussed by Senate committees, all of whom detailed how the US government authorized and approved the torture of prisoners. It even came to light that some prisoners were kept indefinitely since the CIA didn’t want them to talk about their experiences.


Theory: The FBI Kept Martin Luther King Under Surveillance

Martin Luther King Jrhttps://www.npr.org/2021/01/18/956741992/documentary-exposes-how-the-fbi-tried-to-destroy-mlk-with-wiretaps-blackmail

Not only did they keep him under surveillance, but they also tried to blackmail him with their recordings!

It started out quite innocently. The FBI started their surveillance, fearing that he had ties to Communist organizations. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy authorized the Bureau to tap their phones and install hidden microphones in their hotel rooms, homes, and offices. The FBI ultimately couldn’t prove that he had any ties to the Communists, but they threatened him with the recordings.

On January 31, 1977, District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr. ordered that all known recordings and duplicates of the audiotapes and written transcripts of the FBI’s surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 be sealed and stored in the National Archives for 50 years.


Theory: The Nazis Tried To Destabilize The British Economy With Fake Currency

British banknotehttps://www.atlasobscura.com/videos/the-spy-tactic-that-almost-destroyed-wwii-britain

This scheme, part of the top-secret Operation Bernhard, called for forgers to create flawless British currency and introduce it into the British economy, increasing the inflation rate and ultimately destabilizing England’s war effort.

The forgeries were made by over 60 Jewish concentration camp inmates – the vast majority of them actually survived the war – but back to the forgeries.

The Nazis eventually printed over £100 million in banknotes. Still, they abandoned their initial plans to distribute them by dropping them from airplanes and decided to give the phony cash to their agents to use abroad. The British reacted to the scheme by removing notes worth more than £5 from circulation, quickly solving the problem.



Theory: The Banks Are Controlling Gold Prices

Top of JPMorgan Chase Towerhttps://vaulted.com/nuggets/gold-price-manipulation/

Several alarming news stories have come to light in the last decade concerning some of the biggest banks manipulating the price of gold.

Using a strategy called “spoofing,” Gregg Smith and Michael Nowak, two former JPMorgan gold traders, were convicted of fraud after placing substantial orders in the futures market with the sole intent of canceling them. 

Trading low or selling high is made possible due to this skewing of supply and demand. According to the US Department of Justice, JPMorgan’s spoofing scheme went on for eight years and involved thousands of illegal trade sequences.


Theory: The US Government Sold Weapons To Iran

President Ronald Reaganhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran–Contra_affair

They sure did!

The Iran-Contra affair was one of the most ludicrous and hypocritical policies the US ever pursued. It was a Reagan initiative that involved supplying arms to Iran, which was under an embargo at the time, then raking in the profits and illegally funding terror groups in Latin America. 

In the interim, there was bribing officials, violating the Constitution, lying to Congress, and collaborating with the same Central American drug traffickers we’d vowed to eradicate. It was essentially a “how to” guide for violating your very own beliefs.


Theory: The US Government Spies On Its Citizens

Edward Snowdenhttps://www.businessinsider.com/snowden-leaks-timeline-2016-9

Ten years ago, Edward Snowden leaked thousands of top-secret documents to journalists, in the process informing the world of the highly sophisticated intelligence network the United States and several other developed countries used to spy on civilians all around the world. 

A great deal of this spying took place via social networking companies; for example, in 2016, US government agencies submitted roughly 28,000 requests for user data to Google, around 50,000 to Facebook, about 28,000 to Google, and nearly 9,000 to Apple.

While this spying already leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I think the most disturbing part of this story is the fact that the National Security Agency also spied on US-allied governments such as Belgium, Germany, Spain, and France. 


Theory: The World’s Largest Companies Knew About The Hazards Of Asbestos

Danger sign for asbestos fibershttps://www.asbestos.com/featured-stories/cover-up/

Humanity has been mining asbestos for the better part of 4,500 years. From 1900 to 1981, the companies that mass-produced asbestos products, like Amatex, Unarco, Johns-Manville Corp, and Carey-Canada – to name but a few – were beset by insurance firms, occupational health organizations and doctors who researched the negative health consequences of asbestos.

Since at least the turn of the century, both medical and academic circles were aware of the fact that asbestos was exceptionally lethal to be around. In fact, even the ancient Greeks wrote about the lung ailments that plagued their asbestos miners.

Still, the companies who mass-produced it found it did everything in their power to hide the truth about pulmonary fibrosis, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.


Theory: The Final Solution (Holocaust)

Auschwitz Albumhttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50743973

Before the outbreak of World War II, Jews, Roma, and those deemed “a-social” by the Nazis encountered increasing discrimination in Germany. 

Between 1933 and 1938, the Nazis passed over 400 anti-Semitic laws. Targeted programs kicked off in 1938, which saw hundreds of Jews arrested in targeted programs. Still, most people believed the Final Solution was nothing more than a conspiracy theory because the magnitude of Nazi atrocities was so vast, so unprecedented, that it could not be comprehended at the time. As the war progressed, Jews and people all over the world read daily newspaper accounts of mass deportations and death camps. They were aware of the terror and atrocities, but they did not realize it was turning into the Holocaust. 

Unfortunately, after the concentration camps were liberated, the horrible truth of the Nazis’ “Final Solution” was revealed to be 100% true.


Theory: Birds Are Just Smaller Dinosaurs

Conspiracy Theorieshttps://www.birdlife.org/news/2021/12/21/its-official-birds-are-literally-dinosaurs-heres-how-we-know

For years, the only fossil that linked dinosaurs and birds was archaeopteryx, a hybrid animal that had all the features of a dinosaur, as well as a bird.

However, thanks to new discoveries, we now know that what we think of as “bird-specific” features (like feathers) emerged long before the appearance of birds, proving that our feathered friends only adapted several pre-existing features to their modern use. Birds are miniature versions of their massive ancestors and are even similar to dinosaurs in their embryo shape. 

Now that changes Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds quite a bit, don’t you think?

Enjoyed this list? Check out 25 Corporate Conspiracy Theories You Need To Know.

Photo: 1. Internet Archive Book Images, Adventures with animals and plants (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 2. Auschwitz Erkennungsdienst - Yad Vashem, Auschwitz Album (Public Domain), 3. Orin Zebest, Danger sign for asbestos fibers, CC BY 2.0, 4. TheWikiLeaksChannel, Edward Snowden, CC BY 3.0, 5. Reagan White House Photographs, President Ronald Reagan (Public Domain), 6. Joe Mabel, Top of JPMorgan Chase Tower, CC BY-SA 3.0, 7. The Bank of England, British banknote (Public Domain), 8. David Erickson, Martin Luther King Jr., CC BY 2.0, 9. Alisdare Hickson, 92 year old veteran protester Eric, CC BY-SA 4.0, 10. muslimmatters.org, M'Balia speaking on Black liberation and COINTELPRO, CC BY-SA 4.0, 11. Bundesarchiv, Heidi Krieger, CC BY-SA 3.0, 12. Ken Lund from Reno, Las Vegas Bowl, CC BY-SA 2.0, 13. Dennis van Zuijlekom, talk on Operation Gladio, CC BY-SA 2.0, 14. WikiCommons, Unit 731 Complex in Habin (Public Domain), 15. United States Department of the Treasury, 20 dollar US banknotes (Public Domain), 16. WikiCommons, Northwoods Memorandum (Public Domain), 17. National Museum of the U.S. Navy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Public Domain), 18. Pexels - Anastasiya Badun, Cat on Wall, 19. MIKI Yoshihito, The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, CC BY 2.0, 20. Heritage Auctions, Chicago White Sox 1919 (Public Domain), 21. Diplomatic Security Service, DSS ATF USSS (Public Domain), 22. MarkBuckawicki, hand-held fuel dispenser (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 23. Wiki Commons, Mafia (Cosa nostra) in Sicily, CC BY-SA 4.0, 24. Paulette Cooper, Paulette Cooper, CC BY-SA 3.0, 25. Edward H. Cree, Destruction of Pirates in the Gulf of Tonkin (Public Domain)