If you cannot prove something wrong, it means there is always a chance for it to be true. This mentality takes stories fit for children and turns them into urban legends and myths, ultimately giving them a warm and comfortable refuge in modern culture.
History’s 20 Biggest Conspiracy Theories attaches one or more question marks to events like Elvis’s death, the first moon landing, or the phenomenon of global warming. Fans of wider conspiracies would be happy to know we cover everything ranging from Santa Claus to the New World Order.
Everyone loves mysteries and life would have been dull with the truth always in the open. However, the American public is by far the most reliant on stories and legends that challenge reality and introduce question marks. The United States is the place where historical events have almost no chance of being accepted as they are.
1. Global Warming Is Fake
The theory that global warming is fake is incredibly prevailing, and it goes as far as to include celebrities and high-rank politicians.
With concrete evidence available anywhere you look, rejecting global warming is an easier alternative for major companies and industries relying on fossil fuels.
It is enough to peek at the chart that presents the average global temperature for the last couple of decades. Something happened in the 1980s, and the most plausible explanation lies in China. The booming economy of the world’s most populous state created air pollution like nowhere else in the world.
Global warming is, as the name says, a phenomenon happening at the greatest of scales. A local event like cooler summers might mislead people into thinking this is all part of a huge cover-up.
Let’s be honest! Most of us hate the idea of global warming because it forces us to change our habits and because it takes us far from our comfort zone.
2. Roswell Was Real
Roswell is like a Mecca for UFO believers. The 1947 incident and the way it was handled by US authorities led many to accept the fact that beings from another planet enjoy visiting us.
Although the initial press release clearly stated that the military captured a flying disk, the official version that entered history books is that a weather balloon created the wreckage.
Roswell was the call that marked the start of the “hunting season” regarding UFOs, with cases of human abductions and cattle mutilations garnishing the most elaborate government cover-up in history.
The Roswell case gave America what it badly needed – a piece of homemade mythology. Aliens have become an essential part of popular culture, together with beasts like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, or the Montauk Monster. Even today, almost half of the Americans believe that aliens exist.
For enthusiasts worldwide, Roswell explains perfectly the competitive edge the United States had in the decades following the crash – recovered extraterrestrial technology.
3. Princess Diana Was Murdered
Princess Diana died in a horrific car accident in 1997, and many rushed to see the invisible hands of the British secret service.
Diana was one of the most talk-about celebrity at the end of the last century. With the risk of upsetting the fans, you could call her the Kim Kardashian of Europe.
Lady Di entered the British Royal family in 1981 after her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. What was dubbed the wedding of the century quickly turned to a wet dream for scandal media. A lot of ink was used to cover extramarital affairs and strife with the Queen.
Although the divorce came in 1992, Diana was already a black dot for the monarchy, with many taking her side in the dispute.
The broadcast of Diana’s funeral was one of the most watched TV moments in history, and the case remained an accident caused by paparazzi and a drunk personal driver.
However, some still see a wicked smile on the Queen’s face each time she addresses her subjects.
4. The US Allowed Pearl Harbor
The United States is the richest country when it comes to conspiracy theories. The otherwise highly patriotic American went as far as dismissing mainstream history and claiming that the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was allowed to happen.
From a very narrow point of view, the hypothesis satisfies logic. The general public has expressed against the war that was escalating in Europe. With hands tied, the Roosevelt administration could only watch the carnage initiated by totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack that gave the Japanese forces a commanding lead on the Pacific war front. Initiated without a declaration of war, it was against the rules of the game. Unbelievably, war has its manners, and you have to give a heads up before attacking someone.
The United States military lost important warships, and almost 2,500 people died that day, all caught unprepared by the Japanese surgical strike. This incredible cost makes it highly unlikely for the theory to be true.
5. The Reptilians Rule The Earth
The idea of secret groups ruling over the entire planet from behind the curtain is highly popular because it relies on those unhappy with the system.
According to the conspiracy theory, all major world rulers were in fact part of a master race that has only one goal in mind – exploit the humans and create a smooth transition towards a new world order.
Reptilian creatures often intersect with UFO cases and the two are linked in an intricate story that can keep most kids awake at night. Claims go as far as saying that reptilian overlords need human blood to maintain the ability of shape-shifting.
Also called Draconians or Saurians, the invasive species made its way in almost every power structure on the planet, controlling everything from politics to the world of entertainment.
A pinch of Babylonian mythology makes everything better and the theory exploded once it was linked with the ancient gods that came down to Earth to rule – the Annunaki.
6. Elvis Presley Is Alive
The King is dead! Long live the King!
The phrase often used in popular culture to mark the swift replacement of a monarch might as well be used to describe the controversial death of Elvis.
The man changed the face of music and influenced the American society at a time when significant shifts were on their way. An important part of the fans understood the “surviving legacy” part wrong.
Illicit photos of the dead body showed an Elvis that was unrecognizable, fueling the myth that a lookalike or a fake body was used. In the mass hysteria that followed people wore the iconic white jumpsuit, triggering an epidemic of Elvis sightings that can make Bigfoot fans jealous.
Witness protection is one theory that is more plausible. Elvis had a lot to do with the Memphis Mafia, and the practice is common in the American justice system. The most common interpretation is that the King staged his death to retire in peace and enjoy the money.
With the official autopsy files not available until 2027, there will be fans expecting a 92-years-old Elvis to perform “Hound Dog.”
7. HAARP Can Control Weather
Why believe in global warming when you have a more easy explanation right in your back yard? If something goes wrong in the world, blame it on HAARP and on the US government’s ambition to control everything.
Established in 1993 in the wilderness of Alaska, the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program targets the high altitudes of the ionosphere. What happens there is too complicated for the commoners to understand, so they attached one of the widest conspiracy theory ever assembled.
Just to mention a few of the most famous world events linked with HAARP will fill the remainder of the article. Many Americans are convinced that the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, the 2011 Japan earthquake, or even the MH370 crash were all due to negative karma being broadcasted over long distances.
The HAARP can control the weather, and every American has the natural instinct to reject even short-term forecast. Add mind control, and you reach the wonderful playgrounds of the New World Order theory.
8. JFK’s Death
Back in the 1960s, you would have very few reasons to hate JFK.
The charismatic president did his best to steer the United Stated away from a nuclear holocaust, and his approval rating was the highest ever recorded at the White House.
Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 while visiting Dallas, Texas. Even 50 years since those tragic moments, more than 75% of the Americans believe that a cover-up took place.
All the stories share the same desire to find a bigger culprit than Lee Harvey Oswald, the man justice considers to be the killer. Criminal conspiracies involved the Mafia, CIA, KGB, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and even the Vice President of that time – Lyndon Johnson.
For those who do not know, Oswald was killed while in police custody, adding more fuel to the fire that burned everyone’s mind for quite some time. During interrogations, Oswald did not accept charges and called himself the scapegoat in the Kennedy affair.
If you tend to look up to the skies and raise your fist in anger at the flying by commercial airliners, you must be part of an “elite” group – people that believe the chemtrails conspiracy theory.
The “logic” behind the theory is there are two types of contrails, the ones that go away quickly and those that persist in the sky hours after the flight. Again, “logic” was the force that made people believe the stubborn trails must contain strange and dangerous substances.
Chemtrails are traditionally viewed as ways of releasing chemical and biological agents in the atmosphere, thus influencing the nearby population’s health in a negative way.
In a free society like that of the United States, anti-government paranoia can enroll almost anything in its quest to prove that the citizens are like cows heading for the slaughterhouse.
With flights exploding in frequency in the last couple of years, the chemtrails theory is very hype and will probably remain un-debunked for a long time.
10. New World Order
We talked about this early on. Almost all conspiracy theories conclude that what is happening outside public view must lead to a new World Order.
The idea is simple. All countries of the world will unite under a single government that will have a totalitarian nature. While this might sound perfect for the ruling elite (either human or reptilian), for the ordinary people this would be the end of individual liberty and the start of something much worse than slavery.
The New World Order conspiracy theory branches out to incorporate other fascinating themes like the Fourth Reich, a global alien invasion, and even the Apocalypse.
If institutions like Illuminati and Freemasonry sound familiar, it is because they are subgenres of the same species.
For the last few centuries, capitalism has put incredible wealth in the hands of the few, and this raises legitimate questions. What will happen next? Are the current states close to becoming obsolete? Will that make room for a World Empire?
11. Jesus Had Children
The idea that Jesus Christ had children and that his descendant can be traced today has the potential to destabilize the most powerful religion in the world – Christianity.
Since the Inquisition is no longer an active institution, authors found the freedom to exploit the biblical tales and give them unique twists. What was once heresy that attracted horrific torture, is now best-selling literature.
By far the most famous result was Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” What many perceived as fiction was already an established niche in the world of conspiracy theories.
The main idea is that we embraced the wrong beliefs, the ones telling us Jesus was never married and he never had children. The Holy Grail was no longer the cup everyone wanted at theirs Catholic-themed parties, but the bloodline of Christ.
Putting Leonardo Da Vinci at the heart of it all was a struck of genius. The Louvre became a mandatory destination for those trying to lip-read Mona Lisa.
12. Vaccination Leads To Autism
The idea that vaccination can lead to autism is one theory that survived unharmed for almost two decades.
Although separate studies have highlighted a slight connection between the mental condition and the practice of administering vaccines, mainstreams science rejects the idea as ridiculous.
With many parents simply refusing to take the risk, the theory led to multiple deaths as well as deteriorate the confidence in modern Western medicine. Media involvement in the debate did as usual more harm than good.
There is one simple explanation why we have more cases of autism in recent times. Screening for mental conditions was not regular practice decades ago. At the same time, the importance of vaccines was not fully acknowledged. Drawing a line indicates that it just happened for the two trends to share the same slope.
13. Paul McCartney Is Dead
While many saw Elvis Presley alive, others took things the other way around and convinced themselves that the legendary Paul McCartney died and was replaced by a lookalike.
The rumor started in 1969 based on lyrics and album art that hid messages in plain sight. The most famous is the Abbey Road album cover, which shows Paul as the only one barefooted and out of sync.
According to the legend, Paul died in a car crash in 1967 and was replaced by a double. This step was necessary to order to ensure the success of the band will continue. However, The Beetles split just two years after, one further clue to fuel the speculations.
According to the legend, William Campbell, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest, is the man we now see on stage. We can only ask why they did not repeat the stunt with John Lennon and George Harrison.
14. The AIDS Virus Originated In A Lab
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), also called AIDS, is one of the deadliest medical conditions of recent times.
According to a very popular conspiracy theory, the plague was created in a laboratory and unleashed as a criminal way of controlling the world’s population. With close to 40 million deaths attributed to AIDS worldwide, the ones responsible would have a very guilty conscious.
How the first human was infected with the virus is still the realm of speculations, with all mainstream theories failing to provide a clear answer. The theory suggests that the World Health Organization created the virus to eradicate the gay segment of the population.
Indeed, the first cases were reported in this community, and the disease was even called GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). The incidence in poor sub-Saharan Africa shows that the deadly virus was used to contaminate people less likely to find out the awful truth.
Now that the world population is rapidly approaching a critical point rushing to dismiss such a theory is unwise. Overpopulation will create huge problems for us in the future, and such methods might become a reality.
15. Black Helicopters
The idea that unmarked black helicopters are used by government agencies to do dirty work has been around since the 1970s.
The Americans are in love with conspiracy theories and have created a myth that is mostly auxiliary to others. It is not uncommon for people to report black helicopters together with UFO sightings, cases of cow mutilations, or federal takeovers of private property in remote areas.
Black helicopters usually come with men in black, and this is as an important niche in American conspiracy culture.
Another fear that keeps a decent percentage of the Americans alert each time a helicopter flies in the distance is that the United Nations might one day invade the country this way.
The reasonable explanation for black helicopters is that they have been seen at night or with the sun behind them. As for their missions, there are hundreds of legitimate uses for a chopper flight. What remains is probably unjustified mass hysteria built upon isolated cases.
16. Ancient Astronauts Visited The Earth
The theory that Ancient Astronauts of an alien origin visited the Earth in our past is an interesting one, at least if you dismiss History Channel’s attempt to make a documentary.
The topic is hot and has the potential to create incredible controversy because it spreads to include the idea of God and the idea of how civilization came to being.
The theory relied on archeological findings scattered all around the world and was first put forward by Erich von Daniken. The conspiracy part comes when mainstream science rejects the hypothesis and finds a natural explanation for everything.
Almost every major religion and belief include in its tradition contact with deities coming from the skies that teach humanity how to deal better with its challenges. It is not hard to see those gods wear astronaut costumes.
17. FEMA’s Plastic Coffins
American concentration camps might sound like an alternate history going completely wrong, but the hundreds of thousands of plastic coffins owned by FEMA tend to tell a different story.
According to the theory, the US government is preparing for the moment when it will have to deal with a large number of corpses on a very short notice. With proper burial out of the question, using standardized coffins is the most economical alternative.
What can cause such a catastrophic turn of events? This is the realm of speculations, with many “specialists” foreseeing biological warfare and even mass extermination of unwanted or unfit citizens.
It is incredibly easy to fit FEMA’s plastic coffins theory in the wider New World Order conspiracy. The American society is so obsessed with losing its freedom that it perceives threats coming from all directions, including its own government.
18. NASA Faked The Moon Landings
You probably know the first moon landing as humanity’s moment of glory. What if everything was a huge setup?
According to the conspiracy theory, NASA faked the 1969 moon landings to win the Space Race and get a competitive edge at the height of the Cold War. Even now, close to 20% of the Americans believe that Neil Armstrong made the huge “leap for mankind” inside a Hollywood studio.
The comparison with the movie industry is a good clue that at least the technology to stage the landings was there. With some productions companies having bigger budgets to make movies about the space (see Gravity) than entire space programs, the ethical dilemma is there to tap into.
Supporters of the theory ask why we did not put another man mission on the moon since 1972. As the technology evolved at an exponential rate, this is indeed one hell of a good question.
However, the fact that hundreds of thousand worked for the Apollo mission would have made the cover-up harder than the landing itself. Soviet Russia’s stance on the matter is another crucial clue that the whole operation has slim chances of being fake. They would have been the first one to shout.
19. The Coca-Cola Company Invented Santa Claus
It is time to switch our attention towards a conspiracy that is curious and funny at the same time. According to the urban legend, Santa Claus is a byproduct of the Coca-Cola Company marketing.
It is hard to say what led to this strange idea. Chances are someone though the red and white costume is not just a mere coincidence. Things go as far as seeing Santa Claus as an evil capitalist that sends present production in cheap Chinese factories just to laugh at children used as forced labor.
The theory fails to mention that the tradition of the generous fat bearded old man goes back in time beyond the founding of the company. The Coca-Cola Company was born at the end of the 19th century, while Santa got kids tipping toes around the Christmas tree well before that.
Be warned! Do not attempt to debunk this conspiracy in front of your children. You will find yourself on quicksand.
20. 9/11 Was An Inside Job
Add the biggest terrorist attack and the idea of a conspiracy in one sentence, and you have everyone’s attention.
September 11, 2001, is a date Americans will never be able to forget. The attack on the World Trade Center shocked an entire world and made us wonder if good prevails.
Many people are still not convinced that crashing a plane into a skyscraper is enough to bring it down. According to this conspiracy theory, controlled demolitions brought the Twin Towers down. The claim survived even though being debunked countless time by both the authorities and professional civil engineers.
The scope of staging such a wide scale attack was to justify the subsequent battle against terrorism and bring American presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. You do not need to know much to sense the geostrategic importance of the region.
9/11 become so well engraved in popular culture that people did not resist the urge to put it in a wider scheme. The disaster was foretold by Nostradamus if you believe the loose interpretation of some of his writings.
Even though a new building is now in the place of the collapsed towers, this conspiracy theory is not dead.