10 Crazy Conspiracy Theories People Actually Believe
Lizard Queens, Dead Beatles, and Secret Societies
Alright people, it's time to pop on your handy tinfoil caps and get properly woke, below are ten of the world's most popular (and strangest) conspiracy theories to date.
1. Evil Lizards from Outer Space
Ever wondered if that hateful little old lady that always cuts you off in the cereal aisle is actually a cold-blooded reptilian intent on derailing your life one box of Cheerios at a time? Apparently, you’re not alone.
As of 2013, four percent of registered voters in America believed in the existence of a secret race of shape-shifting reptilian humanoids intent on infiltrating and overthrowing Earth’s government. While four percent may not seem like a lot at first glance, that’s approximately 12 million Americans who think the Queen of England may or may not be a glorified iguana wearing a wrinkly meat suit.
If this all sounds like science fiction to you, that’s because it is. Or, at least, that’s how it started. Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, is credited with piecing together the first draft of the cold-blooded creatures. In his story, “The Shadow Kingdom,” published in Weird Tales in August 1929, Howard introduces the “serpent men.” Large, humanoid creatures with snake heads and a knack for shapeshifting and mind-control, Howard’s serpent men hid beneath the earth in secret passages, biding their time and plotting the downfall of humanity. Later, pieces of his creation would be used as inspiration by Clark Ashton Smith, who braided “the serpent men” together with themes from H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, and eventually birthed the Cthulu Mythos.
In the early 1940s, Maurice Doreal, a non-fiction writer, presented his own version of the reptilian creatures in Mysteries of the Gobi. Touted as a true account to boost sales, the pamphlet described a “serpent race” very similar to the serpent men of “The Shadow Kingdom.” The entire work, as well as Doreal’s later publications (including a poem titled, “The Emerald Tablets,” that claimed the tablets were created by “Thoth, an Atlantean Priest King.”) is largely regarded as a blatant, and fairly poor, plagiarism of Robert E. Howard’s earlier works.
However, that didn’t stop modern day conspiracy theorist, David Icke, from running with Doreal’s regurgitated ideas, and writing his own book on the subject: Children of the Matrix. Icke’s book, also published as non-fiction, was stuffed to bursting with wild suppositions. In it, he writes of a shape-shifting race of reptilian humanoids hailing from the Alpha Draconis star system, who, according to Icke, are now hidden in underground bases here on Earth. These scaly invaders are part of a long running conspiracy against the human race, and the British theorist also suggests that nearly all of the world’s prominent leaders are in some way related to our future alien dictators, including former President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II.
2. AIDS is the CIA's fault.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic was first reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981, and in the years following, conspiracy theories sprouted like weeds from the cracks between the facts. Rumors spread like wildfire and every theorist had a take on the situation, claiming the virus had originated anywhere from Hitler’s laboratories to fluoride the government had snuck into our drinking water.
The most popular theory, though, was (as it generally is) the hardest to believe. AIDS wasn’t a natural phenomenon, or a lab experiment gone wrong, but in fact a weapon created by the CIA and put into K-Y Jelly as a means to wipe out the African American and homosexual communities. Yep, you read that right. Scientists were lying to us all along, one of the most devastating diseases in history didn’t evolve naturally from the incredibly similar SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) carried by chimpanzees, it sprang from the brightly labeled squeeze bottles in your local CVS. (That’s what you get for trying to spice up your sex life, Karen.)
This belief, as fantastically far-out as it is, has managed to remain relatively popular even in modern times. It might have died off had it not managed to capture the minds of many famous believers, including South African President Thabo Mbeki, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai.
Coming in close behind the K-Y Jelly theory, is the idea that the US government used massive hepatitis-B experiments in the 70s as a front to inject hundreds of gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with the virus. The more you know, right?
3. What Holocaust?
One of the more offensive and disturbing conspiracy theories out there is that of Holocaust Deniers. Those who subscribe to the belief prefer to call themselves “Holocaust Revisionists,” and they claim that the mass murder of nearly six million Jews during Hitler’s occupation of Germany was actually an elaborate hoax. One of the most well-known “revisionists,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who when pressed to provide land for a Jewish state, called the Holocaust a “myth.”
While most revisionists aren’t quite so extreme in their beliefs, the overwhelming majority still deny basic historical facts, like the existence of gas chambers and their use in executing captives, as well as the plethora of famous photos of emaciated internment camp victims. They claim instead that the number of deaths was exaggerated, and gas chambers were far too weak to kill.
Needless to say, none of their theories are supported by facts.
4. "The Moon Landing," coming soon to a theater near you.
In the last smoky summer of the free-loving sixties, families huddled around hulking television sets to witness mankind’s first clumsy steps across the surface of the moon. We’ve all seen the staticky footage; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin clutching the American flag, floating in slow-motion spring steps across the grey ground and plunging its pole into the soil, those famous words floating to us from the vacuum of space, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
But, did we really? Did we really witness mankind conquering the moon? Or did we just watch a crappy movie put together by government agents in the bowels of Area 51?
According to critics, the footage itself reveals a damning flaw: the American flag Aldrin plants in the soil, waves. The fluttering movement of the fabric, something moon landing detractors claim should be impossible in the vacuum of space, is enough proof for many that the entire operation was an elaborate lie.
Despite NASA’s multiple attempts to explain that the perceived “wave” of the flag is due to Aldrin twisting the pole into the ground and thus disturbing the cloth, as well as a plethora of confirmed space debris having been retrieved from the moon, the theory remains rampantly popular.
5. Secret societies are running the world.
Unlike the other theories we’ve covered so far, there’s a pretty solid chance this one might be true.
Millions of people believe that the world and all of its political intricacies are actually controlled by a select group of global elites, all working together for their own salacious gain. While there are a number of secret organizations accused of quietly orchestrating world events, none are quite as famous as the Illuminati or the Freemasons.
The Illuminati can supposedly be traced all the way back to eighteenth century Germany, where they slowly grew and expanded, curling their spindly fingers around government offices and powerful figures worldwide. The sect is credited with creating the pyramid-and-eye symbol gracing the American dollar, as well as attempting to move the world towards the creation of a global government.
The Freemasons, although still secretive in nature, are a much more thoroughly documented society that without a doubt exists, although it serves as more of a glorified fraternity than anything else. While many conspiracy theorists believe the centuries old society is secretly plotting world domination in its many Masonic lodges, it’s hard to believe such a nefarious plan could have been kept under wraps for this long, considering becoming a Freemason doesn’t come with a plethora of requirements. In fact, according to the all-knowing folks at Wiki-How, one need only: “Be a man, Have a sound reputation and be well-recommended by his peers… Believe in a supreme Being, regardless of his religion, [and] be over the age of 18.” From the sound of it, it’s harder to get a job at JC Penney’s than it is to become a member of the world’s largest underground society.
6. Jesus was a married man.
If you’ve ever watched The Da Vinci Code, you’re probably familiar with this particular conspiracy, since it’s a main tenant of the film and the book it’s based on.
In the mid 1940s, an Arab peasant discovered 52 texts in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Through a series of confusing and widely disputed events, some of the texts ended up in the hands of Professor Gilles Quispel, a historian of religion at Utrecht in the Netherlands. With the help of French scholar, Jean Doresse, Quispel was able to translate several sections of the text he acquired, and was startled to find that the book claimed to be a secret gospel, titled, “The Gospel of Thomas.” Quispel was shaken by the opening line of text, which read, “These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and which the twin, Judas Thomas wrote down.”
The text also contained several quotes the men recognized from the New Testament, but in an entirely different context, which changed both their meaning, and the tone of the situations recorded. Including Jesus’ interactions with Mary Magdalene. Attached to the Gospel of Thomas, was the Gospel of Philip, in which is written,
“...the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples, and used to kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended]… They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you as (I love) her?”
The remaining books and the strange events recorded within them are still being scrutinized and theorized up worldwide, but due to rampant disagreement, and difficulty dating and authenticating the texts, its difficult to say if we’ll ever know if they’re legitimate, or just elaborate biblical fan-fiction.
7. Paul is dead.
This is one of the stranger theories out there.
According to a weirdly large portion of The Beatles' fan base, beloved band member Paul McCartney has been dead since 1966. No, I don’t mean he’s a member of the shambling horde of the living dead, I mean he’s literally dead and the man we now consider to be the famous Beatle is actually an imposter.
Conspiracy theorists claim that McCartney passed away under unknown circumstances in ’66, and fearful of losing their fame, the remaining Beatles banded together to hide the tragedy, allegedly disposing of their friend’s body and hiring a look-a-like to take his place in the band.
Fans cite small changes in McCartney’s behavior as well as secret messages they claim are hidden in the band’s many albums, as proof of their theory. One of the most often presented pieces of evidence comes in the form of the song, “A Day in the Life” by John Lennon, which features the line, “He blew his mind out in a car.” Theorists also claim that when the song is played backwards, the phrase, “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him,” can be heard. Zealous supporters of the theory also say that Lennon mumbled, “I buried Paul” at the end of the song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” despite his insistence in later interviews that he had actually said, “cranberry sauce.” Lennon and other band members also denied the existence of any backwards recordings.
8. Aliens are real, and they love New Mexico.
Area 51 appears in so many conspiracy theories worldwide that it’s hard to believe something strange isn’t happening there, and if you’ve ever even looked sideways at the word “alien,” you’ve probably heard of the Roswell Incident.
In 1947, a rancher named Mac Brazel stumbled onto the scattered metal remains of what, unbeknownst to him, would be labeled the world’s first UFO crash landing. At the time however, it looked to be nothing more than a seventh grader’s abandoned science project—a few metallic sticks wrapped in tape, bits of foil, and pieces of a shiny, paper-like material.
Puzzled by the discovery, Brazel reached out to the Army Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico, about 75 miles from crash site, and the field was quickly flooded with uniformed service members and officials. The responding team carefully picked the grass clean of any suspicious remains, and loaded the salvageable parts into armored trucks before hurrying it back to the Roswell base.
The incident would have perhaps been largely lost to history had strange activity in the Roswell area not spiked in the months to come. In July of the same year, reports of suspicious crafts and strange lights in the sky flooded radio station and newspaper offices, prompting the Roswell Daily Record to run the headline, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.”
The military base was quick to respond to the newspaper’s report, claiming that the flying saucer that citizens had allegedly spotted was nothing more than a weather balloon, thrown off track and crashed. The public, however, wasn’t having it. They knew what a weather balloon looked like, and that was not a weather balloon.
Unease and skepticism spread with greater tenacity in the 1950s, when the Air Force began conducting “dummy drops” across New Mexico. “Dummy drops,” for those of you who have lives and don’t spend all your time digging into alien related conspiracy theories, consisted of dropping strange, faceless dummies from aircraft into the New Mexico wilderness. While it remains a mystery why the military believed this would result in anything beyond garnering the horror of hundreds of unknowing citizens, (because, you know, faceless, humanoid things plummeting from the sky isn’t exactly a comforting sight) they maintained it was necessary for their research.
Conspiracy theorists, however, believe they’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. There were no “dummy drops,” or weather balloon crashes. Extraterrestrials had somehow gotten lost in their trek across the universe and found themselves stranded in the New Mexico desert. The US Government, eager to harvest the alien race’s technology, did as it’s wont to do and swept it all under the rug. As for the faceless figures splattering themselves all over the surrounding area? Those were more aliens, crash landed and quickly kidnapped and imprisoned by the military, the better to study them.
While there’s little to no proof that the area around Roswell was ever frequented by little green men, the government has since released previously classified documents revealing a series of secret projects conducted at the Roswell base, some of which are just as interesting as the conspiracy theories that bloomed in their wake.
9. Jet fuel won't melt steel beams.
9/11 is among America’s greatest tragedies, and in the years following the destruction of the Twin Towers, it’s also become a favorite subject of speculation for slews of conspiracy theorists worldwide.
As of 2006, polls showed that no less than 42 percent of Americans believed that information regarding the September 11th attacks had been concealed or altered by government officials. That’s almost half the country’s population.
There’s plenty of video footage of the event, and thanks to countless documentarians and theorists, they’ve been pored over again and again, each time with different pieces of “evidence” drawn from their grainy surfaces. Perhaps the most asked question among the 9/11 conspiracy theory community concerns the military’s failure to intercept the hijacked planes before they made contact with their targets.
Some, more aggressive theorists, believe the government issued orders for American personnel to stand-down, because the attack wasn’t carried out by Islamic terrorists at all. They suggest the Twin Towers attack was part of a plan concocted by the United States Government in an effort to garner public approval for the for further actions against the Islamic state.
While many organizations and journalistic publications have conducted investigations into the issue—including Popular Mechanics, whose investigation revealed that the North American Aerospace Defense Command wouldn’t have had fighter jets at the ready to intercept off-route aircraft and thus couldn’t have prevented the attack—conspiracy theorists still refuse to take the government’s version of the event at face value.
10. The Grassy Knoll
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Shot twice, once in the head, and once in the side of his neck, news of Kennedy’s attack was broadcast hours later to thousands of horrified Americans.
The man charged with Kennedy’s murder, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a former United States Marine who, after having defected to the Soviet Union where he lived for around three years, had returned to the United States and settled in Dallas, Texas, a year prior to the shooting. In the panic surrounding the attack, Oswald was arrested not for the death of the president, but for the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit, who was shot around 45 minutes after Kennedy. It wasn’t until after he was in custody that Oswald was charged with assassinating the president.
Oswald vehemently denied having shot Kennedy, insisting again and again that he was nothing more than a “patsy.” Two days after his arrest, as he was being moved from the city hall to the county jail, local nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, leapt from the crowd and shot him in the gut. The fatal attack was broadcast on live television and Oswald died soon after.
In the years since Kennedy’s assassination hundreds of conspiracy theorists have come forward to offer their own suspicions and observations about the event, the most popular of which suggests that Oswald had not acted alone. A few witnesses allegedly claimed to have seen a second shooter perched on the grassy knoll near Dealey Plaza, and for many theorists, Oswald’s sudden, post-arrest death seems just a tad too convenient. Others take the theory a bit farther, claiming the trajectory of the bullets don’t match up with Oswald’s supposed location on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book depository.
While the theory’s many subscribers can’t seem to settle on a single verdict—with suspects ranging from CIA agents, to KGB operatives, to Mobsters furious over the prosecution of organized crime rings—it’s safe to say it’s not dying off anytime soon.
As of 2003, an ABC News poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans believe John F. Kennedy’s assassination was part of a much broader government agenda.