Reality, Hoax, Myth?
Some sound far-fetched and crazy, whereas others might raise an eyebrow on even the most logical thinker. Regardless of the attraction, there is certainly no shortage of conspiratorial claims out there.
10: Subliminal Advertising
Can subliminal advertising make you purchase a product?
According to Howstuffworks.com, a subliminal message (meaning, below "limen," or our conscious perception threshold) is a "message embedded into images or sound meant to penetrate into our subconscious and influence our behavior."
The term was coined in 1957, by James Vicary, a market researcher who inserted messages into a movie that was showcased in a New Jersey theater. The carefully hidden message instructed moviegoers to drink Coca-Cola and eat popcorn.
The use of subliminal advertising purportedly increased in the following years, and in 1973, author Wilson Bryan Key wrote a controversial book about the subject. The following year the Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation, during which they determined that subliminal advertising was "intended to be deceptive."
Following a series of hearings, the FCC banned the use of subliminal advertising.
Today, experts continue to disagree on how effective subliminal messages are. Several independent studies have been conducted, perhaps the most famous of which was done by a Canadian TV station, which flashed the message "Call now" to viewers during a broadcast. According to the station, the message had no effect on their viewers.
9: Electronic Banking
According to some conspiracy theorists, virtual money – credit and debit cards – was created by a "secret group" that plans to dominate the world.
The plan, according to theorists, is to completely eliminate paper and coin currency so that citizens rely solely on electronic banking. Once that goal is achieved, the "secret group" will cause a worldwide electronic blackout, which will simultaneously erase everyone's bank account information, thus creating chaos and panic.
The alleged motivation behind the plot is the reintroduction of slavery into the modern world. The benefactors vary – depending on which theory you subscribe to.
Again, this is another theory that experts refuse to waste their time acknowledging or debunking.
Certainly you've noticed the white trail in the sky that is left behind by high-flying jets. Odds are you would be hard-pressed not to see one whenever you look up on a clear day. So what exactly is that trail? According to conspiracy theorists, it is a cocktail of chemicals and biological agents that are being deliberately sprayed for – depending on which theory you subscribe to – population control, weather control and biowarfare.
The trails have resulted in thousands of complaints to both the U.S. and Canadian governments. Both countries deny any wrongdoing.
Investigations have been launched by numerous scientific communities, all of whom found no factual evidence to support the conspiracy theories. Instead, they claim the white trail is actually a condensation trail (contrail) that is a result of normal emissions from the aircraft engines' exhaust.
Regardless of the explanations, chemtrail conspiracy theories continue to persist on the Internet.
"If you try to pin these people down and refute things, it's, 'Well, you're just part of the conspiracy'," NASA scientist Patrick Minnis said in a recent interview with USA Today.
7: Alien Reptiles
Chances are you have heard theories regarding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales; however you might not have heard the most recent claims – regarding the royal family's alleged shape-shifting abilities.
According to Christine Fitzgerald, a former confidante of Diana, the princess once told her that the royal family was made up reptilian aliens from a faraway galaxy.
Similarly, BBC reporter David Icke believes that humanity is under the control of alien reptiles. In an article titled "The Reptilian Connection," he writes:
"These 'gods' could not take over the planet openly because there are not enough of them, so they are doing it covertly by appearing human. Movies like They Live, The Arrival (the first, not the sequel), and the U.S. television series, V, tell the story of what is REALLY going on. I urge you to think about watching these movies to get up to speed if you are new to all of this."
You might find Icke's views a bit skewed; however he has managed to garner a large following in recent years and continues to give sold-out speaking engagements around the world.
Interestingly enough, there are several Web sites devoted to alien reptiles and the belief that some of us are extraterrestrial beings. One site in particular, abovetopsecret.com, even provides a step-by-step guide for determining if you are not of this planet. Indicators include the "feeling you don't belong here on this planet" and the possession of supernatural abilities, including "telepathy, clairvoyance, clairsentience super empathy."
Experts have refused to recognize or attempt to debunk the reptilian claims.
6: Bermuda Triangle
Is there a mysterious force that causes ships and planes to disappear in the Bermuda Triangle, or is this just another far-fetched theory?
Located in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, covers roughly 500,000 square miles of the ocean, with apexes in Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico.
There is no mistaking that a large number of vessels have gone missing in the area; however the explanation for those disappearances is where the conspiracies come into play. According to theorists, supernatural elements are responsible for the disappearances. Some say extraterrestrial beings are to blame, while others point to the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.
Adding more mystique to the incidents are reported compass variations, in which a compass will point to true north rather than magnetic north.
The U.S. Coast Guard and other experts familiar with the triangle discount supernatural elements as being responsible. Instead, they point to the fact that the triangle is situated in a heavily traveled area of the ocean. They say that the number of incidents that occur there are no greater than those that occur in other parts of the ocean. They feel that any number of natural occurrences - including tropical storms and rogue waves – could be responsible. They also point to the possibility of pirates and mechanical failures.
In regard to the compass problems, experts say that there are no unusual magnetic anomalies in the area and cite the fact that all compasses have natural magnetic variations.
Regardless of whom you believe, one thing remains certain: The Bermuda Triangle will undoubtedly continue to remain a source of mystery and intrigue.
5: Moon Landing
According to conspiracy theorists, the moon landing that the world watched unfold live on July 20, 1969, was a hoax orchestrated by NASA and other key organizations. Theorists believe that the surface Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked upon was not a celestial body but a man-made soundstage.
Proponents of the conspiracy theory insist that the technology of the time was not sufficient enough to pull off such a feat. They claim that environmental obstacles alone – cosmic rays, radiation belts and solar wind – would have made the trip impossible.
As evidence of their belief, theorists point to photographs and video that were taken during the mission, which they claim contain several oddities; including inconsistent shadows, identical backgrounds and the lack of any visible stars.
Why fake the landing? Theorists claim the United States sought not only the prestige of the event, but also monetary gain.
In 2008, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, stars of the TV show MythBusters, examined several of the myths related to the moon landing. Upon conducting a variety of controlled tests with a team of scientists at a NASA training facility, they concluded that a conspiracy did not exist.
NASA puts little effort into debunking the claims, looking at them as ludicrous; however they did, in July 2009, use the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a photo of the Apollo 11 landing site, which they say shows remains of the 1969 landing site.
Despite efforts to debunk the myths, conspiracy theorists stand by their claims.
Even if you don't follow conspiracy trends, chances are you've heard about Roswell, N.M. How could you not, with all the pop-culture phenomenon surrounding it and the countless sci-fi movies and TV shows that incorporate it into their story lines?
On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release, which stated that they had recovered a crashed "flying disc" from a ranch near Roswell.
"The many rumors regarding the flying discs became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the ranchers and the sheriff's office of Chaves County," said Lt. Warren Haught, public information officer. "The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff's office, who in turn notified Jesse A. Marcel, of the 509th Bomb Group intelligence office."
Haught's statement caused an immediate media sensation, and later that day a bold headline in the Sacramento Bee proclaimed, "Army Reveals It Has Flying Disc Found on Ranch in New Mexico."
A subsequent press conference was called, during which the military claimed that the crashed "flying disc" was actually a weather balloon. To back up the claim, officials produced debris from the balloon, which seemed to strengthen their story.
The military's explanation did not sit well with many people, including nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman. In 1978, Friedman interviewed Maj. Jesse Marcel, a soldier who had been involved in the recovery of the "balloon." During the interview, Marcel said that the recovered debris he saw was "not of this world."
Eleven years later, the claims gained even more steam when former mortician Glenn Dennis came forward and announced that alien autopsies had been conducted at the Roswell base.
Unable to ignore the media hype, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force launched an internal investigation into the Roswell incident. In a 1995 report, the agency announced that the "weather balloon" they had recovered was actually a high-altitude balloon that was intended to detect bomb waves from atomic bomb and ballistic missile tests. In regard to alien autopsies, a second report was later released, in which officials stated that the alien bodies were actually those of dead soldiers and test dummies. The confusion about the autopsies was blamed on psychological effects.
Regardless of the government's attempts to debunk reports of the alien craft and autopsies, many UFO proponents continue to downplay the reports, opting to believe that a cover-up still exists.
3: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
There are multiple conspiracy theories floating around about the origin of AIDS. For the sake of space, we'll take a look at two of the more popular versions that have gained steam in recent years.
In the first version, conspiracy theorists claim that AIDS is a biological weapon that was created for the Pentagon. The theory goes on to claim that the Pentagon used it deliberately to control the population of lower-class citizens in the United States.
To back up their claim, theorists point to a paper trail that shows taxpayer money was set aside in 1977, for the creation of a biological weapon. The first reported cases of AIDS emerged in Africa in 1978.
In the second version, conspiracy theorists claim that AIDS was accidentally created by a scientist who was working on a polio vaccine using chimpanzee kidney cultures that were infected with SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus). Theorists say that as a result, a mutant variant of the disease – AIDS – was created.
Scientific consensus has rejected these and other conspiracy theories. The common belief among them is that AIDS originated in Africa during the 1930s.
2: Sept. 11
One of the most recent conspiracy theories involves the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Some theorists believe the attacks were allowed to happen, whereas others think they were orchestrated by the U.S. government.
It was on Sept. 11, 2001, that four commercial passenger jet airliners veered off their normal flight paths and flew toward key locations in the United States. Two of the planes were crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing both buildings to collapse. The third plane crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and the fourth crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa. All totaled, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives.
Al-Qaeda terrorists have claimed responsibility for the attacks; however conspiracy theorists are unsatisfied with those claims – believing something far more sinister happened that day. There are two main beliefs among the theorists. The first is that select members of the U.S. government had been warned about the attacks and ignored the threat, allowing them to happen.
The second belief is that select members of the government orchestrated the attacks, using remote-control planes, demolition materials and/or missile strikes.
While the beliefs differ in how the attacks were carried out, the majority of conspiracy theorists agree that the attacks were used to justify wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the months that followed, then-President George W. Bush responded to what he called the "outrageous conspiracy theories" and said they only served to "shift the blame away from the terrorists, themselves, away from the guilty."
Despite who you agree with, it is interesting to note that, to date, not a single individual has came forward to admit participation in any of the alleged conspiracies.
1: Kennedy Assassination
There are countless conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For the sake of space, we'll only touch upon a few here.
First – the facts.
On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, when he was shot and killed. Roughly one hour later, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for Kennedy's murder; however, Oswald was not in custody long before he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby.
There is no doubting that the incidents listed above occurred; it is the who and the how that the debate centers upon.
Most theorists do not believe Oswald was responsible for Kennedy's murder, and those that do believe he had help. Alleged participants involved in the assassination range from the American Mafia to the FBI and KGB.
Unfortunately, the majority of the witnesses who were present at the shooting cannot agree on where the shots were fired from, thus adding fuel to theories that there was more than one gunman responsible. In addition to the number of gunmen, theorists also disagree on the number of shots fired and the location of the shooter(s).
The motive? Well, that depends on what theory you subscribe to. Some say the murder was orchestrated because Kennedy wanted to bring an end to the Cold War, whereas others believe he was killed because he supported an invasion of Cuba. A multitude of other motives also exist, all surrounding Kennedy's personal and political activities.
In 2008, a team of experts assembled by the Discovery Channel re-created the assassination of Kennedy, in an attempt to determine where the shots were fired from. The experts used modern blood-spatter analysis, new artificial human-body surrogates and 3-D computer simulations, in their tests.
Upon creating a mock-up of the crime scene – including all relevant landmarks – the experts placed an artificial surrogate of Kennedy in a car, which sharpshooters then shot at from the model depository, the grassy knoll and other locations of interest.
"We might never know if Oswald pulled the trigger, but when you look at the wind pattern, the spread of the debris, the angles and distances involved, it's consistent with a shot from the sixth-floor depository," computer graphics expert Doug Martin said in an interview with Discovery News.
Despite Discovery's findings, conspiracy theorists continue to dispute Kennedy's murder. Minus the advent of time travel, this is one case that will most certainly be debated for centuries to come.