When most people hear “conspiracy”, they roll their eyes. At the same time, a nationwide survey conducted by leading U.S. social analysts concluded that almost 50% of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. Well, not all of these theories are so crazy. Many of the biggest political scandals in history were once labeled as myths, only to shock the world once they were revealed as fact.
Think you already know the most mind-blowing conspiracies that turned out to be 100% true? Watergate didn’t even make the top 10. The next time you walk by a bearded guy trying to warn you about the end of the world with a cardboard sign – you may want to read it.
So get you tinfoil hat on tight, and follow along as we explore the 15 biggest conspiracy theories that turned out to be real.
15. CIA Sleeper Agents
The existence of mind control programs, funded by the CIA, is not just the premise of multiple Hollywood movies. During the Cold War era, the agency really did attempt to create multiple sleeper agent technologies. Project “MkUltra” was a top-secret collaboration funded by the U.S. government and executed by the nation’s leading scientists. From 1953 to the mid-1970′, multiple universities were tasked with creating a “mind-control serum.” The CIA also conducted independent experiments on Guantanamo Bay prisoners using LSD. This information wasn’t made public until 1978.
14. NSA Spy Program
The Edward Snowden leak revelation is still fresh in everyone’s mind but most people still aren’t aware of all the report’s implications. The Deputy Director of the surveillance association has previously dismissed rumors or unlawful phone taps and Internet spyware affecting most Americans and many overseas citizens. They stated that the NSA used software to detect meta-date (keywords) that identified terrorist communications. According to him, no innocent citizens could ever be spied on by NSA employees.
However, the documents leaked by Snowden confirmed suspicions about the wide reach of the program. Once their software picked up any single word or phrase that may or may not have something to do with terrorism, an NSA agent began monitoring and listening in to that person’s phone. Additionally, another set of agents got access to all the contacts of the “possible terrorist” and the contacts of all of those people. As such, thousands of government employees had access to virtually every phone conversation in the U.S.
13. Satanic Cults
There were always rumors of a group that existed in secret and only gathered to commit satanic human sacrifice rituals. Parents used this story to scare kids into not being out late. In reality, most people dismissed the notion of a devil-worshiping society, which had normal Americans as members.
Modern-time human sacrifice remained a conspiracy theory until 2010, when all headlines in Hungtington featured gruesome scenes of a dismembered body with upside down crosses on a freshly-skinned human skull. Moises Espinoza calmly walked into his local police department and confessed to the murder of his mother. The 18-year-old construction worker had no criminal record and was an all-around productive member of society. An investigation revealed that the victim was skinned, dismembered with a power saw and used to conduct a satanic ritual. Though it was concluded that Espinoza couldn’t have done the crime single-handed, no other suspects have been identified.
12. Unlawful Iraq Bombings
Before 9/11 ever happened and before allegations of nuclear weapons being manufactured by Al Qaeda ever emerged, the U.S. government was already planning an invasion. Of course there was no legal premise to declare war. So, the 1990 CIA leadership decided to “create” a reason. A 15-year-old Kuwait girl testified in front of the Supreme Court as to heinous crimes committed by terrorists. Her allegations of mass child murder were the basis for the 1991 operation “Desert Storm”, which was a series of bombings and occupation of major cities by American ground forces.
Conspiracy theorists all around the country declared the testimony false, relying on the broadcast video of the hearing. A few months later, journalists unveiled proof of CIA-backed acting lessons being provided to the 15-year-old girl who’s words were enough to start a war.
In 1972 the Republicans, along with the Nixon presidential administration, were said to be spying on the members of the Democratic National Headquarters. However, the president was popular at the time, so the public refused to believe the rumors were true. It took world-wide pressure for Republicans to admit they were spying on other delegates from the Watergate – a small nearby hotel.
The real conspiracy was the fact that Nixon was listening in as well. The president publicly denied these allegations, until a recording of his phone calls proved it true. He went on to become the first president who stepped down from office. This move granted Nixon freedom, as his then-vice-president gave him the presidential pardon, freeing him from impeachment hearings.
10. CIA Cocaine Syndicate
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the CIA has been widely blamed of smuggling Colombian cocaine and protecting drug gangs in the U.S. According to BBC, the CIA were leasing private planes to secretly fly illegally captured law abiders to secret prisons in Eastern Europe. One of these “CIA Prison Planes” crash landed in Mexico after running out of Jet fuel and the authorities found over four tons of cocaine on board! “Dark Alliance” was a series of reports released in 1996, by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Gary Webb. The report showed undeniable evidence of the agency’s involvement with Colombian cocaine. It forced the Director of the CIA to admit that the agency was dealing drugs.
Not only did no one go to jail for this, the government did everything to bury the scandal. This was the reasoning behind them unveiling the Monica Lewinsky story during that same week, although information was still being gathered on it. Still not sure the CIA is shady? Gary Webb was found with two gunshot wounds to the head, yet his death was ruled as a suicide. Yes, the award-winning journalist, in the middle of his 15 minutes of fame, decided to shoot himself in the head…twice.
9. Government Vaccines With Deadly Viruses
The fact that the government sanctioned medical research and vaccine distribution were just a means of infecting people with deadly diseases to study them was a myth for decades. In 1997, president Clinton finally released information about one such occurrence. A 1932 “study” was initially held in secret, even from its subjects. 600 African Americans were infected with syphilis and other chemical experiments to find out how they would be affected compared to Caucasians.
The participants of the study were totally unaware of being infected until it was too late, putting their families at risk as well. Only 250 men found out they were sick – they joined the military during World War II, where they had to be tested. There are still claims of similar government activity going around to this day, with countless people warning against getting vaccinated and receiving flu shots. Below is a picture of veteran Rollins Edwards, showing one of his many scars from exposure to mustard gas in World War II military experiments. Even after 70 years after the exposure, his skin still falls off in flakes. For years, he carried around a jar full of the flakes to try to convince people of what happened to him. Source: AMELIA PHILLIPS HALE FOR NPR
8. Vietnam War Falsification
In August of 1964, president Johnson announced that 3 Vietnamese torpedo ships had attacked a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident caused widespread frustration among the American public. It was later used by Johnson as the premise for starting the Vietnam War. Millions of soldiers lost their life in the conflict, which later became known as the first war the U.S. lost.
Conspiracy theorists, who claimed the Gulf of Tonkin attack was falsified were labeled as traitors and some were even tried for treason, until 2005. In a statement that horrified the nation, the NSA director revealed records that indicated this to be true. The Louisiana was never attacked and the Vietnam War was a U.S. initiative.
7. Civil War Protest Violence
Civil War protests were a problem for the government, they caused major boycotts and arrests. While being protected by the first amendment, protests were peaceful in every way. The only way for law enforcement to put a stop to protestors, was to falsify violent events. It wasn’t until 1971 that one incident made these allegations undeniable.
Activists broke into the FBI offices and stole records of top-secret operations aimed to frame Civil War activists for incidents of violence. The files, which were distributed to the media, detailed how FBI agents pretended to be activists and started violent clashes with police.
6. Government-Fabricated Terror Attacks Aimed to Start a War With Cuba
During the Cold War, Russian nuclear missiles were relocated to Cuba, inciting panic in the U.S. However, there was no legal basis for sending troops to the nearby island nation. So the U.S. Army collaborated with political leaders to create a plan that would make Americans want to go to war. It was titled “Operation Northwoods”. At the time, the president was John Kennedy, who was sane enough to deny signing the proposal. If he didn’t, Cuban nationals would be blamed for murders and terrorist attacks (carried out by our own military) on American soil.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, people panicked. So, in efforts to calm the public, government agencies unclassified huge amounts of documentation. Among them was Operation Northwoods.
5. Nazis Harbored by the U.S. After World War II
Nazi Germany conducted experiments that were so gruesome that their scientists were later declared war criminals. While these people were ruthless murderers with no regard for any kind of ethics, the information they gathered was unique. In 1945, president Truman started a program, called Operation Paperclip, aimed to gather German intelligence and use it for furthering American technological and medical progress. Part of the program was finding Nazi scientists who survived the war and bringing them to the U.S.
The public (along with the Jewish community and the USSR) protested the program but were calmed down by Truman’s statement, which indicated that only innocent Germans would be saved. Government officials were supposed to only admit those who were never part of the Nazi Party. Yet, some 15 years later it turned out that they erased all record of the scientists’ dark past instead, allowing war criminals to live out the rest of their lives in comfort.
4. U.S. Selling Weapons to Drug Dealers
In 2011, the ATF announced that they sold guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to arrest gang leaders in the U.S. The statement came amid growing speculation as to how drug dealers were getting their hands on military grade, American-made weapons. The ATF is saying the plan was to identify gang violence and cartel association by seeing where the guns ended up. Later, they called it “Operation Fast & Furious”.
The people who were labeled as conspiracy theorists for saying this was true prior to 2011 see a different motive. It just seems unreasonable to provide criminals with weapons to lessen crime. The intent was likely to further gun-control legislation and increase approval of the Obama administration. However, the ATF director was the highest appointed official who was aware of the events – Obama didn’t know about Fast and Furious until 2011. This sparked even more outrage and is still a part of numerous conspiracy theories.
3. CIA-Financed Propaganda
America was never “land of the free” for most regular people. It has long been assumed that the CIA uses various illegal tactics to influence news outlets. However, the idea of CIA officials bribing or blackmailing journalists has been regarded as another wacko conspiracy theory, until 1977. That year, a shocking publication (by Carl Bernstein of the “Rolling Stone” magazine) revealed that the agency paid some of the most distinguished, Pulitzer Prize winners in the U.S. to work for them. Some published fake stories, others provided intel and some even served as a way to communicate with foreign CIA spies.
The Cold War era tactic was first called Operation Mockingbird. According to the Rolling Stone column, some journalists were threatened and some were even talked into helping the CIA free of charge. These “volunteers” were ironically also victims of propaganda, which made them believe they were helping their country by cooperating. Also, trained agents were sometimes disguised as journalists overseas, to be used as spies. Operation Mockingbird was unclassified in 1980, yet it was never officially shut down.
2. Poisoned Alcohol to Enforce Prohibition
Everyone knows that Prohibition was a huge failure. Alcoholism rates only went up and crime became widespread. However, convincing people to outlaw drinking wasn’t easy – most Americans foresaw the problems that would arise. So, to turn public opinion around, government agents were tasked with contaminating alcohol with deadly poisons.
When over 700 people have died after a night of drinking, the government declared that alcohol was to blame. The scandal caused widespread protests at alcohol stills and boycotts at bars. Of course, a few years later the protests to end prohibition were much larger. When it was finally repealed, the resulting nationwide celebration could only be compared to the kind that happened at the end of World War I.
1. Martin Luther King Jr Assasination
On April 4, 1968, the leader of the Civil Rights movement was assasinated in his hotel room. Government officials and investigators stated that the murder was fully planned and executed by James Earl Ray, the man who shot MLK. Of course, some people knew the truth from the start.
As was later confirmed by an extensive civil trial, which featured 70 witness testimonies and 5,000 pages of documentation, Ray was merely a hired killer. The plot was put togeather by U.S. government officials and the mob. Because no one in particular has been indicated as part of the assasination, no further arests have been made. But the hearing made one thing clear – this travesty wouldn’t be possible without the government’s involvement.