Conspiracy theories abound everywhere. Politics, show business, and pop culture all have their own; even the highly respected Harvard University offers a class on the subject of conspiracy theories.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a conspiracy theory as “the theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; spec, a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event.” Some of these theories are based in fact, but some are so ridiculous that one has to wonder how they ever got started in the first place. Some are based on paranoia, and others are started to cause harm intentionally.
Most of these ideas persist because they are laced with facts, even if the facts don’t necessarily come together to represent the truth. Here are some subjects noted worldwide for the enduring conspiracy theories associated with them.
9. The Kennedy Assassination:
Probably one of the most popular conspiracy theories is that which surrounds the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. In November of 1963, Kennedy, his wife Jackie, Texas Governor John Connelly, and his wife Nellie were riding in a convertible together in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. According to common belief, Lee Harvey Oswald, a Soviet Union sympathizer, was on the sixth floor of the nearby Texas School Book Depository; he fired three shots at the President just after the motorcade passed by where he was positioned. The first bullet missed, and the second bullet supposedly passed through Kennedy’s body, exited through his throat, and passed through the ribcage of Governor Connelly who was in the seat in front of the President. The third bullet took off the side of Kennedy’s head. Conspiracy theorists claim a fourth shot was fired from a nearby grassy knoll.
Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who had been assigned to guard Mrs. Kennedy, was the first to reach the limousine. He climbed into the back, pushing Mrs. Kennedy back into her seat after she had climbed onto the trunk in an attempt to retrieve a piece of skull that had been shot from the President’s head. In an interview conducted by CBS, Hill firmly denies a fourth shot was made and states that the wounds Kennedy suffered came from the rear. Witnesses standing alongside the road gave mixed accounts – some claimed they heard the shot from the grassy knoll and saw the smoke from a recently fired gun, while others deny that a fourth shot was taken.
As he was being transferred to a different prison, Oswald was killed by a local club owner, Jack Ruby, leaving many questions unanswered. No less than one thousand books have been written stating that the CIA, Russian infiltrators, Lyndon Johnson, the Mafia, the KGB, J. Edgar Hoover, Fidel Castro, and even the Secret Service were responsible for the assassination. Even now, over fifty years after the event, new books and theories flourish.
8. The Apollo Moon Landing:
There are some who firmly believe that humans have never been to the moon, and everything that was seen on TV and reported by the news was completely faked. Some claim that the temperature of the moon’s bright side would have melted any film taken, but NASA assures that all film was kept in specially-made canisters and not left out in the sun.
An additional theory is based on the fact that footprints were left on the moon, and it is thought that there must be moisture for that to happen. NASA compares the surface to baby powder, which if sprinkled on a dry floor and walked upon would leave footprints. There are also claims that the lunar buggy was far too large to have been carried by the lunar landing module; NASA claims it was super lightweight and foldable, much like an early day “Transformer” toy.
7. Flat-Earth Society:
Another widely held belief that the Earth is flat is also considered a conspiracy theory.
There is a Flat Earth Society, unofficially founded in the 19th century, which was resurrected in 2004 by the President of the Society, Daniel Shenton. The Society claims that because the horizon always meets eye level, it is proof that the Earth is flat because that view would not be possible if the earth were a globe. They also subscribe to the opinion of those who believe the moon landing was a hoax.
They explain that if the earth were round, one would be able to see the curvature from an airplane. An additional belief is that the lights of orbiting satellites are phony and are put there to trick us. The Flat Earth proponents also believe that gravity is a false phenomenon.
6. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks:
Conspiracy theories were rampant after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Those who believe in a conspiracy support the theory that the government either conducted the attacks themselves or knew about the pending assault, and refused to act so as to convince the public that a declared war was needed against the Middle East.
5. The death of Princess Diana:
Some believe that the car crash in Paris which killed Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed in 1997, was purposely staged by the Palace to rid them of the embarrassment Diana might have caused. One hundred and seventy-five of the theories were brought about by Dodi Fayed’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed. In his grief, Al-Fayed refused to believe it was merely an accident caused by a combination of a drunk driver and excessive speed while trying to outrun the paparazzi. Mohamed Al-Fayed claims that Diana was pregnant with Dodi’s child and that the couple was about to announce their engagement.
He believes that the Palace intentionally had Diana and Dodi killed to keep an Egyptian Muslim from joining the Royal Family. Diana’s physician and close friends have denied that she was pregnant.
According to Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Diana’s oldest sister, Diana was questioning her relationship with Dodi and had commented to a friend, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, “I need marriage like a rash on my face.”
4. The Writings of William Shakespeare:
A common conspiracy theory claimed that William Shakespeare did not write the plays and sonnets for which he is so famous and that they were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlow, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s.
3. The death of Marilyn Monroe:
A claim that Marilyn Monroe was murdered, rather than killed by an overdose of barbiturates, came out in the mid-1960s. Some claim the Kennedy family had ordered her death to keep her affairs with John and Bobby Kennedy secret, or that she was murdered by the CIA to punish JFK for the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
2. Notables Rumored to Be Still Alive:
Some more recent theories have erupted, claiming Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, and Elvis Presley are all still alive and that they faked their deaths so as to retire from the public eye.
1. The suicide of Kurt Cobain:
When Kurt Cobain of the grunge rock band Nirvana committed suicide in Seattle in 1994, Nirvana fans claimed that it was not a suicide but that Cobain had been killed by his wife, Courtney Love.
Tom Grant, who was a private investigator hired by Love, claims that although Love was telling the press and her friends about Cobain’s depression, his friends were claiming that Cobain had been happier in recent months than they had ever seen him. Grant further implicates Michael DeWitt, the nanny for Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean, of conspiring with Love in the murder of Kurt Cobain.
Many conspiracy theories are quickly debunked, but some will live on forever. The invention of the internet and social networking make it easier to spread one’s theories even further and develop a following.
The tendency is for people to believe what they read on the internet and not take the time to research and discover the truth. This is becoming more pronounced and will inevitably lead to many skewed truths, false stories and rife rumors in the future.