12 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be totally true


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It seems like every day someone, somewhere is coming up with a theory so bizarre that it could only be fabricated. As long as we all have eyes and a sprinkle of common sense, we know that theories like the Earth being flat doesn’t exactly stand up to scrutiny.

But sometimes these wildly outrageous theories turn out to be true, shaking our trust in what we thought we knew as facts.

Here are 12 such conspiracy theories that turned out to be completely true.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

1. Operation Northwoods (1962)

Conspiracy: The U.S. government had planned terrorist attacks on American soil to garner support for military action against Cuba.

Documents declassified in 1997 confirmed that in 1962, the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff indeed proposed these false flag operations under the name “Operation Northwoods.”

The plan included the assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of refugees, hijacking planes, and blowing up a U.S. ship, among other acts. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the plan and presented it to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, but it was ultimately rejected by the civilian leadership and remained undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

The plans were outlined in a book by investigative reporter James Bamford, “Body of Secrets.”Bamford revealed that the military’s intention was to trick the American public into supporting a war that only the military wanted.

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2. Tuskegee syphilis experiment (1932-1972)

Conspiracy: The US government was rumored to be conducting syphilis experiments on African-American men without their consent.

The Associated Press  exposed the shocking truth behind this theory, revealing a government-backed program that had lasted for 40 years called  The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. It involved denying treatment to hundreds of poor Black men suffering from syphilis to study the disease’s progression. Although the participants were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a third of the 600 enrolled received no treatment, even after penicillin became available in the 1940s. Jean Heller, an AP journalist, broke the story in 1972 after receiving leaked documents from Peter Buxtun, a former Public Health Service employee who discovered the unethical study. Heller’s investigation revealed the deaths of at least seven men directly from syphilis and 154 from heart disease. The exposure led to the study’s termination, the establishment of the Tuskegee Health Benefit Program, and a $10 million class-action lawsuit settlement.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

3. Project MKUltra (1953-1973)

Conspiracy: It was believed that the CIA was conducting mind-control experiments to develop drugs and procedures for interrogations and torture.

Declassified documents in 1975 confirmed the existence of this covert project that was carried out without the consent of the subjects. In the midst of the Cold War, the CIA initiated a top-secret program, MK-ULTRA, led by Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist, to develop a mind control drug that could be used against adversaries. Operating from the 1950s until the early ’60s, it involved covertly funded experiments at universities, research centers, prisons, and detention centers worldwide. Subjects, many unwitting, were subjected to psychological torture, including electroshock and high doses of LSD. Despite efforts, Gottlieb concluded mind control was impossible, and the program was shut down. Yet, the impact was irreversible; lives were lost, and many were permanently damaged.

Stephen Kinzer, a journalist who investigated MK-ULTRA, reveals in his book, “Poisoner in Chief,” how the CIA inadvertently fueled a generational rebellion by introducing LSD to America. As part of MK-ULTRA, LSD was distributed to various institutions for research, eventually reaching notable figures like Ken Kesey and Allen Ginsberg, who promoted its recreational use.

MK-ULTRA also involved collaborating with Nazi doctors and Japanese torturers to learn from their experiments. This ultimately led to establishing secret detention centers in Europe and Asia, where extreme methods were tested on “expendable” subjects to break down resistance and destroy the human mind.

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4. Operation Paperclip (1945-1959)

Conspiracy: Post-World War II, there were rumors that the U.S. was recruiting German scientists, including former Nazis, for their expertise.

Documents declassified in the ’90s confirmed the existence of this operation, showcasing the government’s efforts to assimilate German scientific knowledge.Operation Paperclip was a secret program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were taken from Germany to the United States, for U.S. government employment, primarily between 1945 and 1959; many were former members and some were former leaders of the Nazi Party. The primary purpose of Operation Paperclip was for the U.S. to gain a military advantage in the burgeoning Cold War, and later Space Race, between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

5. Big tobacco knew smoking was lethal (1950s Onwards)

Conspiracy: The theory was that the tobacco industry was aware of the detrimental health effects of smoking but chose to keep it secret.

During lawsuits in the late ’90s, internal documents confirmed that Big Tobacco was fully aware of the risks associated with smoking but kept it under wraps. In the early 1950s, studies were consistently revealing an unquestionable correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Philip Morris, the leading cigarette manufacturer in the U.S. during that period, conceded that smoking is indeed a cancer-causing activity.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

6. The Gulf of Tonkin incident (1964)

Conspiracy: Many suspected that the incidents at the Gulf of Tonkin, which escalated the Vietnam War, were exaggerated.

In 2005, declassified documents revealed that the second attack, which propelled the U.S. into the war, never took place. After President John F. Kennedy’s death, President Lyndon B. Johnson, concerned about South Vietnam’s capacity to resist the Communist Viet Cong guerillas, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, increased military aid and covertly transferred Norwegian-built fast patrol boats (PTFs) to South Vietnam. These boats, manned by South Vietnamese crews, conducted coastal attacks on North Vietnam as part of Operation 34A, a classified program started by the CIA in 1961 and later transferred to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group in 1964. Concurrently, the US Navy conducted Desoto patrols, cruising in international waters to collect electronic surveillance. The patrols benefitted from the increased signals traffic generated by 34A attacks. On July 31, 1964, USS Maddox commenced a Desoto patrol and was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on August 2, triggering a response by President Johnson that led to the continued Desoto missions and retaliatory airstrikes. Despite doubts about a second attack on August 4, flawed intelligence led Johnson to order airstrikes and subsequently request the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted him the power to use military force in the region without a declaration of war. This enabled Johnson to escalate American involvement in the Vietnam War, despite later revelations that the second attack did not occur.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

7. Project Sunshine (1950s)

Conspiracy: Project Sunshine was rumored to involve the secretive collection of body parts to study the effects of radioactive fallout, raising numerous eyebrows.

Declassified documents in the 1950s revealed that the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had indeed been involved in this eerie collection of body parts to conduct their research. In the 1950s, the U.S. and U.K. conducted secret studies, known as “Project Sunshine,” on the effects of radioactive fallout by measuring strontium-90 absorption in dead babies.In 2001,the Australian Ministry for Health and Aged Care began investigating reports of baby samples sent for the project without parental consent. The investigation followed a British newspaper report about children’s bodies being used for nuclear experiments. Over 1,500 cadavers from various countries were used by the Atomic Energy Commission for radiation studies. In 1995, classified documents revealed that the scientists involved knew the ethical and legal issues of their research.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

8. . CIA’s financial support to Dalai Lama (1960s)

Conspiracy: There was speculation that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan resistance were financially backed by the American CIA during the 1960s to undermine the Chinese government.

Throughout the 1960s, the CIA funded the Tibetan exile movement, providing $1.7 million annually for operations against China, including a $180,000 yearly subsidy for the Dalai Lama, as revealed by declassified U.S. intelligence documents in 1998. This funding was part of a larger CIA effort during the Cold War to undermine Communist governments, especially in the Soviet Union and China. The same U.S. government committee that approved the Tibetan operations also authorized the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. 

The CIA’s support included backing Tibetan guerrillas in Nepal, a secret military training site in Colorado, the establishment of “Tibet Houses” in New York and Geneva to promote Tibetan causes, education for Tibetan operatives at Cornell University, and supplies for reconnaissance teams.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

9. The Government is spying on you (2000s onwards)

Conspiracy: In the digital age, the theory emerged that governments worldwide were conducting mass surveillance on citizens, monitoring phone calls, emails, and other forms of communication.

In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, leaked classified documents that unequivocally proved the existence of widespread government surveillance programs, not just in the US but globally. This revelation substantiated the fears many had about the extent of government surveillance in the modern age. While some label Snowden as a betrayer for revealing American secrets, others view him as a hero who unveiled constitutional infringements.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

10. John Lennon surveillance by FBI (1971-1972)

Conspiracy: During the 1970s, it was suspected that the legendary musician John Lennon was under surveillance by the FBI due to his anti-Vietnam War stance and activism.

John Lennon’s move to New York City in 1971 was met with suspicion by U.S. authorities, who feared his left-leaning politics. The FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, gathered over 300 pieces of ‘intelligence’ on Lennon, but it took professor Jon Wiener 20 years to bring the trivial and absurd contents of these files to light. Despite significant donations from Lennon to fund demonstrations and campaigns, authorities’ attempts to deport him were unsuccessful, albeit at great personal cost to the artist. Nixon was reelected, but his presidency was marred by the Watergate scandal, and the U.S. eventually withdrew from Vietnam and progressed towards racial equality. In 1997, files released under the Freedom of Information Act confirmed that the FBI had indeed kept tabs on Lennon, fearing his influence could disrupt Nixon’s re-election campaign. In 2000, Wiener published “Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files,” revealing the government’s illegitimate surveillance of Lennon and other dissidents engaged in lawful activities.

Image Credit: Public domain.

11. Government poisoned alcohol during prohibition (1920-1933)

Conspiracy: During the prohibition era, there were theories that the government was poisoning alcohol supplies to deter consumption.

While the government never directly poisoned drinking alcohol, it did mandate the inclusion of toxic chemicals in industrial alcohols, knowing they were often converted into drinkable spirits. This was a strategic move to curb alcohol consumption during a time when the production and sale of alcohol were illegal, yet demand remained high. Despite these toxic additives, the sales of now-poisoned bootleg liquors persisted, resulting in numerous deaths. This tactic was part of a multi-pronged approach to enforce Prohibition, which also included law enforcement raids, tax auditing, and surveillance of the illicit trade. Although the government’s intention was to limit the supply of alcohol, it resulted in the poisoning of Americans who consumed the contaminated spirits. Ultimately, this approach was adapted, and Prohibition was repealed in 1933, ending the era of intentionally poisoned alcohol. This strategy reflected the government’s willingness to take unethical measures to enforce its policies, despite the harm caused to its citizens.

Image Credit: United States Library of Congress.

12. Operation CHAOS (1967-1974)

Conspiracy: There was a belief that the CIA was actively monitoring and infiltrating American groups opposing the Vietnam War.

Operation CHAOS was a secret domestic espionage program conducted by the CIA during the presidencies of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, mainly from 1967 to 1974, to uncover foreign influences on domestic protest movements. It quickly expanded to gather information on activists involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party, and other civil rights and anti-war groups. The operation involved illegal activities such as wiretapping, infiltration, and mail collection, violating the CIA’s charter, which prohibits domestic operations. Approximately 13,000 files on individuals and groups, including many prominent Americans, were compiled. The operation’s existence was revealed during the mid-1970s Church Committee hearings, which investigated the intelligence community’s abuse of power. The revelations led to public outrage and a reevaluation of the role and oversight of intelligence agencies in the United States.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

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Alex Andonovska

Alex Andonovska is a staff writer at Cheapism and MediaFeed, based in Porto, Portugal. With 12 years of writing and editing at places like TheVintageNews.com, she’s your go-to for all things travel, food, and lifestyle. Alex specializes in turning “shower thoughts” into well-researched articles and sharing fun facts that are mostly useless but sure to bring a smile to your face. When she's not working, you'll find her exploring second-hand shops, antique stores, and flea markets.