The 13 Craziest Conspiracy Theories About Amelia Earhart
She was abducted by aliens for experiments?!
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory—and some of the best ones are about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Since she mysteriously vanished in July 1937 while finishing up her groundbreaking circumnavigational flight of the globe, Earhart has been fodder for endless wacky speculation. The theories are particularly wide-ranging because—even though eight decades have passed since the iconic aviator and her copilot, Fred Noonan, disappeared without a trace—no solid evidence has been uncovered that points to their exact whereabouts.
Until the public knows for sure what happened to the duo—which, at this point, seems unlikely—conspiracy theories are going to fill the vacuum. From an alien abduction to a sordid affair, here are the downright craziest Amelia Earhart conspiracy theories.
She was abducted by aliens.
Yes, some people still believe that Earhart was abducted by aliens. After all, if nothing in the world can explain her mysterious disappearance, the answer must lie out of this world, right?! According to historian John Burke, author of Amelia Earhart: Flying Solo, the area in the South Pacific where Earhart, Noonan, and their plane disappeared is supposedly a hotbed of UFO activity. This is why, just before the pair concluded their round-the-world journey, they were abducted by aliens (plane and all) for… experiments of some kind. Alas, no scientific evidence of an alien abduction exists.
Noonan was operating the plane while drunk.
Since journalist Fred Goerner first alleged that Noonan’s alcoholism might have contributed to the disappearance of the pair in his 1966 book The Search for Amelia Earhart, others have come forward to corroborate his theory. In his book, Goerner points to one specific example of the copilot’s drinking problem: a car crash that happened just months before their disappearance, in April 1937, in which it was reported that Noonan, the driver, “had been drinking.”
However, as forensic anthropologist Karen Ramey Burns notes in her 2001 book Amelia Earhart’s Shoes: Is the Mystery Solved?, the alleged police report has never been found. Gasp!
She was abducted by a race of people living in the center of the Earth.
As far as strange Amelia Earhart conspiracy theories go, this one might take the cake. According to the New Dimension blog—a site dedicated to the theory that a group of ancient beings from the lost city of Atlantis and other ancient civilizations created a secret society in the middle of the Earth, called Hollow Earth—Earhart, despite being 122 years old, is still alive and living happily in this secret place.
They allege that just seconds before her plane crashed into the ocean, these ancient people were able to save Earhart by teleporting her into Hollow Earth. Nearly a century later, they believe that Earhart is still as young as she was on that ill-fated July 1937 day, greeting new arrivals to Hollow Earth (including the missing survivors from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in 2014).
Her flight was just an elaborate scheme to spy on the Japanese.
Despite the fact that this conspiracy theory has zero physical evidence, in Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave, writer W.C. Jameson claims that Earhart and Noonan were spies for the American government. Their highly publicized trip around the globe was just a distraction from their real mission: spying on the Japanese.
According to Jameson, Earhart and Noonan’s plane was either shot down or landed in Japanese territory during the covert op, leading to their capture. Though they were eventually released and returned to the United States, the government didn’t want the world to know what truly happened, so officials faked their deaths and gave them new identities, Jameson claims.
As the theory poses, Earhart became one Irene Craigmile Bolam, a New Jersey resident who died at the age of 86 in 1982 (Bolam herself denied these claims, and even pursued legal action). On top of that denial, no government documents exist to back up Jameson’s theory.
According to the History Channel, many believe that this conspiracy theory was ignited by the plot of the 1943 film Flight for Freedom, in which a celebrated female pilot (clearly based on Earhart) flies over Japanese territory on a spy mission before disappearing.
She faked her own death because she was tired of being a celebrity.
Rather than have to face hordes of admirers upon arriving back in the United States, Earhart simply decided to fake her own death instead of becoming a full-fledged celebrity—a lifestyle that author Joe Klaas claims Earhart never wanted. In Klaas’ book, Amelia Earhart Lives, he explores this theory, including musings from his World War II buddy, Joe Gervais.
According to Gervais, yes, Bolam was Earhart, but his story is a bit different: Earhart changed her identity to protect herself from the public eye, not for national security reasons. After the release of Klaas’ book in 1970, Bolam sued the author and his publisher for propagating a myth. According to USA Today, the book was pulled from shelves—and both parties settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Or maybe, she faked her own death for love.
Here’s yet another conspiracy theory that was likely inspired by the film Flight for Freedom, which involves a complicated love story aboard a solo flight mission. Though there’s no hard evidence to support claims of a tryst between Earhart and Noonan, some believe that Earhart (who had been married to George Putnam for six years at the time of the crash) and Noonan (who had just married his second wife, Mary Bea Martinelli, before setting off on the flight) faked their own deaths to be together, according to the Parcast Network podcast Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths. Where they ended up after this charade took place is still beyond researchers.
She died while being held captive by the Japanese.
This conspiracy theory suggests that Earhart and Noonan actually survived a crash-landing in the Marshall Islands, part of a group of western Pacific islands known as Micronesia—only to perish later at the hands of the Japanese military.
In 2017, the theory was put under the microscope again when investigators, led by Shawn Henry, the former executive assistant director of the FBI, unearthed a photograph that was believed to depict Earhart and Noonan just days after their disappearance. “When you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” Henry told NBC News.
According to the team behind the 2017 History Channel documentary Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, after the pair crash-landed in the Marshall Islands, they were taken to Saipan and held captive by Japanese militants—until they eventually died. This theory holds even more water when you factor in the discovery of amateur Earhart sleuth Dick Spink: He uncovered two metal fragments that appeared to be a part of Earhart’s plane near the Marshall Islands. Still, it’s never been proven.
After being captured by the Japanese, she became “Tokyo Rose.”
For a short time after her disappearance, the theory that Earhart had assumed a new identity as “Tokyo Rose” while being held captive in Japan was so popular that even her husband started investigating to find out if it was true, according to the History Channel.
Unfortunately, Putnam didn’t recognize the voice of “Tokyo Rose”—an English-speaking broadcaster in Japan who transmitted messages to Allied soldiers in the South Pacific during World War II. It was later discovered that the undercover ally was actually Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino, an American citizen and daughter of Japanese immigrants who, along with several other female radio show hosts, fought to help America win World War II.
She became a nurse in Guadalcanal.
According to yet another theory, Earhart was rumored to have been seen tending to patients as a nurse in Guadalcanal, an island in the southwestern Pacific, miles off course for the pilot. Since the rumor began circulating in the early 1940s, many have been quick to blame such sightings of Earhart on the hallucinations of wounded soldiers. (Malaria was common on the island back then.)
Hysteria was only heightened further by the presence of one nurse from New Zealand, Merle Farland, who was said to vaguely resemble Earhart, according to findings presented in Walter Lord’s 1977 book Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomon Islands.
She crashed on New Britain Island.
New Britain Island—an island on the eastern edge of Papua New Guinea that was directly in the final stretch of Earhart’s flight path—is considered by some conspiracy theorists to be the final resting place of the pilot and her plane, according to the History Channel.
The major stake? In 1943, an Australian army corporal claimed that an aircraft engine with a Pratt & Whitney serial number was found on the island. (Earhart’s plane contained an engine made by the company.) Researchers have since concluded that it would have been impossible for Earhart and Noonan to make the 2,000-mile journey from Howland Island, where the pair sent out radio transmissions detailing their lack of fuel, to New Britain Island.
She was captured by the Japanese and taken to Emirau Island.
As retold by the History Channel, a U.S. Navy crew member in World War II claimed that he clearly identified Earhart in a photo belonging to a local man on Emirau Island, just off Papua New Guinea. In the photograph, Earhart is reported to have been posing with a Japanese military officer, a missionary, and a young boy. From the way that Earhart appeared in the photo, the crew member must have assumed that she was being held captive by the Japanese military. But, after the crew member reported this sighting, the photograph was never seen again. Mysterious!
She ended up being a castaway on Nikumaroro Island.
In 2018, a scientific study published in Forensic Anthropology claimed that a set of bones found on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1940 belonged to Earhart, despite previously conducted research that concluded the remains belonged to a stocky man of European descent. Decades before the study was published, a theory that Earhart crashed her plane and subsequently died as a castaway on the island was largely propagated by University of Tennessee professor Richard L. Jantz, lead author of the 2018 study, according to The Washington Post.
While this particular theory might have been easily refuted prior to the release of the study, Jantz’s conclusion that the bones were “more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99 [percent] of individuals in a large reference sample” proves to be the most compelling evidence discovered that credibly points to Earhart’s final resting place. Now, this theory is also supported by other scientists, including Ric Gillespie, director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), who claims that the island’s close vicinity to Earhart’s flight path only further supports it.
Her body was eaten by crabs.
This theory also hypothesizes that the skeleton found on Nikumaroro in 1940 was, in fact, Earhart’s, but it has a far more gruesome twist. As the BBC reported, TIGHAR researchers believe that at least a part of Earhart’s remains were gobbled up by the giant coconut crabs that are known to dwell on the island. While that might sound a bit preposterous, these crabs can actually weigh up to nine pounds, according to How Stuff Works, making them the world’s largest land-dwelling arthropod.
Though coconut crabs typically eat coconuts, berries, and leaves, they’ve been known to also snack on whatever food is immediately available to them—including rats and kittens. While it is more likely that Earhart was long dead before the crabs found her (again, if the skeleton was even hers in the first place), researchers who discovered these remains noted that quite a bit of the bones had been carted off by crabs. And for more conspiracy theories to sink your teeth into, don’t miss: Is Tom Cruise an Alien? And 50 More Deliciously Funny and Absurd Celeb Rumors.
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