History's Biggest Conspiracy Theories That Still Creep Us Out

Did we really land on the moon?

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Conspiracy theories are like ghost stories for adults. The logical part of our brain knows there's no truth to them. I mean… Of course 9/11 wasn't secretly orchestrated by the U.S. government, Neil Armstrong really did step down on the lunar surface back in 1969, and Bill Clinton isn't actually a talking reptile with a very well-constructed latex human mask.

But just like those ghost stories we told each other around campfires as kids, conspiracy theories are fun because, well, we love nothing more than creeping ourselves out. 

With that in mind, here are 13 of the world's most favorite conspiracies, which we all know (when we're being rational) are completely bonkers. And if you're looking for some crazy conspiracies rooted in real, honest-to-god fact, don't miss these 25 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True!

1
Reptiles control the government.

conspiracy theories

It all started with conspiracy theorist David Icke, who came up with the idea that a race of super intelligent reptiles, called "Annunaki," have held most positions of political power for centuries. Everyone from Queen Elizabeth to George W. Bush to Henry Kissinger were accused of being secretly a reptile (supposedly wearing very realistic human masks). And people believe it! According to a Public Policy Polling survey, around 12 million Americans are seriously convinced that our leaders are really lizards in disguise. And for more irresistible stories we can't look away from, check out these 23 Urban Legends That Are Totally True.

2
The moon landing never happened.

Moon Landing Buzz Aldrin

What's fascinating is that when NASA first landed three astronauts successfully on the moon in 1969, when such a thing still felt like science fiction, nobody doubted it.

But today, despite how far technology has come—and just a few days after a NASA probe photographed an object more than 6 billion kilometers from earth, farther out than Pluto—there's a growing tide of disbelievers who are certain that our government lied to us and the Apollo moon landing was actually staged, possibly even filmed in a Hollywood sound studio. Fun as it is to imagine a conspiracy so successfully pulled off by our space agency, we're sorry to say that human beings actually reached the moon. 

3
JFK wasn't assassinated by a lone gunman.

crazy facts
Public Domain

The official account is that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin responsible for gunning down President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. By 2019, no single death in history has been scrutinized more thoroughly from every conceivable angle than the JFK assassin. But, despite the findings of the Warren Commission—and scores of other forensic investigations—Americans continue think otherwise.

According to a Gallup poll on the 50th anniversary of that fateful day, more than 60 percent of Americans believe that other people were involved. Maybe the CIA, maybe Fidel Castro, maybe even aliens.

But don't let us try to convince you that Oswald acted alone. Consider these thoughts from former Lyndon Johnson aide and longtime MPAA head honcho Jack Valenti, who traveling in JFK's motorcade in Dallas on the day of the assassination, and who spoke to Vanity Fair: "Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole gunman. I'll tell you why I believe that, and it wasn't because of the Warren Commission Report. It was because everything leaks in Hollywood and in Washington. And 43 years later there has never been a leak. There are conspiracy theories out there. And if there were a conspiracy, there would have to be at least 10, 20 people involved in that conspiracy. And nothing's leaked, so that is why I believe Lee Harvey Oswald was on his own."

4
Queen Elizabeth is eternally youthful because she's a cannibal.

queen elizabeth and david attenborough

The queen of England is 92 and shows no sign of slowing down. What's the secret to her longevity? British historian Hubert Humdinger is pretty sure he knows what's up.

"She must eat human flesh to be so vivacious," he wrote in a 1973 story for We Royalty magazine. "There is an immense amount of spiritual energy in human muscle."

Years later, in 2012, the website Dear Dirty America claimed they had confirmation of Humdinger's theories, thanks a serviceman at Windsor Castle who reportedly discovered "remains of a human" in the queen's private refrigerator. It sounds like a horror film! Oh, and if you love horror movies, don't miss this roundup of the 40 Best Horror Movies for Totally Freaking Yourself Out. 

5
Big Pharma has a cure for cancer but they make more money from suppressing it.

lung cancer ribbon

A cure for cancer, a disease that kills about 8 million people globally each year, has existed for years, or so the conspiracy goes. But pharmaceutical companies have successfully kept it a secret, because there are more profits to be made in treating the disease rather than curing it.

While it's easy to imagine Big Pharma having greedy intentions, some suggest it's a stretch to assume they could pull off such a massive coverup. "Humans cannot keep important secrets," says a UCLA oncologist. "If there is a discovery about curing cancer the word gets out way before the scientific presentation." 

6
The Illuminati has established a New World Order without anybody realizing it.

illuminati, secret society, celebrities not like us

A shadowy underworld cabal has been secretly plotting to control the globe with a totalitarian world government. What's the proof? Well, that creepy pyramid with the single eye on the back of a dollar bill, for one. What that means exactly, we have no idea, but rumors have persisted that an enigmatic, ruthless society of one-percenters have been working for centuries to destroy democracy and turn us all into their unwitting slaves. Do you need us to go on? Seriously, haven't you read The Da Vinci Code?!

7
Elvis Presley faked his own death.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll, died of cardiac arrest in 1977. Unless he didn't. There are Legions of fans and non-fans alike who are convinced that Elvis is alive and well and hiding…. somewhere. He's been spotted all over the country, most famously at a Burger King in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The main evidence that he's not dead, aside from people really not wanting to believe he's gone, is his middle name, Aron, which is spelled erroneously as "Aaron" on his gravestone.

8
Chemtrails are polluting the sky…. and your mind.

blue sky with clouds
Shutterstock

The condensation trails, or "chemtrails," left in the sky behind planes are just engine vapor mixed with the low temps of a night sky. Or maybe it's a chemical sprayed into the air by the government, to secretly infect the masses and either poison us or control our minds.

Some claim it's to "weed out" the sick and elderly, or even to sterilize members of the populace that the Powers That Be (whoever that is) deem as unworthy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it's nonsense, of course, but who are you going to believe?

9
The earth is flat.

Planet Earth Scientific Discoveries

If members of the Flat Earth Society are to be believed, the Earth is a flat disc with the Arctic Circle in the center and a huge 150-foot-tall wall of ice, otherwise known as Antarctica, protecting the rim. NASA soldiers guard the wall, so people don't get too close, fall over the side and tumble through space.

It sounds absurd, but the number of flat earthers are growing—a few hundred every year (well, according to the Society)—and they're armed with arguments that support their worldview (or so they insist), like the horizon's apparent flatness and the west-to-east path of a solar eclipse.

10
The Israeli government has killer robot sharks.

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When five tourists were attacked by sharks at an Egyptian resort in 2010, local authorities were suspicious, as sharks rarely come near the Sinai Peninsula during winter, when the attack took place.

So they jumped to the obvious conclusion: The sharks were being mind-controlled by the Israeli government. And, because they had to find their way to Egypt, the sharks must be installed with GPS. Israel officials declined to even comment, calling the accusations "too ludicrous" to address.

11
The Ice Bucket Challenge was a satanic ritual.

conspiracy theories

The Ice Bucket Challenge, a globally popular Internet sensation that raised money for ALS research, was rumored to have its origins in a ritual purification ceremony that, according to at least one conspiracy theorist, was "cleansing America in the name of Antichrist Lucifer Satan for some future thing." There was also the suspicious death of Corey Griffin, one of the founders of the Ice Bucket Challenge, who mysteriously jumped off a roof and died just after an ALS benefit in 2014. Was it a suicide… or murder?

12
Paul McCartney is dead.

worst part about turning 40, classic rock
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It was during the height of Beatlemania in 1966 when a young Paul McCartney supposedly met an untimely end in a fatal car crash. Or at least that's what happened if you believe the cover of the Beatles album Abbey Road.

The evidence is right there, McCartney's lack of shoes (in some cultures the dead are buried barefoot) and the hidden messages on the license plates (the plate on the Volkswagen Beetle is "LMW 28IF," which some believe means McCartney would be "28 if" he were alive.) They're also clues in the music, like John Lennon supposedly saying "I buried Paul" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever." (Spoiler alert: He's really saying "cranberry sauce.") The rumors persist to this day despite the fact that the now 76 year-old McCartney, or whoever his doppelgänger is, just released a new hit record, Egypt Station.

13
Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper.

conspiracy theories
Image via Wikimedia Commons

How could the beloved author of the children's classic "Alice in Wonderland" possibly be the same mysterious serial killer who murdered prostitutes in London during the late 1800s? Richard Wallace, author of the 1996 book Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend, claimed the clues can be found in Carroll's own books.

Several passages in novels like Sylvie and Bruno, written around the same time of the murders, were actually anagrams, Wallace claimed. If you rearranged certain sentences, they would become horrifying confessions, like: "I got a tight hold of her and slit her throat, left ear to right."

Wallace, however, took a lot of creative license with the anagrams, and often left out words to make his case. His theory is likely not true, but it still makes us shiver just to imagine a children's author going on the prowl for victims at night.

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