Not everything that happens in life has a satisfactory conclusion. Not all loose ends get tied up in a neat bow. But it’s human nature to want answers. And for many people, if those answers aren’t acceptable – well, they write their own endings.
Here are some of the weirdest, wildest and most interesting conspiracy theories out there, from government cover-ups in moments of profound national tragedy to claims that the moon is nothing but a hologram.
The question is, do you believe any of them?
Who Killed President Kennedy?
One of the most famous — and enduring — conspiracy theories in American history is the argument that there was a lot more to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy than the public have been led to believe. Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with killing Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, after the beloved president was struck by two bullets (once in the head and once in the neck) while he was riding in an open-topped limousine in Dallas.
A presidential commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Oswald acted alone, but a whopping 61 percent of Americans think Kennedy’s death resulted from a bigger plot. If Kennedy was killed by CIA agents, KGB operatives or gangsters, we’ll probably never know.
Theories About What Really Happened On 9/11?
Accusations of a government cover-up of the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, have persisted since the immediate aftermath of the tragedy that killed nearly 3,000 people. There are so many 9/11 conspiracy theories to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Some people claim the U.S. government was directly responsible for the attacks, while others believe they had knowledge that the attacks were incoming and deliberately ignored it.
A 2016 study from Chapman University in California found that more than half of the Americans they surveyed believe the government is concealing information about the attacks, which isn’t helped by the fact that sections of the official federal government report were redacted for years, and some information is still missing today.
President Obama Controlled The Weather
Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008 and some people believe that he resorted to rather unusual tactics to ensure his reelection in 2012. In a nutshell, they suggested that Obama engineered Hurricane Sandy, which killed more than 100 people and causes billions of dollars worth of damage along America’s Atlantic coast.
Some websites spread the message that Sandy provided “an ideal opportunity for Obama to come off as a strong and decisive leader.” But how, exactly, was he supposed to engineer a natural disaster? We’re not talking superhero powers here, but rather by using the Alaska-based High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program to use electromagnetic waves to create the hurricane.
Paul McCartney Is Dead
When Beatlemaniacs weren’t screaming themselves hoarse and endangering their lives by running after the Fab Four’s tour vehicles, they might have been concocting crazy ideas about one member of the band in particular. The “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory contends that Paul McCartney actually died at the peak of the Beatles’ fame. It started in 1969, when a radio DJ in Detroit named Russ Gibb took a strange call on his show.
According to Rolling Stone, the caller told Gibb to put on the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 album, aka the “White Album,” and spin the intro from “Revolution 9” backwards. When Gibb tried it on the air, he heard the words, “Turn me on, dead man.” Another so-called clue to McCartney’s grim fate was John Lennon saying “I buried Paul” at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Of course, it all begs the question — who’s the man who has replaced the famous singer for all these years? A very good look-and-sound-alike, according to the conspiracy theorists.
Secret Societies Control The World
Not a lot is known about secret societies because, well, they’re secret. What’s not so secret are the numerous conspiracy theories that claim the whole world is in the hands of their powerful members.
Take The Order of Skull and Bones, for instance. Also known as The Order, Order 322 or The Brotherhood of Death, this undergraduate senior secret student society at Yale University counts both 2004 White House candidates, President George W. Bush and John Kerry, among its alumni.
And then there’s the Illuminati, which goes back to 18th century Germany and is said to be planning a Satanic worldwide government, intent on widespread destruction. The recent rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which contends that influential liberals are running a global child sex-trafficking ring and trying to limit President Trump’s powers, is just the latest example of such an idea.
The Moon Landing Was Faked
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to step on the moon. Or did they? More than four decades later, there are still people who believe the moon landings were faked by the U.S. government in order to claim victory over the Soviets in the space race. Their theory was that Armstrong and Aldrin acted out their mission on a secret film set (under the direction of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, no less).
Over the last 50 years, opinion polls have showed that around 5 percent of Americans (about 16 million people) believe the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked.
Jesus Had A Wife
Proving that conspiracy theories go back to ancient times, the theory that Jesus had a wife can be traced back to writings from the Gnostic Gospels, which were discovered in 1945 near the town of Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Their authenticity has been questioned, but those who believe them point to the Gospel of Philip as “proof” that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s koinonos, a Greek term for “companion” or “partner.”
But aside from an exchange between Peter and Mary in which he admits to her that “the Savior loved you above all other women,” and a mention of Jesus kissing Mary often, there’s little else to back up the theory that they were a couple.
Avril Lavigne Has A Double
The strange story of singer Avril Lavigne’s clone started on a Brazilian fan website in 2005 and it has resurfaced over the years. According to this conspiracy theory, Lavigne used a body double named Melissa at the start of her career, as she wasn’t totally comfortable with her newfound fame. However, it gets even freakier as the conspiracy theorists say the pop star actually died in 2003 and record executives decided to use Melissa as the “new” Avril Lavigne.
The star’s change of style from tomboy to super-girlie clothing and the fact that she was photographed with the name “Melissa” written on her hand was the only “evidence” to back this one up.
Denying The Holocaust
It’s one thing to wish desperately that 6 million Jews hadn’t been killed by Nazis during the Holocaust. It’s another thing entirely to believe that the genocide didn’t actually happen in the first place. While Holocaust denial may sound like another fringe conspiracy theory, some high-profile people are vocal revisionists of the atrocities, including former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called the Holocaust a “myth” and suggested that land for a Jewish state come from Germany and other European countries, rather than Palestine.
Not all Holocaust revisionists agree with Ahmadinejad; many of them don’t deny that Jews were held in prison camps during World War II, but argue that the number of deaths was hugely exaggerated and claim that gas chambers either didn’t exist or weren’t effective enough to kill.
The CIA Created AIDS
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first reported the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1981, and since then, rumors have circulated that the virus was created by the CIA with the aim of wiping out gay men and African Americans. Conspiracy theorists believe the federal government purposely injected gay men with the HIV virus during 1978 hepatitis-B experiments in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In addition to this, South African President Thabo Mbeki, pictured here, has disputed scientific claims that the virus originated in Africa, promoting theories that the U.S. government manufactured the disease as a bioweapon. A similar theory has been voiced by Kenyan ecologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.
The Government Is Making People Gay
Conservative radio host Alex Jones, shown here, is famous for promoting a number of conspiracy theories, one of which accuses the U.S. government of putting chemicals in our drinking water that make people homosexual. He has even alleged that frogs are also victims of the so-called “gay bomb.”
In a Salon article, Jones is quoted as saying, “The reason there are so many gay people now is because it’s a chemical warfare operation. I have the government documents where they said they’re going to encourage homosexuality with chemicals so people don’t have children.” Jones later said, “I don’t like ’em putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay!”
The Reptilian Elite
Former BBC sports reporter David Icke is known for his own weird and wonderful conspiracy theories. In his first book, “The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World,” which was published in 1999, Icke claims members of the British royal family are reptiles. Yes — reptiles.
According to Icke, the world has been controlled by “Annunaki” since ancient times. And it’s not just the English blue-bloods who are part of this cold-blooded cabal, as he alleges George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope and Bill and Hillary Clinton are also lizard people.
Poisonous Government-Made Snow
Another weather-related conspiracy theory did the rounds on social media in 2014, after heavy snowfall in Atlanta had people questioning snow’s reaction to fire. People tried to melt the snow with blow torches, but it turned black instead of melting. Despite this being a completely natural phenomenon, some preferred to believe that the government was spreading chemicals that simply looked like snow.
Phil Platt successfully debunked this theory on Slate with a video showing that as snow melts, the remaining snow absorbs the water, which is why it doesn’t appear to drip. And those black marks from the blow torches? It’s soot from the torches, a byproduct of the reaction between butane and oxygen.
William Shakespeare Was A Fraud
The theory that one of the greatest playwrights who ever lived didn’t write his own plays was first touted as early as 1785, when James Wilmot may have coined the first known “anti-Stratfordian theory,” according to Vox. Other notable people who’ve voiced this belief include Orson Welles, Sigmund Freud and even Mark Twain, who suggested that Sir Francis Bacon could have actually been the Bard in his 1909 work, “Is Shakespeare Dead?”
Others have posited that fellow Elizabethan-era playwright Christopher Marlowe could have been the true author — a theory that relies on Marlowe not being killed in 1593. And it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds – in 2016, the respected Oxford University Press actually credited Marlowe as co-author of Shakespeare’s three “Henry VI” plays.
John Wilkes Booth Wasn’t Killed
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln with the gun shown here at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, before going on the run. Booth was found by authorities 12 days later, hiding in a barn and was subsequently shot dead by a U.S. Army sergeant. But some people dispute the identity of the man who was killed that day, claiming that Booth was successful in his escape.
Believers of this conspiracy theory claim the assassin eventually reached Texas, where he lived his life under the names John St. Helen and David E. George until 1903. Even some of Booth’s descendants have petitioned to have his grave in Baltimore dug up to confirm his identification.
April Is Human Sacrifice Season
While it’s true that some of the world’s prominent tragedies have happened during the month of April — like the Lincoln assassination (1865), the San Francisco earthquake (1906), the sinking of the Titanic (1912), the Hillsborough disaster (1989) and the Notre-Dame cathedral fire (2019) — what’s no more than a conspiracy theory is that April is the government’s “Blood Sacrifice” season.
People who believe this allege that the government performs sacrifices to the demon god Baal and then later disguises these sacrifices as tragedies, like explosions, fires and other large-scale disasters. While the April connection hasn’t gone unnoticed, it’s likely nothing more than a coincidence.
Oliver Cromwell Was Never Exhumed
Oliver Cromwell, who led England’s parliament-supporting armies against the forces backing King Charles I during the English Civil War, has long been the subject of conspiracy theories. According to the history books, three years after his death in 1658, Cromwell’s body was exhumed in 1661 so that he could be posthumously hanged and decapitated on orders from King Charles II. His embalmed head was supposedly then left on a spike for several decades.
But conspiracy theorists believe Cromwell moved his own planned tomb site in Westminster Abbey to avoid this kind of thing, meaning the man who was dug up was somebody else. Possibly King Charles II’s own executed father, if you want the most far-fetched version of the story.
Meriwether Lewis Of ‘Lewis And Clark’ Was Murdered
More than 200 hundred years after the death of famed explorer Meriwether Lewis, on a dangerous trail between Mississippi and Tennessee named Natchez Trace, there’s still some debate surrounding the circumstances. Generally, it’s widely accepted by historians that Lewis died by suicide (he had mental health issues and was drinking heavily after being stuck with a desk job), but some are sure he was murdered.
For starters, the trail was full of bandits, who certainly weren’t averse to confrontation, and there was also the fact that Lewis had numerous gunshot wounds — surprising for an expert marksman. When his body was exhumed in the 1840s, examiners commented that his injuries looked like the work of an assassin.
Prince Charles Is A Vampire
Apparently, genealogy records suggest that Prince Charles, first in line to the British throne, is a descendant of Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince who provided the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, “Dracula.” Charles himself recently appeared in an advertisement for Romania’s National Tourist Office and has claimed that “Transylvania is in my blood.”
One website, New Idea, appears to support the theory that Charles is also a vampire, stating that the “disease Porphyria is present amongst the royal family. Porphyria is an iron-deficiency disease that makes skin sensitive to sunlight.” However, there’s no proof that Charles has Porphyria. Or, for that matter, that vampires even exist.
Nero Set Fire To Rome
On the night of July 19, 64 A.D., a fire broke out around Rome’s chariot stadium, Circus Maximus, and raged for several days before it could be tamed. It devastated two-thirds of the city, but, its leader, 17-year-old Nero, was a safe distance away in the coastal resort of Antium. This fact led to the theory that Nero was responsible for the blaze, motivated by his desire to change the city’s buildings.
One Roman historian, Tacitus, even claimed Nero was playing his fiddle at the time his own kingdom was being destroyed. The fact that the fiddle wouldn’t even be invented until the next century hasn’t stopped people believing this conspiracy theory.
America’s Invisible Warship
During World War II, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard carried out experiments on degaussing (eliminating a magnetic field) to make a ship undetectable to magnetic mines. That much is true — and it may be the origin of the theory that shipyard officials made the USS Eldridge completely invisible.
A man named Carlos Miguel Allende (aka Carl M. Allen) is credited with starting the story. He claimed that when he was a seaman stationed in Virginia he saw the Eldridge appear and disappear before his very eyes. Allende’s “eyewitness account” later became the focus of a 1979 book, “The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility.” However, naval records contradict Allende’s claim — for starters, the Eldridge wasn’t in commission on the day it was supposedly rendered invisible.
Queen Elizabeth I Was A Man
Queen Elizabeth I, England’s reigning monarch from 1558 through 1603, is one of history’s most fascinating royal rulers. Her father, Henry VIII, declared her to be illegitimate (she only returned to the line of succession under the king’s Third Succession Act in 1543) and she was famously a “virgin queen” who never married. She’s also been the subject of many a wacky myth — the craziest of all likely being that she was actually a man.
According to Royal Museums Greenwich, “many misogynists and conspiracy theorists have argued that, due to her extraordinary leadership qualities, noted academic brilliance and financial acumen, Elizabeth must have been a man.” However, “an overwhelming amount of evidence declares this notion to be false and discriminatory.”
Area 51 Houses Aliens
Area 51, the military base in the Nevada desert that’s located about 150 miles from Las Vegas, has long been the focus of conspiracy theorists. Rumor has it that government scientists are storing UFOs on the base, and where UFOs are, extra-terrestrial life has to follow. Dozens of people who’ve supposedly seen UFOs in the area keep this one going. Plus, one retired Army colonel says he was given access to extraterrestrial materials gathered from an alien spacecraft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, and he even wrote a book about it.
The government’s official line — that all details of Area 51 are classified for purposes of national security — appears to be all the proof believers of this far-fetched theory need.
Lewis Carroll Was Jack The Ripper
Children’s author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, gave the world “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and several other equally fantastical titles. His writings don’t make him seem like the sort to murder and mutilate, but, according to author Richard Wallace, Carroll was a strong contender to be Jack the Ripper, the unidentified serial killer who was active in London in 1888.
In his book, “Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend,” Wallace said the traumatic events Carroll experienced at boarding school plagued him for the rest of his life, and referred to hidden secret messages in his books that “confessed” to his crimes.
The Moon Doesn’t Exist
The contest for the craziest conspiracy theory is a tough one, but this has to take the top spot. Some people actually believe the moon doesn’t exist. The folks in this camp actually think that giant glowing sphere you see in the night sky is simply a hologram created to make fools of everyone on earth who admires it from afar. Lengthy Reddit threads in a fringe community known as “Moon Truthers” are devoted to this conspiracy theory, but there’s virtually no actual evidence, surprisingly enough.