Conspiracy theories have been around us from the beginning. But, these days, they seem to be more prominent than ever. With politicians and journalists mentioning them in the headlines, conspiracy theories are having a greater influence than ever.
Not all conspiracy theories have such a powerful impact, though. Many times, conspiracy theories seemingly cross over into the realm of celebrity gossip and urban legends. Larger-than-life artists and personalities attract their own mystique, and rumors of cover-ups often follow.
Of course, most of these stories have little if any truth to them and have been debunked repeatedly (or at least that’s what they want you to think), but that’s never enough to stop a good story. And all of these stories have their true believers, despite how unusual they may seem to the rest of us. So judge for yourself with these ten kooky celebrity conspiracy theories people actually believe.
10 Paul McCartney Replaced by a Look-Alike
An urban legend popped up in 1967 that Beatles musician Paul McCartney had secretly died, and it was being hidden from the public. The rumor claimed there were many clues left on album covers and hidden in backward messages in Beatles songs. Allegedly the beginning of “Revolution 9” sounds like it says “turn me on, dead man” when played backward. Some claimed that John Lennon’s words “Cranberry Sauce” on “Strawberry Fields” sounded more like “I buried Paul.” Paul being out of step and barefoot on the cover of Abbey Road was supposedly another clue that he had departed, as was the license plate reading “28IF” on a car on the cover, as Paul would have been 28 when the album was released IF he hadn’t died. Many other clues were found and believed to indicate Paul was dead.
McCartney himself debunked these rumors in 1969 by publicly stating, “the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” That was the end of it for most people. But a conspiracy theory this entertaining is hard to let go of, and it has had a resurgence. In February 2015, World News Daily Report claimed in an article to have interviewed Ringo Starr confessing that McCartney had indeed died in a car crash on November 9, 1966. Not wanting the public to know, they replaced him with the winner of a Paul look-alike contest named Billy Shears Campbell. Campbell turned out to be a competent musician, and they let the ruse continue but left clues all over Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road out of guilt.
WDNR is a self-proclaimed entertainment website that does not publish factual articles, and the Ringo Starr interview did not actually happen. That’s not enough to keep some people from wondering if there is any truth to it—and if the Paul we know is the real Paul after all.
9 The Devil and Jayne Mansfield
Unfortunately, 1967 also saw the tragic accident in Louisiana that claimed the life of actress Jayne Mansfield and her boyfriend, Sam Brody. Mansfield’s career had always been somewhat controversial, and the shocking nature of her untimely death made rumors spread. One persistent rumor was that she had been decapitated in the accident. While her injuries were horrific, this part was simply not true. Another rumor that kept cropping up was that this accident had been the result of an evil spell cast by the leader of the Church of Satan.
The theory said that Jayne Mansfield herself had become involved with the Church of Satan and knew its leader, Anton LaVey. Her boyfriend, Sam Brody, became jealous and mocked LaVey and his church, disrupting a service. In retaliation, LaVey put a curse on Brody. The Devil followed through and caused the accident that killed Brody, but Mansfield also became a casualty.
In reality, Jayne Mansfield was photographed with Anton LaVey in what is believed to be a publicity stunt as part of her “bad girl” Hollywood image. Mansfield maintained that she found him “intriguing” but that she was Catholic and did not believe in his church.
8 Charlie Chaplin and the Murder of Thomas Ince
In 1924, movie producer and director Thomas Ince died aboard the Oneida, a private yacht owned by William Randolph Hearst, the wealthy newspaper magnate. The official cause of death was ruled a heart attack, but whispers of foul play and a cover-up happened almost immediately.
The event hosted on the yacht had several very high-profile guests, including famous film star Charlie Chaplin. Another young starlet on board was Marion Davies, with whom Hearst was romantically involved. According to the theory, Hearst suspected that Chaplin and Davies were having an affair and had invited them both to catch them in the act. When Hearst found his suspicions to be correct, he became enraged and shot at Chaplin, missing and killing Ince by mistake. The theory also claims that Louella Parsons, a gossip columnist at the event who afterward was given a lifetime contract with the Hearst organization, was paid off to keep the murder out of the press. Apparently, everyone else present on the yacht that fateful day was paid off as well.
7 Katy Perry Is JonBenét Ramsey
The unsolved murder of six-year-old beauty pageant star JonBenét Ramsey shocked the nation and remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time. People can’t help but be suspicious and speculate with their own hypotheses, even though the evidence remains inconclusive. Blame has been placed on family members, neighbors, fans, the town drifter, and even the Illuminati and Katy Perry.
In 2016, a YouTube video claiming singer Katy Perry was actually a grown-up JonBenét raised eyebrows as it gained media attention. According to this theory, the death and subsequent autopsy of JonBenét Ramsey was a hoax perpetrated by the Illuminati and Freemasons to turn her into pop star and supposed Illuminati spokesperson Katy Perry. For reasons known only to them, they have left clues in Perry’s song lyrics, tweets, and music videos. Despite plenty of evidence to contradict this idea, it’s a rumor that persists to this day.
6 Jim Morrison
As lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison led a bacchanalian rock and roll life that ended on July 3, 1971. He was found in his Paris apartment by his partner Pamela Courson. Since he was presumed to have died from a drug overdose, no autopsy was performed, and he was buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery following a small private ceremony attended by only five people. This all happened before the public was made aware of Morrison’s passing, all but ensuring rumors and theories would follow.
Many people believed that Morrison’s death had been staged. Doors organist Ray Manzarek claimed Morrison had spoken in conversation about leaving his life of fame and starting over with a new life. Many former celebrities have rumors about their deaths being staged, of course, but what gives this one a bit more life is that Jim’s father, George Morrison, was a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy at the time and may have had the connections to help pull something like this off. In March 2016, a satirical fake news site called The Nevada County Scooper published an article that claimed Jim Morrison had been found living in a Paris assisted living facility, giving this story further life.
Not all of the conspiracy theorists thought Morrison had given up fame and fortune for a more simple life, however. Rumors also had it that Morrison had been part of a CIA plot to eliminate popular counterculture figures. Even more unlikely theories blamed French secret services or even a Zionist plot. Others claim Morrison died at a nightclub and was moved by the owners to his apartment to avoid legal trouble.
5 Vampires in Show Biz
Celebrity entertainers often seem to keep their youthful appearances well past the age when most of us are showing signs of wear. People have lots of theories as to why: secret diet and health regimens, plastic surgery, alternative medicine, and the like. But could it be that some actors have actually achieved immortality through supernatural means? The fact that vampires are mythological creatures of the imagination hasn’t kept some people from theorizing that some celebrities may be supernatural immortal beings.
Keanu Reeves has been the main subject of one of these vampiric rumors. It all started with a joke website called keanureevesisimmortal.com. The website jokingly claimed that Reeves had been alive for centuries, adopting many different identities throughout history to hide his immortality. Notably, such figures as Charlemagne and 19th-century French actor Paul Mounet were said to bear a striking similarity to the modern Reeves, proof that they were one and the same. However, despite the facetious nature of the article, some took it seriously and believed it had some truth to it.
Eddie Vedder, lead singer of grunge band Pearl Jam, also had vampiric rumors surrounding him. Once again, it started with an internet prank. An essay titled “Eddie Vedder is a Vampire” appeared online and made its way onto online forums. In the essay, the author presents a fanciful scenario where Pearl Jam’s song lyrics are about Eddie Vedder’s struggles with his vampiric nature and his role in human society. Despite Vedder showing up in mirrors and being able to walk around in daylight, there were those who thought this essay was a warning from someone who knew a secret Vedder and Pearl Jam were trying to keep hidden.
4 Bruce Lee Assassinated
Bruce Lee was a martial artist who established a legendary career as an action movie star in Hong Kong and the United States. He was the first exposure many in the west had to the art of Kung Fu. His sudden and tragic death in the prime of his life shocked Lee’s fans. The official cause of death was ruled an allergic reaction to medication (although cerebral edema or heatstroke have been suggested as possible factors). To think that the formidable Bruce Lee could be brought low by a pill was too much for many to take, and conspiracy theories of foul play sprang up immediately.
Some speculated that Lee had been poisoned by a business partner for financial reasons. Others believed it had been a hit by organized crime in retaliation for Lee’s refusal to pay protection money. This conspiracy theory ended up becoming part of the plot of the movie Game of Death, which had scenes of Bruce Lee but was mostly filmed and completed after Lee’s demise, which further reinforced the idea.
Other more fantastic theories also abounded. Some believed he had been assassinated by other Kung Fu experts in retaliation for showing forbidden martial arts techniques to the west. The theory would often reference a supposed legendary “death touch,” a secret martial art move that could cause death to someone hours or days after the attack without them even knowing they had been affected. Others spoke of a family curse that had caused the untimely death of Bruce Lee. This theory resurged after Bruce’s son Brandon Lee also died at a young age while working on the film The Crow. This was seen as evidence that this family curse was affecting the Lee family through the generations.
3 Chuck Barris and the CIA
Chuck Barris was a songwriter, producer, and game show host known for his off-the-wall game shows like The Dating Game and The Gong Show. In 1984, Barris came out with a book titled Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. In this book, Barris told the story of how he was recruited by the CIA as an assassin during the ’60s and ’70s, and the production of his TV shows was a cover for these shady activities.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was adapted into a movie starring Sam Rockwell as Barris, and a TV series starring Justin Timberlake is in the works. Most people dismissed the movie as fiction, but the movie’s producer, Andrew Lazar, and director George Clooney are true believers in Barris’s account of his clandestine activities.
2 Marilyn Manson
A celebrity with a career as provocative as shock rocker Marily Manson is sure to have people whispering rumors about them. Some are salacious, and some are surprisingly more wholesome.
One rumor that has refused to die despite being refuted by Manson is that he had elective surgery to remove several of his ribs to make him more flexible. Why would someone want this procedure performed on them? For the purposes of auto-fellatio, of course, at least according to the theory. It would supposedly make him flexible enough to reach his mouth below his belt. While there are no recorded instances of ribs being removed cosmetically, nor is there any reason to believe such an operation even would have the intended consequences, it has remained an active theory in hushed whispers.
Another odd theory attributed to Marily Manson is that he had a more clean-cut origin as a child actor. Specifically, the rumors say that Manson played Paul Pfeiffer, the nerdy friend of the main character Kevin Arnold in the ’80s TV series The Wonder Years. Paul Pfeiffer was actually played by Josh Saviano, who quit acting and went to law school and is today an attorney who is puzzled as to why people think he grew up and became Marilyn Manson.
1 Stephen King Killed John Lennon
On December 8, 1980, former Beatle John Lennon lost his life when he was shot by an obsessive fan named Mark David Chapman. Almost instantly, paranoid theories sprang up around this tragedy. Some thought Lennon may have been considered an enemy of the state for his subversive lyrics and political opinions criticizing the U.S. government. Some opined that Chapman’s behavior seemed programmed, like subjects of the CIA’s MK-Ultra experiments, used to turn ordinary people into assassins ready to murder high-profile targets through mind control. But the theory about John Lennon’s death that takes the weird cake is the one that believes Mark David Chapman didn’t kill John Lennon at all—but instead, Stephen King did it!
Conspiracy buff Steve Lightfoot has proposed this theory, both on the internet and plastered on his van. According to Lightfoot, horror writer Stephen King, author of such novels as The Shining, Carrie, and It, was caught by authorities in a compromising position with an underage girl. So the government used this to pressure King into agreeing to kill John Lennon in exchange for dropping the charges. According to the theory, the reason for taking such an outlandish scheme is deniability. The government thought they could get away with it because it was so ridiculous that nobody would ever believe it. I know I certainly don’t believe it, so maybe it worked after all. But likely not!