Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, but they are most often complete and total nonsense. The vast majority produce thoughts of people wearing tin foil hats, but they wouldn’t exist if conspiracies weren’t a real thing.
Conspiracies occur all the time, and for better or worse, they’re a fact of life. Every so often, a once-labeled “crazy” conspiracy theory ends up panning out, proving the crazies who believed it were right all along.
While most people know about MKUltra, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the U.S Government’s poisoning of alcohol, there are many more conspiracy theories out there that turned out to be 100% true. This list features some of the more insidious ones most never realized were true.
10 The FBI Spied On John Lennon
The 1960s and ’70s were a turbulent time in American history. While the country was engaged in a seemingly unending war across the world, the people protested, and a counterculture movement arose. Leading that movement were iconic visionaries; many were artists, and all of them dangerous (according to the government).
One such “subversive’ person was none other than former Beatle, John Lennon. His songs about giving peace a chance and imagining a world without division and conflict came off as enlightening to his fans but threatening to the ears of President Nixon. The people knew and understood this, resulting in the conspiracy theory that the government spied on him.
As it turns out, the government was absolutely spying on the singer/songwriter, and it began in 1971. It started when he arrived in New York on a visa, and “he began associating with radical anti-war activists.” Not only did they keep an eye on Lennon, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to kick him out of the country.
The truth of the surveillance was finally revealed in Jon Wiener’s 2000 book, Gimme Some Truth. Lennon wasn’t alone; the FBI spied on just about anyone who had a platform and made public anti-war statements.
9 Tobacco Companies Buried Evidence Of The Real Dangers Of Smoking
These days, we all know the dangers of smoking, but it was advertised as anything but harmful for over a century. In fact, it was touted by doctors as a health product, and cigarettes were ubiquitous. You could find them anywhere, and that includes cartoons meant for children as well as movies, television shows, and comic books.
Research started to show the truth of cigarettes in the 1950s and their apparent link to various forms of cancer. The public began to question the validity of the advertisements and claims they’d been hit with over the years. Still, the tobacco companies denied their product’s dangerous side effects.
This led to the birth of a conspiracy theory, claiming that the tobacco companies not only knew of the connection between cigarettes and cancer, but they were suppressing that information. Decades passed, and ‘Big Tobacco’ continued to deny the evidence they uncovered through their own research.
Finally, in the 1990s, Philip Morris admitted the truth. From that point forward, society’s view on smoking changed, and smoking has declined in many western nations. Had ‘Big Tobacco’ coughed up their data decades earlier, it’s likely millions of people could have avoided tobacco-related disease and early death.
8 The U.S. Government Collected Dead Children To Test The Effects Of Nuclear Radiation
When the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world changed. Nuclear combat was a reality, and it would affect the way nations planned for and conducted military operations around the world. Of course, it took some time before the true nature of those weapons was fully understood.
Specifically, the effects of nuclear radiation on the human body were unclear, so the U.S. government commissioned a study called Project Sunshine. The goal of Project Sunshine was simple enough: research how nuclear fallout affects human tissue. Trying to figure that out requires two things: radiation and human tissue.
When the project was underway, a conspiracy theory arose, claiming that the government was stealing dead bodies (primarily babies) to conduct the research. It was a genuinely macabre conspiracy theory, to be sure, but it turned out to be true.
The government was using parts of cadavers to test the effects of radiation, and the best kind to use came from babies in the U.S. and U.K. The government reached out to find recently deceased babies and young children, taking tissue samples and whole limbs. The parts were taken without permission or even notification of some 1,500 families.
7 The U.S. Military Planned To Kill Americans And Blame It On Cuba
The Bay of Pigs invasion is a clear failure in the United States’ political and strategic handling of Castro’s rise, but it didn’t end there. The U.S. government continued to fail in its policies with Cuba, which led to a ton of conspiracy theories.
One theory claimed that the U.S. military planned various false flag operations it would blame it on Cuba. The conspiracy theory proved to be true, though Operation Northwoods never made it out of the planning stages.
“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing.” Some of those plans involved lobbing mortars into Guantanamo Naval Base or destroying aircraft and ammo depots.
“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”
6 The Existence Of The Mafia Was Once A Conspiracy Theory
The world knows all about the Mafia’s existence these days, but it wasn’t always like that. While it’s well-known today, the very existence of the Mafia was only theorized for nearly a century.
It was so unbelievable; most people considered it to be a conspiracy theory. It actually makes sense when you think about it. The existence of a large group of criminals operating under a hierarchical structure to monopolize crime in a given area, leading to organized crime? That does sound more like a conspiracy theory than reality.
The conspiracy theory started to pass around the world in 1890-91, but it reemerged around 1946. That’s when the Mafia began to really take hold (It’s also the time period shown in The Godfather). Still, it remained a widely held conspiracy theory for decades and didn’t come to light until 1962.
In fact, the existence of the Mafia wasn’t actually confirmed to the world until famed Mob snitch Joe Valachi testified, spilling the beans. Valachi acknowledged the existence of the Mafia to a U.S. Senate committee in 1962, and the conspiracy theory was finally proven true.
5 The Oil & Gas Industries Hid The Truth Of Leaded Gasoline
You’ve probably filled your tank with unleaded gasoline hundreds of times without knowing what it meant. On the surface, it means there isn’t any lead in the gas. Still, underneath, it’s the result of a widespread conspiracy led by the oil and gas industries.
Lead was added to gasoline to reduce “engine knock,” but adding lead to anything can be deadly because lead is a neurotoxin. A long-held conspiracy theory held that the oil & gas companies knew the danger and hid it from the public.
It all turned out to be true, but it was far worse than anyone imagined. The companies knew of the dangers of leaded gasoline as early as the 1900s but buried it. What’s more, a study in the 1920s confirmed this to be true, and the results were suppressed. At the same time, the companies continued to sing the praises of leaded gasoline.
Leaded gasoline was phased out in the U.S. in the 1970s, but Ethyl and Octel continued to sell it in Eastern Europe and developing nations for 14 years. The damage done by this vast conspiracy was widespread and likely more damaging than the one carried out by the tobacco industry in the 20th century.
4 Americans Recruited Nazi Scientists To Develop The Atomic Bomb
Towards the end of WWII, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. both rushed to gather as many Nazi scientists as possible to help develop their own rocketry programs. The U.S. did so under Operation Paperclip, which transformed Nazi scientists into American citizens mere moments after Germany’s defeat.
The operation was entirely secret, but when it started to come out that men like Wernher von Braun and other high-profile Nazi scientists were behind the American space program, a conspiracy theory arose. It was widely believed that the government covered up or whitewashed numerous scientist’s histories, suggesting they had little to no involvement in Nazi atrocities.
In fact, President Truman insisted that nobody with direct ties could be brought in under the operation. While that may have been the intent, the conspiracy eventually proved to be true. Members of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (precursor to the CIA) did, in fact, recruit Nazi scientists who took part in various atrocities.
The government simply covered up their involvement so it would be possible to exploit their genius… and it worked. When the reality of the coverup came to light Georg Rickhey, Walter Schreiber, and Arthur Rudolph all left the United States in disgrace, but none were found guilty of any crime.
3 The Truth Of What Crashed In Roswell, New Mexico In 1947
If there’s one conspiracy theory out there that refuses to go away, it’s the one surrounding a crashed “UFO” in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. It’s a widespread conspiracy theory, and it’s likely never going to die. Part of the problem comes from the continuous denials of the Department of Defense that anything extra-terrestrial happened in Roswell. Still, claims of a coverup by the government persist.
The DoD may have persisted in claiming that the crash involved a weather balloon, but it turns out, something else crashed in Roswell. It didn’t have anything to do with aliens, but the government did employ a coverup to hide the truth.
The coverup came from the desire to keep Project Mogul secret. This was at the dawn of the Cold War, and the U.S. government was all about keeping its various plots secret from the public and the Soviet Union.
Project Mogul was a Cold War attempt to keep an eye on Soviet nuclear weapons development. It used a balloon to lift acoustic detection equipment into the sky. The truth finally came out in 1994, confirming the crash involved Project Mogul. While the coverup part of the conspiracy theory proved true, the claim that aliens were somehow involved persists.
2 Canada Was So Worried About Homosexuality, It Developed “Gaydar”
While the gay community is more widely accepted these days than it was in the past, it can be difficult to imagine just how bad it was previously. In many western nations, homosexuality was illegal. This forced people in that community to live their lives in secret and seclusion.
While this was more of a problem for the people in that underground community, that didn’t mean the people outside it left it alone. Governments didn’t understand gay issues — that bit hasn’t changed much — and some did bizarre things to counter the so-called counterculture.
There are hundreds of conspiracy theories about governments and homosexuality issues from the 20th century, but the strangest has to be the one suggesting Canada created a so-called “Gaydar.” The weirdest part of the theory isn’t that it’s true (it is); it’s that the government actually did it… sort of.
Canada hired a university professor to create a machine that could detect homosexuality in federal employees. It “worked” by measuring pupil dilation to same-sex-erotic imagery. Canada used the “fruit machine,” as it was called, to fire or exclude over 400 men from civil service, the Mounties, and the military.
1 The U.S. Government Actively Investigated Aliens & UFOs
Alien conspiracy theories have been around forever, and they tend to stick around, thanks to government secrecy. This is especially true of the United States government, which has fostered numerous conspiracy theories, including one that claims the government actively investigated UFOs and aliens.
Investigating UFOs is part of the job for the military, seeing as it just means Unidentified Flying Object. That doesn’t mean UFOs are treated as alien in origin by the military. It only means that the military treats unidentified objects as possible threats, so it checks them out.
The alien bit seems farfetched, but it turns out to be true. Not only did the U.S. government actively search the skies for aliens, but it spent a ton of cash doing it. The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program had a $600 million budget, and it had the following purpose:
“Collecting and analyzing a wide range of ‘anomalous aerospace threats’ ranging from advanced aircraft fielded by traditional U.S. adversaries to commercial drones to possible alien encounters.” The program came to light in the early 2000s, but most people didn’t notice until the 2017 release of declassified videos that remain inexplicable.