18 Strangest Conspiracy Theories in US History

Conspiracy theories have proliferated in America for centuries, dating back to the Salem witch trials. Some have remained popular for decades, while others have fizzled out and been replaced by recent claims surrounding events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are 18 of the strangest conspiracy theories in American history.

The Moon Landing Was Faked

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Claims that the American government staged the Apollo missions to win the Space Race spread after conspiracy theorist Bill Kaysing self-published a pamphlet in 1976 called “We Never Went to the Moon.” Voice of America reported in 2019 that despite all the evidence, “polls show as many as 6% of Americans believe” they never landed on the moon, with conspiracy theorists pointing to supposed anomalies in photographs and videos.

Area 51 Hides Alien Secrets

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Area 51 is infamous for the conspiracy theorists surrounding it, fuelled by the fact that it is inaccessible to the general public and that the base was a secret for many years. Conspiracy theorists believe that the training range contains hidden extraterrestrial technology and life forms.

JFK Assassination Theories

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The assassination of Democratic President John F. Kennedy in 1963 spawned a widely believed conspiracy theory involving the CIA and the Mafia. Many Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone and couldn’t have killed the president with the “magic bullet,” and the conspiracy was explored in the controversial 1991 JFK film.

The Illuminati Control the World

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The Illuminati was a real group created by Adam Weishaupt, a Bavarian professor, in 1776. Britannica described it as a “short-lived movement of republican free thought” that was banned by the Bavarian government in 1785. Today, some Americans believe the Illuminati is a secret society that manipulates world events for its own gain.

The Bermuda Triangle Mysteries

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The Bermuda Triangle is a region in the North Atlantic infamous for the historical disappearances of ships and planes under mysterious circumstances. Theories range from paranormal activities to alien abductions and advanced ancient technology. Scientists attribute the disappearances to natural, geophysical, and environmental factors.

The Philadelphia Experiment

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Ex-merchant mariner Carl M. Allen claimed to have witnessed the Philadelphia Experiment in 1943, an event in which the U.S. Navy made the USS Elridge invisible to enemy devices. Today, it is widely understood to be a hoax, with no evidence supporting the claims.

MKUltra: CIA Mind Control Program

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MKUltra was an actual, top-secret CIA project that aimed to develop mind control techniques, with hundreds of clandestine experiments on often unsuspecting test subjects from 1953 to 1973. The project used various methods to manipulate subjects’ mental states, including covertly administering high doses of LSD, sensory deprivation, isolation, hypnosis, electroshocks, and verbal and sexual abuse.

The Earth Is Flat

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Several ancient philosophers and cultures believed the Earth was flat, but by around 330 BC, awareness that the world was spherical became widespread. Flat Earth societies in America today reject empirical data and photographs from space that debunk this theory. The University of New Hampshire cites a nationwide survey showing that “around 10 percent of respondents agreed with conspiracy claims that the Earth is flat.”

The Reptilian Elite

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This belief that shape-shifting reptilian beings take on human form to gain political power and control was popularized by English conspiracy theorist David Icke. The theory has been linked to QAnon in recent years.

HAARP Controls Weather and Minds

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The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program was established in 1993 to research the ionosphere. Some Americans believe that the program manipulates the weather and human minds and links them to natural disasters.

The Montauk Project

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This conspiracy theory alleges that secretive U.S. government experiments conducted at the Montauk Air Force Station in Long Island involved time travel, mind control, and teleportation. The theory is based on a fictional account by author Preston Nichols.

Chemtrails Are Government Experiments

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Some conspiracy theorists believe that the contrails left by commercial planes are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed for nefarious purposes. CNN recently explained that the number of people who believe this conspiracy has grown in recent years despite the lines actually appearing “when water vapor condenses and freezes around the exhaust from an aircraft.”

The Denver Airport Conspiracy

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Conspiracy theorists allege Denver Airport contains symbols linked to the apocalypse, underground bunkers for the elite, and connections to the New World Order. The airport is famous for its unusual architecture, murals, and statues and has played on its reputation with a gargoyle installation in 2019.

COVID-19 Was Created as a Bioweapon

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COVID-19 has several conspiracy theories surrounding it, and scientists remain unsure whether it escaped from a lab or if it spread to humans from animals. One notable theory suggests the virus was engineered in a lab and intentionally released, and misinformation regarding the virus’s origin has fueled xenophobia.

New World Order (NWO)

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According to this well-established conspiracy theory, the New World Order is a secretive global elite that is conspiring to rule the world through an authoritarian world government. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue notes that the foundations of this conspiracy “date to the mid-1900s, amid a rise in anti-globalist sentiment across the U.S.”

Vaccines Are Used for Mind Control

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Conspiracy theories have surrounded vaccines for decades and have convinced some Americans to avoid getting important vaccines or vaccinating their children, raising the risk of dangerous diseases spreading. Misinformation about polio vaccines in Nigeria in 2003 saw the disease proliferate, and recent conspiracy theories have surrounded the various COVID-19 vaccines.

The “Paul is Dead” Hoax

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This conspiracy theory dates back to 1966 and claims that Paul McCartney of The Beatles died in a car crash and was replaced by a look-alike to spare the public from grief. Believers of the conspiracy theory point to song lyrics and album covers, but McCartney has humorously dismissed the theory.

Operation Northwoods: A Planned False Flag Operation

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Operation Northwoods was an actual proposed false flag operation by the DoD in 1962 for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism against U.S. civilian and military targets. The attacks would have been blamed on Cuba and served as a justification against the island nation, but they were rejected by JFK.

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