Famous Conspiracy Theories

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Conspiracy theories can take many forms, though some psychologists believe they all have the same origin ‘ a search for meaning, compounded by psychological phenomena such as ‘confirmation bias’. Once you start seeing evidence, you see it everywhere and avoid conflicting information. Some conspiracy theorists believe in more than one theory even when their theories contradict each other. A person who believes one theory is more prone to believing in other theories. Some focus on a feeling that the government or others in power are trying to harm the population or shield important information from us. Other theories relate to a different sort of belief that the world is not as we assume.

1. The Moon Landings


NASA successfully landed astronauts on the moon in 1969’¦or did they? One of the most famous conspiracy theories has between 6-20% of polled Americans (and a higher percentage of Russians) denying that we ever landed on the moon. Bill Kaysing self-published a book written in the years after the Apollo moon missions ended, claiming that ‘We Never Went to the Moon’, which could have been what spawned the theory. Ideas around why NASA would go to such lengths to fake the manned moon landings range from the USA’s keenness to beat the soviets in the ‘space race’, to distracting public attention from the Vietnam War.

2. Princess Diana

It wasn’t long after the tragic car crash which killed Princess Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul in 1997 that rumours of conspiracy began. Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed has himself led theories claiming that the princess and Dodi were actually assassinated. This conspiracy theory elaborately picks apart whether the crash was staged, which parties were responsible and points the finger at the royal family, particularly Diana’s ex-husband Prince Charles and his father Prince Philip

3. Roswell Crash

In the summer of 1947, an object crashed onto farmland near to Roswell, New Mexico – officially, a US Air Force surveillance balloon. Decades later in the 1970s, Major Jesse Marcel was interviewed about his involvement in recovering the debris from the site and transferring it to Fort Worth. Since that time, hundreds of people have been interviewed in relation to Roswell, though only a handful of these ‘eye witness’ accounts appear to be anything more than hearsay. The theory has made Roswell famously synonymous with extra-terrestrials ‘ even spawning a sci-fi series centred on the town.

4. Global Warming

Some accept global warming as absolute fact, but there are some who believe that the truth about climate change is being purposely distorted and some go so far as to say idea of global warming itself is a conspiracy to deceive the public. Why would anyone invent the idea of impending natural disaster? Some theorists say that it’s all about scientific funding, some say it’s a way for environmentalists to cash in on public fear. On the other side of the argument, environmentalists may say that the idea of a global warming ‘hoax’ might itself be a conspiracy originating from the fossil fuel industries, looking to protect their futures.

5. Elvis Faked His Death

When Elvis was reportedly found lying unresponsive on his bathroom floor in 1977, and later that day pronounced dead at hospital at the age of 42, his legions of fans were understandably devastated. Officially, Elvis died of cardiac arrhythmia connected to his weight issues and use of barbituates. Many fans however are hooked on the idea that Elvis isn’t dead. The main theory is that Elvis faked his death in order to escape his celebrity life and retire from the public gaze. Ironically if this were the case, the most ardent of his fans continue to look out for him in the hopes of glimpsing proof that he hasn’t ‘left the building’ yet.

6. 9/11

In the aftermath of the terrorist incident forever known simply as ‘9/11’, many theories began to crop up claiming that the attacks were not exclusively the work of al-Qaeda. One theory is that the twin towers were blown up using a remote detonator. The theories vary but mainly focus on the idea that the supposed act of terrorism was a secret US plot to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which in turn are theorised to be a cover for protecting US oil interests. The 9/11 commission, along with some independent engineering bodies, have all agreed that the twin towers were genuinely brought down by the impacts of two aeroplanes.

7. JFK

WH/HO Portrait
The assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963 rocked the world. Decades later, there are still questions, rumours and theories about the events surrounding the president’s death. In spite of a commission in the year following Kennedy’s death, ruling that there had been no conspiracy, in later years it was accepted that there was most likely more than one gunman at the scene. Many, varied groups such as the CIA, KGB and the mafia have all been accused of involvement in the assassination and some believe that inconsistencies in the witness record suggest a major cover-up, though the largest piece evidence for the supposed cover-up lies in analysis of bullet trajectories that would make the official turn of events impossible. Some people who caught the assassination on camera report that their cameras and photographs were confiscated.

8. Death of Marilyn Monroe

When Marilyn Monroe was found dead in 1962, the coroner’s office ruled her death as caused by barbiturate poisoning and was a ‘probable suicide’ ‘ Marilyn was known to be battling depression at the time of her death. However, some people, including the first LAPD officer to arrive on the scene of Monroe’s death, maintain that it was a murder, not a suicide. A great deal of mystery surrounds the pathological evidence; there is dispute over whether she could have taken the drugs by mouth given that there was no evidence of the drugs in her stomach or intestines. Also some evidence was lost due to assumptions made by the toxicologist, which theorists see as suspicious.

9. Jesus’ Bloodline

A theory popularised and romanticised in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code is the belief that the Vatican have been concealing evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had children together, leading to a bloodline that continues to this day: the knowledge of which is guarded by The Priory of Sion. A large part of the belief in this conspiracy could be attributed to Dan Brown’s assertion in the preface of his novel that the theory in the book is based on fact. In truth, the Priory of Sion was a hoax invented in the 1950s by Frenchman Pierre Plantard.

10. Barack Obama The Kenyan

People around the world joined many in the United States in celebrating the election of Barack Obama as US president in 2008. However, during his campaign rumours began that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States, or that he may have given up his citizenship at some point ‘ which would make him ineligible for presidency under the current rules. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those holding the theory of a cover-up regarding Obama’s legitimacy side with the opposing Republican party. Since publishing his birth certificate showing his place of birth as Hawaii, the US public largely believe in the president’s legitimacy and theorists are often labelled as merely racist.


Conspiracy theories can take many forms but largely fall into two categories ‘ the paranoid theory or the wishful-thinking theory. Both kinds of conspiracy theory have their allure for those determined to see the world as having secret goings-on and the need to believe in such theories can be all consuming, even addictive. While it is healthy to question assumptions about the world, it is important to strike a balance between questioning accepted truths and naiveté. As for the facts in this Top Ten, we hope you enjoyed them’¦but don’t believe everything you hear!

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