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You like secrets, I like secrets. Let's like secrets together. That is, if your concept of liking involves scrutinizing the shit out of them, because that's what I meant and what this column is all about.

The world is full of mysterious things. This simultaneously excites and annoys me, because usually these mysteries have really mundane, everyday explanations that are readily out there for anyone with Internet access, yet they constantly get gawked at by people who really should know better.

Here, I've gathered a few of my favorite "mysteries" and the most plausible explanations I've found for each. I'm not saying what I have are necessarily the 100-percent-correct answers. Shit, new information pops up every day -- the Armada from Andromeda might visit me tonight and laser-tattoo "Actually, we did all that shit, yo" on my face. Still, if your options are "it's all an Illuminati conspiracy by the lizard men from outer space" and these explanations ... well, let's just say I wouldn't put my money on the iguana-looking dudes.

4
Secret Government Flying Saucers

Lorenz and Avelar/Photolibrary/Getty

At this point, anyone who hasn't heard of UFOs has likely been living under a rock for several decades, or has been too busy being probed by one in suspended animation to really pay attention. There are as many theories re: where UFOs come from as there are variations of crazy. Mostly, they revolve around aliens, lizard men, secret civilizations from the hollow insides of the Earth, and pretty much all non-human culprits save for your aunt's gerbil (who is a shifty-looking bastard, now that I think about it). However, one common and slightly less outworldish theory claims that UFOs are linked to the military. After all, flying saucers are creepy and secretive, and the Pentagon is creepy and secretive -- Occam's razor, sheeple!

In reality, the military people are almost certainly not running around building creepy little-green-man simulators ... anymore. Meet the Avro VZ-9AV Avrocar:

Wikipedia
Rectal probe sold separately.

Shockingly, the Avrocar is not an Area 51 monstrosity the U.S. military put together using knowledge gained from dissecting the pile of pickled alien corpses they keep in their basement. It was an early-1950s effort of the Canadian government (go pester them, conspiracy theorists), which the U.S. Army and Air Force admittedly did take over when Canada deemed it too expensive around 1958.

On paper, the Avrocar was less of the almighty, gravity-defying, fighter pilot-confusing super-weapon classic UFOs are generally seen as, and more of a really efficient helicopter. The Army thought it could be turned into an all-terrain transport vehicle; the Air Force wanted it to become a sci-fi-style flying saucer that could hover above radar and fly at supersonic speeds, and the Avro scientists said: "Hope you brought your wallets to the party, because we can totally do all that." (Spoiler: they couldn't.)

The Avrocar flew with a central "turborotor" that generated thrust by blowing exhaust down the rims of the craft, a concept that could theoretically make it one of the most versatile and nimble things up there. Theoretically. In reality, the only thing it ever managed to thrust was its balls in the general direction of anyone who believed in it. Unstable and clumsy from beginning, the Avrocar managed only speeds up to 35 mph. Although it did fly, it could not be taken to heights above three fucking feet before it started experiencing vomit-inducing balance issues that the engineers called "hubcapping" (spin a hubcap on the ground to re-create the effect).

Before long, the Avrocar ended up falling from the hot future of military aviation to "holy shit, are we still wasting money on that thing?" in the eyes of the brass. The project was canceled in 1961, and all that remains are prototype models in a museum and some sad, sad test footage hidden in dubious YouTube clips:


3
Black Knight Satellite

BlackJack3D/Vetta/Getty Images

There are roughly 3,600 satellites in Earth's orbit that were launched by humans. Most of them are no longer operational, some are innocuous communications satellites and whatnot, and others are constantly calibrating themselves to better spy on you in the shower. Other satellites, including thousands of pieces of random space debris, account for many more of the objects up there. But then there is the mystery known as the Black Knight satellite. An eerie, dark object that has presumably orbited the Earth for at least 13,000 years, the Black Knight is a black (no shit) satellite (no shit) that was first spotted by none other than Nikola Tesla. His machines allegedly picked up the strange radio signals it was sending in 1899. In the 1920s, amateur radio operators started reporting similar signals, and Norwegian scientists began picking up strange echoes with their transmissions. Newspaper stories started popping up, and in 1954 (when no one had functional satellite tech yet), even the U.S. goddamn Air Force actually reported sightings of this thing up there. Holy shit!

Via Armagh Planet
Behold: the Black Knight Satellite.

In 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper reported visual contact with this mysterious object (which apparently had eerie, green lights). In 1973, a dude called Duncan Lunan analyzed the messages captured by the Norwegians and found them to be a 12,600-year-old "What's up, dudes? Drop by our crib when you have the chance" from aliens in the solar system of Epsilon Bootis.

Over time, the Black Knight has been linked to everything from the Mayans to goddamn prophecies of Nostradamus. And although there's clearly some horse crap in the mix, how could it not be true? Hell, we even have video footage of the thing:


Videos with lame instrumental rock playing in the background are the most sciency videos.

Yeah, about that ...

The Black Knight Satellite is a prime example of what I like to call an "umbrella conspiracy theory" -- a fine weave of misinformation that repurposes a number of true stories throughout history to tell a bullshit legend. Every single thing in the above story is true and well-documented, except for the fact that none of the individual stories are about the Black Knight at all.

It's true Tesla did capture signals that were probably from space, but he was most likely just doing his usual science hipster thing and discovering pulsars a suitably sexy 69 years in advance. The various news articles, including the Air Force announcement, were bullshit reporting and outright excerpts from science-fiction novels, none of which actually make any mention of the Black Knight. As for Lunan's analysis: the man was not a scientist but a science-fiction writer, and he long ago realized he made massive errors in his calculations and redacted his theory. Two guesses as to whether he mentioned the Black Knight at any point of the timeline. Shit, even Cooper the astronaut (who, incidentally, was in the habit of reporting more UFOs than you have eaten Snickers bars) failed to mention the thing.

"OK, yeah, we get it," you say, with your finest tin foil viking helmet in your head. "The Black Knight is bullshit. But what about that thing in the pictures and the video? There's clearly something out there, dammit!"

Sure there is. Any amount of undetected mystery satellites are probably buzzing far above our heads right now, but it's unlikely they're of an extraterrestrial origin. Take the Corona photo-reconnaissance satellite, which the CIA sent up after a hilarious 13 failed attempts in 1960. The project was declassified in 1992 and, along with various space debris, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for "sightings" of the Black Knight satellite.

Well, it's either that, or a bunch of Epsilon Bootisians have been living the plot of Waiting for Godot for a pretty good while now.

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2
The Max Headroom Broadcast Hijacking

Via Wikipedia

The Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion of Nov. 22, 1987, is probably the most famous example of signal hijacking in TV history, and a Cracked-approved member of the Creepiest Broadcasts in the World Club. In the span of three hours, a man wearing a mask of the 1980s "virtual" TV star Max Headroom managed to bring his particular brand of Uncanny Valley to two separate Chicago TV stations. The first time, his audio didn't work, and the second ... well, here it is, if you don't feel like sleeping tonight:


You have to admire how much crazy a cheap rubber mask and a sheet of corrugated metal can deliver.

That gibberish-sprouting, ass-spanking monstrosity of a clip has captivated the nation's imagination for a quarter of a century. It's not that we don't know how it was done -- back then, hacking TV signals was easy as balls -- it's that this is one of those infuriating cases Wikipedia lists as "Outcome: Unsolved." We have no clue about the why and who of it.

Or do we?

There are two prevailing theories regarding the identity of the Max Headroom hacker. According to one that has been making the rounds for years, the man behind the mask was Eric Fournier, a musician and creator of creepy avant-garde videos who passed away in 2010. The legend states that Fournier originally wanted to play clips of his band but switched to improvised horror at the last moment because he feared getting caught. However, this seems to be based mainly on Fournier's Shaye Saint John YouTube videos, which are said to bear notable similarities to the Headroom Guy's antics and shouldn't be viewed by anyone who enjoys their soul unscarred. Shit, did you click that link already? My bad.


And for those of you who didn't click the link, well, I don't see why I should suffer these nightmares alone.

Another theory, which I personally consider more likely, was posited a few years ago by Reddit user bpoag, who is relatively certain he personally knows the culprits. According to him, the whole operation was a shits-and-giggles job by a possibly autistic college-age kid he dubs J, his brother, and the brother's girlfriend. J was an electronics prodigy who knew everything about the broadcast spectrum and just so happened to have an off-kilter sense of humor and speech patterns that matched the Max Headroom guy perfectly. Oh, and bpoag just happened to overhear him and his brother discuss something big they were going to pull off the day of the hijacking. When he eventually worked up the nerve to ask what said big thing was, J's brother replied: "Just watch Channel 11 later tonight."

To be completely honest, I don't really care if either of those theories is the right answer. In my opinion, this is the right kind of strange: one of those rare occasions where people take mundane ingredients -- with no supernatural additives, even -- and actually manage to create mystery history. Whoever you are, rubber-mask Max Headroom person, kudos. Law enforcement might want a word or 6,000 with you, but you have no beef from me.

1
The Truth About the Bilderberg Group

Sam Edwards/Caiaimage/Getty Images

The Bilderberg Group is an annual unofficial conference for 130-ish big shots from the fields of media, politics, military, and business. They have gained attention for being notoriously secretive and, being an institution where the high and mighty discuss things behind closed doors, are generally seen as the closest thing to a real-life Illuminati that your average person will ever catch a whiff of.

According to conspiracy theorists (and also many sane people), this is an event where allegiances are made, rulers are crowned, crises and wars are arbitrarily decided, and One World Government is enforced with an iron fist. If there ever has been a time and place where shit absolutely gets real, their meetings are pretty much it.

nullplus/E+/Getty Images
Pictured: The official attire of Bilderberg meetings.

This is not completely off base. They do totally discuss that shit, and important personal relationships are definitely formed, much in the way you might make friends with a minor manager from another department at a company booze-up. But when it comes to shit like One World Government, they don't really "plot" as much as "hope like hell something like that will eventually happen so that all the bickering will stop."

It's predictably difficult to get your average Bilderbergian to open up about the group's antics -- after all, no one wants to be thrown out of the gang of really cool kids. However, it looks like when you move higher up in the organization, the amount of fucks given about the consequences of opening up gradually wanes to zero. People like founding member Lord Denis Healey and Viscount Etienne Davignon, who has served as their chairman, seem perfectly willing to discuss the group as long as someone actually bothers to ask them. According to them, the Bilderberg gatherings have no manipulative hidden agenda or pressing need to reach conclusions. More than anything, they're just an opportunity for influential people to really speak their minds without getting butchered by the media if they, say, scream "fuck" too many times while discussing the economy.

Obviously, I'm spitballing here -- I have no access to these meetings as far as you know -- but you get the idea. It's a fucking social club. Still, despair not, conspiracy theorists; that elusive One World Government thing has indeed popped up as a topic of discussion: to quote Lord Healey, many Bilderberg members agree that humanity can't "go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing."

Brian Dixon/iStock/Getty Images
"Finally, proof!"

This doesn't mean they're secretly preparing any One World Government-related shenanigans, or even setting any sort of agenda about it. A major point of the group is that each member is free to draw their own conclusions about the discussions during meetings. In fact, it seems that they're very, very aware that it's difficult as hell to govern even a single country, let alone a global community (and they should know, what with being world leaders and all).

Of course, it could be that these interviews are just a con where the high-ranking yet surprisingly jovial lizard-people that preside over the Bilderberg Group are having a little fun with us mere mortals. Still, if that's the case, I like the fact that at least they display a fair amount of self-awareness about how horribly their alleged world-domination work sucks rodent ass. As Davignon specifically points out: "If we were a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves."


Pauli Poisuo is totally not the secret chairman of the Illuminati. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.

For more from Pauli, check out 4 Insane Celebrity Conspiracy Theories We Wish Were True. And then check out 16 Famous Mysteries That Everyone Forgets Have Been Solved.

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