5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)

History is chock-full of real conspiracies even crazier than Oliver Stone's fever dreams.
5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)

If you can honestly say that you've never encountered a delusionally paranoid conspiracy theorist, then welcome to your first day on the Internet (home of all the world's porn)! Now quick, turn around before it's too late.

Seriously though, as crazy as most conspiracy theories are, you can almost (almost) empathize with those wacky folks when you consider the fact that, as we've mentioned before, history is chock-full of real conspiracies even crazier than Oliver Stone's fever dreams, such as ...

There Was Totally a Soviet Spy in Congress

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
qingwa/iStock/Getty Images

The Conspiracy Theory:

Right up until the 1980s in America, it was generally agreed by conspiracy theorists that everything was the communists' fault. Hell, the effort to add fluoride to drinking water was declared a communist plot -- those sneaky bastards were everywhere.

Of course, the nadir of the whole "Red Scare" was Joe McCarthy's infamous '50s communists witch hunts, with McCarthy claiming that even the U.S. Congress was in the throes of a full-fledged Communist infestation.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
United States Senate

"Better batshittingly paranoid than red."

You can still see traces of it in Tea Party rallies today -- anyone who disagrees must be an undercover commie, damn it!

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"Cabbage? You know who else ate cabbage? Stalin."

Now McCarthy is remembered as one of American history's great villains, a demagogue hurling false accusations and playing on the nation's Cold War fears. Looking back, it all seems so ridiculous. Hell, the Ruskies could barely keep their own government running; forget about sneaking sleeper agents into the U.S. capitol ...

The Reality:

Somebody get McCarthy on the horn, because there was totally a Soviet spy in the U.S. House of Representatives. It just happened before he came along.

Our friendly neighborhood red spy was a New York Democrat who went by the unassuming but infinitely insultable name of Samuel Dickstein, and we'd be willing to bet that you've never once heard of him. You've probably heard of his most famous creation, though: the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That's right -- he chaired the committee that would later be in charge of rooting out communists (at the time, it was more about finding Fascists, since this was before the Cold War).

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Library of Congress

To be fair, I did put my intentions in the fucking name."

Dickstein bears the distinct honor of being "the only known U.S. representative to have served as a covert agent for a foreign power." From the waning years of the Great Depression right up until the opening shots of WWII, Dickstein served as an inside agent for the NKVD (the precursor to the KGB), delivering speeches to Congress that were spoon-fed to him directly from Moscow, as well as possibly leaking information on the U.S. war budget and reporting the activities of the war minister and the chief of staff back to the Soviets. Disappointingly (for the story, not for the world), Dickstein didn't do any of it for some grand vision of a worldwide red state -- nope, he did it, plain and simple, for the cash. In fact, he once told the Soviets (while complaining about how much they were paying him) that he'd previously spied for both the Polish and the British, who "paid money without any questions."

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Adam Gault/Digital Vision/Getty Images

"Fuck the red. Show me the green."

Oh, and the worst part? Even though this guy was so crooked that even the NKVD referred to him by the codename "Crook," Dickstein never got busted for his repeated treason. On the contrary, he later served on the New York State Supreme Court until the day he died. Hell, he even has a freaking plaza named after him in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, right at the center of which stands an Urban Outfitters selling ironic Soviet insignia T-shirts (we assume).

The (First) Gulf War Was Sold on Bullshit Testimony About Saddam Hussein's Atrocities

US Air Force

The Conspiracy Theory:

In a perfect world, every citizen would be skeptical about war -- clearly the hawks aren't above skewing the truth a bit to try to drum up support. But it's not going to be a Wag the Dog situation where, say, they just hire somebody to go on camera and pretend to be a witness to atrocities that must be stopped dammit! After all, how could you hope to get away with something like that?

Well ...

The Reality:

The last really popular war America fought was Desert Storm in the early '90s, when the Iraqi military, led by Saddam Hussein's powerful mustache, invaded the sovereign nation of Kuwait. This was based on accusations that Kuwait was drinking Iraq's milkshake at the Rumaila oil field, so to speak, and certain U.S. officials decided it was damn well time to break out the bowling pin. Now, it was far from a foregone conclusion that America should intervene (most Americans had never even heard of Kuwait, instead always hearing that Iraq's bitter enemy Iran was the bad guy over there). Opinions varied widely on the matter right up until the testimony of a young Kuwaiti girl set off a domino effect of "Saddam is the New Hitler" sentiment.

On October 10, 1990, a girl then-known only as Nayirah (her semi-anonymity was to protect her family) testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus regarding the ever-worsening situation in Kuwait. Her testimony was practically a paint-by-numbers picture of a nation committing horrible wartime atrocities: sure, there was the looting, the plundering, and the senseless violence, but easily the most harrowing part of her tale concerned soldiers storming into hospitals, goose-stepping into maternity wards lined with incubators, and tipping babies onto the ground to die crying and squirming.

Representative John Porter exclaimed that he had never before heard of such inhumanity. President Bush would go on to recount the story as justification at least 10 times in his speeches leading up to the Gulf War. The only problem was that Nayirah's testimony was complete bullshit.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)

Right after, her limp vanished, she lit a cigarette, and she slipped into a waiting town car.

Not long after the war ended and the American public had gone back to worrying less about wars and more about what Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor was grunting about this week, it came to light just who "Nayirah" really was. Far from some random Kuwaiti girl, she was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S. Not only that, but her testimony was the result of a collaboration among a Kuwaiti government-sponsored group known as Citizens for a Free Kuwait, the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, and California Representative Tom Lantos, who was conveniently also the co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus (not to mention the fact that he wasn't above accepting campaign donations from Hill & Knowlton).

The lie was actually uncovered all the way back in 1991 -- just six months later -- but by then the invasion had been a roaring success and really, why would you go back and question the motives of a war that you won? Is it because you hate the troops?

Nixon Planned to Have a Journalist Assassinated

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Jim Gray/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Conspiracy Theory:

According to the particularly cynical and/or paranoid, one of the benefits of being the most powerful man in the free world is that if you need someone conveniently erased, then you can do it with a phone call. Anyone in a movie trying to blow the lid off of a presidential scandal will soon find themselves running from black-suited goons ready to do America's dirty work.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Columbia Pictures

"I'd say this isn't personal, but I paid to see J. Edgar."

In the real world, even a hopelessly corrupt soul like Nixon didn't just dispatch hit men to make his problems go away. That's just not the way things work -- Bill Clinton couldn't even get away with an Oval Office blowjob, for crying out loud.

The Reality:

Richard Nixon had an ongoing beef with syndicated columnist and longtime critic Jack Anderson, dating back to long before he was president. After more than a decade of narrowly abiding Anderson's tendency to expose his transgressions to the public, Nixon achieved the position of ultimate power and immediately dispatched two of his goons to assassinate his longtime adversary.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
AP via nytimes.com

"I want that expletive deleted!"

First, Nixon ordered CIA surveillance on the guy. Agents followed Anderson during his commute from work to home. They staked out his house. They watched his family. Then, incredibly, they started floating plans about how they'd do it. Maybe poison his aspirin bottle, or maybe sneak some liquid death into his drink, Dread Pirate Roberts-style? They even tossed around the idea of coating the steering wheel of his car in acid so "he would absorb it through his skin and die in a hallucination-crazed auto crash." Hey, did we mention that Nixon was fucking insane?

Nixon at the '72 re-election announcement rally.

Ultimately, though, they didn't follow through with their nefarious death plots. Why? Because G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt, the two goons tasked with offing Anderson, were pulled off of the assignment so they could instead break into the Watergate Hotel. That's right: ol' Dick didn't have a sudden change of heart over this whole "murder" thing -- he just thought diverting his resources into what would become his most infamous crime was an even better use of his illicit manpower*.

Florian Hirzinger

*See "Nixon = fucking insane" above.

And if you think this is just another example of the liberal media smearing what remains of Nixon's good name and reputation, consider this: Even Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, feared for his life once he got busted for accepting bribes. According to Agnew's own memoirs, he was told to "go quietly -- or else," and yes, "or else" totally meant "an automobile accident, a fake suicide, or whatever" carried out by Tricky Dick's presidential hit squad.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)

Britain Planned Fake Terrorist Attacks Against Israel-Bound Jews

Jewish Chronicle

The Conspiracy Theory:

About 10 seconds after the outbreak of any terror attack, conspiracy types on the Internet will start screaming "false flag." That term is nutbar code for, "The elites who secretly run the world have staged an event to lure us into war!" This was the thinking behind the 9/11 "Truth" movement, for example -- the accusation that a government would stage an attack and then try to pin it on terrorists, to achieve some nefarious political ends.

And while those specific accusations are clearly ludicrous ("The planes were really holograms!"), democratic governments aren't exactly above this shit.

ern World Trade Building 7 SETHAERT Didn't Just Blow Itself Up!
Damon D'Amato/Wiki Commons

"And they staged the shoe bombing to feed the TSA's foot fetish!"

The Reality:

To understand how Britain MI6 agents faking terror attacks on Jewish refugee ships, you have to rewind a bit.

The history of Israel is inseparably intertwined with that of Britain, because it was the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour who first promised the Jews an eventual homeland in the Middle East way back in 1917, and the British played a big role in establishing what would become the state of Israel in 1948. They quickly realized, however, that establishing a Jewish haven smack-dab in the middle of an area overflowing with Muslims and Arabs didn't exactly make for a peaceful Middle East.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Richard Lindie/iStock/Getty Images

"Can we interest you in the Falklands? Plenty of Arab-free land in Falklands. No? OK ..."

And so, in perhaps one of the most impressive examples of political backsies ever, the British launched Operation Embarrass in an attempt to blow the barreling Israel train clear off its tracks.

The operation, when boiled right down to it, was simple: to stop the massive inflow of Jewish refugees into Palestine following the Holocaust, the British would explode or otherwise disable ships set to carry survivors into the region. They then would create a fictional Palestinian terrorist group to take credit for the attacks. So when did they come to their senses and call the whole crazy scheme off? That would be, uh, after blowing up several freaking ships: Between 1947 and 1948, MI6 carried out five sneak attacks on five (empty) refugee ships ready to set sail in Italy, damaging two and reducing another to rubble -- all to terrify Jews out of making the trip.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

Plan B was to send the royal family into Jerusalem, dressed as ghosts.

The reason was that Britain was ostensibly afraid that the mass unchecked immigration of Jews would result in a war, but there was no way to enforce restrictions in a way that didn't make them look like assholes (they'd literally be arresting Holocaust survivors). So, in an effort to not look like assholes, they did ... this. There probably should have been some additional discussion before pressing forward with that one.

One of the Deadliest Massacres on American Soil Was Swept Under the Rug for Decades

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Library of Congress

The Conspiracy Theory:

The most implausible part of any conspiracy theory is the cover-up. In a movie, it's easy to just show the shadowy conspirators knocking off the witnesses and moving on, but the real world is full of curious people and reporters digging around, looking for the big story that will launch their careers. So maybe a conspiracy of powerful people could cover up one murder, or maybe even a few, if they're really careful.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Jack Beers Jr./Dallas Morning News

"OK, but this counts as your birthday and Christmas cover-up."

In the real world ... well, how about more than 200?

The Reality:

It doesn't necessarily take a shadowy government conspiracy to orchestrate a mass cover-up -- sometimes all it takes is lots of ordinary people with an intense desire to forget all about something unspeakably horrible and victims who are powerless to do anything about it.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
Tulsa World

After a calm chat, the armed men convinced Joe (lower right) to keep quiet and not die.

Way back in 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a young black man named Dick Rowland tripped in an elevator and fell into a teenaged white girl named Sarah Page. Now, again, this was 1921, and the only crime worse than being black was being black and touching a white girl. Rowland was arrested, and whispers of a lynching began to spread among the whites in the community. You should note here that Tulsa was also home to what was known as the "Black Wall Street," a large area of the city where affluent African-Americans had done quite well for themselves. And the only crime worse than being black and touching a white girl back then was being black and successful.

The day after his arrest, an angry white mob showed up outside Rowland's cell wearing their very best Sunday lynching clothes. An angry black mob, meanwhile, showed up to protect him. A single gunshot went off, and what followed was the worst race riot in U.S. history. Fighting spread like wildfire, not to mention the actual fire: white pilots from the nearby airport took off and firebombed black neighborhoods, giving Tulsa the proud distinction of being the only city in the lower 48 states other than New York City to have experienced an aerial attack.

5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened)
University of Texas

New Jersey's continuous attack by its own air doesn't count.

At the end of the 16-hour massacre, 39 people were officially recorded as dead, Tulsa's two black hospitals were destroyed, and the entire 35-block area known as "black Wall Street" was razed to the ground. At that point, the town almost immediately tried to scrub the event from history. There's evidence that Tulsa, anxious to forget what had just happened, crudely buried bodies in mass graves or tossed them into coal mines or the Arkansas River. The laughably low 39 deaths stood as the official toll for almost 80 freaking years, before an in-depth investigation in the late '90s suggested that it was actually at least 300, making the Tulsa Race Riot "the worst single act of domestic violence on U.S. soil since the Civil War."

And we're going to bet you've never heard of it before today.

Consider Jacopo's novel The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy required reading the moment you finish this article. Buy a copy today.

For more unsettling conspiracies, check out 7 Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened and 6 Mysterious Deaths That'll Make You Believe in Conspiracies.

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