6 Flat-Out Crazy Conspiracy Theories (That Really Happened)
We can say with some certainty that the federal government is not, in fact, a front for the lizard people (they've infiltrated local and state governments, at best). But that's not to say that history isn't chock-full of real conspiracies. The past is rich with countless illicit movers and shakers, perpetually twisting society's hidden gears to mold the world to their own fiendish will. For instance ...
A Sinister Sect Of Freemasons Effectively Took Over Italy
Few organizations are as synonymous with conspiracy as the Freemasons. But while the most nefarious act of your local Masonic order is, like, fudging their bowling league results on occasion, that was not the case for 1980s Italy. That's when the downfall of a dirty banker led authorities to a list of nearly a thousand members of the clandestine masonic lodge Propaganda Due (P2) -- a list which included cabinet ministers, dozens of members of parliament, hundreds of high-ranking military and police officials, the heads of Italian intelligence, and the country's most influential businessmen.
P2's goal was to install a shadow government able to "exert anonymous and surreptitious control" over Italy. The organization's "Plan For Democratic Revival" called for the infiltration of the government, media, and trade unions. And ... damned if they didn't pull it off. P2 unduly influenced the Italian government, as well as effectively controlled the nation's press, burying such stories as the inconvenient revelation that P2 member Umberto Ortolani was financing South American death squads.
P2 was led by former Mussolini torture goon and self-proclaimed lifelong fascist Licio Gelli. First rising to Masonic power in the '60s, by 1980, Gelli hosted regular meetings of Italy's top generals at his private villa, where he exercised substantial political influence. After the lodge helped Juan Peron return to power in Argentina, a former Italian prime minister witnessed Peron "kneel in front of Gelli." Perhaps more disturbingly, Venerable Master Gelli was even an honored guest at Ronald Reagan's inauguration.
When P2's activities came to light in 1981, it led to the immediate resignation of Italian Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani and his entire P2-infested cabinet. At least two implicated political figures attempted suicide. Gelli himself hightailed it to Switzerland, but was later extradited and convicted on charges of bank fraud. Oh, and also for helping to cover up the 1980 bombing of a Bologna train station by Italian neo-Nazis, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more. Plus they probably ruined game night down at the lodge for at least a decade.
Northern Ireland's "Satanic Panic" In The '70s Was Orchestrated By The British Military
The cutely named Satanic Panic broke out in the early 1970s in Northern Ireland, when newspapers began reporting occult activity throughout the country (more than 70 such articles were published in the last four months of 1973 alone). Yes, pretend devil worship was definitely Northern Ireland's biggest religious problem at the time. And as it turned out, that's precisely how the British government wanted it.
Enter Captain Colin Wallace, British Army psychological warfare specialist. For two entire years, Wallace and crew deliberately placed "black candles and upside-down crucifixes" in some of the most war-torn areas of Belfast, while army press officers leaked stories of black masses and satanic rituals. This was all to play into newfound public fears sparked by the recent release of The Exorcist -- the movie that just keeps on giving.
While it could be said that Wallace played people's superstitions like a master fiddler, the Satanic Panic wasn't even his chef-d'oeuvre. That had to be his suggestion that the nylon underwear of female IRA members was building up static electricity and subsequently causing them to pop off like ginger bottle rockets. The Sunday Mirror swallowed Wallace's BS hook, line, and sinker, and ran possibly the single greatest headline in history: "Danger in Those Frilly Panties."
We didn't think you could get a PhD in trolling, but there you go.
A Major Election Turned On Russian Meddling ... In 1920s England
In 1923, Ramsay MacDonald was the first member of the socialist-leaning Labour Party to become British Prime Minister. And as you'd expect, the establishment freaked right the fuck out. After a vote of no confidence by the House of Commons, MacDonald was forced to call another election just a few months later, in which the Conservatives ran on a platform of "Comrade MacDonald will nationalize all kittens and send your children to toil in the potato mines."
As luck would have it (for the Conservatives), shortly before the election, British Military Intelligence intercepted a letter signed by Soviet official Grigory Zinoviev, which asserted that plans to replace the hands of Big Ben with a hammer and sickle were proceeding exactly as planned. After consulting with MacDonald, head of MI5 Vernon Kell agreed that the letter should remain secret. And so, of course, The Daily Mail published it four days before the election, under the headline "Civil War Plot by Socialists' Masters," with the subheads "Moscow Orders To Our Reds" and "Great Plot Disclosed."
"To be fair, this is like not even in the top 1,000 stupidest headlines we've published."
The Labour Party was obviously buried beneath a landslide of Conservative votes.
There was just one problem with the aforementioned letter: It was a forgery leaked by posh MI5 agents. They had no love for the Labour Party, what with their higher taxes, workers' rights, and giving servants a ten-minute head start before hunting them on horseback. According to Foreign Office chief historian Gill Bennett, the letter was almost certainly created by Russian exiles who opposed the Bolsheviks. Now, we may never know who among the Conservatives passed the letter along to The Daily Mail, but one thing is clear: Some things never change, and The Daily Mail is those things' king.
Bolivia Was Overthrown By Nazis And Coke Traffickers
Klaus Barbie, a Nazi known as the "Butcher of Lyon," was lent a helping hand by the U.S. intelligence community as thanks for his assistance with their anticommunist efforts. Assuming the identity of Klaus Altmann, Barbie (yes, that is what we're going to call him for the entirety of this entry, for what we hope are obvious reasons), was secreted away to Bolivia in the '60s. He continued to serve evil there, teaching the lackeys of military dictators that electricity was the best way to torture people. So good.
Come 1980, Bolivia was barreling toward democracy. The government-in-waiting promised to crack down on cocaine trafficking, a policy that didn't sit too well with Bolivia's cocaine traffickers. By this time, Barbie was "security consultant" to Roberto Suarez Gomez, Bolivia's "King of Cocaine." Barbie recruited an army of right-wing maniacs for Suarez, who fashioned themselves "the fiances of death" (we assume that sounds more badass in Spanish). Led by neo-Nazi Joachim Fiebelkorn, a close acquaintance of none other than Licio Gelli, the fiances (yes, that is what we're going to call them for the entirety of this entry, for what we hope are obvious reasons) would've been cut from a Bond film for being too over the top. There was a fugitive Italian terrorist, a white Rhodesian mercenary, and an aging SS veteran known for bludgeoning prisoners with the butt of his rifle. And, as if this story weren't ridiculous enough already, their main job was to stand around with bazookas and shoot down Colombian transport planes if they attempted to escape without paying.
The "Cocaine Coup" kicked off in July, with swastika-wearing neo-fascists racing through the streets, massacring union leaders and other political opponents. After becoming "president," General Luis Garcia Meza surprisingly vowed to honor the overthrown government's promise to crack down on cocaine traffickers ... but only Suarez's competitors, of course.
Fortunately, a government of coked-up Nazis turned out to be a step too far, even for 1980s South America (which otherwise had quite a high tolerance for both coke and Nazis). The coup collapsed after mere months. Garcia Meza is still imprisoned to this day, while the onetime King of Cocaine served a mere seven years of his 15-year sentence before being released to find that his finances were looking none too regal. Barbie was eventually extradited and tried on 41 counts of crimes against humanity. And that ... was an incredibly fun sentence to write.
The Osage People Were Murdered For Oil Fortunes ... By Their Own In-Laws
As with most Native American tribes, the 19th century was a bit of a rough spot for the Osage. Pushed from reservation to reservation, their numbers steadily depleted, until the tribe's chief finally chose a shitty chunk of Oklahoma in 1870 and called it home. He chose that particular shit-chunk based solely on the fact that it was so very shitty that no white man would ever want it. Then, in the 1920s, an amazing twist of fate: That land turned out to be sitting atop a vast wealth of oil. The Osage were suddenly among the wealthiest people on planet Earth.
Of course, that meant the white man now had a reason to want that shitty chunk of Oklahoma after all.
In May of 1921, Mollie Burkhart -- an Osage woman married to Ernest Burkhart, a white man -- discovered that her older sister, Anna Brown, had gone missing. Days later, Anna's body was discovered in a ravine, a single gunshot to the back of her head. Next to drop was Mollie's mother, a purported victim of bad whiskey. Then, early one morning in 1923, Mollie heard an explosion and ran to the house of her other sister, Rita Smith, only to find that it had been leveled by a bomb. Rita had died in the explosion, as had any vestige of subtlety.
While Mollie's family may have been the most notably affected, the conspiracy wasn't limited to her. Dozens of Osage (as well as anyone who dared to help them) began dying under similarly mysterious circumstances, right around the time they found oil. When lawyer W.W. Vaughan vowed to help with the case, he was tossed from a moving train, while oilman Barney McBride wound up with a crushed skull and 20 stab wounds after his trip to Washington to plead for an investigation.
In the end, the FBI managed to connect the deaths to local rancher William Hale, the self-proclaimed "King of the Osage Hills" ... and her husband's uncle.
His final victim: fashion.
Though it became clear that Hale had masterminded a plot to inherit the Osage oil rights by marrying off his weak-willed nephew to Mollie and then whittling her family down one by one, in the end, he was convicted of a single murder: that of Henry Roan. Conveniently, Hale had taken out a hefty life insurance policy right before Roan was shot in the head. Luckily for Mollie, Hale's arrest came in time to prevent her husband Ernest from slowly poisoning her to death.
Maybe "lucky" isn't the right word here ...
Lockheed, Bribery, Explosive Jets, The Japanese Mafia, Fake Priests, And ... Softcore Porn?
The Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter," developed in the 1950s, was light years ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it also had a tendency to spin irrevocably out of control at the slightest provocation. Yes, this so-called "missile with a man in it" had its problems. But Lockheed wasn't about to accept "assured fiery death" as a deterrent, not with boatloads of cash on the line. And so they embarked on a massive campaign to bribe foreign officials into buying their supersonic casket.
And it worked. West Germany alone bought almost a thousand of them (300 of which crashed, killing 116 pilots). Bribery soon became Lockheed's default means of doing business. They truly outdid themselves in Japan, where they teamed up with yakuza don and bona fide Class-A war criminal Yoshio Kodama to influence the government's purchases. In order to funnel funds to Kodama, Lockheed employed the services of Wall Street firm Deak-Perera, which in turn employed a defrocked priest to smuggle mounds of cash between Hong Kong and Tokyo inside baskets of oranges. Deak-Perera suddenly collapsed in the '80s, after its founder was randomly shot dead in his Wall Street office by a mentally ill homeless woman, because apparently we live in a David Lynch film.
When the Japanese-Mafia-Orange-Priest-Jet scandal finally came to light in 1976, it led to the swift arrest of former Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and the penning of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the U.S. After Kodama ignored public cries to commit ritual seppuku for his sizable role in the affair, Mitsuyasu Maeno -- amateur pilot, strict adherent to the Bushido code, and (no bullshit) softcore porn star -- took matters into his own hands.
Don't ask where those hands have been.
He fired up his Piper Cherokee and kamikazed it straight into Kodama's sprawling residence ... missing Kodama entirely. Maeno himself was killed in the attack, while Kodama succumbed to a stroke a few months later.
And now, if you'll excuse us, we've got ourselves a "based on true events" screenplay to pitch.
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