Come, friends, step with me into the dark and stormy night to explore the madness.
There are several ways to deal with conspiracy theories and urban legends. You can give them a long look, shrug, and move about your day. You can do what Big Tin Foil wants and believe that shit from the bottom of your heart. Or you can do what I do and get angry that these fucking things are never put to good use. These absurd tales soak up a ton of mankind's collective brain-space, and though they admittedly focus on the part that's not too likely to find the cure for cancer, I'd argue they should totally be forced to earn their keep ... by entertaining us. As I've mentioned before, a lot of these batshit crazy theories would make kickass movies, and I'm actually kind of pissed they're so rarely adapted to the silver screen. It's a license to print money, people!
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Halloween is around the corner, and the Internet is currently in the process of sinking elbow-deep in a delicious, pumpkin-spice-flavored mess of ghosts, goblins, and general Samhain madness. With that in mind, I decided to dig up a very specific batch of my favorite nutcase theories from the nether pits of the 'net, ones that are clearly horror movies in the making.
Come, friends, step with me into the dark and stormy night to explore the madness.
To the casual passenger, any airport can be a veritable hellmouth. The food sucks, the people who work there are unfriendly due to the soul-sucking nature of working at a goddamn airport, the price of a beer makes Rupert Murdoch go, "Whoa." In an environment like this, a single canceled flight can send you screeching head-first into madness. So, really, it's no surprise that there are airport-themed conspiracy theories. What is surprising, however, is that almost all of them focus on a single place: Denver International Airport. The site is a hotspot for various, usually New World Order-themed conspiracy theories that basically paint the place as a thinly veiled front for a massive murder factory fueled by the Illuminati Nazi devil. These are based on its supposedly swastika-shaped runway layout ...
... its capstone with Masonic symbols ...
... its deranged murals ...
... and, of course, my old pal El Mesteno, a 32-foot, sculptor-murdering equine beast that guards the airport, better known around these parts as "Oh Shit Run It's the Giant Hellhorse." Hi, El Mesteno!
Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post/Getty Images
So, you know. The place is totally either a conspiracy site or thoroughly haunted, at the very least by giant blue horse testicles.
I kid, of course. Denver International Airport is almost certainly just a regular airport with some admittedly esoteric artistic choices, and even if it did hold some secrets, it's unlikely to be the creep-zone conspiracy nuts enjoy painting it as. But what if they were right? Can you think of a better place for a truly scary horror movie than Denver International Airport? Or, for that matter, any airport? They're basically massive cattle carriers for people, and as such come pre-equipped with a heaping helping of rootlessness and anxiety, and that very peculiar "something's not right" feeling that is the basic ingredient of any good horror flick. You're neither here nor there at an airport; you could almost say they exist between planes.
There are virtually unlimited paths for an imaginative horror filmmaker, here. They could just keep the airport as creepy background for some good, old-fashioned Eli Roth-style torture-porn conspiracy. They could have a blue-horse-mask-wearing serial killer stalking the grounds, or just have all that masonic/satanic/Nazi crap be true and make some unholy Hitler poltergeist (Hiltergeist?) haunt the airport. Hell, even if they took a total camp route, at least we'd be treated to Nicolas Cage (you know it would be him) running from old El Mesteno.
You'd watch the shit out of that shit; don't pretend that you wouldn't.
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Much like frontier settlers, mountaineers, and people who voluntarily stand in lines for new iPhones, 19th-century Arctic explorers were in for a rough life with massive risks. The 1845 Arctic expedition of Captain Sir John Franklin found this out the hard way, as they perished to the last man in a conga line of tragedy: shipwreck, disease, lead poisoning due to badly tinned food and/or faulty distilled water systems, and the fact that they were deserted in the goddamn Arctic without adequate equipment, eventually drove the 129-strong group to cannibalism and an early grave.
Of course, there's no telling what would have happened if the giant aliens hadn't eaten them all.
According to this particular theory, the doomed Franklin expedition was unfortunate enough to stumble on an awful secret that the higher-ups of the British Empire had been hiding: the Arctic area was teeming with giant super-beings that had control over radiation and could levitate whole ships, a handy skill when your opponent/lunch rolls into your backyard using that exact mode of transport.
What I love about this theory is that the book (yes, there's an actual book about this) makes a promise to "follow all the clues, wherever they may lead," then twists a few notes, chewed bones, and Inuit campfire stories into a tale that manages to somehow be against everything we know about everything, and deduces that clearly the British admiralty managed to cover up an infestation of massive, radiation-spewing telekinetic aliens running amok in the Arctic so that no one in history save for the author has caught wind of them. That's ... a pretty solid performance, as stiff upper lips go.
As for the movie possibilities of this theory -- shit, take your pick. A 19th-Century The Thing? A Victorian Aliens? Hell, the fact that the author says the aliens were giants (not to mention the radiation thing) could even open up the Kaiju route here.
You know what? Just make all of those movies, and throw in an Arctic Victorian Hellraiser to boot. I'll watch them all, if no one else will. And isn't that what really matters, Hollywood?
The May Day Mystery revolves around a series of strange newspaper ads that have appeared in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the student-run newspaper of the University of Arizona. The advertisements vary in style and size, but they regularly pop up every 1st of May (or on the closest possible day) and occasionally on other dates, too. Their content is an instantly recognizable, eerie mixture of advanced mathematics and history knowledge, and their themes remain more or less consistent. There are elements that repeat themselves: allusions to famous scientists and politicians, liberal use of mathematics and cryptic messages in various languages are all present, and there's generally a stylized smiling face that seems to act as a signature of sorts. The general vibe of the ads is that of an intellectual challenge of some kind. Wait, didn't I say this was a university newspaper? Clearly, this is just some student pranking the rest of the campus with logic puzzles, right?
It could be, yeah. The only problem is that this has been going on since at least 1981. Someone has been sinking insane amounts of time, money, and effort into this thing, so if it's a student, kudos -- they're going for Andy Kaufman-levels of long con.
The consistent, eerie ads were noticed by journalist Bryan Hance, a student there in the late '90s. He became intrigued and made a website so he could discuss his finds with like-minded people. However, it soon became clear that whoever (whatever?) was behind the ads was following Hance's investigations too. In January 1999, he was contacted by someone claiming to represent a member of an organization called "The Orphanage," the society behind the ads. They've been watching him ever since, occasionally dropping hints and generally encouraging him to solve their riddles, specifically stating: "When you see the door you will be welcomed inside."
The mystery has been drawing a moderate amount of attention ever since. Along with Hance and other interested parties, Reddit has been tinkering with the mystery, but to this day there is no conclusive breakthrough. Some say (and Occam's razor strongly suggests) that a local eccentric lawyer, who has allegedly been placing the ads for at least a decade but claims to work for others, is the person behind the "secret society." Others speculate that either Hance is in on the con or this is a wacky long con that members of the university have been keeping up for decades to mess with people, and a bunch of students and professors are having a ball at Hance's expense. As for Hance himself, he claims he has been bombarded with over 100 emails, courier packages, phone messages, and even small donations from the people behind the ads over the years. He seems convinced that the ads are actually communication between members of a possibly vast secret society of intellectual dissidents, and something potentially sinister is at hand.
And he's stuck right in the middle of it, and they know where he lives.
While all of this is likely just a harmless game by some group with a decent amount of time and money on their hands, imagine the horror movie possibilities. Shit, if even a fraction of the more interesting aspects of the case are true, it's a pretty damn intense thriller in itself. Really, all you need to do is include a final scene where The Orphanage turns out to be tentacle-ridden worshippers of Cthulhu or whatever, and fade to black as the hero is sucked into the abyss.
Not, uh, not that this is probably the case in real life.
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The Boston Strangler. The Zodiac Killer. The anthrax mailer of 2001. Three different serial-killing horrors with more than a little in common. Not only were all highly publicized and borderline mythical murderers, their cases are also somewhat infamous for their inconclusiveness; the Zodiac killer was never caught at all, the Strangler's murders were attributed to Albert DeSalvo despite the fact that it was almost certain he couldn't have killed all the victims, and the anthrax killer's deeds were posthumously pinned on Bruce Ivins despite the lack of direct evidence.
Oh, and there's also the fact that all three were actually Josef Mengele, the Nazi Angel of Death.
This wonderful nugget of conspiracy brain-droppings insinuates that Mengele, aka the Auschwitz doctor behind pretty much every terrible Nazi human experiment you've ever heard about, didn't die as a refugee in Argentina in 1979 like the history books tell us. Instead, he went to live a long (well, longer), fulfilling life as a CIA employee. Who was a serial killer. And then another. And then yet another. While technically already being one when he started out. The theory doesn't elaborate on why the CIA would let a clear maniac run around killing people for several decades, apart from stating that they needed him for assorted murder-related mischief. Maybe they viewed him as a hobby?
The reason Mengele (who was born in 1911) is still around is a healthy combination of facelifts, hormone injections, and cannibalism, which is incidentally the exact same treatment all those ads about "A SURPRISING AND EASY way to look YOUNGER and STRONGER that YOUR DOCTOR HATES" are peddling. As proof of his relative youth and vigor, the theory offers a picture of a white-clad, chubby dude in his late 50s or early 60s, the picture of whom I am not going to include because I refuse to increase the chances of this poor random dude showing up in image searches about serial killers any more than he already does. Here's a picture of a happy puppy instead:
Betty Wiley/Moment/Getty Images
Absurd as this theory may be, the premise is actually pretty chilling. What if a famous historical figure, notorious for his cruelty, was actually responsible for other, equally famous crimes, dancing in the shadows of criminal history leaving unsolved murders in his wake like they were business cards? Sure, similar paths have been explored, usually via the "Jack the Ripper is still around and stabbing everyone" route. It's the differences between the methods of the three killers that sells this film idea for me -- it's like the guy was carrying on his mad professor experiments from WWII days. I can see the trailer already: "The costumed shootings and obscure writings of the Zodiac killer. The brutal, yet bloodless deeds of the Boston Strangler. The painful postal slayings of the Anthrax Mailer. Each of them had a secret. Each is yet another experiment for the greatest monster in history. Coming in 2015: The Angel of Death."
And then someone would cast Ryan Gosling as Mengele and everyone would love him and there would be memes and fanfic and everything would be horrible and confusing forever, because that's how the world rolls.
For more from Pauli, check out The 14 Most Unintentionally Terrifying Statues in the World and The 11 Most Disturbing Tourist Attractions Around the World.
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