Who killed JFK? Was it the CIA, FBI, the Mafia, or lone assassin Lee Harvey Oswald? Was the tragic death of Princess Diana an accident or a failed assassination attempt on her boyfriend and millionaire, Dodi Al Fayed? Was Jack the Ripper a member of the Freemasons? Is Skull and Bones a secret society placed to form a sinister shadow government, or is it a gathering of wealthy kids performing bizarre and adolescent rituals? Are we alone in the universe, or are crop circles evidence of alien life?
Conspiracies are everywhere; they are a normal part of everyday life. And, although many people link the word conspiracy with disturbed paranoia, some conspiracies are true.
Often, conspiracy theories will spring from a single event, leaving us to sift through the details for the truth. And, as the X-Files television show tagline assured us, the truth is out there. However, for conspiracies on a grand or global scale, and even in the case of small, mundane conspiracy theories, the full truth may never be known.
Most people are familiar with conspiracy theories that have their roots in a political or historical event, such as the Kennedy assassination, but some theories crop up in strange and unusual places.
Although many conspiracy theories have a thread of truth running through them, the inherent speculation and innuendo sometimes veer them off on a tangent. For example, one of the 9/11 myths involved a Bible found, intact and undamaged, amid the Pentagon crash site. For a country staggering under the tragic impact of the 9/11 attacks, a Bible found at the crash site might have had significant symbolic meaning. On further investigation, however, it was discovered that the book was a dictionary, not a Bible.
Another story rising out of the ashes of 9/11 was that of a World Trade Center survivor surfing his way down from the 82nd floor on a piece of building debris. On reflection, the story is unbelievable, but for a country watching in horror as the events of 9/11 rolled out, a miraculous escape was a candle flickering in the darkness. It soon evolved into an urban myth.
That same willingness to suspend disbelief in the absence of proof, often fuels outrageous claims made by some conspiracy theorists.
But what if a conspiracy theory—even an outrageous one—is true?
Van Dyk’s Conspiracy Theories takes a look at some of the most provocative stories of our time, and the conspiracies that shroud them.