Tag Archives: Area 51

Conspiracy Theory & Conspiracism – TIP Sheet

Source: Butte College

conspiracy theorist connect the dotsYou say you believe the government is hiding something at Area 51–captured alien spacecraft, perhaps? The conjectures and rumors surrounding Area 51 comprise a revered conspiracy theory (many theories, actually). Do you believe the aliens among us are the hidden driving force in human history? That top world leaders (and they aren’t who most people think they are!) are cooperating for personal gain with the alien “reptile overlords” to bring about the enslavement of our species? You might be a conspiracist.

You might buy into one or more conspiracy theories without being an all-out conspiracist. Conspiracism is a world view that sees history as driven primarily by interwoven webs of secret conspiracies. Conspiracy theories are leaner, more restrained, more limited in scope than conspiracism. A conspiracy theory alleges that a secret conspiracy involving hidden actors is behind particular historical events. Its explanation for events usually runs counter to the official or mainstream account, which is itself seen as an elaborate fabrication.

Test your favorite conspiracy against the following components typical of conspiracism and conspiracy theories:

  1. THEY (the conspirators) are a relatively small group, but powerful and corrupt. They are evil, or at least selfish, acting in their own interest and against the public interest. They have great foresight, patience, and deviousness. Nevertheless, they are not all-powerful or even that smart, really, since WE have figured them out.
  2. WE are a small, dedicated group of freedom fighters and freethinkers. We are soldiers, rebels in the fight for good against evil.
  3. YOU are clueless. Why can’t you see what’s going on here? (Conspiracy theorists place most people in this group.)
  4. THEY have hidden or destroyed all the evidence that would implicate them and have manufactured false evidence that exculpates them.
  5. YOU are close-minded. In fact, you are probably one of THEM.

paranoid illuminati_250pxThe comfort of conspiracy theory is that it provides a well-defined enemy and a sense of control (or at least structure) in the face of upheaval and disempowerment; the tendency to perceive conspiracy is more common in groups experiencing social isolation or political marginalization. The freedom fighters of conspiracy theory need not see themselves as being at the mercy of irresistible, inexplicable, or random natural or social forces, but as soldiers in a just cause. Many, if not most, conspiracy theories probably result from the human tendency to look for pattern in chaos-even if there isn’t any.

Conspiracy theories and conspiracism share three problems:

  • Unfalsifiability
  • Fallacy
  • Naivete

Unfalsifiability

The main problem with any particular conspiracy theory is not that it’s wrong, but that it’s inarguable; not that it’s false, but that it is unfalsifiable. Because it is unfalsifiable, a conspiracy theory is not provable or disprovable.

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These Are The Most Out-There Conspiracy Theories We’ve Ever Heard

One Week on a Cruise for Conspiracy Theorists

By the time intergalactic warfare historian Laura Eisenhower told me that she was secretly recruited to go to Mars, I was way past the point of being surprised. I’d simply heard so much of this kind of talk over the past few days that it seemed totally normal. It was day five of the week-long Conspira Sea Cruise, a gathering of conspiracy theorists (for lack of a better umbrella term) and 80 or so curious followers. We had all boarded a massive cruise ship to listen to the speakers’ musings and philosophies on a range of topics — ancient intergalactic warfare, crop circles, magical vibrations, chemtrails, the government’s control of the weather, alien politicians, and wishing boxes — your normal vacation chatter. conspira-sea_300pxAnd all of this was more or less unbeknownst to the other 2,900 cruise passengers who were oiled up, buffet-ready, and vacationing all around us. For my part, I was there to host and produce a video on the seminar and its characters, and thus, I had been inundated with far-out tales since the moment I stepped onboard the massive, 18-deck ship, which was, at the time that Laura and I eventually sat down by the adults-only hot tub, hurling its way, well-announced by Motown music and exhaust smoke, towards Cabo San Lucas.

It was too late, also, to have the kind of out-of-body, how-the-hell-did-I-get-here moments you might think I’d be having. (That moment had come the night before, at the cruise’s Love Boat-themed disco, where I found myself doing the Hustle, as instructed by motivational dancers, alongside the self-proclaimed leading expert on Area 51.) Instead, what happened when Laura told me that she had been contacted to go to Mars was that I nodded my head, squinted into the sun, smiled, and leaned back on my sun-deck chair, not significantly more taken by the notion of her potential inter-stellar venture than I was by, say, the whereabouts of that evening’s bingo game.

I wanted to know what Laura knew, to understand what she experienced, but I didn’t want to tiptoe further into the complicated attic of her memory by asking skeptical or damning questions, for fear of putting her too pointedly on the spot. What I came to find out was that she was targeted to “travel off-planet” by a man she dated. That she did not, in fact, fulfill the request to go to Mars because it felt like a dark journey with untrustworthy people.

Conspiracy theorists have a reputation for being angry and relentless  .   .  .

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‘It Was Like a Cult’: Leaving the World of Online Conspiracy Theories

chemtrail Illustration by Sarah Schmitt

Stephanie Wittschier believed in the Illuminati and chemtrails, and even tried to convert people online. But then she started to have doubts.

By Alexander Krützfeldt via Broadly

conspiracy to do list_200px_200pxStephanie Wittschier believed in a lot of different things throughout her life: that aliens were locked away in Area 51; that the Third Reich was alive and well, along with the Illuminati, and—last but not least—that ruling elites were using chemtrails to poison humanity.

The 35-year-old German was deep into the conspiracy theory scene for years before she dropped out, turning her attention to educating outsiders about the sinister truth behind Third Reich truthers and “chemmies” a.k.a people who believe the government is dumping toxic agents in plane vapor trails. Now she and her husband, Kai, run a Facebook page and Twitter account called Die lockere Schraube (“The Loose Screw”). And they’ve since incurred the wrath of their former conspiracy colleagues.

Wittschier’s journey into the world of conspiracy theories began when she watched a documentary about the alleged inconsistencies in the 9/11 attacks. “Immediately afterwards she went online and googled ‘conspiracy’ and ‘9/11,'” Kai told Broadly. Wittschier got hooked. “She started to talk about elites, the Illuminati… At a certain point it stopped being fun, as it became impossible to talk to her. She stopped listening and seemed closed off to any reasonable discussion.”

A ChemTrail plane departing from an undisclosed location.

A ChemTrail plane departing from an undisclosed location.

On the internet, Wittschier found people who shared her convictions. “That’s how it was,” she writes via email. “Back then, I had a friend who was into the same ideological conspiracy [stuff] and we got along pretty well. We believed in the same stuff, browsed the same forums, we used to talk about all sorts of things and most of the time we shared the same opinion.” Wittschier felt accepted among these like-minded people, who would ridicule outsiders’ attempts to re-educate them: “Those people [with different opinions] are representatives of the system or get paid; so-called sheep, people who don’t think.”

At the height of her obsession—especially when it came to chemtrails—Wittschier was part of various groups on Facebook, participated in a forum called Allmystery, and was active on YouTube. But in August 2012, her best friend in the conspiracy world started to question and oppose certain theories, and began the slow process of dissociating herself from the world she shared with Wittschier.

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America’s Secret Airline Flies Non-Stop To Area 51

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By Collin Krum via flightclub.jalopnik.com

Janet Flight_300pxYou can see Janet airplanes at several airports throughout the U.S. You can hear them on air traffic control. You can fly one in Microsoft Flight Simulator X. But you can’t buy a ticket on a Janet flight, and the people who fly on Janet flights can’t tell you, or even their families, what they do for work. It is seemingly an airline that flies to nowhere.
The multi-tiered secrecy surrounding the Janet jets, the unusual ways they operate and the places they go are one of aviation’s greatest legends. If it all seems like a big clandestine operation, that’s because it is.
Why is there a fleet of unmarked airliners at a guarded private terminal in Las Vegas? Where do they fly? Who flies aboard them? Even though these aircraft service the seemingly impenetrable top secret defense world, we can provide some answers.

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No, “Janet Airlines” isn’t the shadowy carrier’s official name. That name stuck and became widely accepted once aviation enthusiasts discovered that the curious aircraft based out of a small private terminal (code named “Gold Coast”) on the west side of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas use the callsign “Janet” while operating in civilian airspace.
Profile view of the “Gold Coast” terminal at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV.

Profile view of the “Gold Coast” terminal at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV.

It’s when Janet flights cross from civilian airspace into restricted military airspace that things get really interesting. One of the places these Janet 737’s go is located inside the airspace described as R-4808N on the map below. “The Box,” or “The Container,” as R-4808N is known, is off-limits. It is restricted airspace within restricted airspace, and incursions into its sanctum are most unwelcome. And yet, the unassuming white and red 737’s are shepherded through routinely, where they disappear before reappearing after different lengths of time.

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On takeoff from Las Vegas, Janet flights communicate with McCarran Departure Control using a callsign like “Janet 210,” or “Janet 301.” Once airborne, the Janet proceeds northwest and McCarran Departure hands them off to Nellis Control. Nellis Control supervises the busy airspace across the southern part of Nevada.

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Area 51 Facts and Fiction

Some say alien spacecraft are tested at Nevada’s legendary Area 51 site; what does history have to say?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to soar above the alkaline flats of the Nevada desert at speeds in excess of Mach 3, banking and weaving among the peaks, and come in for a landing at runway 32R at airport designation KXTA. We’re inside the restricted airspace of the Nevada Test and Training Range, operated from nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Area 51 sign 05Commonly called Area 51 by the general public, this well-developed base on the shore of dry Groom Lake is one of the most famous mystery sites in the world, shrouded in rumor and wild claims of aliens and conspiracies.

In 2001, two friends and I took a Cessna Skyhawk from Las Vegas to Tonopah, closely skirting the border of the restricted airspace surrounding Nellis AFB. This happened to be just prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, at which time the restricted airspace was greatly expanded, and the route that we took then is no longer possible today. But at the time, flying past the radar facility atop Bald Mountain, we were able to legally look right down into Groom Lake, and took plenty of photographs and video. We were contacted by the air traffic control tower at Groom Lake, which was plainly visible from our position, and he asked us what our destination was. We told him Tonopah, and he asked if we’d like him to give us a direct vector to Tonopah. This was his way of saying “Maybe you’d like to veer away and go straight to Tonopah rather than hugging our border.” But as we weren’t doing anything wrong, we declined his offer and finished out our original flight plan. We saw a number of other landing strips scattered about inside Nellis, but none that were as well developed as Groom Lake.

Why were we able to do this, at a base that everyone believes is so top-secret? Everyone says the government denies its existence or that it doesn’t appear on maps. There is indeed one very big secret at Area 51. In the words of Joerg Arnu, founder of the Dreamland Resort web site: “The biggest secret about Area 51 is that it was never secret.”

U-2 spy planeIn late 1950, the United States Atomic Energy Commission established the National Proving Grounds for the testing of nuclear devices, inside the Las Vegas Gunnery and Bombing Range. This huge area was subdivided into parcels called simply Area 1, Area 2, and so on; and only those Areas from 1 to 30 became a final part of the project. Area 51 was merely a leftover piece of land among many others.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Project AQUATONE had resulted in the design of what would become the U-2 spy plane, but for security reasons, they wanted someplace more private than Edwards Air Force Base to develop it. In 1955, a team led by Lockheed’s chief designer, the legendary Kelly Johnson, flew around Nevada looking for an alternate site. They found one inside Area 51: the dry Groom Lake, which they described as “A perfect natural landing field… as smooth as a billiard table without anything being done to it.”

[…]

Bob-LazarSecurity and confidentiality have been constant throughout Groom Lake’s history. Nobody outside the base has ever had access to whatever work was being done inside, and for a long time, everything that had ever happened there was classified. So conditions were ripe in 1989 when a guy named Bob Lazar told a Las Vegas television reporter that he’d been working there for the past year, reverse engineering alien spacecraft to learn how they worked. For years, Lazar enjoyed a good run of television guest appearances and other publicity.

A lot of people in the UFO community really wanted to believe Lazar’s story, as it so perfectly confirmed their conviction that aliens visit the Earth and that the government covers it up. But everyone who seriously fact-checked Lazar’s claims  .  .  .

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10 Best: Conspiracies and legends around the USA

FBI Alien Ufos
By Leif Pettersen via USA TODAY

The items on this varied list may not all warrant heightened vigilance and tin foil hats, but better safe than sorry. So we’re all better prepared for welcoming the Lizard People, when they finally choose to reveal themselves, and assimilating to the New World Order, here are some of the best conspiracy theories and urban legends in the U.S.

10 • Area 51, probably underground, Nev.

area_510_250pxArguably, the country’s most famous conspiracy theory is focused on this remote part of Edwards Air Force Base in Southern Nevada. Also known as Groom Lake, it’s assumed the base is used to test aircraft and weapons systems. The air space overhead is absolutely restricted. Even Air Force pilots aren’t allowed to breach the perimeter. The extraordinary secrecy surrounding the base has fueled several Area 51 conspiracy theories over the years ranging from a lab/prison for studying aliens (both living and dead), a meeting place for Earthlings and aliens working in tandem on various projects, reverse engineering and testing of captured/recovered alien technology, developing a weather control system, time travel and teleportation technology and much more. All that said, nothing can be certain as everything that occurs in Area 51 is classified as “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.” The CIA didn’t publicly acknowledge the existence of the base until July 2013.

9 • Denver Airport, Colo.

A detail of a mural in Denver International Airport, subject of much conspiracy theorist interest. A plea for peace, or a plan for future martial law?

A detail of a mural in Denver International Airport, subject of much conspiracy theorist interest. A plea for peace, or a plan for future martial law?

Another conspiracy theory layer cake spot is Denver International Airport. That it was built while Denver had a perfectly good airport much closer to the city is the jumping off point for these theories. (For the record, experts have pointed out that the runway layout at the old airport was no longer efficient enough for the increased traffic.) It’s believed that building the new airport allowed for the secret construction of an underground headquarters for the Illuminati, or the New World Order, or the Neo-Nazis, or the Lizard People and so on. The vaguely Swastika-shaped runways, the (admittedly) disturbing murals and sculptures, and odd words engraved in the floor also fuel the theories. Furthermore, there is the question of funding. A stone in the terminal says the airport was funded by “The New World Airport Commission,” a nebulous entity, sanely theorized to be a group of local businesses, though many claim it doesn’t exist.

8 • UFO cover-up, Roswell, N.M.

Seth Shostak: The UFO BestiaryThough it’s now mainly fueled by local businesses wanting to cash in on tourist interest, the (alleged!) Roswell UFO incident of 1947 is the most popular (alleged!) UFO cover-up of all time and still merits time and energy among conspiracy theorists and movie/TV writers. Various people claim that a spacecraft with alien occupants crashed on a ranch near Roswell in June or July 1947, which was quietly hauled away for study, possibly by our friends at Area 51. The Air Force reported at the time that the object was a surveillance balloon. The conspiracy chatter didn’t flare up until 1978 when Major Jesse Marcel, who was involved with the recovery of the debris, gave an interview describing a spacecraft crash cover-up by the military. Since then additional witnesses have emerged, describing the cover-up and alien autopsies. These days, even passionate pro-UFO advocates generally dismiss Roswell as a hoax.

7 • Grassy knoll in Dallas, Texas

The grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, where the 1963 assasination of US President John F. Kennedy took place in Dallas.

The grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, where the 1963 assasination of US President John F. Kennedy took place in Dallas.

The Warren Commission concluded that there was no conspiracy involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. However, after Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby, an event that also brims with conspiracy, the theories that Oswald didn’t act alone or maybe wasn’t involved at all started flying. The situation was exacerbated in 1979 when the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations announced “…a high probability that two gunmen fired at [the] President.” Furthermore, while he was living in Belarus, it’s said Oswald was such a terrible shot that friends were afraid to go hunting with him. The dazzling list of conspiracy theories put forward at one point or another involve the collusion of one or more parties including the CIA, the FBI and/or FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the Mafia, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, Castro himself, then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the KGB.

6 • Kensington Runestone, Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minn.

Kensington Runestone

Kensington Runestone

Evidence that Scandinavian explorers pushed as far as the Midwest of the future United States in the 14th century or a 19th-century hoax? The Kensington Runestone is a 200 lb slab of greywacke inscribed with runes on the face and side. The story goes the stone was found in 1898 in the rural township of Solem, Minnesota (it gets its name from Kensington, a nearby settlement) by Swedish immigrant Olof Olsson Ohman. The Stone appears to describe an expedition of Norwegians and Swedes who camped in the area, then retreated to their boat at “the inland sea” after 10 were slaughtered by unknown assailants. Runologists and linguistic experts overwhelming agree that the language used on the stone is too modern (circa the 19th century, coincidentally) and didn’t match other writing samples from the 1300s. However, the legend persists, being occasionally revived with new evidence and arguments, some as recently the 1990s.

5 • D.B. Cooper airplane hijack, ransom and parachute jump, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest

A 1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper (wikipedia)

A 1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper (wikipedia)

The only unsolved case of air piracy in U.S. history was perpetrated by an unidentified man who the media came to call “D. B. Cooper.” (The hijacker purchased his ticket using the alias “Dan Cooper.”) On November 24, 1971, Cooper hijacked a passenger plane (a Boeing 727) during a Portland-Seattle flight. Claiming he had a bomb, he made his ransom plans known to the crew. On the ground in Seattle, Cooper released the passengers after officials gave him the requested $200,000 (equivalent to $1,160,000 today) and two parachutes. With only Cooper and the crew aboard, the plane then took off heading for Mexico. When they stopped in Reno to refuel, Cooper was gone, having jumped from the rear stairs while the plane was likely still over Washington State. Cooper was never found and it’s widely believe he couldn’t have possibly survived the fall, over remote mountainous wilderness, at night, wearing a trench coat and loafers, no helmet, into an initial wind chill at the airplane’s altitude of “70∞ F. The FBI investigation into the case remains open to this day.

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8 Secret Bases: Real or Fictional?

Do you know which of these secret military bases around the world are real?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Governments and militaries have secret bases; that’s just a simple fact. But usually the part that’s secret only concerns what’s done there; the actual existence of the facility itself is not usually in question. It’s kind of hard to hide a big complex of buildings. Even NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain command center, which exists entirely inside a mountain in Colorado, is marked with plenty of obvious external infrastructure. Since governments own the land and control access, there’s not really any reason to try and hide the facilities within. Satellite eyes in the sky observe everything being constructed anyway, so other governments will always know there’s something there whether the final product is hidden or not. And yet, stories remain about certain secret establishments. Let’s take a look at eight of these.

This super-secret military base in the UK is said to have performed all sorts of illegal and unethical human experimentation:

1. Porton Down

top secret doc_300pxReal. It’s there in Wiltshire, England, freely available for anyone to drive past or view on Google Earth. Porton Down was formed during World War I, a time when wars were fought with poison gas. Their main focus was to develop gas mask technology, and to create better ways of deploying gases against the enemy. Such horrible weapons as mustard gas and chlorine were routinely used here.

Porton Down’s darkest legacy, and the main reason for its reputation, comes from its cold war years. At the same time that the Americans were experimenting with LSD in the MKULTRA program, Porton Down was doing the same, administering LSD to servicemen without their consent, in an effort to develop mind control and interrogation techniques. Human experimentation was also done, resulting in at least one death and a number of later lawsuits, using the nerve agents VX and sarin, and the endotoxin pyrexal.

And what about that favorite grandaddy of all secret bases:

2. Area 51

area_510_250pxReal. The biggest confusion with Area 51 is that it has nothing to do with Roswell, NM or the alleged 1947 saucer crash. They’re in different states, and Area 51 hadn’t even been built yet; so there wasn’t much reason for any dead aliens to have been brought there. It was built in the 1950s, mainly to develop the super-secret A-12 and SR-71 reconaissance planes. Nobody actually calls it Area 51, it’s usually informally called The Ranch and formally the National Classified Test Facility. Contrary to popular rumors, the military doesn’t now, or in the past, deny its existence. That big word “classified” in its name simply means they don’t discuss what happens there.

Much of its history has since been declassified, and nothing has really surprised anyone who works in aviation journalism. Most secret American aircraft that were classified before they became publicly known, such as the A-12, SR-71, F-117, and TACIT BLUE have been tested and developed there. That’s why it’s out in the middle of nowhere, safely hidden behind off-limits mountains.

 A Google Earth study of Area 51 shows that activity has dropped off a lot there in recent years, probably because all the attention and budgets are shifting toward unmanned craft.

But if the aliens weren’t taken to Area 51, maybe they were taken to this alleged underground facility in New Mexico, home to gray aliens and reptilian beings:

3. Dulce Base

dulce31_300pxFictional. Despite its having been featured in a number of television shows, comic books, and novels, there is no evidence that any underground “base” of any kind exists inside Archuleta Mesa, about 5 km north of the city of Dulce, NM. It’s frequently referenced on UFO web sites and conspiracy web sites, and usually described as a joint operation between aliens and the US military. The story began when a local UFO enthusiast, Paul Bennewitz, believed he was receiving radio transmissions from underneath the mesa in the 1970s. Within a few years, another UFO fan, Phil Schneider, claimed to have been an employee there, and has given detailed descriptions of its 7-level underground structure, its population of 18,000 aliens, and descriptions of the terrible experiments they perform on human subjects. It also supposedly has an underground train connection to Los Alamos National Laboratory, 130 kilometers away.

It’s trivial to study Google Earth images of Archuleta Mesa and see that there’s nothing there at all, certainly nothing like Schneider’s elaborate descriptions that include surface buildings and radar installations. And that no subway exists between there and Los Alamos. It also seems a little suspicious that Phil Schneider would be freely allowed to go around talking about his supposedly top-secret job. For a great discussion of All Things Dulce, see the Skeptoid blog article on the web site.

Some say that the United States maintains an underwater Area 51 in the Bahamas. It’s called:

4. AUTEC

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AUTEC History Channel viewing party, tinfoil hats and all
Photo: Chickcharney Newsletter

Real. The US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center is on Andros Island in the Bahamas, and it was once hyped by History Channel’s TV show UFO Hunters as being some kind of secret alien underwater thing. The employees there thought the show was pretty funny; they had a viewing party and sent me a photo of them goofing around and wearing tinfoil hats. Seriously.

AUTEC isn’t underwater. It’s better described as a beach resort, with a small protected harbor and a boatramp and wharf, and the obligatory beach club with cabana bar. Although the Navy does not disclose the nature of their specific projects, it does freely list their assets and capabilities. They’re concerned with underwater warfare, mainly torpedos and mines. They also dabble quite a lot in unmanned underwater vehicles, electronic warfare, and acoustics. Their principal ship is called the Range Rover; it goes out and does most of the grunt work, often at their Shallow Water Range and Minefield about 120 km north of Andros Island. It’s a very thoroughly surveyed plot of real estate, and most useful when they’re not dodging the cruise ships that are constantly pounding back and forth through the channel.

And while we’re underwater, what do we think of the plausibility of a gigantic underground submarine base in China?

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6 conspiracy theories that inspired sci-fi and horror movies

From faked lunar landings to invisible WWII warships, here are six conspiracy theories and the genre films they inspired…

By Ryan Lambie via Den of Geek

conspiracy-main“Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face,” Sterling Hayden’s General Jack D Ripper coldly announces in Stanley Kubrick’s breathtakingly funny satire, Dr Strangelove.

Ripper’s conspiracy theory, that the commies are secretly trying to compromise our “precious bodily fluids”, becomes his harebrained reason for unleashing a missile strike on the USSR. And just as Ripper was inspired by this strange notion to trigger a nuclear apocalypse, so filmmakers have been inspired by conspiracy theories to make all kinds of science fiction and horror movies – some funny, some tense and absorbing, others terrifying.

Here, then, is a selection of six real-world conspiracy theories and the varied movies they inspired – and funnily enough, Stanley Kubrick even pops up in one of the more familiar entries…

1. The Philadelphia experiment

philadelphiaexperimentThe conspiracy: The story goes that, during the chaos of World War II, a group of scientists working for the US navy were carrying out an experiment that could have altered the face of the battle completely: they were attempting to make a warship invisible. The warship in question was the USS Eldridge, docked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and the experiment supposedly took place in October 1943.

A scientist named Dr Franklin Reno was said to be the mind behind the project, having taken inspiration from Einstein’s unified field theory – and according to the legend, it was a success. Not only was the ship rendered invisible, but in subsequent experiments, apparently teleported to another location 200 miles away and back again.

The experiment wasn’t without its side-effects, however; sailors were said to have suffered from a range of ailments, including nausea, mental trauma, invisibility and spontaneous combustion. It’s even said that some sailors were found partly embedded in the structure of the ship itself.

For its part, the US navy has always denied that the Philadelphia experiment ever took place, but this has merely added to the claims that the incident was covered up. Despite repeated counter-claims that the experiment is a mixture of hoax and misheard information (the navy really were looking at ways of making ships undetectable to magnetic torpedoes at the time, which could have somehow been misinterpreted as ‘invisible’), the legend’s endured, partly thanks to books like The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility.

The obvious question, though, is if the US navy managed to make a ship invisibile so long ago, why hasn’t this technology become widespread since? The supporters of the conspiracy would probably argue that the US navy uses invisibility all the time – we just can’t see the evidence.

philadelphia-02_250pxThe movies: “The experiment that should never have happened 41 years ago is still going on,” read the tagline to The Philadelphia Experiment, which took the legend and turned it into a time-travel adventure-romance. Michael Pare and Bobby Di Cicco play two sailors aboard the USS Eldridge who find themselves thrown 40 years into the future by the experiment, and then have to figure out a means of closing off a rift in time and space that could destroy the entire planet.

Although not a big hit at the time of release, The Philadelphia Experiment is almost as persistent as the legend behind it: a belated sequel materialised in 1993, while a made-for-TV remake appeared on the Syfy Channel in 2012. The Philadelphia Experiment is also a good example of how urban legends perpetuate themselves through storytelling.

In the late 1980s, a chap named Al Bielek happened to catch a showing of the 1984 Philadelphia Experiment movie on television, which he claimed dislodged repressed memories of his own involvement in the 1943 project. In later interviews, he not only stated that he’d been a sailor aboard the USS Eldritch, but also that he’d been sent forward in time to the year 1983. Mind you, Bielek also claimed to have taken a time tunnel to Mars, conversed with aliens, travelled forward in time to the year 2137, and back to the year 100,000 BC. Bielek’s claims then appeared to inspire the makers of the film 100,000 BC, a straight-to-video action film where members of the Philadelphia Experiment go back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Like a feedback loop, legends grow and change as they’re told and retold.

2. The Roswell incident

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Major Jesse Marcel from the Roswell Army Air Field with debris found 75 miles north west of Roswell, N.M., in 1947. The debris was identified as that of a radar target.

Major Jesse Marcel from the Roswell Army Air Field with debris found 75 miles north west of Roswell, N.M., in 1947. The debris was identified as that of a radar target.

The conspiracy: On the 8th July 1947, the Roswell Daily Record ran a front page story which read, “RAAF captures flying saucer on ranch in Roswell region”. The US military later retracted their initial statement, saying instead that the debris they’d collected was from a crashed weather balloon rather than a unidentified flying object, but it was too late – one of the most discussed and famous conspiracy theories was born.

Accusations that the American government had recovered a flying saucer – or at least parts of one – grew in the years that followed, and stories began to circulate that living occupants of the craft had been taken to Area 51 (a now infamous military base) in New Mexico. By the 1990s, a range of books, eye-witness accounts, TV documentaries and even purported footage of alien autopsies had all materialised, all appearing to lend weight to the theory that the US government was hiding knowledge of flying saucers and visitors from outer space.

roswell-02_250pxThe movies: Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) remains one of the most lavish and well-made films to deal with the UFO phenomenon, taking in sightings of lights in the sky, abduction by aliens, and also the topic of a conspiracy on the part of the US government. Close Encounters’ conclusion even suggests that America’s scientists have engaged in some kind of foreign exchange program with visiting aliens, as Richard Dreyfuss’ blue-collar hero clambers into a cathedral-like ship for a ride into the unknown.

The 1986 adventure film Flight Of The Navigator may also have taken a hint of inspiration from the Roswell incident and other stories like it, as a young boy takes a ride in a crashed, metallic UFO secretly held by NASA. Vaguely echoing what theorists argue happened in 1943, Flight Of The Navigator’s scientists had whisked the ship from public view and attempted to cover up the craft’s true nature by describing it to the police as an experimental space laboratory.

Interest in the Roswell incident began to rise again in the 1990s, possibly due to the publication of several books which brought forth new claims of downed saucers and conspiracies. One of these would become Roswell, a 1994 TV movie starring Kyle MacLachlan as a US major attempting to uncover the hidden truth about the crash. The quest for uncovering buried truths also provided the basis for The X-Files, Chris Carter’s TV series that received a movie spin-off (itself about aliens and government cover-ups) in 1998.

independence-day_250pxRoland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) made explicit use of Roswell lore; amid the destruction of an alien invasion, it’s eventually revealed to Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore that the military really had captured an alien space craft and three occupants in 1947, and that they’d been stored and studied for the past 49 years at Area 51. The repaired space craft then came in handy for the third act, where it was used to plant a computer virus in the invaders’ mother ship – a plot point that’s still derided by some movie geeks 18 years later.

About 12 months before Independence Day came out, a piece of black-and-white footage purportedly shot at Area 51 first appeared on television. Appearing to depict the autopsy of a humanoid creature, the 17-minute film caused an immediate fuss in the media, despite widespread suspicions that it was a hoax.

The chap who first brought the film to the public’s attention, a British entrepreneur named Ray Santilli, later admitted that the footage had been faked, but insisted that it was based on some real film he’d seen a few years earlier – when the film degraded past the point where it was watchable, Santilli said he’d funded a reconstruction of what he’d previously witnessed. The whole curious incident became the basis of the 2006 comedy Alien Autopsy, starring British TV entertainment duo Ant and Dec.

If you want an example of how one single event can inspire a range of stories, look no further than the Roswell incident.

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Area 51: Myth and Reality

by Donald Prothero via Skepticblog

area_510_250pxIn the past few decades, this perfectly ordinary military base in the middle of the desert in southern Nevada has taken on mythic status. Most military bases have tight security, and only authorized military personnel and their contractors are allowed on base. This particular base is top secret, with much tighter security than most military land. Not only is it surrounded by a secured perimeter and motion detectors in the ground, but the guards travel the perimeter regularly, and have video security cameras monitoring everything that comes near the fence. It is also located in one of the most remote areas of sparsely populated Nevada, more than two hours of driving north out of Las Vegas. Because there is no way to see the base from the paved road, even from the highest peaks outside the base except Tikaboo Peak (a long hard desert hike), it can only be viewed from the air or from space. Naturally, that high level of secrecy has led to all sorts of speculation about what happens there, and an entire industry of books and movies and TV shows which need only mention the phrase “Area 51” and immediately their audience assumes that there are aliens or some kinds of weird government experiments going on there.

ATOMIC-ENERGY-COMMISSION_thumb1First of all, let’s clarify one misconception: the proper name of the base. Some of the common names of the base are “Groom Lake” or “Homey Airport” on civilian aeronautics maps, or the longer “Nevada Test and Training Range” in CIA documents, but the older CIA documents do use the term “Area 51”.  The name “Area 51” was indirectly named from the old grid system the Atomic Energy Commission used in the 1950s and 1960s to map the Nevada Test Site and the associated air bases. The original grid system numbering did not go as high as 51, but the Groom Lake area was purchased later and added to the secured perimeter of the base near Area 15 of the original grid; it is speculated that they just reversed 15 to 51 to get the number for the newly annexed area. The area has acquired additional security nicknames used to hide the true nature of the place, such as “Paradise Ranch”, the name that Lockheed Aircraft designer Kelly Johnson used to attract workers to project. According to Alexander Aciman in Time magazine:

Area 51 was cheekily nicknamed Paradise Ranch, so that intelligence officers and government employees wouldn’t have to tell their wives that they were moving the family to a rather large fenced-off area in the desert.

The U-2 spy plane, secretly built by Lockheed and the CIA and tested at Area 51

The U-2 spy plane, secretly built by Lockheed and the CIA and tested at Area 51

Other names include the CIA name “Watertown” (a reference to Watertown, New York, birthplace of CIA Director Allen Dulles), and “Dreamland Resort,” “Red Square,” “The Box,” or just “The Ranch”. After the U.S. Air Force took over the base from the CIA in the late 1970s, the name “Area 51” was discontinued, and it was called Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center (or simply Det. 3, AFFTC). As such, it was a remote operating location of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Today the official name of the Groom Lake base appears to be the National Classified Test Facility. The Test Wing (Det. 3, AFFTC) is still the primary occupant of the site.

There is also an Area 52. It is another name for the secret airfield and testing facility near Tonopah, Nevada, about 70 miles (110 km) northwest of Groom Lake. Many of the same aircraft that were developed and tested at Area 51 have their official base of operations at Area 52, especially the stealth aircraft.

For many decades, the activities in the base were top secret, so most of what was written about it was sheer guesswork or based on the reports of people who had worked there and spilled some of their information.

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What are chemtrails, and are they dangerous?

By CLINT WILLIAMS via The Bellingham Herald

Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!

It’s a plane!

It’s a chemtrail!

chemtrail TicTacToe_250pxThe persistent high-altitude contrails are more than stripes in the stratosphere. They are the stuff of conspiracy theories on par with Area 51, the Roswell UFO crash and who shot JFK.

The chemtrail conspiracy theory claims that some contrails are chemical, biological or otherwise toxic elements sprayed at high altitudes by government agencies _ of some sort _ for the purpose of _ well, something not good. It’s high-altitude crop dusting for nefarious purposes, the tin-foil hat crowd claims.

Normal jet airliner exhaust contrails quickly dissipate, the conspiracy theory holds. Chemtrails _ which are loaded with toxic heavy metals and heaven knows what else _ linger in the sky for hours.

The theory has no scientific basis, writes Grant Petty, a professor of atmospheric science and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The lifetime and behavior of contrails depend on the environmental conditions in which they form,” Petty writes. “Growing contrails result when the humidity at high altitudes is at or above the saturation point with respect to ice. So when condensation is injected in the atmosphere at those altitudes, the microscopic particles of ice don’t simply evaporate, they persist and even grow, and they are spread by the winds into broader patches of cirrus cloud.”

If persistent contrails are more common, Petty suggests, it is because there is more high-altitude airliner traffic and the stratospheric humidity is higher because of the moisture left by the contrails of all that traffic.

MORE . . .

Also See: A Million Poisoning Planes

Area 51 Revealed

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

Area 51 is more than just a subject of UFO conspiracy mongering, it has graduated to a fixture in pop culture. Everyone knows what Area 51 is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. Mention crops up in movies, such as Independence Day.

area51b_300pxAccording to the CIA this facility’s official name is the much less alluring, Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake, a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base. It is part of a 23 x 25 mile area of restricted air space. For decades there have rumors that Area 51 is a secret base where the US government has recovered alien spacecraft and conducts research on those craft.

The government denies these claims, but has never said what Area 51 is really for. It has never been mentioned in any public document, and documents obtained through any freedom of information act (FOI) request have never mentioned Area 51 (any possible mention being redacted).

George Washington University’s National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson made a FOI request in 2005 for information on the U-2 spy plane program. He received a 400 page reports entitled, “”Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954-1974.” In this document the name Area 51 is no longer redacted – it is mentioned as the base at which the U2 was developed and tested.

The document confirms what UFO skeptics have been saying for decades – sure, Area 51 exists and it is shrouded in government secrecy. However, the US must have some secret air bases where they test new aircraft and from which they launch their spy planes. There has never been any evidence of alien spacecraft or advanced technology emerging from the study of alien artifacts. Lacking any evidence for an alien phenomenon, mundane government spying is the more likely explanation.

Of course, this will not end UFO conspiracy theories, involving Area 51 or otherwise. If you believe the government is covering up aliens then no government explanation will convince you otherwise. This in itself is reasonable, once you buy the conspiracy, of course.

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