Conspiracy theories are often easily ignored because, by their very nature, they are slightly mad. But don’t be too quick to judge because historically some of them surprise us all by turning out to actually be true.
So, get your tin foil hats on and prepare to have your skepticism questioned – these are the conspiracy theories that prove we should be careful before ignoring those nutters with sandwich-boards.
The ‘Fruit Machine’ was a nickname for the Canadian government’s homophobic attempt to create an actual working ‘Gaydar’ in the 1950s and 1960s. The height of the Cold War was famous for its paranoia and insecurity – and Canadian institutions decided that they had to identify and purge gay men from the ranks.
They created a machine that would measure the dilation of people’s pupils when they were shown pornographic images of both men and women. The, since discredited, theory was that people’s eyes would involuntarily react to images they were attracted to.
Eventually they moved from pupils to a Plethysmograph which measured the blood-flow to people’s genitals, which is just horrendous when you really think about it. It’s weird enough making you watch pornography at work.
Results from the Fruit Machine were used to fire hundreds of people from the civil service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the military. The police also kept files on over 9,000 ‘suspected’ gay people.
The mad science was eventually discredited for a number of reasons, not least because they’d operated the whole thing on the flawed assumption that there were only two sexualities.
Poisoned Drinks During Prohibition
Back in the 1920s, the U.S. had the rather odd idea to ban all alcohol across the country because concerned crusaders were worried about what it was doing to the moral fibre of the nation.
Of course, people weren’t best pleased with this, resulting in a number of illegal speakeasies and home breweries being established, which actually caused a spike in the number of people drinking, annoying the authorities.
To stop the home brewers, the government began to add lethal ingredients to the industrial alcohol that the bootleggers were using to make the cheap plonk.
They began to put things like methyl alcohol, kerosene, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, chloroform, acetone and other chemicals in there, which were difficult for home brewers to filter out.
After around 100 people died, the government believed that it would put people off the drink, but it didn’t. In fact, people kept drinking, leading to over 10,000 people dying from poisoning, while others were left severely disabled and blinded.
For years conspiracy theorists were convinced that ‘they’ were being watched, and it turned out that they were right – we all were.
Back in 2013, the former U.S. National Security Agency agent, Edward Snowden, leaked to The Guardian and Washington Post that the U.S. was secretly monitoring everyone’s communications.
In the beginning, it was believed that only U.S. citizens were being spied on, but as the intrepid journalists dug deeper, they discovered that the NSA had been conducting clandestine spying operations on a number of world leaders.
As you’d no doubt expect, those being spied on weren’t best pleased with the news, to say the least.
Even better though, here in the UK we discovered that our own intelligence agency the GCHQ, were also gathering information on British people in similar ways – although admittedly not to the same extent.
One of the most disturbing stories on this list, the Tuskegee Study was a secret racial experiment that ran for four decades, from 1932 to 1972, where black men were given syphilis to see if the fatal STD affected black men differently from white men.
The infamous clinical study saw 400 impoverished and poorly educated African-American men intentionally infected with syphilis, under the guise of free healthcare, and the U.S. Public Health Service charted the disease’s progression, with doctors withholding treatment.
Those infected were never told they had the disease, with scientists explaining to them that they had ‘bad blood’ and they even gave the poor men fake medicines for it, including aspirin, mineral supplements, or even just placebos.
This horrific experiment continued well after penicillin became the standard treatment for syphilis in 1947.
Thankfully, the study came to public attention in the 70s when a whistleblower spoke out about it and there was widespread public outcry, ending the experiment.
By the time the study ended, the majority of the subjects were dead, with only 74 of the original 400 subjects still alive, plus 40 wives had become infected and 19 children had been born with congenital syphilis.
Operation Paperclip is a rather mundane name for a surprisingly sinister U.S. operation to recruit Nazi scientists and engineers to help them in the brewing Cold War.
In the dying days of World War Two, the U.S. began to think of the conflict to come and the threat of the Soviet Union. To this end, the CIA began to recruit German scientists to help them develop weapons.
Most famously, these scientists brought their extensive knowledge of rockets to the U.S, helping them develop what would eventually become the space programme – but they also had a far more sinister job.
The team, at a secret site near Frankfurt called Camp King, developed a hallucinogenic ‘truth serum’ and other techniques for taking control of a person’s mind.
The drug, now known as LSD, was used to brainwash Soviet spies so they would forget conversations they’d had with Americans.
The drug went on to become infamous for its use in the MK-Ultra experiments. Speaking of which…
The U.S. seems to have a thing for secretly experimenting on their own citizens and, between 1953 and 1964, the CIA conducted a number of bizarre experiments to try and control the minds of its citizens.
These horrific experiments mainly involved slipping people hallucinogenic drugs like LSD in combination with electroshock therapy, hypnosis, subliminal persuasion and isolation techniques.
MK-Ultra was carried out in 80 institutions, including 44 colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies, with some of the most dangerous experiments being reserved for terminally ill cancer patients. At least two people are known to have died from the experimentation.
These terrible tests were covered up until the late 1970s, when the U.S. Senate finally conducted an investigation into the programme and ruled that the whole project was illegal.
Unfortunately, the CIA had destroyed most of the documents related to MK-Ultra so we may never know the extent of these warped experiments.
Perhaps most disturbingly, Victor Marchetti, a 14-year CIA veteran, has claimed that the ‘CIA routinely conducted disinformation campaigns and that CIA mind control research continued’.
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.