There have been conspiracies for as long as we have contemplated such things. In many cases these can be paranoid delusions openly mocked by the masses and yet forever debated in the shadows of the fringe. After all, how could any of these crazy, far-out notions be real? Yet, sometimes the tinfoil-hat wearing crackpots are not as crazy as one might expect. From secret societies looking to rule the world from the shadows to strange human experiments, coverups, and insane government plots, sometimes truth can be just as weird as fiction, and here is a selection of conspiracies that turned out to be every bit as insane as advertised, and which show that perhaps paranoia is not always such a bad thing after all.

Secret Societies

Shadowy secret societies have long been a staple of the sprawling domain of conspiracy theories. The Freemasons, the Illuminati, secretive powerful cabals pulling the strings from behind the scenes and seeking to start a new world order are the bread and butter of many good conspiracies, and their plots must mostly seem like they must surely be set within the world of pure fiction, except for those times when they aren’t. Indeed there are many conspiracies involving such groups that have been proven to be very real indeed.

One such very real secret society is known as the Bohemian Club, which was founded in San Francisco, California in 1872, mostly as a social group for artists, musicians, writers, poets, and journalists, including amongst their number the author Mark Twain and the poets Charles Warren Stoddard and George Sterling. It was meant to be a casual venue for these artistic, creative individuals to get together to throw around ideas and talk shop together. As time went on, some of the more influential, wealthy, and powerful members sought to fashion the burgeoning club into something more, and they began to become highly associated with a massive campground in Monte Rio, California known as the Bohemian Grove, where members would make an annual pilgrimage in order to meet and carry out ever stranger rituals.

A Bohemian Club meeting

By the 1930s, the Bohemian Club had gone from informal get-togethers for starving artists to almost exclusively a gathering place for the rich and powerful, and would gather prominent members such as former presidents Richard Nixon and Herbert Clark Hoover, business and media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and numerous influential politicians, CEOs of major companies, industry leaders, corporate major players, military officials, senior media executives, and various other people of power, and its waiting list for membership would get to be over 33 years long. What went on behind closed doors during their secretive get-togethers has always been top secret, and although they claim that there is no business discussed during their meetings and that ulterior motives are all left at the door, one does wonder what they get up to in there. It is known that there have been many important, even historical deals, government and business decisions, and projects laid out here, including the concept of the Manhattan Project, which was first laid out here and led to the development of the atomic bomb, so something is definitely going on to some extent or other.

The Bohemian Grove where these important figures would meet for 2 weeks a year, and still do, is itself dominated by towering redwood trees and a large stage and 30-foot-tall idol shaped like an enormous owl. The stage is used for various performances and ceremonies, such as the "The Cremation of Care," which is a lavish, extravagant production complete with pyrotechnics that is meant to signify a “banishing of worldly cares,” and which culminates in the burning of an effigy. There are also supposedly various Druidic rituals carried out at the grove, all set to the backdrop of heavy drinking, opulent feasts, and all manner of debauchery. It is a place that has been described in The Washington Post as “a place where the rich and powerful go to misbehave,” and of which former president Richard Nixon said in 1971:

The Bohemian Grove (an elite, secrecy-filled gathering outside San Francisco), which I attend from time to time. It is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine…

cremation of care
The Bohemian Grove

Another secretive meeting of the world’s elite is called the Bilderberg Group, which meets every year in a private conference of around 150 of some of the planet’s most powerful figures, including monarchs, high-ranking politicians, senior military officials, economic leaders, powerful journalists, and experts from industry, finance, and academia. The covert meetings began in 1954 at the request of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and were originally intended as a way to promote the strengthening U.S.–European relations in a concept known as Atlanticism, but it has grown to cover wide ranging topics and agendas, most of which pertain to, well, no one really knows for sure. Although it is well-known that these meetings really do take place and it is even known who attends them to some extent, the contents of the meetings are highly guarded and the members sworn to absolute secrecy. This has of course led to the idea that this is an honest-to-God Illuminati type group seeking to impose one world government. The Bilderberg Group itself has been rather vague in dealing with such accusations, with one founder and member of over 30 years named Denis Healey somewhat ominously saying:

To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn't go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing.

It is unclear just what these powerful individuals get up to behind closed doors, but it is certainly not just to idly chit chat. In the meantime the conspiracy theories on this very real secret society go deep, with claims ranging from they are controlling the world with an iron fist to that they are actually alien lizard people invading Earth. All we know is that the group does exist and they still have their incredibly secretive powwows every year.

While it is unclear if these secret organizations and shadowy meetings are really controlling world affairs to any degree, there has been at least one case where this actually did happen. In the 1980s, an offshoot of the Freemasons in Italy called the Propaganda Due (P2), which was led by the notorious fascist Licio Gelli, crawled into society like a parasitic worm. The group had the expressed goal of infiltrating and secretively controlling Italy from the inside via a shadow government, and to this end it had thousands of members including influential businessmen, military, police, and government officials, intelligence operatives, and other prominent figures among their ranks. Through these members the group was able to influence the press, burying certain news stories, exert pressure in the government on key issues of policy, including bringing Juan Peron back to power in Argentina, and cover up crimes such as the 1980 bombing of a Bologna train station, which killed 85 people and was orchestrated by Italian terrorists sympathetic to P2.

This may have gone on indefinitely if the hugely influential banker and P2 member Michele Sindona had not been busted for money laundering. Authorities would find within his records a list of around a thousand members of the secret society embedded like vermin all throughout the government and media, eventually leading to the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani, whose cabinet was found to be absolutely crawling with P2 members. Some political figures linked to the group committed suicide rather than face charges, and the leader of the sect, Gelli, promptly hi-tailed it out of the country to Switzerland, where he would stay until he was eventually extradited for fraud.

Secret Government Experiments

Another fixture of any good conspiracy theory is the idea that the government is covertly carrying out secret experiments on human beings, sometimes on whole populations against their will for nefarious purposes, and I hate to say it but there is a depressingly long list of occasions where this has really happened. One of the more well-known and dramatic secret government projects that was very real was the shadowy mind-control project known as MKUltra. Originating in the 1950s, the project was launched by the CIA and the US Army Chemical Corps, and sought to investigate the potential use and effects of mind control techniques as well as to “develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.” Although it started small, the program escalated rapidly, blowing up until it was being pursued in various institutions including an estimated 86 universities, hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies.

Many of the often sadistic experiments involved heavy use of mind altering drugs such as LSD, the effects of which were poorly understood at the time and which were often given to unwitting test subjects in highly dangerous doses, which would lead to many of the patients developing brain damage and permanent mental and behavioral issues. There were also various chemicals tested, as well as gas propelled sprays and aerosols. In a lot of instances these tests were performed on terminal cancer patients to limit any lifelong problems they would have from the treatments and cover the tracks of the program. Other techniques pursued were electroshock treatment, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, and verbal and physical abuse, often with no medical personnel on hand and the effects of which left at least two dead and many others mentally or emotionally scarred, with one report stating:

The deaths of two Americans can be attributed to these programs; other participants in the testing programs may still suffer from the residual effects. . . . The fact that they were continued for years after the danger of surreptitious administration of LSD to unwitting individuals was known, demonstrate fundamental disregard for the value of human life.

It is unknown just what exactly went on within the program because the CIA director at the time, Richard Helms, had the vast majority of the files utterly destroyed in 1973. In 1976 and 1977 the U.S. Senate made serious investigations into the goings on of MKUltra, but this got nowhere. There has never been any accountability for the horrors the program carried out on American citizens, and all of the researchers who contributed to it have had their names withheld from the records, their names exempt from the Freedom of Information Act due to the CIA wanting to protect them as “intelligence sources.” The true horrific extent of MKUltra and their murky activities remain unknown.

The list of experiments such as these goes on and on, and some of them are rather reprehensible to say the least. In 1932, the U.S. government launched the “Tuskegee Experiment,” in which they planned to study the effects of syphilis and analyze those who had the disease. The study was carried out in Tuskegee, Alabama, and involved gathering around 400 poor, illiterate black males who had contracted the disease in order to put them under the microscope so to speak. Throughout the whole thing none of the patients were given any form of treatment for the disease, even though this existed, and many of them didn’t even know they had it, and they were put through various physical tests such as painful spinal tap procedures without their consent until they died, after which the corpses would by dissected, analyzed, and swept under the carpet. It would not be until 1972, 40 years after it began, that the whole experiment would be blown wide open by the whistleblower Peter Buxtun, who went to the Center for Disease Control with the whole sordid story.

In this case at least the government did not actually go about deliberately infecting people, merely going through the motions of doing so, but this would not be the case in other “studies.” Surely the government would not test possibly dangerous substances on its own citizens? Oh, how wrong you would be. In 1950, the U.S. Navy put into effect Operation Sea Spray, in which Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii bacteria, the effects of which we had no idea of at the time, were liberally sprayed all over the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The idea was to monitor the effects of the pathogens, and nearly 800,000 people were exposed during this time. 11 people would check into hospitals complaining of urinary tract infections and at least one patient died from complications. There was also a spike in cases of pneumonia during the time, as well as other health complications, with rates of these cases far beyond the norm.

During the whole operation the Navy made no attempts to alert the populace or even health authorities that this was all going on, and the experiment wouldn’t even come to light until 1977, when it was brought before a Senate subcommittee. Unbelievably, it would be decided that all of these various infections had been incurred within the hospitals, and that they had no relation to the experiments. Cover up? What do you think?

This is not even the only such shadowy experiment carried out by the U.S. government on its own citizens by a long shot. In 1955 the U.S. military went about dumping around 330,000 mosquitos all over the state of Georgia in an effort to conduct the feasibility of entomological warfare, or basically spreading diseases such as Yellow Fever among the enemy through insect vectors. The study aimed to investigate the logistics of such a thing, the dispersal rate, and the survivability of the insects during the process, and although none of the mosquitos was actually infected, someone forgot to tell the hundreds of thousands of civilians in the area that this was all going on. Similarly we have Operation Drop Kick in 1956, in which hundreds of thousands of mosquitos were dispersed over Savannah, Georgia and then monitored for how aggressively they infiltrated homes and bit people. It was a success in that the mosquitoes survived the drops and went about biting people with relish.

In the 1960s there was also Project SHAD, which saw the Department of Defense authorizing the release of dangerous chemical and biological agents aboard Naval ships in order to test the crews’ abilities to detect and react to the invisible threat. The thing is, many of these subjects were not at all aware that any of this was going on. This sort of experimentation with human guinea pigs goes way back, with the government conducting tests of the effects of radiation on unwilling or ignorant participants as early as the end of World War II, when the government engaged in willingly giving people radiation infused food, releasing radioactive substances into populated areas, and injecting radioactive substances into people, including pregnant women and prison inmates.

The cases involving such unethical tests are numerous, and the government even went to such lengths as robbing graves in order to gain tissue on which to experiment, including the corpses of babies. In one case from 1957, a mother named Jean Prichard lost her baby during childbirth, but when she requested to receive its corpse she was told that it was not available, and it later came to light that it had been gathered by the government for use in experiments. This would not be the only such case, and the U.S. government allegedly secretly procured hundreds and hundreds of adult and stillborn baby corpses for use in testing the effects of radioactivity in what was called Project Sunshine. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and the list of such experimentation is long, but I would suggest not going through it too carefully if you want to keep some semblance of faith in humanity.

Dark Government Machinations and Sinister Coverups

Government conspiracies often claim that there are dark workings behind the scenes and sinister plots going on beneath what we think we know about the society we think we live in, and if history is anything to go by these fears are rather well founded. One shadowy plot was supposedly carried out by the CIA starting from the 1950s, and was called Project Mockingbird. The dark initiative was designed to use journalists stationed all over the world to gather intelligence, to print propaganda designed to mold and shape public opinions on certain issues, plant false or misleading information, or to even serve as contacts with spies. In many cases this was done with the consent of the news agencies these reporters worked for, but at other times not, and one CIA operative has said of the allure of using reporters to do CIA work thus:

It’s tough to run a secret agency in this country. We have a curious ambivalence about intelligence. In order to serve overseas we need cover. But we have been fighting a rear‑guard action to try and provide cover. The Peace Corps is off‑limits, so is USIA, the foundations and voluntary organizations have been off‑limits since ‘67, and there is a self‑imposed prohibition on Fulbrights [Fulbright Scholars]. If you take the American community and line up who could work for the CIA and who couldn’t there is a very narrow potential. Even the Foreign Service doesn’t want us. So where the hell do you go? Business is nice, but the press is a natural. One journalist is worth twenty agents. He has access, the ability to ask questions without arousing suspicion.

So valuable were reporters seen as operatives for the CIA that the agency even went as far as to train its own agents to be, or to at least pose as journalists. It is estimated that more than 400 American journalists participated in this covert activity over the course of nearly three decades, including those from such high profile news outlets as The New York Times, and it extended from news publications to TV and radio broadcasts. These journalists often signed secrecy agreements preventing them from discussing their dealings with the CIA, but many of them were not fettered by such things, being merely briefed and debriefed on each incoming assignment. In a very in-depth article in the October 20, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for The Washington Post, Carl Bernstein wrote of this relationship:

Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services — from simple intelligence-gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

Even though these activities have been blown wide apart, the CIA itself has continued to obfuscate and downplay its use of journalists to do its dirty work, always purposefully vague or misleading on the matter, and the true extent of this program is even now not entirely clear and muddled in murk. During a 1976 investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee and overseen by Senator Frank Church, the CIA even went so far as to urge the committee to limit the depth of its digging into the matter, and they even made attempts to purposefully hide and blur the full scope of the program. In the end, the investigating committee was not able to completely unearth the full extent of these sordid operations, but they were able to demonstrate that they did happen, and that the CIA continues to dabble in such practices even now, stating:

The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.

Going back further, to the 1960s, we have an insidious plan launched by the U.S. government to aid in the battle against Cuban Leader Fidel Castro, who at the time was considered to be one of the world’s greatest communist threats. In the wake of the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the government was left scrambling for ideas on how to somehow oust the tenacious, abrasive leader. Some of the ideas to assassinate Castro were insane, like something a movie villain would come up with, including the plan to use exploding cigars smuggled to him, but one of the more out there and indeed diabolical plans was called Operation Northwoods.

fidel castro ruz
Fidel Castro

Drawn up in 1962, and under approval by the the Joint Chiefs of Staff but eventually rejected by defense secretary Robert McNamara, the plan was as insane as it was completely brazen. According to declassified documents from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the ideas was to orchestrate a terrorist campaign in the state of Florida that could be blamed on the Cubans and give further fuel to the American people to continue the fight against the rogue nation. Some of the ideas for this floated around were shooting down planes, for real or simulated, and planting evidence to make it look like Cuba did it, planting bombs in Florida and other locales such as Washington DC that could have very well killed innocent people, as well as sinking boats carrying innocent Cuban refugees, hijacking planes, or faking the shooting down of military aircraft in such a way as to make it look like Cuba was responsible. The declassified documents include a portion that says:

We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington . We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) . Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.

It was reasoned that all of this this would enrage the American people to the point that they would be more suggestible to taking aggressive action against Cuba. This would make the populous more willing to get behind a full blown war with Cuba and give the government the decisive excuse it needed to pursue whatever rash and harebrained idea it wanted against Castro and his regime without too much public fallout. The government luckily saw the insanity of going through with all of this, but the plans were laid out on the table and were being vigorously pushed forward at the time.

This would not have been the first time that the U.S. had used blatant lies to further a war cause, and the most well-known of these has to be the Gulf of Tonkin Incident of 1964, which would kick off the grim and bloody Vietnam War. On August 4 of that year, the warships the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy were on patrol in South Vietnamese waters during a time when both sides of the brewing conflict were on high alert and on hair triggers. The two destroyers were then claimed to have come under an unprovoked brutal attack by enemy torpedo boats that were picked up on sonar and radar, and the two American vessels proceeded to unleash all hell on the perceived threat, unloading around 300 shells on the supposed targets. However when the smoke cleared, there was apparently no one there after all, but that is not the story that the American people would be fed.

Military officials insisted that there had indeed been enemy boats, and almost immediately the story of these two ships being senselessly attacked by the North Vietnamese was being splashed all over the news. President Lyndon B. Johnson jumped on the opportunity as an excuse to go to war in Vietnam and the rest is history. Conspiracy theorists long debated and discussed the idea that no such attack had ever taken place, that it had been a ruse to give the president the authority to go to war, and this was considered merely a crackpot idea at the time, but decades later they would be proven right.

In 2005, declassified documents showed that indeed there was no such attack, and the warships had fired on nothing more than specters and false alarms. Indeed, it was found that there had been no North Vietnamese vessels anywhere near where the two U.S. ships had been at the time. The American vessels did indeed fire, but there had been nothing there to hit. There were various eyewitnesses who attested to this fact after the news came out, including a Navy pilot and squadron commander named James Stockdale, who had been flying overhead during the incident and claimed:

I had the best seat in the house to watch that event and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there…. There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.

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The USS Maddox

Others who continued the damning evidence were former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who agree that it had all been bogus, and even Johnson himself would later admit, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.” So here we have an event that never happened, which was played up by the government as if it had and used as justification to go into a war that would kill millions, which was then covered up and buried from prying eyes. It is a conspiracy wet dream and it is all true. There is some interesting information on the whole thing here.

Another shadowy plot that actually did go through were active attempts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to infiltrate, harass, and smear a variety of political groups, activists, critics of the Vietnam War, and civil rights leaders during the 1970s. To this end, under a program called COINTELPRO the FBI stalked, intimidated, and infested such groups with undercover spies sent to discredit them and sow dissent within their ranks, and otherwise try and fracture these organizations from within, all bolstered by bogus media reports, slander, and psychological warfare. The project’s expressed mission was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize activists across the country,” basically anyone the bureau considered subversive and often minority groups. Author Jesse Walker described what they did beautifully in his book The United States of Paranoia, writing:

Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.

One of the most famous targets of the FBI campaign was the legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who by all accounts was constantly harassed by the feds. He was followed, monitored, his hotel rooms and phone lines bugged, the works. Most brazenly of all, the FBI actually tried to get him to commit suicide by presenting evidence of an affair he was having and threatening to release the information unless he killed himself. The letter in question was claimed to have been written by another African American, and does not mince words at all, with one portion reading:

No person can overcome the facts, no even a fraud like yourself. Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find yourself and in all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time. Listen to yourself, you filthy, abnormal animal. You are on the record. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do it (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

Martin Luther King 4
Martin Luther King Jr.

For a long time there was little proof that the FBI had anything to do with any of this, and the members of such groups and their leaders were widely considered to be paranoid for thinking that they were being followed and harassed by the feds. It was truly considered to be a crackpot conspiracy theory at the time, but then evidence that it was really going on came along in the most unlikely of ways when in 1971 a group of activists calling themselves the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, where they uncovered a treasure trove of highly secret documents outlining the whole thing. The activists proceeded to send out this evidence to various major newspapers and politicians, who mostly shied away from defying the FBI, perhaps bending to pressure of a coverup. However, The Washington Post stood strong and published the findings, consequently blowing the whole operation open like a piñata and bringing down intense public scrutiny upon the FBI.

It wasn’t only the U.S. government coming up with Machiavellian schemes to pull the strings and influence American society, as the Soviet Union had their own plans as well. During the Cold War, the Soviets had very real plans in place to sabotage the United States from within if things went south, and these were frighteningly well-realized. Throughout the U.S. were placed hidden arms caches including firearms, bombs, and mines, and there were numerous sleeper agents placed around the country, or in some cases lying ready to pounce over the borders in Canada or Mexico, ready to take up a variety of positions where they could sow chaos, including firemen, policemen, and soldiers. The main targets in such a scenario were oil pipelines, supply routes, infrastructure, the power grid, and military installations, but it was also seen as a priority to just create as much mayhem as possible. It sounds like a pure, tinfoil hat nut job theory, and it would have probably remained that way if an archivist at the KGB hadn’t taken it upon himself to collect the information and release it. Some documents on this plot can be seen here.

One of the most bizarre government plots of all was put into effect by British military intelligence agencies in the early 1970s. At the time there was great ethno-nationalist unrest brewing in Northern Ireland, which has been called The Troubles and the Northern Ireland Conflict. It was a tense time in which the country was precariously perched at the abyss of civil war, marked by random violence and terrorist acts all over Britain and Europe, carried out by paramilitary groups such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and the British military was looking at all options to put an end to it. They found what they were looking for in the fear and fascination provoked by horror films such as The Exorcist and The Devil Rides Out, which just so happened to have come out when fears were going about concerning demonic possession, black masses, witchcraft, and Satanic worship.

Amidst rumors of human sacrifice and demonic forces at work, the growing fears of such paranormal phenomena got so heated that it came to be known as the “Satanic Panic,” and although for much of the populace it was a horror, the British saw it as an opportunity. After all, why not twist the knife even further and exacerbate this terror that was sweeping the very regions they sought to bring under control? To this end, from 1972 to 1974 the government’s “black operations” set up a campaign of psychological warfare that saw them planting such Satanic imagery as pentagrams, black candles, and upside-down crucifixes in remote and rundown areas of the region, as well as releasing fake news stories of black masses, human sacrifices, and sinister rituals in order to cultivate more fear of the supernatural and stoke the burning fires of paranoia.

The ultimate goal was to convince the populace that the dissenting paramilitary forces were directly responsible for unleashing these evil forces across Northern Ireland, and for the most part it seemed to have worked rather well. British Army psychological warfare specialist at the time, Captain Colin Wallace, would explain of the program:

It was quite clear that the church, both the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant church, even for the paramilitaries, held a fair degree of influence. So we were looking for something that would be regarded with abhorrence really by the two communities, and at the same time would be something that paramilitaries couldn’t justify, and also would be in many ways seen as a reason why some of the outrages were taking place. That sort of degree of activity was lowering the value of human life. And so eventually it came to the point where we looked at witchcraft. Ireland was very superstitious and all we had to do was bring it up to date.

The hysteria that all of this was conjuring up created doubts among the citizens and kept children from going out at night, playing right to the plans of the British. It convinced a great many Northern Irelanders that these rebel groups had flung open some sort of gateway or portal to darkness and evil. There was definitely a noticeable spike in the number of people who truly believed that there was some dark force descending across the land, although to what extent this affected the end of the conflict remains unknown. It is a curious account of a bonkers secret government conspiracy being carried out in all of its off-the-wall glory.

We have seen here only a small fraction of the lunacy that has gone on to be spun off into conspiracy tales that proved to be quite real. There are many, many others, and they all go to show that sometimes the conspiracy theorists are not a bunch of paranoid maniacs full of hot air. There indeed do seem to be some sinister and ominous goings on reaching all the way up to the upper echelons of government. While there are some obvious misses, such as the moon landings (happened) or the infiltration of world governments by the lizard people (wait, what?), these odd cases show us that conspiracies are perhaps not to always be dismissed out of hand and regulated to the realm of paranoid delusion. Maybe there really is sometimes more going on than meets the eye.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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