A lot of weird stuff has happened throughout history. Events where the right amount of crap comes together to spawn something mind-boggling that's remembered for years after. In the world of conspiracy theories, though, often it's the theories themselves that are bizarre. You know the types: "contrails are really chemtrails even though there's tons of evidence to prove otherwise", "those weren't planes on September 11, they were HOLOGRAMS", "Hitler is on a base on the moon", and on, and on. The actual stuff that really happened is usually fairly tame in comparison, or at least not at the same level of "what?" that the conspiracies reach.
Every once in a while, though, you get something where there are theories about, say, the water quality of a city like Flint, Michigan, only to find out that the truth of the whole thing is actually far, far worse than what was originally thought. Cases of corruption and negligence where people thought it was bureaucrats simply not caring, or our governments actually experimenting on the populace with the records to prove it - and a rabbit hole that goes incredibly deep - instead of well, sure, the government's testing stuff on us, but it can't be that bad, right?
The truth is: sometimes, it can be that bad, and we have thirteen cases where all the theories and the stuff we thought was happening were nothing compared to the truth.
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13 Cuban-American Relations and Proposed Operation Northwoods
Governments faking attacks against themselves definitely sounds like conspiracy fodder, and it's one of the more common types - but did you know that this sort of thing was actually planned as a way to justify declaring war on Cuba?
In 1962, the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed false flag operations that would have the CIA or other operatives to attack American targets. Those attacks would be blamed on Cuba, and would allow the American government to justify firing back at the Cuban government - who would be super-confused and wondering what the eff was going on. This was during a time when Communism was considered the biggest threat the USA had ever faced, and Fidel Castro and his communists had taken power. Thankfully, John F. Kennedy and his administration put the kibosh on that particular plan and Operation Northwoods never materialized.
12 Tuskegee "Syphilis Study"
Sometimes, governments experiment on their own civilians. Not just the stuff of conspiracy theories; the US Public Health Service ran a study from 1932-1972 on poor African-American men in Alabama to chart the natural progression of syphilis, while telling these people that they'd be getting free health care for participating. The Public Health Service purposely targeted these impoverished men, a total of 600, of which 399 had syphilis before the study started, and the remainder (the control group) didn't.
The study had the funding, at first, to provide medical care, meals, and burial insurance to the men for participating in this study - once funding went away, however, the men weren't told that they wouldn't be treated for their disease. As far as they knew, things were continuing as normal and they were going to be provided with the things they'd need to live. Those that were infected or became infected didn't get told they had syphilis, either, and even when a treatment became available, the PHS failed to provide - or outright barred people from getting that treatment.
Let's put this in perspective: around 1947, fifteen years after this study started, penicillin had become the standard treatment for those suffering from syphilis. The study was terminated in 1972, without providing relief to its participants, and while preventing them from accessing other treatment programs. In the end, 74 of the 399 men had died, 40 of their wives had been infected with syphilis, and 19 of their kids were born with the congenital version.
11 Secret Chemical Testing on American Citizens: Project MKUltra
In the vein of the above, but on a different spectrum of awful, was Project MKUltra. A real, live thing that happened from 1953 to 1964, the CIA subjected citizens to hallucinogens, various chemicals, and other stuff to test the effects of these agents. The entire purpose of this project was to develop ways of covertly deploying biological and chemical weapons, as well as figuring out ways to defend against theoretical attacks by Cold War Era Russia and China.
A short list of the crap pulled by the CIA during this project from hell:
Randomly administering LSD to people at parties (which occasionally had deadly results).
Possible assassination of one of said LSD victims (by a CIA officer who was alone in a hotel room with said victim when he fell to his death through a window).
Tests on terminal cancer patients because they wouldn't live long enough to experience long-term effects of the experiments.
Study of other ways to control human behaviour.
Destruction of all records relating to Project MKUltra. And many others.
The full extent of what went on with MKUltra can never really be measured - too much was lost or destroyed, and this stuff happened covertly. The fact that stuff like this is most likely still happening is even worse.
10 Over 10,000 Americans Dead to Prove That Alcohol is Bad and Scary
During Prohibition, the government got really upset that people were still drinking alcohol - at increased rates, even - and thought, "Let's scare the crap out of people and make them stop drinking". To explain how they tried (and failed) to scare people out of drinking while killing over 10,000 people in the process, I have to explain to you how bootleggers did their work.
One of the main ingredients that bootleggers used was industrial alcohol, which was denatured to make it undrinkable. Lots of this stuff was stolen during that time period. Denatured industrial alcohol was (and is) sold at a lower price because it's taxed differently than drinkable alcohol, so industrial products can, in turn, be sold at a lower price than they would otherwise have to be. In short: bootleggers steal this stuff, get their chemists to make it drinkable again, bam, you have illegal booze.
The American government caught on to this, went, "not cool you guys" and ... started making some of these denaturing formulas do far worse to people than just make them vomit. Methyl alcohol, kerosene, gasoline, benzene, brucine, cadmium, chloroform, acetone, and other chemicals would be added and were far more difficult to remove from renatured alcohol. That's how poisoned booze was born. Even when the story hit the news that hundreds of people had started dying, people ... didn't stop drinking. Alcohol consumption continued as it was, more people died, Congress argued with itself for a while, then eventually prohibition ended and people no longer had to make booze with poisoned alcohol. But, no, let's insist chemtrails are real instead.
9 What Does Radiation do to the Human Body? Let's Find Out!
There's a lot of evidence of governments experimenting on citizens using radioactive materials - this isn't just the product of some conspiracy theory website. It happens, and has happened, both in the USA and outside it.
The US Atomic Energy Commission and Department of Defense, among other agencies, have performed all sorts of radiation experiments on people for years. They've exhumed the dead without permission of their families in order to test them, they've exposed soldiers and prisoners to radiation, fed radioactive stuff to disabled kids, secretly injected hospital patients with plutonium, fed irradiated milk to orphans, and more.
The Soviet Union also conducted experiments, though their records are still sealed and complete information on their programs has been kept secret. The two that are known are the Totskoye nuclear exercise, where a powerful nuclear bomb was detonated mid-air and soldiers were marched through the epicenter afterward (they did not know they'd just participated in a test), and some details about the Semipalantinsk Test Site, which shut down in 1991. This site was first erected in 1947, and tests were conducted over the years that didn't evacuate nearby villages and had major impact on the health of 200,000 locals - high rates of cancer being one of the biggest consequences.
Other testing performed outside the USA was still conducted in relation to American agencies on indigenous populations, the consequences of which are still being felt to this day.
8 Yes, it Was All About the Oil, Virginia
In October 1990, a young woman named Nayirah gave testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus stating that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers taking hospital equipment, including incubators, and leaving several babies to die, which helped provide support for what would become the Gulf War.
It was later revealed that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the USA, and a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, who was given acting training by a top American PR company. Saddam Hussein had been accusing Kuwait of stealing from Iraq's oil fields, and Kuwait wanted the USA's help to fight back - so America went to war based upon predominantly false testimony, all from a fight over oil.
7 Cat Spies. No, Really.
If you think the theories about government spying on citizens are weird, you really don't know the half of it. Back in the 1960s, when half the CIA was probably on the same acid they were slipping to random people, the idea of building a "spy cat" was considered a good one. They'd have been right if not for, you know, cats being cats. Cats do what they want, when they want, how they want, humans' wants be damned. Even so, the CIA spent over $20 million working on a spy cat and the technology that would make her possible.
Cats are very intelligent, fact, able to get in and out of places without anybody noticing, and generally don't get assumed to be secret weapons or spies. The CIA hooked up a particular grey and white cat with a small transmitter, a microphone in her ear, and an antenna all the way down her back to the tip of her tail. The power supply could only support short recording sessions because it was so small, but they still managed to make this workable. Until, five years later, they went to test their four-legged agent, let her out across the street from a Soviet meeting spot, and... she immediately got hit by a car. A tragic end to this particular project, which was immediately scrapped.
6 Edgewood Arsenal Human Experimentation
After World War II, from 1948 to 1975, the US Army Chemical Corps tested low-dose chemical agents on soldiers for the purpose of testing protective gear, vaccines, medications, and chemical warfare agents. It was partially to develop new interrogation techniques, to find ways to disable enemy soldiers in combat, and for other reasons. Experimentation suddenly stopped in 1975 when the Army was accused of having somewhat questionable ethics with regard to its experiments, and it was later revealed that there may have been coercion involved in obtaining those 7,000 "volunteers". Considering they were soldiers and this was an army exercise, I'm not sure how much volunteering was actually going on.
The worst part about this wasn't just that it was happening, but that there were no plans to pursue follow-up treatments for those that were exposed to various agents - even though many showed symptoms related to exposure. The idea was basically to test and forget.
5 They're Headed Right for Us (Not Really But Shoot Anyway)!
August 4, 1964: North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly decided that it was totally a good idea to fire on American destroyers because what was the worst that could happen? Hours later, war was declared by the USA on North Vietnam, and that, kids, is why the USA joined the Vietnam war.
But it didn't actually happen.
NSA records revealed, in 2005, that this incident - the Gulf of Tonkin incident - didn't happen. It was made up. Sure, there was a battle, but it was basically the US Navy playing with themselves. No wreckage was found, and the commander of one of the destroyers even admitted that initial reports may have been caused by freak weather and overeager sonar men. Or something. Somebody hotboxing the wheelhouse, maybe. There's no doubt that President Johnson had been itching for a reason to aid South Vietnam like the USA had been doing for years, though.
4 RMS Lusitania and her Undeclared War Cargo
Before the RMS Lusitania set sail from New York in May 1915, the German embassy in the USA had an advertisement placed in the newspaper warning her passengers that sailing on the ship would be dangerous. U-Boats had been prowling the Atlantic, and the ocean around the UK had been declared a war zone by Germany. On May 7, the Lusitania was torpedoed inside the war zone and went down in less than 20 minutes.
Several things had happened that shouldn't have: the ship was flying neutral flags, she was listed as an armed merchant cruiser, and her registered cargo included munitions - 4.2 million rounds of rifle cartridges, and 50 tonnes of 3" shells. Armed escorts were not used, which went against the Cruiser Rules. Even so, her sinking was what brought the USA into World War I as 128 Americans died in the wreck, and the ship was stated by everybody but the Germans to be an unarmed civilian ship. And then, in 2008, divers found 15,000 rounds of .303 calibre rifle ammo that had not been declared on the vessel's cargo manifests. Mines have been found around the wreck, indicating that the British government really doesn't want too much investigation going into this ship, and not exactly helping the "German U-Boat wasn't justified in firing on the Lusitania" view that has been pushed for years.
3 The Tulsa Massacre Cover-up
You'd think it would be hard to cover up the mass-murder of 300 black people, but you'd be wrong. In 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dick Rowland - a young black fellow - tripped and fell into a white girl in an elevator. He was immediately arrested, and a day later, a mob showed up outside Rowland's cell. These angry white guys intended to lynch this poor young guy for an accident.
Rowland wasn't alone, though, as a mob of protectors showed up, too. A gunshot went off, triggering what would become the worst race riot in Tulsa's history. The 35-block area known as "Black Wall Street", where wealthy African-Americans lived, would get wiped off the map - literally so - and two black hospitals would be destroyed in the fighting. A nearby airport became the launch pad for aerial attacks by white pilots who firebombed black neighbourhoods, and yet, the official death toll was only pegged at 39. It wasn't until the 1990s that investigations revealed that, hey, more people died - probably upwards of 300 people whose bodies were tossed into coal mines, mass graves, or local rivers.
2 Scientology Can, in Fact, Get Weirder
In the 1970s, the Church of Scientology managed to pull off the wet dream of conspiracy theorists everywhere: a mass cover-up of the nature of their church. They infiltrated organizations, embassies, agencies, private organizations, and consulates in over 30 countries, conducted wiretapping exercises, snatched documents, and more. Somehow, the 5,000 agents of Scientology managed to carry out their scrubbing operation for quite a while before coming to an end in 1979 in the shadow of legal proceedings.
To this day, the Church denies that Operation Snow White ever happened, and claims that all those that were involved have been "purged". Even though most of them are still part of the organization. Oh, and those people have high ranks, too. Huh.
1 The Conspiracy to Destroy Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Career - by the FBI
The FBI had a major, major hate-boner for Martin Luther King Jr., though his assassination wasn't their work. For much of his civil rights career, he was considered an enemy of the state - though unofficially - and following his "I Have a Dream" speech, FBI officials regularly met to figure out how best to neutralize his leadership.
Yeah, that's... really bad. There were thousands of memos that discussed everything King did, and the FBI's final act in all of this was a rather unsubtle letter telling him that he was a fraud akin to Satan, and he "knew what he had to do" if he didn't want his extramarital affair revealed to the public.
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