The past couple of years have seen the resurgence of the conspiracy theorist, but instead of the foil hat wearing, megaphone-wielding whack job of old, the conspiracy theorist of 2018 sits behind a keyboard and sets up GoFundMe pages raising money to launch homemade rockets.
Vaccines cause autism. Man-made climate change isn’t real. Nibiru will crash into Earth, wiping out all life. And Stephen Hawking is an imposter. There are plenty to pick and choose from. Recent research has linked this sort of behavior to gullibility and the need to feel special, but conspiracy theorists will tell you this is simply another cover-up.
There are some occasions, however, when real life is just as strange as fiction. From sinister research programs to health-related cover-ups, here are eight examples from the annals of history that sound so extraordinary they could have been cooked up by a conspiracy theorist.
The CIA really did experiment with mind control and psychedelics
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) crops up in many a conspiracy theory, but its shady reputation is not entirely undeserved. Papers released in the seventies revealed the secret service really had been dabbling in mind control, psychological torture, radiation, and electric shock therapy in a series of studies into behavioral modification known as “Project MK-ULTRA”.
More than 150 human experiments took place between 1953 and 1964, many of which involved administering drugs to US citizens without their knowledge and consent, and under no medical supervision. The purpose of this research was to develop techniques and substances to use against the Soviet Union and its allies – think truth serums and Bourne-like super agents.
But things get more sinister. Then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all records relating to MK-ULTRA in 1973, which means there is little evidence of the intelligence services’ nefarious activities around today. We know the research was responsible for at least one hospitalization and two deaths but the true cost could be much higher.