• Facebook
  • Twitter

Conspiracy Theories

At one time or another, most of us have experienced the feeling that things were going on that we were not being told about, that things were happening in the world, the government, in our own town and street, or out in the depths of the cosmos that might, sooner or later, directly affect or influence our lives. We could do nothing about this and we’re also kept totally in the dark. The feeling of being at the mercy of unknown forces has to be as old as humanity itself, and we have never liked it. We humans are a curious, inquisitive bunch. By our very nature, we are the monkeys who can’t stand not to know. We have climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and sailed across oceans for scarcely more reason that to see what was on the other side. We have gazed at the motion of the stars and planets and watched the tides roll in and out. We have recorded, as best we could, the times at which the sun and moon rose and set. We have mapped and measured and undertaken seemingly impossible journeys. Much of human history is the story of people constantly on the move and constantly looking for answers, and when those answers are not forthcoming, theories and scenarios are made up to fill that unbearable void of ignorance.

Our ancient ancestors wondered what caused the thunder, why the rains came when they did, why sometimes the crops flourished and at other times failed; they puzzled over the true nature of sickness and death. They wove fantastic stories of what lay beyond the limits of their consciousness and perception. When no ready explanations presented themselves for random occurrences and accidents of fate, our forebears turned to the supernatural for the comfort of reasons why. They attempted to give credit or attach blame to all manner of unseen gods, spirits, and demons who either operated a system of mysterious rewards and punishments, or who simply amused themselves – much in the manner of the gods of ancient Greece – by capriciously interfering in human affairs for their own amusement.

In a lot of respects, we are not all that unlike our ancestors. Most of the time we live in the world of normality – of the routine and the daily grind – where we profoundly hope that nothing weird or untoward is going to occur. Every so often, however, we find ourselves glancing over our shoulders into that other place, the larger, wider, and less manageable world where all manner of strangeness is possible, where much is not what it appears, and we believe something’s happening, but we don’t know what it is. With each new backward glance, that macro-world grows more complex and more threatening. We discover that systems that we barely understand are increasingly ruling the essential details of our lives, that previously unknown diseases threaten our future, that new technologies are thrust on us unrequested and often unwanted. Change occurs constantly and at a frightening rate, and although – here in the U.S.A. – we supposedly live in a democracy, we rarely seem to be consulted about the great majority of these changes. As Marshall McLuhan predicted some thirty years ago, “we are in the speed-up.”

Like the cop who tells the gawkers at a crime scene or traffic accident, “Move along now, there’s nothing to see” when it’s patently obvious that there’s really plenty to see, those in authority tend to treat the public’s access to information on a very limited “need to know” basis. Although it may not be right, part of this may be understandable. Since the end of World War II, and all through the nuclear tension of the Cold War, the world has spent a great deal of its time in a state of military preparedness and propagandist paranoia. The constant – if maybe less than rational – fear that Communist agents were everywhere gave rise to a cult of secrecy in which a whole spectrum of information was kept form the general public in what became known as “the interests of national security.”

Unfortunately, the interests of national security were also used to cover a multitude of sins, and a good many of these sins were committed in those dark places where the machinations of politicians and generals interface with a vast and hugely profitable defense industry. This created serious doubts in the minds of many ordinary citizens and even in those of the more honorable in power. In his last act as president, Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation to beware of the military industrial complex and its war machine’s potential for taking over the entire functioning of the country.

This cult of secrecy also didn’t restrict itself to just the workings of the military industrial complex. In the private sector, in mirror image of the defense contractors, many large corporations grew increasingly more secretive about how they conducted business. Experts in “industrial espionage” were hired to keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand was doing, while the public remained completely unaware of the workings of either. A perfect example of the new corporate secrecy has been the relationship between industry and the environment. Over the last half-century, the dumping of waste and toxic leakage from manufacturing and processing plats has become shrouded in a smoke screen of half-truths, deceptions, and outright lies on the part of corporations fearing environmental responsibility, either enforced or volunteered, would cut too deeply into profit margins.

From poisoned rivers to exploitative drug companies to fraud at the savings and loan to child labor in the international garment industry, a cynicism of cover-up, spin control, and disinformation under the guise of public relations has become part of the contemporary art of doing business.

Maybe the only thing that consistently saves us from some Orwellian totalitarianism, complete with the Thought Police and the Ministry of Truth we met in 1984, is that human beings nor only want to know, but when gathered in groups, are also almost incapable of keeping secrets. Through the years, it has been the whistle blowers, the leakers of facts, the courageous individuals who have risked their jobs, their liberty, and sometimes their actual lives to stand up and say “enough already” who have given us at least some idea of what was really going on and what was being done to us under the dark cloak of secrecy. A Karen Silkwood may not exist in every industrial plat that threatens the workers’ health or endangers the surrounding environment, but thankfully there have been enough agitators and iconoclasts to damn the consequences and give us at least a part of the picture. We may not be able to see the forest for the trees, but at least we are aware we’re in a forest.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time a forest can be a dark, deceptive, and scary place. Unknown things rustle in the undergrowth or in the leaves overhead, and patterns of shadows can play on the imagination. When people are deprived of the truth, the settle for rumor, scuttlebutt, speculation, and out-and-out fiction. In times of stress, the need to have at least the illusion of knowing can outstrip even obvious implausibility. A military unit facing combat is the perfect model. The more the lowly grunts are kept in the dark, the more the rumors flourish and the grapevine hums. Someone has always heard something on the QT, and someone else is always absolutely certain what damn-fool plans the generals are cooking up. One way or another, the information vacuum will be filled even if it’s with total fabrication.

In addition to wanting to know and not being good at keeping secrets, folks also like to boast. To be in the know when everyone else is baffled gives one an edge over the rest, and in this age of mass communication, to claim to be in the know is also to have a shot at a marketable product. In the days of sailing ships, old mariners scored shots of rum and mugs of ale by telling tales of monsters and mermaids to gullible landlubbers. Today, individuals who claim they once worked in secret government facilities with parts of flying saucers will fascinate the paying customers at UFO conventions with tales of aliens and high conspiracies. They will write books, establish web sites, appear on TV, and peddle movie scripts in Hollywood. The late William Burroughs called it “the Chicken Little industry” noting that there was always a buck to make out of predicting the end of the world or revealing the inside dope on conspiracies in the corridors of power. Put the two together and you even have a long-running hit TV series like The X-Files.

The reality may be that all too many of us actually prefer to believe the fantastic over the mundane. Maybe the sky is falling, but isn’t life also a bit more romantic with the nervous thrill that maybe the end really is at hand? And even if the sky isn’t falling, aren’t the nights more exciting with beings from other worlds buzzing around in them? These are exciting times for those who believe themselves to be living in the biblical “End Times,” shortly to be called to do Apocalyptic battle with the forces of Satan. On a whole other level, a national poll reveals that some 70 percent of Americans do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. What the pollsters didn’t ask was whether those 70 percent of Americans felt better believe that their president was killed by an elaborate conspiracy than by some isolated nut with a mail-order rifle and a head full of sour politics. If the lone nut could get the president, didn’t that make life so random that anything could supposedly happen to anyone at any time? In the traumatic wake of the JFK assassination and the subsequent murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, the concept of conspiracy offered a certain degree of chilly comfort. At least it possessed sufficiently evil stature to explain the pain.

One thing should not be forgotten, however. Even though the existence of a conspiracy may be what a lot of people want, both psychologically and emotionally, to believe for their own needs it does not mean that their instincts are wrong and by no means indicates that a conspiracy doesn’t exist.

While many people may accept any explanation rather than none, the U.S. government, over the past half-century, has not been particularly good at – or forthcoming with – explanations of what it’s up to. As a body politic, however, it is also not terribly good at lying – even though the body should be well practiced in the art, having often lied throughout its more than two hundred years of life, right out to the very boundaries of the Constitution. On too many occasions, those in authority appear to adopt an attitude of disdainful contempt for the ones to whom they are supposed to answer. Far too many of our leaders take it as written that the mass of the population is both stupid and gullible okay, so en masse, men and women may not act overly smart, but we do seem possessed of a fairly reliable guy instinct that tells us when we’re seriously being sold a bill of goods. To see this instinct in action, one has to look no further than the report of the Warren Commission on the assassination of JFK.

The great mistake of the Warren Commission may have been that it expected to be believed in the first place. Its unilateral creation of a case against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman shamelessly ignored any facts that failed to fit the thesis. It relied so heavily on clearly preposterous scenarios like Arlen Specter’s “magic bullet” theory that one could assume it was only interested in having an explanation – any explanation – in place as quickly as possible, and truth was very low on the list of priorities. Or perhaps Lyndon Johnson didn’t give a damn whether his Warren Report as believed or not. If nothing else, it bought him precious times. In the most charitable context, Johnson could well have been entering the investigation with a very real fear of what might be found. A Soviet or Castro-Cuban connection could bring the world to the edge of nuclear war. The revelation of a major domestic conspiracy could collapse the entire structure of national government. Facing the prospects of doomsday or anarchy, the tactical need was for a breathing space to take whatever action was warranted, away from the flare of the media. If the flimsy lone gunman cover story held up long enough to quietly negotiate with the Russians because some brew of rogue KGB spooks decided to take out the U.S. president, then all is well and good. If it stayed in place while domestic conspirators were neutralized, equally fine.

In a less kindly light, Johnson could have been going into the JFK investigation knowing exactly what the story was, either because he was part of the plot himself – he was, after all, as Oliver Stone reminded us, the primary beneficiary of Kennedy’s death – or because J. Edgar Hoover laid out the details on the conspiracy almost as soon as the shooting stopped. In this grim scenario, the time bought by the Warren Report was even more crucial, and the implausibility was a definite asset. Any real JFK murder investigation might instantly be overrun with amateur investigators, conspiracy theorists, and time-wasting crazies. If anyone like New Orleans DA Jim Garrison made any serious attempt to sift the real facts, he could be dismissed along with the paranoids and the nuts. The world would enter an era of conflict and debate, analysis and counter-analysis – “a looking-glass world, people” – and it might take thirty years or more to match all the pieces of the jigsaw. By that time, the majority of the players would be dead and gone. Meanwhile, the real objective had been achieved. The uncontrollable Kennedy was off the bridge, and the ship of state was full ahead all engines for the Vietnam War and a military industrial bonanza.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen that way. The conspiracy buffs, looking to spot gunmen on the grassy knoll in blurry photographs, turned over a great many unrelated but highly embarrassing stones. They unearthed Operation Mongoose and the CIA plots to kill Fidel Castro. The revelations of the CIA’s history of experiments with LSD, brainwashing, and mind control – which would ultimately lead to the investigations by the 1976 Rockefeller Commission – were largely a result of probes into the background and CIA ties of Lee Harvey Oswald. More importantly, after the Kennedy assassination, something very radical happened to the state of paranoia in the Free World. It was taken out of the hands of politicians and given to the people.

During the sub-zero Cold War of the 1950s paranoia was completely controlled by the state. Fallout shelters and “duck and cover” atomic attack drills, HUAC and Joe McCarthy, the imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten, and the execution of Julius and Ether Rosenburg (guilty or innocent) all manipulated public anxiety and clearly sent the message that the only thing to fear after communism was the government itself. When the shots rang out in Dealey Plaza and, within minutes, fingers were pointing at Oswald and no one else, all trust in politicians died right along with JFK. Without a blind belief that those in power knew best, manipulation became impossible. People not only demanded their own sources of information but began to create them. The alternative press that emerged in the 1960s – but still exists today albeit in a far mellower, less strident, and more commercial from – provided a spur to the more mainstream media to act as a watchdog on the covert maneuvers of the intelligence community, to monitor the wheelings, dealings, and cover-ups of those in authority, and to challenge and debate the government line on everything from recreational drugs to AIDS. In an almost organic consensus, people wanted to know in the worst way – if only to prevent another Warren Commission from treating them like idiots. It could be said that this wanting to know, and the fact that the Washington Post was willing to tell them, was really what stopped Richard Nixon from getting away scot-free after Watergate.

If the Warren Commission overestimated the public gullibility with regard to the Kennedy Assassination, then the i. Air Force’s Project Grudge and Bluebook managed to insult the intelligence of the U.S. people in the matter of UFOs. When, from 1947 onward, large numbers of strange-moving lights started to appear in the sky and were dubbed “unidentified flying objects” or “flying saucers,” the Air Force’s best effort was condescendingly glib press releases that identified the things as weather balloons, marsh gas, oddly shaped clouds, flocks of migrating birds, and the planet Venus. Everyone who watched TV or read the newspapers and news magazines knew that these lights in the sky had been observed not just by drunks, teenagers, and Verne and Bubba fishing in the swamp, but by trained observers: cops, air traffic controllers, and military and civilian aircrews. There were all people who could tell birds and Venus from some weird radar blips zigzagging over Lubbock, Texas, in formation or buzzing Washington, D.C., in large numbers.

Again, the public was thrown back on its own paranoid resources. When the military fobbed folks off with marsh gas, the way was opened for all manner of less-official explanations. One of the first into the UFO information vacuum was a character called George Adamski, who lived on the slopes of Mt. Palomar in Southern California. He announced in his book Flying Saucers Have Landed that not only had he seen the UFOs in the sky, but one had landed near his house. He had taken photographs, and held conversations with the craft’s occupants, who had taken him for a ride in the spaceship. By the time Adamski reached the point of describing romantic encounters with beautiful, blonde Venusians, the public had pretty much lost confidence in him, but his basic premise still stuck. Lacking any other acceptable explanation, extraterrestrial spacecraft made as much sense as anything else. The idea would flourish and grow, clear up to the present day, gathering a massive and convoluted weight of informational baggage along the passage of time.

Much like Lyndon Johnson and the Warren Commission, the Air Force officers assigned to the UFO investigation may well have suffered some trepidation about what they might find. The possibilities that these things were radical Nazi aircraft from the end of World War II or equally radical Soviet weapons were hardly a happy prospect. The third option, that the flying objects really were not of the Earth, took the Air Force into even more dangerous territory. Just like the Warren Commission, they may have simply fed the public any line of garbage while they attempted to find out what the things really were. Again, it’s also possible that the Air Force knew exactly what the UFOs were, either because they were some secret U.S. project or because after the alleged Roswell crash or another similar incident they had ample evident that the things were extraterrestrial craft and imposed the tightest security clampdown while wondering how to break the news to the rest of the world without creating massive social, cultural, and religious upheavals.

The motives of George Adamski are a lot easier to guess at and almost certainly involved three possible choices. The first was that he simply exploited the flying saucer furor with stories that were lies from start to finish, that his films and photographs were fakes, and that he was nothing more than an unscrupulous showman profiting from a media gad and the information void created by a condescending military. The second – being charitable again – was that Adamski really did undergo some kind of experience that set his money-making sideshow in motion, but after the initial story was told and maybe embroidered, the temptation was to go on churning out increasingly fantastic fabrications for the paying customers. The third was, of course, that he believed every word he said but was delusional and stone crazy.

In many respects, John Mack is the antithesis of George Adamski. Mack, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who won a Pulitzer Prize for a psychological biography of Lawrence of Arabia, became fascinated by the fact that by the start of the 1990s, up to a million Americans believed that at some point in their lives that had suffered abduction by aliens. As far as Mack was concerned, this kind of number indicated one of two things. Either a very large number of people were suffering from an almost identical psychotic delusion, or they really were being abducted by aliens – maybe not everyone who claimed to have been snatched by small, gray humanoids, but still significantly large numbers to warrant some kind of serious investigation. Logically, it should have been a job for either the military, the FBI, or the Centers for Disease Control, but none of these agencies appeared in any way interested so Mack decided to do it himself. Almost from the moment that he began to examine the abduction phenomenon, Mack ran into a firestorm of academic hostility, criticism, and contempt. He was likened to Timothy Leary who, years earlier, had become notorious for his LSD experiments while at Harvard, and arguable threw his career away by pandering to what was nothing more than tabloid nonsense.

That abuse became even worse when, during the course of his research, Mack began to actually believe that in some of the cases he was studying, real abductions had taken place. Many of his colleagues derisively pointed out that the kind of hypnotic regression Mack used to help subjects recall the “missing time” during which they were aboard alien craft was prone to what was known as “false memory syndrome.” Patients are conditioned – either consciously or unconsciously – to produce answers the therapist is seeking. Hypnotic regression therapy has also been extensively used in cases of repressed memories of child abuse and molestation, and infant exposure to Satanic cults. In these areas, imposed false memories have proved to be so major a problem that many doctors – and also lawyers in child custody and similar suits – have ceased to regard it as trustworthy.

Whatever the truth about George Adamski, John Mack, or any of the dozens of other UFO pundits who have come to the fore in the last four decades, it has absolutely no bearing on the real truth about those things in the sky. Adamski may have been lying or deranged, and Mack may be dealing in false memories or a collective psychosis. Until a fully authenticated alien appears on CNN, UFOs can be anything from a figment of the Jungian collective unconsciousness to the first scouts of an invasion force totally free to believe what we like – without the Air Force or any UFO buff having any say in the matter. We can even chose between needing to know and wanting to believe.

The problem with being in charge of our own paranoia rather than having some paternalist authority tell us what we should be thinking is that we must make our own choices, and here, on the threshold of the new millennium, the choices are far from few. Since the narrow secrecy of the Cold War 1950s, our sources of information have multiplied by quantum leaps. When Al Gore coined the phrase “the information superhighway,” he almost certainly envisioned something streamlined, orderly, and neatly organized, and not the roaring anarchic dragstrip that it has grown into today, complete with cyber-hot rodders, galactic hitchhikers, and such a thundering rush of limitless date – true and false, profound and ludicrous – that sometimes it’s hard to avoid being roadkill in the cultural overload. Where once we only had Time, Life and Newsweek, a well-stocked newsstand can now stretch for nearly half a city block with specialist magazines on every conceivable subject from astrology to automatic weapons. Bale and satellite TV offer close to a hundred channels, and even the most rapid remote grazing can hardly keep up with even a fraction of the output. On the Internet, it is possible to move from Noam Chomsky to Marilyn Manson with a click of the mouse.

At one time, the jigsaw pieces with which we assembled our perception of the world had to be ferreted out one by one. We now live in a noisy marketplace where millions of bits of data, on even more millions of subjects, all jostle and vie for our attention, our trust, and our gullibility. An open market may represent the freedom to which we all aspire, but it can also be a raw, dirty, and sometimes dangerous place with its whores and con artists, its snakeoil salesmen, pickpockets, and false prophets. Everyone has either a secret agenda or the secret of an agenda, and a free market in information doesn’t mean we are fundamentally any closer to the truth. Those in power still want to keep their secrets, but instead of merely brushing us off with a Warren Commission report or a Project Bluebook, the lies and disinformation become more flamboyant and seductive. Truth – real objective truth – is turned into a shell game of now you see it, now you don’t.

The Gulf War may have been the greatest example so far of the new face of public deception. Although, through its brief duration, it was the most televised war in history, with CNN reporters actually inside the enemy capital, George Bush and his generals remembered the lesson of Vietnam. They went into Operation Desert Storm with an implacable determination that the people would see nothing that would turn them off or alienate their support. The news coverage was of a video game war, a seamless, micro-managed panorama of smart bombs, surgical strikes, stealth fighters, and battle tanks rolling forward, unopposed, past ranks of surrendering Iraqis. Even the eerie green, night-vision shots of the high-tech fireworks over Baghdad were so science fiction in their imagery that it was almost impossible to connect them with the reality that they were blowing up not only buildings and military installations, but also men, women, and children. The conventionally horrific images of the red fire and black smoke from the burning oil fields came after the shooting was over and Saddam Hussein’s contempt for the environment needed to be underlined. Only much later did we begin to learn of the dark side of the war, of civilian casualties, of Gulf War Syndrome, of chemical weapons, and shells jacketed with spent uranium.

Without getting into psychiatric technicalities, the pop definitions of paranoia are numerous and often closer to the money that the shrinks like to admit. “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they ain’t out to get you.” “The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.” On a more thoughtful level of clich√©, “Paranoia is one way of making sense of the non-sensical.” These definitions attempt an explanation, no matter how spurious, of a world that seems to complicated to be understood and far beyond any individual control. Even though Mulder’s combined maxim dictates, “the truth is out there, but trust no one,” the danger is in going too far with the assumption that we are consistently and constantly subject to a conspiracy of deception and manipulation. The temptation is to look for a unifying factor, a way in which one person, one group, or one thing is responsible for all that makes the modern world so chaotic and potentially frightening.

In the last few years, the term “Octopus Theory” has been bounced around not only in the world of secrets and hidden agendas but also in the psychiatric community. In essence, the Octopus Theory is the unifying factor taken to the ultimate extreme, the belief that everything in the world is the result of one vast and complicated conspiracy. The rational person will dismiss the idea, and the shrink will warn you not to go there, it leads to either fascism or conversations with an invisible friend. Shrink and rationalist will agree that anything like the Octopus Theory is simple too easy, too neat a paranoid shortcut to a false solution.

On the other hand, just as most other states of mind, both rational and irrational, cannot be separated from the surrounding culture, paranoia has always drawn directly on the immediate cultural ground clutter. This is nowhere more noticeable than when individual paranoia erupts into deadly violence. When, in the rock ‘n’ roll 50s, Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Fugate, went on their Nebraska badlands killing spree, his self-promoted image as a combination of James Dean and the Angel of Death fitted perfectly with the contemporary concept of the “crazy, mixed-up kid,” and as such, he became, in some quarters, a homicidal teen folk hero. In the same way, a decade and a half later, the Manson Family, with their quasi-Satanism and apocalyptic doctrine of Helter Skelter gleaned from a weird amalgam of The Book of Revelation and The Beatles’ White Album, represented the dark side of 60s flower power. Serial killer Ted Bundy provided an obvious analof for the contradictions of the 70s “Me Generation” and the yuppies of the Reagan era, as almost like some monstrous comic book super-villain, he presented the daytime face of a charming and upwardly mobile young Republican, but in the interior darkness of his soul, he altered his ego to become the sexual stalker and slaughterer of attractive young women.

In the even more confused and media-inundated 90s, it became hard to truly assess whether Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – the members of the Trenchcoat Mafia who attempted to blow away their entire high school, or at the very least, kill as many of their teachers and fellow students as they could before killing themselves – should be viewed as culturally created monsters or as a new manner of victim for whom the world had become their very own and highly delusional Octopus. Faced with the feeling that they had become terminal outsiders, the subjects of real or imagined prejudice, and an immediate environment that seemed to be nothing more than a perpetual conspiracy of insult and harassment, their reaction was to retreat into a person fantasy world cut from whole-paranoid cloth, to look for comfort in threatening costumes, in an “us against them” defiant camaraderie of shock tactics, and in a kind of cybernetic virtual-mysticism in which death is presented as either irrelevant, negatable, or even a hoped-for release.

The Trenchcoat Mafia deliberately combined all of their favorite parts of the dark side of paranoid pop culture – movies like The Matrix and The Crow, video games like Doom, death metal rock ‘n’ roll, the outer limits of the Internet, mail-order Soldier of Fortune militia literature – to create a never-never land in which they were implacable and invincible heroes who could proudly proclaim “stay alive, stay different, stay crazy.” This self-made universe served first as a refuge, then as an emotional boot camp in which to hone their paranoid rage, fan finally, in the case of Harris and Klebold, as a base from which they could mount their suicide attack on the microcosm high school reality that had tormented them. In this they managed to turn the Octopus Theory on its head, and the two lone gunmen actually challenged reality with their lives.

As with Harris and Klebold, too much of our information comes to us via print or electronic media, both of which are frequently solitary vices devoid of healthy debate and discussion, and in our isolation we succumb to the temptation of seeing patterns where none exist – the post-industrial equivalent of making pictures in the fire. We learn that mutant frogs are growing extra legs in Minnesota, that a black market may exist in ex-Soviet nuclear weapons parts, that heavily armed guys in camouflage are funning around the woods firmly convinced that troops of the New World Order in black helicopters are about to take over the country (by fisher). It may be tempting to try and link them all, but no demonstrable relationship exists except that they are all happening in the same world at the same time, and they are all the products of varying degrees of human greed, fear, and stupidity.

Yet, just as me overcome the temptation to embrace the Octopus and decide that the modern world is not the product of some vast, all encompassing plot designed and ordered by a secret elite and its minions, but just a mess of random chances, one or another of these disturbing synchronous little loops show up just to keep us on edge. A New York City bum talks to Stuttering John on The Howard Stern Show, babbling how the Central Intelligence Agency planted microchips in his head to control and confuse his thinking. A harmless psycho? Maybe, until it starts to emerge that the operation he’s raving about and the symptoms he’s manifesting are uncomfortably close to those resulting from some of the CIA’s MKULTRA mind control experiments as described by author John Marks in his 1979 book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. As conservative scientists state confidently that no real evidence can be offered for global warming, half of Borneo catches fire live on CNN, and you cant help but wonder. Perhaps one of the oddest of these lops occurred at the same time as rational individuals, both lay and professional, were presenting a convincing case that the Octopus Theory is nothing more than a dangerous state of mind. James Ridgeway and David Vaugn of the Village Voice were digging into the 1991 death of journalist Danny Casolaro, who was writing a book on what he firmly believed was the real Octopus Conspiracy. Although his death was ruled a suicide, many close to Casolaro were no satisfied with the verdict, particularly when all his notes and manuscripts vanished and two strange national security-looking types even showed up at his funeral.

Thus, if for no other reason than to avoid the sudden and mysterious demise of anyone connected with the publication of this website, no theories are presented or conspiracies speculated upon here. Just the facts, ma’am, as Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet. . . along with the secrets, the lies, the small horrors, and the big rumors. All the mutant frogs, the alien invasion plans, and the hidden plots of government that can be crammed into the allotted pages. I don’t even suggest that every word is the gospel truth, although every entry has at some time been presented as gospel. What the reader believes or disbelieves is entirely up to him/her/it. All I can do is offer the following pledge:

The Pledge – All of the entries included in this section have appeared in print, on the Internet, on television, or have been repeated in authenticated conversation. The more transparent fabrications of the Globe or Weekend World News will not be included.