Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies book cover

Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies

By: Christopher Hodapp and Alice Von Kannon Published: 03-31-2008

What do Skull and Bones, the Kennedys, and UFOs all have in common? They’re all shrouded in mystery and conspiracies 

 

Entering the world of conspiracy theories and secret societies is like stepping into a distant, parallel universe where the laws of physics don’t apply and everything you know is wrong: black is white, up is down. If you want to understand what’s really going on — from fluoridated water and chemtrails to alien autopsies, free electricity, and more — you need a good reference book, and that’s where Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies comes in. 

Whether you’re a skeptic or a true believer, this fascinating guide, packed with the latest information, walks you through some of the most infamous conspiracy theories — such as Area 51, the assassination of JFK, and reptilian humanoids — and introduces you to such mysterious organizations as the Freemasons, the Ninjas, the Illuminati, the Mafia, and Rosicrucians. This behind-the-curtain guide helps you separate fact from fiction and provides insight into the global impact these mysterious events and groups have had on our modern world. Discover how to: 

  • Test a conspiracy theory 
  • Spot a sinister secret society 
  • Assess the Internet’s role in fueling conspiracy theories 
  • Explore world domination schemes 
  • Evaluate 9/11 conspiracy theories 
  • Figure out who “they” are 
  • Grasp the model on which conspiracy theories are built 
  • Figure out whether what “everybody knows” is true 
  • Distinguish one assassination brotherhood from another 
  • Understand why there’s no such thing as a “lone assassin” 
 

Additionally, you can read about some conspiracy theories that turned out to be true (like the CIA’s LSD experiments), theories that seem beyond the pale (such as the deliberate destruction of the space shuttle Columbia), and truly weird secret societies (Worshippers of the Onion and nine more). Grab your own copy of Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies and decide for yourself what is fact and what is a conspiracy. 

Articles From Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies

6 results
6 results
Alien Secrets: The Vril Society

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Vril Society is a troublesome topic because there's no authentic proof that this secret society really existed, even though there's no shortage of people who claim that it did. What makes the Vril Society really weird is that it started out as a science fiction story and from an author who is rarely connected these days with anything short of a joke. Edward Bulwer-Lytton (infamous author of the opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night") was a Victorian-era writer. In 1870, he published a science fiction novel, The Power of the Coming Race, which describes an underground race of superhuman angel-like creatures and their mysterious energy force, Vril, an "all-permeating fluid" of limitless power. The story goes that the people, called Vril-ya, are able to control this energy source with their minds, both to do good as well as to destroy. And, so the story goes, they're filling up the inside of the Earth and are about to come out onto the surface looking for new real estate. And of course, before they can build their terrestrial civilization, the pesky humans will have to be destroyed. The book was a huge success and was partially responsible for a wave of speculation that the earth was indeed hollow and filled with aliens. The Vril-ya were supposed to be the descendants of Atlantis who crawled into the Earth's core to escape the deluge that destroyed the legendary city, and the novel became a favorite among true Atlantis believers. More important, the term Vril became widely used as a description of "life-giving elixir." In 1935, German rocket scientist and science fiction author Willy Ley fled Nazi Germany and came to the United States. In an article two years later, he mentioned that there was a group called Wahrheitsgesellschaft (Society for Truth) that formed to look for the real existence of Vril in order to build a perpetual motion machine, among other goals. Based on Ley's mention of the group, other researchers began making claims that a real Vril Society did exist in Germany, before and after World War II. In 1960, Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels published their speculative book, Morning of the Magicians, in which they made claims about the Vril Society in Berlin being the precursor to the Thule Society and the Nazi Party. Others have built upon their somewhat sandy foundation to claim that the Society did indeed manage to communicate with the Vril-ya and that the Nazis built a Vril-powered flying saucer, the V-7, that made a flight to Prague in 1945. At the end of the war, the Vril Society, so the story goes, packed up its kit, took its flying saucers, and flew to a secret underground base in Antarctica. It has also been claimed that Vril technology allowed the Nazis to land on the Moon in 1942, where they built an underground base that still exists today. One small book for man, one giant delusion for mankind.

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Armageddon and the Book of Revelation

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The events written in the biblical Book of Revelation go by a number of names — Armaggedon, Apocalypse, The End Times — and for thousands of years, people have been seeing the signs of Armaggedon in the world around them. Remember Y2K? At the heart of this millenialism is the description of Armageddon, the final battle on Earth between God and Satan, in the Book of Revelation. Popular belief is that the Antichrist will reveal himself, and Christ will return to the Earth to take the good and the righteous up to heaven in an event known as "The Rapture," leaving Satan behind to rule the Earth for 1,000 years. The philosophy and theology surrounding these "End Times" is called eschatology. There are variations in the way Christians interpret the Book of Revelation, and it's without question the hardest book of the Bible to understand. Even the author, John, is disputed by scholars — no one can say with authority whether this John was an apostle or an otherwise unknown author. These difficulties have resulted in wildly differing viewpoints: Revelation is a future prophecy. Its many visions and descriptions can be laid over past, present, or future events, but readers of all times and places tend to think Revelation describes the prelude to the Apocalypse as being right now. Of course, this has been done for 1,950 years, give or take, and every evil dictator has been nominated by doomsayers as the Antichrist. Armaggedon already happened during the Roman Empire. Some biblical scholars argue that Revelation isn't about some future apocalyptic cataclysm at all. They say that the Beast referred to in Revelation is really the Emperor Nero, and that 666 refers to Hebrew numerology of Nero Caesar's name. This is the Nero who famously fiddled while Rome burned, but more important, he was the first emperor to order official Roman persecution of the Christians. Revelation is a road map that tells how to trigger Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. The formation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1945 was the first step to arming the cosmic trigger. Now that the Jews have come back to Jerusalem, all that's left is for them to flatten the Islamic mosques currently occupying the Temple Mount and to rebuild the Hebrew Temple for God to set the Final Conflict in motion. This reason is why fundamentalist Christians strongly support Israel — helping them will bring Christ back that much faster. It's also a partial reason why Islamic authorities who are in charge of the Temple Mount categorically refuse to allow Israeli excavation under the mosques on the Mount, or to even publicly admit that there was ever any Jewish Temple up there to begin with. Revelation is an allegory, and you need to always be prepared for The End in your heart. Some Christian sects hold that Satan is being held in the wings by God, where he can be dragged out onto the cosmological and ecclesiastical stage whenever God chooses to bring about the End Times. So the best way to prepare isn't to look for signs of The End, but to live every day like it's the last one. And there are a lot of variations in between. There's big money being made in eschatological opportunism, and there's a big difference between prophets and profits.

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Debunking the Beatles Conspiracy: "Paul Is Dead"

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

One of the strangest events surrounding the Beatles was the rumor in 1966 that band member Paul McCartney was dead. Not only was he dead, but was replaced with a double. More amazing was that the band seemed to be putting clues in their music and album covers to leak the truth — although the Beatles always denied any part in promoting the rumor. The most famous elements were contained on the Abbey Road album cover. The four Beatles are shown walking across the pedestrian "zebra crossing" on London's Abbey Road, but there are curious clues. McCartney is in a suit, barefoot and out of step with John Lennon (dressed as a priest), Ringo Starr (dressed as an undertaker), and George Harrison (dressed in work clothes, like a grave digger). A Volkswagen Beetle is parked on the road, with the license plate "LMW281F," implying McCartney would have been 28 "if" he had lived, while LMW supposedly stood for "Linda McCartney Weeps." In 1969, a Detroit disc jockey named Russ Gibb received a phone call from a listener named Tom, who announced that McCartney was dead, and for clues, to play the Beatles song "Revolution #9" backward. In reverse, the words that are repeated over and over, "number nine, number nine," sort of sound like "turn me on, dead man." The rumors continued to spread and became a worldwide urban legend when a WABC disc jockey in New York rambled on about it on an overnight show that was heard over the clear channel AM station in two-thirds of the U.S. and halfway around the world. Afterward, there wasn't a campus radio station in the country that wasn't running a weekend-long "Paul-a-thon," with listeners calling in their favorite clues as they pored over the albums and fan magazines until their eyes fogged over. Grade-point averages plummeted all over the United States. Conspiracists pieced together a hodgepodge of lyrics from several albums to create the story. Supposedly, McCartney had a fight with the other members of the band during the recording of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and stormed out of the studio. He hopped into his Austin-Healey at about 5:00 a.m. on November 9, 1966, drove into the dark morning, crashed into a light pole, and was killed. Following the accident, a secret funeral was held, and the news was withheld from the public. A quiet search was quickly made for a McCartney look-alike/sound-alike — named Billy Shears — who finished the recording of Sgt. Pepper. It was Billy Shears who went on to record all subsequent Beatles albums and launch his own band, Wings. Of course, all this started in the creative minds of a small group of college students who went cherry-picking through the lyrics of wildly different Beatles songs to invent the story. Unquestionably, the band was bewildered at first by the story, but John Lennon in particular seemed to enjoy playing along, while never exactly commenting on it openly.

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Princess Diana's Death: Accident or Conspiracy?

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died after a high-speed car accident in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris. Princess Diana was traveling with Dodi Al-Fayed (son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed). In the front seats were bodyguard Trevor-Rees Jones and the Hotel Ritz's acting security manager, Henri Paul, who'd been ordered to elude the cars and motorcycles packed with paparazzi that were chasing the famous couple. Paul crashed into a support column (portentously, the 13th one) in the tunnel, and eventually all but Jones died from their injuries. Almost immediately, Dodi's famous father came out swinging. He claimed that Diana was murdered by the English Crown to hide the fact that the couple was about to be engaged, and that Diana was pregnant with her Egyptian boyfriend's child, a scandal that Britain's royal family wouldn't stand for. French authorities investigated the case and judged it an accident, caused by driver Henri Paul's reckless driving while under the influence of antidepressants and too much booze (three times the legal limit in France). Al-Fayed was relentless, and wild charges were made over the years: The late Henri Paul was accused of being in the paid service of the British, French, or U.S. intelligence communities (it varied, depending on who was telling the tale). French investigators were accused of swapping Paul's blood samples with those of a drunken suicide victim (later debunked by DNA records). Britain's MI5 and MI6 security services were implicated, as were Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Phillip. Other claims bubbled to the surface. One especially lunatic one was that Diana's well-publicized campaign against the use of landmines had cut into the business of unscrupulous landmine manufacturers, so she had to be snuffed by the military-industrial complex. Uber-conspiracist David Icke got in the game, too, claiming that Diana had seen Queen Elizabeth transform herself into a 12-foot-tall alien lizard, a secret so devastating that she had to be murdered. As for the pregnancy claims, Diana had never said anything to anyone about it, and blood tests, in fact, revealed no sign of pregnancy, though an early stage of pregnancy in a late post-mortem is apparently difficult to determine. Reports that Dodi had purchased an engagement ring turned out to be false. As for Fayed's notion that the couple had been murdered out of some racist motivation, Diana had just ended a two-year liaison with a Pakistani Muslim that the Royal Family seemed to have no objections to her marrying, if she'd been so inclined. In January 2004, London's Metropolitan Police began its own inquiry, Operation Paget, led by then commissioner Lord John Stevens, with a team that would eventually include 14 officers. After nearly three years and a cost of £3.7 million (more than US $7 million), the initial 832-page report was issued in December 2006, saying that every single one of the conspiracy theories were without foundation, and that Diana hadn't been murdered. In April 2008, an inquest jury ruled that the couple's deaths were caused by the "unlawful, negligent driving of the Mercedes and the following vehicles." In other words, the chauffer was drunk and the paparazzi were overzealous. Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi's father, continues to believe the couple was murdered.

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What Is Conspiracism?

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In the past two centuries, and particularly in the last 50 years or so, people the world over have embraced conspiracism. When we refer to a conspiracy, we mean an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned conspiracy, as defined by the dictionary — a plot by some dark and nefarious characters to do something sinister or evil. In its milder forms, conspiracism isn't too bad. You know what we mean — the kind of guy who's perfectly sane, yet he's absolutely convinced that the price of everything he buys is controlled by some tiny cartel of bankers in New York or Geneva. Or maybe he thinks that the United Nations wants to take over the U.S. government. Or that National Security Agency spies are tracking his movements through a microchip in his neck inserted when he had his tonsils out. The problem is that, as this sort of thinking has become more and more common, it's spawned a new sort of social commentator and a new sort of world view, seeing every major world event through the dark filter of conspiracism. The universe of conspiracism isn't a random place where things happen for no reason. As Michael Barkun puts it in his book, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America: Nothing happens by accident: Everything that happens in the world is intentional, by someone's (or something's) Grand Design. Nothing is as it seems: Whoever or whatever is in control disguises their role and their identity. In fact, they go out of their way to look innocent, deflect blame, or just plain hide. Everything is connected: Because of an intricate, evil design that allows for no accidents, there's no such thing as a coincidence, and the patterns of evil forces are all interconnected with each other. Therefore, the right type of person can see these patterns of numbers, designs, events, or activities everywhere, once they know what to look for. This last bit is important because, in most conspiracy theories, a thread of insistence exists that only certain, truly enlightened people can see the truth behind the secret plots. Most conspiracies are, so the thinking goes, invisible to the vast majority of sheeplike citizens who go grazing through the pasture of life, never suspecting the evil wolves lurking behind the rocks of everyday occurrences. In a way, conspiracism can be comforting to true believers because it removes the scary notion of randomness from the universe. For some, conspiracies can seem like an extension of religious faith, with God and Satan locked in a struggle for supremacy on Earth. In fact, many conspiracists are strongly connected to a belief in the coming of the end of the world. After a specific series of world events happens, these "millenialists" believe, those events will usher in Armageddon, the final battle between the forces of good and evil on Earth.

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True Conspiracy: The Ford Pinto Memorandum

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Pinto automobile was marketed by Ford from 1971 to 1980 to try to feed the new American appetite for smaller cars. With its dinkster four-cylinder engine, the Pinto was battling the Volkswagon Beetle and the Toyota Corolla for the hearts and minds of those who wanted sewing-machine engines under their hoods. Up until the first gas crisis of the 1970s, Americans were used to 30-cent-a-gallon gasoline. So American engineers weren't quite used to this business of dropping weight wherever possible in order to increase gas mileage. Consequently, the Pinto contained a major and potentially dangerous design flaw — the car had no classic, heavyweight bumper, as well as little reinforcement between the rear panel and the gas tank. When a Pinto got rear-ended, it was far too easy, even in a relatively minor accident, for the fuel tank to be ruptured, or worse, driven into the differential and punctured by the large bolts that held it in place. On top of this flaw, the doors could very easily jam after an accident, again due to the cracker-box construction that caused the metal to be so easily twisted and compressed. In other words, the Pinto was considered a deathtrap on four wheels. Now the conspiracy begins. Ford was fully aware of all these construction problems. However, people didn't know that until Mother Jones magazine published a stolen copy of an infamous memo that was sent out to all senior management at the Ford Motor Company. Here are the highlights of the memo on the altar worshipping the Almighty Buck: 1. With expected unit sales of 11 million Pintos, and a total cost per unit to modify the fuel tank of $11, a recall would have cost Ford $121 million. 2. But, using mathematical formulations of a probable 2,100 accidents that might result in 180 burn deaths, 180 seriously burned victims, and 2,100 burned-out vehicles, the "unit cost" per accident, assuming an out-of-court settlement, came to a probable $200,000 per death, $67,000 per serious injury, and $700 per burned-out vehicle, leaving a grand total of $49.53 million. 3. Allowing the accidents to occur represented a net savings of nearly $70 million. 4. Therefore, a human life was mathematically proven to be worth less than an $11 part. Ford continued to build and market the Pinto without modifications until news of the memo broke. It led to criminal charges, an avalanche of lawsuits, and a recall of all Pintos; the mess went on for years. Not to mention the fact that Ford got some of the worst press an American car company has ever received. Later studies indicated that the Pinto may not have been any more prone to blowing up on contact than any other car, but by that time, the damage was done.

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