Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies book cover

Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies

Authors:
Christopher Hodapp ,
Alice Von Kannon
Published: March 31, 2008

Overview

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. 

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 The Book

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Conspiracy Theories Articles

Conspiracy Theory: The Moon Landings Were Faked

On July 20, 1969, the whole world stared into their television sets and watched blurry, flickering, black and white images as Apollo 11’s lunar excursion module, nicknamed “The Eagle,” descended from orbiting around the moon and touched down on the Sea of Tranquility. In 1960, deep in the heart of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy upped the stakes in the “space race” between the two superpowers by proclaiming that the U.S. would land a man on the moon “before this decade is out.” Apollo 11 managed to pull it off with just four months to spare. It was truly the technological achievement of the century, and perhaps the greatest milestone in the annals of mankind. And yet, the day after astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the first human footprints on another world, there were those who didn’t believe it was possible. One woman interviewed by Newsweek proclaimed that she didn’t believe it because she didn’t think her TV set could pick up a transmission from the moon. A rumor began to spread across the countryside: Maybe the moon landings had been staged.

Claims of phony moon landing

Various claims have been made over the last three decades about ways in which the moon landings may have been faked, and why. Some of the more common ones include:
  • NASA’s first manned test flight of the Apollo space capsule and Saturn-series rocket resulted in a tragic fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. In a test on January 27, 1967, fire broke out in the oxygen-rich cockpit, and the three men died within 17 seconds. The claim goes that the fire set the program back so badly that the moon landings had to be completely or partially fabricated in order to make it look like the U.S. had achieved its goal on time.
  • Some have claimed that the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the earth were far too deadly to allow Apollo spacecraft to pass through without killing the astronauts inside. Most scientists (including their discoverer Dr. James Van Allen) reject this claim, because radiation poisoning is dependent upon the amount of time a person is exposed, and Apollo astronauts passed through too quickly to have received a dangerous dose.
  • Conspiracists claim that the astronauts were launched into low Earth orbit, and that the moon landing was videotaped in a studio. Then, after the appropriate amount of time, the orbiting Apollo spacecraft splashed down, all on international television.
  • According to conspiracists, Stanley Kubrick, hot on the heels of directing the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which contained the first realistic and convincing special effects depicting spaceflight ever put on film, was brought from England to direct the Apollo 11 telecast. Anyone who knows anything about the famously temperamental and perfectionist director knows how impractical this claim is. Some claim that special effects were created by 2001 effects artist Douglas Trumbull in a studio in Huntsville, Alabama, home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
  • A variation on the claim is that only some of the six successful moon landings were faked, while NASA had extra time to work on its faulty technology. Apollo 13’s almost fatal accident was staged in order to refocus a bored public on NASA’s need for greater funding. And Apollo 17, the final mission to the moon, was the only authentic trip, because it had a civilian crew member who couldn’t be threatened or bought off.
  • ​​The 1978 film Capricorn One added fuel to the hoax claims, by telling a fictional story of NASA faking a landing on Mars, while filming the events in a studio — using spacecraft virtually identical to the Apollo missions.
  • The International Flat Earth Society, as their name makes clear, believed (and still does) that Earth isn’t round, but flat as a pancake. That being the case, as far as they were concerned, the moon landings could be nothing but a hoax.

The evidence abounds

There’s too much evidence and far too many participants in NASA’s Apollo program to convince the overwhelming majority of people that the moon landings were anything but authentic. The Apollo missions involved $30 billion in federal dollars and 400,000 employees, with nary a squealer in the bunch. That hasn’t prevented a small cottage industry of authors from crying “hoax.” The 842 pounds of lunar rocks returned to Earth by Apollo astronauts over the course of six missions isn’t proof to them. Conspiracists claim unmanned NASA missions brought the rocks back to Earth before Apollo 11 ever launched, or they were simply cooked up artificially in a high-temperature kiln. In spite of piles of photographic and physical evidence, this conspiracy theory hangs on, largely promoted by late author Bill Kaysing. He was a librarian at Rocketdyne, an early NASA supplier, and claimed (without proof) that the space agency never had the expertise needed to actually land men on the moon. He further alleged that the Apollo 1 astronauts (and later the Challenger Space Shuttle crew) were murdered because they were about to reveal the “truth” about NASA. Kaysing claimed that the astronauts were actually in the Nevada desert putting on the “moonwalk show” during the day, and hanging out with strippers and Las Vegas showgirls at night — requiring years of psychological therapy before they could get over the guilt of duping the public. Amateur filmmaker Bart Sibrel has taken a more confrontational approach to the issue. In 2002, he accosted Buzz Aldrin in front of a Beverly Hills hotel, demanding answers to his questions about the so-called moon landing “hoax,” calling the astronaut a “coward, a liar, and a thief.” Aldrin reacted in a less than Socratic method over the controversy and punched Sibrel right in the kisser. Other Apollo astronauts have characterized Sibrel as a “stalker.”

Profound effects on moon walkers

The first time men from Earth stepped onto a new world had a profound effect on Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and both men grappled long and hard with their public and private reactions to an event that the whole world was watching. There are two little-known items about Aldrin, in particular. Professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued NASA for violating church/ state separation by allowing government-employed astronauts to read from the book of Genesis during Apollo 8’s moon-orbiting mission in 1968. So, on his own, Aldrin (a Presbyterian) privately gave himself Communion when Apollo 11’s Eagle landed. Aldrin is also a Freemason, and he carried a special document proclaiming the moon as being under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas of Free and Accepted Masons, which means the Masons control not just the world, but the moon!

Conspiracy Theories Articles

The Most Famous UFO Story: Roswell

The Roswell Incident is the most famous UFO story on record and is the cornerstone of an alleged government conspiracy to hide alien visits from the world. The initial discovery of a suspected UFO crash site in 1947 played out over a three-day period, then almost completely vanished from view for 30 years, before being resurrected in the 1970s by UFO researchers. The biggest problem facing anyone who steps into the Roswell/UFO arena is telling truth from fiction. For every account of the event, someone debunks it. For every so-called fact, there’s a dispute over it, and even eyewitness accounts and deathbed confessions can’t be trusted. And, according to most dedicated ufologists of course, nothing officially released by the government can be trusted at all. Nevertheless, this article covers what’s generally known or alleged and what can be verified — or at least generally agreed on.

Unidentified debris discovered

In 1947, just one month after pilot Kenneth Arnold’s publicized sighting of a UFO over Washington State, a curious report came out of the little town of Roswell, New Mexico. On July 4 (Independence Day) that year, a violent thunderstorm swept through the area. The next morning, a sheep rancher named Mac Brazel, who was employed at the J. B. Foster ranch, set out across the property to look for damage from the storm. What he found was unusual debris that he couldn’t readily identify, stretched out across a large area. After showing the debris to a neighbor, Brazel took some of the pieces into Roswell, about 70 miles away, and presented them to the local authorities, wondering if it might be wreckage of one of the flying saucers recently reported in the news. (It may have helped motivate him that the press was offering a $3,000 reward for physical evidence of a flying saucer.) Brazel was interviewed by a local radio station, whose reporter contacted the 509th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force at nearby Roswell Army Air Field for a comment. The base sent Intelligence Officer Jesse Marcel into town and then to the Foster ranch to investigate. Marcel gathered up some of the pieces and took them home for the evening, where he showed some of them to his family. The next morning, he took the debris to the base, and Colonel William “Butch” Blanchard ordered the debris site cordoned off so it could be recovered, then issued a press release about the discovery. Newspapers and network radio reports appeared quickly, announcing that the Air Force captured a flying disc, but by the next day, a correction was issued changing the story to say that the debris came from a weather balloon. A press conference was held, and debris was displayed that seemed to verify that what was recovered was, in fact, a large rubber balloon and other pieces covered in silver foil. Brazel himself was dismayed over the publicity. He’d found pieces of weather balloons on the ranch in the past, but this find had unusual composition. Still, the rancher never claimed that what he found was metal. When it was all collected, the wreckage consisted of foil, rubber, wooden sticks, paper, and tape. Over a period of three days, the remaining debris was collected and flown to the 8th Air Force Headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas, where it was examined. On July 9, the Air Force issued a press release from Ft. Worth identifying the wreckage as a high altitude balloon carrying a radar target made of wood and reflective aluminum. And within several weeks of the incident, the whole event slipped from the public memory for 30 years.

Roswell resurrected

In 1978, UFO researcher Stanton Friedman was contacted by retired intelligence officer Jesse Marcel, and at this point, the Roswell story was resurrected and it becomes difficult to separate fact, fiction, faulty memory, and fraud. Following, are a sample of some of events, people, and recollections from the Roswell incident. Keep in mind, these examples have only come forth since 1978.
  • Jesse Marcel claimed the wreckage he collected was part of a flying disc and not a balloon. The foil-like material was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, and there were strips of purple tape that contained symbols that looked like either flowers or hieroglyphics. He said that photographs of himself posing with balloon debris were taken after the real pieces were replaced with balloon parts by superior officers. Marcel, however, couldn’t remember the month or year of the events.
  • Frank Kaufman claimed to have been a radar specialist at White Sands Proving Grounds. He stated that he was ordered to the White Sands facility where he tracked incoming UFOs the night of the fabled crash. He was then sent to Roswell, where he witnessed the retrieval of at least one alien occupant — except that Kaufman was really nothing but a civilian clerk in the Roswell Army Air Base personnel office. And there was no radar at White Sands. After his death in 2001, analysis of letters, memos, and other documents show that Kaufman really was an expert at forgery, records falsification, and spectacular lying, but not radar.
  • Glenn Dennis was a local funeral director in Roswell and claimed he’d been contacted by the air base’s “mortuary officer” about caskets and the proper treatment of bodies recovered from the desert. Later, he “stumbled” into an autopsy being performed on one of three alien corpses. He further claimed that a nurse at the Roswell air base named Naomi Maria Selff (or Naomi Sipes — it varied) told him details of the top-secret operation and gave him sketches of the aliens. Dennis said the nurse suddenly disappeared, but there’s no record of any such nurse ever having worked at the base or living in Roswell. His story had enough inconsistencies that he was eventually labeled a fraud by many UFO researchers.
Over and over again, so-called Roswell witnesses have been exposed in major inconsistencies or outright lies. So, what could the motive for all these, and literally a hundred others, have been to make these tales up? Remember: Aliens aren’t just big business in Roswell — they’re the town’s number-one source of income. There are no less than three UFO museums in the town of only 50,000 people. True believers flock to Roswell, and it has become a UFO mecca. They sell T-shirts, dolls, coffee mugs, inflatable balloons, tours of the competing crash sites, and literally anything else you can think of — raking in millions of dollars in annual revenue to the town. The military base has been closed, there’s no interstate close by, and there’s not a lot of economic opportunities for the town of 45,000. Aliens are very big business.

Tracking the government’s paper trail

UFO researchers and debunkers have both been noisy attack dogs and have made ceaseless requests for reports to be declassified and released to the public under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. A cataclysmic, earth-shaking event like capturing a real flying saucer and its alien occupants would change the course of civilization. At the very least, a military culture that’s governed by a strict code of procedures and conduct would document such an event with a mountain of paper, photographs, and other physical evidence. Every step in the investigation of alien conduct would be painstakingly chronicled, if for no other reason than to cover the backsides of career officers terrified of making a misstep and bringing down the wrath of angry superiors on them, or worse, the wrath of an angry invading fleet of a superior intergalactic force. Out of literally thousands of pages of FOI-released documents, there isn’t even the hint of evidence of any such authentic events. In 1995, the General Accounting Office (GAO), at the request of New Mexico congressman Steve Schiff, conducted a search of all documents relating to the Roswell Army Air Base and the events of July 1947. As a result of the GAO investigation, the Air Force was directed to make an internal investigation and to report its findings.

Two Air Force reports

The Air Force released reports about two formerly top-secret programs: 1994’s The Roswell Report: Fact Vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert, identified a program called Project Mogul; and 1997’s The Roswell Report: Case Closed described Operation High Dive.
  • Project Mogul: This program was designed to detect Soviet nuclear bomb tests by using very high altitude balloons loaded with sensitive microphones and reflective boxes that could be tracked by radar. Several balloons were clustered together for extra support in case some broke, as well as to assure a constant, standard altitude position. A string of radar targets was tied to the end of the balloon clusters like a long kite tail. The targets were needed to track the experiment because the rubber balloons themselves were invisible to radar. The target boxes were mass-produced, under contract by a toy manufacturer, out of special foil, balsa wood, and tape. The tape, it was claimed, was left over from a line of holiday items and contained gold flowerlike patterns on a purple background, which accounted for the claims that the so-called saucer debris had hieroglyphics on it.The reason for the high security involved in recovering Mogul’s debris in Roswell was that it was a closely guarded, top-secret program, whose complete details weren’t even known by the civilian scientists involved in developing its technology. Likewise, the Roswell Air Base personnel would’ve had no idea what they were looking at. The balloon flights were conducted between 1947 and 1948, and based on the physical description, these may very well have been the objects spotted by pilot Kenneth Arnold the week before the Roswell Incident. The Soviets really did set off their first nuclear blast in 1949, based on secrets stolen from the U.S. program (see the sidebar “The Schulgen Memo” earlier in this chapter).
  • Operation High Dive: This is a little stranger, but the Air Force alleges that this project was the genesis of claims of seeing military personnel recovering bodies from the desert. It was a top-secret program carried out in the 1950s to test extremely high altitude human parachute jumps, primarily in case U2 surveillance plane pilots had to bail out from 70,000 feet or higher. The tests themselves were done on early crash test dummies in an effort to make design changes in parachutes that prevented uncontrolled and fatal spinning. The Air Force believes that witnesses saw these strange-looking dummies being collected in the desert by military crews, who kept the public away because of the secret nature of the experiments (the Air Force didn’t want word to get out to the Russians that they had spy planes that flew so high).
Predictably, the Air Force and the GAO’s reports, along with a subsequent CIA investigation and report, all raised new accusations of a government coverup. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of UFO researchers have begrudgingly accepted that the Roswell Incident is, in all probability, nothing more than a colossal hoax.

Conspiracy Theories Articles

Alien Secrets: The Vril Society

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.