Conspiracy theories have existed since the dawn of time. Most (or at least many) of them are either bogus or really hard to prove. For instance, some people believed President George W. Bush purposely orchestrated the 911 attacks to ensure he was re-elected for a second term. UFOs have been "spotted" for decades. Even now, some (mostly right-wing folks) think COVID-19 was created in a Chinese lab to intentionally wipe out the population. Most conspiracy theories have been debunked — but some have actually turned out be true.
Below are some of the biggest conspiracy theories that were proven to actually have happened (in some form at least).
1. The U.S. government poisoned alcohol during the Prohibition.
From 1920 to 1933, the government put a ban on all alcoholic sales due to the ethical and moral corruption it was hypothesized to cause. Not only was booze illegal, but many seemed to think that some forms of alcohol that did exist were poisoned — by the government. A 1926 issue of The Camden Morning Post wrote, "When the government puts poison into alcohol, a large percentage of which the government knows will ultimately be consumed for beverage purposes, such action is reprehensible and tends to defeat the very purpose of prohibition."
The government did, in fact, poison alcohol. According to Slate, officials poisoned industrial alcohol that was jacked by bootleggers who'd resell it as regular booze. This was done as a scare tactic to stop people from drinking. By 1933, 10,000 people had died from being poisoned from tainted liquor.
Back then, government officials denied purposely poisoning U.S. citizens, with an expert testifying, "There was not the slightest evidence adduced at any point, so far as I am aware, that these deaths were cause by industrial alcohol, either in the form in which it was denatured under Government supervision or after it had been manipulated by criminals." The expert claimed that people died by simply drinking straight wood alcohol.
And it is true that in 1906, Congress passed an act that made denatured alcohol tax-free. Denatured alcohol did contain ingredients that would make it essentially un-drinkable, so people wouldn't just purchase the tax-free stuff and drink it in lieu of regular booze. Whatever was added to the medical-grade alcohol would make it "wholly unfit for beverage purposes." Did people know this and drink it anyway?
A book that details what happened in The Poisoners's Handbook begs to differ. While it's true Americans were pretty desperate to get their hands on any kind of liquor, it's pretty suspicious that so many died because of it. By this point, most experts would agree that it was no coincidence denatured booze was poisoned as a way to keep folks in line, so to speak.
2. The government has been looking into UFOs for awhile.
In April 2020, the Navy released UFO videos. Whether this was an attempt on Trump's end to distract people from the COVID-19 crisis or not, it does show that some kind of life is maybe out there — and that our government is trying to get to the bottom of it. Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough stated that these were released "in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos."
She added, "After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena."
Moreover, for the longest time, we were told that Area 51 didn't exist, yet it 100 percent did (in Groom Lake, Nevada). It was only until 2013 that the government finally admitted that Area 51 was a real thing, but that it was just a space to test out aircraft. In 2017, the Pentagon confirmed that a program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program had a $600 billion budget and that the purpose was to "[collect] and [analyze] a wide range of 'anomalous aerospace threats' ranging from advanced aircraft fielded by traditional U.S. adversaries to commercial drones to possible alien encounters."
3. The U.S. military tried to weaponize weather.
In Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent's 2014 book, American Conspiracy Theories, the investigative authors went through thousands of letters sent over the last century and they found one from 1958 that wrote about U.S. scientists trying to find a way to control the weather and use it in battle.
The idea that one day someone would be able to "control the weather" was a real thing. Apparently in 1963, Fidel Castro was convinced that the U.S. created Hurricane Flora to decimate Cuba and kill thousands of innocent civilians as a flex. And a few years earlier, in 1958, an issue of Popular Science wrote that Americans scientists were worried that "the Russians may be ahead of us in weather control."
But the Thor-esque rumors didn't go away. In 1972, a Science article stated that "For the past year, rumors and speculation, along with occasional bits of circumstantial evidence, have accumulated in Washington to the effect that the military has tried to increase rainfall in Indochina to hinder enemy infiltration into South Vietnam." The White House vehemently denied this.
However, in 1974, the government did admit to trying to make it rain to help U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, per the New York Times. Obviously, nobody can control the weather, never mind using that ability against other countries, but it's true that the U.S. wanted to.
4. Something other than a weather balloon crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.
Back in 1947, a "mysterious" object crashed in the desert right outside Roswell, New Mexico. The Army Air Forces claimed it was just a weather balloon, though. However, may folks believed that the government was covering up a UFO landing (which the Defense Department of course shut down).
But now we know that the whole thing *was* actually a cover-up — it just wasn't a UFO cover-up. The "weather" balloon was actually a balloon from Project Mogul, which was a type of weapon created to try and spy on USSR nuclear weaponry development. The world learned about this in 1994 when a New Mexico representative put pressure on the government to release classified documents that detailed what actually happened in 1947.
5. The Navy purposely fired on North Vietnam torpedo boats that weren't there to escalate the war.
On August 4, 1965, the Defense Secretary Robert McNamara claimed they were under attack by "hostile" North Vietnamese torpedo boats on the Gulf of Tonkin and the USS Maddox fired back. He told the President, "Mr. President, we've just had a report from the commander of that task force out there...The report is that they have observed — and we don't know by what means — two unidentified vessels and three unidentified prop aircraft in the vicinity of the destroyers."
President Lyndon Johnson announced that two enemy boats were sunk, and many newspapers covered the event in the way the President and military conveyed it initially. But a lot of people weren't convinced and theorized this attack was fabricated as justification to escalate the war in Vietnam.
This turned out to be true. A Navy pilot who was there, James Stockdale, stated "I had the best seat in the house to watch the event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there...There was nothing there but black water and American fire power." Even President LBJ later said, "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."
6. The CIA conducted lethal mind control on citizens and soldiers.
If you watched the 2015 comedy American Ultra, know that it's really not too far off from what was happened in the '50s. The theory based around the CIA performing mind control on people is as popular as it is shockingly true. There was a CIA program called MKUltra and it involved developing biological weapons that would be used during the Cold War.
This weaponry would do things like hypnotize people, allow people to withstand insane amounts of torture (both physical and emotional), would make people develop amnesia, and ultimately, would have the ability to paralyze. We know for a fact that at least two Americans were killed via these methods. Not much more is known about the mind control program because all files about it were destroyed by CIA director Richard Helms in 1973.
The truth really is out there.