Nowadays, conspiracy theorists no longer wear foil hats; instead, they hide in the comments section of Shane Dawson’s latest conspiracy theory videos, suggesting additions to Dawson’s theories that they think have been overlooked.
Some people have become a lot more open-minded when it comes to some conspiracy theories, while others think believing in any tenuous hypothesis means you’re gullible.
There are many types of conspiracy theories, including ones that are outright stupid and easily disprovable — you should ignore these at all costs. However, history has found a handful of these once-maligned ideas to be true.
So, if you ever need evidence that sometimes fringe suspicions can lead to the truth, here are three conspiracy theories that ended up being true.
The Government Poisoned Alcohol
In January 1920 Congress passed the 18th Amendment, banning the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcohol. Soon, street gangs became filthy rich smuggling, stealing and reselling illegal alcohol, and by the end of the 1920s, at least 30,000 bars existed in New York City alone.
Through rigid enforcement, the government managed to stop a lot of people from smuggling alcohol from other countries. As a result, determined individuals began looking for domestic sources of illegal booze, which led them to steal industrial hooch, an ingredient used in items such as paints, solvents and medical supplies.
However, a decade before the Probation era began, federal officials began requiring companies to denature their industrial alcohol if they wanted to avoid the taxes placed on drinkable liquor. In this denaturing process, chemists mix industrial alcohol with unpalatable chemicals to make it undrinkable.
So, after stealing the denatured alcohol, gangs hired their own chemists to return the industrial alcohol back to its drinkable state. Paid handsomely, the chemists did their jobs well, and soon the renatured alcohol became the primary source of spirits in the country.
Determined to scare people away from alcohol, federal officials ordered manufacturers to make the denaturing formulas much deadlier. By 1927, chemists were adding chemicals like gasoline, mercury salts, carbolic acid, benzene and an increased amount of poisonous methyl alcohol to the industrial solutions.
As a result, the denaturing processes the bootleg chemists used to renature the alcohol soon became ineffective, meaning the pirated booze remained poisonous even after it was supposedly rendered safe for consumption. Soon, consumers of the lethal liquor across the country began falling ill and dying.
It was during this time that the theory arose that the government was poisoning its citizen’s alcohol. While the public refused to believe the outlandish claim, health officials soon discovered the fringe theory was rooted in fact.
Charles Norris, a medical examiner, began publicizing every death that resulted from alcohol poisoning. He also publicized how the program irregularly affected poorer people because unlike the wealthy, they could not afford the best liquor available.
In New York City, 1,200 people got sick from the alcohol and 400 died; the following year, 700 people died. As health officials joined together to decode the new denaturing formula, the country grappled with the crisis.
The new denaturing program, which, according to historian Deborah Blum, killed around 10,000 people, ended in December 1933, when the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment.
Project MK-Ultra is unique for a multitude of reasons. Notably, it is one of the many conspiracy theories that inspired the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things.” Project MK-Ultra emerged during the intensity of the Cold War, as the U.S. worried foreign agents used mind control on U.S. prisoners.
With the use of psychedelic drugs, paralytics and electroshock therapy, the CIA wanted to develop technologies that could be used against the use of mind control. The operation involved approximately 150 human experiments, but there is not an exact number because the CIA took poor records and destroyed most of the MK-Ultra documents after the operation ended in 1973.
Occurring between 1953 and 1964, many tests took place at universities, hospitals and prisons. Under poison expert, Sidney Gottlieb, who believed they could use the drug for brainwashing, the CIA started experimenting with LSD.
One project under MK-Ultra, Operation Midnight Climax, agents hired prostitutes to bait men to CIA “safe houses” where the CIA secretly spiked the men’s drinks with LSD, watched how the drugs would affect the men’s behavior through a two-way mirror and eavesdropped with recording devices masked as electrical outlets.
While some parts of the experiments were done without a person’s knowledge, some people volunteered for the experiments. Ken Kesey volunteered for the CIA’s experiments with LSD while attending Stanford University and hosted LSD parties which he creatively called “Acid Tests.”
Combined with musical performances and fluorescent paint and other psychedelic effects, these parties influenced the early stages of the hippie culture and the 1960s psychedelic drug scene.
The operation became public knowledge in 1976 when Seymour Hersh, a New York Times journalist, wrote an article about the non-consensual experiments.
The next year, with a growing distrust of the government in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, President Gerald Ford created the United States President’s Commission on CIA Activities to investigate the conspiracy theories presented in Hersh’s article.
Documents related to MK-Ultra and other secret operations surfaced which resulted in Ford’s 1976 executive order that forbid drug experiments on humans without their written consent.
The Fake Vaccination Program
After U.S. intelligence tracked down Abu-Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, an al-Qaida messenger to what was later revealed as Osama bin Laden’s compound, the CIA watched the compound from a safe house in Abbottabad to confirm Bin Laden’s presence. Upon this confirmation, a risky operation was launched.
Agents wanted to see if they could find any DNA from Bin Laden’s children that could be compared against his sister’s DNA, who died in Boston. With this evidence, they hoped to prove Bin Laden’s existence in the compound.
The CIA brought in Shakil Afridi, the health official of Khyber to be in charge of the fake vaccination program. Afridi paid lower-ranking local government health officials, who never knew the true purpose of the program, a lot of money to take part in the program.
Although a nurse from the program entered Bin Laden’s compound to give vaccinations to children, the operation didn’t confirm Bin Laden’s presence. After the truth behind the conspiracy theory emerged, more lives ended up getting hurt than previously intended.
Convicted of treason in March 2012, Afridi who maintains that he didn’t know the true purpose of the program, is currently serving a 33-year sentence behind bars. Around the same time of Afridi’s conviction, at least 16 workers had been killed by vaccine attacks.