The 4 Craziest Conspiracies That Were Totally True

True Conspiracies White House

Source: Wikipedia

True Conspiracies: The Business Plot

Imagine the United States of America ruled by a fascist dictatorship. Not the kind your uncle is always complaining about, mind you, but a real one with an actual goose-stepping il Duce type giving orders to the president on all matters of policy.

That almost happened in 1933, when a group of American businessmen tried to install a retired Marine Corps general as a shadow dictator to offset the perceived threat of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Of course, by “almost happened,” it’s more accurate to say that the conspirators were caught before they even got close to throwing the switch on their plans.

All the same, the Business Plotters, as they came to be known, did manage to give the hilariously named McCormack-Dickstein Committee a light workout as it exposed a group of conspirators that included the heads of General Motors and Chase Manhattan Bank, a French fascist organization called the “Arrow Cross,” and at least one future US Senator, Prescott Bush (yes, that Bush).

True Conspiracies Prescott Bush

Source: Kentucky

The plot developed into a semi-big deal, with financing channels and a new economic initiative all ready to go, but was undone by the plotters’ choice for the American Benito Mussolini: the even-more hilariously named Smedley Butler. The idea was to assemble a force of disgruntled veterans (brown shirts optional, one imagines), march them to Washington, and force President Roosevelt to appoint Butler to some kind of cabinet position, from which he could pass the cabal’s orders to the basically powerless president.

All that the plot’s architects seemed to know about Butler when they picked him was that he was a solid-gold, heavily decorated war veteran. Unfortunately for them, Butler had a change of heart (and politics) during the Hoover Administration and actively campaigned for Roosevelt in 1932.

True Conspiracies Smedley Butler

Source: Wikipedia

All’s well that ends well. Butler went straight to the offices of the FBI with the Plotters’ plans, where he filed a full report and agreed to act as their informant. J. Edgar Hoover might have had his disagreements with Roosevelt, but fascist coups have never been the kind of thing the Justice Department just lets slide on by.

The furor eventually led to hearings in the House of Representatives, zero arrests, and a nicely profitable set of professional connections for most of the plotters to carry on doing business with Italy and Germany until a few months after Pearl Harbor.


True Conspiracies: Operation Paperclip

True Conspiracies German Passport

Source: Flickr

Speaking of World War II, you know who were a bunch of jerks? Nazis.

You know who disagreed with that? US intelligence, apparently, because members of the American intelligence community spent the better part of the late 1940s—the part that came after we killed all those Nazis—smuggling some of them out of Europe so they could work for us. The job went by a series of different names, including “Paperclip,” “APPLEPIE,” and “Operation BIG,” and they’re the reason a whole lot of human-rights abusers got to retire with a pension as opposed to the somewhat less attractive options the Soviets offered their Nazi prisoners.

True Conspiracies German Prisoners

Source: Flickr

As the European war drew to a close, certain elements within US Army Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the OSS undertook a continent-wide manhunt for individuals with skills and intelligence the US might need for the brewing Cold War with the Soviet Union. At first, the search was restricted to scientists who had worked on Germany’s rocket and nuclear programs.

President Truman even authorized the evacuations on the condition that none of the evacuees would have had a history of Nazi sympathies, militarism, or close support of the wartime German government.

Of course, this ruled out some of the most valuable scientists from the start. Operation Paperclip was therefore largely an attempt to get around standing orders, issued by the President, by attaching (“paperclip” – get it?) new identity papers to suspected war criminals.

Men such as Wernher von Braun, who had overseen a massive slave-labor operation (which ironically killed more workers in production than the resulting weapons managed in operation) and obtained the rank of SS-Sturmbannfuhrer, found new lives in America as valued additions to the US Air Force’s rocketry programs.

True Conspiracies Von Braun

Source: Flickr

Of course, from whitewashing the biographies of Nazi scientists to outright forgery for even worse characters is only a short step. By the 1950s, the CIA had rescued, rehabilitated, and arranged gainful employment for perhaps thousands of fugitive Nazis, including Otto von Bolschwing—an adjundant to Adolf Eichmann—and Klaus Barbie, who headed the Gestapo in France.


True Conspiracies: MK Ultra

True Conspiracies CIA

Source: Flickr

The notion that the CIA has kidnapped people, drugged them against their will, and experimented with brainwashing and torture is the kind of thing you usually hear from unmedicated schizophrenics raving on the bus. Except that totally happened.

The CIA admitted it after the project had run for over twenty years, and two of the leading lights of the program—Richard Helms and William Casey—went on to be appointed as directors of the agency. It was was called MKUltra.

Under the banner of rescuing German scientists after World War II, the OSS found itself holding onto more than a few Nazi “psychologists” and “security experts.” Those terms are in quotes mainly because the German expats were SS officers who specialized in torture and counterinsurgency warfare. Officially, the OSS—later the CIA—wanted to learn all it could about torture so it could “help” US servicemen resist brainwashing if they were ever captured.

In fact, the real goals of MKUltra were deliberately obscured under several layers of lies, most of them barking crazy. On the surface, the CIA maintained that it was studying torture and brainwashing techniques to train soldiers in resisting them.

Under that was wild speculation that America’s intelligence community was developing Manchurian Candidate-style methods for creating hypnotically controlled assassins. This crazy talk was covertly encouraged by the Agency, as it concealed the true purpose of the program: refining torture methods first employed by the Third Reich to extract confessions and break perceived enemies’ will to resist. Techniques included sleep and sensory deprivation, non-consensual shock therapy, and drug trials with powerful hallucinogens administered by prostitutes.

The scope of the project was enormous. Between 1953, when it was authorized by Allen Dulles, and 1973, when CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the files shredded, MKUltra provided funding to at least 80 institutions, received data from over 180 researchers, and killed several unwitting test subjects.

You know that story about the hippie who dropped acid and jumped out a window because he thought he could fly? Yeah, that happened, except the “hippie” was Frank Olson, a bioweapons specialist who was dosed with LSD by the CIA and jumped to his death from the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York on November 28, 1953.

The CIA is known to have kept some test subjects high on LSD for months at a time in an effort to restructure their basic personalities. Eventually the project wound down, the CIA settled with a few of the victims’ families, and the US government stopped torturing people (except for when it really, really has to).


True Conspiracies: Operation Northwoods

True Conspiracies Fidel Castro

Source: Yo Yo Wall

The US Constitution defines treason this way:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Between 1959 and 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff developed a plan for provoking war between the United States and Cuba. The plan, Operation Northwoods, originated with the Eisenhower Administration’s desire to short circuit Fidel Castro’s successful revolution and rapidly developed into a wild scheme to blackmail or bribe Cuban officials into attacking ships of the US Navy or engaging in terrorist attacks against civilians in Florida.

Conceived by Chairman of the JCoS Lyman Lemnitzer, the plan called for the Navy to “sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated).” Also floating around was the proposal to reenact the 1898 sinking of the USS Maine, blame the Cuban rescue efforts for the attack, and launch military operations against Cuba.

In its final form, which it achieved in 1963, the plan was to stage a simulated night attack against an American ship by communist gunboats as a way of justifying a war. Fortunately, President Kennedy killed the proposal in the last year of his term. Less than a year later, communist gunboats staged a night attack against the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, precipitating war in Vietnam, which was a pretty wild coincidence, amirite?

True Conspiracies USS Maddox

Source: Flickr

If you enjoyed this article on strange but true conspiracies, be sure to see our posts on interesting facts and the four most enduring conspiracy theories!