Some people absolutely hate conspiracy theories, and we can’t really blame them. While some of them at least seem interesting, others are so far out there we can’t help but laugh. But in an era where peoples’ trust of the mainstream media is at an all time low, and anyone can have a voice on social media, the digital landscape is ripe with conspiracy fodder. But here’s the thing—not all conspiracy theorists get it wrong. Here are six crazy conspiracy theories that are actually true.
1. Ernest Hemingway was a spy, and he was being watched by the FBI. Pulitzer Prize author (and esteemed journalist and war hero in his own right) Ernest Hemingway spent many of his final years living in a paranoid fear that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was monitoring him. It got so bad, the people closest to him were convinced Papa was actually beginning to go crazy. After all, his family does have a history of mental illness. As it turns out, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did have Hemingway monitored by the FBI starting in the 1940s, after questions arose regarding Hemingway’s activities in Cuba. To be fair, since his death, we’ve also learned that Hemingway worked as a spy asset for both the U.S. and Soviet governments. Live by the sword, die by it, no?
2. North Korea did snatch Japanese swimmers right off the beaches in Japan. From the late 1970s through the mid 1980s, an unknown number of swimmers disappeared from the beaches of Japan. We should note that by “an unknown number,” we don’t mean a handful, but hundreds. At the time, many alleged that North Korea had something to do with it, but their involvement was largely dismissed as nothing more than a conspiracy theory—plus, the DPRK vehemently denied any involvement in the disappearances. That is, until 2002, when then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took a trip to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-il for the first-ever Japan-DPRK Summit, and Jong-il actually admitted that it was true. Well, a little of it, at least. Jong-il admitted that operatives abducted just 13 Japanese citizens, eight of whom they said were killed or had died. To this day, there are still hundreds of people unaccounted for.
3. The U.S. government was spying on John Lennon. After The Beatles split in 1970, John Lennon started writing music independently. Nixon, who was up for re-election in 1972, didn’t take too kindly to Lennon’s anti-war antics, especially when Lennon wrote and played a song in the hopes of raising awareness to get political activist, poet, White Panther Party founder and band manager for the famous proto punk band MC5, release from prison on some trumped up bullshit charges (which he was, days after Lennon played his song). And when Lennon announced that he’d be touring behind Nixon’s campaign stops across the country, encouraging young people to vote and get involved in the political process, it was at this point, in 1972, that Nixon ordered the FBI to start monitoring Lennon in an attempt to dig up dirt and deport him. At the time, Lennon had suspected that he was under surveillance, but his suspicions were mostly dismissed as simple paranoia. Well, it turns out that Lennon was right the whole time.
4. Famous hippie, author and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey did work with the CIA on LSD experiments. Ken Kesey was legendary throughout the 1960s as the central figure behind the drug-fueled countercultural hippie movement. He and his Merry Pranksters were famous for their cross-country trip exploits; his book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, turned into a national literary phenomenon; and his legendary “Acid Tests” helped mold a generation. However, we now know that the first time Kesey was ever actually exposed to acid was after volunteering for a seemingly harmless government research study, now infamously known as the CIA-funded Project MKUltra. It’s not known when, exactly, it was revealed that Kesey was part of MKUltra, but it has been alleged that even Kesey himself didn’t know what he’d been a part of until decades later.
5. The Bohemian Grove is a real place. For decades people have perpetuated conspiracy theories revolving around secret worldwide organizations, fraternal brotherhoods and satanic cults. While not many of these theories can be proved (though we aren’t necessarily saying they’re wrong!), one that can be vouched for is the existence of The Bohemian Grove, a California campground where, every July, some of the most prominent men in the world gather to apparently drink beer and piss on trees. While they have alleged for years that their secretive annual meeting in the California Redwoods is strictly for fun and not conducting “business,” we also know that it was at that exact meeting spot that the Manhattan Project was conceived, and several major presidential hopefuls appeared first at the Grove before publicly announcing their campaigns. Sounds pretty damn suspicious. Either way, the Bohemian Grove is very real, and it’s just as weird as you think.
6. Amazon Echo, Google Home and Facebook are recording your conversations. We’re in the midst of a technological revolution right now. While we’re mostly excited to see things moving forward the way they are, with the advent of privatized space travel, zero emissions cars and, our favorite, virtual reality sex suits, we’re also a little freaked out. When the news about personal home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home first broke in 2015-ish, tech nerds all over were blown away by the possibility. But it didn’t take long for “those damn conspiracy theorists” (read: tech writers and cyber security experts) to start positing their “whack job theories” (read: “verifiably sound commentary,” and it didn’t take long for people to start calling those guys crazy. Well, as it turns out, those crazy conspiracy theorists were right again. We’ve also learned that apps like Facebook listen to our conversations via their mobile app, a claim that Facebook actually still denies.