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It’s feeling harder and harder to separate truth from fiction in the age of fake news.

But conspiracy theories and propaganda are as old as society itself. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the growing wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that we’re influenced even by news we know to be fake.

How many disproven JFK assassination theories are floating around in your brain thanks to Oliver Stone? Do you sometimes wonder if anyone has ever really landed on the Moon? And do you think just maybe it’s possible that Adolf Hitler actually survived World War II and lived out his days in Brazil? If so, you’re not alone.


And that’s to say nothing of more modern conspiracy theories driven by social media, making unfounded claims about everything from diets to money to the state of reality itself.

But sometimes the wildest conspiracies are true. Like these six seemingly insane conspiracy theories that are quite real:

1. "Gaydar"

Who doesn’t love Canada? Well, 1960’s Canada wasn’t quite the squishy utopia it seems to be today. The Canadian government hired Carleton University professor Frank Robert Wake to create something it maliciously called the “fruit machine,” which they believed could detect and identify gay men. It wasn’t part of some benign effort to understand human sexuality.

It was part of a sick bit of McCarthyism with the stated goal of getting all gay men out of the country’s government.

More than 400 people lost their jobs, and 9,000 more were kept on a file of “suspects.” The device claimed to work by measuring how much a subject’s pupils dilated after being forced to look at same-sex erotic imagery.

2. MKUltra

Back in the 1950s the CIA secretly dosed individuals with LSD in order to test the potential effects of mind control. Although the practice reportedly continued for two decades, it was launched before the drug movement of the 1960s made LSD into a popular counterculture symbol. And while being given some free acid might sound like a great time to some, or at least the plot to a bad hipster action movie, dozens of people were reportedly left with permanent disabilities after secretly being subjected to massive amounts of LSD and electroshock therapy after seeking treatment for “minor psychiatric complaints.”

3. The Gulf of Tonkin incident

On August 2, 1964, the USS. Maddox opened fire on what it later claimed were several North Vietnamese targets. The skirmish deepened America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, leading to the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers and many more Vietnamese, including hundreds of thousands of civilians. Except, it turned out the “targets” the Maddox fired upon didn’t actually exist. It’s still debated today whether the incident was an intentional misdirection by the military. But one thing is certain: President Johnson’s original claim that the North Vietnamese fired first has been debunked. Even former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara admitted as much in an interview before his death. After all, it’s kind of hard to start a fight when you’re not even there.

4. A secretive, cult-like gathering of world elites

A secretive organization of people that control the world? Well, it turns out it does exist and many of its members are powerful world leaders and titans of industry. The real action happens at Bohemian Grove, which appears to primarily exist as a place, “where the rich and powerful go to misbehave” according to The Washington Post.

Or, alternatively, to hear it from the group directly, where members, “share a passion for the outdoors, music, and theater.”However, along with more traditional fare such as drinking and big dinners, the regular activities also reportedly include performing rituals before a giant wooden owl, according to The Post.

Owners of the property host a two-week retreat in California each year for some of the wealthiest and most influential Americans. Past attendees include Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, both of whom attended before entering the White House. Oh, and it’s where the idea for the atomic bomb was first sketched out.

No big deal.

5. The CIA helped fund the Dali Lama

Who doesn’t love the Dalai Lama?

Other than the Chinese government.

Even the CIA can’t get enough of His Holiness and his band of Tibetan resistance fighters. That’s because during the 1960s, the CIA allegedly funneled millions of dollars to the Tibetan Resistance, including what some claim was a six-figure annual “salary” that went directly to the Dalai Lama himself (which he denied). This wasn’t some remnant from the agency’s flirtation with LSD. Rather, it was a pretty obvious attempt to undermine the Chinese government, something the Chinese have complained about for decades. In declassified State Department memos, the organization says: “The purpose of the program … is to keep the political concept of an autonomous Tibet alive within Tibet and among foreign nations, principally India, and to build a capability for resistance against possible political developments inside Communist China.”

6. The conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln

The most commonly held version of events is that actor John Wilkes Booth acted alone when he assassinated President Lincoln inside Ford’s Theater. But it turns out Booth collaborated with no less than 9 other co-conspirators, including  Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the U.S. government. First, there was David Herold, who helped Booth escape after leaving Ford’s Theater. Then, there was George Azterodt, who unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson. Even though Azterodt never actually attempted the act, he was, nonetheless, executed for plotting against the president. Meanwhile, coconspirator Lewis Powell did attempt to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward, severely injuring him. If you ever want to learn the full story of Booth’s traitorous act, and the desperate attempt to capture him and his team, you can’t do better than James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer.

This article originally appeared on GOOD.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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