6 insane conspiracy theories that actually turned out to be true.

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.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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