We all love a good conspiracy theory (aliens, JFK ?). They bring out our inner paranoia and suspicions even when they’re completely far-fetched or the supposed evidence is bordering on non-existent. From crash landed UFOs to shady government-approved experiments, there really is no shortage of weird and wonderful conspiracies out there. While some theories are linked to a certain event or a place in time, others stem from very specific locations. Some of these military bases, research stations and even public places are thought to be hiding much more than they say they are, and conspiracy theorists have been eyeing them with suspicion for decades.
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is a research facility located 200 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska. Funded and run by the US Military and Air Force as well as academic institutions, HAARP uses high-powered radio signals to study the ionosphere (an upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere). The results of tests show how atmospheric and electromagnetic conditions can affect the performance of military and civilian communication technologies – which includes everything from GPS signals to submarine communication – so the HAARP project has received ongoing funding and support since it was established in 1993. Like many government projects with long and slightly confusing acronyms, HAARP has also received plenty of attention from conspiracy theorists. Described as ‘the military’s Pandora’s box’, most conspiracies revolve around the idea that no one really knows what is going on at this remote research facility. It’s been argued that the heating effect it has on the ionosphere acts as a weather modification device which can create typhoons, hurricanes and earthquakes, and that it can also target and bring down aircraft or missiles anywhere in the world. Many theories point to the involvement of physicist Bernard Eastlund whose research into ionospheric activity goes back to the 1980s. In one of his patents (which is dubbed the “HAARP patent”), Eastlund argues that vast deposits of natural gas could be used to generate electricity and create a huge ionospheric heater. Even though Eastlund had no involvement in the creation of HAARP and his device would have required 1 million antenna elements in comparison to HAARP’s modest 180, theorists cling on to the idea that HAARP – which is actually a very open research facility and is completely transparent in what they do – is experimenting on the ionosphere for nefarious reasons.
9. Georgia’s Surplus of Plastic Coffins
Aerial photographs which seem to show a stockpile of stacked plastic coffins in a field near Atlanta, Georgia have lent credence to conspiracy theories which argue that the US government is planning (or preparing for) death/internment camps led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These camps will supposedly be created in response to a state of martial law which will be used as an excuse to detain and execute American citizens on a mass scale. Some other theories state that they are airtight, hermetically sealed coffins which are being manufactured and stockpiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to quietly prepare for a huge biological outbreak or virus (the story has emerged again thanks to the recent Ebola outbreak). Sadly, the reality behind the photographs is much more boring. They are actually grave liners that are used to protect coffins which are buried on sites which are prone to water seepage or ground subsidence. The manufacturer of Atlanta’s grave liners, Vantage Products, stored them in a huge outside place because they are designed to withstand the elements and it was cheaper than keeping them in a warehouse.
8. Montauk Air Force Station
Montauk Air Force Station was a US military base located in Long Island, New York. Although it was decommissioned and turned into the Camp Hero State Park in 1981, the base played an important role during World War II and the Cold War. The base was heavily fortified and extended when it was identified as a likely invasion point for Axis forces, and later fears about Soviet long-distance bombers led to the installation of high powered radar facilities. The base’s massive long-range AN/FPS-35 radar (which is still there) has long been linked to experimental warfare and other strange scientific breakthroughs which originated from Montauk. The Montauk Project theory argues that the site was home to experiments in time travel, parallel dimensions, teleportation, psychological experiments and psychic super soldiers. Parts of the now derelict base are still off-limits to the general public and many believe that there is a vast network of hidden underground laboratories and bunkers which are still operational to this day.
7. Closed Cities in Russia
Russia’s ‘closed cities’ are a relic of the country’s Soviet era. First established in the late 1940s, these places were essentially restricted zones which had been closed off and fenced in for security reasons. The size of these locations could vary from a small town to a considerable sized city (Perm was once a closed city), and they were usually created to hide sensitive government facilities like research sites, arms factories, etc. Movement to and from closed cities was restricted and their citizens and workers lived in a strange sort of isolated exile. The cities were once completely classified and did not even appear on maps, but nowadays Russia publicly acknowledges that it has 44 closed cities. However, a rumoured 15 more are thought to exist. Nowadays restrictions in these “closed administrative-territorial formations” are much less stringent, but foreign visitors are still excluded from some and the existence of such cities in the first place have fuelled conspiracy theories about what exactly the Russian government was once hiding or is still hiding to this day. In 2013, the well-publicised meteorite strike in the closed city of Chelyabinsk sent the imaginations of conspiracy theorists into a tailspin and many called it out as being a secret weapons test or, even worse, a UFO.
6. Money Pit at Oak Island
Not all conspiracy theories are nefarious in nature. Located off the south shore coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, Oak Island has been the subject of treasure hunting expeditions since 1795. In that year, a young teenager by the name of Daniel McGinnis came across a depression in the ground. With the help of some friends, McGinnis dug down deep to discover what appeared to be a man-made shaft. They found a layer of flagstones a few feet below the depression and, digging further, a layer of logs. The men found another layer of logs as they dug deeper, but they gave up the excavation after 30ft and sought further help. Returning to the site almost eight years later with the assistance of a wealthy businessman who had formed a treasure-hunting crew, the hole was excavated further. A layer of logs appeared every 10 ft. and when the diggers reached 90 ft. a strange flat stone with indecipherable writing was found. When they attempted to dig further, the pit suddenly filled with water and the excavation was cancelled. Undeterred by the apparent booby traps which lay in store, many treasure seekers have headed to Oak Island in the years since in an effort to finally discover the secrets of its ‘Money Pit’. One of the most popular theories is that the island is the site where a pirate, possibly Captain Kidd or Blackbeard, buried great sums of treasure. Others think that it may have been the result of the French military hiding the treasures of Louisbourg from the British, while some think that the indecipherable markings point to a Freemasonry connection.
5. The US Army School of the Americas
The US Army School of the Americas (SOA) is a combat training base at Fort Benning, Georgia. Since 1946, the SOA has operated as a training facility for Latin America soldiers and it has ‘graduated’ more than 64,000 recruits in advanced warfare techniques like psychological and interrogation methods, counterinsurgency tactics and intelligence gathering. Some notable attendees include Manuel Noriega, Hugo Banzer Suarez and Leopoldo Galtieri – men who went on to become military dictators in Latin American countries and carried out appalling human rights violations and regimes of violence. These men returned to their home countries after their training with keen skills in identifying troublesome threats to the ‘cause’ of the SOA – union leaders, clergy, journalists – and making them disappear through torture and murder. The SOA’s original focus was to teach anti-communist counterinsurgency, but its operation has shifted in line with United States foreign policy over the years and the school is widely believed to be responsible for most of the unrest in Latin America since it was first established. From the war on communism to the war on drugs and, more recently, the war on ‘terror’, countless critics and human rights groups have called for the SOA to be shut down (in 2001, it was rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC). Conspiracy theories argue that, thanks to the SOA, the United States has had a clandestine but direct involvement in atrocities, coups and massacres in Latin America for almost 70 years.
4. Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport is perhaps one of the unlikeliest places to have conspiracy theories attached to it. However, it’s actually pretty easy to see how they have come about and there is no denying the airport’s pretty weird features. When development of the airport was finished and it finally opened in 1995 (two years later than planned and roughly 2 to 3 billion dollars over budget), a dedication marker was unveiled. Inscribed on the marker was the masonic symbol of the square and compasses as well as a mention of the two Grand Lodges in Colorado. Of course, any mention of Freemason involvement is going to prick the ears of any conspiracy theorist, but the most curious thing about the dedication tribute is the text ‘New World Airport Commission’ – an organisation that doesn’t exist and sounds suspiciously like New World Order. The inscriptions also say that there is a time capsule buried beneath the stone which shouldn’t be opened until 2094. Artwork spotted around the airport which seems to show weird post-apocalyptic scenes has also strengthened this conspiracy theory. Some of the huge murals depict armed soldiers wearing gas masks standing over scenes of destruction and children crying in front of a massive fire which seems to be engulfing a city. The final mural shows children from all around the world standing over the fallen soldier and bringing together their weapons in an act of peace and harmony. These bizarre murals are said to (not too subtly) represent the agenda of the New World Order and a future which will play out with violence and war. Although similar strange artwork and symbols have been dismissed as actually being references to the Navajo people, the actual layout and construction of Denver International has also apparently caused some concern. Conspiracy theorists have pointed to the fact that aerial photos of the airport kind of look like a swastika and its huge size (at 55 sq. mi its nearly twice the size of Manhattan) is because it is sat on top of a secret, massive New World Order underground base.
3. Room 39
There’s simply no denying that North Korea is a shady country with many secrets that it hides from prying international eyes. The country’s oppressive regime is breaking countless human rights laws and it has labour gulags and camps where its citizens are tortured and probably executed, but most conspiracy theorists are more concerned about the operations of Room 39 (also known as Division 39 or Bureau 39). Little information is known about Room 39, but it is thought to have been created sometime in the 1970s as a way to ‘top up’ and maintain the private slush fund of the ruling Kim dynasty. It is believed that the government uses foreign bank accounts in China and Switzerland to counterfeit and launder funds, but the United States has also accused North Korea of counterfeiting $100 dollar bills – ‘superdollars’ – and distributing them. It is thought that Room 39 also has a hand in other criminal activities such as international insurance fraud, narcotics production and even weapons smuggling. Room 39 is thought to operate out of the Workers’ Party building in Pyongyang, but its day to day operations as well as the amounts of money it is dealing with is unknown.
2. Porton Down
Porton Down is a government military science park located near Salisbury, England. Thought to be one of the United Kingdom’s most classified and secretive facilities, Porton Brown has been at the centre of many inquiries and investigations since it was first established in 1916. The primary purpose of the site is the research of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN), but this has afforded Porton Down unparalleled levels of secrecy and funding. One politician talking about the facility famously described it as being “too big” for the government to know everything about and also stated that “there are many things happening there that I’m not even certain ministers are fully aware of, let alone parliamentarians.” Official inquests have revealed that human testing of more than 20,000 people has taken place on the site in the past with military servicemen ‘volunteering’ to be guinea pigs for nerve gases and biological weapons. In 1962, one of the facility’s own scientists, Geoffrey Bacon, died from being exposed to the bubonic plague. Obviously these salacious findings have made Porton Down a treasure trove for conspiracy theorists. Some of these theories range from the plausible – that Porton Down may have covered up many on-site deaths over the years – to the far-fetched – the facility has experimented on nearby towns and cities with biological weapons and may even be harbouring a UFO which crashed in Wales in the 1970s.
1. Area 51
Area 51 is definitely the leading contender when it comes to popular conspiracy theories. The United States’ military base in Nevada gave birth to the modern phenomenon of UFO conspiracy theories and it all dates back to the Roswell UFO incident in 1947. Crashed debris which landed on the grounds of a ranch in Roswell, New Mexico on July 8, 1947, was reported to look like a “flying disc” which was thought to be an exterritorial spacecraft. The military was quick to quash rumours and announced the next day that it was actually a downed weather balloon and the story died shortly afterwards (years later, the military conceded that it was actually an experimental balloon from the Project Mogul program which was capable of detecting sound waves from far-off Soviet atomic bomb tests). However, the UFO theories resurged once again in the 1970s and Area 51 was thought to be the location which studied and experimented on the spacecraft and the aliens inside. Like so many conspiracy theories, the fact that the goings on at the base are strictly classified has helped fuelled their interest. Time travel, space age technology, communication with extraterrestrials and weather control are just some of the many rumours which have been connected to the famous location over the years.