Ten Greatest Conspiracy Theories in American History

Oklahoma City bombing
Oklahoma City bombing

It only takes two to make a conspiracy

During the short history of the United States, there actually have been conspiracies to commit crimes, further a cause or gain an advantage. In perhaps the most notable one, John Wilkes Booth and others conspired to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln and members of his cabinet in 1865. Then in 1995, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier conspired to bomb the Alfred P.Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Both of these conspiracies led to devastating consequences for the U.S. Therefore, conspiracies actually happen! But many conspiracies are only theoretical in nature; in fact, they may only exist in the minds of a few imaginative people, some of whom may be authors of best-selling thrillers. At any rate, the following is a list – in no particular order – that may list the most impressive conspiracy theories of a very large bunch.

Please keep reading!

1. Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK


Perhaps the most investigated conspiracy theory in the U.S. involves the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Warren Commission claimed Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin, though many claim Oswald was either “framed” for the murder or conspired with others. Jack Ruby is a prime suspect in this regard, because he murdered Oswald two days after the assassination. Why did Ruby kill Oswald? Was it to keep him from telling the authorities about the conspiracy? Unfortunately, Ruby took this secret to his grave when he died of cancer in January 1967. Numerous names (along with Ruby), as well as organizations and even entire countries have been implicated in the conspiracy theory: the Italian Mafia, Lyndon B. Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Clint Murchison, Fidel Castro, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), E. Howard Hunt and the Soviet Union. However, no solid evidence exists for the complicity of any of the aforementioned. Pop culture, begs to differ, however. Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK, theorizes that the assassination involved nothing less than a coup d’état orchestrated by the federal government of the U.S. And perhaps the best investigative journalism on the assassination and its conspiracy theories is the nine-part TV series The Men Who Killed Kennedy, which implicated hired French gunman, Lucien Sarti, who allegedly fired the fatal shot from the infamous grassy knoll!

2. "Manchurian Candidate" Assassinations

Many conspiracy theories involve something known as Manchurian Candidate assassins. After undergoing a period of brainwashing - perhaps in a foreign country - at some designated point initiated by the conspirators these unwitting “sleeper agents,” as they are also known, may have murdered prominent people such as Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X or John Lennon. Moreover, theorists argue that government agencies such as the CIA - generally considered a conspiracy itself and often implicated in conspiracy theories - would have more powerful motives than average citizens, and would also be able to create biased commissions to investigate such crimes. (Could the CIA have murdered any of these men? You're welcome to do the research.) As in the book and movie titled, The Manchurian Candidate, these sleeper agents, once they committed the assassination, would immediately forget what they had done, or perhaps commit suicide or immediately be murdered by another government agent, destroying the link to the conspirators.

Waco siege
Waco siege
David Koresh
David Koresh

3. Murder of the so-called Waco Wackos


The stand-off at Waco, Texas in April 1993 ended abruptly when self-proclaimed biblical prophet David Koresh and 54 of his Branch Davidian followers, as well as 21 children, were incinerated in a fire that erupted during a military assault initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the FBI. The Danforth Report, released in July 2000, claimed that the fire was started by the Branch Davidians, but conspiracy theorists assert that the ATF and FBI deliberately started the fire by using incendiary devices during the siege. These theorists also claim that the Branch Davidians never presented much of a threat, even though they were heavily armed, which isn’t a crime in the U.S. (It was also alleged that the Branch Davidians were cooking up methamphetamine, which was never proven.) Had the ATF and FBI conspired to keep the finger of blame for the disaster firmly pointed at the so-called Waco Wackos? Tragically, ill-conceived, gung-ho sieges such as the one at Waco and at places like Ruby Ridge incited Timothy McVeigh to commit mass murder at Oklahoma City.

4. U.S. Government Orchestrated 9/11 Attacks

The federal government of the United states has been accused of various conspiracies, if not monstrous evil. Perhaps the most incredible is that individuals in the U.S. government had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and deliberately allowed them to happen in order to launch the War on Terrorism, expand the police state and broaden plans for U.S. global hegemony as envisioned by the administration of President George W. Bush. It appears a new “Pearl Harbor” was needed to actualize such grandiose schemes, the start of which was the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, some theorists assert that the U.S. government was in league with the 9/11 terrorists and may have set explosive charges, hoping for a kind of controlled demolition, with which to make certain the Twin Towers collapsed. The 9/11 Truth Movement claims to know what “really happened” on that terrifying day in September 2001.

Training exercise for the Apollo 11 moon landing
Training exercise for the Apollo 11 moon landing
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of Apollo 14 landing site
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of Apollo 14 landing site

5. Apollo Moon Landings Were Faked


Since the first moon landing in July 1969, conspiracy theorists have claimed the U. S. government faked the Apollo moon landings because it didn’t have the technology to accomplish the mission. Naysayers also assert that because the U.S. government couldn’t afford such a massive failure during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the missions were instead shot as Hollywood movies directed by Stanley Kubrick. Proponents of the moon landings point out that hundreds of thousands of people worked on the Apollo program, so covering up the fakery would have been even more difficult than making the moon landings! A great deal of hardware was left on the moon as well, such as the lunar descent modules, and much of this has been photographed by orbiting probes such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. But conspiracies theorists counter by saying that NASA could have faked those photographs as well. Nevertheless, the TV program Mythbusters in August 2008 subjected many of the hoax-related claims or conspiracy myths to rigorous scientific methods and eventually labeled all as having been “busted.” Assuming the moon landings took place - which they almost certainly did - they are often regarded as the greatest technological achievement in the history of humankind.

USS Eldridge Ca. 1944
USS Eldridge Ca. 1944
Poster for the movie
Poster for the movie

6. Philadelphia Experiment


As the story goes, naval scientists in October 1943 at Philadelphia, PA launched an experiment designed to make a naval destroyer escort, the USS Eldridge, invisible to light and/or radar. These scientists supposedly generated a massive electromagnetic field on the Eldridge, hoping to unify the four forces of nature – gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear. (This Unified Field Theory is a kind of Holy Grail in the world of theoretical physics, though preeminent scientists such as Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla couldn’t produce a satisfactory model.) However, the experiment went awry when the Eldridge disappeared and teleported some 200 miles away! Apparently some crew members also vanished and then materialized a short time later as parts of the bulkhead! The U.S. Navy has always denied that such an experiment happened aboard the Eldridge, though some U.S. naval ships back then, and still do, undergo a procedure known as degaussing to keep magnetic undersea mines and torpedoes from drawing to the ship. Was this degaussing all that was done to the Eldridge? At any rate, conspiracy theorists claim the experiment did happen, more or less as the events described, and that the U.S. government has covered up the whole story, hoping to keep this advanced, if not fantastic, technology to itself.

7. Digital Television Transmission


Some conspiracy theorists claim that the switch to digital TV in the U.S. and other industrialized nations shows that governments want to spy on everyone with the use of miniature cameras and microphones placed in cable boxes and television sets. These techniques, similar to the ones shown in George Orwell’s book, 1984, would make Orwell’s “Big Brother” concept a reality. These theorists also think that the digital signals could hold subliminal suggestions so the entire populace could be controlled and even subverted by governments throughout the world. Perhaps these techniques are already being used by totalitarian regimes in countries such as North Korea, seemingly the most “controlled” country in the world.

8. Telecommunications Act of 1996


The Telecommunications Act of 1996, the first U.S. congressional bill signed in cyberspace, allows megamergers of media conglomerates, possibly forming monster mergers of the media. Conspiracy theorists have warned that this could affect the coverage of wars regarding the United States. One of the companies having expanded into a media conglomerate is General Electric, owner of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Also a cause for concern, General Electric has a financial stake in the munitions market, creating a possible conflict of interest. Theorists claim that the U.S. Congress, which passed the bill with nary a debate, is in league with General Electric and other media conglomerates, thereby maintaining control over what the media publishes for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conspiracy mongers also assert that if these companies control the media, then they control most if not all of what the public knows about American incursions into other countries. Of course, they might control considerably more as well!

9. UFO Conspiracy Theory (Area 51, Men in Black)


This conspiracy theory may be the granddaddy of them all, stressing the very mythology surrounding UFOs, aliens, clandestine U.S. military bases and extraterrestrial technology. Conspiracy theorists allege that the United States government not only has captured and then housed extraterrestrials in places such as Area 51, but also conspires with them in the abduction and manipulation of U.S. citizens. One suggestion is that aliens gave the U.S. the transistor in exchange for alien dominance. The enforcers of this covert operation are known as the dreaded Men in Black, who silence those who ask too many questions about alien encounters and abductions. The origin of this unknown and mysterious organization coincides with the Roswell flying saucer epic, eventually inspiring a movie of the same name, as well as episodes of the TV show, The X-Files. This theory also links with the Philadelphia Experiment and the Montauk Project, which supposedly conducted experiments in psychological warfare, as well as time travel.

10. Secret Organizations Control the U.S.

Seemingly, for hundreds of years, maybe longer, numerous secret societies or cabals have tried to dominate the world or at least its central financial system, deliberately causing inflation and recessions and manipulating currencies. For instance, the so-called Zionists are supposedly bent on controlling the world, as are the Illuminati and the Freemasons. Or this putative clandestine group may simply comprise the owners of private banks, particularly ones involved with the Federal Reserve System of the United States. Perhaps the Bilderberg Group, an annual conference comprised of delegates from the United States and European countries - and always closed to the public - may be engaged in something more than “atlanticism,” as they refer to it. Of course, the secret organizations about which we know absolutely nothing are the ones that may actually be dangerous!


For the average person, the possibility that any one of these conspiracies actually contains an element of truth may seem frightening, amusing or yawn-inducing. Nevertheless, maybe the wisest course of action is to remain vigilant and trust nobody and nothing in particular, except the truth, that is, wherever and whenever it can be found.

Elvis Presley: “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”

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Comments 15 comments

rachellrobinson profile image

rachellrobinson 6 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Very informative, just out of curiousity do you believe any of these conspiracies to be true?

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

There may be an ounce of truth in a few of them, particularly the JFK conspiracy, but that's about it. Most are just too fantastic, if not laughable. Thanks for the comment. Later!

JayDeck profile image

JayDeck 6 years ago from New Jersey

Nice job!



lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

There is nothing more fun that a good conspiracy theory. True/False? Does it matter? Great read. Lynda

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Yes, Immartin, conspiracies are fun to read about, and a few are actually thought-provoking. As usual, thanks for the comment. Later!

CMCastro profile image

CMCastro 6 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

What A Huge amount of interesting information to bring here. A definite READ. I want to recommend this hub to a friend of mine who applies the events of history to the current day crises that this country is going through and how we can prepare for the big global disasters to come. Thanks for your hub.

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

You say global disasters to come - OMG! Let's hope they are few and far between, and preferrably not in my lifetime, though I'll do what I can to help in this one. Thanks for recommending my hub, CMCastro. Later!

John Paterna profile image

John Paterna 6 years ago

"Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you." This should be the motto of conspiracy theorists. Please...

kkalmes 6 years ago

Hello Kosmo, great read and while my brother is in town conspiracy theories will continue to be an on-going conversation. Those of us holding desperately onto our sanity aren't as much afraid of the truth as we are afraid of those who promote such preposterous lies.

thumbs up and awesome because we don't have an excellent rating.

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

kkalmes, I also have a friend who continually spouts numerous preposterous conspiracy theories until I'm ready to throw a loaded beer can at his head. Ha! Later!

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Very interesting hub. These theories have certainly given us some worthy films. Who know what's next?

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Yes, Gypsy Willow, every good conspiracy deserves a movie or two. Later!

susankdy 5 years ago

truth is often stranger than fiction and so the seeds of doubt are sown! if something sounds too far fetched it is worth another look, we are blinded by a dumbed down media and even though the truth is easy to find about some controversial subjects - mainstream media shy's away and unless you actively look for information you will not be told by fox


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, susankdy. You're right; the truth is usually there to be found - on Fox News or other places. Later!

Miss Tiff profile image

Miss Tiff 4 years ago from Utah

This is very interesting. Awesome hub!

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