Is Katy Perry really JonBenét Ramsey? Is Solange really Beyoncé's daughter? Here, a look back at the craziest conspiracies of all time.
Speculation about Beyoncé's 2011 pregnancy began the second she announced she was with child at the VMAs that year. There were rumors that the Carters were using a surrogate, but things peaked when Bey appeared in an interview on Australian TV. You know the interview: the one that seemingly showed Bey's stomach "folding" as she was sitting down. Her reps later told ABC that the fake baby bump rumors were "stupid, ridiculous, and false." In 2013, Beyoncé addressed the media scrutiny in her documentary Life Is But a Dream, along with confirmation that she had a miscarriage prior to becoming pregnant with Blue Ivy. "It's hard to go through public experiences when you're in the public eye because it's hard to have closure."
How old is Beyoncé, really? According to one wild conspiracy theory, she's in her early 40s and on top of that, she's Solange's mother—not sister. This is based on several things that come with no solid proof whatsoever: (1) a birth certificate from the Department of Health in Texas that supposedly shows Beyoncé's birth year as 1974; (2) people hanging on to every word from a Gabrielle Union interview in which she claims she's been friends with Bey since they were teens (Gabrielle was born in 1972); (3) a rando Columbia Records employee who claims to have seen Bey's driver's license ("don't ask how"), which apparently lists Bey's birth year as 1974. There's a related theory that mama Tina is actually Beyoncé's sister, but let's not even go there.
Shortly after the release of "Royals" in 2013, a group of Lorde age truthers emerged and claimed that the singer was older than her stated age of 17. The conspiracy theory even inspired a South Park episode. In early 2014, The Hairpin put an end to this nonsense and requested a copy of Lorde's birth certificate from her native New Zealand to show that Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor was indeed born on Nov. 7, 1996 and not one day or year earlier.
Seemingly coming from nowhere decades ago, there has been a long-standing theory that Michael and Latoya are one and the same. In this regard, photos of the siblings, who were born two years apart, mean nothing to conspiracy theorists.
More than 20 years after Kurt Cobain's death was officially ruled a suicide, a small group of naysayers still believe Kurt was murdered. Over the years, suspects have included everyone from his widow Courtney Love to fellow members of Nirvana. Private investigator Tom Grant, who was hired by Courtney to investigate the death, later made stunning claims that Courtney hand-wrote part of the singer's suicide letter. In 1998, the documentary Kurt & Courtney found no evidence that Courtney was behind Kurt's death. Leading the pack of these so-called theorists has been Seattle-based writer Richard Lee, who made headlines in 2015 after the Seattle Police Department released five never-before-scene photos of the shotgun found in Kurt's home. Lee, who attempted to push for the release of even more photos of the crime scene — photos Kurt and Courtney's daughter Frances Bean says would "encourage disturbed stalkers and fanatical threats"—has kept a growing list of murder suspects over the years, with Courtney on top.
Khloé's paternity has been one of the great mysteries among Kardashian fans for years. The Simpsons and Kardashians were friends who traveled together with their families, long before Robert joined O.J.'s "Dream Team" when the latter was on trial. In 2009, Khloé asked Kris on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians if she was adopted, noting that she had a darker complexion than her siblings and her hair looked different. The family revisited the subject again on the show in 2012 when Kris tried to get her family to do a DNA test to prove Khloé was in fact Robert's daughter. Khloé refused the test and slammed Kris on the episode: "Seriously, my dad is Robert Kardashian. My other dad is Bruce Jenner. If you fucked other people during the same time and you do not know, go on Maury." In July 2017, trolls spammed Khloé's social media accounts with messages of congratulations following news that O.J. had been granted parole. Khloé responded in one tweet, "People are assholes but I don't care lol I focus on the good."
Despite the official conclusion that Elvis died of a heart attack in Graceland in 1977, legions of fans and believers have sworn they've seen the King walking about over the years. Leading the pack of Facebook groups, books, and movies is the Canadian-based Elvis Sighting Society, which calls police and coroners' reports "petty." One sighting, by the way, placed Elvis at a Tim Horton's at 2 a.m. There's also a theory that Elvis faked his own death to live his life as one Jon Burrows, or maybe he went by Jimmy Ellis—take your pick. In 1990, fans swore they spotted Elvis in the background during an airport scene in Home Alone, but director Chris Columbus shot that rumor down real fast. Some also believe Elvis has been in Graceland this whole time. Could this guy tending to the yard be Elvis? Or is it this guy with a beard standing with fans during the annual birthday tribute event in Graceland in January 2017?
Did Tupac really die from his injuries after being shot multiple times in a drive-by in Las Vegas? Not according to the many, many people who have reportedly seen him in the flesh since 1996. Were those really his ashes? Why did the autopsy incorrectly list his height and weight? Is he actually living in Cuba? Should you believe anything Suge Knight says about Pac? Did Knight order the hit? And what does the CIA know?
While the L.A. County coroner's office officially ruled Marilyn Monroe's death in 1962 a probable suicide based on her history with drugs and personal struggles, several conspiracy theories about why she died have emerged in the years since. Most point to murder by everyone from the CIA (to cover up an alleged affair with JFK and reported knowledge Monroe had about the UFO) to RFK (who allegedly ordered for her assignation to protect any leak of their reported affair) to the mob.
Some 40 years after the Doors frontman Jim Morrison was found dead in a bathtub in Paris, singer Marianne Faithfull told Mojo magazine that it wasn't heart failure that killed the musician, but her ex-boyfriend Jean de Breteuil, who dealt heroine to high-profile clients like Morrison. "He went to see Jim Morrison and killed him. I mean, I'm sure it was an accident. Poor bastard," she told the magazine. No autopsy was ever performed at the time, as French law doesn't require it, spawning countless conspiracy theories about how Morrison died. There's also the theory that he's actually alive and well, surfacing in the Bahamas, Paris, and Oregon. Have you met Richard the "homeless hippy" from New York? Apparently, he's also Jim Morrison.
Six months after Tupac died, Biggie Smalls was shot to death in a drive-by in Los Angeles. Two decades later, their murders remain unsolved, giving way to conspiracy theories including one that points the finger at the FBI. At the time of their respective murders, Tupac and Biggie were at the center of a heated West Coast vs. East Coast battle, with Puff Daddy and Suge Knight also playing key roles. The theory is that the FBI ordered hit jobs on both rappers in what was, essentially, a war on rap. In 2008, John Potash published a book on the theory, The FBI War on Tupac and Black Leaders, based on interviews and CIA, FBI, and court documents that suggest Tupac was under surveillance by the FBI before he died.
Prince Harry's paternity has long been a subject among royal gossipmongers, who believe James Hewitt is Harry's biological father. In 1986, two years after Harry's birth, his mother, Princess Diana, began a five-year affair with Hewitt, her horse-riding instructor. Following their affair, both parties confirmed their relationship in the mid-90s, but Hewitt has been unable to escape the paternity rumor. On Harry's 18th birthday, Hewitt told the Sunday Mirror, "There is really no possibility that I am Harry's father. I can absolutely assure you that I am not," despite his own admission that they both have red hair and look alike. In March 2017, Hewitt again shot down the rumor, noting that it's "worse for [Harry than it is for me], probably, poor chap."
J.K. Rowling's origin story is well known. She was a financially struggling single mother who came up with the idea for Harry Potter on a train then wrote the first book in cafés; she's now one of the richest authors in the world. According to this theory, none of that is true. Harry Potter was actually masterminded by a team of advertisers and writers who lab-created a franchise that would appeal to the entire world, and the woman you think is "J.K. Rowling" is just an actress hired to play the part of the author at events. Why that "actress" has gone on to write books that aren't part of the Harry Potter franchise is a mystery to be solved another day.
Do entertain this for a minute: With orders from Nixon and Reagan, author Stephen King—not Mark David Chapman—pulled the trigger and killed John Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980. In 2009, one Steve Lightfoot made this very claim after interrupting a meeting of the Sarasota City Commission in Florida. Lightfoot claims Nixon and Reagan wanted Lennon and his anti-war message out of the U.S., and that King posed as Chapman to murder Lennon. (Sure, the two look sort of similar, but that's about it.) Lightfoot has an entire website dedicated to this theory, along with more information if the price is right.
There have been many conspiracy theories related to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The most stunning theory is that he was Jack the Ripper, despite there being no substantive evidence. In 1996, Richard Wallace published Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend, asserting that Carroll had teamed up with Thomas Vere Bayne for the murders. Wallace based his theory on anagrams from Carroll's The Nursery "Alice" and the first volume of Sylvie and Bruno, which Wallace claimed were actually confessions from the author.
Despite what messages you think all the Disney on Ice shows and the Frozen franchise suggest, Walt Disney's body was never cryogenically frozen so that he could have been reanimated in the future. It's the Waltsicle myth that just won't die, and it's all thanks to Bob Nelson, the president of the Cryonics Society of California, who revealed to the L.A. Times in 1972 that Walt Disney Studios had inquired about the freezing process just before Disney died in 1966. In 2012, in a move to shut down all Disney-related rumors, his daughter Diane Disney Miller opened the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, noting that young kids would ask her own kids, "My mother said your grandfather was anti-Semetic" or "Your grandfather is frozen, isn't he?"
In 2011, an antiques dealer named Jack Mord listed a photograph for sale on eBay. This photograph was taken around 1870, but according to Mord, the man in this photograph was Nicolas Cage. "Personally, I believe it's him and that he is some sort of walking undead/vampire…who quickens/reinvents himself once every 75 years or so," Mord wrote in the listing. Obviously, this theory caught on like wildfire because it's hilarious and involves Nicolas Cage, but according to Cage, it's not even a little bit true. "You can't take pictures of vampires," he told David Letterman in 2012. "I don't drink blood, and the last time I looked in the mirror I had a reflection." Likely story.
Pokémon Go was a huge hit as soon as it landed the app store in the summer of 2016, because apparently everyone—and I mean everyone—wants to walk around in circles catching animated creatures till their phone dies. But the fun wasn't without drawbacks. Initially, Niantic, the developer behind the game, had almost unlimited access to Google accounts registered in the app. After that controversy got cleared up, conspiracy theorists still thought the game's use of GPS tracking was questionable. Did they really need all that information on your whereabouts to give you Squirtles and Charmanders? And more importantly, were they storing it all so they could hand it over to law enforcement for something nefarious and/or quasi-legal? Probably not, but the possibility doesn't seem to have deterred very many people—the game is still popular all over the world.
In early 2017, an Australian site posted (then deleted) a report that bystanders claimed to have seen Justin transform into a lizard in public, in broad daylight. The deletion would suggest to most people that the story was bullshit, but the speculation didn't stop. Another site claimed that Justin was a member of the "dominant reptilian-Illuminati bloodline," which then resurfaced a video from 2014 showing Justin "blinking like a lizard" that time he got arrested. The real question here is what are the other kinds of Illuminati bloodlines? Vulpine? Amphibian? Lupine? The world needs to know.
Andrew W.K. is a rock star who was born in 1979 and whose real name is Andrew Wilkes-Krier. Or is he? According to this longstanding theory that just won't die, "Andrew W.K." is not one man but a piece of performance art created by a group of people who have at various times played the Andrew W.K. "character." This is largely based on photos of Andrew that show him with different hair lengths and varying degrees of beard, so the simplest explanation is probably, "Sometimes men get haircuts."
"X Celebrity Is Gay" theories are a dime a dozen, but very few of them are as involved as this one. According to believers, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson—AKA, Larry Stylinson—have been in a romantic relationship for many years, kept secret by One Direction's management so as to not upset the fantasy that the guys of 1D are all heterosexual men any woman could date in real life. Proponents analyze every photo, interview, lyric, tattoo, and music video for evidence that Harry and Louis are looking at each other longingly or exchanging subtle flirtations; they also claim that the guys' relationships with women like Eleanor Calder and Taylor Swift were staged to hide Larry's true love. Louis has publicly denied that any of this is true, and also said that it interfered with his real friendship with Harry because they were both so busy trying not to give theorists more ammunition.
"Moon landing conspiracy theories" could be its own 50-part slideshow, but for the purposes of overlap with "pop culture conspiracy theories," we'll just focus on one. First, assume that the moon landing as you know it did not really happen—no one went to space, no one walked on the moon, and certainly no one planted an American flag on the surface of Earth's little buddy. Second, remember that Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey, which came out in 1968, the year before the U.S. supposedly landed on the moon. The theory goes that NASA, having assumed Kubrick would be good at making a Hollywood set look like the moon, hired him to film and "direct" the moon landing, which would be broadcast on television. Believers think Kubrick dropped hints about his involvement in The Shining (which itself is so allegedly full of symbolism that there's an entire documentary about it). In 2016, Kubrick's daughter called the theory a "grotesque lie," but tinfoil hats are going to wear tinfoil hats.
The Illuminati was a real secret society founded in 18th century Bavaria that opposed tyranny and supported separation of church and state, but it died off in the late 1700s when the guy in charge of Bavaria outlawed secret societies. Or did it? Conspiracy theorists think the group just reformed and expanded, and has been manipulating world events for centuries. Also, every single celebrity you've ever heard of—Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, JAY-Z, Madonna, etc.—is in the group, and they indoctrinate regular people through symbols hidden in the lyrics and music videos.
An oldie but goodie, this theory postulates that Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966 and the Beatles hid it for the rest of their career and/or hired a lookalike to replace him. Sleuths found clues in photos and lyrics, most famously on the cover of Abbey Road, which is supposedly a "funeral procession" for Paul. Paul is one of only two Beatles still alive and has enjoyed a long and lucrative post-Beatles career, so if he really was replaced by a lookalike, said lookalike is doing awfully well for himself.
This is the rare conspiracy theory that started because someone was trying to prove how easy it is to spread conspiracy theories. It began with a Brazilian blog post alleging that Avril committed suicide in 2003 and was replaced by another woman named Melissa Vandella so that Avril's record label could continue profiting off the Lavigne name. This blog post made it clear that the whole theory was just an illustration of a conspiracy theory, but after the blog post got picked up by BuzzFeed, the theory picked up steam again and believers combed through photos and lyrics for evidence that "Avril" is really Melissa. It is still not true.
This theory, popularized by Robin Gardiner's 1998 book, Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank?, posits that it was the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, that fell to the bottom of the Atlantic on April 15, 1912—not the Titanic—as part of an insurance scam. Go with it: trouble began when the Olympic, which was virtually identical to the Titanic, crashed into the Royal Navy Warship HMS Hawke in 1911 and White Star Line, owner of the twin ships, was found to be at fault for the collision. You don't need J.P. Morgan's credentials to know what that means: money loss. The theory goes that to make up for the financial hit, White Star Line (owned by Morgan) patched up its damaged goods, sent the vessel out disguised as the Titanic, and orchestrated its sinking for an insurance payout that would more than make up for its previous money drain—especially since the real Titanic, a shiny new ship, would be up and running in the aftermath. You can sort through the fishy details at your leisure, but consider this in the meantime: Morgan was supposed to board the Titanic for its maiden voyage, but conveniently canceled those plans.
According to this theory, Prince Philip ordered the British Secret Service, MI6, to murder Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed, and stage it to look like a crash. The alleged motive? Diana was pregnant with Fayed's child and planning to announce their engagement—a union that would not sit well with the British Royal Family because Fayed was an Egyptian Muslim, not a Christian. This theory is especially disturbing because it has been in part supported by Fayed's father, Mohamed Al-Fayed. After a British inquest in 2008, a jury ruled Diana and Dodi's death an "unlawful killing" by driver Henri Paul, who was under the influence and also died in the wreck, and the aggressive paparazzi.
What if Britney Spears's public meltdown—which peaked in 2007, when she shaved her head—wasn't the result of her own personal issues? What if she was being paid by the Bush administration to grab headlines away from a corrupt and incompetent White House? Low approval ratings? "Somebody call Britney and tell her to drive with her infant on her lap!" Republicans tanking in the midterm elections? "Somebody get Britney on the horn! We need her to divorce Kevin Federline." It's a funny enough theory until you get to the part where sleuths claim Britney was seen canoodling with Bush White House adviser Karl Rove back in 2002, which would explain her ties to the administration. There is no photo evidence of that union, however—and hopefully there never will be.
If you thought One Direction conspiracy theories died when the band went on hiatus, then you don't understand anything about One Direction conspiracy theories. Back in January 2016, Louis had a baby with a woman named Briana Jungwirth; news that she was expecting had come as a bit of a shock to fans in 2015. Tinfoil hats got to work as soon as reports of her pregnancy came out and started speculating that Briana's relationship was Louis was fake and the "baby" was created by 1D management to quell Larry Stylinson rumors (see number 22) once and for all. After Freddie's birth, baby truthers suggested that the baby was either a doll or an infant belonging to a publicist for 1D's label, that paparazzi photos of Louis and Briana carrying the baby's car seat were staged, and that most Instagrams of Freddie had been Photoshopped in some way. Both Louis and Briana have publicly expressed their disdain for this "investigation."
It all started when Korn frontman Jonathan Davis released a video for "Spike My Veins," featuring clips from Miley Cyrus's infamous VMAs performance as well as scenes from her "Wrecking Ball" video. He later gave an interview to Alex Jones, telling the racist, far-right radio host that Miley's Bangerz-era antics were part of the Obama administration's ploy to distract Americans as their "liberties [were] being taken away one by one." This is proof that sometimes the '90s should just stay in the '90s.