Where there is uncertainty or doubt, secrecy or silence, lays the potential for conspiracy theories to develop and spread which capture the minds of those who question official accounts and explanations given by governments or agencies. While some conspiracy theories are quickly dismissed, others gain traction and resonate with such a considerable number of people that they start to become widely believed. The following is a brief overview of eight of the most widely believed conspiracy theories in U.S. history.
Area 51 is the name of a highly-protected United States Air Force facility located in Nevada. It has become a beacon for conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts who believe that the facility holds the remains of aliens and the wreckage of an alien spaceship which crashed in Roswell, New Mexico on June 14, 1947. The owner of the ranch, W.W. “Mac” Brazel and his son reportedly discovered the wreckage before notifying Roswell’s sheriff, George Wilcox who in turn contacted Colonel “Butch” Blanchard, commander of the Roswell Army Airfield’s 509th Composite Group. Blanchard sent an intelligence officer Major Jesse Marcel to accompany Sheriff Wilcox and Brazel to the crash site to recover the wreckage.
On July 8th, 1947, The Roswell Daily Record published a story reporting that the RAAF had captured a “Flying Saucer” on Brazel’s ranch. The story made no mention of alien remains or living aliens being recovered at the crash site. The following day the same newspaper published another story clarifying the original story from the previous day’s edition, stating that the RAAF had in fact recovered debris from a crashed weather balloon, which later was revealed to be part of a top-secret operation known as Project Mogul. This clarification led to accusations of a cover-up by conspiracy theorists and the hype surrounding the incident has grown from there.
Some conspiracy theorists believe that the aliens who survived the crash subsequently aided the U.S. Air Force in its development of new advanced aircraft using alien technology at Area 51. The intense security and secrecy surrounding Area 51 coupled with numerous reported sightings of UFO’s in the area convinced them that the government had something to hide.
However, following a Freedom of Information request in 2005 by Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, the United States government released documents which revealed that Area 51 was used as a testing site for its U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programmes.