"You're very clever, young man, very clever. But it's turtles all the way down!"
May 12, 2008 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Dear Hive-Mind, Want to help me brainstorm up a list of strange (pre-existing) theories?


I'm working on a new project and I'm just in the brainstorming phase, but I could use a little extra help. I'm trying to think of as many interesting 'theories' that small(ish) clans of people earnestly believe, but pretty much everyone outside these insular groups don't even consider.

What I'm NOT looking for are theories that are still controversial (even if there is a scientific consensus to contradict them, like people that deny global warming or deny evolution).

Basic religious beliefs aren't going to work for me (So please no 'ha ha, Mormons are dumb'), but if they take it to the next level of strangeness they'll work (for example denying evolution is one thing, but believing the devil literally went around with a shovel planting dinosaur bones to screw with our heads is more along the lines of what I'm looking for).

So basically what I need are theories that have an abundance of evidence to contradict them, but still retain some true believers. Conspiracy theories are fine especially if they have an element of the fantastic, but unusual/fantastic explanations for natural/historical events, or just general cosmological strangeness is even better.

And best of all are theories that aren't seriously considered by pretty much anyone, but your average person on the street may have at least heard of (so super obscure theories are a bit less useful).

Some examples:

UFOs visited ancient Egypt and aliens helped build the pyramids
Flat Earthers
The Devil Planted Dinosaur Bones
The Moon Landing Was Faked
"Turtles all the way down"

Thanks much!
posted by Jezztek to Society & Culture (41 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Nazi UFOs that live in the center of the earth.
posted by mkb at 2:03 PM on May 12, 2008

Saint Anthony's Code
posted by hortense at 2:06 PM on May 12, 2008

Hollow Earth.
posted by Class Goat at 2:09 PM on May 12, 2008

Fan Death is my favorite hilarious Science Fact.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:14 PM on May 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Heaven's Gate
posted by Class Goat at 2:15 PM on May 12, 2008

The Bible Code.

Anatoly Fomenko's New Chronology (Garry Kasparov is a noted supporter).

Black Athena.
posted by nasreddin at 2:31 PM on May 12, 2008

You'll find lots of stuff about this on Snopes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:46 PM on May 12, 2008

Every issue of Paranoia Magazine has more of these than you can shake an alien implant at.
posted by Kattullus at 2:48 PM on May 12, 2008

You need to listen to some Coast to Coast. It's the only place you will learn about the TRUTH!
posted by piratebowling at 2:52 PM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

The "cargo cult" sounds fake but it's really not.

American GI's set up base on an island. They introduce themselves as "John from America." They bring all kinds of food and supplies. Then they leave.

Islanders carve little walkie talkies out of wood and reconstruct a primitive military base trying to recall the spirit of "Jon Frum" hopping they will once again be blessed with air supply drops.
posted by thewalrusispaul at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The 2nd Act of this This American Life mentions something called The Plan, a conspiracy theory believed by some African Americans that purports to explain gentrification and black poverty. Speaking of conspiracy theories, there's also the notion of AIDS being a genocidal weapon, that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, etc.
posted by chengjih at 2:55 PM on May 12, 2008

Fan Death is real (at least in some circumstances, and if you ask some Texas juries). How odd, I never saw it referenced before -- didn't realize it was a meme.
posted by The Bellman at 3:15 PM on May 12, 2008

Chem trails.
posted by peep at 3:18 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Magnetic field inversion?
posted by vers at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2008

that chem trails site manages to combine the illuminati/new world order, the kennedy assassination, bioweapon contrails over the USA, HIV engineered as a bioweapon, and the roswell UFO crash into one super-conspiracy theory. Well done that man!
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:35 PM on May 12, 2008

It's a science fiction novel, but I'd love it to be true (well, kind of) - and I'm sure that there are others out there who either already are, or are almost convinced by some of the postulated theories... The HAB Theory
posted by Chunder at 3:46 PM on May 12, 2008

Elvis is still alive.

Fluoride is mind control.

(Also, isn't magnetic field inversion real? Or am I thinking of magnetic pole reversal?)
posted by greenland at 4:05 PM on May 12, 2008

The Illuminati

The Octopus
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:05 PM on May 12, 2008

Remember back in the late nineties of a show called "Digimon?" It was an anime on Saturday mornings that revolved around digital creatures in an alternate reality.

Well, according to some, it's real.
posted by hellojed at 4:55 PM on May 12, 2008

Cats can suck the breath out of a baby.
Magnets take the edge off of a knife.
posted by JujuB at 5:36 PM on May 12, 2008

The Reptoid Conspiracy?

Bohemian Grove
seems to be shrouded in conspiracy too.

PRI's Studio 360 did a great show about all this maybe 3-4 years ago if you can dig it up. It was called 'Conspiracy'
posted by Large Marge at 5:40 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Conspiracy of Pangea. (what a dumbass...!)
posted by proj08 at 5:54 PM on May 12, 2008

Let's not forget the Bilderberg world-class conspiracy theory and link-o-rama.
posted by trinity8-director at 6:18 PM on May 12, 2008

Worlds in Collision.

Edgar Cayce
still has a following.

This older book by Martin Gardner offers a few likely candidates. Also this.
posted by Opposite George at 6:25 PM on May 12, 2008

There is currently a relatively rampant belief among the uneducated in AIDS-infected regions of Africa that having sex with a noninfected youngster (infants included) will cure the infected person, and it is fairly widely held. I visted Kenya in March and the story was heard more than once. It's yet one more reason AIDS is still quite a big problem -- even the kids who don't have it will get it from grossly misinformed adults going after them. Boggles the mind.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2008

Magnetic field inversion?

The inversion of the magnetic poles is actually real. Here.
posted by 517 at 6:31 PM on May 12, 2008

The Hundreth Monkey
posted by tkolar at 6:39 PM on May 12, 2008

I also had a paper-based debate with a guy I met at a foosball tourney, after he gave me an essay about the supposed "Kenite"/Sons-of-Cain race of people that mirror the biblical race of the Hebrews and walk amidst genuine people. I posted his original essay here and also one of my responses.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 6:43 PM on May 12, 2008

US Income Tax Is Optional
posted by tkolar at 6:43 PM on May 12, 2008

Check out crank.net for a well organised directory of such ideas.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:51 PM on May 12, 2008

There is currently a relatively rampant belief among the uneducated in AIDS-infected regions of Africa that having sex with a noninfected youngster (infants included) will cure the infected person, and it is fairly widely held.

This kind of belief goes way back, and isn't specific to AIDS or Africa. Europeans thought the same idea would cure syphilis.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:56 PM on May 12, 2008

Large Marge nailed it with the Reptoid Conspiracy, which is discussed in Jon Ronson's book Them: Adventures with Extremists. See David Icke's web site for the scoop straight from the horse's mouth.
posted by lukemeister at 10:17 PM on May 12, 2008

The end of the world in 2012, as supposedly foretold by the Mayan calendar
posted by lukemeister at 10:26 PM on May 12, 2008

The John Frum "cult" on Tanna in Vanuatu is pretty amazing, I got to visit one of the villages that strongly believe in this in a trip over the summer. Something like a third of the island's population worship a figure known only as "John Frum" (there are a number of theories behind how this name came to be - the most likely is an introduction to a soldier named John from America) - they basically wait for him to return and save them with food drops and such that they experienced during WW2, when the US occupied the island (their current figure of worship though, is Prince Phillip - he is the cargo commander, or something to that effect).
posted by cholly at 4:24 AM on May 13, 2008

Oh, and pretty much every nation has been claimed to be one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Here's a page on British Israelism (I caution you from reading the Wikipedia page on British Israelism, that way madness lies).

Some dude once claimed that Icelanders were clearly one of the lost tribes (who he traced through the Heruls) because Icelanders were much more generous than Norwegians (from where Iceland was mostly settled) and also better poets. No... seriously.
posted by Kattullus at 5:49 AM on May 13, 2008

Aquatic Ape Theory
posted by InstantSanitizer at 6:22 AM on May 13, 2008

Sedona Vortex
posted by InstantSanitizer at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2008

This post may have some links you'd find interesting.
posted by mdn at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2008

Metafilter's Own Lore Sjoberg just had an interesting article on Wired about weird supernatural things that people see in photographs.

My favourite is "crowd demons". Apparently, if you take a cheap digital photograph and you can't clearly see the faces of every single person in the photo? Then they're demons. Definitely demons.
posted by Gortuk at 6:58 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention Jon Ronson's other book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, which is at least as relevant to your question as Them. A movie starring George Clooney of The Men Who Stare at Goats has just been announced.
posted by lukemeister at 2:35 PM on May 17, 2008

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