Fantastic Conspiracy Theories

No doubt you knew that the moon landing was faked.

And that the Roswell alien landing was covered up.

And that the CIA killed JFK.

And that the lottery is rigged

But did you also know that a race of beings called “Agarthians” live deep below us in the centre of the Earth? Apparently, they were first discovered in 1947 after an expedition to the North Pole by Admiral Byrd. (Sounds like 1947 was a big year between this and Roswell!). Byrd was in the U.S. Navy when he made two flights into the hollow earth, which has only two openings – one at the North pole and one at the South pole. The U.S. Navy, of course, are keeping all this information Top Secret.

And you know what else? Shapeshifting reptilian aliens are really running the planet and controlling everything. – the government, the media you name it. David Icke should know – he used to be a reporter for the BBC! Okay, he was a sports reporter, but who cares…He knows the truth about the “Reptilians” (or “Reptoids”, or “Reptiloids” or “Draconians”…guess they’re still struggling the naming process), an alien race which colonised Earth long ago which includes everyone from George W. Bush to the British Royal family. (And you thought “V” was just a television series!)

“The scariest and most powerful thing about conspiracy theories is they can’t be disproven, because any evidence that contradicts a conspiracy theory can be immediately dismissed as a plant of the conspiracy itself, created and disseminated specifically to disprove it. That’s what’s so clever about Fantastic Fest selection “The Conspiracy“. writes Matt Singer of Criticwrire (in a piece called “Fantastic Fest Review” 26th September, 2012).

The Conspiracy is a faux documentary which uses found footage and was written and directed by Christopher MacBride.

The film follows two doc filmmakers who decide their subject will be a man who’s made a name for himself by yelling protests in the streets of Toronto. This man explains that we’re all sheep (think real life Matrix), and slaves to a government attempting to become one powerful entity. The tales that are spun come directly out of conspiracy forums and are essential in integrating a level of believability to this intriguing mockumentary. When the old man goes missing, the filmmakers piece together his office full of newspaper clippings – which leads them down the rabbit hole of “truth.”

… what makes The Conspiracy so compelling is that it’s based on real conspiracy theories. Everything that’s suggested in the film is something I’ve known or read about, which makes the mockumentary that much more believable and even more thrilling.
according to Mr Disgusting at the Bloody Disgusting.com (“Chilling ‘The Conspiracy’ Brings Found Footage Thrills!” 23rd September, 2012)

Some people simply do not like the discomfort that a conspiracy theory creates. But for others, conspiracy theories are intriguing. They like to explore all of the possibilities that a conspiracy theory presents, in the same way that they like to explore puzzles or mystery novels. Sometimes a conspiracy theory is ridiculous and learning about it is a form of entertainment. Or you may find that the theory is credible and it makes you think. It’s interesting to consider the theory, weigh the evidence and come up with a conclusion“. Marshall Brain, “How Conspiracy Theories Work“. (How Stuff Works.com)

Personally, I struggle to believe that the world is being run by shapeshifting reptiles… but maybe that’s because their minion helpers – the microscopic carnivorous slug aliens – have hijacked my brain and I can no longer even trust my very own thought processes! Because they control them…telling me what to write at this very moment!!

Whatever. They’ve managed to be a bit more productive at this whole blogging thing than I have recently. Maybe I should leave them to it.

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5 of My Favourite Urban Legends

I DO NOT believe that Jamie Lee Curtis was born a hermaphrodite. I think it is probably one of the more blatantly spurious assertions I’ve ever heard. My husband, on the other hand, insists he thinks that one is true. (Mostly to wind me up, I suspect).

Richard Gere and the gerbil? Didn’t happen either.

“Life is so much more interesting with monsters in it. It’s the same with these legends. They’re just good stories” says Mikel J. Koven, a folklorist at the University of Wales.

Heather Whipps interviewed him in an article for Live Science (27/8/06) called “Urban Legends: How They Start and Why They Persist

“Urban legends are also good indicators of what’s going on in current society, said Koven, who is part of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) and is editor of its peer-reviewed journal, Contemporary Legend.

“By looking at what’s implied in a story, we get an insight into the fears of a group in society,” he told LiveScience. Urban legends “need to make cultural sense,” he said, noting that some stick around for decades while others fizzle out depending on their relevance to the modern social order.

It’s a lack of information coupled with these fears that tends to give rise to new legends, Koven said. “When demand exceeds supply, people will fill in the gaps with their own information…they’ll just make it up.”

About.com has a list of the (current) Top 25 Urban Legends and the two I mentioned at the start of this post are amongst them.

Here are some other personal favourites

The Old Lady who dried her pet poodle in the microwave

An elderly lady apparently washed her miniature poodle and decided it would be quicker and better to dry him in the microwave. So she put her beloved little dog inside, set for “defrost” and turned it on.

A few moments later as she getting his lead to take him for a walk, she heard a muffled explosion from the kitchen…

Alligators in the New York sewers

Versions of this story have apparently been around since the 1920’s and 30’s. The story goes that families would illegally bring baby alligators home with them from vacation in Florida for their children to keep as pets, but flush them down the toilet when they grew too large for comfort. According to the legend, the alligators survived and bred within the sewers, feeding on rats and rubbish, growing to terrifying sizes.

Souvenir cactus full of poisonous spiders

The version I first heard of this story was that a family bought a strange and beautiful looking cactus on an overseas holiday and didn’t bother declaring it at airport customs so that they could keep it. They put it inside the house, in a prominent spot in the living room.

A few days later the cactus appeared to be “breathing” – the sides of the plant seemed to be moving in and out slightly. At first they thought nothing of it, but soon the “breathing” became more pronounced, so the father decided to call the local plant nursery and ask about it.

When he described the “breathing” phenomenon he had observed in the plant, The nursery owner was horrified, and told the him to told to “Get the cactus outside, out of the house! Immediately!!”. The father complied, dropping the phone and racing to get the plant out into the back yard.

He had just made it back to the house when the cactus erupted and thousands of baby spiders leapt out from inside it.

Organised organ thieves

In 1997, the following email began circulating

Subject: Fwd: Travelers BEWARE!!!!!!

Neighbors, beware!

Dear Friends,

I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business travelers. This ring is well organized, well funded, has very skilled personnel, and is currently in most major cities and recently very active in New Orleans.

The crime begins when a business traveler goes to a lounge for a drink at the end of the work day.

A person in the bar walks up as they sit alone and offers to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveler remembers until they wake up in a hotel room bath tub, their body submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping that drink. There is a note taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call 911. A phone is on a small table next to the bathtub for them to call.

The business traveler calls 911 who have become quite familiar with this crime.

The business traveler is instructed by the 911 operator to very slowly and carefully reach behind them and feel if there is a tube protruding from their lower back. The business traveler finds the tube and answers, “Yes.” The 911 operator tells them to remain still, having already sent paramedics to help. The operator knows that both of the business traveler’s kidneys have been harvested.

This is not a scam or out of a science fiction novel, it is real.

It is documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels, please be careful.

Actually, it’s not documented anywhere and not one single case of this happening to a person has ever been confirmed.

“There is absolutely no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the U.S. or any other industrialized country,” says the United Network for Organ Sharing. “While the tale sounds credible enough to some listeners, it has no basis in the reality of organ transplantation.”

The Princess of Amen-Ra

My all time favourite urban legend had to be this incredible story…

The Princess of Amen-Ra lived some 1,500 yrs before Christ. When she died, she was laid in an ornate wooden coffin and buried deep in a vault at Luxor, on the banks of the Nile.

In the late 1890s, 4 rich young Englishmen visiting the excavations at Luxor were invited to buy an exquisitely fashioned mummy case containing the remains of Princess of Amen-Ra. They drew lots. The man who won paid several thousand pounds and had the coffin taken to his hotel. A few hours later, he was seen walking out towards the desert.

He never returned. The next day, one of the remaining 3 men was shot by an Egyptian servant accidentally. His arm was so severely wounded it had to be amputated. The 3rd man in the foursome found on his return home that the bank holding his entire savings had failed. The 4th guy suffered a severe illness, lost his job and was reduced to selling matches in the street.

Nevertheless, the coffin reached England (causing other misfortunes along the way), where it was bought by a London businessman. After 3 of his family members had been injured in a road accident and his house damaged by fire, the businessman donated it to the British Museum. As the coffin was being unloaded from a truck in the museum courtyard, the truck suddenly went into reverse and trapped a passer-by. Then as the casket was being lifted up the stairs by 2 workmen, 1 fell and broke his leg. The other, apparently in perfect health, died unaccountably two days later.

Once the Princess was installed in the Egyptian Room, trouble really started. Museum’s night watchmen frequently heard frantic hammering and sobbing from the coffin. Other exhibits in the room were also often hurled about at night. One watchman died on duty causing the other watchmen wanting to quit. Cleaners refused to go near the Princess too.

When a visitor derisively flicked a dustcloth at the face painted on the coffin, his child died of measles soon afterwards. Finally, the authorities had the mummy carried down to the basement. Figuring it could not do any harm down there. Within a week, one of the helpers was seriously ill, and the supervisor of the move was found dead on his desk.

By now, the papers had heard of it. A journalist photographer took a picture of the mummy case and when he developed it, the painting on the coffin was of a horrifying, human face. The photographer was said to have gone home then, locked his bedroom door and shot himself.

Soon afterwards, the museum sold the mummy to a private collector. After continual misfortune (and deaths), the owner banished it to the attic.

A well known authority on the occult, Madame Helena Blavatsky, visited the premises. Upon entry, she was seized with a shivering fit and searched the house for the source of “an evil influence of incredible intensity”. She finally came to the attic and found the mummy case.

“Can you exorcise this evil spirit?” asked the owner.

“There is no such thing as exorcism. Evil remains evil forever. Nothing can be done about it. I implore you to get rid of this evil as soon as possible.”

But no British museum would take the mummy; the fact that almost 20 people had met with misfortune, disaster or death from handling the casket, in barely 10 yrs, was now well known.

Eventually, a hard-headed American archaeologist (who dismissed the happenings as quirks of circumstance), paid a handsome price for the mummy and arranged for its removal to New York.

In April 1912, the new owner escorted his treasure aboard a sparkling, new White Star liner about to make its maiden voyage to New York.

On the night of April 14, amid scenes of unprecedented horror, the Princess of Amen-Ra accompanied 1,500 passengers to their deaths at the bottom of the Atlantic.

The name of the ship was “Titanic.”

So why wasn’t that in the movie??

The Stuff of Nightmares

According to Douglas Winter, in his 1982 anthology Prime Evil “Horror is not a genre, like a mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion”.

Stephen King once said “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones”.

Perhaps fictional horror provides us with a relatively safe space to inhabit the fear (without the genuine threat) of real horror.

The horror genre essentially revolves around the questions of “What is human?” versus “What is inhuman?”

I heard screenwriting guru John Truby give a talk about genre a number of years ago in London. His view was that horror generally comes from something inhuman trying to act like a human being. The monster is the hero’s greatest fear made physical.

And the best horror stories often tend to involve a “flip” of what is human and what is inhuman, so that somewhere in the story the monster becomes the hero and the hero becomes the monster to fully mine the idea. (For example, Frankenstein).

Horror is also a very metaphorical form and horror archetypes stem from different fears.

Werewolves and vampires stem from the “fear of the animal” – the fear of animal passion and the loss of control. (This genre is all the more popular in a repressive world. Could that, perhaps, have some connection to that fact that a devout Mormon ended up writing a best selling vampire book series?).

A scene from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)

Zombies, on the other hand, represent a “fear of the machine” horror – a fear of the loss of identity and individuality.

A scene from the “Resident Evil” computer game

These archetypes never really seem to go away, but rather undergo periodic reinvention and surges in popularity according to the relevant societal context.

For me the best horror film ever made is “Jaws“, the story of a giant man-eating shark which terrorises a (fictional) summer resort town called Amity, in New England. I first watched it on video (back in the dark ages, obviously), as a twelve year old, one Saturday afternoon.

It scared the living crap out of me, but I still thought afterwards that it was probably the best film I had ever seen.

When Jaws came out in 1975 it scared the living crap out of a lot of other people as well, and was a massive hit. It also cemented the idea in public consciousness of sharks as monsters lurking in the ocean, waiting to devour us – an idea that is still taking much effort to change.

The film taps into a strong preexisting primal fear – the horrifying fear of a very real animal which has the power to shred a human body or swallow them whole. Even with the knowledge that shark attacks are incredibly rare, and much less commonly fatal, the nature of a shark attack can provoke a lot of fear in most of us.

One thing Jaws exploits very well is the fear of the unknown, or the unseen. Often what we imagine can be more terrifying than what we see and director Steven Spielberg tapped into this fear by denying his audience any clear visual of the shark – especially not in its entirety – until late in the film. The use of music (that iconic theme by John Williams whenever the shark is around) and objects being moved by the shark through the water (e.g barrels that Clint, Hooper and Brody attach to hunt/kill it in the second half of the film) are used instead to let the audience know that the shark is lurking and present.

In part, this could be an example of what Sidney Lumet meant when he said “For any director with a little lucidity, masterpieces are films that come to you by accident”.


A short film about the infamously problematic mechanical shark in Jaws, called “The Shark that Didn’t Work”.

A highly unreliable mechanical shark – which was often out of action, and already forcing the film well over budget – made it necessary to shoot in ways where the shark in the story was only hinted at.

Years later, Spielberg remarked, “The shark not working was a godsend. It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen“.

Another gift the mechanical shark’s perpetual failure gave to the film was time and focus invested into strong naturalistic performances. As Spielberg put it “The more fake the shark looked in the water, the more my anxiety told me to heighten the naturalism of the performances.”

Clint’s famous speech about the SS Indianapolis in a scene from Jaws.

Often in horror films the characters and relationships are highly reduced because the hero/es spend/s so much time running away from or fighting against the monster.

One of the things that truly sets Jaws apart from most other horror films is the naturalistic responses and moments of touching believable humanity in its characters.

Brody’s famous “You’re going to need a bigger boat” moment in a scene from Jaws.

In my opinion this is still a film, especially a horror film , that comes closer to answering the question of “What is human?” than many others.

As Peter Biskind wrote in ‘Between the Teeth’ in Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media No. 9 (1975) “Jaws flatters us by holding out the promise that such triumph over unspeakable terror is within the reach of us all”.