The Illuminati, QAnon, Lizard People, and Other Bizarre Conspiracy Theories

In the shape-shifting world of alternative facts is it any wonder that there’s even a conspiracy theory about the CIA inventing the term ‘conspiracy theory’’?

Some of the myths are actually older than the Agency, flourishing in the 1820s and 1830s with the development of political parties. Others gained credence during the Cold War, a secretive era defined in part by the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Warren Commission investigation, the Watergate break-in, Iran-Contra scandal, and exposés of CIA assassination plots. Operations like the mind-control Project MKUltra fueled fears of a deep state. 

With the rise of social media, barely a day goes by without another conspiracy myth. Here are a few of the wildest, weirdest, and most intriguing tales.

Montrage illustration of Microsoft founder Bill Gates


The pandemic is a breeding ground for conspiracies. Among the more bizarre Covid-19 claims is that Microsoft founder Bill Gates used a vaccination campaign to implant microchips that track people with a digital ID. Obviously, there’s no evidence to support the rumor. Gates’ foundation committed $1.75bn in Covid aid and he said he was shocked to be at the center of millions of ‘evil’ online posts and conspiracy theories: “I hope it goes away.” 

QAnon symbol with the shaman


Has a satanic cabal invaded the US government? QAnon’s digital soldiers morphed into a riotous US Capitol mob in January 2021, many of them followers of the online QAnon conspiracy. ‘Q’, the cult’s leader, claims to be a government insider with details of a secretive group of cannibalistic pedophiles in a plot that mirrors aspects of the Pizzagate conspiracy.

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Marilyn Monroe in a bathing suit


Was Marilyn Monroe murdered in 1962? While authorities found she likely committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills, some believe Monroe was murdered because of her ties to the Kennedy clan. Others claim she was killed before she could reveal top-secret intelligence about UFOs. Yet another theory blames the CIA for staging her suicide because Monroe was about to expose their attempts to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Monroe’s diary went missing from the coroner’s office, fueling the fire.

A dark image of a CIA Spy in the night


The Agency has been the target of many debunked theories involving the spread of HIV/AIDS9/11, and the crack cocaine epidemic. Even the Jonestown massacre was blamed on a CIA mind-control experiment. One of the most persistent theories questions whether the CIA was involved in the 1963 murder of former President John F. Kennedy in retaliation for the failed Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion. While that idea is unsupported by evidence, there are lingering questions about whether the CIA withheld intelligence and whether there was more than one shooter. 

Conspiracy theorists believe Jay-Z and the Illuminati are plotting for world domination


Do the Illuminati plan to rule the world? The secret society supposedly includes celebrities Jay-Z and Beyonce, US President Joe Biden, and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. There’s no point in denying involvement (although Jay-Z has) because that’s exactly what the Illuminati would do. The group did actually exist in the late 1700s, so who’s to say the Illuminati hasn’t been revived… Just don’t blame Jay-Z.

Zodiac’s Mark Ruffalo doubts the official version of 9/11 events


Celebrities are often at the center of conspiracy theories – as Paul McCartney well knows – but many stars also spread their own theories. Zodiac’s Mark Ruffalo (above) and many others doubt the official 9/11 version of events. Rapper M.I.A. thinks the CIA developed Google and that governments control what information search engines deliver. Empire star Terrance Howard is convinced that 1 x 1 = 2. Rapper B.o.B believes the Earth is flat and Kylie Jenner worries about chemtrails.

After Malala Yousafzai’s shooting she appeared on the cover of Vogue


You don’t get to be a 23-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, Oxford graduate, head of an education charity, and occasional Vogue model without attracting a few conspiracy theories. In some circles, Malala Yousafzai is a suspected Western spy. In others, she is the victim of a CIA plot to discredit the Taliban. Her shooting, the theory goes, was a US-orchestrated mission carried out by Hollywood actor Robert de Niro disguised as an Uzbek homeopath.

Conspiracy Theorists believe Lizard People run the world


Some 12m Americans either believe or aren’t sure if interstellar lizards run the US, a sizable number albeit less than the 66m who believe aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico. David Icke, author of The Big Secret, says leaders – including George Bush and Bill Clinton – are extraterrestrials, and that lizard people run secret societies such as the Freemasons and the Illuminati. ‘Lizard people’ were even added to the 2008 Minnesota midterm ballot, which raised a few eyebrows (not among Lizard people, of course, as reptiles lack eyebrows). 

Man on the Moon but was the Apollo landing real?


Space is a fertile area for conspiracies and one of the most persistent myths involves the moon. A 2019 poll revealed that one in 10 Americans believe the 1969 moon landing was faked. There is third-party evidence of the landings but not everyone is convinced. The Flat Earth Society has suggested that Walt Disney Studios and director Stanley Kubrick staged the 1969 landing using a script written by Arthur C. Clarke.

Princess Diana's death is at the center of many conspiracy theories


Was the death of Princess Diana really caused by an accidental car crash in Paris? Diana mentioned a ‘big surprise’ weeks earlier, leading some to speculate that her death was orchestrated by agents of the British state who feared Diana was pregnant or about to get engaged. Others – including, it would appear, Diana – feared she would be harmed to clear the way for then-Prince Charles to remarry. The paparazzi were initially blamed for chasing her car but cleared of any criminal conspiracy. Driver Henri Paul was found to be responsible but some question whether he was paid by the French and British secret services. 

British Prime Minister Harold Wilson with Queen Elizabeth II


Fans of Netflix’s The Crown will be familiar with former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth. In real life, he was rumored to be a KGB spy while serving for eight years during the Cold War. (MI5 investigated and found the story to be false.) Wilson was also supposedly the victim of treasonous plots by right-leaning MI5 spies and the British military in the Clockwork Orange plot. The Labour PM was among those convinced he was the target of plans to stage a military coup – and that the Royal Family backed it.

A street in Havana Cuba


For decades covert ‘false flag’ operations have been designed to pin the blame on someone not necessarily involved. The USS Maine bombing is still the subject of lively speculation. The rise of ISIS fed rumors that the group was created by the US, CIA, Mossad, or Hillary Clinton. One of the Pentagon’s most audacious false flag operations – never carried out – was Operation Northwood. The plan was for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism against US military and civilian targets in 1962 which would lead to theories that Cuba was behind the attacks, justifying a war that would topple Fidel Castro. JFK nixed the plan, however.

Denver Airport who some believe is home of the new World Order


Denver’s airport might look like… well, an airport, but supposedly it is built atop secret bunkers housing billionaires, Lizard people, and possibly aliens. The airport’s public art collection and gargoyle sculptures apparently hold clues to its sinister, controlling influence – possibly the Illuminati, Freemasons, New World Order, or Nazis. Check out the airport’s Conspiracy Theories Gallery next time you’re flying through (or tunneling below).