The wildest conspiracy theories of 2018

Conspiracy theories, once relegated to the fringes of the internet, have gone mainstream in the age of 'fake news'.

Twenty years ago you had to log onto obscure bulletin boards or buy magazines like Nexus or The Fortean Times to read what the mainstream media doesn't want you to know. In 2018, all you have to do is open Facebook.

Here are some of the strangest and best conspiracies to do the rounds this year, which - thanks to the public's insatiable appetite for gloriously unhinged nonsense - the mainstream media did report on.

'I want to believe'

In the year that gave us an 11th - and likely final - series of The X-Files, there was a sky-high number of UFO sightings and claims of alien life on Earth.  

In January, a Kiwi farmer reportedly saw three lights zipping about the sky while he attended to a pregnant cow that had gone into labour.

In March, a self-described crew of 'alien hunters' claimed satellite imagery showed the aftermath of a UFO crash in Antarctica. Geologists said it looked more like an avalanche, but they would, wouldn't they?  

May saw a scientific paper make the case that octopuses are so weird, they must be aliens, and the leak of a Pentagon report that said a UFO that buzzed warships off the coast of California in 2004 couldn't have been built on Earth.  

In June, a theoretical physicist proposed humanity would probably wipe out any alien species it comes across without even noticing.

The observatory at the centre of a bizarre shutdown in September.
The observatory at the centre of a bizarre shutdown in September. Photo credit: Supplied

A solar observatory that went into lockdown in September sparked rumours it had snapped a photo of alien craft it wasn't meant to see. Other suggested it was conducting an energy weapons test. The observatory's director was forced to go public to quash the UFO rumours. It was later revealed a janitor had been allegedly using the observatory's Wi-Fi to distribute child porn - or so says the FBI.

And in November a UFO was detected by several pilots flying above Ireland, their baffled conversation recorded for the internet's amusement.  

Lost… again

It's been four-and-a-half years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared, and theories on what happened to it and where it is continue to emerge.

In August it was claimed the doomed flight was brought down by a stowaway, hiding in the under-floor avionics bay behind the flight deck. Just why, he didn't speculate.

In September, a UK man claimed to have found the flight's wreckage in the Cambodian jungle using Google Maps. In September he put his money where his mouth is and went into the jungle, but had to abandon the search because it was too dangerous, and went back to looking at aerial imagery.

And because all good conspiracies have an Antarctica angle, how about this guy who said MH370 might have been remotely hijacked and buried in the ice?  (Speaking of Antarctica, Newshub in March got to visit a site called Area 122 - kind of like Area 51, except covered in snow instead of desert.)

Nazis

Ever since Hitler shot himself as Berlin fell (or did he? Yes, he did), there have been wild conspiracy theories about the fate of the Nazi leader.

More than 70 years later, scientists in France said it was time to end the madness 'cause they'd proved once-and-for-all he was dead.

Another Nazi myth was debunked in 2018 - that one of their state-of-the-art World War II U-boats made it all the way to South America, carrying the Nazi leadership to safety in fascist-friendly Argentina. It was found at the bottom of the North Sea, a very long way from South America.

And if the Nazis' on-the-record atrocities weren't enough, it was claimed in a new book that autism research pioneer Hans Asperger handed children with disabilities over to the ghastly regime.

Time travel

2018 was a popular year for time travellers to visit, undergo dubious lie detector tests and upload videos of the results to YouTube. In February a man called Noah "from the year 2030" warned us Donald Trump would get reelected in 2020 and change his name to 'Ilana Remikee', surely the worst of his many crimes.

Noah's follow-up was even better - the 2030 version interviewed the 2070 version of himself, the latter making the stunning claim that in 50 years' time we'll have cars that can drive themselves.

Noah - says he's from the future.
Noah - says he's from the future. Photo credit: Apex TV

The sheer number of you that clicked on those stories led to Newshub's explainer on just how time travel might work, and a rebuttal of the entire stupid fad strong enough to tear a hole the space-time continuum.

In May, Taika Waititi jumped on the bandwagon, claiming he was a time traveller too - based on an 1862 painting of a man who bore an uncanny resemblance to bearded, scruffy-haired Thor: Ragnarok director.

By June, the time travel well was running dry - even we were running the latest claims preceded by the word 'suspicious'.

The end of the world

In April, a Christian numerologist and doomsday preacher failed for the umpteenth time when he said the end times were about to begin, followed by the rise of the Antichrist, World War III and the appearance of the mythical planet Niburu in the skies.

A few months later rugby star and homophobe Israel Folau responded to a lunar eclipse by telling his followers on Twitter "we're in the end times", and begged them to "repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ".

People who actually know a bit about how these things work though aren't worried. In fact, NASA this year landed a probe on Bennu, an asteroid some believe will bring about our destruction. It's reported to have a one-in-2700 chance of hitting in the year 2135.

Religion

In March, YouTube's kids app got flooded with videos promoting chemtrail nonsense, flat earth videos and reptilian conspiracies. This came just a few months after the video site had to be scrubbed clean of videos showing Spider-Man and Frozen's Elsa playing with guns and frankly getting up to no-good.

The Earth, if it was flat.
The Earth, if it was flat. Photo credit: Getty

In April, UK media reported on a cult that claimed Jesus Christ was an alien from the planet Venus who decided to reveal himself to a British man in 1958.

Wherever and whenever Jesus is from, he was certainly present in a Canadian town in May. A statue of the Christian god-man once blessed by Pope Francis was credited with saving lives after it stopped an out-of-control junk removal truck.

Meanwhile south of the border, Smallville actress Allison Mack appeared in court charged with coercing women who joined a cult known as NXIVM into becoming sex slaves.

In September a controversial spiritual leader from Korea announced plans to set up the headquarters of his Earth Citizens Organisation in Kerikeri.

Space

Only two-thirds of Millennials in the US are sure the world is round, a survey found in April.

In July, a hoax that dates back to the internet's early days made a comeback in a very 2018 way, appearing on a fake news site - it claimed Mars would appear in the sky the same size as the moon.

"We'd be in big trouble given the gravitational pulls on Earth, Mars, and our moon!" NASA said, probably not believing the shit people fall for these days.

But while planets are definitely round, Saturn made everyone think twice in September when it began sporting a huge hexagonal storm that may be hundreds of kilometres tall.

2017's interstellar visitor 'Oumuamua continued to confuse throughout the year. In November, it was suggested it might have been a space-yacht. No, really.

History

Atlantis was found twice in 2018. Well, "found" twice. The first was in September, when a slick YouTube video claimed it's in the Sahara Desert. But by November it had moved to Spain.

Atlantis.
Atlantis. Photo credit: Bright Insight/YouTube

While many conspiracy theorists like to say the world is being led down a hellish path, a historian in November put forward the intriguing theory that life in the Dark Ages was much worse. In fact, the worst year in history he said was 536 - while we're plagued with mumble rap and fake news, in 536 they had to deal with the actual plague.

US politics

In April, sophisticated espionage devices were found surrounding the White House, and no one seems to know who put them there. Presumably someone blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter account.

The US President has his supporters, believe it or not, who in August coalesced around a conspiracy theory described as "one part Pizzagate, one part X-Files" called QAnon. Followers believe the former reality TV star and alleged Russian asset is actually on a secret mission to take down a Satanic paedophile ring involving Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Tom Hanks.

Thankfully not everything the orange one touched this year turned to custard. In June there was much speculation around the whereabouts of his wife Melania, who went several weeks without being seen in public. In the end, she turned out to be fine.

New Zealand

There's no bigger alleged conspiracy in New Zealand than the Department of Conservation's real mission with 1080. Some anti-1080 activists believe it's part of an Illuminati plot to exterminate humanity, while others reckon it's a money-laundering scheme.

In May, something put more than a dozen people in hospital, but no one could figure out what it was. The best explanation? Mass olfactory hallucination, of course.

In June, Newshub partners The Spinoff did a deep-dive into New Zealand's most unhinged conspiracy website, MediaWhores. The blog features headlines such as 'Is Jacinda Ardern a Transvestite Man Faking Her Pregnancy?' and 'Did Richie McCaw Conspire to Help Cover Up the Murder of Jerry Collins?'

Perhaps the only man crazy enough to believe stuff like that is InfoWars host Alex Jones, who in March accused ex-US President Barack Obama of setting up a bolthole in New Zealand so he can avoid the apocalypse the global elites are engineering back home.

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