The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups

The 100 Most Terrifying Conspiracies of All Time


By Jon E. Lewis

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The one hundred conspiracy theories of all time-from Harold Wilson as a Soviet agent to Princess Diana’s death, from the attacks on 9/11 in the U.S. and on 7/7 in London. This volume presents research and plausible cover-up theories for the reader to judge.



Jon E. Lewis is a writer and historian. His many previous books include the best-selling The Mammoth Book of the Edge, The Mammoth Book of How It Happened: Everest and The Mammoth Book of Wild Journeys.


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The Mammoth Book of


An Encyclopedia of Conspiracy Theories

With Emma Daffern




First published in the UK by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2008

Collection and editorial material copyright © J. Lewis-Stempel and Emma Daffern, 2008

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-8490-1165-5

Little, Brown Book Group
Carmelite House
50 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DZ



Alien Abduction

American MIA in Vietnam

Area 51

Babylonian Brotherhood



Bilderberg Group

Black Helicopters

Bohemian Grove

Martin Bormann

British Royal Family

Bush-Bin Laden Connection

Roberto Calvi


Le Cercle (The Circle)


Chechen Bombings


Club of Rome

Council on Foreign Relations

Crop Circles

Dead Sea Scrolls

Diana, Princess of Wales

Face on Mars


Vincent Foster


Gemstone File

Gunpowder Plot


Rudolf Hess


Jimmy Hoffa

Hollow Earth

Holocaust Denial


Iran–Contra Scandal

Pope John Paul I



Dr David Kelly

John F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

Martin Luther King

Norman Kirk

Knights Templar

John Lennon

Alexander Litvinenko

Lockerbie Bombing

Madrid Train Bombings



Christopher Marlowe

Robert Maxwell

Men in Black


Marilyn Monroe

Montauk Point

Moon Landing Hoax

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Hilda Murrell

Nazi Gold

Nazi Moon Base

New World Order


Oklahoma City Bombing

Omega Agency

Opus Dei

Pearl Harbor

Philadelphia Experiment

Port Chicago Explosion

Elvis Presley

Priory of Sion

Project Blue Book


Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

P2 (Propaganda Due)

Rainbow Warrior

Ronald Reagan

Rendlesham Forest



Royal Institute of International Affairs

Satanic Ritual Abuse


Shag Harbour

Tupac Shakur

Karen Silkwood

Skull & Bones

Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Star Gate

Temple Mount Plot


Trilateral Commission

TWA Flight 800



Harold Wilson


Malcolm X


This is the boom time of conspiracy theory. 9/11, the War on Terror, the death of Diana, Opus Dei (as featured in Dan Brown’s bestselling conspiracy novel The Da Vinci Code): the list of conspiracies seemingly perpetrated by “them” against “us” goes on endlessly. More and more people subscribe to alternative histories of events, such as Michael Moore’s celebrated documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, and less and less do people accept the word of the establishment – of government, business, the Church – at face value.

The conspiracy theory “boom” has been rolling towards us and gathering pace since 22 November 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. That the most famous man in the world could be murdered in broad Texan sunlight by a “lone gunman” beggared belief. A sense of innocence was lost that day. It was beaten into oblivion by the succession of American figures who were also, supposedly, assassinated by “lone gunmen”: Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. The proof that there was something rotten in the state of Western politics came in the next decade. Watergate.

Of course, there were conspiracies and assumed conspiracies before 1963: some considered the Bolsheviks a product of conspiracy, others the Jews, yet others the Freemasons and yet more the bankers of Wall Street. Hitler’s Nazis indisputably conspired to burn the Reichstag, put the blame on the Communists, and so engineer a coup d’état. But in 1963 paranoia began to eat away at the soul of society. Conspiracy theories spread from the fringe into the centre of the body politic.

The word “conspiracy” comes from the Latin conspirare, meaning “to breathe together”. But everybody understands its time-amended meaning of two or more individuals secretly plotting and perpetrating an action that would be widely considered negative or harmful to specific individuals, or to society as a whole. Nobody conspires to do something good, like feed the poor. Conspiracy theory is the how and the why of the plot, and the mechanics of the cover-up. Almost without exception the alternative conspiracy theory of history proposes that any large-scale or far-reaching event was not the result of chance or of accident, or of the widely accepted view of its cause, but of some secret plan by someone, somewhere.

Or the event didn’t happen. Period. Thus Hitler still lives. As does Elvis (whose name is a natty anagram of LIVES).

It has been said that conspiracy theory is the new religion. With the decline of a widespread belief in God, people seek the guilty hand of man (or alien invaders) in unfathomable events. The new power is a secret cabal. This cabal goes under numerous names (and its composition depends on the political eye of the beholder) and paradoxically the smaller a cabal is suspected of being, the more powerful its hold is thought to be. The Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission are just three of the tiny elites believed to pull the strings of the entire world.

If conspiracy theory is the new religion, the new medium for spreading its word is the internet. Once upon a printed-piece-of-paper time, counter beliefs would spread oh so slowly, via samizdat magazines and word of mouth. Nowadays a variant thought, conjecture, a piece of evidence from anybody with access to a PC and a telephone line is transmitted around the globe in seconds. Dissemination of material over the internet mainly sidesteps the censorship of states and companies. It’s a space where the truth can emerge into the light.

The internet is also a democracy of fools, where everybody’s opinion is aired as though of equal merit: a cyberspace where the lunatic and the malicious weigh in at the same weight as the rational, concerned citizen. Just as some people believe just about every conspiracy theory punted their way, the madness of some internet-borne conspiracy theories produces an opposite reaction: numerous rational citizens disbelieve every conspiracy theory they encounter. It’s the fear of association. After all, who wants to be connected even remotely with David Icke’s shape-shifting lizards or the Aryan supremacists who reckon that Adolf Hitler is currently shacked up in an ice-cave in Antarctica?

Hostility to conspiracy theory is as useless in understanding the world as an indiscriminate acceptance of it. The task, surely, is to disentangle the mad and bad conspiracies from those that illuminate the darkened, secret corners of power. To this end The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups takes a considered, objective scalpel to one hundred of the most compelling conspiracy theories of modern times. The theories are arranged alphabetically, assessed and interrogated. Where appropriate, the relevant documents are reproduced, and details of where to look to find out more are listed. Each conspiracy theory is assigned an “Alert Level” rating indicating its likely veracity.

But this is only an indication: the reader must make up his or her own mind.

It’s only “them” who tell you what you must believe.

Jon E. Lewis


They’re not out there. They’re here . . .

Early morning, 19 September 1961. Betty and Barney Hill are driving home from vacation in Niagara Falls. On Route 3 south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, the Hills notice a bright light in the sky which seems to be following them. Perplexed, Barney halts the car and gets out and recognizes the white light as a UFO; inside the alien craft Barney Hill can clearly see beings looking out at him. When Barney approaches within 75 feet (23m) of the flying saucer a door in the craft opens and Barney, fearing he is going to be captured, runs back to the car and drives off. A little while later the Hills hear a strange bleeping sound and the car is enveloped in white haze. Suddenly the Hills realize they are miles from where they should be. Later, after the Hills reach home, they discover the journey has taken two hours more than it ought.

The next day Betty Hill contacted the local Air Force base; their experience was in due course recorded in Project Blue Book, albeit only in the “insufficient data” section. But more data was forthcoming when the Hills, suffering nightmares and insomnia, sought out a psychiatrist. Dr Benjamin Simon gave Betty and Barney separate courses of hypnotic therapy, during which they both recalled being kidnapped by small grey humanoids and taken aboard the UFO. The mystery of the missing two hours was now explained: the Hills had been abducted by aliens, who communicated with them by telepathy. A sort of pregnancy test was conducted by the aliens on Betty Hill, who was also shown an astral chart; the aliens pointed to a star which Betty deduced was the home sun of the space travellers. After their examination, the Hills were replaced in their car and sent on their way.

There had been one previous reported case of alien kidnap (in 1957 by the Brazilian Antonio Villas-Boas, who claimed that his female alien captor had sex with him), but it was the Hills’ case which truly began the alien abduction phenomenon. Written up with the help of author John G. Fuller, the Hills’ account of their close encounter, The Interrupted Journey, was a bestseller. The episode contained all the core elements of later abductions: missing time; it happens at night; paralysis; examination by the aliens, with resultant inexplicable marks left on victim’s skin; telepathic communication with the aliens; post-abduction sleep disorders . . .

After the release of The Interrupted Journey in 1966, a parade of alien abductions followed, including:

  • In November 1975 six woodcutters claimed that their colleague, Travis Walton, had vanished after encountering a UFO. When Walton reappeared he claimed that he, like the Hills, had been abducted by the aliens known throughout the UFO fraternity as “Greys”.

  • In 1987 the horror novelist Whitley Strieber claimed in his book Communion (later filmed starring Christopher Walken) to have been abducted and anally probed by aliens.

  • In 1991 Linda Cortile alleged that she was beamed out of her New York apartment into a UFO; the “case of the century” was researched by UFOlogist Budd Hopkins, who maintains he found two secret servicemen attached to the United Nations who witnessed Cortile’s aerial passage into the UFO.

In the same year as Cortile’s alleged abduction, the Roper polling organization found that 2 per cent of the US’s 300 million population had been abducted by aliens. Most abductees reported multiple abductions over their lifetimes. On an average, humdrum day in the US, it follows, some 2,740 Americans are being taken aboard spaceships and examined, probed and raped.

Why is abduction on this scale not a major news event? There are claims that the media systematically covers up the abduction phenomenon because the media’s masters in the New World Order gain from collusion with the aliens: the New World Order trades the citizens of America for futuristic technology. Anyone who dares to whistle-blow on this cosy arrangement is threatened with permanent silence by the Men in Black.

Another scenario suggests itself: alien abduction is hooey. In almost all cases of alien abduction the only evidence is the abductee’s story, and 87 per cent of abductees are, according to one survey, fantasists. That is to say, most abductees make up, either consciously or unconsciously, their abduction experience. A telling point against alien abduction is that the abductees tend to repeat the Hill experience; yet, if aliens have the ability to travel a trillion miles, might they not have the ability to vary their experiments on humans a little? The church-going Hills themselves were likely victims of the psychological condition known as folie à deux, where two (or more) people subconsciously influence each other into sincerely believing a lie or delusion. Some would-be abductees have been found to be suffering from sleep terrors or temporal lobe epilepsy, both of which can cause vivid hallucinations.

Then there is the primary tool for obtaining evidence of abduction experiences: hypnosis. While abduction supporters such as John E. Mack, sometime professor of psychiatry at Harvard, argue that hypnosis is necessary to circumvent the mental blocks put on the abduction experience by the aliens, the reliability of memories recovered under hypnosis is extremely poor. There is growing evidence that recovered memories either play to what the patient believes the therapist wants or are “confabulations”, amalgams of fact and fantasy.

No physical evidence of alien interference with a human, be it an operation or the placing of an implant, has ever stood up to investigation. One “alien implant” was found to be a mercury dental filling!

Humans are abducted by aliens with the collusion of the Earth’s establishment: ALERT LEVEL 3

Further Reading

Eric Elfman., Almanac of Alien Encounters, 2001

John Fuller, The Interrupted Journey, 1966

Budd Hopkins., Intruders, 1987

John E. Mack, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, 1994


In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Sylvester Stallone’s gun-toting hero lands in Vietnam to rescue American POWs left behind after the conclusion of the war in 1973.

But were there any such POWs in real life? No, said successive US governments, starting with Richard Nixon’s Republicans in 1973. Sociology professors agreed, labelling the “MIA myth” as mass conservative hysteria, a psychological unwillingness to let go of Vietnam as a hopeless cause.

Yes, said an awful lot of US soldiers and intelligence agents, starting with US Marine Bobby Garfield. Garfield was captured by the Viet Cong in 1965 and released in 1979 – that is, five years after the US government had assured the nation that all MIAs and POWs had been accounted for. Families of MIAs/POWs then asked the Pentagon for declassified documents about their loved ones – only for the Pentagon to reclassify these documents. When the wife of one MIA wrote to President Reagan, he replied that his administration had planned a rescue raid for the MIA by Green Berets under the command of Colonel Bo Gritz in 1981.

Eh? The official line was that no US MIA remained alive in Indochina.

Some sense of the contradictions and denials of the White House was made by the authors Monika Jensen-Stevenson and William Stevenson in their 1990 book Kiss the Boys Goodbye. The Stevensons reported that Dr Henry Kissinger negotiated a secret clause in the Paris Peace Accord (which ended the war in Nam) whereby the US would pay North Vietnam $4 billion in reparations in return for POWs held by Hanoi. The US then reneged on the reparations – and the POWs stayed in Vietnam. “We had thousands of Americans after the release of 1973,” a Vietnamese secret police chief informed the Stevensons.

Confirmation of the Stevensons’ case came in 1992 with the testimony of Richard Allen before Senator John Kerry’s Senate Select Committee on the fate of the American MIA. Allen informed the Committee that in 1981 Vietnam had offered to free the POWs it still held – some dozens – if the US handed over the $4 billion it had originally promised. The offer was rebuffed by the Reagan government because it was not willing to pay ransom money for hostages (a piece of high-mindedness that apparently ended at the border of Iran; in 1987 Reagan confessed on TV that he had traded arms for American hostages and funnelled the funds to the Contras in Nicaragua – see Iran-Contra Scandal). Some observers, however, considered that the Reagan rebuff was simply because his administration wanted to close down the MIA/POW issue for fear of exposing the US’s illegal operations in Laos, bordering Vietnam, where many POWs were believed held. According to whistle-blowing CIA agents, there were any number of embarrassing schemes operated by the agency in Laos, from drug-running to arms sales, waiting to be turned into headline news by the media. Better, then, to sacrifice the POWs and keep newshound noses out of Laos.

So John Rambo had it right: there were MIAs/POWs left behind in Vietnam.

Sadly, the chances of any POWs being left alive today, after 30 years of privation and imprisonment, are remote.

The US government deliberately failed to rescue MIAs and POWs left behind in Vietnam: ALERT LEVEL 8

Further Reading

Monika Jensen-Stevenson and William Stevenson, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, 1990


Also known as the Groom Lake Facility, Area 51 is a high-security military base in the Nevada desert, 90 miles (145 km) north of Las Vegas. The facility, which comprises thousands of acres, is surrounded by security fencing and intruder-detection systems, and is regularly patrolled. A no-fly zone operates above it.

So far, so military-base humdrum. Where Area 51 differs from other military installations is in the longstanding belief by conspiracists that it houses the UFO disc found at Roswell, as well as other crashed alien spaceships. At Area 51, the theory goes, the recovered UFOs are back-engineered so that their technology can be utilized by the US military. The latter are helped – either willingly or unwillingly – by captured alien pilots.

Few of the human government employees who work at Groom have ever talked about their work, but two who did were Leo Williams and Bob Lazar. Williams claimed to have worked in alien technology evaluation, the results of which informed the design of the B-2 stealth bomber. In 1989 Lazar announced on local TV that he too had been involved in “back engineering” at Groom’s S-4 hangars complex, including assessment of the Roswell craft’s propulsion system. He had even uncovered “Gravity B”, a force arising from the manipulation of a new nuclear element, “ununpentium”.

Neither Williams nor Lazar proved very convincing witnesses. Lazar had invented his purported MIT physics qualification and before working in back-engineering had been engaged in the rather less than cutting-edge employment of managing a photo shop. A steady stream of sightings of strange lights and craft at Groom, however, kept alive the notion of Area 51 as a top-secret UFO lab, perhaps the manufacturing plant of Black Helicopters.

Certainly, Area 51 has been the testing centre for weird and wonderful aircraft. The U-2 spy plane was flown there; so was the SR-71 Blackbird, the B-2 stealth bomber and the F-117 stealth fighter. And these are only the planes the public has been informed about. It’s reasonable to suppose that other prototype and avant-garde aircraft have taken to the air at Groom, less reasonable to suppose that they have been developed from alien technology.

Area 51 is the holding centre for crashed alien ships: ALERT LEVEL 3

Further Reading

David Darlington, Area 51: The Dreamland Chronicles, 1998

Eric Elfman, Almanac of Alien Encounters, 2001

Phil Patton, Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, 1998



On Sale
Mar 4, 2008
Page Count
560 pages
Running Press

Jon E. Lewis

About the Author

Jon E. Lewis is a writer and historian. His many previous books include bestsellers The Mammoth Book of the West, The Mammoth Book of True War Stories, and World War II: The Autobiography. He lives in Herefordshire, England.

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