Conspiracy Theories of the '60s and '70s

Culture | November 3, 2018

Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock

In his 1997 movie, Conspiracy Theory, Mel Gibson played a conspiracy theorist whose life becomes endangered when one of his theories turns out to be true. But conspiracy theories have been a common obsession since long before the 1990s. The 1960s and 1970s introduced several theories still popular today.

Elvis Not Dead

The death of Elvis Presley on August 16, 1977, broke the hearts of fans everywhere. So much so that many of them refuse to believe it’s true. An American author named Gail Brewer-Giorgio is credited with popularizing the prevailing theory that Elvis faked his death. The theory, backed by claims of inconsistencies with his death certificate and a wax dummy in his coffin, resulted in countless “Elvis sightings” in which people claim to have spotted the former king of rock n’ roll in various locations after his so-called death. The first sighting occurred at an airport where a man who looked like Elvis checked into a flight using Presley’s alias. The sightings continue today and are frequently backed by photographic (or, rather, photo-shopped) evidence.

JFK Assassination – The Second Shooter

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot twice, once in the back and once in the head, while traveling through Dallas, Texas in a presidential motorcade. He died at the hospital thirty minutes later. The alleged shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, claimed he was being set up. Oswald was shot and killed two days later and thus never got his day in court. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, ordered the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. After ten months, the Warren Commission determined that Oswald was the sole shooter. However, the rest of the world was not convinced. Multiple conspiracy theories arose alleging involvement by the government and the mafia, among others and most of them suggesting the presence of a second shooter. However, despite numerous investigations over the years, no substantial proof of a conspiracy has been uncovered. Despite that, a poll conducted in 2013 showed that 61% of Americans still believe the assassination was the result of a conspiracy.

The Murder of Marilyn Monroe 

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was found dead of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962. Her death was ruled a suicide. While the suspicions around her death were not as prevalent as those around the assassination of John F. Kennedy, her untimely demise stirred a few conspiracies of its own as many believed the Hollywood icon was murdered. The first suggestion of foul play arose in 1964, when Frank A. Capell published a pamphlet alleging that Monroe’s death was the result of a communist conspiracy. These allegations, however, were not very widespread. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the theories of murder reached the general public. Norman Mailer published a biography of the actress in 1973 in which he claimed she was murdered by the FBI or the CIA as a result of her alleged affair with Robert Kennedy. Similar theories have emerged in the years since, but no evidence has been found to substantiate any of them.

Counterculture of the 1960s was a manipulation by authorities

Counterculture of the 1960s

Not all conspiracy theories involve the death of prominent figures. Some involve entire social movements. The counterculture of the 1960s was a movement which rebelled against the social norms of the time, concerning itself with issues such as civil rights, freedom of speech, and opposition to war, just to name a few. The phrase, “Make Love, Not War” was popularized during this time. There are several theories of government involvement in the emergence of this supposedly anti-government movement. Claims that the government was responsible for distribution of LSD to the public suggest that they were attempting to recreate the Dark Ages by “dumbing down” the population. Other theories posit that putting hippies in the spotlight as representatives of the anti-war movement was an attempt to discredit it in the eyes of the general population.

The Moon Landing Was Fake

Moon Landing, July 1969

On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. Or so they say. In the most far out (pun intended) conspiracy yet, allegations that this landmark event was faked have persisted since the 1970s. The motive, of course, for the alleged falsehood is said to have been to win the “Space Race” against Russia. One of the first proponents of this theory was Bill Kaysing, a former U.S. Navy officer, who wrote a book entitled We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle, in which he claimed that the chances of a successful manned moon landing were next to nothing. Numerous versions of the theory have sprung up since and many go so far as to claim that the fake landing was produced by Stanley Kubrick and cite The Shining as Kubrick’s veiled confessions.

These popular conspiracy theories are still circulated today despite lack of evidence or overwhelming evidence which proves them false. And more conspiracies spring up with every major news event. Which begs the question, what if the biggest conspiracy of all is that these conspiracies were all started deliberately so that when the real conspiracy happens we will just write it off as another silly conspiracy theory?

Tags: The 1960s | The 1970s | Conspiracies

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Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.