The Conspiracy of Chemtrails


Trails of clouds following aircrafts used to disappear-  now they linger. What could explain this seeming defiance of nature? Investigative journalist William Thomas sought to explain those suspicious lines in the sky in the 1990s, emerging with the theory of chemtrails. His findings and eventual publication of Chemtrails Confirmed catapulted a belief that these “trails” are not harmless,  rather they are a coordinated government project seeking to control our minds, the weather, viruses, and life expectancy. Proof of this theory would defy all government structure and known processes, overhauling the trust we have built in institutions-thus making it extraordinary. That being said, the evidence is difficult to come across for any top secret government project.

In 1996 the United States Air force published a report about the possibility of weather modification for warfare, referring mostly to space weaponry. Theories of deviant alternative motives began to circulate internet forums soon after, accusing the government of “spraying the U.S population with mysterious substances.” These mysterious substances were described as straight, smooth, clouds that seem to randomly zig-zag across the sky. Their long duration and hints of color are used as justification of a different chemical combination than typical aircraft exhaust, yet there is no scientific proof for this distinction. Additionally, physical evidence for the belief is slim, the most common claim being that the trails “look strange.”  Yet, countless photos and videos are proponents of this theory. Many YouTubers and bloggers have claimed thousands of views by exhausting the reasons why we should all be suspicious. Some of the most “convincing” photos come from the inside of aircraft while being tested as prototypes, the pictures show barrels of substances lined against the inside of an otherwise empty aircraft, cited as hard proof of foul play. The explanation, however, is that the barrels represent bodies on a flight and tested for changes in center of gravity. The government’s response to the idea of “chemtrails” is another indicator of the truth according to proponents of this theory. In 1999 the conspiracy was discussed on the late night radio show, Art Bell. Soon after, angry accusatory letters began flooding government agencies. An immediate and immense response was coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to attempt to dismiss the conspiracy. In 2001, US Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced the famous Space Preservation Act of 2001 with the idea of banning any weapons in space, including “contrails” of aircraft, the non-conspirators term for the trails. However, believers interpreted this as not only an acknowledgment of their existence, but also proof of their danger and capabilities. In both instances, the government’s direct involvement only reiterated for believers that there was something to hide.

Support of this belief spiked exponentially in the 1990s- early 2000s and has since plateaued. Blogs and internet forums are still accessible, but the content appears to remain constant with lack of new, groundbreaking information, and scientists have virtually dismissed the idea. Believers then and now are not limited by race, gender, age, class, or location. Rather, anyone with a sense of suspicion felt that the government was not above such a plot. Even celebrities have questions on the matter, in 2015 Kylie Jenner posted a photo on Twitter that had written; “Why did I see 75 planes on my 15-minute drive to work? Why is this happening and who is paying for it?” After getting its own countless interactions from her followers, Kim Kardashian retweeted it! Essentially, the exposure from prominent figures alone demonstrates how far the conspiracies’ audience has reached. That being said, those who continue to support the conspiracy most passionately are far-right, anti-government / doomsday conspiracists.

There are psychological explanations for the longevity of this belief despite the absence of physical evidence. A prominent cognitive contribution is increased conviction after unequivocal real-world events have refuted the belief. Returning to the EPA response, despite providing a scientific explanation for the trails, believers interpreted this as being greater confirmation that the government is hiding something. This idea fits into the phrase “absence of evidence is not evidence,” since it is deemed a top-secret project, conspiracists stress that a lack of evidence is exactly what you’d expect, thus making it unfalsifiable. Confirmation bias furthers this idea, believers will run with a few photos or videos for years but ignore the lengthy scientific reports that provide an explanation. Along with this, the belief violates the concept of conservatism. If the government truly is modifying our weather, minds, and diseases, it would contradict countless established explanations of what we know to be true.

Government conspiracies are difficult to extinguish, nearly every citizen sits on a spectrum of distrust. There will always be a “what if” factor in any conspiracy considered top secret, it is a large component of how the belief persists. It is not abnormal to be skeptical, the government is a massive institution where deviant behavior has crept through in many forms. That being said, the conspiracy of chemtrails distinguishes itself as extraordinary given its scale. A plot of this size would override countless established processes proven to be true. Even for a top-secret operation, there must be a place for operating, building, delivering, and those willing to maintain such secrecy. Nonetheless, no single person knows all that the government is up to, thus perhaps the operation of chemtrails will never fully be known.


The Legend of the Loch Ness Monster

In the body of Great Britain’s largest freshwater lake, there persists the belief of a prehistoric monster outliving its counterparts. For 1500 years the mystery of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, has endured in popularity both in its Scotland home and around the globe. Nessie is believed to reside in the Loch Ness Lake of the Scottish Highlands, remaining allusive over its 23 miles and 788 ft depth. The residents of the surrounding village, Inverness, can be credited with maintaining the legends desirability, most prominently through tourism efforts, insisting that there is still no evidence for the non-existence of the creature, thus come see for yourself.

The persistence of the legend rests on its longevity and contributes to its extraordinary attributes. If Nessie exists, it would counter the idea that prehistoric creatures have been extinct and prove they could survive in a modern environment, therefore, contradicting currently accepted scientific theories. Nevertheless, evidence supporting Nessie’s existence has been frequent and heavy since the legends origins. The earliest documentation can be traced as early as 297 AD in paintings by the Pict, an ancient people who lived in now modern eastern Scotland. The Pict people had an appreciation and fascination of animals, documenting them in great detail. Upon discovery their depictions were easily recognizable except for one, a creature with flippers, a round body, and an elongated neck, was unlike anything familiar in the region. These paintings would be the foundation for an evolving legend, appearing again two hundred years later in 565 AD in the biography of St. Columbia. His writing spoke of a monster in the Loch, of a creature beginning to attack a swimmer, but before it could attack again Columbia told it to return and it obeyed. In the centuries following these two tales paved the way of the legend, vague sightings of a mysterious sea creature would show pattern, enough for the belief to pass several generations. The belief would begin to attract global attention most notably in the 1930s. In July of 1933 the Caledonian Canal was being built across the Loch to accommodate traffic, on the 22nd of the month passersby George Spicer and his wife claimed to have seen “a most extraordinary form of animal” cross the street in front of their car, the description resembling that of the Pict. After multiple similar claims in the area it was decided that the construction of the bridge allowed a once isolated area to be explored, thus an increase in sightings. In the same year the first photo of Nessie arose, Hugh Grey had been walking with his dog when the picture was taken, showing an indistinguishable, blurry creature. In 1934 Nessie was told to have came ashore again, motorcyclist Arthur Grant was riding at 1am when he claims to have hit a large, round, flippered creature that retreated to the water post impact. However the greatest contribution to the legends attention occurred also in 1934, the “Surgeon’s Photograph,” taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson would show the head and neck of an unidentifiable animal among waves. The photograph would grab global attention through newspapers and radio broadcasts, bringing about eager tourists. The exponential popularity of this decade leveled out for the remainder of the 20th century, however, sonar readings, expeditions, films and photos would become frequent activities across the lake by those near and far, all contributing to over 4,000 documented accounts of claimed sightings.

Interest and research of the legend has persisted throughout the 21st century, however we are now able to dismiss some of the evidence that first sparked its infamousy in the 1930s. For example, Hugh Grey’s 1934 photograph was determined to be inadequate evidence as two positive-negative slides confirmed the shape was that of a rolling otter. Similarly, Arthur Grants motorcycle incident was decided to have been the result of another otter, whose size and features grew with time and exaggeration in

accordance with scheme of the legend. Finally, the most dramatic reversal of evidence came with Robert Wilson’s photograph being deduced to an elaborate hoax. The famous photo had been manipulated in size, the materials that of craftsmanship, and the floating movements responsible by submarine. It was a production involving Marmaduke Wetherell, an employee of the Daily Mail who wanted revenge after a previous submittal of evidence was quickly ruled to be fake. Co-conspirators Christian Spurling, Ian  Wetherell, and Maurice Chambers built, tested, and deployed the device for photography purposes, would remaining silent on its public effects until 1994.

Despite the surfacing falsehoods, the belief remains present to modern day. Its popularity hit a peak in the 1930s, but there are still believers who have taken a modern approach to tackling remaining unanswered questions. Rather than rely on testimonial answers, those persistent enough are using technology to acquire answers. For example, professor and scientist Neil Gemmell of New Zealand is conducting The Loch Ness Project, a search for DNA evidence of the present marine life. He says, “there’s absolutely no doubt that we will find new stuff, and that’s very exciting. While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness.” It is hopeful that the expedition will provide insight into the Lake’s biodiversity, perhaps contributing to the legends persistence or dismissal. Nevertheless, the additive lure of this potential is what invites the psychologist’s perspective. There is a wide scope of cognitive contributions that have attributed to the beliefs diligence. One method of such is post-hoc theorizing, meaning that claimed witnesses may not have understood what they had believed to seen, however, when it is suggested that it was the Loch Ness Monster, the witness asserts that they knew it had been so all along. Retreat to this explanation stems from the availability error as well, meaning the spike in sightings in the 1930s can likely be attributed to others believing they have seen something due to the bombardment of information on the matter, thus dismissing any other explanations. Along with this, a majority of the evidence presented can be argued as resembling pseudoscience, or a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific. The characteristics that suggest this are reliance on personal experiences, promising the impossible, and stagnation. Overturned testimonies, the contrast to prehistoric theories, and an unwavering virtue to Scottish folklore has allowed the belief to persist beyond what true scientific methodologies would suggest. It can be argued that the element of stagnation is what maintains the legends presence, having been interwoven into the Scottish culture for 1500 years suggesting a lack of proof is not enough to decay the belief, rather the modest evidence in its favor is framed extraordinarily, allowing it to persist.

The emphasis on tradition contributes to the societal perspective of the belief. Because it is asserted to be a Scottish legend, sharing in it is not limited to class, gender, or race. Rather, it is shared by the Scottish people as a unique statement of their history. This curiosity has been shared with the globe as well, perhaps making a world-wide statement of falsehood unachievable. Nevertheless, the reversal of evidence has not slowed down believers, and tourism for the purpose remains abundant. 

It is difficult to say if this scale of a pseudoscientific belief holds consequences. There is something about a tale of folklore that is appealing to humans whether they are passively or directly invested in something like the Loch Ness Monster. Additionally, those who participate in anything related to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster do not seem to be inflicting any sort of harm on anyone/anything. Whether the belief comes from an investment in one’s Scottish heritage or anecdotal experience, the prospect of an elusive sea monster can almost serve as a form of escapism, a non-consequential rabbit hole to fall down. Although the advent of pseudoscience shouldn’t be encouraged, the longevity of Nessie and her influence on Scottish culture has not resulted in any detrimental scientific malpractice thus far. Therefore, it is safe to assume that people will continue to venture to Nessie’s homestead for years to come.