Is Osama bin Laden really dead?

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Osama bin Laden, architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (unless you believe the conspiracy theories), was killed in Pakistan on May 2nd 2011 as part of a CIA-led operation — wasn’t he? Not everyone’s satisfied that we’ve seen or heard the last of him…

It was headline news worldwide when US Navy SEALs took out Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as part of Operation Neptune Spear, almost 10 years after he orchestrated the world’s deadliest terrorist atrocity.

We all remember it. But what stuck out then — and still does now — is how shrouded in secrecy bin Laden’s death was. It was all telling, no showing. We all wanted to see an image of the monstrous mass murderer’s dead body. But not a single photograph was released by the government. No DNA evidence was released to the public either. And to top it off, he was hastily buried at sea within 24 hours of his death.

Here’s the official story:

Navy SEALs conducted a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden peered through his bedroom door to see the SEALs advancing up the stairs. Lead SEAL Robert O’Neill fired a shot at him that either missed or hit him in the side. Bin Laden retreated into the bedroom; O’Neill and the SEALs followed.

According to O’Neill, bin Laden was in the bedroom using a woman as a human shield. He had his hands on her shoulders and was pushing her forward. O’Neill was able to shoot bin Laden twice in the forehead, then again as he crumpled to the floor. Another SEAL, Matt Bissonnette, also claims to have fired shots into bin Laden’s fallen body.

The SEAL leader radioed, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo” and “Geronimo E.K.I.A”, which means “enemy killed in action”. Watching the operation from inside the White House Situation Room, President Barrack Obama said simply, “We got him.”

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I’m going to be on Spaced Out Radio! October 25th Pacific Time, October 26th London Time

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Howdy!

Next week I’ll be on Canadian online radio station, Spaced Out Radio, talking to host Dave Scott about UFOs, conspiracies, time travel and general weirdness. Eeeek! I’m nervous and excited but I’m sure it’ll be great fun — for me and for listeners!

The interview, I’m told, will last two hours and Dave wants my take on some of the stranger conspiracies, mysteries and monsters  out there. I’ve certainly covered some utterly crackers theories of late! Expect talk about royal lizards and Flat Earth. Hopefully we’ll get into some time travel urban legends (my favourites) and things like the Loch Ness Monster and the suicidal munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. I’ll also make sure to talk a little bit about my conspiracy fiction writing, namely Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories, which are ultimately the reason why this blog exists.

I understand I’ll also be answering questions from the audience in Spaced Out Radio’s chat rooms.

The show broadcasts from British Columbia and will start at 9pm Pacific Time, midnight Eastern Time, and 5am London Time.

And yes, as I’m a Brit on London Time, it’s going to be an early start for me! Hopefully I’ll be coherent. Thank you Flying Spaghetti Monster for inventing coffee.

The show will broadcast live on Spaced Out Radio’s website at all the times I’ve just mentioned, and you can also listen to it on Tune In. If you’re in the UK and, like most people, your bed is more important at that time in the morning, you’ll be able to listen to the show on the station’s YouTube page afterwards. I’ll post a link on the blog when I have it. I’m also told you’ll be able to download the show from iTunes.

 

Does “The Shining” reveal that the Apollo moon landings were faked?

Jack-Nicholson-O-Iluminado

Apparently there’s much more to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining than we all realised. It’s believed that the film contains a range of clues revealing that the Apollo moon landings were faked. Bonkers, right? Or might the conspiracy theorists be onto something?

In my blog “Were the Apollo moon landings faked?” I assessed the footage of the original 1960s missions to the moon. Conspiracy theorists believe that this footage was shot on a film set, not the actual moon, with claims about suspicious shadows, missing stars and fluttering flags commonly cited as evidence.

Those who believe that the moon landings were a hoax think that NASA — desperate to beat Russia in the Space Race — contacted director Stanley Kubrick and asked him to film the scenes. Why do people believe that Kubrick was responsible? Because he allegedly littered his 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining with symbolism and clues that the moon landings were faked. Burdened by his deception, The Shining was Kubrick’s way of confessing his role in the monumental NASA conspiracy.

It’s said that Kubrick filmed the fake moon landing while he was working on his sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. In that film, he used a special effects technique known as Front Screen Projection to create backgrounds in a scene, and some people believe they can see evidence of this technique in the moon landing footage. (Have a read of my previous blog for my thoughts on the various ‘clues’ in the footage.)

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The Black Knight satellite — are aliens watching us?

One of the famous 1998 images of the Black Knight Satellite

One of the famous 1998 images of the Black Knight Satellite

A persistent UFO conspiracy theory is that there is an alien satellite in orbit around Earth and it’s been there for 13,000 years. So what is it? What is its purpose? And is it really there?

The Black Knight satellite rose to fame in 1998, when an object was photographed from the International Space Station (ISS) during the STS-88 shuttle mission. This object—a black, oddly shaped ‘thing’—was floating in orbit around Earth. Here are two more of the 1998 images…

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Could it be an alien spy satellite? A weapon? A mind-control device? An actual alien, lying dormant in orbit?

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David Manning, the invisible film critic

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Between 2000 and 2001, several movies were released by Columbia Pictures that were not very well received by film critics. Well, apart from one. Journalist David Manning heaped high praise Hollow Man (2000) and The Animal (2001) even though no one else did. Did he just have bad taste? No. David Manning wasn’t really there…

David Manning was a journalist for the Ridgefield Press, a small weekly newspaper in Connecticut. He called Hollow Man “one hell of a scary ride!” He called The Forsaken (2001) “a sexy, scary thrill ride!” And he said this of The Animal: “The producing team of ‘Big Daddy’ has produced another winner!” This is while other critics were savaging them, particularly The Forsaken, which has a dismal 8% rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes.

Manning’s comments were used prominently in posters and advertisements for the films, and this is how they attracted the attention of Newsweek reporter John Horn. He was particularly suspicious of Manning’s comment about The Animal, because the film had not been screened for critics.

2001manning01He decided to investigate Manning and contacted the Ridgefield Press, at which point he learned the truth. The newspaper had never heard of him. No other reporters had heard of him either. In fact, David Manning was as invisible as Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man.

John Horn investigated further and discovered that David Manning was the product of a marketing conspiracy. Josh Goldstine and Matthew Cramer, two marketing executives at Sony Pictures (Columbia’s parent company), had invented David Manning and concocted all his ‘reviews’. It’s unclear whether anyone else at Sony knew about the deception. As soon as the truth was uncovered, Cramer and Goldstine were suspended and Sony pulled the ads.

2001manning03The story didn’t end there. Two moviegoers decided to bring a lawsuit against Sony, claiming that they went to see Heath Ledger movie A Knight’s Tale (2001) because of David Manning’s bogus review blurbs. (A Knight’s Tale was actually quite popular with audiences and critics, but these two moviegoers obviously weren’t fans.)

While Sony did not admit liability, an out-of-court settlement was reached. Sony agreed to pay $1.5m to dissatisfied moviegoers ($5 each) who had been to see the movies that were positively reviewed by Manning. It also agreed to pay fines of $326,000 to the state of Connecticut for the deception.

And so David Manning is now an embarrassing marketing misstep in Sony’s history books. But does he also indicate that we may be surrounded by deceptive marketing – flagrant lies about the products and services we use every day – that we just haven’t cottoned onto yet?

Next week: Was Pope John Paul I murdered?

Who’s to blame for the munchkin suicide in ‘The Wizard of Oz’?

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Gaining new traction recently is the notorious pop culture urban legend about a munchkin actor who committed suicide on the set of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. Long regarded as a myth, a number of enlightening videos have surfaced on the web in the last few years, triggering a fervent quest for the truth by YouTube users…

The reason this story is so famous is that the munchkin actor’s suicide is allegedly captured on screen in the finished film. The rumour began in the 1980s, when The Wizard of Oz started appearing on home video.  At the end of the Tin Man scene, as Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are heading off up the yellow brick road singing “We’re off to see the wizard”, eagle-eyed viewers believed they could see a munchkin hanging from a rope in the background. The story goes that he was driven to despair over his unrequited love for a fellow munchkin actress and decided to end it all right there on set.

The official line at MGM – who made the film – is that the hanging munchkin was actually a large bird from the Los Angeles Zoo, brought onto the set to give it an outdoorsy feel. Everyone involved in making the film has unwaveringly denied that anyone committed suicide on set.

Take a look at this scene….

As the video suggests, yes, this is clearly a bird. There is no sign whatsoever of a hanging munchkin in the background. But if that’s the case, where did the rumour come from?

The 2011 YouTube video from ‘Suicidal Munchkin’

Take a look at this YouTube video, posted by a user aptly called ‘Suicidal Munchkin’ in 2011. The bird is gone. In its place is something that really does look like a little person hanging by his neck from a rope…

[Since writing this article, Suicidal Munchkin’s YouTube account and videos appear to have mysteriously disappeared. However, clips from the his videos appear in the last video featured in this article.]

Suicidal Munchkin says in the video’s description that the clip is from a 1980s VHS tape. This has led many to believe that the VHS clip of the hanging munchkin is the original scene, and that it was edited for later releases as part of a cover-up, i.e. the hanging munchkin was removed and replaced with the bird.

However, others have claimed to have an 80s VHS tape of the film, but argue that it shows the bird, not the hanging munchkin. This has led some people to argue that Suicidal Munchkin edited the film himself and inserted the munchkin over the top of the bird – rather than the other way around.

Wait a minute. If Suicidal Munchkin engineered this fake himself in 2011, that means the bird version was the only version anyone had seen before 2011. So where on Earth did the rumour of a hanging munchkin come from? I can’t see how anyone could see the bird version of the scene and think, “Shit! A munchkin’s gone and hanged himself on set!” Because, urm, it’s clearly a bird.

The plot thickens…

Conclusive proof? Suicidal Munchkin’s video was from 1986

The following video shows ‘Suicidal Munchkin’ opening his original VHS tape – dated 1986 – and playing it. There he is – the hanging munchkin.

This is proof that Suicidal Munchkin did not just create the fake in 2011 and post it to YouTube. The hanging munchkin clearly appears on a 1986 version of the film, and explains how the rumours started.

That means that the bird version is edited, right? That the bird was superimposed over the top of the munchkin in order to cover up his death?

Apparently not.

What’s this? Another video… from 1985

Take a look at this video from a user called ‘Radioactive Since 1990’. You might want to fast forward past the cheesy guy who gets a bit over-excited about cutting cellophane. Basically he opens his original VHS of The Wizard of Oz – this one dated 1985 – and plays it. Skip ahead to 15:38 for the pertinent scene.

It’s the bird, not the dead munchkin. On a 1985 tape. Likewise, the following video proves conclusively that the hanging munchkin was NOT in the original version of the scene. You can still see the wings of the bird poking out from behind the trees in the hanging munchkin version, even though the rest of the bird has been edited out. The hanging munchkin scene is the altered one.

It’s a hoax. Pure and simple. These videos prove it, and that’s without mentioning some of the quite logical things that others have pointed out. Like the fact that the tree the munchkin was allegedly hanging from was a painted background, not a real tree. Or that the three actors playing Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow (Judy Garland, Jack Haley and Ray Bolger) jovially walk straight past the dead munchkin singing “We’re off to see the wizard”. I think the sight of one of their fellow actors hanging dead from the set might’ve prompted a bit of a reaction!

The question is, who’s responsible for this hoax?

The origin of the hoax

It’s not just Suicidal Munchkin who has a 1980s VHS tape of the hoaxed scene. While some people have claimed to have an 80s VHS tape of the bird version, others have claimed to have an 80s VHS tape with the munchkin version.

This means there were two versions of The Wizard of Oz floating about on video in the 80s, and one was the hoax version. Someone fiddled with the movie way back in the 80s, and managed to get the hoax print into distribution. But who? And perhaps a more interesting question – why?

The animators who inserted a photo of a topless woman into two frames of The Rescuers were clearly just being cheeky and having a laugh. But why would someone think to insert a hanging munchkin into the background of The Wizard of Oz?

Alas, until someone comes forward and admits their part in creating the hanging munchkin scene (you know who you are), we’ll never know.

Next week: Was the Lindbergh kidnapping a hoax?

Britain’s most famous ghost – the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

The infamous Brown Lady photo

The infamous Brown Lady photo

The most famous ghost in the UK is that of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, whose image was allegedly captured by photographers from Country Life magazine. Who is she? Is Raynham Hall really haunted by her ghost? Or is the photo a fake?

The first recorded sighting of the Brown Lady was in 1835, when two guests at the Townshend Christmas festivities saw her as they approached their bedrooms. They noted her brown dress, from which she gets her name. They also described her glowing face and – most disconcertingly – her empty eye-sockets.

Further sightings occurred, including one by King George IV, who apparently saw her standing by his bed. But the most famous sighting happened in 1936, when photographers Hubert Provand and Indre Shira were taking photographs of Raynham Hall for an article for Country Life magazine.

While Provand was under the camera cloth, Shira allegedly saw a “vapoury form gradually assuming the appearance of a woman” floating down Raynham Hall’s main staircase towards them. He asked Provand to snap a photo. Provand believed that what Shira had seen was just a trick of light, but when they developed the photo, there she was – just as Shira had described.

Who is the Brown Lady?

According to legend, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole, sister of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister. She married Charles Townshend, lord of Raynham Hall, and is said to have committed adultery with a fellow lord. Although legal records state that she died and was buried in 1726, legend has it that her funeral and burial were faked. Charles in fact locked Dorothy away in a remote corner of Raynham Hall and kept her imprisoned until her death many years later, as punishment for her infidelity.

How she eventually died is also up for debate. Some say it was smallpox. Others say she was pushed down the main staircase and broke her neck.

Lady Dorothy Walpole - the Brown Lady?

Lady Dorothy Walpole – the Brown Lady?

Is the Brown Lady photo a hoax?

Sceptics have argued that Provand and Shira’s sighting is fabricated, and that the photo is a fake – perhaps accomplished by smearing grease onto the lens of the camera. Some investigators who interviewed Provand and Shira at the time claimed they had no reason to disbelieve them. But many have argued since that there is evidence that one photo has been superimposed over the other.

Magician John Booth suggested that the photo is a composite of the stairs and an image of someone covered in a bed sheet. He demonstrated this himself and created his own faked ghost photo, which looked very similar to the Country Life picture. Others have argued that the photo was created by superimposing an image of an ordinary Virgin Mary statue over a photo of the staircase. And it’s quite telling that the Lady Townshend of the time, who lived at Raynham Hall, revealed in an interview that Shira had come to the hall hoping to photograph a ghost. Was it all just a publicity stunt for Country Life?

Of course, less cynical sceptics have argued that the photo is an accidental double exposure or film imperfection/anomaly. Provand actually admitted that his camera had faults and exposure problems.

There probably won’t ever be a definitive explanation for the photo. What’s interesting is that no sightings of the Brown Lady have been reported at Raynham Hall since the photo was taken.

Why is this? Could it be that she is trapped inside the photo? Could it be that Provand and Shira inadvertently captured and contained her when they snapped her image coming down the stairs – and now she’s frozen in time forever? The photo is still held in the offices of Country Life. What if future technology permits her escape and she exacts revenge against the makers of the magazine?

And what if my imagination starts running away with me?

Next week: a 300 million-year-old screw – more evidence of time travellers?

Sources:

Mysterious Britain – The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Histories of Things to Come – The Most Compelling Ghost Videos and Photographs

Unexplained Mysteries – The Camera Never Lies?

Wikipedia – The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

The CIA have confessed to assassinating Marilyn Monroe

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Just over a month ago, retired CIA agent Normand Hodges made an astonishing confession: he was part of an assassination taskforce for the US government and murdered 37 people, including Marilyn Monroe…

An article by World News Daily Report reported on 25th March that 78-year-old retired CIA agent Normand Hodges had admitted to committing 37 assassinations between 1959 and 1972. He was immediately arrested in hospital by the FBI, who opened an investigation. He said he carried out these hits on the orders of Major James Hayworth, his commanding officer, as part of a secret CIA cell. This cell was assigned to assassinate individuals who represented a threat to the interests and national security of the US.

Hodges claimed to have killed a few scientists and artists who threatened US interests (artists?!), but unique among his victims was the only woman he ever killed – Marilyn Monroe.

He said that the CIA had evidence that Marilyn Monroe was having an affair with President John F. Kennedy. Worse, she was also sleeping with Fidel Castro, the Prime Minister of Cuba. Castro had overthrown Cuba’s previous leader and dictator, severed links with the US and formed an alliance with the Soviet Union. This ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 just months after Marilyn’s death. Suffice it to say, Castro was a problem for the US, and the CIA was concerned about Marilyn passing strategic information to him – particularly as she was sleeping with JFK as well.

Normand Hodges - Marilyn's killer?

Normand Hodges – Marilyn’s killer?

Now, as soon as I read all this, I was sceptical, mostly because I often hear about deathbed confessions being unreliable and unverifiable. Most of the time they come to nothing. What I perhaps should’ve checked first was where this news was actually coming from…

Normand Hodges = Michael Tyrrell

When you go to the disclaimer page on the World News Daily Report site, you find this:

WNDR assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.

Ah. It’s a hoax.

The Normand Hodges pictured in the article is actually Michael Tyrrell, a prisoner in the UK dying of throat cancer after serving a 29-year sentence for drug smuggling. Tyrrell’s photograph was nicked from a 2013 article for The Guardian about the mistreatment of ill prisoners in the UK – probably because of the handy handcuff.

A few sites got hold of the article and re-reported it, not realising it was fictional. Loads of people have also commented on the article on the World News Daily Report site, not realising that the whole site is full of bogus news stories written for entertainment purposes.

But several websites like FACTually, Truth or Fiction and Snopes have revealed the truth about the story before it’s had time to embed itself in pop culture as an urban legend. It’s a similar state of affairs to what happened with Andrew Carlssin, an alleged time traveller from the future who appeared in an article by Weekly World News, another satirical, fictional news site. In that case a number of reputable news sites like Yahoo! re-reported the story as fact, inadvertently creating the Andrew Carlssin urban legend.

So that’s that.

So the CIA didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe?

I never said that, of course. Normand Hodges and his story of a CIA assassination cell may be fictional, but stories about the CIA bumping off Marilyn Monroe have been swimming around for years. Many people believe that the official story – namely that Marilyn committed suicide – is nonsense. The murder of Marilyn Monroe has become one of the most popular conspiracy theories of all time.

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There are a lot of unanswered questions that surround Marilyn’s death. For starters, an actual time of death has never been established. The housekeeper who found Marilyn and the doctors who attended to her body suspiciously changed their stories. And even though she was a key witness, the housekeeper was allowed to travel to Europe and never be questioned again.

The medical evidence suggested that Marilyn had died from a drug overdose, but not from swallowing the drugs and not from an injection. So how did they get in her system? An enema, it’s assumed, but surely no one would commit suicide with an enema?!

While her death was marked a “probable suicide” – hardly conclusive – the results from the autopsy were never made public. Many detectives, including Jack Clemmons, the first LAPD officer to arrive at the death scene, believe she was murdered.

As to whether the CIA killed her, they certainly had a motive. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of Marilyn having a relationship with Fidel Castro, but JFK is another matter. There is evidence of some kind of relationship between them, including calls made by Marilyn to the White House and evidence from actor Ralph Roberts that Marilyn and JFK shared a room at Bing Crosby’s house. It was reported that JFK was the last person Marilyn called before she died. There were also rumours that Marilyn was having an affair with Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother.

If Marilyn really was having affairs with two members of the most powerful family in the US at the time, the CIA might’ve been concerned about government secrets being leaked.

Documents were then made public in the 1990s suggesting that the CIA had secretly recorded a conversation between Marilyn and JFK in which they discussed the recovery of UFOs. Conspiracy theorists claimed that Marilyn was killed either by the CIA or by Majestic-12 – the secret government agency charged with covering up UFO cases – because they feared she would reveal what JFK told her. Others have suggested that JFK himself was assassinated a year later for threatening to reveal what he knew about aliens.

Marilyn Monroe in her final completed movie "The Misfits"

Marilyn Monroe in her final completed movie “The Misfits”

While most people consider the above mentioned documents to be fabricated (largely because Majestic-12 is widely considered a hoax), the questions that surround Marilyn’s death are listless. In future articles I will look into these questions in more depth. And while I personally don’t think Marilyn and JFK were assassinated for talking about UFOs and aliens, I do think a conspiracy may be behind both of their deaths.

Certainly in Marilyn’s case, if the best conclusion made by doctors is “probable suicide” and the first police officer on the scene believes she was murdered, that’s good enough for me.

Next week: Is Yosemite National Park swallowing people?