Conspiracy theories are the internet’s version of a guilty pleasure song. For as much as we can stomp our feet and say how stupid they are, there’s at least one that captures your imagination and finds its way inside your brain, refusing to leave. It doesn’t take much to get a conspiracy off the ground: a bad photo with weird lighting, an offhand coincidence that can be snowballed into something bigger, a logical fallacy that nonetheless just somehow feels right. If you’re looking for the best conspiracy to hitch your wagon to, check out seven of the wackiest that have to do with some of the most famous people on earth.
Paul is Dead
Anybody who doesn’t know this now half century old conspiracy theory should know that this is pretty much ground zero for all of the wacky celebrity conspiracy theories to follow. Here’s the gist: Paul McCartney, the world famous and still very much alive former Beatle, was actually killed in an automobile accident in 1966 during the production of Revolver. The other Beatles decided to replace him with a look alike and placed hidden messages in their work to provide clues to McCartney’s death, because what good is cover up without an antithetical ability to unravel it? These included backwards messages in recordings (“Paul is a dead man, miss him” in “Revolution 9”), lyrical allusions to Paul’s untimely death (“A Day in the Life” mentions a car crash), and numerous visual clues found on album covers, most infamously Abbey Road.
A fascinating exercise in connecting dots that aren’t actually there, the Paul is Dead theory got so much traction in the late 60s that McCartney himself had to denounce his own faked death in Life Magazine. It spread organically, first as a sort of half-hearted joke on a radio program, and then in earnest as the lines between joke and real inquiry became increasingly blurred. McCartney’s had a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing: his 1993 live album Paul is Live references the conspiracy, and he’s still game to talk about it in interviews. I personally believe that the opposite is actually true: Paul McCartney is immortal and will never die, along with Ringo Starr, The Queen, and Keith Richards. Damn those lizard people.
The Rise of the Lizard People
Hey, speaking of lizard people! Apparently anyone who gets a modicum of success in the entertainment industry is actually a cold-blooded humanoid intent on instilling a new world order. Sounds logical to me!
To count the number of celebrities who have been accused of being lizard people on Twitter or on fringe conspiracy websites is a Syssiphian task, so let’s just hit some of the highlights: Jay-Z and Beyonce, who’s accusations range from laughably vague to weirdly racist; Jim Morrison, from what I can tell based solely on the fact that his nickname was “The Lizard King” (I swear these conspiracy nuts are just getting lazy); Justin Bieber and Daniel Ratcliffe based on their odd blinking habits; Barack Obama because what good is it being part of the illuminati if you’re not leader of the free world; and Miley Cyrus back in the days when she flicked her tongue out a lot (you know who else does that? Lizards!).
Avril Lavigne is Melissa Vandella
Dipping back into the “your favorite celebrity is actually dead” well, this one concerns the pop punk/emo figurehead Avril Lavigne. Ever gone on Google Images looking to reignite your early 2000s aesthetic only to find pictures of someone you don’t recognize? Google swears that it’s the same person who sang “Girlfriend”, but something just feels… off. You can’t quite put your finger on it, so your mind goes to it’s only logical place: conspiracy land.
There’s a strange undercurrent to this one, because it’s mainly based around the idea that modern day Avril Lavigne looks different from “Sk8er Boi” era Avril Lavigne. It’s almost as if someone who was 18 when she first got famous looks different now that she’s literally twice as old. Weird right?
Is there something backwards or maybe even slightly sexist about how changing your makeup style, clothing choices, or just growing older in general, leads people to believe that you died in some horrific way and were replaced? The best part is that Lavigne’s doppelganger isn’t just some no-name look alike: she has a whole backstory. What Melissa Vandella did before being tapped to sing “Complicated” on stage every night changes depending on what version of the conspiracy you’re reading: was she an introverted Parisian abducted by Lavigne’s record company? An aspiring singer plucked out of obscurity? A clone made from Lavigne’s DNA? Take your pick, because they are all equally verifiable.
Taylor Swift is a Satanic Clone
Hey, speaking of clones! Those wacky Satanists at the original Church of Satan weren’t content with just producing offspring in the traditional, God-fearing way of nature. No, they had to make clones! And the most famous clone of them all? None other than America’s favorite country-pop songstress, Taylor Swift. Hail Satan!
In a crossover that puts Stans vs. Satan, hereby gravely confusing dyslexics everywhere, the idea is that Swift looks so much like Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey’s daughter Zeena that it has to be a clone. And you know what: the resemblance is uncanny. Uncanny to the extent that even a casual Google search brings up numerous photos that will make you go “Huh, it’s kind of weird that the daughter of the most famous Satanist ever looks a lot like one of the most famous musicians in the world.”
The devil is in the details of this one, specifically the idea that none of Swift’s high profile relationships worked out because one of the requirements was to make a literal deal with the devil. Harry Styles dodged a major diabolical bullet, apparently. Make any assumptions here that you like: Satanists control the music industry, cloning is real but only for those with paegan ties, Ed Sheeran sold his soul to Swift in order to be cast in Yesterday. Whatever you come up with, you’ll probably never listen to Red the same way again.
Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer
Ok so this one is pretty obviously a parody of celebrity conspiracy theories as a whole, but it’s “Weird Al” levels of successful parody, which inevitably made people stop and go “haha, but I can kind of see it. Maybe… “.
More than anything else, the idea that Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer underscores the ridiculousness that accompanies how we perceive celebrities in our culture. Just as a quick refresher: Cruz was born in 1970, which would have made him -1 years old at the time of the first Zodiac killing. But if you ponder the question “who is creepy enough, powerful enough, and weird enough to both be a serial killer and also get away with it?”, it should be telling that we all collectively got aboard the Ted Cruz train of thought without much apprehension.
More important than the actual details of this theory is what it represents: how distorted our current reality is. Sure, I highly doubt anyone actually believed this theory. I doubt anyone actually believed any of the theories on this list. But the lines between memes and conspiracies are razor thin. Cruz himself tweeted out one of the Zodiac’s old cryptograms, clearly to show he was in on the joke, but doesn’t it feel strange that a Christian Texas Republican Senator is indulging in conspiracy nonsense to win pop culture points on the internet? That’s a really quick way to turn a half-joking meme into a tinfoil hat-level of suspiciousness.
Stevie Wonder Can See
Like Ray Charles before him, Stevie Wonder was once just a young black man from hardscrabble circumstances who fought a disability thanks to personal aptitude, hard work, and ferocious musical talent, becoming one of the most successful artists of all time and inspiring millions along the way. Or he’s a dirty liar. Take your pick.
The starting point for this one seems pretty logical: playing piano is hard, especially when you can’t see a damn thing. That’s true, but pianos are a lot less intimidating when you realize those 88 keys are just 12 notes in different octaves. It might actually be better to not look at it, as you get to focus on pitches, chord voicings, and feel. Music isn’t a visual medium, after all: it’s auditory.
But unlike most conspiracies that tend to fall apart when you dig deeper, this one doubles down on its own ludicrousness and becomes way more fun. Look, for instance, at this video of Stevie CATCHING A MICROPHONE. Gaze in awe at this photo that shows Wonder capturing his true love of photography, traditionally a sighted person’s hobby. Listen intently as Shaq explains why he thinks Wonder can see because he likes to go to basketball games and knows his way around a hotel. You know who else can walk around hotels? Sighted people!
As far as I can tell, this conspiracy theory hurts no one. If we all found out tomorrow that Stevie Wonder has been faking his blindness for his entire life, I’m sure it would come as a surprise, but it wouldn’t make Innervisions sound any worse. I won’t feel bad playing “Boogie on Reggae Woman” because that shit still slaps. It doesn’t take perfect vision to see that.
Keanu Reeves is Immortal
Everyone dies. It’s the sad truth of reality that we must all accept at some point. We are constantly faced with our own mortality (and evidently, if you’re a celebrity, you face it multiple times), but cheating death is not a possibility. That is, unless you’re Keanu Reeves.
Yes, the hands of time work in mysterious ways, but not for the ever lovable star of The Matrix and Point Break. Whether it was through some Faustian bargain, devilish deal, or otherwise wicked tactic, Keanu Reeves beat father time, presumably with some kung fu he picked up along the way.
Just go look at the photos! 1989? 1994? 2000? 2010? 2020? 2060? Keanu looks the exact same in all of them, plus or minus an occasional beard. What’s the secret? Essential oils? A balanced diet and healthy exercise plan? Good genes? Nah, it has to be something far more nefarious.
This is another conspiracy theory that feels relatively benevolent to me. Sure, the revelation that there is an immortal God-like being living among us would be enough to completely turn the world upside down, but if it had to be someone, wouldn’t we all want it to be Keanu? His personal life has been marked by tragedy, but he remains dedicated to a certain optimism that most of us can’t pull off. He’s inherently good, at least it seems that way. If that means there will be a John Wick 27 when my great grandson is around, then that’s fine by me.