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The Top Nine Conspiracy Theories About Los Angeles

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]s it goes with all the greats, a healthy amount of mystery is woven through the fabric of Los Angeles history. Hushed whispers offer up wild tales of underground populations of Angelenos and share mythology that suggests secret reasons behind some of our city’s most well-known events.

But the line between urban legend and history isn’t always thin; some ideas once dismissed as conspiracy theories wind up revealing themselves as uncovered truths. And then there are the stories so absurd, so unlikely that there’s no way that they’re founded in reality... right?

Fact or fiction? In many instances, it’s up to you to decide. However, many ideas throughout history have been dismissed as being crazy before being proven as true. 

Here are the nine great conspiracy theories about Los Angeles.

Owens Valley. Photo via Flickr user Robert Shea

Stolen water 

While we’d like to believe this one isn’t true, L.A. history shows that as the city grew, so did its need for potable water. In the late 19th century, the city began sourcing its water from the now-arid region of Owens Valley, over 250 miles away from Los Angeles. And thus began the California water wars. This Smithsonian Magazine article’s flagrant language aside, here is a comprehensive history of stolen water and how it has been brought to Angelenos. 

“Nearly a century ago an army of 5,000 men used dynamite, steam shovels, dredging machines and mules to dig out 233 miles of canals and tunnels. They carved the aqueduct out of unforgiving terrain, laying pipe across searing stretches of desert and going over, and often through, solid Sierra rock. Completed in 1913, the aqueduct still carries up to 315 million gallons of water a day to thirsty Angelenos.” The issue comes in here: While the aqueduct was a life-saver for Angelenos and helped make possible much of Southern California as we know it today, it “left Owens Valley farmers and ranchers high and dry. They responded with lawsuits, protests—and finally, dynamite of their own.”

Photo via Flickr user Tyler Bell

Drought manipulation

While this theory has been dismissed by experts as evidence of pseudoscience, independent researchers claim that the 2011-2017 drought was exaggerated, if not fully man-made, and created by weather modification. Some call it climate engineering and believe that the line between fact and (science) fiction is very, very thin. This CBS Local piece points to some believers that claim “shadowy government forces are using planes to secretly spray fine particles of heavy metals like aluminum into the sky.” 

But while it’s easy to dismiss ideas other than our own as crazy—and check the language the reporter in this piece uses to dismiss his interviewees’ claims—we at the Taco believe that the drought most likely was a result of… drought, rather than government-controlled factors. But if these theories at large have taught is anything, it’s that a healthy dose of skepticism and an open mind go a long way.

Sky near LAX. Photo via Flickr user Eric Golub.

Chemtrails to make people sick 

This is a unique one because it can be argued to be true...by accident. Not necessarily to the extent of a secret government entity secretly working to keep pilots in the sky dropping a specific sickness-inducing compound, but as a side-effect of cloud-seeding. The theory became popular in the 90s when a US Air Force research paper admitted to trying to manipulate the weather by experimenting with cloud-seeding, a verified experiment of scientists attempting to create thicker snow and heavier rain in clouds by dropping silver iodide in them. There is even a company you can hire to do this for you that for-sure does not have a shady-looking website or anything like that. According to this report, this company has already installed 10 different stations around Los Angeles between Sylmar and Pacoima. And you probably guessed it, no amount of powdery chemical substance that is puffed into the sky can possibly be good for you or the environment long- term. 

Repetitive drops of silver iodide have been shown to have toxic effects on plants on wildlife. Although, silver iodide is not currently listed as a carcinogen or toxic substance for humans. The only sickness associated with being exposed with silver iodide is a brutal-looking one called argyria, which is a grayish-blue discoloration of the skin—for now. 

Homeless encampments in Skid Row. Photo via L.A. Taco archives
Homeless encampments in Skid Row. (Photo by by Philip Iglauer/LA Taco archive)

Patients dumped in Skid Row 

This is another theory that’s unfortunately very, very true. Homeless dumping happens around the world, and has been happening for centuries; the phrase “patient dumping” was first used in the New York Times in the 1870s. In Los Angeles, the phrase is often used to refer to the fact that hospitals and assisted living facilities will sometimes dump mentally ill and otherwise unwell patients on Skid Row rather than creating proper discharge and aftercare plans for them. The question now is who is doing dumping today and how do they get away with it?

Actual 'Los Angeles Examiner' headline published on February 26, 1942

Battle of Los Angeles 

Also known as the Great Los Angeles Air Raid, the Battle of Los Angeles was dismissed as a false alarm about a rumored attack by Japan post-Pearl Harbor. In the early hours of February 25, 1942, a mysterious aircraft appeared above Los Angeles. Many locals described it as a balloon, or a lozenge-shaped vessel, or what they said could only be a UFO. Air raid sirens went off around 2:25 AM throughout L.A. County, a total blackout was ordered, and machine guns and anti-aircraft shells were shot into the air. Around 7:20 AM, an all-clear signal was called and the blackout was lifted, but the media and the public understandably panicked. While the Army dismissed the incident as a response of war nerves or mass hysteria, press outlets speculated about a possible cover-up. The phrase “too real to be fake” comes to mind.

MacArthur Park. Photo from the L.A. Taco archives

Dead bodies in MacArthur and Echo Park

MacArthur Park Lake and Echo Park Lake both have had reputations as places where bodies and weapons used to kill them have been dumped. And there have certainly been enough stories spread around to allow its reputation to form, some of which held more verity than others. But while this idea may have been once dismissed as urban legend, both spots have recorded histories of drowned and dumped bodies. This one isn’t exactly a myth, and if it once was, it’s since been proven to be true. How many bodies are in the lakes right now? How many have never been discovered? 

Nipsey Hussle. Photo from the L.A. Taco archives

Nipsey Hussle assassination and the cure for HIV

After Nipsey Hussle’s passing, speculators pointed out the scope of the rapper’s influence and how it is possible that he was assassinated by his “strong enemies.” One of those supposed enemies is the US Government, who some believe wanted to silence Nipsey after he announced his work on a documentary about herbalist Dr. Sebi. Proponents of this conspiracy theory believe that Dr. Sebi, a Honduran immigrant born Alfredo Bowman invented a cure for HIV/AIDS that has been suppressed by the Government and the mainstream medical community. After Hussle’s death, entertainer Nick Cannon tweeted that he would be continuing to work on the documentary, further adding to speculation about the reason behind Nipsey’s killing. 

Dunes and a jet captured at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. Photo via Flickr user Jeff Sullivan

Underground Nukes Responsible for Earthquakes 

If humans allegedly have the power to manipulate rain, then why not tectonic plates? Some conspiracy theorists believe that earthquakes are sometimes created by humans as distractions from… something. The question for believers then becomes not, “How do humans create earthquakes?” but instead, “What are the earthquakes distracting us from?” Those that subscribe to this theory say that recent quakes have their epicenter inside the bounds of the U.S. Navy and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

This site is allegedly home to experimental weapons, including underground nuclear weapons that could be responsible for earthquakes. With nearly 20,000 acres of land in an area that is known for faults, the Naval Base could just be in a place where earthquakes naturally happen, like many other parts of California. That said, the fact that that three recent earthquakes have occurred in this location has many people wondering exactly what the secretive base has going on

Lizard people

Los Angeleno published a piece in April in which they detail the myth of L.A.’s lizard people population—a group of people who, according to urban legend, built an entire underground city in downtown L.A. The legend involves golden tablets that contain the truths about human origins; a giant, convoluted labyrinth in the shape of, you guessed it, a lizard; and “promises of golden riches and infinite knowledge.” The highly-evolved reptilian race that hangs below us all may be fully mythological, or maybe that’s just what they want us to think. 

The L.A. Taco Verdict 

While some conspiracy theories are more… out there (and disproven) than others, it’s clear that some are just straight truth. There’s clear evidence behind where Angelenos get our water, and hospital gowns, bracelets, and notes tell us where some of Skid Row’s residents come from. Enough bodies have been found in Echo Park and MacArthur Park Lakes that we know that what may have started as a scary story has verity to it. But for the tall tales or instances in which there just isn’t enough evidence (yet) to prove or disprove, you decide. Now if you need me, I’ll be retreating back underground in the Key Room near the Second Street Tunnel, where I belong, amongst my lizard people. 

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