Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Top 10 Conspiracy Theories About Popes and/or the Vatican


The retirement of Benedict XVI has unleashed a shit-tonne of conspiracy theories. In a March 1 interview with Howard Stern, Alex Jones declared Benedict stepped down because of “transvestite orgies”. Others insist pedophilia must be involved, though there is scant evidence to support that. There’s also talk of a secret dossier about clerical misdeeds, last year’s “Vatileaks” scandal, and Vatican money laundering. What the conspiranoids aren’t talking about is Benedict’s advanced age, or the fact that he attempted to retire three times before being elected pope.

Conspiracy theories about the pope and the Vatican are so easy to believe, in large part, because the Vatican of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been visited by more than its share of conspiracies, cover-ups, and scandals:

  • The very establishment of Vatican City as an independent state may have been based on a forgery, the Donation of Constantine.
  • During WWII, several high-ranking Nazis were able to flee Europe with Vatican passports, thanks to a sympathetic bishop.
  • In the early ’70s, a minor investigation by the New York City district attorney’s racketeering squad led to the discovery that organized crime figures had trafficked millions in dollars worth of stolen and forged stocks all over the world…and roughly $1 billion of those bogus stocks resided in Vatican Bank vaults (see Richard Hammer’s The Vatican Connection).
  • A decade later, powerful Vatican officials were found to be part of a vast banking scheme that involved fictitious financial institutions, controlled from behind the scenes by the sinister Licio Gelli and members of his faux Masonic lodge, Propaganda Due (P2).
  • Recently, it has come to light that the cover-up of child molestation within the Catholic Church went all the way up to the Vatican.
  • Then there is the abduction of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi from the Vatican in 1983, which was badly mishandled by Vatican authorities, likely leading to the girl’s murder.
  • Then we have the tragic worldwide legacy of residential/industrial schools, magdalenes, and Catholic-run orphanages. From 1950 until the early ’70s, Irish nuns sold infants on a first-come, first-served basis (see Mike Milotte’s Banished Babies: The Secret History of Ireland’s Baby Export Business).

Add to this a couple of Dan Brown novels, anti-Catholic frauds like the Taxil hoax and The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, and a parade of memorable Catholic villains in film and literature, and it’s no wonder so many non-Catholics are willing to believe the worst.

Leaving aside the more outré conspiracy theories, like Leo Zagami‘s Illuminati/Satanism nonsense about the Jesuits and the Pope being able to summon demons (aliens) from other dimensions and Ed Chiarini’s belief that Benedict is actually Robert Blake, here are the Top 10 Conspiracy Theories About the Pope and/or the Vatican:

10. There was a female pope. The fable that one pope was actually a woman in disguise first surfaced in a thirteenth-century chronicle written by the Dominican historian Jean Mailly. Mailly recorded that in 1099, a pope went into labour whilst mounting “his” horse, and was subsequently dragged and stoned to death by the outraged citizens of Rome. Accounts written later in the same century can’t agree on a date for “Pope Joan‘s” or “Pope Joanna’s” rule, and today most historians realize that the recorded popes were the only popes. There simply isn’t a mysterious two-year gap in which Joan/Joanna could have served.
The legend of a lady pope spawned another legend that still persists, though: That each new pope must submit to a gender test in which an examiner feels his privates to ensure he has well-formed testicles. This test even appears in the very first episode of The Borgias, when Rodrigo Borgia/Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons) resignedly sits on a toilet-like chair so a papal lackey can thrust a hand beneath his gown and declare “Habet duos testiculos et bene pendentes (he has two well-hung testicles)!”. However, there is no evidence that gender exams have ever been conducted on popes.
9. The Soviet Union and/or the CIA was behind the attempted assassination of John Paul II in 1981. Even though would-be assassin Ali Agca was Turkish, Soviet involvement was something John Paul himself reportedly suspected at one time, as Russia was certainly not pleased with his support of the Solidarity labour movement in Poland. The problem with this theory is that not even the so-called “Bulgarian connection” initially described by Agca has been confirmed, much less a KGB plot.
8. The Third Secret of Fatima was suppressed for years, and/or the publicly revealed Third Secret was fabricated because the real Secret is too explosive. The three child seers of Fatima were entrusted with three secrets by the Virgin Mary, but it was not until WWII erupted that the only surviving seer, Lucia Santos, revealed the contents of the first two secrets and wrote down the third. Pope Pius XII expressed no interest in the Third Secret until 1957, and even then merely squirreled it away in a safe without reading it. It wasn’t until 1980 that John Paul II told a small audience in Germany that the Third Secret involved an epic disaster that would kill millions – possibly a nuclear holocaust. Yet he waited a full 20 years to have the Third Secret published, after revealing it had foretold his own attempted assassination.
Some Catholics still weren’t satisfied. They decried the published Third Secret as a fake, insisting the real secret was too politically sensitive and/or damaging to the Church to be revealed. Others pointed out that Lucia wanted the secret to be published before 1960, meaning the Church had suppressed it for over 40 years.
7. The “black pope” of the Jesuit order is the true ruler of the Vatican and/or the world. Jesuits have long been the favourite target of anti-Catholic crusaders, and conspiracy theories about their shady doings abound. In some conspiranoid circles, it is believed the general of the Jesuit order is secretly revered as the “black pope”, and that it is he – rather than the dude in the hat – who controls the Vatican. Here is just one of many recent examples of this theory.
6. The Knights of Malta, headquartered in the Vatican, control the world, and Opus Dei is a cult-like organization that is trying to extend its tentacles into every major government on the planet. Robert Anton Wilson was perhaps the foremost modern proponent of the idea that the Knights of Malta exert a massively disproportionate influence on world events, and were behind everything from Nazi infiltration of the CIA to the Vatican bank scandals of the ’70s and ’80s (see his article in a 1989 issue of Spin, for example). David Icke has speculated that Benedict was “fired” by the Knights of Malta. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, with its Opus Dei villains and ancient conspiracies, gave expression to concerns about the cult-like devotion and prominence of Opus Dei members.
It’s true that Opus Dei and the KoM contain many powerful, highly-placed members, but Catholic “secret societies” don’t seem to be any more dangerous than other fraternal organizations.
5. Pope Pius XII was complicit in the Holocaust. Catholic writer John Cornwell has even gone so far as to dub him “Hitler’s Pope” in his 1999 book of the same name. However, many commentators have discredited Cornwell’s claims, pointing out that Pius XII spoke out against the persecution of German Jews and was not sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Even Cornwell has conceded that Pius’s “scope of action” was very limited in regard to Hitler.
4. “The EU is a means of undoing the Reformation and extending Vatican sovereignty over Britain”. So reads the title of an opinion piece by Adrian Hilton published in the 30 August 2003 issue of The Spectator. Hilton (along with a few like-minded critics of the European Union) contends that the establishment of the EU fell perfectly in line with the Church’s aim for a one-world religion, or at least a pan-European one. But Catholic hegemony has not materialized in Europe over the past decade, and is incredibly unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future.
3. Islam was invented by the Catholic Church as a means of controlling Middle Eastern peoples. This bit of WTFery comes from Alberto Rivera via Christian pamphleteer Jack Chick, the same guy who brought us John Todd and Edna “I Married Satan” Moses.
Rivera was a Spanish Christian who in the ’70s began claiming that, during his time as a Jesuit priest, he learned from his superiors that Muhammad had been conned by priests and nuns into believing he was the prophet of a new religion. Their aim was to destroy the Jews and non-Catholic Christians of the world, paving the way for Catholicism as the one-world religion (see Chick’s comic-book tract The Prophet).
He also alleged the Church faked the Fatima apparitions, created Nazism, and killed JFK (among other things).
When Rivera realized the Church was also behind Freemasonry, he left the priesthood and denounced Catholicism. As payback, the Jesuits abducted and tortured him.
Chick was so taken with Rivera’s tale of Catholic treachery that he turned it into a fawning biography and several comic-book tracts. Other, more diligent, Christians subsequently discovered that Rivera had never even been a priest.
2. John Paul I was murdered. In his 1984 book In God’s Name, David Yallop contends that the “smiling pope”, who died just 33 days after taking office, was killed, probably because he was planning to dismiss and/or excommunicate high-ranking officials who were also Freemasons, investigate the massively corrupt Vatican Bank, replace Chicago cardinal John Cody, and permit Catholic women to use artificial birth control.
The Vatican tried to counter Yallop’s claims by commissioning Catholic author John Cornwell to write his own book on John Paul I’s death. Cornwell disappointed them by publishing A Thief in the Night, which argues that although John Paul may have died from a pulmonary embolism, people close to John Paul I tampered with his body after discovering it.
1. The pope is not the pope. The pope is a powerful guy, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are dozens of pretenders to the hat, known as “antipopes” or “conclavists”. These faux popes often lead small, cultish sects. The French-Canadian Apostles of Infinite Love were led by two popes, one of whom was under investigation for an array of alleged extortion and sex-abuse offenses for 34 years. The Palmarian Church in Spain has had three popes since 1978, and also declared its own saints and martyrs (including, inexplicably, Pope Paul VI). Until their last pope died in 2011, he had some competition from another Spaniard named Joaquín Llorens, who made himself Pope Alexander IX in 2005. There’s even a pope in Kansas – David Bawden. Bawden claims there hasn’t been a legitimate Roman pope since Pius XII, and in 1990 (at the relatively tender age of 30) was “elected” pope by a conclave of laypeople that included himself and his parents, Kennett and Tickie Bawden (owners of a thrift store called The Question Mark). Bawden calls himself Pope Michael I. His Apostolic Palace is a rundown farmhouse he shares with his mom.
The creepiest of these pretenders is the Australian cult leader William Kamm, a thrice-convicted sex offender who says he is Benedict’s rightful successor. He also seems to think John Paul II will be bodily resurrected at some point.

Thanks to Schwarherz for venturing into the wacky world of antipopes.


Following the Chemtrails III.5: Aerial Spraying Operations, Past and Present

Now that we’ve covered anti-radar chaff, let’s look at other military and civilian operations that involve aerial spraying. Parallels have been drawn between every one of these practices and chemtrails.


Biological and chemical warfare

Cold War era U.S. and British experiments that involved aerial spraying of “surrogate biological agents” are discussed below (“Biowarfare Simulation Tests”). Here, we’ll look only at instances of actual chemical and biological warfare agents being sprayed from aircraft over enemy nations.


This was, of course, the first air war. Blimps were used to a limited degree in this and earlier conflicts, mostly for reconnaissance and bombing, but now every nation involved was equipped with powerful planes that could reach astonishing new heights (you may recall that the very first contrail sighting was made during this war).
Surprisingly, although chemical warfare was employed by several nations (the French started it off), there was no aerial spraying of chemical weapons during WWI. Chemical weapon tanks and spray systems suitable for mounting on planes had not been developed yet, so more complicated methods of delivery were employed. The blistering agent sulfur mustard (mustard gas), for instance, was deployed mostly via canisters and artillery shells. Mustard gas wasn’t dropped from planes (in bombs) until 1924.

By the way, here’s an interesting fact: Mustard gas was originally named LOST, after the first four letters of the surnames of the German scientists who devised a large-scale production method in 1916, Wilhelm Lommell and Wilhelm Steinkopf.

In Germany, chemist Fritz Haber was the man behind the chemical curtain. He led the teams that developed chlorine gas and other deadly poisons, as well as innovative gas masks with absorbent filters to protect German troops.
Unlike the average chemical warfare engineer, who is divorced from the terrible fruits of his labours, Haber didn’t hide away in his lab. He took a very active role in chemical attacks, even personally supervising the first successful deployment of chlorine gas at the Second Battle of Ypres on April 22, 1915. Some of the French and Canadian soldiers huddled in the trenches could only stare in fascination as the greenish-white cloud of gas drifted closer and closer, until it hit them. Then their lungs burned and they had to gasp for every breath. Some died within minutes, while others fled in terror. Haber was pleased with his work; the attack had been far more successful than anyone anticipated.
Some have attributed the suicide of his wife Clara, one week later, to this success.
The year after the war ended, Haber received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the  Haber-Bosch process, which revolutionized the production of nitrogen-based explosives and fertilizers.
In fact, a whole Rappaccini’s garden of useful-yet-poisonous chemical compounds bloomed in the years after WWI, thanks to wartime chemical warfare research.

The French introduced the deadly gas phosgene in 1916. The Germans responded with chloropicrin, an insecticide. Generally, though, there was a reluctance on all sides to open up the Pandora’s box of chemical agents, partly because the Hague Convention of 1899 forbade the use of poisonous gases in combat. This reluctance is evidenced by the British use of “balloon dope”, a strong-smelling sealant, in fake chemical warfare releases known as “stinks”. The idea was to disorient, preoccupy and intimidate the enemy without actually gassing them to death. To the same end, the Germans cultivated sneezing and vomiting agents like “Blue Cross” (diphenylchlorarsine).

Biological weapons were not as advanced as the chemical agents at this time. Then as now, they were deemed a risky, last-resort kind of weapon because they could have unintended results. You can’t control a germ the same way you aim a bomb or a bullet, and trench diseases were enough of a problem already. When germs are weaponized for combat, the goal is often to debilitate the enemy rather than kill them. War injuries are more bothersome than fatalities, tying up more resources for longer periods of time. But even nonlethal germ warfare has its risks, particularly retaliation with more dangerous agents. No biological agents were deployed against troops in WWI.
The Germans allegedly did, however, spread a disease called Glanders among enemy horses and pack animals.

Research After WWI 

Between world wars, in 1921, the French War Ministry established the world’s first large-scale, peacetime biological and chemical weapons program, and Stalin began what would someday become the world’s most extensive and secretive bio-chem program. Its vast, terrifying scope would not be fully known until the mid-1990s.

In Canada, bioweapon and biodefense research secretly began in the late ’30s. Prior to WWII, a team of military defense researchers led by Frederick Banting (another Nobel Prize winner) conducted a series of experiments to test the efficacy of aerial germ warfare. In October 1940 they sprayed sawdust from a low-flying plane to see how it would disperse, and were soon given the go-ahead to mass produce germ weapons, including anthrax, on Quebec’s Grosse Ile. In 1941, joint Canadian-British open-air testing of bio-chem weapons began in Suffield, a sparsely populated stretch of prairie near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The Brits were delighted to have so much open space for experimentation. They began with metallic cadmium mixed with the strongest explosive available, RDX, producing toxic fumes capable of causing fibrosis of the lungs.

In 1943, Porton Down, the UK’s bio-chem research facility, became the first to claim an effective bioweapon. Over the previous year, researchers had conducted a series of successful anthrax-bombing experiments at Scotland’s Gruinard Island (where bomb tests were also conducted), using sheep as test subjects. The tiny island became so toxic, it had to be vacated for the next forty years.
The U.S. got a slower start, but soon caught up. In 1943, a bio-chem weapons research and development facility called Camp Detrick (later renamed Fort Detrick) was established in Maryland, with businessman George Merck as its first director.


The poison gas attacks of WWI were horrific enough to scare WWII combatants away from aerial chemical warfare. And although the head of the U.S.’s new biowarfare division, Theodore Rosebury, decided airplanes would be the “most useful means for the dissemination of infective agents,” they were far from knowing precisely how to produce weaponized germs on a huge scale and disperse them without compromising their potency (the Gruinard tests, though successful, were considered too small-scale).  (1, 29)
As in WWI, fear of retaliation in kind was a strong deterrent against first use of bioweaponry. The anthrax bombs were ready to go – Camp Detrick produced the first 5000 of them in May of 1944 – but no one wanted to unleash them.
As far as gases went, all combatants stockpiled the old standbys from WWI (phosgene, mustard gas, etc.) along with the blistering agent Lewisite. The only new poison gas (and the first completely odorless one) to be developed was Compound Z or Compound 1120, accidentally discovered by Canadian researchers. While heralded behind closed doors as a remarkable advance, Z was not deployed at all.  (3)

The fear of chemical warfare was strong, and the hazards really hit home in the Bari raid of 1943, when 81 officers were killed by a release of their own mustard gas.
The poster below, issued around 1943, used cartoons and goofy rhymes to familiarize soldiers and civilians with the tell-tale odors and symptoms of the major weaponized gases. (source)

The fear didn’t prevent all sides from dropping and spraying toxic things from the air during WWII, however.
The Allies used toxic pesticides – notably DDT – to de-louse their own soldiers and kill off mosquitoes (see “Crop Dusting”, below).
Japan’s infamous biological and chemical warfare unit allegedly dropped packages of plague-infested fleas over Chinese cities and sprayed germs (plague, typhus, smallpox) over Chinese reservoirs.
The only other known acts of biowarfare in WWII were Germany’s sabotage of the drainage systems in Rome (they first confiscated all the anti-malarial medications in the region, knowing the mosquito population would skyrocket) and the OSS‘s non-fatal food poisoning of Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s pre-war financial wizard. Schacht turned out to be a very poor choice of target. Not only had he been shunted aside by the Nazis before the war even began, but he was part of Operation Valkyrie, the secret Nazi plot to kill Hitler. (4)

Zyklon B

In 1919, Nobel laureate Fritz Haber became the head of a new chemical-company consortium, the German Limited Company for Pest Control, or Degesch.
In the early ’20s, a group of Degesch chemists modified a cyanide-based pesticide called Zyklon A (“Cyclone A”), first synthesized by Ferdinand Flury, to create the more potent Zyklon B. This team was made up ofWalter Heerdt, Bruno Tesch, and Gerhard Peters. For two decades, Zyklon A and B were used mainly to fumigate grain, though they could also be used as de-lousing agents and rat poison. In the U.S., Zyklon B was used as a de-lousing agent on Mexican immigrants.

Unfortunately, some of the developers of Zyklon A and B later became dedicated Nazis. Flury was elevated to the position of Surgeon General during the Third Reich. And when Nazi scientists decided to use Zyklon B in the gas chambers of the death camps, it was supplied first by Degesch, then by Stabenow & Tesch, the pest control company established by Bruno Tesch in 1924.
In 1946, Tesch and a fellow executive were put to death by the British for their role in the Holocaust. Three years later, Degesch exec Gerhard Peters was sentenced to five years in prison by a Frankfurt court for his role. The only scientist in this group who had any damn sense at all was the inventor of record, Walter Heerdt; he fled Germany in the early ’30s, returning later to testify against former colleagues at Nuremberg.

Zyklon B  is still used as a pesticide in the Czech Republic, which is rather disturbing – the Nazis first tested it on Roma children from Brno.

The study of Zyklon B, DDT, Agent Orange, and other pesticides that turned out to be extremely toxic for humans can tell us much about chemtrail theories, especially the depopulation theory. Note that when Zyklon B became a tool of mass murder, it was not simply dumped from airplanes over the camps.

After WWII

From the end of WWII straight through Vietnam, several nations (including the U.S. and Canada) simulated chemical and biological attacks by spraying “surrogate biological agents” from boats, planes and vans, trying to figure out how far and fast a disease like anthrax could spread. These experiments are covered below (“Biowarfare Simulation Tests”).

The weaponization and stockpiling of germs and chemicals moved at frantic pace throughout the Cold War, with the USSR and the U.S. amassing astonishing amounts of the organophosphorus nerve agents like VX, bacteria, toxins and viruses. Canada, Britain, and the U.S. were signatories of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which barred the use of bio-chem weapons, but it wasn’t actually ratified in the U.S. until the ’70s. And there was no prohibition against defense research.

In the ’50s, the U.S. biological warfare lab at Fort Detrick diligently built up a germ warfare arsenal. Led by a very young microbiologist named William Patrick, researchers cultured and tested and weaponized a range of bacteria, viruses, toxins and rickettsia that could be used to incapacitate, if not kill, large numbers of men. Anthrax, botulinum toxin, Q Fever and tularemia (“rabbit fever”) were considered the best options. They were non-contagious and not necessarily deadly (if treated right away), yet they could take soldiers out of commission for weeks or months. At the same time, however, the researchers worked on such lethal, highly contagious viruses as smallpox and plague.
In addition to extensive animal testing, Ft. Detrick conducted live-virus experiments on Seventh-Day Adventists (conscientious objectors), infecting them with Q Fever, then treating them with antibiotics when symptoms appeared. In addition to Q Fever, about 50 varieties of virus and rickettsia were deemed suitable for biowarfare. Thereafter, gallons of Q Fever and a few other viruses were produced at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

At least one live-virus test of aerially sprayed Q Fever was conducted over Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground in the ’50s. A spray tank with nozzles was affixed to an F-100 Super Sabre , the fastest jet in the world at that time, and a slurry containing the virus was sprayed over the desert. No human subjects were used in this test, but three soldiers manning roadways during the experiment contracted Q Fever, and so did the pilot, proving the virus was still effective when sprayed from the air. In fact, it traveled over 50 miles to infect the soldiers.

The Korean War and Cuba

China and Korea alleged the U.S. used biowarfare against them during the Korean conflict, and an international team assembled by the World Peace Council, led by British biochemist Joseph Needham, concluded that biological agents had been deployed dozens of times in North Korea by the U.S. military. The U.S. vehemently denied, and still denies, that this occurred even once, and the Air Force’s dismissive and even hostile attitude toward bioweapons during this period seems to indicate that they were still considered unreliable. They were thought to be untested, tricky to use, and ethically questionable. There were also concerns that germ warfare agents couldn’t be contained, and would backfire on any force that employed them. Yet the conclusions of the Needham report stuck like glue.
Ephemeral, hard-to-prove allegations of biowarfare would surface again in the ’80s, against the Soviet Union.

In the early ’60s, Pentagon officials collaborated with Ft. Detrick on a secret plan to douse Cuba with biological agents in the event of conflict, cheekily referred to as “the Marshall Plan”. The germs would not be fatal to most Cubans, but were expected to kill many of the elderly and sick.
Around the same time, General Mills developed the line-source disseminator, an aerial spray device that could continuously disperse chemical/biological agents from planes (if you’re surprised that a company known for its breakfast cereals was elbow-deep in defense projects, check out Project Pigeon). The preferred method of germ dispersal, however, was packing hundreds of tiny “bomblets” full of viruses or bacteria into missiles, then dropping the missiles from the highest altitude possible to spread the bomblets over a broad area.
The “Marshall Plan” was never put into action, and despite years of dreaming up outlandish ways to kill or humiliate Castro, the U.S. never deployed bio-chem agents against Cuba.


If WWII was largely a war against disease-carrying bugs, Vietnam was largely a war against plants. The thick jungle foliage of North Vietnam provided perfect cover for the Viet Cong, enabling invisible troop movements and sneak attacks. This led to the introduction of one of the most notorious chemical warfare agents of our times, Agent Orange.
Technically, Agent Orange was not a weapon intended to kill people. But its side effects were horrific. For six years (1965-1971), this potent mixture of defoliants (among many others) was sprayed in massive quantities over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as part of the U.S. military Operations Trail Dust and Ranch Hand. This was not the first large-scale use of herbicide in war (in the the ’50s, the British Army sprayed herbicides in Malaysia to kill off the crops of Communist rebels), but it would be the deadliest.
“Agent Orange” has become shorthand for any toxic substance, and some chemtrail researchers aren’t afraid to draw a parallel between it and whatever they believe is contained in today’s jet contrails.

Should you and I be concerned? Yes, very concerned as the long term effects of chemtrails are no different than crop dusting…and Agent Orange.” –

Experimental spraying of some of the “rainbow herbicides” (not including Agent Orange, which was introduced in 1965) began in 1959. The goals were to kill off food crops, driving rural dwellers into the cities of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and to destroy vegetation that provided cover for the Viet Cong. The plan was highly successful on both fronts. Roughly 500 million acres of forest were heavily damaged or destroyed, and the population of South Vietnam swelled from 2.8 million people in 1958 to 8 million in 1971.
To disperse the herbicides, C-123 planes were outfitted with specially designed spray tanks that could hold up to 1,000 gallons of liquid. In under 5 minutes, each plane could spray a swath of land 80 meters wide and 10 miles long, and the average spraying sortie consisted of 3-5 planes. (6)
Nearly 20 million gallons of “rainbow herbicides” were sprayed over the course of at least 6,542 missions. Helicopters were also used in spray operations. (7)

The South Vietnamese had been told of the spraying in advance, and were assured the herbicides were not harmful to humans, animals or the soil.  (8)
But the defoliants had disastrous effects that outlasted the war. The average concentration of the herbicides was 13 times higher than the USDA-recommended application rate for domestic use. And a very dangerous compound lurked within one of those rainbow herbicides.

Why was Agent Orange so toxic? 

Agent Orange was made up of equal parts 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).
2,4,5-T had been widely used as an agricultural defoliant since the ’40s. At first, producers and consumers were blissfully unaware that the manufacturing process contaminated 2,4,5-T with an extraordinarily toxic byproduct, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). TCDD is usually referred to as dioxin (technically, though, it’s one of several dioxin-like compounds). It is one of the most dangerous chemicals ever synthesized, capable of causing all the same adverse effects as dioxin.
If produced with rigorous temperature control, 2,4,5-T can contain only about .005 parts per million (ppm) of TCDD. But in the early days of 2,4,5-T production, before anyone grasped how toxic TCDD was and how much of it was being created, quality control was uneven. As much as 60 ppm of TCDD.could end up in a single batch. (9)

Two industrial accidents served as a dark warning that something in 2,4,5-T was extremely dangerous. The first occurred in 1949, at a factory in Nitro, West Virginia. An explosion caused dozens of workers to break out in pustules, a condition characteristic of dioxin poisoning now known as chloracne. Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushenko bears the scars of chloracne after his 2004 TCDD poisoning.
But at the time of the Nitro explosion, no one knew precisely what caused the skin condition, and no one was curious enough to get to the bottom of it. One physician, Raymond Suskind, did monitor the affected men for the next several years, and reported an array of physical ailments that turned out to be common effects of TCDD. In the ’80s, this same doctor falsified a series of 2,4,5-T studies at the behest of Monsanto, which was facing lawsuits from Vietnam vets and other people exposed to dioxin-contaminated Monsanto products. (8)
The second serious 2,4,5-T accident happened in 1953, in a Germany factory. A leak exposed numerous factory workers to pesticide fumes, and most of them broke out in pustules and suffered serious health problems. Researcher Karl-Heinz Schulz identified the toxic agent as TCDD, and published his results in 1957. This laid the groundwork for an understanding of chloracne and the other health effects of TCDD. Unfortunately, chemical manufacturers ignored Schulz’s findings. Production of 2,4,5-T continued without a hitch.

Did they know how dangerous Agent Orange was? 

From approximately 1951 to 1974, prisoners at Pennsylvania’s Holmesburg State Prison were used as guinea pigs in research experiments commissioned by the Army, Dow Chemical Company, and Johnson & Johnson. The prisoners were volunteers, but they were not apprised of all the risks associated with the chemical agents that were being tested on their skin.
In studies conducted in the early ’60s, Dr. Albert Kligman injected TCDD into 70 of the prisoners on behalf of Dow. Dow was one of the seven companies producing Agent Orange, and wanted to know why some factory workers were developing chloracne. All 70 of the prisoners developed severe chloracne lesions, which were left untreated for seven months.

Dr. James Clary, who helped develop the special spray tanks for Agent Orange dispersal, claims he and other scientists working on the project were aware that Agent Orange contained elevated levels of dioxin. Because the military required such high volumes of the stuff for Agent Orange, 2,4,5-T was being produced at breakneck pace, with slapdash temperature control – hence, more TCDD. Seven companies had military contracts to produce Agent Orange, and there is evidence that at least some of the executives knew it contained TCDD.  (8)
But the end users were not necessarily aware of this. Not even the commander of naval forces, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, knew what was in Agent Orange. When he found out, following the death of his son, he became a strident advocate for full disclosure and aid to vets affected by TCDD.

As in Reservoir Dogs, the naming of the rainbow herbicides was arbitrary and gave no indication of what they were capable of doing. Agent Pink (which I’m sure no one wanted to use) also contained TCDD, and the Army began spraying it a full three years before Agent Orange was added to the rainbow (in 1965). So Pink is certainly responsible for some of the havoc attributed to Orange.
Up to 3 million Vietnamese citizens (not including unborn children, many of them stillborn) and thousands of military servicemen were affected by Agent Orange alone. The TCDD in Agents Orange and Pink caused a range of severe birth defects, cancers and skin diseases. (6)

To the credit of the international community, opposition to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam was swift and strong when the State Department revealed the existence of the spraying program in March of 1966. Resolutions were immediately introduced to the UN, charging that the U.S. military was violating the Geneva Protocol. In 1969, Nixon declared the U.S. would never use chem-bio agents offensively. And this was before a 1970 paper put an end to the use of 2,4,5-T in the U.S.  By the mid-’70s, 2,4,5-T had been banned in most parts of the world.
In 1975, President Ford declared the U.S. would never again engage in herbicidal warfare (defoliants are now prohibited in combat under the Chemical Weapons Convention).
Numerous studies on the effects of TCDD and Agent Orange have since been conducted. You’d think this would have put an end to TCDD contamination, but sloppy production continued in chemical plants all over the world, and more accidents occurred. There was the Seveso catastrophe in Italy in 1976, the Yu-cheng accident in Taiwan in 1979, the Sturgeon (Missouri) chlorophenol spill of 1979, and the dioxin chicken scare in Belgium in 1999.

One of the places where 2,4,5-T was produced for Agent Orange was a facility in Verona, Missouri, owned by a subsidiary of the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company. Wastewater and contaminated clay in the vicinity contained levels of TCDD some 2,000 times higher than the dioxin content in Agent Orange. (8)
In the early ’70s, a company called ICP (no, seriously) was hired to remove this toxic sludge.* ICP, in turn, contracted with waste hauler Russell Bliss in the small community of Times Beach, Missouri, to actually get rid of the stuff. Unaware of just how toxic the waste was, Bliss blended it with oil and mud and sprayed it on roads and barn floors to keep down dust. He even sprayed the mixture on his own property.
So many residents and horses were sickened that a decade later, after an EPA investigation, the government purchased the entire town of Times Beach and destroyed it.

sign posted near Times Beach after it was doused with TCDD-contaminated waste for 10 years


Other aerial spraying in Vietnam

The U.S. attempted to flood parts of the Ho Chi Minh Trail via cloud-seeding, a program called Operation Popeye. It was largely unsuccessful. We’ll examine this and other weather modification efforts in another post.
The Pentagon had floated the idea of spraying anthrax over the trail, but decided against the use of germ warfare. There were fears that the disease would spread along the trail, possibly sickening and killing people and livestock in three countries.
In 1968, over 1000 sheep were killed in Skull Valley, Utah, when a plane from Dugway Proving Ground accidentally released a large amount of the nerve agent VX. VX was not used during Vietnam (or any other war), but in the early ’90s it fell into the hands of a murderous Japanese cult.

Since Vietnam: No aerial spraying, and no biowarfare

Since Vietnam, the only documented, large-scale deployment of chemical weapons has been Iraq’s use of mustard gas against Iranian troops and Kurdish people during the Iran-Iraq war (1981–1988), and this didn’t involve direct aerial spraying. In the Halabja massacre of March 16, 1988 (now classified as an act of genocide), more than 10,000 Kurds were affected or killed by mustard gas deployed by bombs dropped from Iraqi Mirage and MiG planes.
The only other notable use of a chemical agent occurred during the 2002 Nord-Ost hostage crisis in Moscow, when Russian Spetsnaz forces pumped an unknown gas into the ventilation system of the theatre in an attempt to knock out the Chechen terrorists and extricate the hostages. To this day, we don’t know what they used (fentanyl is the likeliest suspect). Hostages and captors alike died from overdoses of the gas.

In the ’80s, the Soviet Union was accused of using mycotoxins in support of Communist armies in Cambodia and Laos, and later using them against Afghanistan. Several people in remote villages reported being sickened or burned by a “yellow rain” that came from helicopters. However, the allegations were never confirmed. Two researchers identified yellow dust collected by soldiers as ordinary bee pollen, while others reported finding no mycotoxins in plant samples.


At the end of the Adrian Lyne film Jacob’s Ladder, a postscript tells us that BZ, a powerful glycolate agent that can produce hallucinatory effects and extreme confusion, was tested on U.S. soldiers during Vietnam. While I wouldn’t recommend believing everything you read in a movie, this is actually true. BZ was administered to an unknown number of soldier guinea pigs during the Edgewood Arsenal experiments.
Also, a Pentagon study known as Project Tall Timber was designed to test the effectiveness of the M138 bomblet filled with BZ in a tropical forest environment similar to Vietnam (Hawaii’s Waiakea Forest Reserve). In the spring and summer of 1966, the bomblets were statically ignited (not sprayed from aircraft).

The only suspected uses of glycolate agents in combat occurred in Mozambique in 1992, when government forces accused South African troops of using BZ on them, in 1995 when the Serbs used BZ or a similar agent in the Srebrenica massacre, and in 1998, when there were allegations that members of the Bosnian Army used BZ and/or other incapacitating agents against two Sarajevo suburbs, Ilidza and Nedarici.
None of these alleged incidents have been confirmed.


If the Soviet mycotoxin allegations are false, then biological weapons have not been used in wartime since the Japanese attacks of WWII. But as we have seen, research and massive stockpiling were conducted throughout the Cold War and beyond. South Africa’s Project Coast is a particularly chilling example. Though none of its horrific schemes were ever put into action, at least one of its alleged participants, Dr. Larry C. Ford, poisoned two women and collected over 200 vials of dangerous bacteria and toxins (including salmonella, cholera and botulinum toxin) in his California home, for some unknown purpose. He committed suicide in 2000, while under investigation for the attempted murder of his business partner (he opted for a bullet instead of poison, the coward).

State-sponsored programs may have refrained from biowarfare since WWI and chemical assaults since the Iran-Iraq war, but an array of germs have been stockpiled and used as weapons by terrorists and religious cultists throughout that time.

– In 1946, members of a group known as Dahm Y’Israel Nokeam (“Avenging Israel’s Blood”) infiltrated the bakery that supplied bread to the Stalag 13 prison camp near Nuremberg, where several thousand SS troops were imprisoned, and coated 3000 loaves of bread with an arsenic mixture that sickened at least 1900 prisoners.
– In 1972, two teenage white supremacists in Chicago were arrested for plotting to poison the city’s water supply with Salmonella typhi, which causes typhoid fever. (11)
– The Rajneeshees poisoned food with salmonella in at least ten restaurants in Oregon in the early ’80s, in an attempt to complete their takeover of a municipal government. Investigators discovered a fairly sophisticated bio lab hidden on the Rajneeshees’ ranch, where nurse Diane Onang experimented with several pathogens, including ones that cause dysentery, tularemia and typhus. She even attempted to weaponize AIDS.  (4)
– Aum Shinrikyo is known for its sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway, but scientists belonging to the cult also weaponized anthrax and botulinum toxin. Fortunately, the several biological attacks they launched in Tokyo failed. The only known attack with the nerve agent VX was committed against Ryuho Ohkawa, an Aum opponenet, in 1994 (he survived).
– In December 1999, during the Russian assault on Grozny, Chechen rebels blew up two chlorine tanks in the city. No Russian soldiers were affected
– It’s interesting that the largest intentional mass poisoning in history, employing potassium chloral hydrate, potassium chloride and cyanide to kill over 900 people, was also carried out by a religious cult – the People’s Temple of Jonestown. The camp “doctor” (actually a former intern), Larry Schacht, initially experimented with culturing botulinum toxin, staphylococci, and a fungus that could mimic meningitis symptoms as a means of killing everyone, but the work proved too challenging for him. He settled on cyanide, and ordered an amount capable of killing 1800 people from a chemical company in California.  (12)

Chem-Bio Warfare and Chemtrails

One of the most popular theories about chemtrails is that they are part of a vast depopulation scheme (in fact, as we’ll see in the next post, chemtrails started as a depopulation theory). By peppering us with chemicals or metal oxides and/or obscuring sunlight for long periods of time, this theory goes, someone out there hopes to sicken and kill us in order to have all the world’s resources to themselves.

A subtheory that could be called the biowarfare theory of chemtrails surfaced in 2003, with the claims of chemtrail researcher Clifford Carnicom. Carnicom claimed he received the news from another researcher, who heard it from a military source. Carnicom’s unnamed source said the polymer fibers supposedly present in jet contrails have freeze-dried bacteria or viruses attached to them, along with metals (barium, aluminum) to absorb sunlight. The heated metals keep the pathogens alive during dispersal.
Spraying germ-dusted polymers from 40,000 feet in the air would be an unnecessarily complicated, highly inefficient way to spread germs. Any of the other methods examined in this post would make more sense – yet there’s no evidence that any of them are currently being used for biological attack.
As we’ll see in another post, this is only one of many reports and theories about chemtrails that Carnicom has put forward.

A handful of tests conducted at the request of private citizens by small, independent labs indicate that various pathogens, medicines and chemicals have been found in ground and water samples, but there is insufficient proof that any of the material came from contrails. Ground-based pollution, poor sample collection techniques, sample contamination, and lab contamination are likelier explanations.
The depopulation theory of chemtrails will be examined more closely in a later post.

Since WWI, our fears of large-scale chemical or biological attack have led us down some very dark paths. The damage wrought by our own paranoia has perhaps outstripped anything a mere germ or nerve agent could ever do.

Fuel dumping 

Fuel dumping is occasionally mistaken for chemtrail spraying, as any large amount of liquid coming out of a plane can appear suspicious. Photos of fuel dumps have been presented as “smoking gun” chemtrail evidence, and some chemtrail-watchers maintain (without any evidence) that fake fuel dumping masks chemtrail-spraying operations.

Pilots dump excess jet fuel in order to meet the weight requirements for safe landing. Fuel is usually dumped at high altitude so it will dissipate in the air, exiting from special ports on the wings.  One useful way to distinguish fuel dumping from wingtip contrails is to note the distance between the plume and the plane. Remember, contrails appear a short distance behind the plane, because it takes some time for the ice crystals to form. Dumped fuel, on the other hand, comes directly from the fuel-dumping ports. There will be no distance between the plume and the plane. Online, you’re going to find a lot of confusing information about this. The fuel-dumping Navy E-6A TACAMO in the photo above, for instance, is often identified as a chemtrail plane, and emails posted on a page convincingly insist this particular plane has no room for extra fuel nor a fuel dumping system. Those plumes must be chemtrails! You have to scroll nearly halfway down the page before you reach a comment from a former TACAMO pilot who sets the matter straight: There are fuel dump chutes on the E-6A, and they are located exactly where you see them in the photo. Even if the E-6A was a chemtrail plane, it should be noted there are only about 16 of them in existence.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for fuel dumping stipulate that fuel must be dumped at a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet, and that a dumping aircraft must be at least five miles away from other aircraft. 
Air traffic controllers are instructed to direct planes dumping fuel away from populated areas and large bodies of water as often as possible. The same guidelines apply to military aircraft, and most air bases  permit fuel dumping only in designated areas.
Obviously, fuel dumps contain more chemicals than jet exhaust or contrails do (the ingredients of jet fuel and jet exhaust are laid out in the first post of this series), and some of the fuel undoubtedly reaches water, vegetation and soil. The good news is that because fuel dump systems are costly and the newer jets don’t actually require them, many aircraft are not equipped with them.

This is not to say that the FAA regulations are always followed, or that fuel dumps haven’t caused serious problems, especially in residential areas close to large airports. For example, in 1998, a World Airways flight dumped 13,000 gallons of jet fuel over Glen Burnie, Maryland, prior to an emergency landing at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, dousing a mother and son in fumes that reportedly caused skin irritation and headaches. The incident spurred state representatives to sponsor legislation that would have required Baltimore/Washington International to monitor and disclose all fuel dumping incidents. The airport opposed the bill as “unworkable”, and it was ultimately shot down. 
In Canada, there have been 577 recorded instances of fuel dumping since 1993.


Cloud seeding and hail mitigation

We’ll be getting into a lot more detail about cloud seeding in a post about weather modification, but it’s important to mention it here because it is a somewhat controversial (yet very common) use of aerial spraying that is frequently mentioned among chemtrail-watchers.

Cloud seeding doesn’t create new clouds. When successful, it turns existing clouds into rainclouds using silver iodide, dry ice, or liquid propane. Silver iodide is the most commonly used substance. Put very simply, cloud seeding is the introduction of particles that can serve as nuclei for ice crystal formation. Under the right conditions, the cloud will precipitate (rain or snow).
For clouds to be successfully “seeded” with silver iodide, they must contain supercooled liquid water (below 0 Celsius). Under the right conditions, the silver iodide’s crystalline, ice-like structure will trigger the nucleation of ice crystals.
Dry ice or propane, on the other hand, cool the air so that ice crystals can nucleate from vapour, even without any existing droplets or particles.

The same basic method is used for hail mitigation, which aims to reduce the size of hailstones that form in a cloud (as its name makes clear, the process can rarely eliminate hail entirely). This is done primarily to prevent crop damage.

Cloud seeding can be done with ground-based generators or projectiles (rockets, anti-aircraft guns, etc.), but the cloud seeding done over drought-ridden areas is almost always accomplished with silver iodide flares dropped from small, low-flying planes.

There is conflicting evidence as to just how effective cloud seeding can be. The American Meteorological Society is only vaguely supportive of the practice, noting the many drawbacks and uncertainties of weather modification and encouraging further research. An eight-year experiment in Oklahoma and Texas, conducted over a 5,000-square-mile area, showed that cloud seeding increased rainfall, the length of storms and the area in which rain fell. But in 2003, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences declared research had not yet produced evidence that weather modification can create “verifiable, repeatable changes in rainfall, hail fall, and snowfall”. A 2010 Israeli study offered disappointing results.
Those who deem cloud seeding effective worry that forcing precipitation in one area may deprive another area of rainfall. Cloud seeding operations have even been accused of causing droughts, and numerous lawsuits have been filed against cloud-seeders by outraged farmers over the years.

In spite of the doubts, there are state-funded cloud seeding programs in 11 drought-prone U.S. states and one Canadian province (Alberta). Typically, private companies are contracted to do the work.  (13)
A few countries, like Niger and Russia, have sporadic national programs carried out by their air forces (the Russian one has been almost comically unsuccessful). The Inter State Committee Against Drought in the Sahel sponsors cloud seeding in several West African nations. China, which has extensive cloud-seeding programs, famously boasted that scientists in Beijing’s Weather Modification Office staved off rain during the 2008 summer Olympics by strategically launching 1,104 rockets containing silver iodide from 21 sites in the city. It seemed to work, but the results of their cloud-seeding programs are still being debated.
Because it’s an expensive process with no guarantee of success, few individual business operations hire cloud seeders. The notable exceptions are large ski resorts, which have paid cloud seeders to increase snowfall on their slopes.

A widely-circulated video (below) features a secretly recorded “chemtrail pilot” describing “silver iodide weather manipulation”. The tone of the video makes it all sound very sinister, but the pilot is openly discussing methods that have been in use since the ’50s. Note that the cameraman presents zero evidence that anything other than ordinary cloud seeding or hail mitigation is being conducted by the company.

Cloud seeding to increase precipitation, hail mitigation and fog suppression are the only weather modification services that can be offered at present, because that’s all we know how to do. Contrary to bizarre stories about HAARP-created hurricanes, and an overly enthusiastic military “study” released in 1996, we don’t possess the means of artificially controlling entire weather systems, steering thunderstorms and whipping up tornadoes and whatnot.

Part of the problem with cloud seeding is that we literally don’t know clouds at all. Precisely how and why clouds form and behave is still a matter of intensive study, with cloud physicists still conducting research into why lightning develops in some stormclouds but not others and how cosmic rays may affect cloud nucleation (just last year, CERN published results from a study called Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets, or CLOUD).


Aerial firefighting drills and even actual firefighting are sometimes mistaken for chemtrail spraying, despite the extremely low altitudes of the planes.

The first firefighting planes were modified WWII bombers, and most firefighting planes still use the same gravity drop system; tanks are fitted with doors that open to discharge their contents. This type of system requires aircraft to fly at extremely low altitudes (around 200 feet), which takes highly skilled pilots.

Since the early ’70s, The U.S. Forest Service has used military aircraft from the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard (in addition to aircraft owned by private companies under contract) to help fight wildfires. For this, a small number of C-130H planes have been modified to carry tanks known as Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS).
Aerial firefighting uses different combinations of water and the following flame retardant chemicals:

  • Ammonium-based retardants with water-thickening agents added (either clay or a guar gum derivative).
  • Fire-retardant gels. These are thick slurries made up of superabsorbent polymers that absorb hundreds of times their weight in water, creating millions of tiny water droplets surrounded by  a polymer shell. These “bubblets” form a thermal shield over surfaces.
  • Firefighting foam (similar to fire-retardant gels, except the bubbles contain air instead of water)

Fire retardants typically contain preservatives, wetting agents, and rust inhibitors, and are often coloured with red ferric oxide to mark where they have been dispersed.

Aside from the ferric oxide, metals are not used in firefighting, so this would not account for elevated amounts of aluminum or other metal oxides supposedly being found in environmental samples.

Everblue: The Great Evergreen Conspiracy

The photo above (original source unknown), and a lot of photos and videos just like it, regularly appear online as a “chemtrail plane in action”:

You may notice that in a lot of these photos and videos, “Evergreen” is emblazoned on the side of the plane. So what are these sinister Evergreen planes that spray plumes of poison upon us from such low altitudes?
Actually, it’s just one plane. It’s the Boeing 747-100 Supertanker, modified by Evergreen Aviation specifically to fight fires. Evergreen has been contracted to aerially fight fires for 60 years, so it stands to reason they would want to develop bigger, better firefighting aircraft. Their other firefighting aircraft are mostly helicopters.
The Evergreen Supertanker is the largest firefighting aircraft in the world. It can hold over 20,000 gallons of flame retardant, and can fly slightly higher than the average firefighting aircraft – up to 600 feet. It was used for the first time in 2009, fighting fires in Spain and California

Currently, the U.S. Forest Service is not employing the Evergreen Supertanker for its firefighting efforts, as discussed in an Evergreen Aviation statement issued last month.  Forest Service regulations limit the agency to tankers that hold a maximum of 500 gallons. The expense of maintaining the Supertanker and keeping it on standby can’t be met with call-when-needed contracts like those offered by the Forest Service, so Evergreen takes only exclusive-use contracts. The Supertanker is not a military aircraft, and Evergreen is a private corporation that has both military and civilian contracts.

Among many chemtrail researchers, Evergreen Aviation is something very different. It’s a a CIA front, and instead of having one Supertanker, it has an entire secret fleet of them – a cleverly disguised death squadron. Here are some examples:

A post at declares that Evergreen Air is a CIA front company for U.S. chemtrail operations, based out of Pinal Airpark (formerly Marana Army Airfield) near Tucson and McMinville, Oregon. The entire article is cut and pasted from a 2011 “article” by one Joan Biakov, “Evergreen Aviation Admits to Chemtrail Contracts with USAF”. The title is massively misleading, because the article itself says nada about USAF-Evergreen contracts.  Zero evidence to support the CIA claim is provided. Biakov thinks tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can be artificially created and controlled with ground- and space-based lasers, making me wonder why she’s concerned about airplanes in the first place. Why am I starting to get the feeling this Evergreen conspiracy theory is a little thin on facts?
When I spoke to the woman who filmed the “chemtrail planes” video, she explained that she became suspicious of Evergreen because the company denies its presence at Pinal Airpark, posts armed guards, and will not allow private planes to land at Pinal (a public facility). These would all be excellent grounds for suspicion and concern. But I learned that Evergreen Aviation does not deny its presence at Pinal (in fact, they have a website devoted entirely to their operation), and that routine military training exercises are sometimes conducted there (which could account for temporary closures and extra security).

Let’s see what Intel Hub has to say. Here’s a 2011 article titled “Former Secret Chemtrail Facility Revealed, Evergreen Air“. Also a misleading title; the only facilities mentioned are the two openly occupied by Evergreen.
But wait, they have a chemtrail whistleblower! Back in  2010, Intel Hub reporter Shepard Ambellas interviewed a man who said he had worked at Evergreen’s Arizona installation in the early ’90s. He helped outfit 727 and 747-C planes with liquid discharge tanks and aerosol spray devices. He also spotted mysterious triangular aircraft and fully-functional WWII bombers in the hangars.

— sarcasm break —-

I’m sure this guy is legit. He showed Ambellas some documentation to back up his claims (Ambellas doesn’t provide any of it to us, but that’s OK. I don’t need to see it to know it’s authentic). He won’t reveal his name or even give a pseudonym, so you know he’s a real whistleblower. Every good whistleblower realizes that when you possess sensitive information that could get you killed, the safest and wisest thing to do is to keep your identity a secret while exposing that information. The bad guys won’t dare go after you if you expose them anonymously! I mean, your death would look way too suspicious! The cops and reporters would be all over that!

Also, I think it makes a lot of sense that the Supertanker was unveiled with massive amounts of publicity and continues to be heavily promoted, while the nearly identical tankers developed 30 years ago were deployed without a peep. When you have a unique, costly product with lots of overhead expenses, it’s always a good idea to keep it hidden from 99% of your potential customers for a few decades.

— end of sarcasm break —

Okay, so let me see if I can get this conspiracy theory straight. Evergreen planes, including the Supertanker and possibly a hidden fleet of Supertankers, are engaged in a secret chemtrail-spraying program that somehow involves agencies of the government. Let’s say the CIA is one those agencies. The whole “firefighting” thing is just a cover for Evergreen’s real raison d’etre: Spraying metallic and/or chemical stuff on us from ridiculously low altitudes, for some nefarious purpose(s).

But the U.S. Forestry Service, a powerful federal agency, refuses to employ the Supertanker for its ostensible purpose, which would help make the firefighting cover story look believable? And the CIA can’t find a way to override that decision? How does this make sense? 

There’s only one part of the Evergreen conspiracy theory that’s solid. Evergreen does (or at least did) have CIA ties. According to a series of articles published in the Oregonian in 1988, Evergreen’s founder, Delford Smith, admitted to “one agreement under which his companies provide occasional jobs and cover to foreign nationals the CIA wants taken out of other countries or brought into the United States.”
Other evidence cited in support of a CIA-Evergreen link is weak. A would-be terrorist by the name of Russell Defreitas told authorities he wanted to blow up the fuel tanks at JFK International Airport because he had seen missiles destined for shipment to Israel via Evergreen International when he worked there, years earlier.
Also, Pinal Airpark was the base of operations for known CIA front companies (Intermountain Aviation, Air America) during Vietnam, and as previously noted, some military training still goes on there.

The Supertanker probably came under suspicion for two other reasons: It sprays stuff, and Evergreen states on its own website that it’s looking into non-firefighting applications such as oil spill containment (spraying oil dispersants), chemical decontamination and weather modification

What they mean by weather modification is, of course, cloud seeding and hail mitigation. Those are the only types of airplane-related weather modification we have. But as we’ve already seen in the ridiculous “chemtrail pilot” video above, chemtrail-watchers assume there could be some other, secret form of weather modification happening. 

What all of the Evergreen conspiracy people fail to grasp is that there is one Evergreen Supertanker. ONE. It can’t be spraying an entire state, much less the entire Western world. And judging by last month’s plea to the public, Evergreen isn’t making enough money from one Supertanker to justify the creation of any more. There isn’t a Supertanker fleet, and there isn’t going to be one anytime soon.


Non-Agricultural Pesticide Spraying (Vector Control)

A pesticide is any substance intended to kill pests: small animals, insects, weeds, bacteria, fungi, etc. When pesticide is used on a large scale to destroy disease vectors like rats, mosquitoes or lice, the process is known as vector control.

Military forces have long sprayed pesticides in theatres of operation where disease-carrying insects pose a threat to ground troops. This began in WWII, with the use of DDT to kill off typhus-bearing lice and Anopheles mosquitoes (the 450 species that transmit Plasmodium, the micro-organism that causes malaria). The spraying was only part of the Allies’ anti-malaria campaign, though. Soldiers were also encouraged to keep their bodies well-covered at all times and sleep beneath mosquito-proof netting.

 Dr. Seuss created Ann, the killer mosquito, as part of the army’s anti-malaria campaign.


Domestically, air forces often spray over hurricane-affected areas to reduce the mosquito population and prevent the spread of disease.
USAF pesticide spraying is usually carried out by the 910th Airlift Wing. The unit has six Modular Aerial Spray Systems (MASS), with four aircraft modified to carry them. Each MASS can hold 2,000 gallons of liquid and can spray 232 gallons per minute, dispensing 3-15 gallons per acre. It’s one of the only units equipped for the task (the 757th Airlift Squadron hasfour C-130H2 aircraft modified to accept MASS units, which were used for pesticide spraying in the wake of Katrina, but these planes aren’t available for aerial spraying on a full-time basis).

On the municipal level, many cities have pest control programs to prevent the spread of West Nile virus, combat local tree pests, or lessen the nuisance factor of certain bugs. The work is sometimes contracted out to the lowest bidder, and/or conducted jointly with area universities.
For example, the city of Winnipeg’s Insect Control program sprays insecticide (“fogs”) in many public areas during years when the mosquito population is expected to be high, in addition to larviciding operations focused on the region’s primary vector species, Culex tarsalis and Culex restuans. They currently use permethrin and malathion for fogging, which is done not by aircraft, but by truck-mounted aerosol sprayers. They also have spraying programs aimed at three elm-destroying pests, the Spiny Elm caterpillar, cankerworms and Elm Bark Beetles.
The program provides 8-hour advance warning of all fogging operations to the public via their website, and gives the names of all pesticides used.

Aerial insecticide spraying has fallen out of favour when it comes to vector control, because it can kill off non-targeted bugs and annoy the hell out of granola-eaters like myself. It must be done at very low altitudes (about 100 feet) to be effective, requiring skilled pilots and considerable expense. Largely for these reasons, public health workers that are fighting malaria in Africa, where the disease kills an estimated 3000 children every day, prefer the time-honored method of spraying the interiors of individual homes. This practice faces harsh resistance from organic cotton farmers who worry their product will be decertified if tainted by the slightest amount of insecticide, however, so NGOs dedicated to ending malaria in Africa (Roll Back Malaria, Malaria No More, etc.) tout mosquito netting treated with chrysanthemum-derived pyrethroid insecticides as the most effective method of stopping the disease. Unfortunately, a 2003 study found that an average of 55% of African households given treated bed nets actually used them over sleeping children. This amounts to roughly 20 million children – an impressive number, but far from enough to make an impact.  (14)

The major problem with any long-term spraying or netting program is that insects will eventually develop resistance to the insecticides. This is what happened during the World Health Organization’s mosquito eradication campaign in the ’60s, as discussed in the DDT section below.

Crop dusting

Crop dusting is the aerial spraying of insecticides and herbicides over crops for the purpose of killing off certain insects and weeds. Fertilizers and seed can also be aerially sprayed, a practice sometimes referred to as “topdressing”. Crop dusting has been done regularly all over the world since the 1920s.
The first aerial pesticide spraying experiment was conducted over an Ohio field on August 3, 1921 – interestingly, by the same Lt. Macready whose La Pere plane left the first known persistent contrail over Ohio’s McCook Field that same year. The USAF was exploring a broad range of uses for aircraft in those days, and pesticide spraying had potential military applications. Disease had ravaged the trenches of WWI.


During WWII, a synthetic pesticide known as DDT was used to de-louse soldiers (lice carry typhus), and as vector control against malaria-spreading mosquitoes. This was the first use of airplane-mounted spray devices during wartime.
The chemical had been sitting on the shelf, so to speak, for over a century before a Swiss researcher discovered its powerful insecticidal properties. Allied planes were rigged with specially designed tanks to spray the “new” pesticide in mosquito-infested regions.

DDT proved so effective against pests that it was introduced as an agricultural and household insecticide back home after the war. It was hailed by many as the answer to malaria, one of the world’s oldest and most stubborn diseases. Beginning in 1946, 250 tons of DDT were sprayed on Sardinia, reducing its malaria rates from 75,000 to 9 in just 5 years.  (14)
The fledgling World Health Organization launched a global mosquito eradication campaign with DDT a few years later (excluding Africa, where malaria was – and is – most difficult to defeat). This effort consisted of spraying the interiors of individual dwellings twice a year, using 2 grams per square foot of DDT. Malaria rates plummeted. The campaign was so successful that in the early ’50s the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published a series of lectures with the triumphant title Man’s Mastery of Malaria.
Then problems developed. Chicken deaths and ephemeral suspicions turned rural villagers against DDT spraying, Ghandi voiced opposition the program on religious grounds (the intentional killing of living creatures), and – worst of all – mosquitoes and other pests were developing resistance to DDT. By 1962, the London School of Hygiene was fretting about this. At the same time, concerns about the toxicity of DDT were growing.

the cover of a 1947 DDT handbook issued by the USDA

Even in the early ’50s, some scientists considered DDT too toxic for general use. There was little federal regulation of pesticide production at that time, so chemicals could be put on the market with minimal testing and very little quality control. The problems with DDT are manifold. The big problem is, it’s a persistent organic pollutant that bioaccumulates, remaining in the food chain until animals near the top (mostly birds) sicken and die. Concerns about its effects spawned one of the most influential and enduring works of environmental literature, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). The book was not just about DDT, but all the synthetic chemical pesticides.
At the time Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, there were two classes of insecticides in wide use: Chlorinated hydrocarbons (DDT, chlordane, endrin, etc.) and organic phosphates (parathion, malathion, etc.). Surprisingly, Carson identified endrin as the deadliest of all. It seems DDT became the focus of public concern not because it was the most toxic insecticide, but because it was the most popular one. By this time, over 30,000 tonnes were being sprayed annually. Entire nations relied on it as a vector control to halt the spread of malaria, typhus and dengue fever. Many African countries and large parts of India still use it to prevent malaria, coating the interiors of homes and businesses.
Nonetheless, WHO halted its mosquito eradication program in 1969, and no comparable effort has been undertaken since.

In 1971 and ’72, in response to public pressure, the EPA held DDT review hearings that lasted for seven months, resulting in the insecticide being banned for most uses.

Why was DDT being used in Africa and India even as Westerners campaigned fiercely against it? Because it worked. When DDT was sprayed, malaria went away. When the spraying stopped, malaria swept through the land like a scythe.

It is seen as the lesser of two evils. Would you rather die of malaria now, or live a much longer life that may end by DDT-related health defects?
This devil’s bargain is still hotly debated among scientists, public health officials, and think tanks, with barbed comments flying in every direction. Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute and Africa Fighting Malaria promotes DDT use. So does the Hudson Institute.  (14)
WHO plans to phase out DDT use within the next decade.

Believers in the depopulation conspiracy theory have a divided opinion of DDT, too. Some view it as part of a flat-out chemical assault on humanity, banned only because a few brave souls fought doggedly against the establishment. Others think DDT is a boon to mankind, and was banned by those who want us to die from malaria or bubonic plague. Marjorie Mazel Hecht, in a 1997 edition of the LaRouche organizations’s Executive Intelligence Review, declared, “DDT is the ‘mother’ of environmental hoaxes.” In Hecht’s opinion, the EPA had already proven it to be safe after seven months of hearings, then administrator William Ruckelshaus banned it solely because it had saved millions of lives.

Spraying Today

There continue to be major concerns about the toxicity of the chemicals used in crop dusting. For instance, the safety of Roundup, the world’s most popular brand of herbicide, has been called into question (8), and the neonicotinoid pesticides are strong suspects in mass bee deaths (colony collapse disorder). But there is really no way that crop dusting could be honestly mistaken for “chemtrail spraying”. It involves small planes rather than jets, and is done at extremely low altitudes by skilled pilots (we’ve all seen North by Northwest, right?). No metals are involved (metal-based insecticides were phased out years ago). If you tried to alter the weather or cool the climate or kill vast numbers of people by spraying selected crops with pesticides at low altitude, you would fail.

Oil Dispersal 

When you spill a lot of crude oil (I mean a lot of oil), there a limited number of ways in which you can clean it up. That’s why every time there’s a massive oil spill or leak, crackpots leap out of their basement labs to share their ideas about staunching the flow with giant vacuum cleaners or giant mattress pads.

One of the slightly saner methods of dealing with marine oil disasters is the use of chemical oil dispersants, which are commonly sprayed from low-flying aircraft. As mentioned earlier, the 910th Airlift Wing of the USAF Reserve has an Aerial Spray Squadron equipped with six Modular Aerial Spray Systems (MASS) and four C-130H planes modified to use them. Each MASS has a 2,000 gallon capacity and can spray up to 232 gallons of liquid per minute. We’ll be seeing the MASS again in a post about chemtrail whistleblowers.

The use of dispersants is controversial, and there are serious concerns about the health effects of the dispersant Corexit, used after both the Exxon Valdez and Gulf oil spills. But as with firefighting and crop dusting, aerial oil dispersal just doesn’t fit neatly into any possible chemtrail scenario. We’re talking about low-flying, easily recognizable aircraft performing a highly specific task. This can’t account for “strange” contrails, barium in the water, or anything else connected to the chemtrail phenomenon.

Ionospheric experiments using aerosols

Ionospheric research plays a huge role in chemtrail theories, and we’ll be getting into a lot more detail about it in later posts dealing with HAARP and weather modification. For now, we’ll just lightly touch on the subject, even though the experiments mentioned here don’t involve airplanes.

The ionosphere is the multi-layered zone of electrons and electrically charged atoms and molecules (ions) that surrounds our planet. If the atmosphere was a parfait (everybody likes parfait), the ionsphere would be like the whipped cream topping, mixing with both the chocolate shavings (the exosphere) and the top layer (the thermosphere), where the air is so thin that free electrons can bounce around for short periods of time before being captured by positive ions. The negative free electrons and the positive ions are attracted to each other by the electromagnetic energy from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, but are too energetic to remain in an electrically neutral molecule, creating a plasma. The plasma in these ionized portions of the atmosphere is the ionosphere, which extends from a height of about 30 miles above the earth’s surface to more than 360 miles. This is where auroras are made.

Northern Lights over Yellowknife, Northwest Territories


The ionosphere has mirror-like effects, making it an excellent reflector of radio waves. Countless military and civilian operations rely on it for their communications systems, groups as diverse as the U.S. Navy and the BBC. Much of the ionospheric research mentioned here is done, in large part, because of concerns that such communications will be disrupted or even shut down entirely by solar activity or “enemy” technology, but scientists are deeply interested in the chemical composition and behaviour of the ionosphere.

Studying the ionosphere is problematic. Its lower levels are below the orbital altitudes needed for satellites, yet far too high up for balloons or aircraft. Nonetheless, ground-based tests utilizing sounding equipment (ionosondes) and satellites began in the early ’60s.
Then, in the mid-’60s, scientists hit upon the idea of using rockets to shoot barium into the ionosphere, creating “clouds” of barium particles that would be ionized by the sun’s ultraviolet light, then become trapped by Earth’s magnetic field, making magnetic field lines briefly visible to ground- or air-based observers. These “clouds” are essentially artificial auroras.
In later experiments, barium clouds were released from satellites. Lithium and aluminum have also been  used. These aerosol (particle) injections have been observed to stimulate a number of changes in the plasma of the ionosphere, contributing greatly to our knowledge of how the upper atmosphere works and responds.

Not all the post-’60s ionospheric experiments have involved particle injection, though. Radio research – much of it “passive”, in scientific parlance – is now the primary source of information about the ionosphere. The Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, made famous by the movie Contact, was originally set up to study the ionosphere. Now it’s one of many incoherent scatter radars used in ionosphere research, along with coherent scatter radars like the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network.
HAARP, the shadowy behemoth at the heart of so many chemtrail theories, uses high-frequency radio waves (up to 3.6 megawatts, roughly three times more than a typical broadcast radio transmitter) to accelerate the electrons in the ionosphere, creating artificial auroras and even bullseye patterns.

But we’re only dealing with aerosol tests at the moment, so here are some of the ionospheric plasma injection experiments that involved barium or other substances:

  • In June 1976, a barium plasma injection experiment was performed at the ERDA test facility on Kauai (ERDA was absorbed into the U.S. Department of Energy the following year, so that’s probably why you’ve never heard of it).
  • In 1989, barium injection experiments were conducted with the CRIT-II rocket to investigate the critical ionization velocity theory first proposed in the ’40s.
  • The Active Plasma Experiment (APEX), conducted throughout the ’90s, was a joint project involving several countries. The APEX and MAGION-3 satellites were launched into orbit in 1991. In January 1999, U.S. researchers launched a sounding rocket from the Poker Flats Research Range into the ionosphere. Aluminum was used in this experiment.
  • In the Combined Release and Radiation Effects satellite (CRRES) experiments of 1991, NASA and Air Force researchers released barium and lithium vapours from the satellite over Brazil, creating balls of blue-green light in the sky. The CRRES satellite was launched in 1990. The project was intended to provide information about the magnetosphere and magnetic disturbances in space (which can affect power transmission and satellite communications).
  • The Coqui experiments: In the spring and summer of 1992 and again in early 1998, NASA (in conjunction with the Arecibo Observatory) launched Nike-Tomahawk, Black Brant, IX and VC sounding rockets into the ionosphere from Puerto Rico to create artificial disturbances in the ionosphere, studying its reactions. Instead of barium, the project used trimethylaluminium (TMA). The Coqui launches were declared a success by NASA, although the chemical payloads of the rockets were never recovered and there was strident opposition to the experiments from locals who worried about the environmental and health effects of TMA.

Today, many chemtrail researchers perusing research papers on these barium experiments see the words “barium” and “cloud” and  conclude that contrails and/or some of the clouds we see in the sky could actually be man-made barium clouds. I have found excerpts from this 1980 paper on numerous chemtrail websites. But barium particles released into the lower levels of the atmosphere (the troposphere or stratosphere) are not going to behave the same way as particles released into the ionosphere.

Confusion is understandable. The plasma physicists who deeply understand this stuff could probably fit into a shower stall.

Biowarfare Simulation Tests

In the ’50s, fears of Soviet biological and chemical warfare ran high in the West, and several nations decided to conduct simulated biological/chemical “attacks” to find out just how far a pathogen released into the open air or water could spread. Canada, the UK, the U.S., and several Scandinavian countries conducted such tests. In the U.S., these experiments included:

– The release of pathogens into the Ft. Detrick ventilation system
Project 112 (1962-1973), officially denied until CBS News exposed it in 2000
Project SHAD (a 112 subproject)

What we’re going to examine here are the aerial spraying tests. Zinc cadmium sulfide was chosen for the trials because it fluoresces under light, making it easy for researchers to track its dispersal. Also, the particles used were similar in size to inhalable anthrax, considered to be the Soviet biowarfare agent of choice.
In 1953, in Fort Detrick’s Project Saint Jo, cadmium was released over Winnipeg, St. Louis, Minneapolis, the Monocacy River Valley, and Leesburg. Testing continued over Minnesota, Texas and Florida throughout the ’50s. The first three cities were selected because they were close in size to Moscow, Kiev and Leningrad, respectively.  (4)
The Army’s Operation LAC, conducted in ’57 and ’58, was the largest-scale testing ever undertaken by the Chemical Corps, extending across much of the nation east of the Rockies. LAC used a modified  C-119 “Flying Boxcar” borrowed from the Air Force to release zinc cadmium sulfide particles. A typical flight would cover 400 miles and release about 5,000 pounds of particles, which were found up to 12,000 miles away from the flight line. One of these spraying operations occurred directly over my hometown.

That same year, joint military/CIA tests involving airborne S. marcescens and B. globigii bacteria were conducted in New York City and San Francisco (sprayed from ships and vans). Stanford University doctors were baffled by a sudden outbreak of S. Marcescens, which resulted in one death.  (4)

Britain’s secret biological warfare experiments, conducted by Porton Down scientists from 1940-1979, were nearly identical. Most of the experiments used germ-like substitutes. In the aerial spraying tests conducted between 1953 and 1964, only four personnel were directly involved in dispersing the zinc cadmium sulfide particles, using a  Venturi aerosol generator mounted on a Valetta plane. Salisbury was the first test site. Cadmium was sprayed 40 miles away from the city, continuing for 100 miles with a pound of suspension sprayed per mile.  (15)
In 1963, trials off the coast of Dorset sprayed E. coli and B. globigii from a ship called the Icewhale, using agricultural sprayers. After the Icewhale experiments, air experiments were conducted using a modified cameral bomber to hold up to 1000 gallons of bacteria suspension. In 1967, E. coli and B. globigii were sprayed over RAF Tarant in Dorset. In ’68 and ’71, several joint USAF/Ministry of Defense. Detection Demonstration trials were conducted over Lyme and Weymouth Bay. These seem to have been the final tests involving aerial spraying; the subsequent Dice trails (conducted 1971-1975) employed a modified Land Rover to spray S. marcescens, an anthrax simulant and phenol. (16)
Fluorescent particles were also sprayed from modified vans in Cardington, Bedfordshire and in Norwich, Norfolk.

The “Fluorescent Particle Trials” raised tremendous public outcry when they came to light in the ’90s. There is concern about the long-term health effects of cadmium exposure. Residents in sprayed areas had not been informed of what was going on, and no toxicological tests had been run immediately after the trials. Cadmium is a toxic metal known to cause respiratory problems. All the workers involved with the spraying wore full protective gear.  (15)
In 1997, the U.S. National Research Council’s Subcommittee on Zinc Cadmium Sulfide published a Toxicological Assessment of the Army’s ZCS Dispersion Tests. The conclusion was that no adverse health effects had occurred.
Two years later, in the UK, a National Academy of Medical Sciences inquiry led by Dr. Peter Lachmann concluded the tests were not harmful, as industrial emissions release far more cadmium into the air than the vans and planes did. Though the Ministry of Defense cooperated with this official inquiry, Lachmann was not even told about the Dice trials.  (15)
A 2006 Imperial College study originally found that throat cancer rates were unusually high in Norfolk, but the study was later readjusted. The conclusion is now that cancer rates were not unusually high. This is disputed by some Norfolk families in which esophageal frighteningly common, (16)
Another review of the trials, conducted by Brian Spratt, found possible health risks only to severely ill people, but Spratt was concerned that Porton Down used four batches of bacterial suspension that had “substantial levels” of contamination. He concluded that the use of zinc cadmium sulfide was “not very sensible”. (15)

The Washington Windshield Pitting “Epidemic”

This incident apparently didn’t involve any aerial spraying, but I’d like to briefly examine it here to note the strong parallels between chemtrails and the odd rumours and theories that mushroomed out of the “windshield pitting” panic of 1954.

In late March of that year, car owners in the town of Bellingham, Washington, reported an unusually high number of pits, scratches and cracks in their windshields.
Kids with BB guns became the first suspects, but as reports of windshield damage began to spring up in Mount Vernon, Sedro Woolley, and even Fidalgo Island over the following days, more exotic theories developed. Many suspected some airborne chemical, like a corrosive emission from industry (there were reports of a black, sooty residue in connection with pitted windshields, widely believed to be carbon). Others thought a passing meteor had blasted their cars with space-pebbles. Some thought that a million watt radio transmitter installed by the Navy at Jim Creek was causing oscillations in glass. The Navy Commander in charge of Jim Creek, George Warren, pointed out that a windshield would have to be several miles wide to match the frequency of the transmitter, and that no pitting was being found at Jim Creek. Many feared  the damage came from radioactive fallout from either Soviet or U.S. military tests. Many thought sand flea eggs embedded in the glass were responsible. Others blamed cosmic rays or a shift in the earth’s magnetic field.
The BB theory was dismissed by most Washingtonians after Marines at the Whidbey Island Naval Station noticed damage to windshields at the high-security facility. Whidbey Island Sheriff Tom Clark speculated that radioactivity from recent H-bomb tests in the South Pacific was responsible, so Geiger counters were run over windshields and people who had touched the pit marks. None were radioactive. Still, Sheriff Clark was convinced that “no human agency” could have created the dimples in the glass.  (18)

This was not a small-town phenomenon. On March 23, 1954, reports of the Bellingham mystery had appeared in Seattle newspapers, and over the next 21 days, reports of damaged windshields crept steadily closer to Seattle. Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle suburbs soon had rashes of reports. Motorists began stopping police cars to report damage. Auto dealerships and parking garages complained of massive pitting.
Then the reports spread even farther afield, with thousands of pitted windshields spotted throughout Stark County, Ohio, in the first half of April. Police officers there tried to simulate the damage by peppering glass with various projectiles, but never got to the bottom of the mystery.
The Automobile Club of Washington offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any windshield-damaging culprits.

Washington Governor Arthur B. Langlie called for a scientific investigation, so a committee of University of Washington scientists was formed to examine the problem. It was headed by chemist John Manley, and included professors from the physics and meteorology departments, in addition to Dr. Ross Kusian, head of the university’s Environmental Research Lab. Kusion’s lab set up an electrostatic precipitator on a campus rooftop. The device bombarded glass with particles drawn out of the air to determine if airborne pollutants could be causing all the pitting. Pellets collected by a resident of the Leavenhurst district of Seattle were analyzed by Dr. G.E. Goodspeed, and found to be neither radioactive nor meteoric. Rather, they were of glasslike tecktite composition. The scientists even examined cars parked on campus, noting that older cars seemed more prone to windshield damage. (Duh.)
Carbon was quickly eliminated as a suspect, because particles large enough to ding windshield glass would also have an effect on many other, softer materials, including automotive paint and human flesh – yet no such damage was being reported.  Aside from a few isolated reports of damage to house windows, this was strictly a windshield-related phenomenon.
Enterprising residents conducted their own tests. Robert H. Scott of Mountlake Terrace placed sheets of glass on his lawn overnight to see if they developed the same kind of pits as his windshield. He reported that they did, but didn’t render his glass samples for scientific analysis. Similar anecdotal results popped up in news stories, without corroboration. Meanwhile, the paper and fabric covers that people were placing over their cars sustained no damage or mysterious marks.

On April 14, the pits struck Seattle. This was not unheard-of; in 1952, there had been a spate of reports about vehicles on the city’s Harbor Island having chipped paint and windshields. This earlier cluster of windshield damage was dissimilar to the windshield-pitting, though, and the scale was far larger this time.
The epidemic peaked dramatically the following day. Throughout April 15, Seattle law enforcement offices were inundated with complaints of windshield pitting. City police fielded 242 phone calls from residents, reporting pitting in over 3,000 windshields, according to a 1958 study by Nahum Medalia of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Otto Larsen of the University of Washington. One police survey of 1600 cars in a Seattle parking lot revealed that 653 of them had windshield damage.  (19)
Seattle Mayor Allan Pomeroy promptly fired off a telegraph to the White House, requesting that Eisenhower launch a federal scientific investigation into Washington’s dinged windshields.
This was the same day that 30 police officers in the western part of Washington convened and issued a declaration that the pitting was being caused by “some form of ash”. Just how they reached this conclusion was entirely unclear, as ash would certainly not account for the “bubbling” that Olympia Police Chief Roy Kelly claimed to have witnessed happening on his own windshield. Two Seattle sheriff’s deputies also claimed to have watched pits form in the windshield of a pie truck right before their eyes that afternoon.

Sergeant Max Allison of the Seattle police crime lab took this opportunity to declare the “epidemic” to be 5% windshield damage caused by vandals, and 95% public hysteria. He pointed out that while windshield damage was certainly common, it was not new or different. The survey of 1600 Seattle cars had indicated that 97% of the vehicle owners with damaged windshields knew precisely how they had been damaged, and the causes were not in any way unusual or mysterious.  (18)
This may have put an end to the panic. The number of reports plummeted overnight, and by the end of the month the epidemic was at an end. The scientific investigations, having found little more than normal windshield damage and some coal dust, were quietly wrapped up. But the incident would provide rich fodder for further scientific research, particularly among sociologists interested in outbreaks of mass delusion.

Newspaper stories undoubtedly caused “pitting” sightings to increase and the panic to spread, just as local TV news segments and Internet videos are alerting people to “chemtrails” today. Although windshield pitting is incredibly common – take your new car out on the freeway and tell me it isn’t – it was only when the media called attention to it that people actually scrutinized their windshields and noticed minor damage they had previously overlooked or ignored.
Military technology, little-understood by the general population, was blamed, just as the baffling HAARP project is linked to chemtrails today. Nowadays we realize that a radio transmitter cannot ding your windshield, but at the time it seemed as likely a possibility to some Seattleites as sand fleas or graphite pellets.
Cosmic rays, too, were little-understood at the time, hence made a handy scapegoat. As journalist Jim Faber later commented, ““I’m pretty sure that the general schmos, that is, the more pitiful public, was ready to explain the windshield pits as thousands of tiny UFOs dropped from high altitudes by communists to dishearten us.”

An article at asks of the Great Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic, “Could it happen again?”
Sorry, car guys. It’s already happening again.

“Arrest that flea.”

* And that’s where Faygo comes from.


1. Biological Weapons by Jeanne Guillemin (Columbia University Press, 2005)
2. Historical Dictionary of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare by Benjamin C. Garrett and John Hart (Scarecrow Press, 2007)
3. Deadly Allies: Canada’s Secret War by John Bryden (McClelland & Stewart, 1989)
4. Germs by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, William Broad (Simon & Schuster, 2001).  
Note: This book should be approached with caution, as Judith Miller is not exactly known for her journalistic acumen. But it does contain some solid historical information corroborated by other sources.
5. Hitler’s Scientists by John Cornwell (Viking, 2003)
6. Wikipedia entry for Agent Orange. Accessed July 23, 2012.
7. Wikipedia entry for Operation Ranch Hand.  Accessed July 23, 2012.
8. The World According to Monsanto by Marie-Monique Robin  (New Press, 2010)
9. Wikipedia entry for 2,4,5-T. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
10.  The Last Gasp: The 14.Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber by Scott Christianson (University of California Press, 2010)
11. Bioterrorism and Biocrimes: The Illicit Use of Biological Agents Since 1900 by W. Seth Carus (Fredonia Books, 2002)
12. A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres (Free Press, 2011)
13. Wikipedia entry for Cloud Seeding. Accessed July 29, 2012.
14. The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah (Pidador, 2011)
15. ITV West program Top Secrets Revealed (originally broadcast in 2004)
16. BBC TV program Inside Out, “Clouds of Secrecy” (originally broadcast November 6, 2006)
17.Millions Were in Germ Tests” by Antony Barnett. The Guardian, April 21, 2002.
18.Windshild pitting incidents in Washington reach fever pitch on April 15, 1954” @ History Link
19. Windshield Pitting Epidemic articles posted @ Classified Humanity

Following the Chemtrails III: Aerial Spraying Operations – Military Chaff

Almost as soon as any type of aircraft becomes widely available, it seems, people start to spray stuff out of it – for benign or malicious purposes.

In 1906, an enterprising New Zealand farmer attempted to sow a flooded, temporarily inaccessible valley with seeds by sprinkling them from a tethered hot air balloon, and in the ’20s American pilot Fred Nolta sowed rice paddies from his plane.
Toward the end of WWI, Germany introduced the world to airborne chemical assault by dropping gas balloons from warplanes.
In the ’50s, after a series of experiments in which water was dumped onto California wildfires from beer kegs mounted on small planes, crop dusting planes owned by Nolta’s Willows’ Flying Service were converted into fire-dousing tankers. These gradually evolved into the sophisticated aerial firefighting tankers we see today.

A 1923 crop dusting experiment in New Hampshire (photo credit David Lance/USDA)


So the question must be asked: Could any of the many government and corporate operations that involve aerial dumping or spraying account for the chemtrail phenomenon? Let’s start with a prime suspect…

Military chaff

A U.S. Air Force document on contrails states that the only USAF activities which involve the intentional spraying of chemical compounds from aircraft in the U.S. are pest control, weed control and fire suppression (including the use of oil dispersants on oil spills, which are a fire hazard). (1)
This is true in a technical sense; so far as we know, the Air Force doesn’t spray any other chemicals on American soil. But the USAF (and other armed forces around the world) do spray aluminum-coated polymer “chaff” as an anti-radar measure.
Military chaff dispersal is the closest thing I have found to “chemtrail spraying”, and some chemtrail-watchers accept it as such (others, like Ken Adachi of Educate, say it’s just a cover story for what the New World Order perps are really spraying – whatever that may be).
On the surface, chaff looks like a close match for the chemtrail phenomenon: It involves aluminum, it involves polymers, it is performed at high altitudes by military jets, and it is semi-secret.

What is it?

Chaff was first used by the British in 1942. They dropped strips of paper backed with aluminum foil from RAF planes to produce radar returns that would confuse the Luftwaffe. Soon, the German and U.S. air forces were using small aluminum strips or wires for the same purpose (one memorabilia collector has posted photos of a roll of this old-school chaff). (2)
Today, even with stealth technology, most of the world’s air forces still use chaff to disguise troop movements and missiles, evade enemy aircraft and missiles, and send distress signals.

The Allies had even sillier visual aids than Glenn Beck.

As far as chemtrails are concerned, however, the chaff used in military training exercises is the only kind that comes into play. Combat chaff is not approved for use in the U.S. because it interferes with civilian radar.

The most commonly used “training” chaff consists of aluminum-coated fiberglass or silica fibers made as small and lightweight as possible. The strands look like tiny, shiny hairs. Each strand (dipole) is between 17.8 and 25.4 microns in diameter, much thinner than the average human hair, and less than an inch long,
The dipoles have a chemical slip coating to prevent clumping, made up mostly of stearic acid. There are also trace metals in chaff.
Some warn that chaff contains lead or naphtha, but this is not true. Naphtha is used in part of the chemical-coating process, but removed at a later stage. Certain kinds of tinfoil chaff used to have a lead-based coating designed to increase flutter. This technique has not been used since the early ’80s. (3)

Chaff (whether combat or training) is not sprayed like exhaust nor dumped like fuel. Typically, it is spread by motor ejection, mechanical ejection or pyrotechnic ejection. In motor ejection, a motor located on the aircraft feeds large rolls of uncut chaff through cutters at varying speeds to produce either bursts of chaff or a steady stream of it (“saturation chaff”). Mechanical ejection releases little cardboard boxes packed with chaff, which burst open upon release from the aircraft. Pyrotechnic ejection is the most popular method. It uses hot gases generated by an explosive impulse cartridge to push a small plastic piston along a chaff-filled tube. The chaff fibers are released while the tube stays on the aircraft.
Depending on the type of chaff, the method of dispersal and the number of aircraft, chaff releases can disperse billions of fibers in a 10-minute period. (3)

Now that we have some idea of what chaff is, let’s look at two of the most popular chaff-as-chemtrails stories.

“Germany admits spraying chemtrails”
There was great excitement among chemtrail researchers in 2007, when videos featuring a German TV news segment appeared online, declaring that Germany had become the first nation to admit to chemtrail-spraying.

Dutch ufologist John Kuhles seems to have been the first chemtrail-watcher to upload a video (the one below), and most of the later videos are just copies or variations of that one.
The German-to-English translations on these videos are dodgy (if not outright fraudulent), so it’s impossible to know precisely what’s being said unless you’re fluent in German. The gist of the videos is easy enough to grasp, though: A German meteorologist named Karsten Brandt was puzzled by large contrail-like clouds that twice appeared on meteorological radar (in 2005 and 2006), investigated the matter, and became upset when the German Army admitted it was spraying polymer chaff to disrupt radar returns (“chemtrails”). Brandt decided to file charges against the German military and/or persons unknown for manipulating the weather (illegal in that country), and has made allegations (not supported by any evidence in the news segment) that military officials have falsified satellite imagery by digitally removing “chemtrails”. Johannes Remmel of the German “Greens” party expresses concern about chaff pollution, and wants to see transparency in military spraying operations.

Closer examination of videos on which the original audio can be heard reveals that Brandt, Remmel, the news anchor and the reporter do not use actually use the term “chemtrail” at any point. Why would they? Military chaff is about 40% metal and 60% silica by weight. (3)
In fact, “chemtrail” doesn’t appear once in the news segment. Rather, they use the German word for military chaff, duppel. It’s clear that whoever provided the subtitles for these videos (John Kuhles?) wants us to believe the German air force is spraying chemtrails instead of duppel.

Many chemtrail researchers impressed by Brandt’s “chemtrail” work would be sorely disappointed to learn he is a dedicated “greenie”, and the author of five books on climate change. Furthermore, in a February 2006 Q&A about the “phantom clouds” that appeared on German meteorological radar on July 19, 2005, Brandt is openly doubtful of chemtrail theories. Here’s what he had to say to the question, “Are these ‘chemtrails’?”:

On different Internet pages [there] is passionate/vehement discussion that aircraft spray chemical(s) either to counteract the ozone hole or for the U.S. (who else…) to work to secure the world’s weather. This happens – according to the followers of this conspiracy theory – not only on a test basis from time to time, but regularly, around the world and especially over Germany. The spray chemicals leave whitish-gray streaks in the sky. But these are not normal contrails, the ‘chemtrails’ look different and also behave very differently. The beauty of this conspiracy theory: Anyone can see the streaks, anyone can feel threatened, but the (normal) citizen can’t handle or examine them. On Internet pages photos of various streaks are shown, the strange patterns they leave in the sky. For lay people on first sight it is already strange that contrails stay in the sky for hours one day, but the next day resolve within minutes. But this ‘phenomenon’ is very simple and easy to explain with the humidity and [air] current. Of course we also cannot safely exclude that an aircraft sprayed chemicals. This happens regularly, but as to the extent claimed by the conspiracy theorists, we can exclude that with common sense: For such a comprehensive world conspiracy, not just hundreds, [but] thousands [of] U.S. pilots would have to be dedicated/inaugurated, and also scientists, German authorities, etc., etc.
How high is the probability that there are no leaks with such a [large] number of people? Exactly.

(Note: This is my rendering of a Bing translation. You can find the literal translation below the source notes at the end of this post.)

Karsten mentioned that the German Center for Aerospace and the German Army‘s Geoinformation Office extensively studied the mystery clouds, and published their results in a 2005 German Meteorological Society newsletter. You can read that newsletter (PDF) if you know German or have a lot of patience. The radar cloud portion is titled “Unbekannte Flugobjekte im RADAR-Bild?” (“UFOs in the Radar Image?”). The authors make it clear they’re not talking about “flying saucers”, but the radar echoes observed on July 19, 2005, that did not correspond to any known meteorological phenomena.
They offer five possible explanations for the echoes, including duppel, and conclude that further inquiries should be made to determine if experiments involving reflective particles are being conducted. This newsletter, if translated correctly, could be of more value to chemtrail researchers and geoengineering critics than any crappily-subtitled YouTube video.
But there’s a snag: Other meteorologists soon identified the July 19 anomaly as an example of what German weather scientists refer to as the “German Pancake”. It’s a type of radar error, in this case caused by the newly introduced kilometer-scale numerical weather prediction system (LMK). I don’t know if the other mystery clouds Brandt mentioned were chaff or not, but the one that first caught his attention was a pancake. (4)


I don’t know what became of Brandt’s chaff lawsuit.

“Weatherman admits to military chemtrails”
This video of Tampa’s ABC affiliate weatherman Denis Phillips explaining military chaff was included in the chemtrail documentary What in the World Are They Spraying?, and is often cited as evidence that large and persistent “chemtrails” are becoming too common even for TV weathermen to ignore. Again, though, we’re not talking about chemical-laced contrails. Phillips is talking about military chaff. And since chaff has a distinctive appearance on radar, he probably knows what he’s talking about.
Also, do you know how #@*& difficult it was to identify Denis Phillips? I understand that indie documentarians and YouTube users are pressed for time and all, but for the love of sweet crusty crabcakes, please source your TV footage! If I ever have to spend that much time looking at TV meteorologists ever again, I will welcome death by chemtrail.
Okay, anyway, chaff dispersal by the military is not really a secret. The military won’t discuss it openly, but the General Accounting Office provides basic information about it upon request. Let’s move on to the important questions about it.
If it’s an anti-radar measure, why is chaff being sprayed over countries by their own military planes?Three primary reasons:
1. Because military pilots, as part of their training, must learn how to mask their planes by creating false radar images. Air Force Colonel Gerald Pease has explained that chaff is difficult to use effectively; it takes a lot of practice.
2. Because the military is testing their own radar systems.
3. Because it is used in combat training exercises.

Remember, this is not combat-grade chaff, but lighter and smaller “training” chaff.

Can it alter the weather?
No. The total amounts of chaff being ejected from military planes in training exercises are infinitesimally small compared to the amounts of particulates that would be required for UV sunshades, as we’ll see in a later post on geoengineering. Unlike jet contrails, the “clouds” formed by chaff are rarely numerous or frequent enough to block sunlight for any appreciable length of time. They can’t increase rainfall, because chaff strands are far too large to serve as nuclei for water droplet formation
We’ll get into chaff’s suspected links to HAARP weather modification and mind control in another post.
Is it dangerous to our health or the environment?
The effects of chaff on humans and the environment are still not entirely known. The few government studies conducted over the years have generally been narrow in scope and/or poorly designed. Being military studies, most of the reports are not peer-reviewed in the traditional sense. In my opinion, more independent (read: non-military) studies are needed. Here’s a rundown of some of the military studies on the health effects of chaff conducted in the past 40 years:
1972: In an extremely small-scale study by the Canadian Department of Agriculture, cattle were fed chaff for a period of two weeks. The cattle didn’t exhibit any obvious adverse health effects, so the researchers concluded that chaff has no adverse effects on any livestock. (5)
1977: U.S Navy studies conducted at Chesapeake Bay (where a detachment of the U.S. Naval Research Lab is located ) exposed six varieties of marine life to levels of chaff up to a hundred times the average level. No toxic effects were observed. (6)
1997: The U.S. Air Force released the results of a study, “Environmental Effects of Self-Protection Chaff and Flares”, indicating that effects on wildlife were negligible. (PDF)
1998-1999: A major Naval Research Laboratories study was undertaken. Simultaneously, the General Accounting Office conducted its own independent study. (Ironically, it was Senator Harry Reid of Nevada who directed the GAO to conduct its own investigation into chaff use, and how thoroughly its effects on the environment had been studied by the military. Reid is generally despised by the conspiracy community for what a 2010 article reposted at describes as his “hostile takeover of agriculture”, the FDA Food Modernization Act.
The Navy report, Environmental Effects of RF Chaff” by Theodore Hullar et al., stated that “widespread environmental, human, and agricultural impacts of RF chaff as currently used in training are negligible, and far less than those from other man-made emissions…”, while acknowledging that several health questions remained unanswered. (7) As a result of this study, the Joint Chiefs of Staff implemented tight restrictions on the use of chaff for training in the U.S. (8)
2000: A Navy study conducted at Chesapeake Beach found no evidence that 25 years of chaff releases in the area had resulted in a significant increase in sediment or soil aluminum concentrations (Wilson et al., 2000).
2001: An article published in Navy Medicine noted that chaff strands are too large to be inhaled into the lungs, and would probably just be swallowed or expelled. Workers in the fiberglass industry are not at increased risk of death from fiber inhalation. When aluminum is ingested, 99% of it is expelled. The authors admit, though, that “there is no definitive evidence from the epidemiological literature that chaff exposure is not harmful…” (6)
2005: A review of chaff studies conducted for the Goose Bay Office of the Department of National Defense by the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Soil Science concluded that while some environmental effects are still unknown, “it is highly unlikely that chaff releases will have any impact on ecosystem functioning or human health because concentrations of suspended chaff are well below known toxic thresholds.
As for the potential hazards of inhaling or ingesting chaff, the authors point out that the fibers are too large to pass naturally through the nose or mouth. (8) However, the Navy Medicine article noted that degraded fibers may be inhaled or ingested and that further study should be done. (6)

Some chemtrail and conspiracy researchers, like Rima Laibow tentatively link the bizarre condition known as Morgellons to military chaff, but as we’ll see in later posts, the fibrous materials that sprout from the skin of Morgellons sufferers bear little, if any, resemblance to military chaff.

Does the aluminum show up in ground and water testing? Could chaff account for elevated aluminum levels reportedly found in environmental samples?

Some chaff can end up in unfiltered drinking water, of course, and this is noted in the Navy Medicine article. (6)

But here’s the thing: If you ate an entire 3-oz. bundle of chaff – not that I would recommend it – you’d be consuming roughly 3000 mg. of aluminum. Consider how much aluminum an avid tea-drinker might consume in a month – up to 5000 mg/kg of aluminum have been found in tea leaves (Xie et al., 2001, PDF), so a person drinking 10 cups a day for one month could ingest about 60 mg. of aluminum from tea alone.
Not that it really matters. Aluminum is the third most abundant element in our environment, after silicon and oxygen, so it turns up naturally in water, soil and food (and unnaturally thanks to industry, processing, packaging, etc.). The good news is that when aluminum is ingested, less than 1% is absorbed by our gastrointestinal tracts, and the other 99% is harmlessly expelled. (Jouhanneau et al. 1997)

The aluminum won’t hurt you, but looking at this teapot might.


The isolated test results that indicate extremely high levels of aluminum and other metals in water and soil, like the ones depicted in What in the World Are They Spraying?, are usually flawed or misinterpreted, as we will see in later posts. In the U.S. and Canada, routine soil and water tests conducted by both government and independent environmental agencies have not been finding unusual amounts of aluminum.

The trace metals in chaff are present in such miniscule amounts as to be insignificant. The 2005 review of chaff studies states that “the amount of chaff needed to raise environmental concentrations of these metals above background levels far exceeds the number than can be realistically deposited in a given area of land or body of water.” (8)
The 2000 Navy study at Chesapeake Beach did not find elevated amounts of aluminum in the soil, despite heavy use of chaff in the area over a 25-year period (Wilson et al., 2000). Currently, area residents are far more concerned about phosphorous contamination from fertilizers than they are about chaff.

But no one wants to rely solely on military studies, so let’s look at a more recent, non-military study involving chaff and the soil. In 2005, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study was conducted in southwestern Arizona to determine if the heavy use of chaff in the area could be a risk to the endangered antelope (Sonoran pronghorn). The researchers studied Sonoran pronghorn exposure to chaff at five sites: the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument and Luke Air Force Range, using the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge as a control site. Chaff was found more frequently at all the other sites than at Kofa, but researchers noted the difference was not statistically significant, and “the increased chaff did not appear to influence mean aluminum concentrations in soil or sediment, as aluminum concentrations were within Arizona background concentrations.”
The researchers encouraged further testing in the region, but concluded that exposure to aluminum or other metals in chaff would not cause adverse effects even to the vulnerable Sonoran pronghorn. (9)

(By the way, if you’re an American conspiracy researcher who is too busy worrying about what the New World Order is doing to pay any attention to the Sonoran pronghorn, maybe you should.)


1. USAF document on contrails (PDF)
2. Wikipedia entry for chaff (countermeasure). Retrieved July 5, 2012.
3. Draft USAF document “Environmental Assessment: Transforming the 49th Fighter Wing’s Combat Capability” (2006), Appendix B, “The Characteristics of Chaff”.
4. Hessler et al. 2006, Hengstebeck et al. 2010
5. “The Ingestion of Fiberglass chaff by cattle” (1972). Canada Department of Agriculture, Health of Animals Branch. Prepared for the Director of Electronic Warfare, Canadian Forces Headquarters.
6. Human and environmental health issues related to use of radio frequency chaff” by Darryl P. Arfsten et al. Navy Medicine, Volume 92, No. 5 (September-October 2001)
7. 1998 General Accounting Office report “Environmental Protection: DoD Management Issues Related to Chaff” (PDF)
8.Environmental Effects of Radio Frequency (RF) Chaff Released during Military Training Exercises: A Review of the Literature” by Richard E. Farrell and Steven D. Siciliano.
9. “Effects of Military Aircraft Chaff on Water Sources Available to Sonoran Pronghorn” (2005) by
Carrie Marr and Anthony L. Velasco (PDF)

Word-for-word Bing translation of Brandt’s answer to “Sind das „Chemtrails“?” on Donner Wetter:

“On different Internet pages is passionate/vehement discussed that aircraft chemicals spray to thus optional the ozone hole counter to work or the USA (who else…) the weather world to secure. This happens – after view the trailer this conspiracy theory – not only test basis from time to time, but regularly around the world and especially over/about Germany. The atomized/vaporized chemicals you want to most to the sky white-grayish stripes/streaks leave. It if is but not to normal contrail, the ‘chemtrails’ see very different and would is also behave differently. The beautiful at this conspiracy theory: Each/anyone can the stripes/streaks see, each/anyone can is threatened feel, but no (normal) citizens can they handle or examine. On the Internet pages be photos various stripes/streaks shown, the strange pattern most sky leave. For the lay people is it on the first sight view already strange that is contrails at one day for hours most sky keep next day but within minutes to resolve. But this ‘phenomenon’ are with the humidity and the flow/current very much light/simple and easy to explain. Of course we can also not with last security/safety exclude that an aircraft chemicals sprayed. But this happens regularly and the to the extent of as to the conspiracy theorists claims happen you can with healthy common sense exclude: For such a comprehensive world conspiracy would have to not just hundreds, thousands U.S. pilots be dedicated/inaugurated, but also scientists, German authorities, etc., etc. How high is the probablity that at one such number of people of people no leaking instead are?”

Following the Chemtrails II: Contrails and Clouds

Long before there were commercial jet flights, observers on the ground were curious – and sometimes concerned – about the vapour trails that materialized behind planes. They are still being studied today. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most frequently-asked questions about contrails. Why do some contrails persist while others rapidly fade? Can contrails form over deserts? Don’t contrails look a lot different than they did a few years ago? What are those weird clouds?

What Contrails Are Not

Among chemtrail-watchers, there exists some confusion as to what contrails actually are. For instance, the website The Truth Denied, which purports to tell us all about chemtrails and chemtrail-related issues, identifies contrails as “smoke” from jets. But contrails are not smoke, and they are not just jet exhaust.

Not a contrail.


What Contrails (Condensation Trails) Are

Contrails, originally known as vapour trails, are essentially artificial clouds formed behind high-flying aircraft. As mentioned in the last post, the high-temperature combustion of jet fuel during flight causes jet engines to emit water vapour, gases, and particles. The hydrocarbons in jet fuel produce water vapor as a by-product of combustion. Sometimes only water vapour is required for contrail formation, since aerosols (tiny particles) suitable for water droplet formation are already in the air. In the sub-zero temperatures found at high altitudes, this water vapour can raise the relative humidity of the air behind the plane past saturation point. The vapour then condenses and freezes around aerosols in the air, and these millions of tiny water droplets or ice crystals are what you’re looking at when you see a contrail.
Contrails typically become visible about a wingspan distance behind the plane, as it takes some time for the vapour to cool down enough to condense. (1)

Contrails most commonly form behind jets flying at high altitude (over 26,000 feet), but they can occur at lower altitudes under certain conditions. And other aircraft can produce them as well. In fact, the first known contrail sighting occurred during WWI, over 20 years before the first jet was in the air.
In 1918, Captain Ward Wells of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, who was serving in France during the Meuse-Argonne campaign, wrote of seeing “several strange and startling clouds” in the air. When he and his fellow ground observers looked at these “long, looping, graceful ribbons of white” more closely, they found “some distance ahead of each cloud point the tiny speck of a chasse [sic] plane.” (2)
These contrails developed on a cloudless day, giving lie to claims that contrails don’t appear when the sky is clear and blue. (Above Top Secret forum member “cutbothways“: “So, what it boils down to, is that on a clear day, it’s very, very unlikely that a contrail would form, let alone persist.”)
Captain Wells’s brother, Everett Wells, was so fascinated by the phenomena that he reported it to Scientific American magazine. (“Clouds formed by Airplanes“, June 7, 1919)

The term “contrail” is also attached to the short vapour trails that sometimes appear for a brief time over aircraft wings or engine propellers, made up of atmospheric water that has condensed due to air pressure reductions caused by the movement of the wing or propeller. We’ll go into more detail about that later. (1)

As contrails became increasingly common over the U.S. in the ’50s, confusion and worry set in among people on the ground. A retired aerospace engineer told me he first learned of this in 1964, when a man of his acquaintance expressed concern that vapour trails might actually be Soviet chemical-spraying operations, intended to harm U.S. citizens. Once the man learned what the trails were and viewed them being laid down by ordinary American planes, he calmed down.
Numerous newspaper articles from the ’40s and ’50s attest to the bafflement people felt when viewing contrails for the first time, and to the nascent state of our knowledge about contrails.

Weird Signals In Skies As 1950 Dawns (December 29, 1949 Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express). This article describes pilots actually chasing an unseen plane because it was leaving a smoke-like “mystery vapor in strange designs”. The author notes, “Observers at the U.S. Weather Bureau spotted the trails spreading across the sky at an estimated 20,000-or-25,000 feet.”

Vapor Trails Traced In Sky By Military Planes (December 30, 1949 Los Angeles Times)

You can see a few more of these at Contrail Science. The headlines alone indicate how people were feeling about vapour trails:

Vapor Trails Get Many Excited (January 12, 1950 San Mateo Times)
Mystery Veils Vapor Wreath in Galveston’s Sunny Skies (October 28, 1951 Galveston Daily News). This article notes that even the local weatherman was stumped.

These reactions were not as extreme as that of Brazil’s Yanomami Indians, who huddled by their fires and waited for death when they first saw smoke spewing from the “asses” of airplanes in the early 1940s. As Helena Valero described it, they feared their creator had returned to end their civilization by releasing some awful sickness in the form of smoke.
Americans of the ’50s didn’t view contrails as the exhalations of a vengeful god, but they were quite spooked by the “mystery trails” (and as we’ll see in later posts, chemtrail-watchers are some of the gloomiest Cassandras in the world; like the Yanomami of the ’40s, they see death and cataclysm in each and every airplane that crosses the sky).

On the other hand, pilots were already very familiar with vapour trails by 1950. In several reports of UFO sightings made by pilots in that year, the men specifically mentioned vapour trails.

– “We know all about jets and vapor trails and optical illusions,” airline captain Sam Wiper told the Marysville-Yuba City Appeal Democrat. (“Veteran Pilots Glimpse Strange Object”, June 28, 1950)
– A Feburary 27, 1950 report archived by NICAP describes a sighting made over Illinois by a man piloting a PT19. “He did not notice any flames or smoke and could see no vapor trails.”
– In the July 1950 issue of FLYING magazine, airline pilot G.W. Anderson said of the strange object he and the captain saw, “There was no reflection, no exhaust, and no vapor trail.”

Lack of knowledge, perhaps more than anything else, nourishes fear and allows it to grow. By the mid-90s, Yanomami in even the remotest highland villages were accustomed to seeing planes, understood they contained valuable trade goods, and often welcomed their arrivals.

Conditions Needed for Contrail Formation 

Back in 1953, National Weather Service scientist Herbert Appleman came up with a chart to determine when a jet would or would not produce a contrail. For years, the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency used variations of this chart to make contrail forecasts. In 1954, Appleman used similar calculations to help determine when icing would occur (as described in the last post, the problem of fuel icing was identified that year, after a tragic B-52 crash). These calculations are also still used today, in updated forms.

Because weather data is never perfect, contrail predictions made by modified Appleman charts are never perfect, either. What the results indicate is that when it comes to contrail formation, the words “never” and “always” don’t come into play at all. Contrails can and have been produced under less-than-optimal conditions. Ideal contrail conditions are generalities, in other words.
Numerous variables determine contrail formation: The efficiency of the plane engine, air temperature, air pressure/altitude and relative humidity with respect to ice are a few of them. (3)
Very generally speaking, when a contrail forms, the temperature is below -40º (4), and the humidity level most frequently mentioned is 70% or higher (the warmer the air, the more humidity will be needed to produce a contrail). Necessary altitude varies. Contrails can form as low as 16,500 feet under the right conditions. (5)  Various types of jet engines require different conditions to leave contrails. Some produce more water vapour than others, some are less efficient and have hotter exhaust. Humidity, too, is flexible; results from NASA experiments show contrails persisting in humidity as low as 10%.

Some chemtrail-watchers, like “cutbothways”, contend that long-lasting contrails have formed and spread even when the humidity was too low for contrails to form at all. Ergo, these must be chemtrails. The problem with this reasoning is that weather data is never completely up-to-the-minute and accurate. For instance, as explained at Contrail Science, it is basically impossible to measure humidity in a specific part of the sky at a specific altitude at a specific time. Estimates must be drawn from measurements taken by weather balloons that are launched from weather stations an average of 235 miles apart every 12 hours. Humidity can vary up to 80%  during a 12-hour period. Also, the balloons can drift as far as 100 miles from their launch sites, so we never know precisely where the measurements are being taken.

So when someone tells you that contrails never form at -37ºC, or that humidity is always above 70% when a contrail forms, or that we know the exact humidity in the vicinity of a certain plane, take that with a grain of salt the size of your arm. If NASA can’t nail this stuff down, I don’t think some guy with an old-school Appleman chart is going to be able to do it.

Yes, Contrails Do Persist 

Nearly every source of chemtrail information will tell you that jet contrails shouldn’t last more than a couple of minutes. That’s the core of the entire chemtrail theory. Here are a few examples of that claim:

Chemtrails are said to vary from contrails in their length of persistence.” – FAQ page of Chemtrail

Chemtrails (CTs) look like contrails initially, but are much thicker, extend across the sky and are often laid down in varying patterns of Xs, tick-tack-toe grids, cross-hatched and parallel lines. Instead of quickly dissipating, chemtrails expand and drip feathers and mare’s tails.” – Toni Thayer of Blue Skies International (now defunct), reposted @

For some reason, after 1998, there were SO MANY jets leaving white trails in the sky that lasted all day, making THE WHOLE SKY OVERCAST, that NASA decided we now had a phenomenon called ‘persistent jet contrails.’  But they cannot explain why they are persistent …” – Basic Facts – About the Sky”  @

These ‘tracks’ in the skies…are unlike regular high-flying aircraft’s vapor trails. Instead of dissipating rapidly, these so-called ‘chemtrails’ mesh together for hours and are often mistaken for natural clouds.” – “Military Said Behind Up to Four Different Chemtrail Progams” by Mike Blair, The Spotlight (now defunct)

But persistent contrails are nothing new, and there’s nothing strange or mysterious about how and why they form. The first known persistent contrail was spotted in 1921.

Here’s how it works: If the humidity is high (higher than that needed for ice condensation), the ice particles of a contrail will continue to grow in size by attracting water from the surrounding atmosphere, and you have a persistent contrail. As the abstract for a 1998 paper by Eric J. Jensen et al puts it, “At temperatures above about −50°C, contrails can only form if the ambient air is supersaturated with respect to ice, so these contrails should persist and grow.” When you think about it, contrails have to spread in high humidity. What else could they do? (6)
Contrails spread, also, because of air turbulence created by the passage of aircraft and differences in wind speed, as we’ll get into later. Persistent contrails can last for hours while growing to several miles in width and over 1000 feet in height. (1)

The first known sighting of a persistent contrail was made in 1921, 18 years prior to the first jet flight. A La Pere plane flown by Lt. J. A. Macready left what was described as “long feathery white streamers” at an altitude of 26,000-27,000 feet. This was a discontinous contrail, with a gap between the first and second “streamers”. The contrail lingered for about 20 minutes before spreading and merging with existing cirrus clouds. (2)

One question frequently asked by chemtrail-watchers is, “How can a ‘normal’ contrail and a persistent contrail exist in the sky at the same time?” Seeing this, they conclude there must be something unusual about the persistent contrail – it has to contain some special ingredient the other contrail doesn’t. In other words, it must be a chemtrail.

This photo, taken in British Columbia, appears to show a contrail and a chemtrail.


Here’s the thing: Atmospheric conditions are not uniform throughout the visible sky. Even on a clear, blue day, the wind, temperature and humidity in one part of the sky can differ dramatically from conditions in another part of the sky (as little as half a mile can make the difference when it comes to contrail formation). So one jet flying at 30,000 feet may leave a contrail that fades rapidly, while another jet flying 10,000 feet higher at around the same time leaves a contrail that lingers and spreads because the humidity is different in that part of the sky. Areas of uneven temperature and humidity also account for discontinuous contrails, vapour trails that thin out or halt completely in places (chemtrail-watchers point to these as evidence that the plane’s chemtrail sprayers have been briefly shut off). Recall, though, that in 1921 we already had a contrail that exhibited three of the characteristics most frequently cited as impossible by chemtrail-watchers; it was discontinuous, it persisted for more than a few minutes, and it became indistinguishable from cirrus cloud cover.

Standing on the ground, you might think you can accurately gauge the altitudes of two airplanes, and estimate how far apart they are, but that’s actually almost impossible to do. Two planes, clouds or contrails in the sky can look like they’re within a few hundred feet of one another, when in reality they’re thousands of feet apart and at different altitudes.

Weird Shapes

The shapes and “behaviour” of certain contrails also baffle chemtrail-watchers. Why are some contrails swirly or corkscrew-shaped? Why do some of them zig-zag, curve or squiggle after forming in a straight line? Why do some of them “drip”?
Once again, I turned to Captain Bruce Sinclair for an explanation. He’s a pilot with nearly 46 years of flight experience, and knows more about contrails than anyone I know. Here’s what he had to say about some of the unusual contrail shapes:


In a presentation given last year, chemtrail researcher Sofia Smallstorm showed a photo of a “wine-opener style” contrail and said, “Nowadays, we have an effect coming out of the environment that can’t possibly be natural.” (7)

Contrails that appear to be corkscrew-shaped, or have corkscrew formations at their edges, have been shaped by the wake turbulence behind the plane. These contrails, which aren’t particularly rare, have been seen in the skies for decades, and wake vortex studies have supplied us with the knowledge of why and how they form.
Wake turbulence can be broken down into two main phenomena, wingtip vortices and jet wash. Jet wash refers to the rapid movement of gases expelled from a jet engine. It is extremely turbulent, but lasts only a short time. (8)  Wingtip vortices occur when a wing is generating lift. Air from below the wing is drawn around the wingtip into the area above the wing by the lower pressure above the wing, creating long tubes of circulating air. Wingtip vortices are more stable than jet wash. They can remain in the air for up to 3 minutes after the passage of an aircraft, creating turbulence for any aircraft flying near it. (9)
If no contrail forms behind a plane, the wingtip vortex is completely invisible. If a contrail does form, that contrail can take on the swirly shape of the vortex. A NASA study of wake turbulence used coloured smoke to make wingtip vortices visible, resulting in some amazing film footage.
In the video clip below, Captain Sinclair and a friend describe wingtip vortices while examining the photo seen above.

zigzags and squiggles 

These contrails start out straight, then spread out into squiggly formations. The reason for this is quite simple;  the ice crystals have been dispersed by wind, specifically by vertical and horizontal wind shear. In this clip, Captain Sinclair talks about how wind affects contrails.

Rarely, you’ll see a dramatically loopy, squiggly trail in the sky that isn’t a contrail at all, but a rocket trail made up of smoke. Photos of rocket trails have also been presented as evidence of chemtrails.


There are many photos said to show mysteriously “dripping” chemtrails. Some of these are misidentified cirrus clouds. Others are “corkscrews” seen from an angle that makes them appear to be drips instead of swirls. But most of the dripping chemtrails are contrails that have formed pendules, like the one in the picture below (often called “doughnuts on a rope”). This particular contrail photo, found on the Contrail Science website, is from the 1991 edition of the Peterson First Guide to Clouds and Weather. Like the caption indicates, parts of this contrail are sinking at a faster rate than other parts, and it’s not because they’re saturated with extra chemicals. Rather, this involves wake vortices. The long tubes of air left by wingtip vortices usually sink more slowly than the “core” of the wake.
Pendules can also form from skywriting and skytyping trails, which consist only of smoke. In short, it’s about the air, not what’s in the trails.

Many of the “dripping” chemtrail photos I’ve seen show fall streaks from cirrus clouds.

Other unusual contrails are formed by military jets, which can perform maneuvers that commercial jets seldom or never do. If you see a “doughnut” contrail, or a contrail with a right angle in it, chances are good it was left by a military plane or a plane performing aerobatics. It formed the same way as any other contrail, but the movements of the plane gave it a distinctive appearance.

Contrails over desert areas

This fellow and many other chemtrail-watchers find it extremely peculiar that persistent contrails can appear over desert areas.
But they can. It’s not unusual, and it’s nothing new.
Jets are flying in the upper troposphere, the tropopause, and the lower stratosphere. It’s cold up there. There can be humidity sufficient for contrail formation even when it’s hot and dry on the ground. You probably won’t see as many persistent contrails over desert regions as you will over moist regions, but you will see them. Contrails have been spotted over the Gobi and every other desert on the planet. George Marrett, a test pilot who flew experimental aircraft in the ’60s, even titled his memoirs Contrails Over the Mojave.

Do contrails look different today?

Quite simply, yes, contrails do look somewhat different than contrails of previous decades. We’ve always had persistent contrails and weirdly-shaped contrails, but contrails tend to be larger than ever due to the increased size of jet engines, and innovations in jet engine technology have resulted in fuel being burned more efficiently. This creates cooler water vapour in the exhaust, which is more likely to condense.
Perhaps most significantly, as discussed in the last post, the amount of air traffic has increased dramatically, producing more contrails than ever. For this reason alone, your odds of seeing persistent contrails today are far better than they were in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or even the ’90s. And it is no longer unusual to see crosshatched contrails in the sky, left by some of the thousands of planes that fly in the east-west, north-south grids of the National Airspace System (NAS). 

We Really Don’t Know Clouds At All

Chemtrails are usually defined as contrails that don’t dissipate quickly, and/or spread out into cloudlike or mistlike formations. “Contrails don’t form clouds, but chemtrails do,” is the refrain. Chemtrail-watchers tell me that contrails (chemtrails) began to form clouds beginning in the late ’90s or early ’00s. Prior to that, they say, contrails disappeared within minutes. A 2010 article at, “Scientists Admit Chemtrails are Creating Artificial Clouds“, states that scientists only recently began saying that contrails can create cloud cover, and insists this is not a natural occurrence. Ten years ago, the author writes, contrails dissipated within minutes. He contends that contrails – which are essentially clouds – can only form cloud cover if they’re not contrails at all, but chemtrails.
Some chemtrail-watchers even point to animated contrails and clouds in children’s cartoons as evidence that someone is trying to brainwash children into believing that chemtrails are normal, and/or that jet contrails can create clouds:

  • Chemtrails in Disney Movie Cars” @
  • A video by YouTube user “ChemtrailsEire” shows us stills from movies, cartoons and TV programs that supposedly feature “chemtrails” (an effort to “dumb down the children”). However, these are all ordinary-looking contrails – and in one case, simulated skywriting.
  • At the blog Runnymede Institute, “rmiglobal” urges us to boycott LEGO toys because a TV commercial with “chemtrails” in it is “being used to condition children that Geo-Engineering our atmosphere is normal.”
  • As I mentioned in a 2008 post, a commenter on the Rigourous Intuition blog forum was alarmed by the Disney cartoon series Little Einsteins, partly because a jet leaves a chemtrail behind it in one episode. Another commenter chimed in, “Chemtrails are being normaled into some media despite some disinfo around this topic to create disbelief.” Another added, “What it is is a pictogram for ‘Jets create clouds.'”

But what if contrails forming cloud cover isn’t a recent phenomena? What if this has been going on over our heads for years, and we just weren’t paying attention?
That, I’m sorry to say, is exactly the case. The phenomenon of artificial cloud cover created by contrails has been observed and studied for decades. In the last post, I mentioned two scientific papers on the subject, written in 1971 and 1981. Now let’s look at more examples. Keep in mind that these are only a few of the papers related to contrail clouds; the more you look, the more you’ll find. My purpose here is not to exhaustively detail the issue (let’s face it, that would be boring), nor to vouch for the scientific value of these papers, but to provide evidence that we have known for many years that contrails can (and do) contribute to cloud cover, and that this was amply documented prior to the chemtrail sightings of the late ’90s.

  •  A 1970 scientific article by Peter M. Kuhn, “Airborne Observations of Contrail Effects on the Thermal Radiation Budget“, has this to say: “The spreading of jet contrails into extensive cirrus sheets is a familiar sight. Often, when persistent contrails exist from 25,000 to 40,000 ft, several long contrails increase in number and gradually merge into an almost solid interlaced sheet.”
  • The 1971 paper by Machta and Carpenter, “Trends in High Cloudiness at Denver and Salt Lake City”, published In Man’s Impact on the Climate [Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP) Report], edited by William H. Matthews et al. (MIT Press)
  • A Field Guide to the Atmosphere (1981) on contrails: “Sometimes they are ephemeral and dissipate as quickly as they form; other times they persist and grow wide enough to cover a substantial portion of the sky with a sheet of cirrostratus.”
  • Stanley Changnon’s 1981 paper. An earlier draft of this paper inspired an NBC news segment on contrail cloud cover in 1980.
  • James K. Angell’s 1990 paper “Variation in United States cloudiness and sunshine duration between 1950 and the drought year of 1988” suggested that contrails were responsible for a 2% increase in cloudiness over the U.S. between 1950 and 1988.  (Journal of Climate, vol. 3)
  • In 1991, similar “contrail cloudiness” findings for Salt Lake City were reported by K.N. Liou and S.C. Ou in their paper “An Investigation on the Climatic Effect of Contrail Cirrus”. (PDF)
  • and for Europe, as laid out in a 1994 paper, “Contrail frequency over Europe from NOAA-satellite images“, by S. Bakan, M. Betancor, V. Gayler, and H. Graßl. 
  • The title of K. Sassen’s 1997 paper, Contrail-cirrus and their potential for regional climate change“, is pretty self-explanatory. 

And a few post-1997 studies bear mentioning as well, because they show that interest in contrail clouds remains high.

  • In a 1998 paper, Patrick Minnis et. al. reported that the growth of contrails into extensive cirrus clouds was documented by satellite observations made during NASA’s SUCCESS mission (more on that later).
  • The 1999 paper “Radiative forcing by contrails” by R. Meerkötter et. al. (PDF)
  • A 2001 paper by D.P. Duda, Patrick Minnis and L. Nguyen, “Estimates of cloud radiative forcing in contrail clusters using GOES imagery” (abstract)
  • The 2002 paper “US Jet contrail frequency changes: influences of jet aircraft flight activity and atmospheric conditions” by David J. Travis, Andrew M. Carleton, Jeffrey S. Johnson and James Q. DeGrandd reported results of the study of satellite images of contrails left by military jets during the three days when U.S. civilian air traffic was grounded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. They found that the cirrus clouds formed from these contrails lasted an average of 6-8 hours, and that just 6-8 contrails could expand to create cloud cover the size of Massachusetts. (PDF)

If you’re deeply interested in chemtrails and really want to get to the truth about what they are, you will probably benefit more from perusing some of these papers than from watching Disney cartoons.

 “new” clouds

For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, chemtrail-watchers sometimes refer to various types of clouds as “new” clouds, clouds that didn’t exist until just the other day. The one mentioned most often is cirrus uncinus. Sofia Smallstorm: “And here we have this new form, they tell us, new form of cloud, a hooked cloud called cirrus uncinus.” (7)
This is the kind of cirrus cloud that develops curving, hook-like “mare’s tails”, which you have probably seen at some point. They’re not new. Perhaps the name is new, but the cloud type itself is not. The only reason mare’s tail clouds may seem to be new is that they’re somewhat rare. As I was writing this, however, I noticed cirrus clouds that had formed slight hooks and snapped a picture (the dark smudge near them is just a camera defect).

Cirrus fibratus clouds can sometimes look like vertically pulled cotton candy, and are occasionally mistaken for persistent spreading contrails. At other times they have a patchy appearance, similar to altocumulus clouds, and are considered to be HAARP-related clouds.

Of the two photos below, can you guess which one appears on a chemtrail website with the caption “Pulsating frequencies create ripples in the layers of ‘clouds’. Google ‘HAARP’, located in Alaska”, and which one is captioned “Altocumulus are shown over the campus of North Dakota State University”?

I don’t know the original source of the second photo, but the first photo was taken by Prof. Donald Schwert in South Dakota in 1986, six years before work on the HAARP installation began.

Clouds will come up again in later posts, as some chemtrail researchers like to show us vintage paintings and photos as evidence that the fat, puffy clouds of the past have been almost entirely supplanted by streaky, chemtrail-created haze. As you can see in my photo, fat puffy clouds and blue sky aren’t quite dead yet.

can’t stop this rainbow: sparkly contrails and rainbow clouds

Because the ice crystals in cirrus clouds can refract sunlight to produce dazzling iridescent effects like glories and circumhorizontal arcs, chemtrail-watchers have been known to think they’re really looking at a chemtrail that shimmers like an oil slick. There are many gorgeous photos of these effects at, the website of meterologist/naturalist Tim Herd. Herd’s book of the same title, by the way, includes a photo of a spreading contrail and a contrail that is still being laid down by a jet, much like the one already shown here. The caption reads, “Two jet condensation trails spread into lengthy new cirrus clouds in the sky over Estonia on August 20, 2005, revealing ripe conditions for ice crystal growth and halo appearances.” (p. 137)
It isn’t uncommon for contrails to appear iridescent, since they’re made up of ice crystals. It would only be weird if they never exhibited the rainbow effects of sunlight refraction.

Contrail Research and Forecasting

The sheer number of scientific studies involving contrails and contrail clouds indicates that meteorologists, atmospheric physicists and other weather-related scientists arepaying close attention to what’s in the sky, and are willing to draw attention to contrail-related problems.

Satellite imagery is being used to routinely monitor and measure contrails, as you can see at this page about NASA’s Office of Earth Science Pathfinder program. Using this data, NASA maintains a contrail forecast page.

NASA has also undertaken the Subsonic Aircraft Contrail and Clouds Effects Special Study (SUCCESS) mentioned above, which employs a combination of ground-based equipment and aircraft equipped with scientific instruments to study the effects of subsonic aircraft on contrails, cirrus clouds and atmospheric chemistry.

Another program called Atmospheric Effects of Aviation Project (AEAP) was launched to assess the effects of aircraft emissions on the atmosphere.

And it’s not just NASA. A Google Scholar search for recent contrail papers returns hundreds of results, and a search for papers written after 1998 gives you thousands. People are looking up.


1. EPA factsheet on contrails
2.Wakes of war: contrails and the rise of air power, 1918-1945, Part I: early sightings and preliminary explanations, 1918-1938by Donald R. Baucom. Air Power History. Summer 2007.
3. NASA Contrail Forecast page
4. The Contrail Effect” by Peter Tyson @ the PBS NOVA website (posted April 18, 2006)
5. Wikipedia entry for contrails (accessed June 26, 2012)

6.Environmental conditions required for contrail formation and persistence” by Eric J. Jensen et. al. Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 103 (1998)

7. Sofia Smallstorm presentation, “From Chemtrails to Pseudo-life: Dark Agenda of Synthetic Biology”, given at Conspiracy Con 2011 (available on YouTube)
8. Wikipedia entry for wake turbulence (accessed June 26, 2012)
9. Wikipedia entry for wingtip vortices (accessed June 26, 2012)

Following the Chemtrails I: Jets

To understand contrails and sort out the chemtrail issue, we must first know a few things about the aircraft responsible for them. So let’s start at the beginning.

An Extremely Brief History of Jet Travel
A jet aircraft is, quite simply, any aircraft powered by a jet engine (rockets and cruise missiles are also jet-propelled, but don’t really enter into the chemtrail issue). They are not the only aircraft that can form contrails, as we’ll see in the next post, but there’s no question that jets are responsible for most of the contrails seen in our skies.
The first turbojet aircraft to take to the air was a top-secret Luftwaffe prototype, the Heinkel He 178. It was tested over Rostock in August of 1939, precisely one year before the first publicized flight of a jet aircraft, the Caproni Campini N.1. (1)
The advantages of jets over propeller-powered aircraft were obvious; they can climb faster, fly faster, and fly higher than planes with piston engines, reaching altitudes of 33,000–49,000 feet (even higher in the case of the Concorde and experimental craft like the White Knight Two). (1)
Jets played an enormous role in WWII, of course, but it wasn’t until thirteen years after the first jet flight that commercial jet travel was introduced. Starting in 1952, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) operated the first commercial jet service, with flights between London and Johannesburg. The first jet airliner was the de Havilland Comet, first flown in 1949. By 1958, Comets had been nearly supplanted by the more reliable Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. (2)
These early airliners were teeny-tiny compared to those we see today. The original Comet held only 36 passengers, and the first transatlantic Boeing 707 flight carried just 111 people – an astonishing number at the time. (2) The world’s first widebody (“jumbo”) jet, the Boeing 747 (introduced commercially in 1970), held the passenger capacity record for nearly 40 years, with a maximum of 452 passengers per flight on the 747-100 and 660 passengers on the 747-400 (for years, the world’s most commonly-used model). Its current incarnation can hold up to 605 passengers. The Airbus A380 , today’s most popular jet model, now holds the passenger capacity record; it can carry up to 853 people. And these aren’t even the largest or heaviest jets in the sky!
Altitude has also increased dramatically. The first Comet had a cruise altitude of 42,000 feet, while the hulking, supersonic Concorde can reach nearly 60,000 feet.

There are two main types of civilian passenger airliner: long-haul jumbo and widebody jet airliners, and short-haul passenger jet airliners. Today’s jets have two to four engines, which can be located on the wings, fixed above the stabilizers in the rear of the plane, or integrated into the tails.

The world’s first airliner, a de Havilland Comet.

An Airbus A380. Somewhat larger than the Comet.

How Many Jets are in the Air?

Estimates of how many aircraft are in the sky on any given day range from 13,000 to 20,000.
An estimated 13,000 planes fly over the U.S. on the average day, Patrick Minnis, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, told Chicago Tribune reporter Ronald Kotulak in August 2002, the same week the results of a groundbreaking study of contrails were published in Nature. (3)  

A USAF pamphlet on contrails states there are approximately 60,000 daily flights over the U.S.

Whatever the specific number, there can be thousands of planes in U.S. airspace at one time, as shown by the animations of the NASA-developed FACET simulation software. One particularly fascinating FACET series, “A Typical Day in U.S. Airspace” is currently available on NASA’s website. It shows aircraft, depicted as tiny yellow dots, swarming U.S. airspace like ants moving over an anthill. We first see an average day of flight patterns, with yellow dots teeming along the East Coast, then an example of how flights are redirected to avoid bad weather. Finally, we are shown what air traffic looked like on 9/11: A flurry of dots swim across the screen, start to fade, then blink out entirely.
During peak hours, there are roughly 5000-6000 planes flying over the U.S. In 2005, the flight-tracking website Flight Aware published “A Day in U.S. Airspace“, showing 5664 aircraft over the country at 2:00 PM (CDT).

While chemtrails have only been a going concern since the late ’90s, the potential effects of the increase in air traffic over the past 40 years have been avidly studied since the early ’70s. You’ll be seeing a rundown of that research in the next post. For now, here are two examples:

  • In a 1971 paper, the late meteorologist Lester Machta and colleague Tom Carpenter reported increases in cirrus clouds over North America between 1948 and 1970, with most of the increase occurring between 1962 and 1966. One suggested reason for the cirrus increase was the steady increase in jet traffic over the Northern Hemisphere. (4)
  • In a 1981 paper, Stanley Changnon reported the results of his studies of cloud, sunshine and temperature records for the Midwestern U.S. between 1901 and 1977. These results indicated that the greatest increases in cloud cover in that portion of the nation since 1960 occurred within the overflight zones of commercial jet traffic.

The Parts of a Jet 

Before delving into the chemtrail issue, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how jets are constructed. As we’ll see, misidentification of planes and airplane components can lead to much confusion when it comes to contrails. In particular, observers frequently mistake the various parts of a jet wing for specialized, chemtrail-related equipment. The illustration below shows where some of the key jet components are located and what they do (from a NASA diagram).

Jet turbine engine.

In this video, a pilot identifies the components of a jet wing.

Here’s an example of how ordinary jet components can be mistaken for chemtrail equipment. The video below is said to show a chemtrail being sprayed from special nozzles beneath a jet’s wings.

I asked Captain Bruce Sinclair, a pilot with 46 years of flight experience, to view this video and explain what’s going on in it. He pointed out that the “chemtrail spraying” stops at precisely the same time that the plane’s three engines stop contrailing. The “nozzles” are not nozzles at all, but the fairings around the flap actuators (the mechanisms that move the flaps). In other words, this is an ordinary jet contrail.

Many photos that are thought to show jets spraying chemtrails are actually photos of highly specialized aircraft. You can see several examples of this mistaken identity at the website Contrail Science.

Jet Fuel 

Many chemtrail theories rely heavily on the assumption that it is simple and inexpensive to add chemicals or metal oxides to jet fuel. In fact, jet fuel production is tightly controlled because fuel is expensive and must contain as few impurities as possible. 

The most common commercial jet fuels are called Jet A and Jet A-1. Jet A is available only in the U.S. It has a higher freezing point than A-1, and does not have to contain an antistatic agent like A-1 does.
Jet fuel is pricey stuff. In 2008, a record 25 airlines declared bankruptcy or stopped operations, thanks in large part to the high cost of fuel. Just this week, Delta Air Lines (which came out of bankruptcy in 2007) became the first airline to purchase its own refinery, in an effort to reduce its $12-billion-a-year fuel costs. Synthetic fuels and biofuels are currently being tested and used on a very small scale, in the hopes that an affordable alternative to petroleum-based fuel can be developed. (5)
Military jet fuel is a different story. Though it has the same basic ingredients as commercial jet fuel, it is often highly specialized for specific aircraft.

Jet fuel additives are always extensively evaluated and tested, as anything added to the fuel could adversely affect engine performance and safety (metals, in particular, are something you don’t want to add to jet fuel;  even trace amounts can have disastrous effects on the thermal stability of the fuel).
For this reason, producers hew to the jet fuel standards set by ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials), known as the ASTM D1655, and/or the Defence Standard 91-91. Jet A must meet the ASTM D1655 specifications, while Jet A-1 has to meet the specifications for Defence Standard 91-91, ASTM D1655, and the specifications of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Guidance Material (Kerosine Type), NATO Code F-35. (5)  Jet A-1 is a high-quality fuel. If it doesn’t pass purity and quality tests, it is sold off to ground-based consumers rather than being used in jets. (6)  
Currently, the ASTM D1655 specifications allow for the following additives to be added to jet fuel (often these are added in extremely small quantities, measurable in parts per million):

  • Antioxidants to prevent gumming. These are usually based on alkylated phenols.
  • Antistatic agents to prevent sparking. Stadis 450 is the most widely-used agent, and is speculated by some chemtrail researchers to be the source of the barium allegedly present in chemtrails (see, for instance, this video).
  • Biocides to inhibit microbial growth in fuel systems. Fungi and bacteria can pose serious problems to planes. In 2009, Australian airline Qanta grounded all three of its Airbus A380s due to fuel tank leaks reportedly caused by fungus. Currently, only two biocides are approved for use in jet engines: Kathon FP1.5 Microbiocide and Biobor JF.
  • Corrosion inhibitors
  • Fuel system icing inhibitor agents. As jets reached higher altitudes and stayed at them for longer periods, ice in the fuel became a deadly hazard. In 1958, a B-52D crashed in South Dakota due to ice blockage in the fuel system, killing 5 of the 6 men on board. Studies indicated fuel icing was the probable cause of over 200 previous aircraft losses. (7) Beginning in the ’60s, anti-icing agents were added to military jet fuel. I find it very interesting that it took the military 20 years and over 200 crashes to figure out that fuel icing could be a problem.
  • Metal deactivators to mitigate the effects of trace metals. The only allowable deactivator is N,N’-disalicylidene 1,2-propanediamine, and it is seldom used.

Aside from the Stadis 450, which we’ll examine in another post, note that there isn’t anything on this list that would account for the metals thought to be in chemtrails (barium, aluminum, titanium, and strontium). Nor does the fuel itself contain them.
But it must be noted that aviation fuel emissions do contain toxic pollutants. The combustion of jet fuel during flight causes aircraft engines to emit carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides (in small amounts), carbon monoxide, sulfur gases, and soot. (8) Jet emissions have also been found to contain particles of zinc, beryllium, lead, vanadium, and copper. (9) Note that these are heavy metals, unlike the alleged chemtrail metals.
I ask you, how is this any better than what’s supposedly being found in chemtrails?

In 2007, the Discovery Channel program Best Evidence examined chemtrails. A team led by Dr. Gregory W. Davis at Kettering University’s Automotive Engine Research Laboratory tested five gallons of randomly selected jet fuel from a Flint airport, running it through a small jet turbine. They ran an array of tests on the fuel itself and the emissions, looking for aluminum (the metal most frequently mentioned in connection with chemtrails). They found none. They did find some sulfur in the emissions, though.


1. Wikipedia entry for jet aircraft (accessed June 24, 2012)
2.The Opening of the Commercial Jet Era” @ The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission website (
3.Jet trails above fueling weather changes below, researchers say” by Ronald Kotulak. Chicago Tribune. August 8, 2002.
4. Advances in Geophysics, Volume 21. Edited by Helmut Erich Landsberg and Barry Saltzman. Academic Press, 1979.
5. Wikipedia entry for jet fuel (accessed June 24, 2012)
6.Aviation Fuel” @ The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission website (
7.Above and Beyond: Fire and Ice” by Leonard R. Scotty. Air & Space magazine. November 2010. Scotty and a ground crewman were the only surviving crew members.
8. EPA Aircraft Contrails Factsheet (2000)
9.Evaluating Particulate Emissions from Jet Engines: Analysis of Chemical and Physical Characteristics and Potential Impacts on Coastal Environments and Human Health“. Karleen A. Boyle. Transportation Research Record 1517, 1996.

Introduction to Following the Chemtrails


In British Columbia, numerous Morgellons sufferers believe that mysterious fibers and microscopic slivers removed from their bodies are nanotech devices, sprayed onto the unwitting populace by jets.

David Icke sees trails of gum-like residue littering the Isle of Wight and concludes that jets are spewing a toxic substance specially designed to kill us.

The feature-length 2011 documentary What in the World Are They Spraying? hints that a massive-but-covert geoengineering experiment is underway, possibly without the knowledge or consent of our elected leaders. In one portion of the film, actress Mariel Hemingway laments that someone is trying to wipe out organic agriculture by blocking the sun’s rays.

At the website Universe Creator, someone insists that jets are spraying an airborne Ebola virus. Bizarrely, he/she identifies Ebola as a genetically engineered herpes virus.

In Alberta, a member of We Are Change Calgary frets that ELF waves from the HAARP array in Alaska, combined with metal oxides sprayed from jets, are going to alter her body chemistry and control her mind. Another member rushes her child to hospital each time there is “heavy spraying” in her area.

Tom Bearden, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, tells lecture audiences that scalar weaponry, derived from scalar field theory, has been in use for over three decades. Some proponents of his theories say the materials in jet contrails facilitate vast scalar defense systems that are invisible to the public.

On Facebook and other social networks, people post photos of unusual jet contrails and cloud formations, complaining that their friends and family members can’t see what they see in the skies.

August, 2007: At a 9/11 Truth conference in Vancouver, Alfred Webre tells attendees there was heavy jet activity over the city in the week preceding 9/11. “Our conjecture,” he says, is that the spraying was intended to dampen the “civic enthusiasm” of residents.
When the author later points out on this blog that aerial spraying is a highly inefficient means for the dispersal of psychoactive substances over a target population, he denounces me as “an accessory after the fact to war crimes.”
Today, Webre is trying to ring the alarm on teenage Obama’s secret teleportation to Mars.

These are simply a few examples of the fear, confusion, and weirdness that surround the subject of “chemtrails”, also known as jet condensation trails (contrails) or vapour trails. Though contrails have been in our skies for as long as high-altitude jet travel has existed, many observers insist they look different now; they last longer, dissipate more slowly, and are more numerous than ever. They point to crosshatched contrails and filmy cloud cover as evidence that jets are spraying some unknown substance into the air, for reasons unknown.
Not that there aren’t theories, as you can see from the examples above. Ideas about what chemtrails might be range from the mundane (military chaff, cloud brightening agents) to the super-fantastical (Tesla-inspired technology capable of repelling UFOs, vectors for nanobots, depopulation method). The chemtrail theories have spawned many local TV news stories, an episode of the Discovery Channel program Best Evidence, a Beck song, chemtrail conferences in at least two countries, the aforementioned documentary, and hundreds of websites. A Google search for “chemtrails” typically returns over 2,000,000 results, while a search for “contrails” gives you just 1,880,000.

In this series, we’re going to examine:

  •  The history of chemtrail sightings
  • Jets: A brief overview of the history of jet travel and contrails, how jets are designed, what goes into jet fuel
  • Weather modification, past and present
  • Geoengineering
  • Military operations (real and fictional) that involved aerial spraying
  • The various theories of what chemtrails contain, why they are being sprayed, and who is spraying them, as well as some of the methods being employed to “combat” chemtrails
  • The metals most commonly believed to be in chemtrails (aluminum, barium, strontium, titanium, etc.) and their effects
  • What in the World Are They Spraying?, and videos that appear to show chemtrail-related phenomena
  • Chemtrail whistleblowers, people who claim to have been part of secret spraying operations.

We’ll also hear what a professional pilot with 46 years’ flight experience has to say about chemtrails.

Most importantly, we will attempt to answer questions about the potential hazards of contrails. Do they pose a threat to human health and the environment? Are we, as the folksinger below contends, being murdered from the sky?

Following the Chemtrails I: Jets 
Lots of chemtrail-watchers mistake ordinary jet components for chemtrail-spraying equipment. Don’t be one of those people.

Following the Chemtrails II: Contrails and Clouds 
“Contrails can’t make clouds!”, and other myths

Following the Chemtrails III: Aerial Spraying Operations (part one) – Military Chaff
Is chaff responsible for chemtrails? What about all that aluminum?

Following the Chemtrails III.5: Other Aerial Spraying Operations
A close look at other military and civilian operations that involve aerial spraying
. Could any of these things account for chemtrails?

Some of you might feel I’m dumbing this down too much at times, but please keep in mind that we’re living on the same planet as reality TV stars and the rainbow sprinkler conspiracy lady; I can’t even take it for granted that people understand why rainbows form.

What’s the Deal with Troy Davis?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the case of Troy Davis, the Georgia man convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. Davis received a death sentence, which was carried out late on the night of September 21, after the Supreme Court denied a stay of execution. Many are convinced of his guilt or innocence, but those unfamiliar with the case find themselves trying to gain any footing in a propaganda slipstream, inundated from all sides by conflicting accounts and contradictory “facts”. Ann Coulter tells us there were “dozens of witnesses” to the shooting of MacPhail (as shown below, there were about a dozen eyewitnesses), and that “Several eyewitnesses, both acquaintances and strangers, specifically identified Davis as the one who shot Officer MacPhail” (only one eyewitness was acquainted with the suspects, and he named Sylvester Coles as the killer). Ed Pilkington of The Guardian informs us the jury was “shown no physical evidence” against Troy Davis (though most of the physical evidence can’t be tied to Davis, it was presented at trial).
Unfortunately, even many of the news reports, blogs and websites that attempted to stay neutral in reporting this event have left us with a jumble of mixed information: Some accurate, some questionable, some flat-out wrong. And documents that could make the picture much clearer, such as the trial transcript, are not readily available (to date, I have not even been able to ascertain some basic details, like Davis’s exact height/weight at the time of the murder).
Just what are the facts in the Davis case? Was he, as he and his supporters contended, a falsely convicted man? Did most of the key witnesses at Davis’s 1991 trial (7 out of 9 is the number most commonly given) really recant their testimony? Has the ballistics evidence presented at his trial since been discredited? Did Troy Davis deserve a new trial?

You may not be able to decide, after reading this post, if Troy Davis was truly guilty or not. But you should be able to reach three conclusions about the case:

1. There were only two viable suspects in the murder of Mark MacPhail. One of them was treated like a suspect, and the other was treated like a witness.
2. Physical evidence in the case does not point unequivocally to either suspect.
3. If Troy Davis had been granted a new trial, it is highly unlikely the state could have obtained a conviction.

Troy Davis

In 1989, Troy Davis was 20, unemployed, and living in his mother’s brick house on Sylvester Drive in the Cloverdale section of Savannah. Cloverdale is almost universally described in news stories of the time as a “mostly black, middle-class” area of the city, a tidy and quiet neighbourhood. But Davis hung out in rougher areas, and like some of his friends was known to carry a gun. In July 1988, he pled guilty to carrying a concealed weapon (a charge of possession of a gun with altered serial numbers was dropped). Outside his neighbourhood, he tried to project a tough image. Coworkers at National Electric Gate, where he worked for brief spurts in ’88 and early ’89, nicknamed him “Rough as Hell”.
One Savannah Evening Press story from August ’89, citing an unknown source, claimed Davis was involved in a high-speed police chase just two months before the murder of Mark MacPhail.

Nothing else in Davis’s background hints at a violent nature. On the contrary, neighbours noted that he was the “man in the family”, helping Virginia Davis care for his three younger siblings after his dad left and his older sister Tina joined the Army. When his sister Kimberly became confined to a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis, he quit high school to drive her to and from therapy and doctor appointments, and earned a GED at the same time.
According to Tina, Troy took exquisite care of Kimberly: He catheterized her, bathed her and did her hair, even encouraged her to walk by hanging on to her wheelchair.
He also became a big brother to kids in the neighborhood, fixing their bikes and setting up a basketball hoop for them.
He was neither bright nor ambitious (one teacher called him a “dumb kid and a worse student”). He rarely showed up for his shifts at National Electric Gate. His boss said he was a good worker when he did bother to show up, though, and Davis struck him as a kid who “wanted to stay out of trouble and get somewhere.” He was reportedly planning to join the Marines at the time of Mark MacPhail’s murder.

The Crimes: August 18 – 19, 1989

August 18, 1989 was a Friday. That night, Troy Davis put on a white T-shirt with a Batman logo on it, dark shorts, and a baseball cap. He began walking to a pool party on Cloverdale Drive, hosted by another teenager named Tonya Johnson, and was picked up on the way there by Eric Ellison and his 16-year-old friend, Darrell “D.D.” Collins. (1, 20)

Sometime before 11:30, as Davis and Darrell Collins were leaving the party, Davis and a few other young men began exchanging insults with a carload of guys on Cloverdale Drive. Early reports stated there were three people in the car, but there were actually five: Mark Wilds (the driver), Joseph Blige, Benjamin Gordon, Lamar Brown, and Michael Cooper. (1, 16)
Just before 11:30 (a 911 call was made at 11:29), someone fired a handgun into the vehicle, shattering the back window. Michael Cooper, 20, was struck by a bullet that lodged in his jaw. (1, 3)
Wilds took him to Candler General Hospital. Questioned there by police, Cooper said he didn’t recognize the person who shot him, a black man in a white Batman T-shirt, black hat, and shorts. (1,3)
Cooper was treated and released.

Sylvester “Redd” Coles, a 20-year-old friend of Troy Davis, was also at the pool party, according to the trial testimony of Tonya Johnson. This contradicts the assertion (made by the Atlanta Conservative Examiner and others) that no one has alleged Sylvester Coles was present at the party. (2, 24)
Coles told police, and later testified on cross-examination, that he was in possession of a .38 pistol on the night of the shootings. At first he claimed he had given it to Jeffrey Sapp while he was playing pool. (1, 26) Later he said he gave it to another Jeffrey, Jeffrey Sams (which Sams denied). (1, 50) Darrell Collins testified at trial that Coles placed the gun on the front seat of Ellison’s vehicle while they were at the pool hall, and he (Collins) hid it in some shrubbery. Whomever supposedly took care of this gun for Coles, the weapon was never found.
would be one of the witnesses against Davis (see “The Confession Witnesses”, below). (1, 26)
Throughout the night, Coles was allegedly wearing a yellow T-shirt with a record store logo on it. This has led some people to break the case down to a “white shirt vs. yellow shirt” affair. Tonya Johnson (see “The Shooting of Michael Cooper”, below) appears to be the only trial witness who testified that Coles was wearing a white shirt that night.
The yellow shirt wasn’t introduced as evidence.

There was another shooting in Cloverdale about an hour later. Sherman Coleman, 17, was shot in the leg from a passing vehicle in front of a house on Wilder Drive. It is believed this vehicle contained Mark Wilds, Joseph Blige, Benjamin Gordon, and Lamar Brown.

By this time, Troy Davis, Darrell Collins, and Sylvester Coles were at a pool hall called Charlie Brown’s on Oglethorpe Avenue. Davis and Collins had been driven there by Eric Ellison shortly after the Cooper shooting (Davis had been leaving the area on foot when Ellison once again picked him up in his vehicle).
They were now in a distinctly seedy part of town known as Yamacraw. As one of Davis’s lawyers, Jason Ewart, would later comment, “Yamacraw was the Wild West back then — everyone had a gun.”
Sometime before 1:00 AM, Red Coles noticed a homeless man (Larry Young) walking from the nearby convenience store with a container of beer, and decided to harass him. He, Davis and Collins followed Young to the parking lot of the Burger King attached to a bus station, on the corner of Oglethorpe Avenue and Fahm Street. You can view the scene on Google maps; the parking lot, the bus station with adjoining restaurant, and the Thunderbird Inn across the street are still in place.
Coles demanded some of Young’s beer, Young refused, and the altercation turned violent. Coles warned Young, “You don’t know me, I’ll shoot you.” Either Davis or Coles struck the homeless man on the back of the head with a pistol, hard enough to make him bleed (Coles said it was Davis, Davis said it was Coles, and Darell Collins testified at trial that it was Davis, but recanted that portion of his testimony later). Young, clutching his bleeding head, staggered over to a van full of military officers that was parked in the Burger King drive-through and asked for the driver’s help. The driver ignored him. So did the Burger King employee working at the drive-through window. Young made his way to the men’s room of the bus station. (1, 5)

It was at this point, around 1:00 AM, that the Burger King security guard intervened. Mark MacPhail, 27, was an off-duty police officer. A father of two, he had served six years as an Army Ranger before becoming a patrolman.
He was armed with a nightstick and a pistol for his job as a security guard. No evidence suggests that he drew his gun at any time during the altercation (it was still snapped into its holster when his body was found), but witnesses indicate he was brandishing his nightstick when he approached the men in the parking lot.

Larry Young and Darrell Collins left the scene in opposite directions as MacPhail approached, Young heading to the drive-through, and Collins fleeing across the street in the direction of a bank. Both claim they did not witness the shooting. Collins returned to the pool hall and caught a ride with Eric Ellison, who was just leaving. (1, 21)

MacPhail was shot twice, from the front. One bullet entered the left side of his face and exited the back of his neck. The other passed through the left armhole of his bulletproof vest, entering his chest. It pierced a lung and the aorta, lodging between the third and fourth vertebrae. Blood loss from the chest wound was fatal. It’s possible that a third bullet grazed his leg.

Davis and Coles admittedly fled the scene. At 1:09, a Thunderbird Inn employee called 911 to report that someone had been shot. (1, 3) At 1:16, she called back to report that she had watched two black men fleeing the scene. She couldn’t give a description of either man, though she observed that both were wearing shorts, one wore a T-shirt, and the other was in a tank top. (1, 4)

Minutes later, Savannah police officer David Owens found Mark MacPhail lying facedown in the parking lot.

The Eyewitnesses

At least 12 people witnessed these events, including the vanful of soldiers, but I include in this list only those eyewitnesses who testified at Troy Davis’s 1991 murder trial. We’ll deal with the witnesses who didn’t testify later.

Troy Davis himself is excluded from the eyewitness list. It should be noted, though, that he did not implicate Sylvester Coles. Rather, he claimed he didn’t see the shooting of MacPhail.

I exclude Larry Young and D.D. Collins as eyewitnesses (even though they implicated Davis in their testimony) because they also claimed they did not witness the shooting of MacPhail.

Larry Young, who was intoxicated at the time of his assault, gave a statement to police at 3:10 AM. According to this statement, the young man hassling him for beer wore a yellow tank top and “jam pants”. He was about 5’9″, 158 lbs, 20 or 21 years old. This person was joined by two more young men, and it was one of these two (either Davis or Collins) who struck him on the head from behind. Young said the assailant was wearing a white shirt with “some kind of print on it” and a white hat. He was 21-24 years old, 178 lbs., 5’11”. (1, 8)
At trial, Young testified that the man with whom he was arguing was definitely wearing a yellow shirt, and this was not the same individual who struck him on the head. He wasn’t precisely sure who hit him; he just knew it wasn’t the man in the yellow shirt, because that man was still standing in front of him when he was hit. (1, 43)
After MacPhail came to his rescue, Young went to the drive-through window. His back was turned when the first shot was fired. He entered the bus depot and went to the washroom to clean up before the second shot was fired. At trial, he implicated Davis by testifying that his assailant wore a white shirt.
As Detective Ramsey testified at the 2010 evidentiary hearing (see “The Appeals” section, below), Young was shown a photo array that included Davis (but not Coles) and asked to identify the man with whom he argued on the night of his assault. Young selected Davis. However, a short time later, Ramsey and Young saw Sylvester Coles in the waiting area of the police station. Young immediately recognized him as the person who argued with him. (1, 43)
In a 2002 affidavit, Young stated
he was drunk that
night and the attack was a blur. He didn’t know who assaulted him or what anyone was wearing.

Darrell Collins testified that he left the scene before Mark MacPhail arrived, and did not witness the shooting. (His testimony is particularly complicated, so we’ll deal with it in the “Shooting of Michael Cooper” section below.)

This leaves seven eyewitnesses. Four of them have retracted their trial testimony.

1. Sylvester Coles

Sylvester “Red” Coles is the only other viable suspect in the death of Mark MacPhail. As previously noted, the .38 pistol he admittedly possessed on the night of the shooting has never been found. Why was Coles not a strong suspect? Because, as explained in the “What Happened After the Murder” section below, he was the first to go to the police and finger the other guy, Troy Davis.

What he said at trial: Coles claimed he arrived at Charlie Brown’s pool hall around 8:00 PM and did not attend the Cloverdale party where Michael Cooper was shot. (1, 50) At some point that night, he gave his pistol to Jeffrey Sams for safekeeping. He admitted that he was the one who verbally threatened Larry Young, but said it was Davis who pistol-whipped Young and shot MacPhail. He stated the gun Davis used was short-barreled, with a brown handle (his own .38, he had told police, was chrome with a long barrel). (1, 28)
He has not retracted his testimony.

2. Joseph Washington

Joseph Washington, like Darrell Collins, was 16 years old at the time of the murder. He was the only eyewitness who actually knew Davis and Coles.

What he said at trial:
He followed Davis, Collins, and Coles from the pool party to Frahm Street. For some reason, he ended up standing in a warehouse parking lot across the street from the Burger King, watching events unfold. (3, 19) He unequivocally stated that Sylvester Coles shot the security guard, but Washington only witnessed the first shot. He fled the warehouse parking lot before the second shot was fired. (3, 15)
What he stated in an affidavit: Washington has not retracted his testimony, but he did try to add to it. In 1996, he signed an affidavit stating that no one had ever asked him to describe what Coles was wearing when he shot Mark MacPhail. According to Washington, Coles was the one wearing a white Batman T-shirt.

3. Dorothy Ferrell

Dorothy Ferrell was a guest at the Thunderbird Inn, located across the street from the bus depot. She watched the shooting from the outside the motel. In a statement taken at 4:14 AM, she described watching the gunman shoot at a “police officer” (MacPhail) four times. The gunman wore a white T-shirt with writing on it, a white hat, and dark shorts. She was certain she had seen the same officer chasing the same young man off the property earlier in the day, during the afternoon, but later decided this must have been a different kid (it must have been a different guard, as well, because MacPhail was only on the overnight shift). (1, 10)
She picked Davis out of a photo lineup and identified him as the shooter three weeks after the murder, but admitted she had seen Davis on TV. (1, 29)

What she said at trial: At around 1:00 AM, as she descended a flight of stairs at the motel, she heard screaming from the Burger King parking lot. She ran to the sidewalk to see what was happening. One man (Young) was injured, and three men were standing in the Burger King parking lot. One of them (Collins) ran away, toward the Trust Company Bank. A “police officer” entered the parking lot. As he approached the two men, the one who was wearing a yellow T-shirt moved backwards, away from the officer. The third man, wearing a white T-shirt and dark shorts, then shot the officer. After the officer fell to the ground, the gunman stepped forward, stood over him, and fired again three times.
She believed the gunman was in his twenties, about 6′ tall. She never saw his face straight-on, but did get profile views of it. (1, 56-59)
What she stated in an affidavit: In a 2002 affidavit, Ferrell stated, “I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter, even though the truth was that I didn’t see who shot the officer.” (5, 30)

4. Antoine Williams

Antoine Williams, a Burger King employee, was sitting in his car in the parking during the shooting. Williams had just entered the parking lot when, according to a police statement taken at 3:22 AM, he saw three men following Larry Young. He heard the four men arguing. One of the men “slapped” the back of Young’s head with a gun. When MacPhail arrived, two of the men fled and a third – the man with the gun – remained behind, frantically trying to tuck the gun into his pants. This person shot the security guard four times. He described him as a black male, early twenties, tall (6′ 2” to 6’4″), about 180 lbs. The revolver was rusty. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt that was either blue or white. (1, 8-10)
He picked Davis out of a photo lineup after seeing his face on a wanted poster, saying he was 60% certain he was the gunman. (1, 27)
Williams later admitted he was illiterate and did not read the police statement he signed, and has retracted his trial testimony. (5, 32)

What he said at trial: He said the shooter wore a white or yellow T-shirt and was not wearing a hat. (1, 52-53) Williams pointed out Davis in the courtroom as the shooter.
What he stated in an affidavit: He stated he did not know who shot MacPhail and did not see anything because his car was facing in the opposite direction and the windows were too tinted. Of his courtroom identification of Davis as the shooter, he stated, “I felt pressured to point at him because he was the one who was sitting in the courtroom. I have no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like.” (5, 32) In other words, he is now 0% certain he can identify the gunman.

5. Harriet Murray

Larry Young’s girlfriend, Harriet Murray, was waiting for Larry in the Burger King parking lot with two men who remain unidentified. She told detective Dean Fagerstrom, in a statement given at 2:27 AM, that the shooter was a black male between 24 and 30 years of age, wearing a white shirt. He had a narrow face with high cheekbones and a “fade away” haircut. She also gave an approximate weight and height (130 lbs and “four inches taller than the officer”). (1, 4-6) On August 24, 1991, she supposedly picked Davis out a photo lineup, identifying Coles as the person who harrassed Larry Young, and Davis as the one who assaulted Young and shot MacPhail. (1, 25). However, it came out at the 2010 evidentiary hearing that this was not the case. According to detective Gregory Ramsey, the lead investigator on the MacPhail case, Murray told him on August 24 that she could not “put a face” to any of the young men in the parking lot. (7, 29-30)
Murray died in 2006.

What she said at trial: She described the man in the yellow shirt harassing and threatening Larry Young. She testified that the shooter wore a white shirt, implicating Troy Davis. (1, 35)
What she stated in an affidavit: In 2002 she signed an affidavit recanting her trial testimony, reaffirming her initial statements that the shooter was the same person who verbally threatened Young – Sylvester Coles. (5, 18) This affidavit was not notarized, however, so it remains valueless as evidence. (3, 7)

6. Steven Sanders

Stephen Sanders, a USAF officer, was in the Burger King drive-through lane with seven other military officers who were attending a training exercise in Savannah, seated in the front passenger’s seat of the van. He told police he could recall only one detail of the gunman’s appearance: He was wearing a white shirt. He admitted he would not be able to recognize anyone at the scene except by their clothing. (1, 15) Needless to say, he could not pick Davis’s picture out of a photo lineup.

What he said at trial: Though Sanders was unable to pick Troy Davis out of a photo lineup, he somehow was able to recognize Davis in the courtroom. Hmm. (1, 54)
At this time, he has made no statements regarding his trial testimony.

7. Robert Grizzard

Robert Grizzard, a USAF sergeant, was in the same vehicle with Sanders. Like Sanders, he told police he was unable to identify the shooter by his face or build. In fact, all he could say was that the gunman wore a hat. (1, 16)

What he said at trial: The shooter was a black male wearing a “light-colored shirt”, and that’s all he could say about him. Yet he pointed out Davis as that person. (1, 56)
What he said in an affidavit: In a 2003 affidavit, Grizzard re-stated that he could not identify the shooter. “The truth is that I don’t recall now and I didn’t recall then what the shooter was wearing, as I said in my initial statement.” (5, 32-33)

What Happened After the Murder

The actions of Troy Davis and Sylvester Coles in the aftermath of the murder determined which one of them would become the prime suspect.

Both fled the scene. Coles went to the nearby home of his sister, Valerie Gordon, at 634 Yamacraw and changed his shirt. Coles and his sister later told police a rather bizarre story: Troy Davis showed up at his Gordon’s house about half an hour after the murder, shirtless, and asked Coles if he could wear Coles’s yellow T-shirt. Unless there was blood on Davis’s shirt, this doesn’t make a great deal of sense. If Davis did shoot Michael Cooper earlier in the night and feared that his white shirt would tie him to both shootings, why would he swap shirts with the other suspect in one of those shootings? That wouldn’t make him any safer on his walk home, would it? At any rate, Davis changed his mind about the shirt. He took it off and left it in the Gordon house, according to Valerie. It was not seized as evidence.

Both young men had some time to think about what they would tell the police. Not that the police were looking for them. They had no suspects.

Coles did the smart thing. He lawyered up, went to the police on the night of August 19, and accused Davis of being the killer. He admitted only to harassing and verbally threatening Larry Young; it was Troy, he said, who bashed Young on the head with his gun and shot MacPhail.

Davis did the stupidest thing possible. On the evening of August 19, he had his sister drive him to Atlanta. His family claimed this was for his own safety, as area drug dealers had reportedly become very annoyed about the police presence in his neighborhood, but of course it’s true, too, that Troy Davis simply didn’t want to talk to the police. If he talked to them, he faced three grim choices: Confess to murder, accuse his friend Coles of murder, or clam up and hope for the best.

The Davis family pastor persuaded Troy to return to Savannah on August 23 and turn himself in to the police. As we know, he basically clammed up, insisting he didn’t see the shooting. He saw Coles bash Larry Young on the head, and nothing more.
His murder trial began almost exactly two years later, in August 1991.

The state’s case was that Davis shot Michael Cooper, fled the scene, and later shot Mark MacPhail because he thought MacPhail was going to arrest him for shooting Cooper.

The Confession Witnesses

Amnesty International and many other sources state that 7 of the 9 key witnesses against Troy Davis have recanted, without specifying who these key witnesses are.
They are the six eyewitnesses who testified for the prosecution (Joseph Washington testified for the defense), Larry Young, Darrell Collins, and three men who testified that Troy Davis confessed to them. It must be noted that one of these three “confession” witnesses did not testify at the murder trial, only at Davis’s pre-trial hearing.
These three witnesses were:

1. Kevin McQueen, a jailhouse snitch who testified that Davis admitted shooting Cooper and MacPhail while the two were detained together. (7, 16-17) In 1996, he stated in an affidavit, “The truth is that Troy never confessed to me or talked to me about the shooting of the police officer. I made up the confession from information I had heard on T.V. and from other inmates about the crimes.” (5, 27)
2. Jeffrey Sapp, a friend of Davis and Coles, testified that Davis confessed to him the afternoon after the murder, while riding his bicycle. In an affidavit he stated of the police, “I got tired of them harassing me, and they made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that Troy told me he did it, but it wasn’t true.” (5, 28-29)

Monty Holmes, a friend of Davis, told police that around noon on August 19, 1991, Davis visited his home on a bicycle and confessed to shooting Mark MacPhail. (1, 40-41)
Though he was not called as a trial witness, he retracted his police statement and his hearing testimony in a 2003 affidavit, in which he stated, “I told them I didn’t know anything about who shot the officer, but they kept questioning me. I was real young at that time and here they were questioning me about the murder of a police officer like I was in trouble or something. I was scared… [I]t seemed like they wouldn’t stop questioning me until I told them what they wanted to hear. So I did. I signed a statement saying that Troy told me that he shot the cop.” (5, 28)

No one else claims that Davis confessed directly to them.
Nine people now claim that Sylvester Coles confessed to them (see “People Who Came Foward Long After the Fact to Implicate Red Coles”, below).

Other Prosecution Witnesses

Those who are convinced of Davis’s guilt, like Ann Coulter, have tried to downplay the recantations by pointing out that the prosecution called 34 witnesses, not just 9.
Those convinced of Davis’s innocence, on the other hand, have exaggerated the number of recantations. For instance, Amnesty International claims that “all but two of the state’s non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.
These are absurd statements, because (as in most trials) many of the witnesses were put on the stand to establish facts of the case, not to present evidence of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. The first officer on the scene was called to testify about finding MacPhail’s body to establish that he was fatally injured in the parking lot, the medical examiner was questioned about MacPhail’s autopsy to establish cause of death, etc. These people have not recanted their testimony.
It’s not the number of trial witnesses, but the quantity and quality of the evidence, that points to innocence or guilt.

The Shooting of Michael Cooper

At Davis’s murder trial, the prosecution contended that Troy was the only viable suspect in this case, because the ballistics evidence (see below) indicated that Michael Cooper and Mark MacPhail were shot with the same gun. And Sylvester Coles, they argued, wasn’t even at the Cloverdale party that evening. Tonya Davis testified for the defense that Coles was at her party, and in 2007 she signed an affidavit stating that she witnessed Coles hiding two weapons just after MacPhail was gunned down (see “Witnesses Who Came Forward Long After the Fact to Implicate Sylvester Coles”).

Darrell Collins should have been a key prosecution witness, since he was the only person who identified Troy Davis as the pool party gunman. He told police he watched Davis shoot at Wilds’s car with a short-barreled gun with a brown handle. (1, 20)
Collins also placed a gun in the hand of Sylvester Coles, however. In his second statement to police, he claimed that when Eric Ellison parked his vehicle near the pool hall, Sylvester Coles took a gun from his pants and placed it on the seat. Collins himself concealed the weapon in some bushes near the pool hall. (1, 26)
Collins didn’t behave quite as expected on the stand. He retracted his police statement, declaring that the police had pressured him into naming Davis by threatening to charge him as an accessory to murder. He hadn’t actually seen the shooter. He now claimed he hadn’t even seen Troy Davis with a weapon that night at all. (1, 60)

Jeffrey Sams, who was also in Ellison’s vehicle with Collins and Davis at the pool hall, corroborated Collins’s account of Coles carrying a gun that night. He told police he watched Collins take a gun from his pants and place it on the seat. Then he saw Collins pick it up and exit the car with it. (1-II, 16)

Kevin McQueen testified that Troy Davis confessed to shooting into the car, but later retracted his trial testimony.

Mark Wilds, the driver of the car, initially told police he didn’t get a good look at the shooter, but believed he was firing a .38. At 8:45 PM on August 19, after being questioned again, he amended his statement to include another detail – he had seen Troy Davis at the party. (1, 16)
Lamar Brown also saw the gunman, and told police he was wearing a white Batman shirt, black pants, and a black hat. (1, 18)

Police officer Ann Sosbe questioned Cooper in hospital after he was shot. He told her he didn’t recognize the shooter, who said the man was possibly firing a .38 caliber gun, and wearing a white T-shirt, black hat and shorts. He gave an approximate height and weight for the gunman. (1, 18)
Michael Cooper gave a statement to police on June 25, 1991, containing the same information. Years later, in a 2002 affidavit, he declared he didn’t know what the shooter looked like. “What is written in that statement is a lie.” (6)

Now we come to Benjamin Gordon. Gordon is a highly problematic witness, because his story has changed and changed again in bizarre ways over the years.
Gordon was a relative (by marriage) of Red Coles who was present at the Cloverdale pool party. On the morning after the shootings, he gave police a more detailed description of the Cooper shooting suspect than any of the other four guys who had been in Mark Wilds’s car. He said the person who fired into the car was wearing a white Batman shirt and jeans. He had seen this person at the party earlier in the night (keep in mind that Red Coles had not yet come forward at this time; the police didn’t have names or faces for their suspects). He also mentioned that he had gone to the Burger King on Oglethorpe after hearing that someone had been shot there. (1, 17-18)
When called to the stand at Troy Davis’s murder trial two years later, Benjamin Gordon denied everything. He denied even seeing the Cloverdale shooter. (5,10)
Nineteen years later, at Davis’s June 2010 evidentiary hearing, he suddenly declared that Sylvester Coles was the party shooter, and that he had been an eyewitness to the shooting of Mark MacPhail (more on this in the section “People Who Came Forward Long After the Fact to Implicate Red Coles”).

The Ballistics Evidence

Roger Parian, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) crime lab, examined bullets from all both the Cooper and MacPhail shootings, and concluded they could have come from the same gun, either a .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolver. He also examined shells found at the scenes of the Cooper and MacPhail shootings and concluded they were probably fired by the same weapon, a .38. At the trial, he stated, “In this particular case, I couldn’t unequivocally say it was the same gun.”

So ballistics evidence tied the shooting of Michael Cooper to the shooting of Mark MacPhail. But aside from the dodgy eyewitness testimony, where is the evidence tying a gun – any gun – to Troy Davis? Quite simply, there isn’t any. We don’t know if Davis possessed a gun in August ’89. When he was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in 1988, that gun was confiscated and not returned to him.
We do know that Sylvester Coles owned a .38 pistol and was carrying it on August 18, 1989.

In 2003, at the request of Davis’s attorneys, Parian’s findings were examined by retired GBI ballistics expert Kelly Fite. Fite referred to Parian’s analyses as “shoddy and questionable at best and patently wrong at worst” and “wholly lacking in reliability”. But Fite’s reasons for reaching this conclusion are unknown, as his report has not been made readily available.

The only other physical evidence in the case was a pair of shorts Troy Davis may have been wearing, seized from his mother’s house. They were spattered with a dark substance that could have been blood (by the time DNA testing became available, the substance was too decayed for analysis). But these shorts were not submitted as evidence at trial. Judge James W. Head barred them, ruling that Virginia Davis had not assented to a search of her home.
The shorts would pop up later, however. The blood evidence is discussed in a section below, “The Appeals”.
Sylvester Coles’s clothing was not seized.

Eyewitnesses Who Were Not Called to the Stand at Davis’s Murder Trial

Two men were with Harriet Murray in the parking lot just before MacPhail arrived. They reportedly left the scene during Coles’s attack on Young, and they remain unidentified.

Of the seven soldiers in the van, only two (Sanders and Grizzard) were called as trial witnesses. This would seem to indicate that the other five soldiers didn’t see anything important. However, USAF Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Lolas told police that as was lying on the backseat of the van, he heard someone banging on the side of the vehicle (this would be Larry Young, seeking help). Then he heard three gunshots. Looking out the window, he saw a black man in a white T-shirt and dark pants standing in the parking lot, his arm “surrounded by smoke”. He was about 6′ tall, 170 lbs. (1, 11-12)
Matthew Hughes, seated behind the driver, heard three “popping sounds” and saw he saw a black male in a light-coloured T-shirt standing over the body of a white individual. After the shooting, the this person ran toward the Trust Company Bank building. He had a slender to medium build and was approximately five’ 7″ to five’ 9″ tall. He wore dark shorts, a light-coloured baseball cap, and a light coloured t-shirt with either short or no sleeves. Mr. Hughes also saw a second individual running toward the Trust Company Bank building. This person was skinny, dressed in all dark clothes, and appeared to be carrying a gym bag. (1, 12-13)
Eric Riggins, seated beside Hughes, observed MacPhail falling to the ground. He described the shooter as a slim black man, 5’10, 160 lbs., wearing a light-coloured shirt, dark shorts, and a baseball cap. Beyond the shooter, Riggins saw a second, taller male running towards the Trust Company Bank building. (1, 13-15)
Daniel Kinsman, another soldier in the van, told police that although he couldn’t identify the shooter due to the dim lighting and chaotic conditions of the scene, he was certain the shooter was firing with his left hand. Kinsman’s police statement has been cited by supporters of Troy Davis because Davis was right-handed. (5, 26)

The Appeals

In his first appeal, Davis’s attorneys predictably cited ineffective counsel and prejudicial pretrial publicity, but also tried to argue that Savannah (population over 137,000 at the time) was prone to “small town syndrome” and that the prosecution had dismissed too many black jurors – even though the jury that decided the case contained 7 black people.

Later appeals were more sophisticated, but some were marred by ridiculous statements from unreliable “witnesses” (see the section below this one).

Troy Davis’s appeals process spanned nearly 20 years, so I can’t even begin to detail it here (the Atlanta Journal Constitution has posted a helpful timeline, if you want to familiarize yourself with the basics). I’ll focus on the 2010 evidentiary hearing, because this was the ultimate – and final – opportunity for Davis’s attorneys to bring forth new evidence and secure a new trial. On June 23 – 25, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore, Jr. heard the new evidence collected by Davis’s team, including recantations and the contents of a 2008 report on the “blood evidence”.

The Blood Evidence

The matter of Troy Davis’s “bloody shorts” is still confusing to commenators on the Davis case. A writer, Erick Erickson, recently had to ammend his statement that Mark MacPhail’s blood was found on the shorts Davis was wearing on August 18 – 19, because it simply isn’t true.

First of all, we don’t know if the shorts seized by the police were actually the same pair worn by Davis on the night of the murder. No one identified them as such. They were taken from the washing machine in Virginia Davis’s home.
Secondly, we don’t know if the substance on the shorts was blood.
The state submitted to the evidentiary hearing a 2008 Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) report concluding that the substance on the shorts was blood. They also submitted a report of DNA typing of the item, according to a Savannah Morning News story.
Davis’s attorneys tried to block the GBI report, as they possessed their own report by DNA and serology expert Dr. Charlotte Word. Word had reviewed the GBI report and made two conclusions: Human DNA was present on the shorts and “it is not possible to conclude or determine . . . that blood was present on the shorts”.
Many sources (including the Savannah Morning News) didn’t mention Word’s report, but both analyses were submitted at the evidentiary hearing.
After reviewing them, Judge Moore concluded that “the shorts in no way linked Mr. Davis to the murder of Officer MacPhail,” and found that “it is not even clear that the substance was blood.”

Judge Moore heard recantations from Dorothy Ferrell, Antoine Williams, Kevin McQueen, and Jeffrey Sapp. Moore also heard testimony from Darrell Collins, who repeated his allegations that police had pressured him into naming his friend Troy as the gunman.

And he heard from witnesses who claimed Red Coles confessed…

People Who Came Foward Long After the Trial to Implicate Sylvester Coles

In 1996, Tonya Johnson came forward to reveal additional information about the night MacPhail was killed. At trial, she had merely presented testimony that Sylvester Coles had been at her party in Cloverdale that evening, but now she claimed that Coles and another man identified only as Terry showed up at her house sometime after 1:00 AM on August 19, carrying two handguns. Coles first asked Johnson to take possession of them, then stashed them in the doorway of a nearby vacant house. After concealing the weapons, Johnson stated, Coles warned her not to tell anyone about what he had done. (5, 35)

Anthony Hargrove, a career criminal, came forward in 2000 to inform Troy Davis that Red Coles had confessed to him around 1990.
When Hargrove was called to testify at the evidentiary hearing, Judge Moore agreed to allow his hearsay testimony, but warned the defense that unless Red Coles was called to the stand, he might give such testimony “no weight whatsoever.” And that’s essentially what ended up happening. (6)

Gary Hargrove came up with an even better story: He was in the parking lot, directly facing Coles, and actually saw Coles shoot Mark MacPhail both times. He just didn’t tell anyone he was there until 2001, and no one else noticed his presence at all. Sure thing. Sadly, Davis’s lawyers embraced Hargrove’s story. Georgia Superior Court Judge Penny Freeman decided Hargrove’s testimony did not constitute new evidence; it was cumulutive of existing evidence (the trial testimony of eyewitness Joseph Washington). (3)

Benjamin Gordon muddied the waters, too. Gordon was the relative of Red Coles who was present at the Cloverdale pool party, told the police the gunman wore a white T-shirt, then testified that he didn’t even see the Cloverdale shooter. In 2003, he signed an affidavit stating that he did not see Troy Davis at the Cloverdale party, and that he did not read his police statement before signing it. (5, 34) This affidavit cannot be considered new evidence, because it contains information that could have been uncovered by Davis’s attorneys during the appeals process. Rather, it is a 2008 affidavit signed by Gordon that could have been used at a new trial. In it, Gordon stated that Red Coles had indicated to him that he might have been the Cloverdale shooter, and that Gordon intentionally withheld this information in 2003. (3)

But Gordon destroyed whatever was left of his marginal credibility at the evidentiary hearing, when he suddenly declared that he had been an eyewitness to the shooting of Mark MacPhail. He couldn’t adequately explain why he supposedly withheld this information for nearly 20 years. He had overcome his reluctance to implicate a relative-by-marriage in the Cooper shooting two years earlier, so why didn’t he mention MacPhail at that time, too? We’re dealing with pure manure, here.

Amnesty International has posted excerpts from the affidavits of nine people who implicated Sylvester Coles after the murder trial. (5, 34-38)

Did New Evidence Warrant a New Trial?

Were the retractions valid?

Let’s face it: Most of the eyewitness testimony was poor in the first place. Steven Sanders inexplicably went from saying “the shooter wore a light shirt, that’s all I know” to “that’s the guy right there, sitting at the defense table.” Joseph Washington never adequately explained why he was standing in a warehouse lot across the street, rather than with his friends in the parking lot. Larry Young visually identified both suspects as the person who cracked him over the head, and now says he was too drunk to identify anyone. You would be hard pressed to find less reliable witnesses than these.
Nonetheless, there is no objective reason to reject the recantations offered in the sworn affidavits (which excludes Harriet Murray’s, of course). There is no evidence that any of these people were badgered, coerced, or bribed into recanting their testimony. We have to accept the fact that of the six eyewitnesses who implicated Troy Davis, four of them would not give the same testimony today. Of the two “confession” witnesses, 0 would give the same testimony today.
Judge Moore’s decision that the recantations were not convincing seems to have been a subjective one.

Cumulative evidence vs. new evidence, and due diligence

For evidence to legally qualify as “new”, it has to consist of things that didn’t come out at trial and were not available to the defense at the time. In other words, it can’t be just cumulative evidence that adds to evidence already presented.
This is the problem with much of the “new” evidence used by Davis’s team during the appeals process. For instance, Tonya Johnson’s affidavit was rejected as new evidence because she had been a defense witness at the murder trial; therefore, Davis’s counsel knew of her, and could conceivably have obtained the additional information from her years earlier, with “due diligence”.
Davis’s attorneys expended a great deal of effort trying to convince judges that their evidence couldn’t possibly have been uncovered at the time of trial. Examples of this are the affidavit signed by Benjamin Gordon in 2008 and the “eyewitness testimony” of Gary Hargrove, both of which were deemed as cumulative of trial testimony. In Hargrove’s case, Judge Moore determined that what he allegedly saw (Sylvester Coles shooting MacPhail) wasn’t any different from what defense witness Joseph Washington saw (Sylvester Coles shooting MacPhail). Davis’s attorneys argued that the testimony of these two men was very different, Hargrove supposedly having a much better vantage point – he was in the parking lot, while Washington was across the street behind some trees. This argument failed. A judge ruled that this was simply more evidence that Coles could have been the gunman, not new evidence.
The conditions for a new trial in the Davis case were clearly laid out in a 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court of Georgia. In the eyes of the law, they were not met.

In my opinion, though, Davis should have received a new trial, and I believe he would have been acquitted. Not because he was necessarily innocent, but because the key witnesses who got him convicted in the first place wouldn’t have done so a second time, because the physical evidence doesn’t point to anyone, and because numerous new witnesses could have presented evidence that Sylvester Coles admitted to the murder of Mark MacPhail.
Do I believe all these new witnesses, all these recantations? No. Yet despite the fact that I don’t buy all the trial testimony, either (particularly Sanders’s miraculous feat of identifying a man he barely saw in the first place), I feel that Davis was properly convicted with the evidence available at that time.


1. decision of the United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Judge William T. Moore, in the case In re Troy Davis, No. CV409-130, August 24, 2010
Part I
Part II
2.Brief in support of application for permission to file a second petition for writ of habeas corpus in the district court” (redacted)
3.Brief Amicus Curiae of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
4. “Application for Leave to File a Second or Successive Habeas Corpus Petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)
5.Where is the Justice for Me?: The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia” Amnesty International, February 2007. Amnesty International Index: AMR 51/023/2007
6.#TooMuchDoubt: The Story of Troy Davis” by “SwedishJewfish” @ Daily, posted September 19/11.
7.Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under O.C.G.A. §§ 9-14-41 ET SEQ

Fake Teens VI: Online Teens

Spoiler warning: This post contains complete spoilers for the film Catfish.


The Truth 2.0

In 2007, 22-year-old New York photographer Yaniv “Nev” Schulman received an adorable Myspace message from a young girl in Michigan. Abby Wesselman, 12 years old, wanted to show him some of her paintings, including one based on one of his recent photos, a striking image of a ballet dancer holding a ballerina aloft in a field.
Then Nev received a message from Abby’s mom, Angela, informing him that Abby was really 8 years old and wasn’t supposed to be online by herself. Now Nev was even more impressed by Abby’s art. This kid had talent! Real talent, not Marla Olmstead talent! Soon, he was taking ballet photos specifically for Abby’s paintbrush, and getting acquainted with Angela’s fascinating family via Facebook and phone calls.
The Wesselmans lived in the microdot community of Ishpeming, Michigan, and were a lot like the family in You Can’t Take It With You. Angela, a beautiful sloe-eyed brunette, painted and rode horses. Her son Alex was a rock musician. Daughter Megan was a veterinarian who danced, wrote songs, painted, played multiple instruments, kept horses, and did some modeling in her spare time. Abby, of course, was an art prodigy whose paintings sold for up to $7000 apiece. The family had recently purchased an old warehouse on Ishpeming’s main street, and were turning it into a gallery to showcase Abby’s work.

Nev’s brother Ariel (“Rel”), a filmmaker, was intrigued by Abby’s artwork and her talent-laden family. He decided to document the creative process going on between Nev and Abby, though Nev wasn’t enthused about the idea. He went along with it, he later said, because he felt aimless and bored. He had recently dropped out of college to pursue a full-time career in photography, and had to film bar mitzvahs on weekends to make ends meet.
They didn’t have the funds to actually travel to Michigan, so for the next several months, Rel and his creative partner Henry Joost basically just filmed Nev’s phone conversations with the Wesselman family and recorded Nev’s thoughts on Abby’s art.
Angela considered Nev an artistic mentor for her daughter. She even offered to pay him for his advice. When he declined, Abby sent several of her paintings to Nev as gifts, along with half of a $1000 prize she won in an art competition.

Rel and Henry also began to document the burgeoning romance between Nev and Angela’s 19-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Megan Faccio. Megan, the vet, lived on a small farm not far from her parents’ house. The photos she posted on Facebook and sent to Nev showed a lovely girl with luxuriantly long, honey-gold hair. She had the lithe body of a dancer and the soulful eyes of an artist. Intriguingly for Nev, she hadn’t dated much and remained a virgin.
Chatting online soon led to flirting, exchanging photos, and a little sexting. They talked longingly of Meeting in Real Life someday.

There were warning signs along the way, of course. Curiously, though Angela had posted a video of Abby painting wild horses, the family never webcammed. Angela’s husband, Vince Pierce, looked young enough to be Megan’s brother. There were lots of photos of Megan on her Facebook profile, but no family photos – and few photos of Angela. The only clear image of Angela the New Yorkers had ever seen was a painting done by Megan.
Nev’s mother was skeptical. She pointed out that Megan seemed too young to be a veterinarian with her own home. Nev waved away her concerns.

That summer, about eight months after the first message from Abby, a MIRL started to look possible. The Schulmans and Joost were traveling to Colorado to film dancers at the Vail International Dance Festival, and if they drove they would be able to swing through Ishpeming on their way home. Rel and Henry packed up their film gear and mounted a point-and-shoot cam on the dashboard of the car to capture the road trip.

Spoilers below

In their Colorado lodgings, Nev chatted with Megan on his laptop. She had been posting MP3s of herself and Angela singing some favourite songs and playing various instruments, so one evening the three guys listened to them. One song sung by Angela, “Downhill”, was fantastic. Megan accompanied her mom on guitar.
When Megan offered to take requests, Ariel and Henry asked her to record and post “Tennessee Stud”. She was a horsewoman, after all.
Within thirty minutes, Megan’s rendition of the song appeared on Facebook. It also sounded good, but the guys were still crazy about the song “Downhill” and wanted to know more about it. Nev googled some of the lyrics and found Amy Kuney’s original recording of “It’s All Downhill from Here” on iTunes. The song had been featured on the soundtrack of the teen soap opera One Tree Hill.
To their astonishment, the guys gradually realized that Kuney’s version sounded identical to Megan and Angela’s.
Rel began searching for covers of “Tennessee Stud”, and on YouTube he found one by Suzanna Choffel that perfectly matched Megan’s. Clearly, she and/or Angela had been snagging songs from the ‘Net and posting them as their own.
It would be all downhill from there.

The three men agreed not to confront Megan or Angela right away. They would continue to play along, and do some investigating.
On camera, Nev accepted the situation with good humour. He laughed in embarrassment over the sexting, and joked that he was probably having an online relationship with another guy. But discovering Megan’s deception had been traumatic for him.
Phone calls from Megan were now decidedly awkward and strained, with Nev keeping his end of the conversations as brief as possible.

Nev and Ariel investigated the warehouse gallery at 100 North Main Street in Ishpeming. It was a former department store that had been vacant for four years, and according to the real estate agent, it was still on the market.

The group traveled fom Vail to Ishpeming with a lot of questions on their minds. When Nev told Megan he might be in her area very soon, she said one of her horses was giving birth. She would have to be in the stables all night.

Upon reaching the outskirts of Ishpeming after dark, the trio’s first stop was the rural mailbox used by Megan. This was supposedly her home address, but the box stood in front of a lot occupied only by a barn, which was completely empty.
The rest of the family lived in a comfortable, farm-style house in town, with bay windows and a cheery red door. Angela responded to Nev’s knock the next morning, hesitantly. She was a rather plump woman with waist-length auburn hair; pleasant-looking, but hardly the elegant beauty of Megan’s painting.
Angela nervously explained that Megan was many miles away, at her farm. Moments later, Vince showed up on the porch and introduced himself. He was an average middle-aged man, not the young guy in Megan’s photo. He seemed to know nothing about his wife’s online deceptions; he was under the impression that Nev was his wife’s “primary customer”, having purchased a number of her paintings (which were actually sent to him as gifts).
Inside the house, Angela gestured to a partially-completed painting of a woman in a dress and said it was Abby’s latest work.

As it turned out, Abby was not a miniature Degas. The paintings were Angela’s. This became evident when Abby told Nev she didn’t paint very often, and identified “her” wild horse painting as her mother’s work.
There was no sign of Angela’s son, but it turned out she and Vince were the sole caregivers for Vince’s profoundly disabled twin sons. Angela had never mentioned them.

At one point during the visit, when Angela was out of sight, Megan texted Nev to explain that the horses were keeping her very busy, but she would try to see him as soon as possible. “Don’t leave!” she pleaded. Nev wondered why she wouldn’t phone him.
That night, while the guys rested at a local hotel, Megan sent another message revealing that she was an alcoholic. She wouldn’t be able to see Nev because she had just checked into a rehab clinic.

With Angela’s “perfect” life lying unraveled at their feet, the guys decided it was time to put an end to the game.
On the second day of their visit Angela, still seeming quite shy and reticent, took her guests to a horse farm to watch Abby ride. Nev gently asked her why she had created so many stories about her life.
She let go of the deception with surprising ease…almost. She still insisted that Megan was real, though her photos were those of a “family friend”, and that she really was in rehab. This turned out to be false. The lovely girl in the photos was a professional model/photographer from the Northwest, Aimee Gonzalez. She had no knowledge of the Wesselman family and was completely unaware that Angela had been using her Facebook and modeling photos to flesh out “Megan Faccio”.
The previous day, Angela said she was undergoing chemo for uterine cancer. Also false.

Nev was forgiving, and it’s easy to understand why. It would be nearly impossible not to sympathize, to some degree, with this woman. She was living a demanding, isolated life full of imperfection and frustrated dreams.
Angela was embarrassed and seemingly contrite about her behaviour. With admirable candour, she explained how she created at least a dozen Facebook profiles to give the appearance of a small network of family and friends, used a second cell phone for “Megan’s” calls, and adopted a high breathy voice for Megan. Like Mary Shieler, she cited boredom as her primary motivation. “I didn’t have anything else in my life… I didn’t have anything else to do,” she told 20/20.

But unlike Mary Shieler, Angela Wesselman-Pierce didn’t leave a trail of death and devastation in her wake. In fact, just as Vince conveys in the anecdote that gives the film Catfish its title, her deception and its unmasking made everyone involved a little better and stronger. Angela began to sell her paintings online. Schulman and Joost created an acclaimed documentary that premiered at Sundance.

Nev didn’t fare so well, at first. Even though the physical distance between himself and Megan would have made a long-term relationship almost impossible, he had strong feelings for her. The realization that this girl was a figment of someone’s imagination hit him hard.
Upon returning to New York, Nev got back together with an on-and-off girlfriend, Katie, and told his brother he needed some time to recover.

Catfish chronicles Nev’s artistic collaboration with Abby, his romance with Megan, and the fateful trip to Michigan. Much like TalHotBlond, it was marketed as a suspense thriller documentary full of shocking twists. The filmmakers and their subject, however, view it as a story of love, loneliness, and the complexities of online relationships. They clearly made an effort to portray Angela Wesselman-Pierce as a woman worthy of sympathy and understanding. The film even ends with a coda that despite Angela’s false claims of having cancer and having a daughter in rehab, she and Nev remain friends on Facebook.

It’s difficult not to have mixed feelings about Catfish. On one hand, it’s possible that being caught has provided the impetus for Angela Wesselman-Pierce to re-evaluate her life and make changes to it that would not otherwise have occurred to her. Reaching out to a photographer indicates that she wanted to forge some connection to other artistic people, and she now has the opportunity to do that.
On the other hand, one has to examine the ethical dimensions of filming a woman who may have mental issues that prevent her from making sound decisions, a woman who (as Nev realized) was probably infatuated with a much younger man she had never met. This is underlined by the fact that the deception didn’t end when Nev left Michigan. Angela was still insisting she had a daughter named Megan in rehab, and back in New York Nev received an email from the real Megan. He asked her to call him at the office of his brother’s production company. He never received a call. The email account, he learned, was another of Angela’s fronts. Confronted, she confessed that she didn’t want the relationship with Nev to end.
Will Angela Wesselman-Pierce someday regret her participation in the film? One wonders, too, how little Abby will fare when she’s older. Will having her mother outed as an online master of deception become embarrassing and burdensome to her, if it hasn’t already? Where, exactly, should we draw the line between private drama and public accountability?

These certainly weren’t the only questions raised by reviewers of Catfish.

The Truth 2.1

Catfish premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. From its very first screenings, viewers expressed skepticism about the entire film. How could it be, they asked, that three New Yorkers were genuinely duped by a Michigan housewife for almost a year? How could anyone believe “Vince” was old enough to be Megan’s stepdad? Why would a director want to film his brother’s daily life in the first place? And isn’t it convenient that some of the film’s most startling revelations, like Megan’s bogus song covers, just happened to take place when the camera was rolling?

Morgan Spurlock called it “the best fake documentary I’ve seen”. The New York Times review described it as “coy about its motives” and full of “faux-naïf manipulations”.’s Kyle Bucchanan bluntly accused the filmmakers of knowing Angela was lying all along. A reviewer at the blog Very Aware pointed out that the photo of Vince and Megan was posted to Facebook in March 2008, months after the events of Catfish took place. In comments attached to these reviews, people have speculated that Angela, Aimee Gonzalez, and the Schulmans/Joost are fame-hungry artists who collaborated on a hoax. One Movieline commenter claims Angela Pierce is not only a professional artist, but a filmmaker whose work has appeared at small festivals. She even has a production company: Panorama Management Group, LLC in Ipsheming, Michigan. While it’s true that Panorama “respresents” Angela, the operation appears to be a one-woman show. And though Angela listed herself as a filmmaker as late as October of this year, I have found no films to her credit.
On the other hand, Dana Stevens of Slate expressed the view that the events in the film were probably real, though possibly re-created or compressed to some extent.
Other reviewers, like New York magazine’s David Edelstein, freely admitted they didn’t know whether or not there was hoaxery in the film.

The Schulmans and Joost have emphatically denied any fakery. In fact, they insist, they weren’t even planning to make a feature documentary until they discovered Megan’s songs weren’t her own. They just wanted to film interesting events in Nev’s life. Once they decided to make the movie, they re-created only the computer screenshots.
Nev’s mom vouched for him. But then, so did James Frey’s mom.

If the filmmakers did any hoaxing in the production of Catfish, their film’s pivotal scene may prove its undoing. This month, Threshold Media filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers, their producers, and their distributors, maintaining that they should pay licensing fees for Amy Kuney’s “All Downhill From Here”. Schulman and Joost justified their inclusion of the song as fair use, since Catfish is a documentary. With the lawsuit, Threshold is basically challenging the film’s “documentary” status.

These days, who wouldn’t be jaded? We’ve been inundated by mockumentaries like Fubar and Incident at Loch Ness, recreated “reality” shows like Operation Repo (which airs, ironically, on TruTV), Hollywood thrillers “based on true stories” that never happened (The Fourth Kind), movies that convincingly blend truth with fantasy (The Social Network), and PR stunts cleverly disguised as home movies or nervous breakdowns (Lonelygirl15, the tantrum-throwing bride who hacked off her hair, Joaquin Pheonix). Not to mention the rash of “autobiographical” novels and phoney memoirs: Love and Consequences, Sarah, A Million Little Pieces/My Friend Leonard, An Angel at the Fence, Surviving with Wolves.
Then there are credible allegations that Michael Moore staged and fabricated incidents in his award-winning documentaries Roger & Me and Bowling for Columbine. And a revealing statement by Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of The Social Network: “My fidelity is to the story I’m telling, and not to the who, what, where, why of the story.”

So skepticism is definitely warranted. After reviewing the allegations against Catfish, however, I don’t think the Schulmans and Henry Joost perpetrated a full-on hoax. The deception at the core of the movie is real, in my opinion. The youthful inexperience of the filmmakers can account for many of the “red flags” noted by reviewers. It seems quite likely that in their determination to make a gripping first film, they left too much of their own skepticism and doubt on the cutting room floor, leaving audiences to believe they were either gullible buffoons or cruel hoaxers.

The most problematic issue surrounding Catfish remains its ethical dimensions. Thrusting an unbalanced, small-town housewife onto the international film scene is not without its risks, and Angela Wesselman-Pierce’s response to her celebrity has been mixed. She did not attend the film’s premiere at Sundance, and for several months declined to be interviewed. Her only media appearance was on 20/20 in October.

Other Online Teens
Two other fake teens bear mentioning here: Anthony Godby Johnson and Kaycee Nicole Swenson. Both were desperately ill teens created by middle-aged women.

Public Service Announcement


May 1-8 has been declared Canadian Chemtrail Awareness Week. So remember, the next time you see a contrail, think of it as a chemtrail.

This message has been brought to you by The Committee for WTF Is In Our Oxygen.

Conspiracy Monday: "33 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True B.S."

Inspired by this list of real conspiracies, Jonathan Elinof of the website New World Order Report posted a list of 33 “conspiracy theories” that turned out to be true. Then a commenter at the Above Top Secret forums posted a shorter list of real-life conspiracy theories. The problem is, all of the things listed either never happened, or were never conspiracy theories:

1. Operation Northwoods. This was not a conspiracy theory. It was a conspiracy plot dreamed up during the JFK administration, then scrapped.

2. The Church Committee uncovered evidence that the CIA engineered highly sophisticated assassinations in numerous countries, including the assassination of Mohammed Mossedeq in Iran. The CIA basically instigated, then supported, the 1953 coup that ousted Mossedeq, but he died of natural causes in 1967. While the author thinks CIA assassinations are still not common knowledge, I disagree. Not only do I suspect that most Americans know the CIA assassinates foreign leaders and foments uprisings in other countries, I suspect many Americans think that’s all the CIA does.

3. CIA Drug Smuggling/The “Boys on the Tracks”. Barry Seal and the two Arkansas teenagers who may have been killed after witnessing a drug drop or deal have been woven into a dizzying array of conspiracy theories since they became widely known. Prior to that time, no one had a clue.

4. Report From Iron Mountain. A satirical piece of fiction sponsored by the novelist E.L. Doctorow and written by Leonard Lewin. Dolts like Leonard Horowitz refuse to believe it’s not genuine, though all the principals involved in its production have admitted to this.

The same can be said of most of Elinof’s 33 examples, including:

3. MK-ULTRA. Though mind control stories involving the U.S. government are hella popular today, they weren’t at all common in the ’50s, when the MK-ULTRA experiments began. Back then, paranoia was firmly focused on Soviet/Communist mind control.

5. The Manhattan Project. First of all, there weren’t any conspiracy theories about this. Secondly, conspiracy theorists who like to point out the U.S. atomic bomb program as a classic example of how a massive enterprise can be hidden from the public for a considerable length of time don’t stop to consider that the project locations were isolated and its members working under high-security conditions. Third, even that didn’t stop people like David Greenglass from sneaking classified info out of Los Alamos.

8. The Tuskegee Syphillis Study. No one was suspicious about this, because no one knew about it. There were never any conspiracy theories to the effect that doctors were depriving black people of life-saving medical treatments while pretending to treat them. In the HBO film Miss Evers‘ Boys, one of the test subjects catches on to what’s happening and opts out of the program. This didn’t happen in reality. The experiment was a conspiracy, but it wasn’t a conspiracy theory.

9. Operation Northwoods

10. The Iraqi slaughter of incubator babies. This was definitely not a conspiracy theory. The hoax was uncovered not through connect-the-dots speculation, but through plain ol‘-fashioned research. Human rights advocates investigating the story learned that the 15-year-old “eyewitness” was really a Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter, rather than a nurse. She had been coached to tell a bogus tale of Iraqi soldiers throwing premature Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators and leaving them to die.

16. The “Business Plot” of 1933. Frankly, I don’t think this happened at all. The only sources of information about it were the rather eccentric right-wing general (ret.) Smedley Butler, Republical rear admiral (ret.) James Van Zandt, and a newspaper reporter. Their stories of a Fascist takeover plot were never corroborated.

17. The plot to kill Hitler. Again, that wasn’t a conspiracy theory at all. It was just a conspiracy.

18. Operation Ajax (the CIA-sponsored overthrow of Mossedeq). Conspiracy, not theory.

19. Operation Snow White (Scientology’s infiltration of government agencies and theft of files). Members were convicted of their involvement after a brief investigation. This was never a conspiracy theory, only a conspiracy.

20. Gladio. Not a conspiracy theory before it was uncovered, but conspiracy theorists sure do love it. It allows them to blame pretty much anything that has ever happened in Italy on NATO. For instance, former LaRouchite and professional paranoid Webster Tarpley blames NATO (and P2, and members of the Italian government) for the assassination of Aldo Moro.

21. The Church Committee.

22. The New World Order. WTF? You can’t chalk this up as a real conspiracy just because a handful of politicians and pundits like to throw around the term “new world order”. In the non-conspiracy world, it’s pretty apparent that there are numerous “new world orders” duking it out for supremacy at any given time.

23. The JFK Assassination, solved. Elinof thinks the House Select Committee on Assassinations sewed up the whole thing, though it didn’t identify any perps besides Oswald and could only offer a vague speculation about organized crime involvement.

24. The fixing of the 1919 World Series. Not a conspiracy theory. In fact, Cincinatti Reds fans were perfectly happy with the outcome of the game, and White Sox fans just assumed the Sox were sucking like usual. (That’s a joke. It’s okay to joke about this one, because throwing ballgames wasn’t even a criminal offence.)

25. The death of Karen Silkwood. Look, we’re all suspicious, okay? She was a thorn in the side of the nuclear industry, and that’s not the safest thing to be. But when her car went off the road, she was under the influence of a sleep aid that she was using to relax. The only evidence of a hit was a tiny ding on her car.

26. CIA drug smuggling in Arkansas.

27. Bohemian Grove. According to Elinof, there were rumours of this redwood retreat before its existence was confirmed. I’m not so sure about that. The Grove has always been an open secret, from what I understand. Besides, who cares? If bigwigs want to goof off in the woods for a couple of weeks, that’s their business. I sure as hell wouldn’t want them stalking and spying on me during my vacations.

28. Paperclip. It was a nasty conspiracy, but not a conspiracy theory.

30. The Illuminati, AKA the Rothschilds. LOL.

31. The Shadow Government. I think there is a sort of shadow government comprised of statesmen, corporations, etc. – but my definition would differ drastically from Elinof’s. He thinks that continuity of government plans are the “shadow government”, which makes no sense. Continuation of government means continuation of the regular, non-shadow government apparatus.
As evidence of the Shadow Government, Elinof cites Report from Iron Mountain. Sigh.

In short, conspiracy theorists are using well-documented conspiracies to prop up their contention that their own conspiracy theories are probably accurate, without bothering to mention that most or all of these conspiracies were uncovered without the aid of a single conspiracy theorist. In fact, there weren’t any conspiracy theories about those conspiracies, which makes me wonder if even the most dedicated conspiracy theorists are really any good at what they do. And compiling lists of actual conspiracies their brethren failed to spot isn’t a good PR move, in my opinion.
Prior to the Watergate break-in, no one was saying, “I bet the CIA is running a huge, illegal surveillance campaign against Nixon’s enemies” – though it’s interesting to note that after the break-in, the late West Coast conspiracy maven Mae Brussell scooped Woodward and Bernstein by several weeks. I assume she was subscribing to a newsclipping service, and recognized the burglars as participants in the Bay of Pigs. She also paid attention to the Cassandra of Watergate, Barbara Mitchell, when most people still considered her just a hysterical drunk.

I can’t think of any other examples of successful conspiracy theorizing. If one were to compile a list of conspiracy theories that turned out to be false, on the other hand, you could end up with several volumes. Here are a few that I’ve stumbled across in the last few months alone:

In his well-written but dismally misinformed book Paint It Black (HarperPrism, 1992), Carl Raschke linked the then-unsolved 1989 Florida murders of Sherry Perisho and Lisa Sanders to Satanism and drug trafficking by Satanists.
These two murders are now attributed to Carl “Charlie” Brandt, a man with a long history of violence against women. When he was just 13 years old, Brandt shot both of his parents, killing his pregnant mother. In 2004 Brandt murdered and mutilated his wife’s niece, shot his wife, then hung himself. Evidence at the scene and items found in the Brandt home indicated that Brandt was fixated on sexual violence and female anatomy. There were no indications that he had any involvement in Satanism, the occult, drug use, or drug trafficking.
At the time of the Perisho/Sanders murders, Brandt lived four blocks from where Sherry Perisho’s body was found. The mutilations performed on Lisa Sanders were nearly identical to those performed on Mrs. Brandt’s niece.

Chicago police engineered and carried out the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to frame Al Capone. Though the murders were informally pinned on Al Capone from the very beginning, there are still those who wonder why the only survivor (who died in hospital) refused to admit he had even been shot. Was it because he recognized one of the police officers in the room as a killer? Why did eyewitnesses see two police officers leading two suspects out of the warehouse seconds after the shots were fired? Why would Capone, one of the nation’s most powerful gangsters, go after a handful of Bugs Moran’s foot soldiers, rather than Moran himself?
Though these questions are still being asked, we know that that the massacre was probably engineered by a group of Capone’s men in retaliation for a murder attempt against Jack McGurn . Most historians believe that Fred Burke and another of Capone’s men dressed up as police officers and pretended to raid the warehouse, where several associates were holding a bogus meeting with Moran’s guys. All of Capone’s men then opened fire.

Appollo Astronauts never landed on the moon. But NASA later planted lots of space junk to make it look like they did? Whatever.