History's Greatest Conspiracies

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Course Description

Throughout history there have been an inordinate number of monumental events, both good and bad, such as catastrophes, government coups, assassinations, great advances in science, economic depressions, and inventions that have changed our lives.  In virtually all of these events, peoples of the world have asked themselves if these events occurred naturally, as part of the natural cycle of the world's development, or if they have been planned in secret by a small group of people intent on hiding the truth. 


In this course, we will examine some of the most influential conspiracy theories in history, dealing with some of the world's most historic events, such as the NASA Moon Landing, the assassination of John K. Kennedy, the horrific Tuskegee Experiments, top secret government programs, and even the conspiracy behind the Loch Ness Monster. 


By its very definition, conspiracy means to form an "agreement" among people.  In this case, it is an agreement, usually, to deceive.  There are two views of history:  an accidental view and a conspiratorial view.  In the first view, people do not conspire to affect history.  In this view, catastrophes and other monumental events happen as a result of natural forces.  In the conspiratorial view, a small group of people exert their power to directly affect an outcome that will increase their power or benefit themselves in other ways.

By its very definition, conspiracy means to form an "agreement" among people. In this case, it is an agreement, usually, to deceive. There are two views of history: an accidental view and a conspiratorial view. In the first view, people do not conspire to affect history. In this view, catastrophes and other monumental events happen as a result of natural forces. In the conspiratorial view, a small group of people exert their power to directly affect an outcome that will increase their power, or benefit themselves in other ways.

Students of history are usually taught the accidental view of history, especially in democratic countries with a free press, open government, and non-government controlled media. Such a view is always accurate for weather catastrophes, but many conspiracy theorists will argue that it provides an unrealistic view of the world. They believe that it is irresponsible to teach students that humans have no role in shaping humanity and the course of the world's events. 

In the conspiratorial view of history, wars are planned with precision long before the first battle is fought. There are many who believe that the reasons for war are most especially planned in secret by those who control the balance of power. A carefully planned assassination, for example, could be the defining moment in a country's history, which leads it to declare war on another nation. This has been the case many times throughout history. The assassination is simply the catalyst for getting involved in war. A conspiracy is planned and executed by a small group of people, and its details are intended to remain secret. The public might believe that the assassination occurred "accidentally," or by one person acting on his or her own behalf. But the truth, in this example, would be that humans affected the course of events by forming an agreement to change an outcome. 

The lack of evidence of the conspiracy is not at all important for many conspiracy theorists. In fact, a lack of evidence has almost no effect on many theorists' firmly held beliefs. They claim that most carefully planned conspiracies are carried out by skillful agents of, for example, the government. The lack of evidence, they claim, should not detract from the possibility that a conspiracy was planned. Many conspiracies are planned by what is commonly referred to as "the hidden hand." If something is hidden, facts are often scarce. 

Some conspiracy theories reach a "cult status" among many people and sometimes the lack of evidence intensifies the attention that is given to the theory. The more secretive a supposed plan is, the more attention it garners. When something reaches cult status, the facts of the case often get blurred and become irrelevant. 

An example of a theory that has reached cult status is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Nearly every American knows something about the assassination, even those born many years after the President's death. But, the amount of information that was produced from the investigation is - literally - mind boggling. In such a haze of information, people form an opinion based on emotions and their own intuition. In the case of Kennedy's murder, everyone has an opinion regardless of what they actually know about the case. Such is the case with most conspiracy theories. 

Conspiracy theories are not always concentrated around events such as those that occur in seconds, like a murder or a theft. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the Great Depression started. Lives of millions of Americans (and global citizens) were irrevocably altered. The accidental view of history dictates that the Depression occurred because stocks' value plummeted on this single day. But, for many conspiracy theorists, the Depression, and other economic conditions throughout history, was the carefully planned culmination of a plot hatched in secret over the course of many months or years. 

Massive amounts of wealth were lost during the Depression, but not by everyone. Wealth was transferred from a huge middle and lower class to the upper class. While some wealthy business  people did fare badly in the Depression, many strengthened their position in society. The purpose of the Depression, theorists claim, was to transfer wealth and power from a large number of people to a small group of individuals who wanted to exercise more control over United States commerce.

Power is sometimes the only goal in forming a conspiracy. Wealth and material fortune does not necessarily have to be an essential element of a conspiracy's goal. Some people have all the money they need or want. In these cases, they desire power only. Nearly everyone has heard the expression "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." The acquisition of great power, through natural means or by a conspiracy, often leads the holders of such power to become ruthless and intoxicated by their position. They will have no regard for the lives of others, theorists claim, as long as their agenda is met. 

But many ordinary citizens cannot bring themselves to accept the possibility that a small group of people intentionally cause such horrific events as the Great Depression. This sense of morality actually helps the conspiracy, according to many theorists. If it is unconscionable to think that humans might have caused something to happen, this disbelief might, in fact, offer some element of immunity to the people who actually did plan such an event.

What conditions create conspiracy theories in the first place? For most people, dissatisfaction with their government or with authority causes them to regard official explanations as suspicious. These people are fiercely independent and sometimes highly intelligent, but they refuse to accept the word of a government who might have caused them harm.

Boredom is another cause for many conspiracy theories. As we will see, when we examine the case of one of the biggest conspiracies in Scottish history – the Loch Ness Monster – millions of dollars are at stake in simply maintaining a theory's existence in popular culture.

Most conspiracy theories cannot be proved or disproved, hence their allure in popular culture and history. They will always be a part of our history and, while some should be regarded with a healthy dose of suspicion, they should also not be uniformly discounted. 

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Course Lessons

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Lesson 1: The History and Evolution of Conspiracies

This lesson will discuss the definitions and origins of a conspiracy theory. 14 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video A
  • Lesson 1 Video B : ***TOP SECRET COMMUNICATION***
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 1: The History and Evolution of Conspiracies

Lesson 2: Moon Landing Conspiracies

Ever since the image of a man walking on the moon in 1969 was broadcast to millions of viewers, there are conspiracy theorists who believe that it never happened or, at least, never happened in the way it was portrayed. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: Photos: 8 Moon Landing Hoax Myths Busted ; The Faked Apollo Landings ; The Great Moon Hoax
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 2: Moon Landing Conspiracies

Lesson 3: Roswell UFO Crash

In July of 1947, an incident over the airspace of Roswell, New Mexico, in the southwestern United States, would propel the most famous conspiracy theory on the existence of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: The Roswell Incident; What Really Happened in the Roswell Crash?
  • Review Video: News Report of The Roswell UFO Crash ,1947
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 3: Roswell UFO Crash

Lesson 4: The Philadelphia Experiment

Many of us know famous scientists and inventors, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, but not many people know much about Nikola Tesla, even though some of his experiments have led to the most ground-breaking discoveries in science. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Review Article: The Philadelphia Experiment - The Skeptic's Dictionary
  • Review Video: The True Story of the Philadelphia Experiment
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 4: The Philadelphia Experiment

Lesson 5: The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail

The mystery and conspiracy behind the search for the Holy Grail has been told in countless books and publications over the last two centuries. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: Secrets of the Freemasons ; Connection between the Knights of Templar and the Freemasons; Knights Templar and the Holy Grail Legend
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 5: The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail

Lesson 6: The Illuminati

On the back of an American one-dollar bill, there is an inscription that reads "Novus Ordo Seclorum," which is Latin for "a new secular order." This inscription, and its imagery, has sparked one of the most elaborate conspiracy theories in history. 32 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Review Article: What is the Illumanti conspiracy?
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 6: The Illuminati

Lesson 7: John F. Kennedy's Assassination

There are very few events in American history that have created as many conspiracy theories as the assassination of the United States' 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Review Article: The JFK Assassination: Conspiracy and Cover Up
  • Review Video: Did the Mafia kill JFK?
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 7: John F. Kennedy's Assassination

Lesson 8: Global Warming

Global Warming is one the most misunderstood concepts for many people, especially in the United States, where the topic has become a political issue, just as much as a scientific phenomenon. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Biting winters driven by global warming; Severe Winter Weather caused by global warming?
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 8: Global Warming

Lesson 9: Princess Diana Murdered?

Diana Spencer, better known as Princess Diana, was arguably one of the most adored and beloved members of the British royal family in recent history. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Who killed Princess Diana? ; Conspiracy Planet
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 9: Princess Diana Murdered?

Lesson 10: The Tuskegee Experiments

On July 25, 1972, the Washington Evening Star reported, "Syphilis Patients Died Untreated." 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Review Article: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 10: The Tuskegee Experiments

Lesson 11: The Loch Ness Monster

For years, the Loch Ness Monster has been the stuff of stories, tall tales, and even news headlines. 58 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Legend of Nessie ; Loch Ness Monster Skeptic Dictionary
  • Take Poll: What is your opinion of this course?
  • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
  • Complete: The Final Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 11: The Loch Ness Monster
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Summarize the history and evolution of conspiracies.
  • Summarize moon landing conspiracies.
  • Summarize Roswell UFO crash.
  • Summarize The Philadelphia Experiment.
  • Summarize The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail.
  • Summarize The Illuminati.
  • Describe Kennedy's Assassination conspiracy theories.
  • Summarize global warming conspiracy theories.
  • Summarize Princess Diana murder conspiracy.
  • Summarize The Tuskegee Experiments.
  • Describe The Loch Ness Monster, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

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Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: History's Greatest Conspiracies
Course Number: 7550462
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Course Type: General Education (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 0.7 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: C. Michael McKenna
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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