USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy theories’
Legends
Narrative

Missing Prime Minster in Australia

Background

Informant: R.P. Italian-Australian Male, 28 years old

Location: Sydney, Australia

Context

Told to me by a 2nd generation Italian male, whose family immigrated to Australia from Italy and Naples a generation earlier. R.P. was born and raised in Australia and learned of this legend as a young boy playing with friends. The main piece/urban legend itself is based on an event that actually occured in the late sixties, however the legend deviated from the official telling of Harold Holt’s fate by speculating why he may have disappeared. I have summarized the legend below:

Main Piece

In the sixties, there was a Prime Minister, Harold Holt, that was known for being athletic, but a little outlandish. He had been the Prime Minster of Australia for a short time and people were generally okay with him, from what R.P. remembers in the story. At some point, the Prime Minster was swimming in the sea in the region of Victoria. He called out to the press and reporters that had gathered to photograph him “watch how deep I can go!” He then swam directly way from the shore where the reporters were waiting, he kept swimming until everyone lost sight of him. He never came back. He mysteriously vanished into thin air. They sent out search parties to look for him but never found him or any remains. It stunned the country because no one could understand how this man went missing when there were so many witnesses. Some speculate that he was kidnapped while in the open ocean by communists. Some say that he was caught in a riptide and couldn’t escape. Others say that he purposefully went missing to avoid the responsibilities of being Prime Minster. In the end, no one knows what happened, and his body was never found.

Thoughts

When asked about his opinion on why the Prime Minister went missing, R.P. replied that though it’s unlikely, he thinks that the Prime Minster purposefully went missing for some unexplained reason. From his perspective, and based on what he’s heard from members in his family, it may not have been an incredibly unexpected thing for Harold Holt to do. We discussed why some people may believe that Holt was actually kidnapped. R.P. posited that it was likely due to the political tension of the times. There were many reasons in that time period for controversies to spread, and due to the nature of the disappearance, it was easy for people to create conjecture and rumors about the situation. R.P. also offered clarification about the cultural reasons for why this was a particularly popular topic of debate. Because Australia is a relatively removed, yet developed country, certain types of stories will dominated the media cycle for an extended period of time. Because overall, it is a safer country when compared to America, stories about disappearances or other mysteries capture the public and become massive points of discussion, news is often privy to “overreaction” from the public in R.P.’s opinion. It is interesting to me, that in times of political tension, there are often public reactions to events that play on the perception of the event, rather than the practical elements. I liken the debate around Holt’s disappearance to some of the conspiracy theories of the sixties in America, in which distrust infused daily life to the point where people developed many controversial explanations for certain occurrences.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Signs

Denver Airport Is the Portal to Hell

SB: Um, the Denver airport…is notorious for being at the very least the basis of a conspiracy theory and at the most the actual portal to hell (laughs) so, the- Denver generally with its airports have been very problematic. The first one was the Stapleton airport. Stapleton was a member of the KKK, and they named the airport after him, but then they decided to turn that into a neighborhood, so they moved the airport out into the boonies. It’s like an hour after from the city, it’s huge, there’s these like iconic white tents, and the myth is that underground, there are tunnels that are used for the government, for their nefarious activities, and um…some crazy people – to be perfectly honest – believe that within those tunnels and somewhere in the Denver airport is an actual, um, portal to Hell…where Satan himself resides. What’s also kinda scary about the airport is there’s a giant blue horse sculpture with glowing red eyes that you drive past as you are on your way to catch a flight. And when the sculpture was putting it up, the horse fell over and killed him…and then his son, or daughter i’m not sure, his child- finished the sculpture and now it stands, but it’s haunted because the sculpture actually killed someone and at night, it’s eyes glow bright red and it’s terrifying and everything about the airport terrifies me.

 

Background:

Location of story – Denver, CO

Location of Performance – SB’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance was done just between SB and I in response to me asking if she had any urban legends, riddles, or holiday traditions. I am very close friends with SB.

 

Analysis: At the base of this conspiracy theory, there is an association between very real hate and evil with more metaphysical, faith oriented evil. It is almost a way to be able to digest the history of the Denver airport: the only explanation for that level of bias and hate is that it is prompted by the devil’s proximity. It is also interesting to note how that association affects all other aspects of the airport that would have otherwise stood as an independent legend – i.e. the horse. I myself have heard about the conspiracy theory that the Denver airport has some nefarious activity, but I have never heard that it is an actual portal to hell. Prior to this performance, my knowledge of the conspiracy theory primary focused on the suspicious design of the physical space itself. For example, there are photos of the aerial view of the airport, resembling a swastika, the barbed wire faces in and not out, and in the background of all the idyllic, pastoral murals, there are depictions of war and violence among other disturbing images. The significance of the design of this airport is related to the presence of many celebrities’ and powerful individuals homes around the airport: they do not live there but they have bought property there. When I was told all the details by my friend, she explained that ultimately, all this meant that it must be some sort of refuge for the rich, famous, and/or powerful if the apocalypse were to eventually happen. 

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