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Not everything that sounds right is true. And far from everything that sounds fake is false. Reality is—quite often—stranger than fiction. Once you hear about something strange, you might feel compelled to dig deeper. You might be surprised by what you find.

The r/AskReddit online community shared some obscure facts that sound like they could easily be conspiracy theories. However, they’re all true. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book (just) by its cover. Scroll down for a taste of some odd and even uncomfortable facts about the world.

Susan A. Nolan, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Seton Hall University, was kind enough to walk Bored Panda through the differences between valid claims and conspiracy theories. She also explained why some people believe in the latter theories. Scroll down for her insights.

#1

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The McDonalds PR machine tried to ruin Stella Liebeck’s life. That coffee was so hot it melted her clothing to her genitals. People still believe she was at fault. I turn it around and ask how they’d feel if a parent accidentally spilled coffee on their child that was so hot it melted the child’s clothes to her/his body. Somehow it usually wakes people up.

Manatee369 , Mike Mozart Report

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Cooter McCoughlin
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

She was also only suing to cover medical expenses. She wasn't trying to get rich from it.

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#2

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Ernest Hemingway suffered from ongoing paranoia that the FBI were surveilling him, which was thought to be a key factor in him [taking his own life]. Most chalked it up to mental illness at the time. Decades later, his file was released, proving he was under investigation for his ties to Cuba, his phones were tapped, and he was right all along.

allbitterandclean , Lloyd Arnold Report

#3

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True In the 60s and 70s, thousands of Native American women were sterilized without their consent as part of a practice to sterilize poor and minority women to "help their financial situation and their family's quality of life" by preventing unwanted pregnancies in poor communities.

Some were not informed at all and had it done to them completely without their knowledge, others were threatened with having their healthcare taken away if they did not agree to have it done to them. Some studies estimate that as many as 25-50% of Native American women were sterilized in the 1970s, representing tens of thousands of victims.

This is essentially a modern day genocide in the United States.

SendMeNudesThough , MART PRODUCTION Report

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WayoftheStarPrincess
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

They did this in Sweden as well, for a long time. Mostly regarding people with disabilities and the romanis. And trans people, up until embarrassingly recently. It's f****d.

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"The difference between a valid, or even potentially valid, claim and a conspiracy theory comes down to the willingness to consider evidence," Professor Nolan, who co-runs the 'Misinformation Desk' blog on Psychology Today, explained to Bored Panda via email.

"A conspiracy theory is not backed by evidence, and those who believe it tend to discount any evidence that does not support it. If you’re willing to consider evidence and change your mind based on it when warranted, you’re unlikely to fall for a conspiracy theory," she said.

"On the other hand, there are some weird facts out there that do have evidence backing them. Research has found that swearing can reduce the experience of pain. Also, cats and dogs are left- or right-handed (or left- or right-pawed) just like humans."

#4

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True A poor black woman’s, Henrietta Lacks, cells were harvested from her dead body without her consent in 1951 by a doctor who worked for Johns Hopkins. The cells were proven to be incredible and a scientific marvel, and have been used ever since to further medical science. Her family and descendants were never asked for consent to do this, weren’t informed of the breakthroughs, have continued to live in cripplingly poverty since, despite how often the HeLa cells are used and the mass amount of money Johns Hopkins makes, and still to this day are fighting Johns Hopkins to admit their mistakes and make them financially whole for their desecration of a Henrietta Lacks body.

Starlightrendition , Henrietta Lacks Report

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Luke Branwen
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

You see how capitalism and racism are so atrocious that they can turn a thing as marvelous as science into a crime against humanity.

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#5

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The idea of a "Carbon footprint" was propaganda created by BP in order to deflect their responsibility in the climate crisis, for which they hired the same ad companies that had convinced people that tobacco didn't cause cancer decades earlier

Ccaves0127 , Arina Krasnikova Report

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Why Hello There
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Anyone else read BP as Bored Panda and was just immensely confused for a solid 20 seconds??

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#6

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Diamond company De Beers sits on an estimated 50 years worth of yearly carats sold in jewel-quality stones, purely to keep the market price high by creating artificial scarcity. Precious stones are, in fact, not so rare as to merit the high prices they command.

Solitary-Dolphin , The Glorious Studio Report

According to Nolan, people often want to believe in non-existent conspiracies because they give them some sense of control. Especially in scary or uncertain situations. We don't need to look deep into the past to see this at work, either. A glance at what happened in recent years is enough.

"For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early on, conspiracy theories gave some people a sense that there were solid answers. The science was shifting a lot early on—because that is how science works—so conspiracy theories might have felt more certain to some people," the professor explained.

The psychology expert added that most likely everyone believes some things that aren't backed by evidence, "just because it gives us a sense of control. "

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"It’s why we might respond to a scientific finding by saying, 'That’s not my experience' and discounting it. Ideally, we would be able to say, 'That’s not my experience,' while understanding that scientific findings are about groups of people. There will always be exceptions."

#7

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True In the spring of 1968 President Lyndon Johnson shocked the nation when he announced that he would not seek election to a second full term that November. He gave no explanation, and pretty much everyone assumed that it was because of the situation in Vietnam and his resulting unpopularity.

While Vietnam undoubtedly was a factor it was far from the full story. Concerned that males in his family tended to die young, and having barely survived a heart attack in the 1950's, sometime in 1967 Johnson had commissioned a top-secret actuarial study to determine his likely lifespan.

After carefully going through his family history and medical records, the actuaries concluded that Johnson was unlikely to survive to age 65. Johnson quickly did the math and realized that would give him a very short retirement if he ran and won in 1968, as he'd be 64 at the end of the term. This led him to decide against running.

The actuaries were right, as Johnson never made it to 65, dying at age 64. And indeed it would have been a very short retirement: had he served a second full term he would have died less than 24 hours after the end of the term.

prosa123 , Arnold Newman Report

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#8

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True There's a psychological reaction called "The Backfire Effect" which essentially means that people, after they're given proof that what they think they know is absolutely wrong, will believe their misconception/misinformation even more deeply.

ZorroMeansFox , Alex Green Report

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#9

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The Church of Scientology had members secretly infiltrate US Government agencies in order to destroy unfavorable documents and investigations into them

TripleThreatTua , PictorialEvidence Report

It can be quite a challenge to determine what is and isn’t a conspiracy theory. During a previous interview with Bored Panda, Steven Wooding, a member of the Omni Calculator Project and a member of the Insitute of Physics in the UK, explained to us how someone might go about evaluating a theory or a claim. The first step is to use fact-checking services, like PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org.

"I think that while reading the news every day, we should never forget that the world is a complicated place. The events that occur are usually the result of multiple processes rather than a single cause," Wooding explained.

According to the scientist, reality is often quite complicated. Monocausal, or single cause, factors in political, social, or historical change are rare.

#10

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Probably going to be buried but this one is actually kind of funny.

Sometime after WW2, the U.S. was doing some pretty wild experiments, including trying to see if they could teach dolphins to talk. They believed this was only achievable by full immersion, so they built a house and filled it with water and had a researcher live with the dolphin.

The dolphin was a young male and wouldn't respond to anything unless the female researcher jacked it off. It became to obsessed with the researcher and I think when the higher ups found out what was going on, they shut it down and never tried again.

Kind of paraphrased, but yeah. The government paid a f**k load of money just to end up having a lady wack off a dolphin.

Skootchy , Pixabay Report

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#11

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Tax service companies such as Intuit spend millions of dollars a year lobbying to make sure the IRS does not make it easier to file your taxes.

ktappe , Mikhail Nilov Report

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Linden
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I assumed this is what must be happening. In my country we don't do tax returns if we're employed, only business owners and contractors do them.

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#12

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True There are government built bunkers dotted around the U.S. That hold a total of 1.4 billion pounds of cheese. The government was buying excess milk to prop up the dairy industry, turning it into cheese and shoving under ground since the end of prohibition up until the Regan administration. The Got Milk ad campaign was a government funded "psyop" to get Americans to consume more dairy I sound like a f*****g crazy person but it's real. 

DevinMeister , Daniel Farrell Report

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Sergy Yeltsen
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Well, when the zombie apocalypse happens, I know which bunker I am heading to...

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"If a theory explaining an aspect of reality has monocausal tendencies (or even shamelessly presents itself as monocausal), it is highly likely to be wrong. We should develop a habit of thinking about this every time we hear a theory supposed to explain some 'hidden truth' to us. Then, if you think to yourself, 'Wow, that sounds pretty monocausal!'—it's a sign you should do your research,” Wooding said.

"The world is complicated: many processes are going on that we don't have time to follow, don't have the knowledge to explore, don't have an awareness of their existence. Conspiracy theories are usually simple: in their worldview, one cause determines everything (the world is ruled by lizard people, etc.)," the expert previously told Bored Panda that people often crave simplicity and clarity in a world that is chaotic and muddled.

"They present (at least at first) a clear and lucid vision of the world—often based on Manichean [good vs. evil] opposition. They give the false impression of thoroughly understanding and explaining the world in a simple way." 

#13

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The same company that single-handedly caused the opioid crisis is... still making money off of their drug but now also making money off of its antidote.

ginger_minge , Pixabay Report

#14

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True In the United States between 1932 and 1972, the CDC intentionally neglected to inform hundreds of black Americans that they were infected with syphilis. The goal was to study the effects of syphilis in black people **when left untreated**, meaning it was imperative that the patient be unaware that they were infected. Many of them died to the untreated illness. 

SendMeNudesThough , Herbert L. Fred, MD, Hendrik A. van Dijk Report

#15

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The sugar industry paid nutrition researchers to blame fats for health problems that were often correlated to sugar consumption. From this we have all the nonsense about "good fats"/"bad fats" etc. 

LateralThinkerer , Suzy Hazelwood Report

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Head_on_a_Stick
Community Member
2 months ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The companies can fund studies and cherry-pick the results (they fund several small studies but only publish the ones that show what they want) but they can't control the studies themselves. LDLs & HDLs do have different effects on the body.

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He added: "Studies prove that people who believe in one conspiracy theory are much more likely to believe in another. In this sense, I think that every conspiracy theory is wrong. They differ only in scale, but they are all part of the same mechanism."

According to Lee McIntyre, a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University, when talking to someone who believes in a conspiracy theory (e.g. Flat Earth), you should ask them what evidence they think would be enough to prove them wrong.

“I used that question in person at FEIC [Flat Earth International Conference] 2018 and it was very telling. Most of them just said ‘proof’ and I said ‘proof of what?’ They couldn’t be specific. This shows that their beliefs weren’t really based on evidence in the first place,” the expert told Bored Panda during an interview, earlier.

#16

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True That companies make stuff that easily breaks or soon won’t work on purpose so you have to buy more. Planned obsolescence.

emmascarlett899 , KarmicPJJunior Report

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kazuha
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

If I bought a product that broke quickly, it's safe to say I would not be buying the same product from the same company again 😕

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#17

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Government Surveillance: Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting mass surveillance on citizens, collecting data from internet communications, phone calls, and other sources.

Euphoric-Beat-7206 , cottonbro studio Report

#18

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True ALCOHOL POISONING DURING PROHIBITION

As you know, in 1919, the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol was prohibited. But instead of plummeting, alcohol sales soared. Speakeasies opened everywhere, and as a result, people in some neighborhoods were drinking even more than before. The mafias got in on the act, stealing large quantities of industrial alcohol.

In 1926, the authorities resorted to the hard way, asking manufacturers to add toxic substances to their alcohol (adding ten times more methanol, for example). In New York alone, 1,200 drinkers were poisoned and 400 died. A wave of deaths would eventually sweep across the country. This "poisoning policy" was not stopped until December 1933.

Mrnoword , Enyavar Report

“At one session I heard many Flat Earthers talk about losing family members, getting kicked out of their churches, losing jobs… who would do that for fun? These are hardcore science deniers. As hard as it might be to accept, there are people who believe this stuff and are willing even to put their lives on the line for it! One rocket guy crashed trying to prove Flat Earth. They aren’t pretending,” McIntyre told Bored Panda.

#19

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Almost all glasses frames are made by the same three major companies which is why they cost so much for frame that are essentially just molded plastic.

FeebysPaperBoat , Clem Onojeghuo Report

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BoredPossum
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's why it's almost impossible to find decent glasses some years. There are fashion trends in glasses too and some years they are supposed to be huge, plastic, small, and so on.

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#20

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The pentagon has never been able to account for more than half its budget.

Dune1008 , Touch Of Light Report

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Javelina Poppers
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The Pentagon not only failed their 2023 audit, it's the sixth consecutive year they've done so. Pentagon officials said, "Things are showing progress". WTF?

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#21

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True The quinoa craze in America had devastating effects on Bolivia. Bolivian farmers switched to growing quinoa to export to the US because it was much more profitable than other staple foods. As a result (along with various other factors), Bolivia has really poor food security for its own people.

kms2547 , Vie Studio Report

The expert shared that conspiracy theories tend to pop up in times of turmoil or mass unrest, as people are trying to make sense of the world. “Flat Earth is in some ways just a run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory. They’ve all grown in popularity because beliefs (even fringe beliefs) are reinforced by peer approval, and that is now readily available on the internet. Virtually all of the flat earthers I met were converted based on YouTube videos. Some then went to the conferences. After that, they were ‘down the rabbit hole.'”

Conspiracy theories can be considered to be “infectious”: they go viral, in order to attract new members.

#22

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Everyone, even from Roman times, knew asbestos was bad for your health. Same with lead.

There are no old lead miners.

the-software-man , Aram Dulyan Report

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WindySwede
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is why some folks today need to realise this as well, often see folks not believing this on Internet today.

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#23

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Statistically, nuclear power is safer than solar, wind, coal, and gas power.

Tarterus1454 , Pixabay Report

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BTDubs
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yeah, sure. But have you ever heard of thousands of people dying from a mass solar panel event? Solar is safe, don't be fooled.

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#24

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True In 2/3 of all US states, EMS is NOT considered an essential service. As such it recieves next to 0 gov funding or support

Boogaloogaloogalooo , Mikhail Nilov Report

#25

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Years ago, in the leadup to the Olympics in Mexico, the country was embarrassed by massive protests about conditions for regular people there.

So at one of the large protests, they put snipers from their CIA equivalent in some tall buildings near where there was due to be a protest by a large government building.

That building was guarded by a line of police officers.

When the protesters made it to the line of police officers, they continued to peacefully protest.

The CIA (equivalent) officers opened fire on the police, making it appear that the protestors were shooting at the cops. The cops retaliated, mowing down countless protestors, thinking they were defending themselves.

Protestors were killed, and fled the scene. The government was ready, rushed in, and immediately cleaned up the scene. To this day they have no idea how many people were killed at the scene, and no one knew about the plot to instigate the massacre of the protestors until years later.

It worked though, there were no more protests.

BigMax , Marcel·lí Perelló Report

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𝖊𝖜𝖔𝛋
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I really hope the officers involved didn’t find out the truth. Knowing they were manipulated into killing innocent people would have destroyed them. But at the same time the families of the protest victims deserved to have their loved ones vindicated and proved innocent. This is beyond shocking and I feel disgusted.

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#26

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True Operation Northwoods. The US government proposed having the CIA commit terrorist attacks in major US cities so we could blame them on Cuba and go to war.

The proposals called for CIA operatives to both stage and commit acts of terrorism against American military and civilian targets, blaming them on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba. The possibilities detailed in the document included the remote control of civilian aircraft which would be secretly repainted as US Air Force plane, a fabricated 'shoot down' of a US Air Force fighter aircraft off the coast of Cuba, the possible assassination of Cuban immigrants, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, blowing up a U.S. ship, and orchestrating terrorism in U.S. cities. The proposals were rejected by President John F. Kennedy

ThePresidentPlate Report

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Luke Branwen
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I have nothing to prove it, but I'm fairly convinced that at least some of the violence commited by "islamists" and other "problematic" minorities, especially in Europe, is orchestrated to stir hate among people and make them elect ultra-conservative, far-right politicians who actively sabotage progressive poolicies.

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#27

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True How big tobacco companies denied the health risks of smoking, despite internal knowledge of the dangers.

ZaagKicks , Johanser Martinez Report

#28

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True That morgues are hesitant to hire men because of the things they've historically done to the corpses.

lenochku , Pavel Danilyuk Report

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Luke Branwen
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The necrophiliacs are actually pretty unlucky people, their every relationship will eventually fall apart (sorry).

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#29

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True JFK's brain was removed during autopsy and stored in an archive. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

AdMaterial9419 , UPI-United Press International Report

#30

30 People Share The Most Hard-To-Believe Facts That Are Actually True A cartel run out of Switzerland got all the top light bulb manufacturers to limit bulb life to 1000 hours so that they could sell more. [phoebus cartel]

DigNitty , Pixabay Report

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Zedrapazia
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wait until people find out about shoes, or what Apple did to shorten the iPhones battery life span via updates. There was a lawsuit about the latter coming from France.

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