History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracy Theories of All Time by Brad Meltzer

History DecodedIn History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracy Theories of All Time, Brad Meltzer examines the following mysteries and more: John Wilkes Booth, the Confederacy’s gold, DB Cooper, the White-House cornerstone, the Spear of Destiny, DaVinci’s Code, the gold of Fort Knox, Roswell, Area 51, and the JFK Assassination.

There are 10 conspiracies total, but within each, multiple theories are analyzed. This is particularly true of the JFK assassination.  For that one grand conspiracy, Meltzer selected the top 10 JFK theories to explore out of dozens.

Rather than summarize all ten conspiracies, I have selected just a few of my favorites.  In one chapter, John Wilkes Booth is said to have escaped after the Lincoln assassination while someone else was killed and buried in his place.  There are a couple of scenarios as to where Booth may have ended up; one involves a man living in India named John B. Wilkes who created a will leaving money to John Wilkes Booth’s children and personal servant. The other scenario is even more interesting and convincing, but you’ll have to pick up the book to learn more about it!

In another examination, Meltzer investigates the claims that there is no gold in Fort Knox.  Supposedly, no one has been allowed to see inside the vault since the 1970s, and though the place is impenetrable, a former guard Meltzer spoke with claimed that he never had bullets in his gun during the time he was stationed there and that his supervisor had admitted to him that there was no gold to guard.  Even more curious is the suggestion that if anyone tried to overtake Fort Knox, they would simply be let in and allowed to disappear. What does that mean?

A 1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper

A 1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper

Meltzer also explores one conspiracy that I do not remember ever hearing about. This is regarding “folk-hero” D. B. Cooper.  This man is said to have boarded a plane and demanded $200,000 and a parachute. He then jumped out and disappeared – never to be found again. There have been multiple individuals throughout the years claiming to be D. B. Cooper, and a bag of the marked twenty dollar bills was found by a boy in the 1980s.  Meltzer may have discovered Cooper’s true identity, and as part of his investigation, searches the home of a former airline employee to discover the possible truth. He makes a surprising discovery in the attic. By the way, as a result of this caper, airlines were forced to put more safety procedures in place.

In other chapters, Jesus Christ, the devil, the Freemasons, the Sons of the Fallen, Popes, Saints and even Hitler come into play.  Some of the conspiracy theories are right down the line of Fox Mulder of the X-Files.

Listening to the audio version, I did not get to see the historical documents contained inside little envelopes throughout the print version of the book, but nevertheless I was highly entertained. In fact, I originally intended to use this audiobook as noise to fall asleep to at night, but the fascinating chapters kept me awake for hours. I recommend History Decoded to anyone interested in history, mystery or a good old fashioned conspiracy.

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