The Wildest Rumors of September 11

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The Tourist Guy of 9/11

The Tourist Guy of 9/11
"Last photo" taken atop the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001?.

Little more than a week after the Twin Towers fell, this image began arriving in inboxes everywhere, attached to a forwarded email claiming it was the "last tourist photo" ever taken atop the World Trade Center. The man in the picture looked like a real tourist, all right, but nothing else about the scenario added up: his expression was too oblivious, the photographer's hand too steady, the timing of the snapshot too serendipitous to be true.

of 07

Nostradamus Predicted the 9/11 Attacks

Nostradamus. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Among the most widely shared texts in the first hours and days following the 9/11 attacks was a "prophetic" quatrain attributed to 16th-century astrologer Michel de Nostredame, better known as Nostradamus:

"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning"

- Nostradamus 1654

Clue number one to its inauthenticity was the date: 1654. Nostradamus died in 1566. Nor was this simply a typo. A quick web search determined that the verse had actually been authored in 1996 — 430 years after Nostradamus's death — by a college student named Neil Marshall.

of 07

Satan's Face in the Smoke

Satan's Face in the Smoke
Satan's face in the smoke of the burning twin towers?.

Alert TV viewers swore they saw an uncannily familiar face materialize out of the smoke and flames in live coverage of the World Trade Center explosions. Video clips posted online seemed to confirm it, as did a news photo that an AP executive editor vowed had not been manipulated in any way. Was it really the face of Satan?

of 07

"WTC Surfer" Rode the Rubble Down from the 82nd Floor... and Survived!

WTC Collapse
The World Trade Center collapses. Gabe Palacio / Getty Images

As reported to me by a reader on September 12, 2001:

This story seems unbelievable: A man was trapped above the 50th floor in one of the towers of the World Trade Center. He apparently was very near or hanging out a window when the tower began to collapse. He clung to a large part of the structure and "surfed" down the building as it collapsed. He miraculously lived with just a few broken bones. Can anyone corroborate this story?

And by another reader several days later:

Stories abound regarding the supposed WTC survivor who “surfed” his way down from the 82nd floor — riding the debris of the building as it fell only to suffer mild injuries. Many report seeing it on network TV and actual interviews with the man who took the wild ride and lived to tell about it. A little hope encourages us all, but it this a fact?

The same story was told and retold a thousand times over in the ensuing weeks, including by veteran journalists who even put a name to the miracle survivor: Port Authority policeman Sgt. John McLoughlin, who had reportedly fallen from the 82nd floor and broken only his legs.

In the end, it was found out that McLoughlin was on the ground floor of the tower when it crashed to the ground, at which point the story, too, fell apart.

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The Prophetic Album Cover

The Coup
Artwork created months before the September 11 attacks?.

I hate to use the word "uncanny" again, but this was, well, uncanny. The image above went viral within 24 hours of the September 11 attacks. The first inquiry I received about it came from England and described it as "artwork for a Lenny Kravitz album released two weeks ago." Another correspondent told me he heard it had been created months earlier for a yet-to-be-released CD by "a little-known rap group."

Well it had nothing to do with Lenny Kravitz, but it was, in fact, the preliminary artwork for a CD scheduled for release in November 2001 called "The Party" by an Oakland, California hip-hop band called The Coup. And it had, in fact, been created in July 2001 — two months before the 9/11 attacks.

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The WINGDINGS Prophecy

Q33 NY in Wingdings font
Coded reference in Microsoft Wingdings?.

Forwarded by a reader on September 20, 2001:

Subject: FW: Scary
One of the planes that hit the trade centre towers was flight number : Q33NY
1) Open a new Word document and type in capital letters Q33NY
2) highlight it
3) enlarge the font to 48
4) click on Font Style and select "Wingdings"
You will then will be amazed!!

On the one hand, it is amazing, and downright eerie at first glance. Converting the characters "Q33NY" to the Wingdings font does produce a string of symbols including an airplane taking aim at what passes for a pair of tall buildings, a skull and crossbones representing death, and the star of David representing Israel, a sworn enemy of Al Qaeda.

On the other hand, there's one slight problem, which is that "Q33NY" wasn't the flight number, nor the tail number, nor had anything else to do with either of the two airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. It was a deliberate fabrication, each character carefully selected to produce this "eerie" — but meaningless — result.

of 07

9/11 Was an "Inside Job"

Hunt the Boeing
"Hunt the Boeing" website, 2002.

Since 2002, any number of websites have sprung up purporting to disprove the official account of the September 11 attacks (i.e., a plot by Muslim extremists) and offering up in its place conspiracy theories speculating, for example, that elements within the U.S. government — perhaps even Bush and Cheney themselves — blew up the Pentagon and World Trade Center to achieve their own nefarious ends.

What many people don't realize is that allegations to that effect were already circulating the very day of the attacks. Here are some excerpts from a tract mass-emailed the evening of September 11, 2001 (all typos and grammatical errors in the original):

The so-called terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 against this grand country of ours are ALL carefully planned and orchestrated events — from the "Office of Policy and Initiatives" located in the basement of the White house....
Ultimately what these Satanic Freemason's are hoping for is that the people of America will beg the Government to step in and end all this violence, this bloodshed, this chaos. Which they will be more than willing to do. At the expensive of your freedoms, your rights, your humanity. And many of you will end up in FEMA concentration camps, I assure you....
The aircraft crashing into the trade centers were merely a diversion. Both buildings where imploded (their supporting infrastructure beams) having been blown inwards towards each other by massive charges, bombs actually, EXACTLY as in the case of Oklahoma City. If you recall the video that was shot the World Trade Towers collapsed in on themselves, thus the implosion, not an explosion. An aircraft crashing into these buildings would not topple them. In fact this can only be caused by planting massive charges, or bombs, in the manner just described.

Sound familiar? The bulk of this nonsense has been debunked many times over by sources that actually know what they're talking about, but, as they are wont to do, the conspiracy theories abide.