This episode contains discussions of violence and torture, which some listeners may find upsetting, extreme caution is advised for listeners under 13.
In two fifty eight, see, a deacon known only as Lorenzo was working in a church bureau in Rome when he was suddenly interrupted by banging on the door, when he opened it, he saw a Roman prefect flanked by soldiers.
The official held an edict from the emperor that gave them permission to search the bureau. Lorenzo knew that if he refused, he'd likely be beaten and killed on the spot, so he had no choice but to step aside.
He watched as the soldiers upended desks and shelves.
They rifled through baskets of clothing and even dumped out sacks of donated grain for the poor. Then the prefect turned to Lorenzo and demanded to know where he was hiding certain objects.
Lorenzo responded politely that he didn't know what the man was talking about.
The prefect stared at Lorenzo with hate in his eyes. He realized there was one way to get the deacon to talk. Lorenzo was dragged to a nearby prison and chained to an iron structure that looked like a bed frame, underneath it were red hot coals, the gridiron. As Lorenzo's skin began to crackle and roast, he gritted his teeth and stifled screams of agony. But still he refused to talk. This was a secret he would die to protect. That secret was a collection of the Catholic Church's most important records, teachings and treasures.
It would become known by an ominous name, the Vatican Secret Archives. Welcome to Conspiracy Theory is a Spotify original from cast every Monday and Wednesday, we dig into the complicated stories behind the world's most controversial events and search for the truth. I'm Carter Troy. And I'm Molly Brandenberg. And neither of us are conspiracy theorists, but we are open minded, skeptical and curious.
Don't get us wrong. Sometimes the official version is the truth, but sometimes it's not.
Normally we take things story by story, conspiracy by conspiracy. But we'll be doing something a little differently for the next few episodes. We're exploring the secrets of the Vatican, one of the oldest and most influential organizations in the world. Last time we chronicled the Catholic Church's rise to power, which was both bloody and fraught with controversy. Today, we're exploring one of the most guarded sections of the Vatican the secret archives. This collection of documents and precious items has existed since the earliest days of the church and is said to hold some of the most mind bending information ever produced.
Next time, we'll do a deep dive into one of the most controversial enigmas in the archives, the three secrets of Fadiman. Coming up, the deadly origins of the Vatican's secret archives. This episode is brought to you by the Volvo EXI 90 recharge plug in hybrid, the Volvo EXI 90 recharge plug in hybrid is designed for the ultimate safety test, climate change, because when driving and promote your driving electric for everyone's safety, visit Volvo cars dot com slash U.S..
This episode is brought to you by the Showtime original series City on a Hill, starring Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge, Boston, nineteen ninety three, a city rife with crime and corruption where no one gets away clean. New episodes of City on the Hill are now streaming only on Showtime.
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Never compromise. Drink responsibly. Wild Turkey, Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey fifty point five percent. Alcohol volume one to one proof copy. Right. Twenty twenty one. Campari America. New York. New York. The Vatican's secret archives are one of the most controversial and sought after collections of information in human history. They're estimated to contain over 50 miles of shelving full of priceless relics.
This is in addition to the Vatican library, which houses over 80000 ancient Latin and Greek manuscripts, close to 9000 of the earliest printed books, and over one and a half million total volumes of material.
The secret archives hold a transcript of Galileo's trial. King Henry, the ait's infamous request for an annulment. A letter from Mary Queen of Scots asking the pope to help save her life and even notes from Michelangelo requesting payment for his work with the library and archives aren't just home to historical texts.
They also contain pieces of art, coins, metals and other valuable objects.
The archives index alone is almost thirty five thousand volumes. It said that there are so many items the Vatican staff still hasn't fully processed or translated everything in them. Naturally, this has led some to believe it may hold secrets that the church isn't even aware of.
But the backlog is understandable. The archives weren't officially created until 16 12, but the church has been collecting material for over 2000 years since the days of the first followers of Jesus Christ.
Vatican scholars believe the first church archives may have been simple fishermans baskets in the poorer sections of Rome. They likely contained records of baptisms, lists of followers and, more importantly, gospels and recollections of Jesus's life, documents that eventually became the New Testament. Even though the baskets weren't glamorous, they were effective at hiding information from the Romans. This was critical for early Christians who were frequent targets of persecution. No one knew this better than the first Pope St. Peter.
According to Christian tradition, around the year 64 seei Peter was arrested by Emperor Nero and crucified his crime, unifying the early Christians across the Roman Empire.
After Saint Peter's death, his letters became some of the most important items in the library. The early Christians kept lists of martyrs like Peter to remind them of the sacrifices made for their religion.
In the early days, the archives were split up and hidden around Rome so that even if one location was found by the Romans, the rest would still be safe. They were kept in catacombs, fishing boats, merchant shops and homes. But as the archives continued to expand, keeping track of them all became difficult.
So sometime around the third century sea, the church decided to consolidate them into a single location that would come to be called the Holy screenName.
Combining the archives may have seemed like a risk at the time. However, by then, Emperor Nero was long dead and a period of tolerance prevailed during these periods of relative peace.
The archives expanded quickly, not just in size but in material. Around the year to Twentysix, Pope Calista's is thought to have begun adding real estate deeds to the collection as wealthier followers joined the church.
Little by little, it's property holdings grew. Which may have been one reason for the sacrifice of Archdeacon Lorenzo, known in English as St. Lawrence on the red hot gridiron and to 58 C he knew the danger of giving the records to the emperor. Not only would the Romans get a roster of Christians, they would also discover their expanding wealth.
Tragically, for Lorenzo, that sacrifice came just 60 years before the church and the archives were finally safe. As we learned last week by 313 seei Emperor Constantine had converted to Christianity and legalised the religion across the Roman Empire. From that moment on, worshipers were no longer in danger.
But the church's vaults of information were still highly guarded. Even though Constantine was one of the faithful, church leaders had witnessed the fickleness of the empire in the past.
They knew their luck could change with the next ruler.
In the meantime, the church was determined to leverage their imperial support. They finally had the financial backing to create a true headquarters and repository of all their documents. So around the same time that Constantine built St. Peter's Basilica, he also donated a giant building called the Lateran Palace.
The ornate pillared structure became home to the church's administration, as well as the archives, now with a permanent home, the collection of secret information multiplied over the next centuries. During this period, the church acquired hundreds of manuscripts, transcripts from the Knights Templar trials and, of course, the earliest copies of the Bible.
But in the 13 hundreds, the vast secret archives were in jeopardy once more. But this time it wasn't from Roman imperial edicts. It was from within the church.
In 13 05, a series of French cardinals were elected to the papacy instead of ruling from Rome, they decided to move church headquarters 600 miles west to Avignon, France.
This may not sound like a tragedy, but for anyone who has moved boxes of books, files and works of art, you know it can be devastatingly difficult during the transition to Avignon.
Many of the archives were lost at sea or damaged by weather and insects.
And then in 1977, the reign of French popes ended. The headquarters moved back to Rome and so did the archives. This meant even more items were lost or destroyed.
Thankfully, though, there were still thousands of volumes left. Those surviving documents became the seed from which these secret archives sprouted in 14 fifty one.
Pope Nicholas the Fifth established the Vatican library, which housed his personal collection of books and many ordinary church documents.
But in 16 12 Popol, the fifth created a second repository for the most confidential items in the collection. He dubbed it the Vatican's secret archives. That's right.
The Secret Archives isn't a cheeky nickname that the public concocted. It was the official title. And with a name like that, the Vatican seemed to be tempting fate.
For the next 200 years, the archives remained hidden from the public and they continued to grow and expand for the most part, they gathered church related documents.
There were papal correspondence, real estate deeds and transcripts of trials against accused heretics like Galileo when popes died.
The church absorbed their private libraries, books and mementos. And, of course, it became a depot for artwork and valuables harvested from centuries of crusades, wars and pillaging, of course, with such a grand expansion.
It was only natural for word to spread about the archives. One could only keep it a secret for so long.
And so, throughout the seventeen, hundreds and hundreds curious worshippers, priests and scholars clamored for permission to peek inside. Finally, in 1881, Pope Leo, the 13th bowed to pressure and granted them access.
But that access came with stipulations generally, only Catholic theologians or respected clerics were allowed to apply to enter. Applicants were then vetted to make sure they didn't have any hidden agendas for the lucky few who were approved.
Many areas were off limits, even including records from the 20th century. One hotly desired batch of documents was the church's records after 1939.
That date may have been because, as we learned last time, critics believe the Vatican was secretly involved with Nazi Germany during World War Two. Some were convinced that the archives contained unsettling communications between Pope Pius the 12th and Berlin in 2020.
Access to those records was finally granted. Unfortunately, no bombshells have been released yet. Perhaps it's too soon to tell.
But public interest in the archives isn't only about the Vatican's possible connection to Hitler. It goes deeper than that. Some believe that the archive has information about the various sex abuse scandals and controversies that have plagued the church in the modern day.
And since only a handful of people have had access to those miles of shelves, naturally, rumors and conspiracy theories have run rampant.
So then what is the Vatican concealing? Some contend that the archives contain more than just documents and priceless artwork. Some claim that the church is hiding a secret stash of pornography. Coming up, we'll search the archives for a carnal pleasures. Hi, listeners, it's Vanessa from podcast. If you haven't had a chance to check out my series mythology, you don't know what you're missing. Heroes, Gods, Monsters and Mayhem. This podcast has it all every Tuesday.
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Now back to the story. The Vatican's secret archives contains millions of pages of documents, drawings and images gathered over the centuries.
However, some have theorized that they also contain a more shocking collection, the world's biggest collection of pornography.
That's right. Conspiracy theorists contend that the Vatican has an extensive vault of photographs, magazines and videos of carnal pleasures. Some say it's for research. Some believe it was an attempt to rid the world of porn by purchasing every known copy. Other, more audacious theories say it's for the private enjoyment of a select group of priests.
No one knows for sure where this rumor arose, but it's been around for over a century and it has some high level backers to Denmark's museum. Erotica housed one of the world's most notable displays of X rated material until 2009. But the museum apparently told visitors that their collection wasn't the largest amortised of them, according to the museum staff.
The Vatican actually takes the prize, is having the biggest collection, to be fair.
No one knows for sure if the rumors about the Vatican are true, but it isn't outside the realm of possibility. After all, the church had been collecting sexually explicit material for centuries.
In 15, 19, Pope Leo, the tenth commission renowned Renaissance artist Rafael, to paint the Vatican apartments with frescoes of significant moments in church history. Sadly, both the pope and Rafael died before the rooms were completed.
But in the years that followed, other artists continued the project.
One of Rafael's pupils, Julio Romano, took up the task. But around 15 23, Ramano apparently became outraged that he wasn't being paid on time as payback. Romano allegedly painted a series of explicit scenes of people pleasuring themselves in the pope's apartment and that stating it lightly.
The 16 panels showed men and women in graphic sexual positions like an Italian version of the Kama Sutra.
It became known as the 16 Pleasures. But before the pope could paint over them, another artist, Marcantonio Raymonde, surreptitiously copied the explicit paintings. Then he printed them into pamphlets and began distributing them overnight. The 16 pleasures became an underground sensation around Rome.
Naturally, it didn't take long before the Vatican learned of Raymond's secret printing business and the church needed to put an end to it A.S.A.P.. Within days, Raymonde was thrown in jail, and for the next century, the Vatican hunted down, bought or confiscated every copy of the pictures they could find. The Vatican did such a good job. There is supposedly only one public copy left.
That copy is reported to be a 16th century reproduction of the originals. It's on display at the British Museum in London in a special frame that obscures most of its titillating tidbits. Whether or not hundreds or perhaps thousands of copies of the 16 pleasures exist in the secret archives is unknown, but if the Vatican spent so much time and energy hunting down those pictures, it is plausible that they confiscated other pornography as well and locked them in the archive. However, the existence of the Vatican's pornography collection is refuted by Father Leonard Boyle, Boyle was a chief librarian for the Vatican Library in the 1980s and 90s.
Father Boyle claimed to have looked for the rumored collection. He recalled, When I first came to the Vatican. I asked someone who had been around longer than anybody else about whether this famous pornography actually existed.
He said there was no such thing and I certainly haven't come across it.
But we shouldn't take Father Boyle's testimony at face value. In nineteen ninety seven, he was dismissed from his post at the library for illegally selling the rights to images in the archive.
The Vatican refused to comment on the details of the images, as well as Boyle's departure. A church spokesperson cryptically remarked, Everyone has to leave sometime.
Sadly, two years later. Boyle died at the age of 75. As a result, we may never know if he found hidden copies of the 16 pleasures.
But in the end, it might not matter whether or not the Vatican has a vast collection of pornography.
Some believe this rumor was a red herring to distract the public from what's actually hidden in the archives.
Whatever secrets the archives contain, they were explosive enough that early church leaders were willing to die for them, so dangerous that even today some of the records are still hidden from view.
Some theories contend that the top secret documents include the family birth records of the most pivotal person in the church. Jesus Christ.
As we mentioned, the earliest documents in the archives included lists of church followers and perhaps most importantly, birth and baptismal records.
If the Romans got their hands on these papers, it would give them a hit list of who to harass, arrest and potentially kill.
And even more dangerous, those documents might include the birth records of church leaders or even Jesus himself. And some speculate that there are documents that could prove the son of God had a family beyond Mary and Joseph.
The Bible doesn't shy away from the fact that Jesus may have had siblings.
The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, verse 55 reads is not this the carpenter's son is not his mother called Mary and his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas. Some biblical scholars believe that these brothers were Joseph's sons from a previous marriage. So these young men may not have been full relatives of Jesus, but Jesus may have had surviving blood relatives through his mother, Mary, even though it wasn't mentioned specifically in the Bible, it's likely that Mary had her own siblings.
Some biblical experts, like prominent American Bishop Fulton joshin, believed that the New Testament even contained covert hints that Mary had brothers or sisters.
One famous example is the story of Jesus and Mary attending a wedding in the city of Kayna. At some point during the festivities, the wine ran out and Mary was called upon to fix the problem. She then turns to Jesus and asks for his help, at which point he performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.
Bishop Fulton pointed out that Mary didn't seem to be an ordinary wedding guest.
She acted as the hostess so it could be inferred that the bride or groom were part of Mary's family. Perhaps one of them was Jesus's aunt, uncle or cousin. If that's true, Jesus would likely have blood relatives whose offspring may still exist today. And if that were true, the Vatican would likely seek to keep that information private for two reasons.
First, if Christ did have a family and descendants, it opened them up to danger. Members of prominent families are easy targets for high profile kidnappings, whether for extortion or revenge. And the distant family to the supposed son of God would be prime pickings.
Second, and more importantly, if Jesus had direct descendants of his own, it could ruin the image of his divinity in power. It would call into question the dogmatic belief that the son of God was a celibate bridegroom of the church.
Some theorists have proposed that Jesus may have had a child with Mary Magdalene, one of his most dedicated followers.
This claim was popularized in 1982 by a book entitled Holy Blood Holy Grail. Two decades later, the theory became part of a pop culture phenomenon with the debut of Dan Brown's famous novel, The Da Vinci Code.
This theory also circles back to the marriage at Cheena. Some scholars think the wedding wasn't for one of Mary's siblings. Rather, it was for her son, Jesus himself.
Why else would Mary act as a hostess for the party? Why would Jesus be so willing to perform his first miracle just to change water into wine? An obvious explanation is that it was his wedding.
This theory also assumes that Jesus had a child as well. And if that were the case, the church would be motivated to hide that knowledge, to preserve the idea of Jesus's divinity and celibacy.
But whether or not those documents still exist may be a moot point. There's a more extreme theory that the archives contain a device that can prove the existence of Jesus's alleged family beyond a shadow of a doubt. It isn't a piece of paper or even a family tree. It's a time travel device.
In the 1950s, a team of Italian scientists led by the Nobel Prize winning physicist Enrico Fermi, supposedly invented a machine that could do just that. They called it the Crono Visor, though Fermi never commented on the clandestine project. One person came forward who claimed to be part of his team. He was a Benedictine priest named Pelligrino Eternity.
In May 1972, Eternity spilled the beans for an Italian magazine. He insisted that the team hadn't built a traditional time machine, the sort that's commonly depicted in films or sci fi books. It didn't transport them into the past.
Instead, it was a highly sensitive quantum instrument that could view any moment in history. The device acted like a video camera, allowing historic events to be displayed on a monitor.
With the help of the Crono Visor Air, Netty claimed to have personally witnessed critical moments in history, including the crucifixion of Jesus. Errante even supposedly took a snapshot of Jesus in his last moments here.
Nettie's allegations caused a stir across the globe, but interestingly, the Vatican remained tight lipped about it. Their reticence made more and more people suspect that the church might actually have the Crono Viser under lock and key.
Skeptics point out, though, that if the archives possessed an instrument, they could prove the existence of Jesus, why wouldn't they unveil it to the world? Why not share the images that were taken?
Of course, you could argue that the Crono Visor is more valuable if it stays hidden.
If the Vatican revealed proof of Jesus's existence and the tool they use to view it, everyone would scramble to build a similar instrument or steal it if that technology fell into the wrong hands.
It could shed light on unflattering moments in the church's history, such as rumored executions, murders and ties to Nazi Germany. It makes sense the Vatican would want to keep those skeletons inside the closet.
But some say that the Vatican has kept the Crono Viser locked in the archives not because of their fear of the past, but because of the instruments ability to peer into the future. Many believe the church is using it for something much more alarming predicting the end of the world.
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Now back to the story. Since the early days of Christianity, many followers have been obsessed with the apocalypse. Jesus himself preached about Judgment Day. And in the first few decades after his death, many Christians foretold that the world would be consumed by a great conflagration.
Their infatuation with flames became so commonplace that the Romans are said to have considered early Christians a fire cult.
Cult is a strong word, but their interest in it was undeniable. Even the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, dedicates plenty of space to fire and brimstone.
One of the most iconic lines is Chapter eight, verse seven. The first angel blew his trumpet and there followed hail and fire mixed with blood. And these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up and a third of the trees were burned up and all green grass was burned up.
But even if Christians were confident that the fires of the apocalypse were coming, they didn't know when this uncertainty was echoed in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, verse 36, which reads, Concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the son, but the father only without an exact date for judgment day.
Many documents in the archives likely focused on predictions for when the event would happen and in 64, foresee an event occurred that made many Christians believe those premonitions were coming true.
On July 19th, a fire broke out in Rome near Circus Maximus, the elaborate chariot racing stadium, the hot, dry summer, had transformed the city into a tinderbox. So flames spread quickly through shops, homes and warehouses. The fire raged for six straight days, and when it was brought under control, another one started. This one lasted three days. As the smoke cleared, two thirds of Rome was destroyed. Countless people were dead.
There were conflicting accounts of how the fire started. Some believed Emperor Nero intentionally set it so that he could rebuild the city with gardens for his sexual pleasure. The Roman historian Tacitus described Nero watching Rome burn while playing his fiddle.
Meanwhile, others, including Nero, blamed the fire on the new religious group obsessed with fire in judgment day.
The Christians, some of the early Christians, appeared to have celebrated the fires as a fulfillment of Jesus's promise.
They assumed it was the end of the world and that they would soon be rewarded with heaven. Unfortunately, it wasn't the judgment day they were hoping for. Instead, Emperor Nero took on the role of judge and he cruelly persecuted Christians. Many were arrested and sentenced to death. Some were fed to lions. Others were lit on fire.
There were accounts that Nero used some burning Christians as torches in his private gardens.
Even though the great fire of Rome was not the apocalypse they had hoped for, early Christians continue to prepare for the end.
And one way they would have done this was by studying their holy texts and scriptures, texts that were possibly kept hidden in the secret archives. And as centuries past, it's possible that the clergy consulted these locked away documents for apocalyptic warnings and signs.
One such sign happened in the year 10 or nine see a 16th century account claims that the sun went dark and the moon turned in every shade of crimson across the Holy Roman Empire. This event coincided with a massive earthquake, a giant burning object falling from the sky and a famine.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the cataclysmic event they were waiting for. The sun lit up again and the world kept turning.
But then, 200 years later, something happened that many in the church believed was a new sign of the apocalypse, the spread of Islam.
As Muslim caliphate expanded their power from the Arabian Peninsula into the Holy Land, the Vatican launched a series of wars to take those territories back. And while the Christians briefly reclaim the Holy Land, the Muslims took it back by the early 2206 pope innocent.
The third saw this defeat as a sign and likely after consulting with texts in the secret archives, he concluded that it was evidence of the coming apocalypse. The pope proceeded to write to bishops and allies across Europe, warning them of impending doom. In 2013, he wrote, A son of perdition has arisen the false Prophet Muhammad. We nevertheless put our trust in the Lord, who has already given us a sign that good is to come at the end of this beast is approaching whose number, according to the revelation of St.
. John, will end in 666 years, of which already nearly 600 have passed. Whatever man the pope was using meant that the world would end in 12, 84. And until that day finally came, he argued that the Christians had to battle the Muslims.
Of course, when 2084 finally arrived, the world did not end, proving that Islam isn't a harbinger of the end of days.
But despite the failed prediction, discussion of the end times continued. And of course, that meant more material for the secret archives. Reportedly, among the gathered text were firsthand accounts of plagues, famines and fires across the kingdom, all of which were interpreted as pre apocalyptic signs.
But there were other, potentially more important indications of judgment day miraculous visions.
On September 19th, 1846, two children raced home from tending their cows in the French Alps. When they arrived, they informed their parents that they had come across a beautiful woman crying in the mountains.
The kids described the mysterious lady as being clothed in a white robe, gold apron and headdress with a crucifix around her neck.
The children went on to claim that the woman reprimanded the villagers for cursing and not going to church. And she ominously warned of a great famine, whether the children believed they had spoken with the Virgin Mary or if their parents made that assumption after the fact.
We don't know. But regardless, news of the events spread through rural France and eventually made it to Rome, the church sent investigators to determine if it was true.
After interviewing the children, the church concluded that it was a miracle. They called the vision Our Lady of La Sillett.
But that wasn't the end of the miracle. Five years later, the children admitted that what they told the investigators wasn't the whole truth. It turned out Mary had apparently trusted each of the children with a unique secret. This time, the kids sent Mary's messages directly to the pope when he read their letters. He announced that it was good news, but he didn't elaborate.
The secretive press release from the Vatican caused skeptics to believe that perhaps the messages weren't happy tidings. Perhaps it was a warning of the apocalypse.
Such theories were only intensified when, in 1999, one priest released what he claimed were the hidden messages from the archives. According to these letters, Francis corruption would lead to dire consequences such as famine, and eventually there would be a crisis within the church, all of which would happen prior to the year 2000.
However, the authenticity of these letters has been disputed. It was widely known that one of the children maximum had a reputation for fanciful stories. Perhaps what the church released was just that, a fanciful story. Or perhaps the Vatican has the real secrets and perhaps it remains locked away in the Vatican's secret archives.
For centuries, the Vatican has remained tight lipped on what's inside the archives, which they renamed Apostolic rather than secret in 2019. To some degree, their reticence is understandable. The archives are so large, even the church doesn't know everything that's contained in its labyrinth of vaults and bookshelves, whatever mysteries are inside the vaults.
The church has guarded them with their lives, in some cases quite literally. Even to this day, there are secrets and revelations that the church is actively suppressing.
But every so often the Vatican finally succumbs to public pressure and reveals the truth about a controversial mystery. Such was the case in the summer of 2000, when the Vatican announced that it was going to divulge an enigma that had puzzled conspiracy theorists for over 80 years.
The mystery involved three Portuguese children who were visited by an apparition in 1917, much like what happened in the French Alps 70 years earlier, the apparition gave the children prophetic visions.
These predictions became known around the world as the three secrets of Fátima. Thanks for tuning in to conspiracy theories for more information on the secret archives, amongst the many sources we used, we found the secret archives of the Vatican by Maria Luisa Ambrosini and Mary Willis helpful to our research. We'll be back next time with our third episode on the Vatican. A deep dive into the three secrets of Fatima. You can find all episodes of conspiracy theories and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify.
Until then, remember, the truth isn't always the best story, and the official story isn't always the truth.
Conspiracy Theories is a Spotify original from podcast. It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Trent Williamson with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Travis Clark. This episode of Conspiracy Theories was written by Adam de Silva with writing assistance by Kate Gallagher and Joe Guera, fact checking by Annibale and research by Bradley Klein. Conspiracy theory stars Molly Brandenberg and Carter Roy.