The Darkest 'Conspiracy Theory' In U.S. History That Turned Out To Be True

It really is hard to believe.

montage from project sunshine Oleksandr_U, IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock, Wikimedia Commons

In a world full of conspiracy theories, it’s hard to know what to believe and what not to.

There are theories that are strictly speculative like the secret society controlled by the Illuminati, the demonic blue mustang at the Denver Airport, and the aliens in a Texas desert. Then, there are conspiracy theories that sadly turned out to have some truth to them, like Operation Big BuzzProject Artichoke, Project Acoustic Kitty, and the CIA's "heart attack gun."


But another horrifying conspiracy theory that ended up being true is known as Project SUNSHINE.

What was Project SUNSHINE?

Project SUNSHINE began in 1953 as a joint effort by the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and USAF Project Rand. It was a series of studies done to understand the effects of radioactive chemicals on people around the world.



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Specifically, Project SUNSHINE sought to research the long-term impact of nuclear radiation on the biosphere from repeated detonations, each larger in size than the last. They already understood from the preceding Project GABRIEL that a radioactive isotope, Sr-90 (Strontium-90), posed the most serious threat to the health of human beings.

Project SUNSHINE would go a step further, measuring Sr-90’s concentration in the tissue and bones of the dead to see how much it had eroded. Researchers were highly interested in the effects on the young age group, whose bones were still developing and were most susceptible to radiation damage and Sr-90 accumulation.

The study was kept a secret to start, but the public became aware of it in 1956. The revelation much later led to an avalanche of controversy over the assertion that the government obtained human samples from the dead without their family’s permission.

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Did Project SUNSHINE steal the corpses of children and babies?

Two years into AEC’s research study, the commissioner, Dr. Willard Libby, announced that the organization had been unable to obtain sufficient data due to a lack of human subjects to test, especially samples from children.

He was unbelievably quoted as saying, “I don't know how to get them, but I do say that it is a matter of prime importance to get them, and particularly in the young age group. So, human samples are often of prime importance, and if anybody knows how to do a good job of body snatching, they will really be serving their country.”

Libby’s message led to the gathering of over 1,500 sample cadavers, primarily of babies and young children, of which only 500 were utilized.

They came from various countries between Europe and Australia and were alleged to have been taken without the parents’ consent.




After those accusations surfaced via a British newspaper, an investigation began. There were claims that the bodies came from hospitals and were parted out and shipped to the United States.

One woman from Britain even alleged that her stillborn baby’s legs were removed by doctors to hide the devious deeds. According to her, they refused to let her dress her baby for the funeral.

In 1958, the study for Project SUNSHINE moved to Belgium, where scientists analyzed soil in agricultural regions and no longer collected human bones. They also analyzed the transfer of Sr-90 to grazing animals since humans consume them, resulting in a conclusion that there was no detectable harm.


It took 40 years for the unethical practices of Project SUNSHINE to come to light, but for the families of the dead who lived through their relatives’ desecrations, finding out was likely still devastating. To add insult to injury, the government never took accountability for its actions.

Conspiracy theories are born when an unproven hypothesis is repeated over and over and offered as truth. Unfortunately, in the case of Project SUNSHINE, the unfathomable turned out to be factual.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.