Neil Armstrong never set foot on the moon, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were planned by the Bush administration and the U.S. government is poisoning its people through airplane exhaust.
Each conspiracy theory has its own unique following in Ashland, but the one about airplane exhaust — known as chemtrails to believers and contrails to scientists — has been particularly active in town of late.
Thousands of flyers were recently placed on car windshields that read, "The entire Rogue Valley is being systematically sprayed with chemicals and pathogens without consent or oversight."
Believers say the jet trails are a nefarious plot by the government to control anything from global warming to people's health and minds.
"I think it's a weapon system," said a man who asked not to
be identified. "The purpose is to debilitate the population."
He said he first noticed the chemtrails in 1998 and does daily research on them via the Internet.
A man who identified himself as John Keris said he believes the jet trails contain heavy metal particles, used to deflect a small percentage of the sun's rays "to slow down global warming."
He suspects NATO may be responsible for them, he said, because they began in Croatia the day after the eastern European country joined the organization.
Scientists, on the other hand, disagree. Most agree that what are sometimes called chemtrails are really just contrails, the buildup of airplane exhaust in moist skies.
Jay Stockton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford, said that airplanes, like automobiles, give off exhaust. When the atmosphere contains enough moisture, that exhaust becomes visible as a long, straight cloud emanating from the airplane.
"That's pretty much all there is to it," he said. "Physically speaking, contrails are where they are supposed to be. There are always going to be the conspiracy theorists, and there is no way to convince them they are wrong."
The man who asked not to be identified said he expected a government scientist to offer such an explanation.
"They tend to spray them ahead of fronts, when we're in a high-pressure system," he said. "The debunkers say fronts have more moisture. The debunkers always say they are regular. Simple variations of relative humidity would not explain the stopping and starting of the trails."
Chemtrails first made their way into popular culture by way of Art Bell's nationally syndicated radio program, "Coast to Coast AM," a show that specialized in all things paranormal and conspiratorial.
Jeff Rense, a like-minded radio show host, once reported, "Chemtrails look like contrails initially, but are much thicker, extend across the sky and are often laid down in varying patterns of X's, tic-tac-toe grids, cross-hatched and parallel lines. Instead of quickly dissipating, chemtrails expand and drip feathers and mares' tails."
But the U.S. Air Force has responded to the alternative theory by saying, "The chemtrail hoax has been investigated and refuted by many established and accredited universities, scientific organizations, and major media publications."
They say weather and wind patterns determine how long contrails stay in the sky and a recent increase in civilian pilots can explain their increased appearances.
In 2001, chemtrails made their way to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in a bill, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, called the Space Preservation Act. Kucinich later struck the reference from his bill.