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  • Writer's pictureAlanna Grayce

#66: The Titanic Conspiracy

So as we all know, major events in human history have a habit of creating conspiracies- especially if they’re tragic, or entirely unexpected. We actually have an episode similar to this coming up in the next few months about how paranormal events skyrocket in the wake of a tragedy. People just are looking for ways to understanding, looking for closure or hoping that it couldn’t have been just a freak accident- because that means we really have no control.

People just like to come up with alternate theories i think. Especially about things that just seem so unbelievable to our little brains. It is a very popular conspiracy today that the moon landing was faked, and if you haven't seen the video of buzz aldrin decking a guy over that i highly recommend it. I’ll link it in the post for today actually. 20 years later, people are still convinced 9/11 was an inside job. People think that the KGB had JFK killed, and that the FBI killed MLK. The thing is, some of these seem so wildly out there- but some of them hold some serious possibility. And the fact that on occasion wild theories are actually accurate- stories so bold that it seems it couldn’t have been thought up even by Netflix’s most ostentatious writers are actual real world scenarios- well it makes the conspiracies harder to discount. If those crazy things actually did happen- whose to say this other crazy scenario didn’t happen?\

So that’s why I’m here today to tell you about one of the latest trending conspiracies- The sinking of the Titanic.

Late evening on April 14, 1912, the R.M.S Titanic hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The “unsinkable” ship sinks into the freezing water, and 1,517 of the 2,223 passengers and crew are killed. Again, in a classically human attempt to make sense of things, people have spent a century trying to figure out why she sank and these lives were lost.

The probably biggest part of the conspiracy right now, as our society becomes increasingly disillusioned with capitalism, is that millionaire banker J.P Morgan had to do with the sinking, or perhaps knew the ship was doomed ahead of time. The entire theory is based on the fact that Morgan was scheduled to be on the Titanic- but changed his mind very shortly before it set sail. Three of his “rival millionaires”, however, were all still on board and did in fact die: Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus and Benjamin Guggenheim.

JP Morgan was an American banker, who absolutely dominated Wall Street throughout the Gilded Age of American economics and founded the banking firm that would become known as JP Morgan and Co- and is now JP Morgan Chase. He was a driving force of industrial consolidation in the US- aka acquiring and merging companies. He was basically a business tycoon, y’all- like look at his wikipedia ok. There’s too much. Because of his prominence in the business and banking world, JP Morgan held considerable influence on policy decisions. He was also the Progressive Era’s (a period of social activism) leading financier and was dedicated to transforming the American Economy. Upon his death- only about a year after the Titanic sank, the stock market in NYC closed for two hours while his body passed through the city. That’s an honor typically reserved for heads of state- THAT is how important this man was to the United States’ economy.

Historians have debated why JP Morgan missed that fated trip- because he truly was scheduled to be on board. One Titanic expert George Behe said in an email to Reuters that he could not find an authoritative 1912 source explaining why Morgan cancelled; however, it can be factually confirmed that it did not happen mere hours beforehand, as the conspiracies claim. Titanic Historian Don Lynch cites one of Morgan’s biographers, that France was changing its laws at the time to prevent Americans from exporting art treasures from France- so Morgan went to get his shit out. I get it. A different source from the Titanic Historical Society says that this might be true, or at least part of the reason; the “official” explanation given out, I suppose, was the Morgan was feeling ill and wanted to “take the ‘cure’” at a spa in France with his mistress… so it could be one or both of those. I guess if I was trying to not be super public about getting my shit out before a law changed I would rather admit to going to a spa with my mistress LOL

John Jacob Astor- a business magnate, property tycoon, and lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War, as well as a well known writer and inventor. Astor was the richest passenger aboard the Titanic and thought to be among the richest people in the world at the time of his death; worth equivalent to 2.33 billion dollars in 2020. John Jacob Astor built the Astoria, later becoming known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Like, where Blair Waldorf lived in Gossip Girl.

Isidor Straus- was a Bavarian-born American, Jewish, Macy’s Department Store owner and politician. He and his wife Ida died onboard the ship; Ida refused to leave Isidor and would not get on a lifeboat at all without him. She is reported to have said “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together.” Ida gave her maid Ellen her fur coat and put her on lifeboat No. 8. Witnesses described it as a “remarkable exhibition of love and devotion”. Isidor’s body was found and buried in the family Mausoleum, but unfortunately Ida’s body was never found :( the family collected water from the site of the wreck and placed it in an urn in the mausoleum in a beautiful symbol of togetherness. Their depiction in the movie seems to be pretty accurate as to how much they loved each other; in the movie the Titanic, Isidor and his wife Ida are seen kissing and holding each other in the bed as their room floods with water. Like, an iconic scene. Imagine that kind of love.

In an interesting tie to modern day- current pop star King Princess’ great-great grandparent.

Benjamin Guggenheim- an American businessman and mining boss. He boarded the Titanic with his mistress, a French singer, his valet, his chauffeur and his mistress’s maid. His mistress Leontine and her maid, Emma, survived the sinking. Guggenheim and the other men died in the sinking. In a kind of funny twist, Guggenheim actually slept through the collision but was awakened by the ladies, who felt it. They persuaded the men to get up, get dressed, and head to the deck. Guggenheim put the ladies on a lifeboat and told them it was just for safety for a repair on the ship. He knew this wasn’t the case, though, and witnesses have reported that he and his valet helped women and children load the lifeboats, then retired back to their cabin in first class to dress in evening wear and “go down like gentlemen”. He asked of someone who survived, that if he should die, the man get a message to his wife (from whom he was estranged “for business reasons?”) that he did his in doing his duty. He was one of the most prominent Americans to fall victim to the Titanic sinking.

Supposedly, JP Morgan wanted these men dead because they opposed the creation of the Federal Reserve, which would . However, this does take a smidge of a hit because Astor and Guggenheim seem not to have taken a public stance on the creation, and Straus is recorded as having supported it. So there’s some wish wash on that one.

HOWEVER, there are versions of the theory that it wasn’t JP Morgan who arranged these men’s deaths- it was actually the Rothschild family, who also did not have a family member on board. The Rothschilds are a banking family who have been at the center of conspiracy theories for a long time, including the Da Vinci Code style theories where the Rothschilds were the descendants of or the hiders of Jesus’ child with Mary Magdalene, etc etc etc. Like wild theories. Some sources point to the constant involvement of the Rothschild family in international conspiracies as just an anti-Semitic trope, wanting to place some kind of blame or responsibility or just spooky aura around this powerful Jewish family. Which is fair, it very well could be just a centuries long attempt at defaming a family that went from ill-intentioned, jealous neighbors and spiraled into a full-blown conspiracy that you basically can’t get rid of. I don’t know, honestly. I won’t say i think the Rothschild family had anything to do with this, because it seems a reach, but i will say that I think every powerful family has connections to things that we, the average plebeian, knows nothing of.

The thing is though, this Rothschild theory has picked up exxxxxtra traction in recent years on QAnon- connected to a far-right extremist conspiracy detailing a plot by “the deep state” against Donald Trump. Ok lmao

But then we also have the insurance fraud side of the conspiracy, where the White Star Line (the owners of the Titanic) switched the Titanic with the Olympic in construction. The theory goes that the Olympic, which is older than the Titanic but similarly famous, was damaged. It was taken back to Harland and Wolff’s in Belfast, Ireland, for repairs- at which point it was found too heavily damaged to make repairing it profitable. So they did up the Olympic a little extra special, painted over the name and switched them out so that they could claim the insurance money from the “Titanic” to cover the losses of the Olympic. This honestly seems to make a lot of sense in a lot of ways- at least on the surface. I did find two significant sources however that said that the insurance money wouldn’t have been nearly enough to cover the whole loss of the Olympic- that said, it doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to reduce losses. I don’t know. It isn’t the strongest theory when you dive into it, but it sounds really good when you say it in a 1 minute tiktok, I will admit.

The Reuters fact check team did a whole article on this- and their eventual decision was that this conspiracy had just taken too many facts out of context to be held as plausible.

Hope y'all enjoyed ;)


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