Let’s admit it: we all love to play detective. So when a Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers disappears without a trace, conspiracy theories are bound to emerge. And the more time that goes by without any concrete clues as to where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 might be (it’s been almost five days since the airliner vanished somewhere over Southeast Asia and the little information that’s been released has raised far more questions than it’s answered) the more we try to fill in the blanks ourselves. Obviously, the darkest corners of the Internet are rife with Flight 370 conspiracies. But some of the most outrageous ideas have been floated by people involved in the official investigation—like the shaman, enlisted by a desperate Malaysian government, who has reportedly suggested that that the plane was hijacked by elves and is suspended in mid-air. As the search for Flight 370 continues, conspiracy theories are sure to multiply and evolve. Below is a sampling of some of the most provocative, impossible, and absolutely ridiculous explanations to date.
The Plane was Kidnapped By Terrorists
The most widespread and popular belief is that Flight 370 was hijacked by terrorists. Subscribers to the terrorism theory have the most tangible evidence on their side so far, whether or not authorities agree with it. The first suspicious piece of information suggesting foul play was that the pilot did not send a distress signal before the plane disappeared. The second: the revelation that two of the passengers, Iranian nationals who reportedly arrived in Malaysia on the same day and boarded the flight at the same time, had used stolen passports. Both international and Malaysian police authorities, however, have stated that they doubt the Iranian passengers had any links to terrorist groups, noting that one of them, 19-year-old Pouria Nourmohammadi Mehrdad, was using the stolen passport to meet up with his mom in Germany, where he reportedly planned to seek asylum. Also, terrorists typically take credit for their own work, and even for the work of others, soon after an attack. In this case, however, no terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for the plane’s disappearance.
For those who remain unconvinced by these rationalizations, the terrorism theory has branched off into two hypotheses. The first is that the terrorists who supposedly captured the plane somehow sank it inconspicuously. The second, multi-layered and much more intriguing idea is that the plane was landed safely and is being hidden in a secret location. This theory is bolstered by reports that some missing passengers’ cell phones are still ringing when called, leading distraught friends and relatives to believe that their loved ones—or at least their loved ones’ cell phones—are still reachable.
The Plane Is Hiding Under an Invisibility Cloak
The best part of the terrorism theory is the notion that whoever is in control of the plane is able to keep the enormous aircraft hidden with the use of high-tech electronic weaponry that can make airplanes invisible to radar as well as the human eye. Yes, this is a real thing and yes, it’s basically Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak for planes.
Uighur Militants Attacked the Plane
The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group from Western China with many grievances against the government in Beijing. One week before MH370 disappeared, Uighurs were blamed for a gruesome stabbing attack at a southwest China train station. No one has claimed responsibility for the train station attack, but clashes between the Han Chinese and the independence-seeking Uighurs have reportedly resulted in more than 100 deaths in the past year alone.
So far, just one of the passengers aboard the missing flight, a 34-year-old oil painter who was part of a group of artists believed to be travelling together following an exhibition in Malaysia, has been identified as an ethnic Uighur from China’s Xinjiang province. Still, Malaysian authorities are not ruling out the possibility that Uighur militants might have been involved in the plane’s disappearance, given that Malaysia deported a number of Uighurs with fake passports back to China in 2011 and 2012.
Life Insurance Scam
Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Baker has cooked up one of the more cynical conjectures about the lost airliner: this is all an elaborate insurance scam. At a news conference Tuesday, Baker said, “Maybe someone on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities.”
Has Anyone Checked North Korea?
Let’s assume for a minute that MH370 did not crash. As of press time, no wreckage had been found, after all. But without access to a giant invisibility cloak, where does one hide such an enormous piece of machinery and 239 people? North Korea, of course. One Reddit user has claimed that the jet had enough fuel to make it to the hermit kingdom and stay within cellphone range, offering an explanation for the ringing phones. Also, it’s not like North Korea hasn’t hijacked a plane before.
The Plane Exploded Mid-Air and Disintegrated
Could the Beijing-bound Boeing have disintegrated in mid-air? Investigators say it’s possible. “The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” a source involved in the international investigation told Reuters. The source was hesitant to suggest that it could have been a bomb that caused the aircraft to hypothetically explode, noting that investigators have yet to find any evidence of foul play and that mechanical problems could just have easily caused the plan to break apart.
Stuck in the New Bermuda Triangle
Malaysian politician Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin is responsible for putting this idea out in the universe with a controversial tweet for which he apologized not long after hitting send.
The Only Explanation is Supernatural
The theories listed thus far have been relatively rational, but don’t be fooled. There are plenty of people out there who believe Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was abducted by aliens. Writer Mike Adams at the conspiracy-theory site Natural News isn’t ready to buy into the extra-terrestrial theories quite yet, but he is certain that “if we never find the debris, it means some entirely new, mysterious and powerful force is at work on our planet which can pluck airplanes out of the sky without leaving behind even a shred of evidence.” Now that is scary.