The Truth Behind the Most Bizarre Titanic Conspiracies

By: Diana Brown  | 
RMS Titanic
The RMS Titanic hit an iceberg the night of April 14, 1912 and sank in the early morning of April 15, killing more than 1,500 people on board. Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Early in the morning of April 15, 1912, the luxury ocean liner RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg, dooming 1,500 people to their watery graves. One of the deadliest peacetime maritime tragedies on record, the sinking of the Titanic still grips people's imaginations today. Its story has inspired films, songs, exhibits in museums, and, indirectly, lots of "draw me like one of your French girls" memes. And of course, it has inspired plenty of Titanic conspiracy theories too.

The Titanic was one of three luxury Olympic-class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, which also included the HMHS Britannic and RMS Olympic. "The Olympic is unsinkable, and Titanic will be the same when she is put in commission," said Captain John Smith, who helmed the doomed voyage. But sink the Titanic did.

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How Did the Titanic Sink?

An iceberg it hit on the starboard side caused breaches in the hull below the waterline, flooding five of its watertight compartments. Evacuations began, but the ship had only enough lifeboats to carry half of the people on board. Worse, the crew launched the lifeboats when they were barely half-full. As the ship filled with water, hundreds of third-class passengers were trapped below decks and drowned.

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How Long Did It Take for the Titanic to Sink?

Just two-and-a-half hours after hitting the iceberg, the Titanic broke fully in half and sank to the bottom of the frigid North Atlantic, dumping the remaining passengers not in lifeboats in the brutally cold sea. Many froze within 30 minutes.

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JP Morgan Titanic Conspiracy Theory

And while all of this sounds like a tragic accident, some aren't so convinced it was just that. First, the Titanic wasn't actually filled to capacity. It was capable of cruising with 3,547 passengers and crew, but had 2,208 people on board during its fatal voyage. Why does this matter? Because several of the rich and powerful who were supposed to be on board, including White Star Line owner J.P. Morgan, canceled their trips. Did they know that some tragedy would befall the ocean liner or perhaps even orchestrate it?

Some have suggested that Morgan and the White Star Line conspired to swap the Titanic for its identical sister ship the Olympic, which had already been severely damaged in two collisions, and allowed it to sink in order to collect insurance. They then allowed the Titanic to sail on as the Olympic. Could that be why Morgan canceled his trip? But what company would risk its reputation, not to mention hundreds of lives, for an insurance scam? While the exact reason for Morgan's cancellation is unknown, historians believe it was either related to Morgan getting some art treasures out of Paris before a law changed or else because he wanted to spend time with his mistress at a spa. The official reason was that he fell ill.

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Famous People Who Died on the Titanic

Another theory rests on the passengers that did sail on the voyage: millionaires Benjamin Guggenheim, Macy's owner Isidor Straus and John Jacob Astor IV, who were against the creation of a Federal Reserve Bank, and all of whom went down with the ship. Is it possible that someone (like J.P. Morgan or the Rothschild family) deliberately sank the Titanic just to kill the three powerful men? It seems unlikely, especially since in reality, none of the three men was against the creation of the Federal Reserve.

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Titanic Watertight Compartments Opened

This theory questions why the watertight doors throughout the ship did not keep the water out. It wonders if someone deliberately opened the doors to let the water come into the ship, sinking it faster than rescue ships could arrive. This theory is doubtful as well since Bedford and Hacket disproved it with mathematical calculations, showing that any large amount of water near boiler room No. 4 would have capsized the Titanic 30 minutes before it sank in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Titanic Mummy Curse

The list is endless when it comes to conspiracies around the sinking of the Titanic. Two others involve a pharaoh's curse and a German U-boat. In the former, an archaeologist boarded the ship with a mummy of an ancient Egyptian priestess which had a curse on it. But in actuality, no mummy was ever on board the ship.

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Titanic Sunk by German U-Boat

As for the German U-boat, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Some survivors said they heard an explosion deep in the Titanic after it had hit the iceberg. And several survivors in lifeboats saw a searchlight in the distance that they thought belonged to a rescue ship. However, no rescue ship came until the next day. It's possible that the light belonged to a German submarine but it has never been proven. Three years later, a German U-boat did indeed sink the luxury liner the Lusitania during World War I.

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Originally Published: Oct 31, 2017

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