Lewis Lapham: Americans Love a Good Conspiracy Yarn

Photographer: Monica Lopossay/Harper via Bloomberg

Jesse Walker, author of "The United States of Paranoia." Close

Jesse Walker, author of "The United States of Paranoia."

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Photographer: Monica Lopossay/Harper via Bloomberg

Jesse Walker, author of "The United States of Paranoia."

In 1978, John Todd came to the Open Door Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and told the crowd that before he’d been a Christian, he’d been a witch.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

The Illuminati, a secret organization run by the Rothschild banking dynasty, was the master of witchcraft, and it was preparing to take over the world, Todd explained to his listeners.

Arranged in a hierarchy below the top were Freemasons, the ultrarich, including Rockefellers, Kennedys and DuPonts, and major corporations such as Sears, Safeway, the Bank of America and Chase.

Throw in the Federal Reserve, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communist Party and you got a sense of just how widespread and powerful the organization was. In the U.S., the Illuminati were known as the Council on Foreign Relations.

Todd told the crowd that since his conversion, there was a price on his head. He was raising money to create a retreat for other witches who wished to embrace Christ.

But it was dangerous, and people were afraid to leave the occult. Just take a look at what had happened to witch Sharon Tate -- the Illuminati had cut her throat and left her hanging by a foot as a Tarot card warning.

For a story weaving in so many colorful strands of U.S. conspiratorial belief, Todd got $1,000 in contributions from the assembled Christians.

Source: Harper via Bloomberg

"The United States of Paranoia," by Jesse Walker. Close

"The United States of Paranoia," by Jesse Walker.

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Source: Harper via Bloomberg

"The United States of Paranoia," by Jesse Walker.

I spoke with Jesse Walker, author of “The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory,” on the following topics:

1. Secret Forces.

2. Conspiracy Central to U.S.

3. Demons From All Directions.

4. Paranoia in Power.

5. Popular Culture.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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