English French German Italian Spanish
Official Website of the Titanic & its home in Belfast, N.Ireland

Conspiracy Theories- Titanic Urban Legends

The first wave of Titanic mania, the immediate aftermath of the disaster, was impelled by the puzzles and unanswered questions and inquiries into the affair. Some of these hardened into conspiracy theories, and such theories can be an oblique expression of collective anxiety or of the need for scapegoats.

That J. Bruce Ismay conspired with Captain Smith recklessly to sail the ship at maximum speed was one such theory.  That crew members conspired to prevent steerage passengers from reaching the lifeboat deck was another. Ismay’s motive has not been proven, while steerage passengers who testified at the American Senate investigation thought that one locked gate did not amount to systematic obstruction of steerage passengers’ right to life.
That the Marconi Company may have conspired to suppress eye-witness accounts of the tragedy that did not emanate from its own news service is likelier.
The second wave of Titanic mania that occurred in the 1950s (impelled by Walter Lord’s classic book, A Night to Remember, and the movie it inspired) had more to do with an American and British nostalgia for the alleged certainty and glamour before the modern age than with scepticism or recrimination.

With the third wave, which appeared during searches for the wreck, and its successful discovery in 1985, has come the return of conspiracy theories. It has been suggested that the ship-builders knowingly worked from flawed designs and with inadequate materials.

One of the more bizarre conspiracy theories, concocted in 1995, was that the owners of the ship had switched a damaged Olympic for Titanic and deliberately scuttled Olympic (through collision with an iceberg) in order to secure the larger insurance compensation should Titanic sink. True, there was a brief suspicion that a cruelly untrue cable from the White Star Line to its owners claiming that Titanic was steaming towards Halifax with all its passengers safe was a stalling device so that the ship could be re-insured. 

But by 1995, conspiracy theories had become media sales pitches rather than serious investigative journalism or scholarship. 

Post a Comment

 Security code

User Comments 12

Titanic had an enclosed promenade deck. Olympic had an open promenade deck. It's impossible that the ships were switched. Just look at the photos.
jim 20 December 2012
The theory that appeared in 1995 say it was actually the first thing everyone said when the Titanic sank.
My grandfather and all the people of that time commented the same thing, that the Titanic was replaced by the Olympic, the mission was to sink the ship and collect the insurance. Wore engineers and all levels of the ship to execute the mission. Were also other ship behind to rescue. What failed was that sank much faster than they thought, and rescue ships did not approach because if the Titanic sank all rescue ship sank with it
Mario 08 September 2012
The switch nonsense is not the most ridiculous of the conspiracy theories although it is ridiculous enough. The most stupid and offensive of the theories is that Captain Smith was a member of the Jesuits and that the Jesuits were behind the sinking and all the other things that have gone wrong in the world, which is nonsense. According to this theory the Jesuits are not a religious order: they are secret hired killers and bankers. The head of the White Star Line J P Morgan is the financier at the Federal Bank and according to the theory the Jesuits are behind it; again rubbish. On the Titanic are some very rich people who are powerful enough to start a rival bank and they must be destroyed: including Astor and the Strauds. The arch Jesuit priest, the theory goes Father Brown is put on the Titanic to give Captain Smith his orders to sink the ship. The secret oath binds him to do so. Father Brown takes photos of the intended targets and Captain Smith and this means that they now have a full record. Father Brown is called off the ship and the plot is on. Those not important enough to be a target are to be put in the life boats, but the whole thing goes wrong and more people are killed than intended.

Whole story of course is a load of rubbish, and poor Father Brown is just an ordinary parish priest, yes a Member of the Society of Jesus, but a minor one, who is on holiday and took holiday shots. There are many Catholics on the ship and Captain Smith is not a Jesuit. There was no plot. The ship was on a collision course that she could not avoid. Through human error and freak conditions, a moonless dead calm, stars and lights that blinded everything out, and mirage conditions that ensured they did not see the berg until it was too late. This sank the ship. It was a tragic accident, not a conspiracy or an insurance fraud.
BanditQueen 17 August 2012
For the switch to work, Captain Smith and his chief that he brought from the Olympic, Wilde would have either have had to be well paid to shut up and take part in the conspiracy or gotten out of the way as both served on the Olympic and knew her inside out. The guarantee team would have known which ship was which and they would have told others, so even though none of them survived, others knew the truth. There are differences in the fittings of the Titanic and the Olympic and passengers would have known who had already sailed on her. The common question is why did the look outs not have look out glasses? The implication is that they were missing to cause the accident. The fact is they did not need them. In a clear sea, in calm conditions, on a star lit night, in clear skies, the best way to find an iceberg is to keep a sharp look out with your own eyes. I assume that the look outs being young had 20/20 vision.

Just how do you swap one 46,000 ton ship for another without anyone noticing and why take the risk that no loss of life would ensue? Many ships would have to be standing by to get the passengers off and this was not the case and how do you crash a ship exact enough to make sure that she sinks?

The whole idea of a conspiracy is totally ridiculous and has been debunked over and over again. The photo evidence shows the small differences between the two ships and the interior ones. For one thing the Prom Decks were on different levels and this would certainly have been seen. No, Titanic sunk, Olympic did not.
BanditQueen 16 July 2012
The JP Morgan thing is kind of ludicrous. Why? Because running a ship into an iceberg in no way ensures a ship will sink, and he would have needed to have the Titanic's captain and the White Star line in his pocket (to make sure there weren't enough life boats, etc). And as far as the Olympic having three smoke stacks, photos of its maiden voyage show four. I'm not sure what I believe about switching ships, but those two particular thoughts do not hold up.
Joel 18 April 2012
pls i need conspiracy theories about the titanic
matthew 10 April 2012
The swap thing is just stupid there is no evidence to support while there is tons against it

and the Mummy thing is also false there is no mummy list on the cargo, it's just a made up story
SS Nomadic 09 April 2012
I am no expert in this field, I have read several of the books on the "switch" hypothesis. What I notice from those who seek to refute this hypothesis is that they seem to spend a great deal of time in disputing the various technical aspects of the hypothesis, port hole positions and numbers, visible repair areas etc. Now I don't have the technical expertise, time or money to verify any of these discrepancies, but what I would really like to know is how many people would have to have known about the switch in order for it to happen? My hunch would be that more than 5 or 10 people would have had to be in on it for it to work,(who would have needed to be in on it? Shipyard workers, crew of the rescue ship, most of the White Star board, did none of them have the moral fibre to come forward after the event?) the more people who know the less likely it is that the switch would happen and not be revealed.What about photographs taken by ordinary people? Workers in shipyards could easily be cowed by their employers I guess, but is it really credible that all those who knew about the switch took their secret to their grave with them? It seems somewhat unlikely. Even the guys who perpetrated the famous "Yeti" hoax on one of the Everest expeditions finally confessed before they died. Is it really credible that none of the perpetrators of the switch would confess to it given the huge loss of life that resulted?
Peter T 09 April 2012
When parts of the wreck were recovered, the construction number 401 was found on all of them. 401 was the Titanic's construction number, the number of the Olympic was 400.
Anonymous 04 January 2012
Is it true the Titanic had a mummy on board and if so could it have cursed the ship?
Anonymous 10 September 2011
Displaying Results 1 - 10 (of 12)

Titanic Newsletter

Video updates, weird stuff and even more information & facts

There is lots to see and do in our wonderful city

Visit Belfast

There is lots to see and do in our wonderful city


More Info
The latest events, blogs and much more

Titanic News

The latest events, blogs and much more

Read Now

Find Accommodation

Discover IrelandNorthern IrelandBelfastNational Museums Northern Ireland
The dropdown menu script is acrredited to Apycom jQuery Menus