5 Conspiracy Theories About Amelia Earhart's Disappearance

The famous, world-renowned Amelia Earhart was a daring American aviation pioneer, best-selling author and feminist icon. In 1929, Earhart was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an active international organization providing professional opportunities to women in aviation. Three years later, she received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for being the first female aviator to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight. Earhart was not only the first woman to receive this distinction, but the first civilian, as well.

However, it is during her second attempt at making a circumnavigational flight around the world in 1937 that Earhart disappears somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean. To this day, no one knows what happened to her and her navigator Fred Noonan, but many conspiracy theorists speculate:

1. She was really an American spy who was captured and executed by the Japanese.

According to this theory, before Earhart leaves to make her second circumnavigational flight, the Franklin Roosevelt administration recruits her to spy on Japan. The plan was for her to ditch her plane off the Japanese coast, allowing the U.S. Navy to access the area and conduct reconnaissance. Unfortunately, Earhart’s plane is allegedly shot down and she is taken prisoner, later dying of dysentery or execution.

2. She was captured by the Japanese and pressed to serve as a Tokyo Rose.

A variation of the numerous Japanese capture theories, some believe Earhart became a Tokyo Rose, which was an English-speaking female broadcaster of Japanese propaganda during WWII. The broadcasts were intended to lower the morale of Allied troops in the Pacific.

3. She was rescued and then returned to the U.S. assuming a fake identity.

In this theory, Earhart is secretly rescued from a Japanese prison and returns to the United States under an assumed identity. She remarries and becomes Irene Craigmile Bolam, a 1940s New York banker. The theory originally arose in the book Amelia Earhart Lives (1970).

The real Irene Bolam, however, wasn’t too thrilled about it and vehemently denied that she was the long, lost Amelia Earhart. She filed a lawsuit against the authors of Amelia Earhart Lives and submitted an affidavit refuting the claims.

4. She faked her death to escape fame and elope with her navigator Fred Noonan.

While there is no evidence to support this, some thought Earhart was in love with her navigator Fred Noonan and faked her own death to be with him. She also allegedly wasn’t a fan of her own fame; a quiet life away from the world’s spotlight may possibly have had additional appeal.

5. She was abducted by aliens.

This silly conspiracy theory asserts that Earhart makes contact with an alien spacecraft and is either abducted or blown out of the sky. According to “The ‘37s” episode of sci-fi television show Star Trek: Voyager, she was taken and then locked away in a "cryostasis chamber” on another planet.

To learn more about the remarkable life of Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic, check out the fourth episode of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series.

Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.