Was 9-11 an inside job? Are crop circles evidence of aliens? And was Osama bin Laden a CIA asset? Step inside Conspiracy Culture on Queen Street West near Roncesvalles and shop owner Patrick Whyte will happily explain why the answers to all of the above questions are quite possibly yes.
“Oh, there’s definitely an appetite for this information,” Whyte says of the conspiracy-related material he sells. “People are searching for answers.”
In the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks 10 years ago, Whyte found himself embroiled in just such a search. He wanted hard information – books, films, newspapers – about the numerous conspiracy theories that were ubiquitous online. Yet, in Toronto, he found next to nothing.
Recognizing a void, Whyte decided the city needed a physical space where curious individuals could find alternative information. With the help of his wife and co-owner Kadina Yu, Conspiracy Culture opened its doors for business in 2006.
“We felt we could help legitimize these ideas with a physical storefront,” says Whyte, flipping through a book on bin Laden’s ties to the CIA. You won’t find these sections at Chapters: Shelves labelled cryptozoology, mythical beasts, secret societies, and aliens and UFOs are stacked high with titles like Aliens and the Scalpel, Bird Flu: A Virus Of Our Own Hatching, and Chemtrails Confirmed.
“We try to provide a range of titles so people can come to their own conclusions,” says Whyte, who spends much of his 60-plus hours in the shop each week conversing with devoted customers eager to have found someone willing to listen to their often colourful postulations. A popular topic of late has been bin Laden’s death: Whyte is quick to remind me that bin Laden’s real name is actually Tim Osman, and that he is probably still a CIA asset.
More than a bookstore, Conspiracy Culture also hosts events and speakers on topics like UFOs, chemtrails and the Illuminati. “It’s definitely a hub for those devoted to finding the truth,” says Whyte, who is in the midst of planning a five-hour show at the Bloor Cinema to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9-11.
Whyte says many of his customers think of Conspiracy Culture as “a candy store for free thinkers.” For them, the truth is out there, so long as you question everything.