Black helicopter

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Unmarked black helicopters have been described in conspiracy theories since the 1970s

Black helicopters is a term which became popular in the United States militia movement and associated political groups in the 1990s as a symbol and warning sign of an alleged conspiratorial military takeover of the United States, though it has also been associated with UFOs, men in black and similar conspiracies.[citation needed] Rumors circulated that, for instance, the United Nations patrolled the US with unmarked black helicopters, or that federal agents used black helicopters to enforce wildlife laws.

Metonymic use of the phrase black helicopters sometimes occurs in reference to conspiracy theories in general.


Stories of black helicopters first appeared in the 1970s,[1] and were linked to reports of cattle mutilation.[2] It is possible that the idea originated in Hal Lindsey's book The Late, Great Planet Earth, published in 1970 and popular among conspiracy theorists. Lindsey theorized that the locust-like creatures referenced in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament were actually helicopters, which John had never seen and thus did not know how to describe.[3]

Jim Keith wrote two books on the subject: Black Helicopters Over America: Strikeforce for the New World Order (1995), and Black Helicopters II: The End Game Strategy (1998).[citation needed]

Media attention to black helicopters increased in February 1995, when first-term Republican northern Idaho Representative Helen Chenoweth charged that armed federal agents were landing black helicopters on Idaho ranchers' property to enforce the Endangered Species Act. "I have never seen them," Chenoweth said in an interview in The New York Times. "But enough people in my district have become concerned that I can't just ignore it. We do have some proof."[4]

The black helicopters theory resonates well with the belief held by some in the militia movement that troops from the United Nations might invade the United States. The John Birch Society published an article in The New American detailing how the existence of the covert aircraft was mostly the product of possible visual errors and a tendency towards overabundant caution.[5]

Possible explanations[edit]

Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flying in Iraq.
The US Customs and Border Protection organization uses black UH-60 Sikorsky helicopters

The following explanations have been provided by various organizations and experts, including government agencies, regarding the alleged black helicopters:

Pejorative use[edit]

The term has also been used to ridicule other conspiracy theories or conspiracy theorists. For instance, a Slate article on basketball refereeing, said: "In the wake of this scandal, every game will be in question, and not only by fans disposed to seeing black helicopters outside the arena."[13] Vice President Joe Biden had recourse to the term in a speech responding to the National Rifle Association during the 2013 White House campaign for background checks on all gun purchasers, saying, "The black helicopter crowd is really upset. It's kind of scary, man."[14] When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a database to monitor the activities of journalists, bloggers and other “media influencers,” and some people raised concerns, DHS's spokesman said, "Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists."[15]

Fictional representations[edit]

  • Blue Thunder; a film where a police officer is assigned as the test pilot of an advanced, dark colored armed helicopter intended for anti-terrorism duties. He then discovers a conspiracy to stir up riots in urban ghettos as a pretext for declaring a national emergency in order to establish a dictatorship, using such helicopters to subdue the population.
  • Airwolf; a television series where an intelligence agency known only as 'The Firm' uses an advanced dark colored armed helicopter to conduct espionage missions both abroad and within the United States.
  • Amerika; a television miniseries in which the Soviet Union has taken over the United States under the pretext of the United Nations and uses black painted armed helicopters to destroy all resistance to their rule.
  • The X-Files

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Media related to black helicopters at Wikimedia Commons