Welcome to the world of conspiracy theories. Last week I wrote in The Forest Scout about the famous Mattress Firm conspiracy and was asked to continue telling the school about the internet’s crazy thoughts. So, each week I will be filming a podcast discussing one theory at a time. And for the ones that really give me goosebumps, I’ll be bringing special guests to help uncover the truth.
This week we will investigate the lesser known theory that is Walmart’s closing due to “plumbing problems.” I put that in quotes because in each closure case the Walmart announced their doors would be shut for over six months. To recall, Walmarts in Pico Rivera, California; Livingston and Midland, Texas; Brandon, Florida; and Tulsa, Oklahoma, all closed so suddenly that even employees were surprised.
The question I will be asking today is how is it that multiple stores in completely different areas of the U.S. with nothing in common all needed help with plumbing at the same exact time? There are multiple conspiracies that attempt to answer this question and others. One, for example, is that the stores closed in an attempt to get rid of employees who openly criticized Walmart; however, the only location that this correlates with is the one in Pico Rivera. I personally don’t believe this one; there isn’t enough evidence that supports it. There are several more conspiracies that are about as uninteresting as the one that suggests Walmart is getting rid of radical employees. Some weird ones include that the stores were all receiving radioactive packages from the Fukushima area of Japan, or that Walmart is avoiding lawsuits for not having the company standards kept up.
But possibly the most interesting and crazy conspiracy that pulled my attention was something completely different: and this is the theory that these Walmarts are secret bases for military personnel to campout/strategize. Okay okay, I know it sounds nuts. When I first heard about it my first reaction was to walk away. But hold on, stay with me for a few more minutes,and I promise you won’t regret it. Here’s a fact: there are hundreds of miles of underground tunnels beneath the U.S. soil. No one, except the government, knows what they are or have been used for. Even creepier, the five closed Walmarts all fall exactly on the tunnel lines which conspiracists have figured out due to a detailed map from a declassified Russian intelligence file. The conspiracy is that the military/government is using the perfect location of these Walmarts as a cover for their operations. One theory blowing up on the internet is that the Walmarts are being turned into FEMA bases. In case you don’t know FEMA is the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, and it was implemented in order to deal with extreme natural disasters. Supposedly during an event, people could be transported underground and stationed at these new bases without having to ever come up for air. Photos, eye-witness accounts, and written statements from the contractors who worked on the tunnels underground all support and make their presence a fact, not a conspiracy. The government has definitely used these tunnels in the past; what’s stopping the military from doing it again?
With that in mind, the question is not whether Walmart could be housing military bases, the question becomes is it true? This conspiracy is crazy and farfetched, which is probably why it isn’t talked about as much as others. But if it wasn’t interesting I wouldn’t be writing about it. The believability is low, but the level of entertainment is quite high. Now that you know the context, you can listen to my opinion on it as well as this week’s guest Catherine Greub uncover the mystery with me.
Conspiracy theories: a world of mystery- a place where people can speak their mind, no matter how crazy they might sound. Conspiracies are some of the most interesting and psychologically mystifying arguments inspired by our society today. They have a way of capturing a crowd of sane and insane people. If you are anything like me, you are fascinated by these theories. I have decided to, each week, present either a famous theory, or a more unknown one, and explain the significance/reason people are so transfixed. My goal is to get readers to question everything they think they know to be true. I will be diving into the most complex suspicions available on the internet and won’t leave anything uncovered.
This week we discuss the infamous “Mattress Firm Conspiracy.” Before beginning however, ask yourselves, have you ever been inside a Mattress Firm? If so, have you ever bought anything? More likely than not, you answered no to both questions. Living in the Lake Forest general area, we don’t see many Mattress Firms in town; however, travel seven miles south and you’ll find seven of them. I’m not exaggerating; there are seven Mattress Firms within a mile of each other. I dare you now to go on Google maps and search for Mattress Firms. You will find plenty more than you’re expecting. In fact, there’s a Mattress Firm in Lake Bluff right next to Target- 2.6 miles away from LFHS. Many people have no idea it’s there, let alone open.
Founded in 1986, the Houston-based company allegedly made $3.5 billion in pro forma sales in 2015. That’s a lot of money, and if the company is really making that much, it makes sense why there are so many stores across the country. After learning way more about mattresses than I ever thought I would, I decided to investigate the Mattress Firm in Lake Bluff myself after school last Thursday.. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. I counted a grand total of two people walk into the store, and they walked in together. I have no idea whether or not they bought anything, but they were only inside for about ten minutes. I also have no idea whether or not that specific time was a fluke and the store actually gets a ton of customers. Maybe Mattress Firm is actually extremely successful, and we just don’t see it or know about it. But that’s not the conspiracy, the theory racking the world’s and my brain right now is a lot more sinister.
It all started where most theories start: Reddit. “Mattress Firm is some sort of giant money laundering scheme…I remember seeing 4 Mattress Firms all on each corner of an intersection once, there is no way there is such a demand for mattresses.” This comment quickly blew up on social media because it was so relatable. People all over the U.S. began to notice the frequency of Mattress Firms, but it was almost always taken as a joke. But is it really that funny? If what people are saying is true and it’s just one giant scheme, are any of us near mattress stores safe? Before unpacking that question we need to take a quick history lesson back in time to the era of Al Capone.
The term “money laundering” is said to have been coined by the Italian Mafia and criminals like Al Capone in the 1920s and 30s. Allegedly, Capone and his team purchased ‘Laundromats’ to hide the money they acquired from illegal activities such as selling liquor. They would supposedly mix the small profit made from the laundromat business with their much larger profit from everything else. The way this ties to our theory is that conspiracists believe the company that owns Mattress Firm, Steinhoff International, is the one laundering money. “In September 2016, the company was acquired by Steinhoff International for $3.8 billion, and Mattress Firm now operates as a subsidiary of Steinhoff,” states Mattress Firm in the “about” section of their website. Did Steinhoff International become aware of the scheme and decided they wanted in? Or is there something else going on behind the scenes making the company so successful?
In defense of his company and response to the conspiracy, CEO Ken Murphy explained that the reason there is such a high proximity of stores is due to recent acquisitions including the company “Sleepy’s.” According to Business Insider, adding Sleepy’s (the second largest mattress retailer) also added 1,000 stores to the map. Mr. Murphy also stated that they would be closing 200 stores last December. He even put out a statement fighting suspicions and arguing that their company’s only goal is to “help customers find the perfect mattress and get a better night’s sleep.” Did Mattress Firm actually close 200 stores last December? Is Murphy just trying to make the company seem less guilty?
Conspiracy stories are an important example of democracy and the freedom of press and speech at work. Some conspiracies have even resulted in becoming true. Here are just a few examples: the government poisoning alcohol during the Prohibition killing thousands, Big Tobacco knowing that cigarettes cause cancer, or that the government is spying on you. The Mattress Firm conspiracy is just one example of Americans using their right to question everything. There are thousands of possible reasons Mattress Firms are everywhere but don’t seem to be making much of a profit. Maybe it’s all a front, but maybe people really love buying mattresses. But before coming to any final conclusions, I ask you one last question: What is the number one place for hiding money in a house? You guessed it, under the mattress. Coincidence or conspiracy?