Bielefeld, Germany, Is Offering $1.1 Million If You Can Prove the Conspiracy Theory That It's Not Real
There are numerous conspiracy theories attached to specific locations. Area 51 is more famous for its association with aliens than as a U.S. Air Force facility, and the Denver Airport has inspired rumors of illuminati ties since it opened. But the theories attached to Bielefeld, Germany, aren't quite as disturbing or complex: Truthers simply assert that the city doesn't exist. Now, Bielefeld's marketing group is offering €1 million ($1.1 million) to anyone who can prove that Bielefeld isn't a real place, BBC reports.
Like many conspiracy theories, this one got its start on the internet. In 1994, when misinformation online spread much more slowly and there were fewer places for it to go, a student named Achim Held posted a brief message on the discussion platform Usenet. "Bielefeld? There's no such thing," he wrote. Held had just heard of the city for the first time at a party, and it turned out he wasn't the only person unaware of it. His message went viral (or viral for the early 1990s, anyway) and sparked a rumor that Bielefeld still isn't able to shake.
In an attempt to prove itself to the world once and for all, the city came up with a competition: If someone can find irrefutable evidence of Bielefeld's non-existence, that person will receive €1 million. The evidence can come in many forms—photos, videos, or documents—but it has to stand up to the scrutiny of the contest's organizers. The fact that the prize is coming from the very city in question is a strong indication that it will go uncollected, but on the off-chance they find a winner, Bielefeld marketing's sponsors will pay the bill.
Bielefeld, Germany, has more going for it than an internet conspiracy. It's home to major companies, a university, and a population of 340,000. But if you're certain that all of the above is a lie, you can submit your evidence proving otherwise to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Bielefeldmillion.