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A brief history of "Chemtrails"

“Chemtrails” are supposedly long lasting contrails that are being deliberately created by the government for some sinister purpose. In reality, these contrails just look like normal contrails. It’s a fringe conspiracy theory that spread over the internet, mutating as it goes for survivability. But where did it begin? What is the origin of the word “chemtrail”, and who started this particular conspiracy theory?

The folowing link takes you to an archived copy of a conspiracy theory web page from 2000:


On it is a link to a file entitled “GENOCIDE.TXT” containing emails from 1997, the first part of which originally came from the BIOWAR-L mailing list dated 9/18/97.


The lines filling our skies are not contrails. The lines are dispersed and may linger for hours
We now have proof that our goverment is using chemical agents on populated areas they are adding it to military jet fuel. Have you ever looked up at a vapor trail behind military aircraft flying so high a symbol of Americas power. Look again!!

Commerical jets also leave a lovely (non-toxic) vapor trail when the heat from the turbines come in contact with the cool air condencing the water droplets into steam. Softly the lines defuse into the blue sky. So what is different about the military aircraft, the answer is simple, It’s the Fuel JP-8+100 is some really bad stuff.

When you look up over the skys of New York City on a clear, sunny morning you see the military aircraft making patterens across the sky with their vapor trails. The smoke is thick and does not go away. When it comes in contact with the sunlight it turns to a purple color, then desipates into a over cast Purple Haze.
this whole thing stinks of a Goverment DePopulation Program.

Here you have the key elements of the chemtrail theory, that there are two types of contrail, one that goes away, and one that does not.  Further more the one that does not will make you sick.

The earliest dated actual article I could find on this theory was from January 8, 1999, by William Thomas, which recounts the suspicious of three people about contrails, dating them to well before 1999


Wallace has been watching formations of high-flying jets weave grid-like contrails above his home since last summer [summer 1998]. Each time, “We get a taste in our mouth,” he reports. He and his wife Ann get “kind of tired and sick,” having “no energy to do anything.”
Series of aircraft contrails in a high traffic region over the northern Gulf of Mexico 1992 (Images courtesy NASA)
Wallace and his wife are not alone in their plight. In March, 1996, Dr. Greg Hanford bought an expensive camera and binoculars to keep an eye on jets spraying white bands above his Bakersfield, California home. Hanford has counted 40 or 60 jets on some “spray days.”
Pseudo-color, multispectral images taken April 20, 1994 by a NOAA satellite, reveal a number of contrails over Oklahoma and Kansas.
Pat Edgar has been watching the jets spraying over eastern Oklahoma since a sunny day in October, 1977 when as many as 30 contrails gradually occluded the sky. “They look like they’re playing tic-tac-toe up there,” he says. “You know darn well it’s not passenger planes.”
Rogers, does not attribute his strange malady to the mystery jets. But neither he nor his doctors can explain his breathing difficulty, which began shortly after spraying began in November, 1997, and is getting worse.

It seems pretty clear that this article is the beginning of the Chemtrail as a popular internet phenomenon, as it was shortly after this article that William Thomas was invited onto Art Bell’s radio show on January 25th.  It’s also very clear from the article that  individual suspicions regarding contrails did not suddenly start in 1999.  In fact the article dates it back to 1977 (although later version of this article change it to 1997).    Of course, paranoia has been going on for a lot longer than that, see


There’s a follow-up article later


Sky Samples Analyzed

By William Thomas with Erminia Cassani

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Canada, April 22, 1999 (ENS) – As unmarked tanker-type aircraft continue spraying sky-obscuring chemtrails over regions of the U.S. and Canada, this writer and American journalist Erminia Cassani have obtained laboratory tests of fully-documented samples of aerial fallout. The samples were tested by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licensed facility.

And see this take on the original article from Feb 23, 1999 (read the full article continuing on page 12)

http://www.phoenixarchives.com/contact/1999/0299/022399.pdf (mirror)

It contains a very interesting depiction of the power of suggestion:

Art said that after Mr. Thomas’ first program he went out to observe how the jets were flying over his Pahrump, Nevada studio/home.  Art was shocked to see aerial spraying, and both he and his wife got sick.

Interesting he never noticed this before, but simply talk to William Thomas for four hours, and you start o notice things.

Google Groups archives internet news-groups back to 1981, but the earliest mention of chemtrails was from May 8th, 1999: on alt.fan.art-bell

This cartilage gel that Art’s plugging could be used for the joint ache
that chemtrail victims complained about last night…say…wait a
minute…maybe chemtrails were deployed to boost cartilage gel sales…!

Here we have mention of chemtrail victims, and “joint ache” as a symptom.

In May of 1999, we have this from William Thomas:


Issue #2 April 7-16, 1999

Dear Friends and concerned sky-watchers,

A March 17, 1999 radio interview going out to 15 million listeners
“rang the Bell” on an investigation financed entirely by your efforts.
During this third four-hour segment with Art Bell, I mentioned recent
breakthroughs in an investigation undertaken by a small team of
dedicated associates. My warmest thanks to Richard and Samantha Young,
D, Joe, Erminia, DJ, Karal Ayn, Ken, MB, Barbara, Mark and John for
sharing their valuable time, attention, research and insights.

Again referencing the Art Bell show.  The “Chemtrails over America” bulletin apparently had issue #1 on march 9, 1999. That also seems to be about the time people started taking photos of normal contrails and calling them chemtrails.

Judging by the earliest postings, it seems like hypochondria plays a large part. People start to connect the contrails with illness, and suspect they must contain some kind of poison.

Art Bell had a page on contrails, dating back to at least Nov 27th, 1999.  Available on Archive.org:


Not a lot of commentary on the first page, but there’s the first usage of the photo of Boeing E6 TACAMO dumping fuel, titled: “The strange contrail mystery continues. (9/30/99)”

Looking at the previous year (1998) on usenet, there is NO mention of chemtrails. The word “contrail” crops up 324 times, mostly in reference to meteors and rockets. There are a few references to the affect of contrails on climate change. But NOTHING about deliberate contrail creation, or anything like “chemtrails”.

The web site chemtrailcentral.com was registered on May 6th, 2000, about a year after the “chemtrail” idea was created. The earliest archived page from there indicates a lot of local media involvement, and their archive indicates nothing before 4/24/2000, which said:

Monday a KHOU crew met with Chemtrail Tracking USA Club co-founders Lorie [Kramer] and Dona of Houston and member Rhonda from Ft. Worth, as well as other local members of the Yahoo! based club for the taping of a story on Chemtrails and public concern over their purpose and health impact. Reporter Ron Travino and cameraman Nathan visited for several hours at the house of Lorie, taping, talking, asking questions, and viewing photos and videos.

On chemtrailcentral, there’s actually a thread about the history of chemtrails. There people give their recollections of how it all started. Most date it to late 1998 or 1999. A few people report earlier contrails (1989, 1991) , and then surmise it must have started earlier.

A post there by 3T3L1 quotes chemtrail debunker Jay Reynolds:

derivation of the word “chemtrails”
Posted on August 26, 2001 at 09:06:54 AM by jayreynolds
was by Val Valerian(pseudonym for Former USAF captain [John] Grace)
in April 1999. Grace/Valerian recognized that the power of suggestion
worked against his claim and proposed coining a new term more suggestive
of his claim

That does not sound unreasonable, since the earliest reference to the word I have is April 1999. This page claims to be reporting from March 29th 1999, but could have been written after the fact, based on photos taken that day. It’s archived back to October 1999.

The original pages from Val Valerian/Valdemar Valerain/O.H. Krill/John Grace, can be found on archive.org. The earliest real mention of spraying on his pages date back to emails 13 Jan 1998. John Grace is a UFO conspiracy theorist who published several books on shadow governments and suchlike, he also faked documents to support arguments in his books.

There are also some early mentions in the archives of CTRL – the Conspiracy Theory Research List, a mailing list for the discussion of conspiracty theories.  Here’s the earliest entries:

http://www.mail-archive.com/[email protected]&q=date:[19950101+TO+19990301]+chemtrails

I think some of the date stamps on these are wrong, but they do date from around 1999.   There are some other early references to contrails in 1999, including one that links to the earliest debunking page, still active, with photos from Feb 11th 1999:


Digging into the CTRL archives a bit more gives us this:

http://www.mail-archive.com/[email protected]/msg05861.html

Subject: The Millennium Report - Special Edition: Contrail Reports Increasing
Across the US
From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] (Paul Anderson - TMP / CPR-Canada)
Date: Thu, Feb 18, 1999 10:43 PM
Message-id: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

The Millennium Report - Special Edition:
Contrail Reports Increasing Across the US


In This Report:

Special Edition:
Contrail Reports Increasing Across the US

The contrail controversy continues to grow; according to
William Thomas, the independent journalist who has brought
this issue to national attention (yet still not being reported in the
mainstream media it seems) the "contrails" have been reported now in
at least 40 US states. Many reports and photographs are now available,
many on various web sites (see contrail page in Special Research
Projects on the TMP web site for links).

* *William Thomas: Next Interview on Art Bell - February 18, 1999* *

William Thomas: (Previous Interview) on Art Bell - January 25, 1999
(This audio file link requires RealAudio or RealPlayer)

William Thomas: Mystery Contrails: Poison from the Sky? - Update

More Contrail Reports and Feedback
(Special Research Projects)

LA Mystery Contrails: Report and Photos

Ground Zero: Are These in Your Skies?


The Harbinger

Contrail Photo Taken by Art Bell

Which dates things a bit more precisely, the first Art Bell show with William Thomas was Feb 18th 1999

Now, the “LA Mystery Contrails: Report and Photos”, link above seems to go to an early version of Jeff Rense’s web site, with a post by “Marvin Rush”.  It has some nice photos of contrails spreading into cirrus, dated 2-13-99


The “Harbringer”, “heavensake”  sites are not avaialble.

This “Horizon” page gives a lot of good archived links with dates back to 1/8/99


Jay Reynolds, a long-time chemtrail debunker, has a page which contains several personal emails the details the early days of chemtrails:


22 thoughts on “A brief history of "Chemtrails"

  1. J says:

    Ok, I don’t completely believe in Chemtrails. But then again, I don’t completely rule out the idea. Recently, congress has even mentioned that it would like to look into using chemicals to alter our world’s weather patterns. It is called Geoengineering and it IS VERY real. The “Weather Modification Research & Technology Act” was introduced into congress in 2005. Taken from the text of the bill: “It is the purpose of this Act to develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated national weather modification policy and a national cooperative Federal and State program of weather modification research and development.”

    So, it may seem nutty to suggest that chemtrails exist, but it can also be seem as nutty to suggest that the government would NEVER do something like seeding the skies with chemicals such as Barium and Aluminum.

  2. Cloud seeding research programs have existed since the 1940s. There is no secret there. The question here is is what we see in the skies every day (contrails) is connected to this. Nothing really suggests this.

  3. Chris says:

    The author of this site is somehow funny to me. Cloud seeding is a reality and the chemicals used in the process can cause illness. This is a fact not fringe conspiracy theory.

  4. Of course cloud seeding is real. Nobody has EVERY said it is not. Did you miss the preceding comment?

    Chemicals used in cooking can cause illness. It’s the quantity ingested that’s the problem.

    But what does any of that have to do with the “chemtrail” theory – are you suggesting that the long white trails that persist and spread are deliberate cloud seeding?

  5. dz says:

    Did anyone catch the replay tonight of Art Bell’s “Ghost to Ghost” from March 17, 1999 on Chemtrails (mentioned above)? Apparently they were spraying pathogens back then, causing people to come down with meningitis and other various illnesses. I guess over time they switched to barium and aluminum ’cause pathogens weren’t doing the trick. I wonder what it will be tomorrow…

  6. Art Bell was when the chemtrail story really caught hold

  7. MikeC says:

    “It is the purpose of this Act to develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated national weather modification policy and a national cooperative Federal and State program of weather modification research and development.”

    Which pretty much means that they are not doing it at the time of the act.

    Yes geoengineering is being talked about, and yes, ONE of the many technologies involved might be lacing the stratosphere with soemthing to reflect sunlight.

    and all the discussion is about what might be the unintended consequences, will it even work, etc.

    You can attend meetings all around the world on the topic.

    Hardly the stuff of a conspiracy to poison us all.

  8. Ross Marsden says:

    … and the trails we are seeing are (mostly) not in the stratosphere. They are in the upper troposhpere or a bit above the tropopause. They are certainly well below where they would need to do this “lacing”.

  9. Jay Reynolds says:

    This fellow Luis Alfonso Gámez has a blog called Magonia connected to the Spanish Basque area newspaper El Correo. Senor Gámez has written several skeptical articles on the subject of chemtrails, and caused a bit of a stir. The skeptical website amazings.es has just published a skeptical article “The “The Life of the Fumigated” which references contrailscience.com and includes an interview with a common sense meteorologist.

  10. MikeC says:

    Apparently they lack their official DEA Science Manual on that Spanish Blog – I’m sending them some just as soon as they send me US$29.95 each…..they should get them about the time chemtrails aer shown as real! 😉

  11. rob says:

    so…. fron the first post… “on 18/9/97….. this whole thing stinks of a Goverment DePopulation Program”.

    14 years later, almost to the day, chemtrail proponents still claim de-population as a reason for ‘spraying’.

    ‘google public data explorer’ gives the global population in 1997 as 5.849 billion,

    ‘worldometers’ gives todays population as 6.992 billion.

    it doesn’t appear to be working very well, does it……

  12. Basil says:

    Ten years ago when I was a student there were complaints about aircraft landing at a nearby airfield “dumping fuel” over the city. People said they saw low-flying aircraft, and then they got short of breath, they blamed fuel dumping. The trouble was, the aircraft that used the small local airfield were of a type that did not have the capacity to do what they were being blamed for doing.

  13. AHS says:

    For years since i’ve noticed chemtrail, it is a no brainer-all you need do is watch the sky and check commercial air traffic. People confuse the facts into something complex when-observation is all that is needed. Whatever they are doing/spraying it
    A.makes clouds
    B. heavy spraying equals heavy rain in 4 years concurrent
    Via occasional look outside while having a smoke-100% rock solid, bullet proof, video cam ease proof.

    Now all you need do is look to Bill Gates or Scientific American. Not sure if they tell the same story as B Gates want to put Sulfur Dioxide into atmosphere, while other reports are of aluminum particles=both for geoengineering purposes. I have heard our planet is 20% darker than some yrs back, yet sun more intense from aerosol ozone destroying applications. (non-researched by myself)
    Google chemtrails and Scientific American. Oh, the president also gave a speech talking about geoengineering and “chemtrails” along with many gov papers~all easy to find on the web. Verify and go to the gov source, do not read some blogger with fudged “documents”
    Conspiracy is often a fact you will not recognize until it is found in mainstream publications. Now Scientific American is permitting everybody to accept as fact, go look you are granted permission to believe they exist. The otherwise “fringe looney” who has spoke of this for 20 yrs, no longer needs to exist to the nay sayers- Myself? I would now want to know what the fringe looney is speaking on today! Curiosity killed the cat, i am not a cat….meow…did i say that?

  14. HappyMonday says:

    “I would now want to know what the fringe looney is speaking on today! Curiosity killed the cat, i am not a cat….meow…did i say that?”

    Is there any believer in chemtrail-as-government-conspiracy out there that can just explain themselves, as opposed to lapsing into any kind of bizarre dialogue with themselves within the context of the comment they’re making?

    You people really do your movement no favours at all.

  15. JFDee says:

    AHS said:

    “People confuse the facts into something complex when-observation is all that is needed.”

    Observation without knowledge about what’s going on in the atmosphere (in short: weather) is not going to get you very far.

    An approaching warm front will ride up over cold air and will be pushed up, cooling down and rising in humidity (relative!). Planes crossing at these moments will be much more likely to create persistant trails, and rain is following later.

    To put it in a nutshell:
    Your observation is correct, but the trails are not the cause, they are a consequence of bad weather.

    I recommend to have a look at this visualization:

  16. Jay Reynolds says:

    A simple way to remember that is this maxim:
    “Contrails don’t cause weather, weather causes contrails”.
    -Jay Reynolds (1999)

  17. Eric says:

    I can see how a lot of conspiracy theories might have merit but the whole “Chemtrail” thing is just stupid and reminds me time and again of just how flat out moronic people can be. The interesting thing that stood out to me in this article was the comment about the Chemtrail Theory “morphing for survival” which is exactly what happens when something isn’t right – when it’s just flat out wrong. Proponents of the “theory” will revise it until the details fit in with the rest of society’s idea of what works and doesn’t work, essentially creating an understanding and acceptance, but while the details get manipulated, the overall concept remains the same and that’s the concept that should always be under scrutiny.

    Think about the conspiracy theories that actually hold weight, like the alien crash at Roswell or JFK – the facts and testimonies in these cases don’t change, whenever evidence comes about – the theories are more supported than ever. Chemtrails don’t hold up to this most basic test, heck, they don’t have witnesses or testimony from anyone of relevance to back up any of this hubbub – all you have is a bunch of jerks in their mom’s basement, with no background in meteorology or aviation for that matter, making silly accusations. I’m the first to admit the government does some grosse stuff, but this just smells of “dumbass”. Why wouldn’t the government weed out the population another way, if they wanted to? LIke maybe release a virus or cut off the clean water supply – poison manufactured foods and so forth.

    Use your head people, that’s why the ancient aliens gave them to you!

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