Coming up is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In 2016, a survey showed that 52 percent of the British public thought that Apollo missions were faked. Skepticism is highest among those who were too young to see it live on TV: 73 percent of aged 25-34 believe we didn’t land on the moon, compared to 38 percent of those aged 55 or more. These numbers seem to be rising every year. British unbelievers were only 25 percent ten years ago. It is not known how may they are today, but a 2018 poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center revealed that 57 percent Russians believe that there has never been a manned lunar landing. The percentage rises to 69 percent among people with higher education: in other words, the more educated people are, and the more capable of rational reasoning, the less they believe in the moon landings. In the US, the percentage seems much lower: A 1999 Gallup poll indicated just 6 percent Americans doubting the moon landings, and a 2013 Pew Research showed the number to have risen to a mere 7 percent. Not surprisingly, then, a 2010 Pew Research poll showed that 63 percent of Americans were confident that NASA would land an Astronaut on Mars by 2050.
The moon hoax theory was almost unheard of before the spread of Internet, and gained momentum with the development of YouTube, which allowed close inspection of the Apollo footage by anyone interested. Before that, individuals who had serious doubts had little means to share them and make their case convincing. One pioneer was Bill Kaysing, who broke the subject in 1976 with his self-published book We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. He may be called a whistleblower, since he had been working for Rocketdyne, the company that designed and built the Apollo rockets. Then came Ralph René with his NASA Mooned America!, also self published.
Research gained depth and scope, and disbelief became epidemic around the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11, thanks in great part to British cinematographer David Percy, who co-authored the book Dark Moon with Mary Bennett, and directed the 3-hour documentary What Happened on the Moon? An Investigation into Apollo (2000), presented by Ronnie Stronge. It remains to this day greatly valuable for anyone willing to make an informed opinion.
Then there was the much shorter A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Moon (2001), directed by Bart Sibrel, which brings in valuable insight into the historical context. Sibrel also went around challenging NASA astronauts to swear on the Bible, in front of the camera, that they did walk on the moon, and he compiled these sequences in Astronauts Gone Wild, together with more useful footages of embarrassingly awkward statements made by NASA astronauts who are supposed to have walked on the moon but sound hardly competent and consistent; Alan Bean from Apollo 12 learning from Sibrel that he went through the Van Allen radiation belt is a must-see.
Then, using materials from those films and other sources, came the groundbreaking TV documentary Did we land on the moon? (2001), directed by John Moffet for Fox TV. To my knowledge and judgment, this is still the best introduction to the arguments of the “moon hoax theorists”: You can watch it here from its 2013 rebroadcast on Channel 5:
There are very few books available on the subject. I am not aware of a more researched one than One Small Step? The Great Moon Hoax and the Race to Dominate Earth From Space by German researcher Gerhard Wisnewski, originally published in 2005, from which I will quote repeatedly.
I am not going to discuss all the evidence presented in these sources. I can only recommend them and a few others on the way. I will simply sort what I see as the most convincing arguments, add a few recent developments, give my best conclusion, place the issue in the broader historical perspective, and draw some lessons from it all about the Matrix we have been living in.
First of all, we need to be clear about the aim of such an inquiry. We should not expect any conclusive proof that Neil Armstrong, or any other Apollo moon-walker, didn’t walk on the moon. That cannot be proven, absent some indisputable evidence that he was somewhere else (orbiting around the earth, for example) at the precise time he claimed to have spent on the moon. In most cases, you cannot prove that something didn’t happen, just like you cannot prove that something doesn’t exist. You cannot prove, for example, that unicorns don’t exist. That is why the burden of proof rests on anyone who claims they do exist. If I say to you I walked on the moon, you will ask me to prove it, and you will not take as an answer: “No, you prove that I’m didn’t go.” Does it make a difference if I am the NASA? It does, because calling the NASA a liar will inevitably lead you to question everything you have been led to believe by your government and mainstream media. It is a giant leap indeed! Just like children of abusive parents, decent citizens of abusive governments will tend to repress evidence of their government’s malevolence. And so, people choose to believe in the moon landings, without even asking for proofs, simply because: “They wouldn’t have lied to us for more than 50 years, would they? The media would have exposed the lie long ago (remember the Watergate)! And what about the 250,000 people involved with the project? Someone would have talked.” I can actually hear myself speaking like that just 10 years ago. All these objections must indeed be addressed.
But before that, the scientific thing to do is to start with the question: can the NASA prove they sent men to the moon? If the answer is no, the next step is to decide if we take their word for it or not. That requires pondering what could have been the reasons for such a massive lie. We will get to that.
But, first of all, can the NASA provide hard evidence of the moon landings?
Yes, they can. They brought back pieces of the moon: roughly 380 kilograms of moon rocks and soil samples, all Apollo missions combined. Moon rocks prove the moon landings, don’t they? Yes they do, but only if it can be firmly established that they were not dug out from the earth. And that is the problem. As explained here, “meteorites have been found in Antarctica which have proved to have the same characteristics as the moon rocks.” It may be helpful to know that in 1967, two years before Apollo 11, the NASA set up an expedition to Antarctica, joined by Wernher Von Braun, the leading NASA propagandist for the lunar missions; Antarctica is the region of the earth with the biggest concentration of meteorites, but it is not known whether the expedition included geologists, nor if meteorites were brought back. In fact, it was not until 1972 that lunar meteorites were officially discovered in Antarctica; their lunar origin, of course, was determined by comparison with the moon samples brought back by Apollo crews (Wisnewksi 202).
So the moon rocks are a far cry from proving the moon landings. As a matter of fact, none of the so-called moon rocks can be proven to have been brought back from the moon rather than from Antarctica or somewhere else on earth. But it gets much worse: some of the so-called moon rocks have been conclusively proven to be fake. In the 1990s, British astrobiologist Andrew Steele was granted the special privilege to get close to some of the precious samples locked in NASA safes, and imagine his surprise when discovering in them a bristle, bits of plastic, nylon and Teflon and tiny earthly animals (Wisnewski 207). Another moon rock made the headlines when, 40 years after having been handed personally by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Dutch prime minister, it was scrutinized and proven to be petrified wood. Granted, a few fake moon rocks don’t prove that all moon rocks are fake. But it should be reason enough for starting a systematic scientific examination of the dozens of other samples that the USA ceremoniously gave away in 1969 and the 1970s.
What other proofs does the NASA have of the moon landings? The films and photographs, of course! The films are notoriously blurry, which makes their examination difficult. How, for example, can you be sure that astronaut David Scott from Apollo 15 is dropping a real hammer and a real feather to demonstrate Newtonian gravity in an atmosphere-free environment, when you can hardly see the objects? We do have a clear photo of the hammer and the feather on the ground, but how do we know they are the same as the blurry objects dropped in the film?
What would be helpful for a proper investigation is the original NASA footage. Researchers have been asking for access to these films for decades, under the Freedom of Information Act. In 2006, they were given an answer. Here is what you can read on Reuters:
“NASA admitted in 2006 that no one could find the original video recordings of the July 20, 1969, landing. Since then, Richard Nafzger, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who oversaw television processing at the ground-tracking sites during the Apollo 11 mission, has been looking for them. The good news is he found where they went. The bad news is they were part of a batch of 200,000 tapes that were degaussed — magnetically erased — and re-used to save money.”
Russians are so evil-minded: as a result of this NASA admission, Russian officials have started demanding an international investigation.
Fortunately, we have the photos. Besides planting a US flag and collecting rock samples, the astronauts spent much time taking photos on the moon. And let’s be fair: in 2015, the NASA released to the public thousands of them in high resolution. They are accessible here, and can be examined in detail. Most of them are remarkable for their quality.
The Apollo 11 crew used a standard Hasselblad 500C with a few alterations, including the removal of the reflex mirror. The film used was a standard Kodak Ektachrome diapositive film, 160 ASA. That is a surprisingly sensitive film for a place where the sunlight is unfiltered by any atmosphere, especially considering that some photos, which came out perfectly exposed, were taken directly against the sun. There are also technical issues with the reliability of this material on the surface of the moon, where temperatures go from under 100°C minus to over 100°C plus: the only protection against heat for both camera and magazine was a reflexive coating. (How the astronauts survive such temperatures is an even more serious issue.)
Another problematic aspect is the professional quality of most of those pictures. Every single shot taken by Neil Armstrong, for example, is perfectly framed and exposed. Wisnewski (144-149) quite correctly points out how incredible that is, given the fact that Armstrong (or any other astronaut) could not take aim, since the camera was fixed on his chest where he could not even see it. Not to mention the difficulty of setting aperture, exposure time, focus and field of view manually with his pressurized gloves and no vision of the camera, and with no experience of photography on the moon environment. We need to remember that photography was a very skilled occupation in those days, even on earth, and it is quite astonishing to see that all of Armstrong’s shots were just perfect.
More to the point, is there any evidence that these pictures were shot on the moon? None whatsoever. They are easy to make in studios. As a matter of fact, the NASA went to great length to train the astronauts in indoor settings reproducing the condition of the moon surface as they imagined it, fabricating tons of “moon dust” for that purpose (even before anyone had seen real moon dust), and even simulating the black sky. Some of the photographs taken in these movie-like studio settings, such as the following one from NASA archives, would be hard to distinguish from the “real” thing, if framed differently.
Let’s face it: there is no proof that any of the Apollo photographs are genuine. That may not be enough to destabilize the believers. But what should is that quite a few of these photographs are “replete with inconsistencies and anomalies,” in the words of David Percy, who proves his point in What Happened on the Moon? The film contains an interview of Jan Lundberg, the Project Engineer for the Apollo Hasselblad. When asked to explain some of the inconsistencies concerning shadows and exposure (for example, astronauts fully lit despite being in the shadow of the lunar module, as in the photo reproduced on the cover of Wisnewski’s book), he answers: “I can’t explain that. That escapes me… why.”
Incidentally, Lundberg’s embarrassed admission is the perfect illustration of how compartmentalization may have made the moon hoax possible. Like the hundreds of thousands of people involved in the project, he worked on a “need to know” basis, and had no reason to suspect he was working for something else than what he was told, at least until someone challenged him to explain impossible pictures. Just a handful of people had to know the full picture, and it is not even certain that President Nixon was among them. As Wisnewski (121-126) illustrates with the Corona alias Discoverer program (a US research satellite launched around 1959 with the secret purpose of spying over the Soviet Union), it is wrong to assume that the US military, spatial and intelligence communities cannot keep a secret. To take another example, hundreds of thousands of people worked on the Manhattan Project, which remained completely hidden from the public until the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
I will not list and examine the anomalies of the Apollo photographs, since they are analyzed in the documentaries mentioned above. But I do recommend browsing through and zooming on the high definition photographs on the NASA archive site, with the aim of assessing their credibility with basic common sense. Ask yourself, for example, if you can believe that the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle (here, here, or here) could have landed two astronauts on the moon and sent them back into lunar orbit to reconnect with the orbiting Command Module. Or pick Apollo 14’s LM Antares (here), or Apollo 16’s LM Orion (here, or here with the rover that miraculously came out of it), or Apollo 17’s LM Challenger (here). Keep in mind that these shabby huts had to be hermetically pressurized in a vacuum environment, and that, in the last two cases, two astronauts spent more than 3 days (respectively 71 hours and 76 hours) on the moon and slept 3 nights in the module. If you want to be guided along this reflection, I can recommend this 15-minute video.
If the Apollo crews had photographed the moon’s starry sky, that could have served the NASA to counter the accusation of fraud. For back in the 1960s, it would have been very hard to make the computer calculation to make the stars constellation consistent. Unfortunately, no one thought about it at the NASA. The astronauts were asked to look down and collect rocks, not to look up and study the stars. It is as if the NASA were a congregation of geologists who despised astronomy. And to think that they spend billions of dollars sending telescopes into earth’s orbit! To be fair, I have read about a telescope installed by the Apollo 16 crew, but it seems that no one has ever seen what came out of it. In any case, not a single picture of the NASA archives show any star in the sky.
The official explanation? There simply were no stars visible in the moon sky. Period. It is so incredible that even some “moon hoax debunkers” prefer to explain the black sky in all Apollo photographs as resulting from low exposure. But they are wrong: the astronauts saw no stars with their own eyes. All of them, from Apollo 11 to Apollo 17, consistently declared that the sky was completely black, “an immense black velvet sky — totally black,” in the words of Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon.
Was it because the luminosity of the moon surface was too strong, so that their eyes couldn’t adjust (a day on the moon lasts 27 earth days, so the astronauts who landed on the illuminated side of the moon never experienced a night on the moon)? If that was the reason, then at least, the astronauts should have seen plenty of stars when travelling between earth and moon. They didn’t report seeing any. When they orbited around the moon and passed in its shadow, they found themselves in pitch darkness, and saw no stars. Michael Collins, who orbited around the moon several times in the Command Module while Aldrin and Armstrong were on the moon, declared in their 1969 press conference: “I can’t remember seeing any!” That is one of the weirdest remarks you can think of from an astronaut, but the whole press conference is a bizarre experience to watch.
Neil Armstrong’s November 1970 interview is just as bizarre. It has been used by several skeptics as evidence that he is lying. I highly recommend this very professional analysis commissioned by Richard D. Hall of RichPlanet TV from by Peter Hyatt, a nationally recognized expert in deception detection. I find it devastating for the credibility of Armstrong.
After that, Armstrong must have been ordered to keep away from interviews. But when he was allowed to make a last appearance on the the 40th anniversary of his moonwalk, he took that opportunity to compare himself to a parrot, “the only bird that could talk” but “didn’t fly very well,” and to conclude with a cryptic remark about “breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth’s protective layers.” God knows what he would say if he was now invited to speak for the 50th anniversary! Fortunately for the credibility of the Apollo missions, he has now left the earth for good, and his story can now be told by Hollywood.
We set out to find out if there is any proof that the moon landings were real. We have not found any. Instead, we have found evidence that they were not real. But in fact, it was hardly necessary: NASA engineers themselves tell us they are impossible, for the simple reason that the astronauts would have to travel through the Van Allen Radiation Belt, which would kill them, and damage the electronic equipment as well. Listen, in the 10-minute video below, to astrophysicists and astronauts inadvertently admitting that the technology to send men beyond lower earth orbit is not yet available.
That may be the reason why, since the presidency of Tricky Dick, no manned mission to the moon, or even beyond low earth orbit, has ever been attempted. Remember, the International Space Station is orbiting at a distance of 250 miles from the earth, whereas the moon is about 237,000 miles away. On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush, speaking at NASA headquarters, announced a new endeavor to “gain a new foothold on the moon” and beyond, remarking: “In the past 30 years, no human being has set foot on another world, or ventured farther into space than 386 miles—roughly the distance from Washington D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts” (quoted in Wisnewski 329). No manned mission to the moon came out of this announcement.
Time is working to the advantage of the moon hoax theorists, for every year that passes makes people wonder: “If it was so easy to send a man to the moon between 1969 and 1972, why has it not been done again ever since?” Less that half of the British and Russians still believe in the moon landings. Among the educated, this percentage is falling fast. What will happen in twenty years, when Americans realize hardly anybody but them believes it? Will the United States of America survive the exposure of this giant hoax?
If the Apollo moon landings were faked, serious questions ought to be asked about the NASA, to start with. Then, there is a need for some deep thinking about what has become of the United States since World War II. And beyond that, the moon hoax is the ideal starting point for reflecting on the hypnotic control that television and the news media have gained over our mind. It is not just a political issue. It is a battle for our souls.
The first step is to grow out of our infantile beliefs about the NASA, and do some basic study on what it is all about. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was founded in 1958 by President Eisenhower. Many people today commend Eisenhower for warning Americans, on leaving office, against the growing threat of the military-industrial complex, and the “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power.” Ironically, the foundation of NASA was itself a giant leap for the military-industrial complex. There is no question that NASA’s so-called “civilian space program” was first and foremost a cover for a military program. The NASA Act of 1958 made explicit provisions for close collaboration with the Department of Defense, and in practice, the Pentagon was involved in all decisions regarding the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Erlend Kennan and Edmund Harvey documented this point in Mission to the Moon: a critical examination of NASA and the space program, as early as 1969, and concluded:
“It remains imperative to have NASA keep its status as the decorous front parlor of the space age in order to reap public support for all space projects and give Defense Department space efforts an effective ‘cover’.” (quoted in Wisnewski 296)
Besides launching satellites for espionage purposes, the NASA was to contribute to the development of transcontinental rockets. For after WWII, the equation was simple: “Rocket + atom bomb = world power” (Wisnewski 62).
The para-military purpose of NASA is essential to understanding the Apollo hoax. For in matters of military programs, “what the public knows is also known to the enemy. This means that in principle the public and the enemy can be seen as essentially one and the same thing” (Wisnewski 7). Therefore, we should understand that deceiving the American public was not a perversion of NASA’s original purpose, but an integral part of it.
It fell upon Kennedy to sell the moon program to the Congress and to the American public in order to increase NASA budget dramatically. On May 25, 1961, a mere 43 days after Yuri Gagarin allegedly completed one orbit around the earth, Kennedy delivered before the Congress a special message on “urgent national needs.” He asked for an additional \$7 billion to \$9 billion over the next five years for the space program, for the purpose, he claimed, of “achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”
Kennedy can be blamed for fooling the American public, but it is likely that he had been fooled himself, just like he had been tricked by the CIA into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, a mere month earlier. Whatever the case, the moon was Johnson’s idea, not Kennedy’s. It is believed that Kennedy was convinced by a memorandum of Lyndon Johnson, titled “Evaluation of Space Program” and dated April 28, 1961, supposedly based on deliberations with top NASA officials. The memo assured the president of the feasibility of “a safe landing and return by a man to the moon” “by 1966 or 1967”, if “a strong effort” is made. As for the benefit of it, Johnson put it this way:
“other nations, regardless of their appreciation of our idealistic values, will tend to align themselves with the country which they believe will be the world leader—the winner in the long run. Dramatic accomplishments in space are being increasingly identified as a major indicator of world leadership.”
A month after his Congress speech, Kennedy officialy made his vice-president head of the National Aeronautics and Space Council with the charge of exploring the moon project. As Alan Wasser has said:
“Few people today realize or remember, but a single man, Lyndon Baines Johnson, ‘LBJ’, is primarily responsible for both starting and ending ‘The Space Race’”.
That explains why Texan industries were the greatest beneficiary of the space program, and why the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973.
Under Eisenhower, Johnson was both the Senate Majority Leader, and a key player in the Texan sector of the military-industrial complex. It is interesting to know that the original draft of Eisenhower’s farewell address, written by his assistants Malcolm Moos and Ralph Williams, spoke of the “Military-Industrial Congressional Complex”, but Eisenhower dropped “congressional”—in fear, perhaps, of Johnson. Johnson’s corruption aggravated after he became vice-president and appointed his Texan friends at the head of the Navy: first John Connally, then Fred Korth, who resigned in October 1963, after the Justice Department (led by Robert Kennedy) implicated him for corruption in the contract for the joint Navy-Air Force TFX aircrafts.
NASA was not just a camouflage for military developments. It was a manufactured dream to keep Americans looking up at the sky while their government was committing atrocities in Vietnam. And so, NASA had also close ties with the movie industry. Its first boss, T. Keith Glennan (1958-1961) had a long experience in running film studios in Hollywood (Wisnewski 298).
During the transition period between Johnson and Nixon, Apollo 8 allegedly carried three astronauts ten times around the moon. Then, after two more testing missions (Apollo 9 and 10), six Apollo crew landed on the Moon from 1969 to 1972, all during Nixon’s presidency. Wisnewski (130-139) provides a spectacular parallel showing how breaking news related to the Apollo program conveniently turned the American public’s eye away from Vietnam war crimes. Apollo 11 landed on the moon two months after the media revealed illegal bombardment in Cambodia, and the Apollo program stopped just after the official end of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia. So, writes Wisnewski,
“while the United States of America was murdering thousands of Vietnamese people, burning down one hectare after another of virgin forest and poisoning the land with pesticides, it was at the same time trying to fascinate—or should one say hypnotize?—the world with a conquest of quite another kind.” (131)
“For the rest of the world the cultural and technological thrill caused by the lunar landings must have been as overwhelming and disarming as the negative blow of September 11. To this day the USA draws strength from the boundless admiration generated by those lunar landings. And I still maintain that this ‘conquest’ of the moon, that ancient myth of humanity, elevated America to the status of a quasi-divine nation. / The moon landings fit in with the country’s overall psychological strategy of self-aggrandizement coupled with subjugating, undermining and demoralizing others.” (287)
“Civilian space travel became a form of ‘opium for the people’, a promise of redemption bringing a new and better future for the universe.” (63)
Indeed, travelling to the moon and coming back alive is a feat of mythical proportions. It is tantamount to travelling to the Other World and coming back to the world of the living with your physical body. That makes the NASA astronauts the equals of ancient supernatural heroes, immortal demi-gods, and that semi-divine quality reflects on the USA as a whole. Such was the significance of the Apollo moon landings: it was about a new world religion that elevated the United States above all other earthly nations. A lot has been said about institutional religions as means of collective mental control. But no religious belief can compare to the moon landings in terms of the cynical abuse of people’s gullibility. And no religion could compete, until recently, for the numbers of believers worldwide.
The deeper lesson is that it was made possible by television, and would have been impossible otherwise. Hardly anybody would have believed it if they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice tells the White Queen “one can’t believe impossible things,” but the Queen insists it is possible with enough practice: “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” With television, believing in six impossible moon landings came without effort.
Before being broadcast on TV, the Apollo moon landings were studio productions. No wonder, then, that one of the most influential whistleblowers was Hollywood filmmaker Peter Hyams with his film Capricorn One (1978).
Although it has no bearing on the issue of the reality or possibility of the moon landings, and should not be taken as argument, I’d like to mention here one of the most intriguing developments of the moon hoax conspirarcy theory: the suggestion that director Stanley Kubrick collaborated with the NASA in the making of the Apollo moon films while making his 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), on which he started working as early as 1964, just after finishing his antimilitary film Dr Strangelove. The rumor has that Kubrick was then pressured into a Faustian pact in exchange for fundings and other help. That Kubrick received support from the NASA for 2001 is actually no secret: the scenario was co-written by Arthur C. Clark, an enthusiastic supporter and contributor of NASA adventures, and several assistants for the film, such as Harry Lange and Frederick Ordway, had worked for NASA and aerospace contractors. Some therefore believe that 2001 was part of a NASA program both to fascinate the public with space travel and to test production techniques.
That hypothesis first arose when skeptics studying the Apollo photos and films became convinced that they had been made in movie studios using the technique called frontscreen projection, which had been perfected by Stanley Kubrick for his film 2001.
The theory had already been around for some time, when a French “mockumentary” called Dark Side of the Moon, directed by William Karel, was aired on Arte channel in 2002, as a very smart but futile attempt to debunk it.
But the theory gained a new vigor when film director Jay Weidner added to it the hypothesis that Kubrick cryptically confessed his participation through his 1980 film The Shining. Weidner presents his arguments in his 2011 documentary film Kubrick’s Odyssey: Secrets Hidden in the Films of Stanley Kubrick. Part One: Kubrick and Apollo. He also gives a brief summary of his theory in the documentary film Room 237 (2012), available on vimeo (Weidner’s contribution is between 00:44:25 and 00:51:55, and between 1:16:00 and 1:16:45). You can watch here Weidner’s contribution on YouTube:
When I first heard of that theory and watched Room 237 (I haven’t watched Kubrick’s Odyssey), I didn’t think much of it. But after watching anew The Shining with it in mind, studying Kubrick’s other films (especially Eyes Wide Shut, which one way or another killed him) and their layers of hidden meanings , and learning of his perfectionist obsession with every detail, I find the theory not only fascinating, but highly plausible.
Weidner’s starting point is the observation that, although the film The Shining is allegedly based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title, Kubrick ignored the scenario adapted by King himself, and changed so many things in the story that it can be said to be a totally different story—which made King quite resentful. Kubrick seems to have used King’s novel as a cover for a story of his own. What is therefore interesting is to focus exclusively on the elements of the film that depart from King’s novel, and on the details that seem to have no direct bearing on the main narrative. Weidner is not alone in taking this approach: many Kubrick admirers believe that the film has hidden meanings. Some argue, convincingly I believe, that it contains cryptic references to child abuse, also an underlying theme in Eyes Wide Shut. But Weidner reads into the film a subtext that amounts to an autobiographical confession of Kubrick’s role in faking the Apollo moon landings eleven years earlier.
According to that interpretation, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) represents Kubrick himself, while the Overlook Hotel (built on Indian burial ground), represents America. The manager of the hotel, Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson), made to look like JFK, represents the US government (as well as perhaps the JFK Space Center), while his assistant Bill Watson, who keeps observing Torrance without uttering a word, represents the Intelligence underworld.
Two scenes in particular give the keys to this cryptic narrative. The first one is when Danny (representing Kubrick’s child, that is, the Apollo films) rises up wearing an Apollo 11 sweater, on a rug with a design similar to the Launch Complex from which the Apollo rockets were launched. Soon after, Danny enters room n°237, which contains the secret of the hotel. The room number was 217 in King’s novel, but Kubrick changed it to 237 in reference to the distance of 237,000 miles that separates the earth from the moon (according to the common estimation at the time). The “room n°237” is in fact the “moon room”, because “room” looks similar to “moon” when read backward, and Kubrick has taught us to read words backward in the scene where the word “redrum” becomes “murder” in the mirror.
The second most important scene from the point of view of Kubrick’s cryptic subtext is when Wendy discovers that Jack, who is supposed to write a novel, has been typing one single sentence over and over again: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That sentence, which must have been chosen by Kubrick for a very specific purpose, takes a secondary meaning once you realize that All, in American typewriter script, is indistinguishable from A11, which can stand for Apollo 11.
When Jack then catches Wendy reading the pages, he tells her how deadly serious his contract is:
“Have you ever thought for a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers? […] Does it matter to you at all that the owners have placed their complete confidence and trust in me, and that I have signed a letter of agreement, a contract, in which I have accepted that responsibility? […] Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future if I were to fail to live up to my responsibilities?”
Besides these two scenes, there are a number of other clues that support this subtextual reading. Why did Kubrick, for example, make the design of the Indian tapestry in the main lounge resemble rockets? Does Jack aiming at them with a ball represent Kubrick “shooting” the Apollo films?
Just after that shot, Wendy and Danny go into the hedge maze. Jack then looks over a model of the maze inside the lounge, which merges with the real maze in cross fading, suggesting that the maze is not real. This is also hinted by the aerial shot of the Overlook Hotel, which clearly shows that there is no maze next to it. Coming from Kubrick, this cannot be a continuity error.
Puzzling spatial impossibilities in the film have also been discovered by careful students of the film such as Rob Ager. They are no mistakes, for Kubrick gave himself a lot of trouble to produce them. Therefore, they must have a message to tell, possibly that what appears to be outdoor was in in fact filmed indoor.
There are also two brief allusions to television that fit with the alleged subtext: a sarcastic remark on the notion that what is seen on television is “OK” (watch the scene here), and a mysteriously wireless television (impossible in 1980) showing the film Summer of 42.
Another possible clue left by Kubrick to let us know that he intended The Shining to be read as cryptically autobiographical, is the documentary that he asked his daughter Vivian to shoot on the set of the film (now included as bonus in DVDs). It makes Kubrick appear as a mirror image of Jack Torrance. This has been detected even by critics with no interest in the Apollo theory, such as Rob Ager, who writes:
“Kubrick’s decision to allow a documentary film to be shot on the set of The Shining was an unprecedented departure from his usual ultra-secretive work policy. All of the behind the scenes footage was shot by his daughter Vivian. Without realizing it, many film critics and biographers have accidentally identified Kubrick’s motive for releasing this documentary. Time and time again they have described his edgy behind the scenes behavior as being comparable to the film’s main character Jack Torrance. One of the biographies I read […] even claimed that there were running jokes on set about the similarities in appearance and behavior between Jack Nicholson’s character and Stanley Kubrick. My theory is that Kubrick was deliberately creating these character parallels between himself and Jack, both in the documentary and among his crew in general. But the most prominent example of this parallel is Kubrick’s degrading treatment of the actress Shelley Duvall (Wendy) and the actor Scatman Crothers (Halloran), both of whose on screen characters are victims of Jack Torrance’s madness.”