For a man who made only a dozen major motion pictures (sadly, he died before the final edit of Eyes Wide Shut), Stanley Kubrick was a Hollyweird legend. His films are considered some of the most groundbreaking to grace the screen. Each is distinct from the others, so the films stand as a testament to reinvention within medium while maintaining an artistic signature.

Stanley’s signature? In modern parlance, he was a troll.

Kubrick’s reportedly difficult (if you ask Shelley Duvall, abusive) personality meant his artistic vision could become so all-consuming that decorum could be sacrificed in pursuit of vision. But Kubrick also knew how to curry or create controversy for publicity.

Here are short descriptions of his major films: violent art house noir about a multi-million dollar robbery (The Killing); unjust trials and executions in WWI (Paths of Glory); a heart-wrenching failed slave uprising (Spartacus); a “comedy” about a relationship between a man and his teenage stepdaughter (Lolita); hilarious mishaps exterminate Earth via nuclear destruction (Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb); aliens’ influence of human evolution and a killer computer (2001: A Space Odyssey); stylish, psychotic, teenaged criminals and manipulative psychiatry (A Clockwork Orange); failed author terrorizes family in isolated hotel full of homicidal spirits (The Shining); bootcamp murders and the Tet offensive (Full Metal Jacket); sex rituals of the rich and famous (Eyes Wide Shut).

My point? Kubrick chose shocking material for his projects. Apart from Barry Lyndon (his commercial failure), Kubrick wasn’t capable of directing anything tame. But the sex, violence, controversy, and weirdness he filmed was poetic, ritualistic, disturbing, vibrant, lucid, hypnotic, lush, hyperbolic, epic. His films are art.

And according to conspiracy theorists, Kubrick made another film: the moon landing. Yes, with Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 landing. That moon landing.

The conspiracy theory works, in short, like this: Stanley Kubrick helps the U.S. government pull off the hoax after being blackmailed. In return, he gets no further impediment to his controversial work. Footage from 2001 was shot on the same set as the moon landing. The Shining contains Kubrick’s coded confessions.

Is it bullshit? Probably. It’s bullshit Stanley Kubrick would’ve relished had he lived to hear it.

How did this Hollyweird virtuoso become the center of a conspiracy theory?

Paradoxically, I won’t prove that Stanley didn’t help the American government fake the Apollo 11 landing. I’m an avid student of Kubrick’s films. I’ve seen all of his films many times, I’ve read biographies of his life, I’ve read criticism of his films. But I can’t prove anything. One cannot ever fully disprove conspiracy. Human beings are free to inquire on any possibility, no matter how unlikely the hypothesis.

Is it possible Kubrick helped the government hoax the world into believing three men and a flag landed on the moon for golf and leap-making? Bet your ass it’s possible. But is it likely? Occam’s razor, which states the simplest solution is often correct, suggests, while possible, it ain’t likely.

I’d like to draw attention to reasons why this controversy may have come about and some circumstantial evidence, which, while interesting, lead conspiracy theorists to a false positive.

Where does the conspiracy theory even originate?

The conjectures vary, but I think it starts with Spartacus. The screenplay for this film, which details the epic, heart-wrenching story of a failed slave rebellion against Rome, was written by Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo was one of ten Hollywood professionals suspected of being communist, then tried by the House Committee for Un-American Activities in 1948. The ten men (known collectively as the Hollywood Ten) weren’t allowed counterarguments, opposing evidence or defense; non-admission was considered refusal to cooperate and suspicion of guilt. Some of the Ten had associations with the Communist party, but hadn’t done anything illegal. The ten agreed, collectively, not to confess (sadly, Edward Dmytryk confessed during his prison sentence after being threatened with deportation). They were blacklisted and were forbidden to work in Hollywood.

But Trumbo continued writing and selling screenplays under pseudonyms, and in 1960, he penned Spartacus. Kirk Douglas, the film’s star, insisted Trumbo be credited with his real name, and Kubrick eventually agreed. Trumbo’s involvement was announced to the press.

If this seems like celebrity gossip of today, it was. By 1960, the blacklist had grown so cumbersome and yielded so few fruitful investigations it was on the verge of coming to an official end. It officially ended later that year. Trumbo’s involvement in Spartacus shouldn’t have been that controversial. But by chance or providence, the film garnered attention when soon-to-be President John F. Kennedy ignored the political bruhaha to see Spartacus in theaters.

Kubrick shouldn’t have suffered backlash, but he’d taken a risk associating Trumbo’s name with the film before the blacklist had officially ended. Though there were no resulting investigations, his decision may have affected events to come.

Skip to 1964. Kubrick is hard at work on his slapstick end-of-the-world black comedy Dr. Strangelove. The film viciously lampoons the Cold War and mutually assured destruction.

(Dr. Strangelove made real controversy when it was altered last minute due to coincidental references made to Texas and the president being struck down. Remember what happened to the President in Texas in 1963?)

The film had already garnered controversy. Sterling Hayden, who portrayed General Jack Ripper, had been investigated by HUAC and confessed under duress. Sadly, Hayden named false names in that confession, and his reputation in Hollywood had suffered severely.

One of the most prominently featured settings of the film was a B-52 bomber. The bomber was considered top of the line technology. Kubrick’s designers were not allowed to see the B-52 cockpit. So, they set to work doing comparative sketches, coming up with an uncannily accurate design.

The problem? Too accurate. Air Force personnel took a surprise visit to the set. After seeing the design, they struck the set to speak to Kubrick privately. They advised him to make specific changes to the cockpit’s design and to include a message that the events of the film couldn’t occur. Kubrick made the changes and added the disclaimer.

I believe this is the origin of the theory: theorists jump to a conclusion that Kubrick was blackmailed at this private meeting on the Strangelove set. The theory posits that to be assured no further interference, Kubrick was blackmailed to grant a Godfather-style favor in 1968/1969 for footage for 2001/Apollo 11.

One reason some believe Kubrick had secret knowledge of real space missions is the supposed accuracy of his portrayal of the lunar surface and space travel tech in 2001. They claim there’d be no way for Kubrick to know these details without being an insider on the Apollo program.

However, Arthur C. Clarke’s source short story “The Sentinel” offers an accurate portrayal of modern space travel technology. Kubrick just interpreted Clark’s ideas.

Clark’s “prediction” of the technology was uncanny, but not unheard of. Science fiction fans know William Gibson predicted the Internet in his book Neuromancer, published in 1984, at least a decade before the Internet’s popularization. This doesn’t mean Gibson predicted the Internet, since development of online communication began in 1969. Gibson was friends with the developers of these systems.

Let’s not forget that real scientist Nikola Tesla created designs for technology that wouldn’t be utilized until decades after his death. He didn’t predict them. Had the world been open-minded, they’d have been in use in Tesla’s day.

Kubrick wasn’t above reaching out for advice. He contacted astrophysicist Carl Sagan on how to portray alien life. Sagan suggested the obelisk design and additionally advised him on the stunning visual appearance of wormhole David Bowman travels through.

Let’s be honest about that wormhole: it’s not realistic. It’s dazzling and eerie, partially because the scenes are doused in choruses of bone chilling, wordless choral vocalizations.

If Kubrick didn’t grasp how objects moved in space or how the lunar surface appeared, Sagan would have corrected him. But Kubrick messed up by adding dust clouds to the moon’s surface.

While information about space travel might’ve been hard to come by, it was by no means unavailable or secret.

Finally, conspiracy theorists claimed the USA did not have the technology to reach the moon, and thus had to create a hoax. This claim is fairly easily discredited.

Space travel had been in concrete planning stages before the end of World War II. The Nazis almost achieved space travel first. The V2 rocket was being developed at the time of Hitler’s suicide. After allied victory in Europe, Operations Paperclip and Osoaviakhim (American and Soviet, respectively) contracted or kidnapped every Nazi scientist whose expertise could build the new space programs. These scientific minds would go to work alongside others to develop the technology needed.

The Soviet program progressed faster, raising fears of a nuclear “space race” between the USSR and US. Sputnik 1 orbited the planet in 1957, shocking the US with the USSR’s victory. The subsequent single-orbit flight of Vostok 3KA, carrying cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, garnered global publicity in 1961.

Didn’t the USSR keep details of Gagarin’s launch and flight a secret?

No. The USSR flaunted Gagarin’s status as the first person in space. He enjoyed celebrity status the world over. It wouldn’t have been that difficult for Clark or Kubrick to have studied broader details of Gagarin’s journey.

Gagarin stated in interview that during orbit, he felt suspended in air, despite being strapped in securely. I’m sure Valentina Vladmirovna Tereshkova, the first woman in orbit, would have said the same in 1963. It would’ve been easy for Kubrick to replicate this gravitational difference.

(If conspiracy theorists want a challenge, they should investigate how and why Gagarin was killed in an accidental plane crash in 1968, because Russia’s still not telling.)

NASA was aware of the technical details of Gagarin’s journey and used them to perfect tech for the upcoming planned flight to the moon.

That’s exactly how they were successful in space walks on Gemini 4: Ed White performed a fully successful spacewalk in 1964. Gemini 5 demonstrated proved a mission to the moon was possible; the astronauts spent a grueling eight days in space. Gemini 6A and 7 met successfully in orbit. And so on through Gemini 12 in 1966. Even without having been to the moon, NASA designed the necessary technology to get there.

But we’re too far afield in our history lesson. Let’s return to Occam’s razor: if Kubrick would forced to film the moon landing, wouldn’t he release 2001 after the Apollo 11 landing?

2001 was released in April 1968, while the Apollo 11 landing was broadcast in July 1969. If Kubrick was blackmailed into making it, why release the film and then broadcast the moon landing footage over a year later? That’s inconvenient, but not impossible. However, Occam’s razor suggests if one were to fake a moon landing, wouldn’t you broadcast the landing first, then release the film after?

Some theorists claim Kubrick’s success with 2001 inspired the government to approach him with the task. That means the Dr. Strangelove incidents weren’t the initiating events. How’d they blackmail him? They could’ve blackmailed him with Spartacus, but Kubrick could have been investigated for employing Trumbo, and it was public knowledge he’d employed him. How does anyone blackmail with publicly known information?

The final theory for Kubrick’s motivations is he agreed willingly out of patriotism. But Kubrick’s film career was built on challenging mainstream American culture. He was pacifist, anti-war, anti-establishment. He wouldn’t willingly help the U.S. foist power in the Cold war. If Kubrick willingly helped the U.S. win the space race, he wouldn’t be Stanley Kubrick.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Kubrick films the moon landing under duress. So why wait until The Shining to make his secret confession?

The moon landing is mentioned in A Clockwork Orange. Alex and his droogs prepare to beat a up a drunk who asks them for money. During their attack, the drunk protests he doesn’t want to live in a stinking world with no law and order, with men on the moon spinning around the Earth.

The reason to code the clues in The Shining would be to keep it secret from authorities. Why speak about the moon landing in a “non-coded” way in Clockwork first?

But let’s assume Kubrick attempted to confess in a coded manner in The Shining after confessing overtly in Clockwork. Let’s go through the evidence.

Twin ghost girls appear in the film which don’t appear in the book. Conspiracy theorists associate them with the Gemini Project. They make the point these twins do not appear in the original novel, so what’s the purpose in the film?

Kubrick’s films rarely keep close to source material. The fact Kubrick’s altered Stephen King’s plot because he wanted to isn’t uncharacteristic of Kubrick, even if King wasn’t happy about it.

If we’re playing conspiracy theorists, are 2001 and Shining a prediction of the destruction of the twin towers in 9/11/2001? Cue the weird noises. Conspiracy theories can link any evidence to any conclusion. Let’s continue.

A box of Tang is in the kitchen. Astronauts drank Tang. It was also available to the public in 1980. Uh…

The owners of Timberline hotel, the hotel that served as interior for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining asked Kubrick to change room 217 to room 237. They didn’t want hotelgoers to be frightened of a real room, so Kubrick chose a room number that didn’t exist. Joke’s on Timberline: room 217 has been requested more than any other room by horror fans.

When Jack Torrance experiences the height of his violent mental breakdown, he types “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over. Conspiracy theorists claim it appears Jack types two ones in place of the ls in “All,” which would read A11, Apollo 11.

Are l’s in “dull” also 1s?

The pages that appear onscreen illustrate a deteriorating mind. Jack typed the sentence in different patterns and designs, too. So, he might experiment with using 1s for ls. How do we know they’re not uppercase Is? That would spell AII. Two Is side by side look like Gemini, but this raises another question: why would Kubrick reference Gemini if he worked with the government in 1969? The space program was known as Apollo, not Gemini, by 1969.

I have a confession: I don’t like most conspiracy theories. I’m imaginative, but when there is seemingly no threshold for legitimate evidence or stringent rational argument, I’m suspicious. I feel fundamentally mislead when an argument’s so broad that it can’t possibly be untrue.

The final, and maybe most compelling piece of evidence, is the fact that Danny, the child protagonist of the film, is seen playing on a hexagonal patterned carpet, which resembles the unique shape of a launchpad, while wearing a knitted sweater clearly portraying the Apollo 11 rocket. This is where Danny encounters the twin ghost girls the second time. His first encounter was in the hotel’s game room.

I pondered this: if Kubrick intended to confess via The Shining, why not cut Danny’s first encounter to make the message that much clearer?

Still, it’s the closest to a smoking gun. But it also might be a child’s homemade knitted sweater portraying space travel. I sported space-related clothing as a child; I loved rockets.

Maybe not. Kubrick’s meticulous about details.

There’s another possibility that doesn’t indicate confession. Stanley Kubrick, like many other artists, self-referenced his own work. In other words, Kubrick might tribute 2001 in Shining.

If you think that this is arrogant, look no further than a number of Steven Spielberg’s films: the self-references are everywhere. In fact, many artists do this as a sort of inside joke.

But let’s assume Kubrick hoaxed the world in exchange for no further problems with studios, no further impediments to his art.

If that’s the deal the U.S. government made with Kubrick, studios didn’t know about it.

In 1971, Clockwork Orange caused major controversy in the United Kingdom and the United States after a string of copycat crimes.

In the USA, this meant more than 30 minutes of film were cut to earn an R rating; uncut versions were given an X rating and could only show in adult theaters. The public uproar was so extreme that in the U.K., Kubrick himself requested that the film be withdrawn from theaters: it remained banned in the U.K. until 1999, after Kubrick’s death.

Clearly whoever promised no further trouble with U.S. studios didn’t make good on that. So how does one posit that the government ever made a deal of any kind with Kubrick?

I can’t disprove the theory that Kubrick could’ve filmed the moon landing for government agents after they blackmailed him, but to believe it, one has to go through so many unlikely logical loops, it becomes increasingly hard, according to Occam’s razor, to trust it happened.

But had Kubrick lived to learn of the conspiracy theory surrounding him, we can guess what he’d have done.

He would’ve skillfully decided if there were an angle to increase publicity for himself or his films. If not, he would have coolly, skillfully dodged it.

After all, he’d employed a suspected communist during a blacklist, cast an actor with Hollywood’s worst reputation, featured a way-too-accurate military set piece in an antiwar film, accidentally referenced an assassination, suggested mankind was alien in origin, was blamed for copycat crimes, directed a banned film, scandalized a well-respected British author, directed a high-budget flop, enraged a prolific science fiction author and America’s favorite horror writer, verbally abused a lead actress (yes, there’s footage of that), shot an all-group ritual sex scene.

He lived conspiracy and controversy. He created enough of his own. He’d have made the conspiracy look like his idea from the start.