Vi McCoy’s Animas Valley home has
vaulted ceilings and huge picture windows that allow grand views
of grazing wildlife and Missionary Ridge. The windows tower
to her rooftop and open up to the Durango sky, which she observes
intently – not because she’s a student of the atmosphere,
but because she believes there is something ominous taking place
Every day, McCoy, a semi-retired, health-food supplement salesperson,
looks skyward and takes note of the azure saturation, the clouds
and the aircraft activity. Her observations, however subjective,
sound like an episode of the X-Files. Often, McCoy sees a clear
blue sky in the morning. Yet by midday she says she watches
airplanes criss-cross the sky, with white streaks trailing,
making precise patterns so that the streaks drift together,
and a vast haze covers the sky.
Most people refer to the white streaks as contrails –
a melded word from condensation trails. They often trail commercial
and military jets that fly at cruising altitudes in the upper
atmosphere and are a result of water vapor in aircraft engine
exhaust mixing with low temperatures. Scientists for the Federal
Aviation Administration explain that the mixture creates ice
particles. If the humidity is low, the ice particles evaporate
quickly. If the humidity is high, the particles might persist
and grow to form wispy white cirrus clouds.
For the lay person, this seems a simple enough explanation.
But to McCoy – and some other local residents –
it’s a bunch of hooey. McCoy claims some streaks often
are deliberately and methodically emitted by low-flying, unmarked
military aircraft spewing harmful chemicals into the air as
part of a covert government operation. These chemicals, she
and others like her believe, are responsible for a passel of
problems ranging from weird weather and drought to unexplained
McCoy says she and her husband, Lee, first became aware of
“chemtrails” – a phenomenon considered a conspiracy
theory – about seven years ago. Initially, they were skeptical.
But when they moved to Durango in 1998, McCoy says she suddenly
began witnessing the aircraft activity often associated with
this phenomenon. Then she and her husband, who consider themselves
healthy, were getting sick more often. She says their immune
systems weakened. During the summers, they’d work in their
yard, yet by mid-afternoon they’d feel weak and tired,
presumably from breathing the chemicals from the planes they
When her husband had a respiratory illness for four months
earlier this year, McCoy became more convinced that Durango
was increasingly under attack by chemtrails.
At the same time, there was a reported flu outbreak in Durango,
and she heard more people complaining of respiratory problems
and allergies. McCoy couldn’t help but wonder if the illnesses
were from the chemtrails.
Last month, McCoy started inquiring medical professionals about
any extraordinary respiratory cases, especially since she says
the chemical spraying had been heavy. She’s skeptical
about the general responses, because she’s so certain
that there is a link given the widespread anecdotes from chemtrail
followers they posted on the Internet. One report even mentioned
that hospitals were beginning to be “jammed” on
days the chemtrails filled skies.
Kirk Dignum, chief executive officer of Mercy Medical Center,
said the hospital beds were full at times in the past few months,
with many cases of respiratory illness, but he can’t connect
that to anything specific.
“We did have some unusual cases this summer, but we had
the fires and some other things happening in the community,”
Dr. Don Cooke, a Durango allergy and asthma specialist, says
there has been an increase, both locally and nationally, in
the number of people suffering from the diseases he treats.
But he says it’s a result of the “hygiene hypothesis,”
which states that children are being raised in too sterile of
environments, thus pushing the immune system toward allergy
He also said it’s hard to isolate the cause of viruses
or respiratory problems. “These things tend to be episodic,”
Though McCoy says she doesn’t keep a log of how often
she sees chemtrails, she claims it’s as often as a few
days each week. She believes that whoever is spraying the chemicals
keeps track of when they do.
“There were no signs of chemtrails on Veteran’s
Day this year,” she says. “That ought to explain
that our government knows about this.”
But she says when she saw unmarked aircraft spraying chemicals
in our skies during the Missionary Ridge Fire, she snapped.
At that point, McCoy decided to take action. To start, she worked
to bring Clifford Carnicom, a Santa Fe, N.M., computer consultant,
to Durango to speak about chemtrails.
Carnicom spoke to a crowd of nearly 60 people at The Storehouse
Baptist Church, 10 miles south of Durango on November 16. After
his lecture, he spent the night at the McCoy’s house.
When the household awoke the next morning, they saw every bit
of proof in the sky to prove this phenomenon is happening here.
While planes flew above the Animas Valley at mid-day, McCoy
watched the sky turn from clear blue to a cloudy haze. As he
emerged from the McCoy’s home, Carnicom put on a ventilator
mask to avoid breathing the chemicals he believed were in the
air. His wife, Carol, says he wears it as often as possible,
“They did this yesterday, and then today they kept it
up all day long until there was no blue left,” McCoy says
about the aircraft. “They say that’s what happens
when Clifford speaks somewhere. They hit that community really
hard the next day. This (haze) will just sit here for hours
and hours now.”
But by 7:30 p.m., the hazy sky looked clear. You could see
the nearly full moon and several stars. When asked about the
apparent clearing, McCoy says she believes the haze was still
there but was just “being masked by the moon.”
(Nurses and administrators at Mercy’s pulmonary clinic,
emergency room, and the employee health coordinator said there
was not an onslaught of patients with respiratory problems following
this weekend of heavy spraying that McCoy says took place.)
The days following Carnicom’s lecture, Durango’s
skies were almost always clear and bright blue. Asked again
about the clear skies and her claims, McCoy said she wasn’t
backing off. “They are doing weird things,” she
said. “This is a show of power.”
Carnicom, who prefers the term “aerosol sprays,”
has been studying the phenomenon since 1999, when the idea gained
significant popularity. His lecture in Durango mostly addressed
the scientific evidence he’s amassed that he believes
proves not every white streak in the sky is a contrail.
Throughout the lecture, Carnicom maintained a diplomatic tone,
being careful not to make it sound like his evidence is absolute.
Although he believes the chemical spraying is purposeful, he
rarely hypes the nebulous claims about why it’s being
done; he appears to be the reality-based populist to the audience’s
hysteria. But he wasn’t able to hide his emotional investment
in the issue.
“Your storms are being torn apart right and left,”
he tells the crowd while choking back tears.
Among his scientific results, which he posts on his personal
website, Carnicom finds that the relative humidity at altitudes
the aircraft are flying do not support the conditions scientists
say create clouds. He says that he’s found metallic evidence
in rainwater and also has found pH levels 20 to 25 times greater
than expected in rainwater. In microscopic samples of particles,
Carnicom says he has found barium ions and what he thinks might
be dried red blood cells. But he has difficulty nailing down
the true nature of the particles, because he says a government
lab and a private lab refused to look at them.
Scientists from government agencies are familiar with the chemtrail
conspiracy theory. Officials at the Federal Aviation Administration,
Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and National Aeronautics
and Space Administration have been inundated with questions
on the subject. This prompted them to create fact sheets explaining
how contrails are formed and debunk the plethora of myths of
what they term a “hoax.”
NASA even has done extensive studies on the effects contrails
have on the weather and atmosphere, particularly since aircraft
fuel contains sulfur particles. Patrick Minnins, a NASA researcher,
says that at least in the last 30 years, the skies haven’t
been as clear in the United States, which he suspects is due
to an increase in cirrus clouds likely formed from increased
Some scientists have taken to perusing chemtrail websites,
trying to become familiar with the claims, though many don’t
even want to respond to the conspiracy theory because they don’t
want to feed it.
David Fahey, a research physicist at NASA’s Aeronomy
Lab in Boulder, says he has looked at some chemtrail Web sites
and studied their scientific evidence. He walks away unconvinced.
“What these people are seeing are contrails in the real
sense of the word,” he says.
“You can’t resolve this in a simple conversation.
“The thing that frustrates us at the scientific level
is that the due scientific process is not adhered to. People
who are vocalizing about (chemtrails) are interested in the
outcome. So they work backwards and assemble bits and pieces
of information along the way. The true due scientific process
Carnicom, frustrated at yet another brush-off by a government
scientist, says such general statements are “lame and
skirt the issue.” He simply wants scientists to consider
all of his evidence and then provide their own concrete proof
that what he sees really are simply contrails.
Stripped of its wilder variants, the purported reasons for
chemtrail spraying – whether it’s the U.S. government
or a foreign government doing it – are to modify the DNA
of humans, to modify the weather or to eradicate a certain segment
of the population, namely the sick and elderly.
As a sailor and mountaineering guide, Brock Canner, who attended
Carnicom’s lecture, says he often predicted weather based
on the sky. But since 1998 it’s been an unreliable source,
he says, and is getting worse as the alleged activity increases
to achieve its purpose.
“We have a conspiracy running our government,”
says Canner. “This is part of the plan to take over the
Canner and several other chemtrail believers say this phenomenon
is part of a New World Order, which is a worldwide conspiracy
purportedly being orchestrated by many of the world’s
wealthiest people, top political leaders and corporate elite,
to create a global fascist government that will have control
of the planet. They also believe chemtrails fulfill the establishment’s
efforts to gain mind control over the masses – and that
the chemicals are used to “dumb down” people’s
mental acuity so they do not realize what’s happening
or won’t care.
“Everyone knows the New World Order is coming, but no
one knows who will be in power,” says Kevin Rizza, a computer
teacher who attended Carnicom’s lecture. “(Chemtrails)
are part of this larger thing.”
McCoy agrees. As senior citizens, she also sees herself and
her husband as sitting ducks.
“We are on Social Security, and they want to get rid
of us so they don’t have to give it to us,” she
Dick Carmack, pastor of the Storehouse Baptist Church, said
the church sponsored Carnicom’s lecture as an effort to
educate the general public.
“People need to know what’s going on instead of
looking at their feet and ignoring it,” he says.
The church was a natural sponsor, because there is religious
meaning in this conspiracy, he said. Before Carnicom’s
lecture, Carmack preached to the audience about the biblical
signs of the last days, quoting scripture about pestilence.
What’s happening in our skies, they believe, is a fulfillment
of Revelation, a book of apocalypse in the New Testament that
speaks of victory over evil and persecution.
“I think (chemtrails) is probably a man-made pestilence,
like most of them are,” says Carmack. “I’m
sure I’m going to come out sounding like a right-wing
wacko, but that’s alright.”
Mobilizing the masses
McCoy says the issue has generated enough interest to begin
trying to create a local activist group, even though the believers
know they are part of a minority. They are increasingly frustrated
that the government ignores their questions, that doctors may
be lying about the cause of illnesses and that the media won’t
cover the issue. And even though there are scores of scientific
reports about the causes and effects of contrails, with evidence
contrary to chemtrails, the believers counter that the naysayers
are either apathetic or proof that the government is succeeding
in mind control.
“It’s called plausible deniability,” Rizza
grouses. “People around here are too lazy to get off their
mountain bikes or out of their kayaks to care.”
McCoy agrees that it’s hard to mobilize the masses. But
she says she cares enough about Durango to try, even though
she swore she’d “get out of politics” when
she moved here. She said she won’t give up on the chemtrails
phenomenon until someone provides empirical evidence to the
But what counts as proof if you don’t believe the government,
the media or the doctors?
“You have your own proof; you have your own answers,”