In times of upheaval and perceived crises, conspiracy theories find fertile ground. No wonder, then, that in our current frenzied political climate stories of secret plans by powerful people abound. Be it Russian interference in the US elections, talk of a US “deep state” controlling government policy or a recent coup attempt on Turkey being attributed to the Gülen movement. Some of these stories are true, or partly true, some groundless. Where do conspiracy theories come from and how do they spread? Do they follow recognisable patterns? How are modern conspiracy theories different to those of previous centuries? Why do they continue to rear their ugly head, even when disproved? And how can they damage political debate and trust in democracy?