February 7, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 40°F


Mangum-Gate 2012 Is The Internet’s Conspiracy Theory Of The Week

4chan, the infamous home base of the Internet’s id and all those who feed it, recently came up with something more substantive than generic rage comics and photoshops of anime cat girls in compromising positions with Margaret Thatcher. (Author’s note: I don’t know if such a .jpeg actually exists but, thanks to rule 34, it does now. Alert readers are encouraged to send me evidence in an email attachment and to CC President Rochon.)

The new and wonderful conspiracy theory was hatched just one day prior to the time of this writing on 4chan’s /mu/ board. What’s now being called Mangum-Gate 2012 all began with a user called Ediie posting a normal photo of Jeff Mangum from his high school yearbook. For the uninitiated, Jeff Mangum was the lead vocalist, guitarist and, most central to the conspiracy, lyricist for the objectively great indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel.[1] Some posts below the photo of Jeff Mangum, another user posted a picture of someone named Caroline Mangum. Alright, no problem, it’s his sister, right?[2] And this is when things get interesting. Another user posted a photo of this Caroline Mangum person next to the iconic photo of Anne Frank. They look somewhat similar.

And a conspiracy was born!

What does the most famous victim of the holocaust have to do with some indie rocker from Louisiana, besides that his sister sort of resembles her? A lot, in fact. Neutral Milk Hotel has two songs I’d go so far as to label “hits.” The oft-tattooed and beautifully melancholy “In An Aeroplane Over the Sea,” and “Holland 1945.” The latter song is, in no uncertain terms, about Anne Frank. It’s almost a love letter to her. At the very least it mourns Frank’s untimely death, directly referencing her passing mere weeks before the Nazi death camps were liberated by the allies in, when else, 1945.[3]

Okay, so he’s got a song about her. Whatever. Later in this same thread, another user posted a photo of Mangum’s wife next to the Anne Frank/ Caroline Mangum diptych. Turns out Mangum’s wife also resembles the other two women. White females with dark hair and similar face shape? They must be the same person! And if they’re all the same person, that can only mean one thing.

Jeff Mangum traveled back in time, saved Anne Frank, brought her to the future, grew up with her posing as his sister, and subsequently married her in his adulthood.

It all makes perfect sense!

Actually, it’s a pretty awesome theory. And not just because I’m glad there are some people on 4chan not trolling for child porn or complaining Taylor Swift is a misandrist, and it’s not because the theory doesn’t have flaws, because I have seen sponges with fewer holes than this. It’s because it combines a bunch of things people universally consider pretty awesome, and creates a narrative where these awesome things get even better.

You have Mangum, the genius frontman of an unimpeachable band. Then you have Anne Frank, icon of all that was innocent and pure that the Nazis put to a cruel end.[4] Then you have time travel, which is always awesome even when it doesn’t make sense.[5] They grow up together, ostensibly as friends, and wind up falling in love and marrying.[6] It’s like a Disney movie, but if the villain was Hitler and the entire third act was attending an uneventful high school in Louisiana.

A group of people on the Internet managed to jump from “look at this old picture of a musician I like” to “Jeff Mangum is a time traveling superhero who saved Anne Frank from the holocaust, married her and then made a lot of awesome music and now the two of them probably travel through time together, committing awesome acts of historical philanthropy.” And as I write this I realize this is all just a plot summary of the series Doctor Who. A bunch of people on 4chan basically came up with Doctor Who if the Doctor was a rock star and his companion was a famous, precocious holocaust victim.

It always goes back to Rule 34. If you can think of it, it probably already exists. And it’s probably porn. [7]

[1] NMH were essentially the Notorious B.I.G. of indie rock— they made a few classic albums, became instant legends and before you knew it, bam. They were done. Only instead of being tragically murdered Mangum just, you know, stopped making music with that particular band. Not liking Neutral Milk Hotel is akin to being the guy dogs always bark at and always makes babies cry when you hold them— it means you’re the villain, the bad guy, the killer at the end of the bloody teen slasher flick. Basically what I’m saying is I really like this band.


[2] Despite every notion I subsequently entertain in this column, yes, this woman is probably his sister. But if you wanted facts, you’d be reading the news section.

[3] Frank died with her sister in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after being found in her legendary attic hiding place with her family.

[4] Combine this fact with the knowledge that every public schooled American had to read her diary and/or act in the staged version of in middle school; most of the country feels some connection with her memory.

[5] See: Looper, Back to the Future, Terminator, the third Harry Potter and the entire series of Doctor Who.

[6] This part has some smatterings of Woody Allen marrying his stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, since ostensibly it was an adult Mangum who traveled through time to save the adolescent Frank, returning to a younger age in order to grow up with her while still possessing the consciousness of an adult man. I doubt this bothered anyone in the thread as I suspect the venn diagram of Woody Allen fans and NMH fans has a rather robust middle.

[7] On British television.