A video recently appeared online (and quickly went viral) purportedly showing film-maker Stanley Kubrick confessing to his involvement in faking the photography for the Apollo moon missions. An anonymous journalist was supposedly approached by Stanley and recorded the interview sometime in the late 90’s.
It is an obvious fake.
The appropriately bushy beard and thick-rimmed glasses make whoever this actor is a pretty good imitation of Kubrick in his later years, but they do nothing to dress up the mind behind the face. Blindingly brilliant, commanding of detail, and calmly willful, this guy is decidedly not, and the interviewer is strangely aggressive. In a longer cut, there are even some bits left in where the interviewer coaches his subject on how to act like Kubrick.
Of course, the idea that Stanley Kubrick directed the photography for the moon landings is patently ridiculous on its face. Even by tin-foil hat standards it’s a fanciful notion, maybe only a step or two removed from Charles Manson’s megalomaniacal Beatle-deifying mythology. Strange, then, that this isn’t the first ‘hoaxed’ video put out in apparent support of the Kubrick moon-hoax theory. There was also a 2002 mockumentary, “Dark Side of the Moon”, where we hear the inside scoop from officials including the likes of Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, even his wife Christiane Kubrick. Only at the end is the ruse revealed – everything you’ve heard in the interviews is either quote-mined or outright scripted! French director William Karel fed lines to his esteemed subjects just for fun at the end of unrelated interviews. Ha! Now maybe you’ll think twice before blindly trusting kooky documentaries, eh?
If either of these fakes were the first real exposure you had to the idea, you couldn’t help but think that the only people who buy it are those gullible enough to fall for such ham-handed nonsense. Trouble is: gullibility and nonsense, like ham, have a way of being stacked in layers of confusion. “Dark Side of the Moon” cleverly exposes how films can mislead the viewer by leaning on tacit acceptance of statements from authorities and manipulating their context. Yet there’s a serious disconnect here because none of the actual documentaries (I’ve ever seen) supporting the Apollo hoax theory are particularly guilty of that particular sin. Would some “true believers” create a fake Kubrick confession just to bolster their hoax theory? If so, their sense of irony is… lacking. More likely, I think, it’s some sort of troll. While the mockumentary is obviously meant to discredit, the confession video is less obvious in its assassination by way of its obvious falsehood. Why would anyone go to the trouble to discredit an absurd idea only a fringe takes seriously anyway? Just for fun? This is the internet, so quite possibly, but…
Oh, right! Perhaps because it’s actually true.
There was no need for Stanley Kubrick to record a confession with some random, unprofessional journalist. His confession had already been in the public sphere since 1980. It was just so well-hidden it took a few decades for anyone in that sphere to discover it.
I’m speaking, of course, of The Shining.
There are other interesting bits of circumstantial evidence that people have pointed to for decades to implicate Kubrick in helping to fake the Apollo photography. The thing I find fascinating is that, despite how long these rumors have circulated, the first person to publicly discuss The Shining in this context was (as far as I can tell) Jay Weidner in 2009. That’s astonishing! Because once you see the most blatant references, the nod to Apollo becomes undeniable (even if his intent is arguable). Don’t forget, Kubrick was notoriously exacting and hands-on. He was a perfectionist about everything that appears on-screen and it shows in all of his films.
With that in mind, here’s an analysis I’ve synthesized from several documentaries and some ideas of my own:
The Shining Confession
I’ll start with the hedge maze because it gives a very important clue to the structure of the film in general. This is also one of the many deviations from the novel, which instead featured topiary animals on the grounds that come to life.
This is not really an adaptation of King’s horror story. The film is built to be a maze or puzzle in itself. It’s packed with subliminal layers of information. Jack looks at the model maze on the table and sees the real Danny and Wendy navigating it outside. Flipping it around, we should look past the documentary perspective of the film and think in terms of larger, cryptic structures.
Stephen King hated (hates?) this movie, and with good reason. It gutted a lot of elements that made his story much richer (and more sensical!) in favor of eerie minimalism. The Shining was already one of my favorite books long before I encountered this theory. I’ve found almost all of the deviations from the book actually make perfect sense in terms of two major hidden themes. One is historical cycles of violence, in particular America’s history and the genocide of American Indians. The other is Kubrick’s involvement in the Apollo moon hoax.
As an example of the former, the hotel manager mentions as they’re touring the grounds that the Overlook was built on an Indian burial ground. This is original to the movie. The Overlook is adorned with a variety of Native American art as well as symbols of the USA and photos of “all the best” movers and shakers that have graced its halls. So the Overlook can be seen as a representation of America, as well as its grandeur.
The blood pouring out of the elevators (another original addition) is then seen as the blood of slaughtered natives, rising up from the foundations the hotel was built on.
But let’s get on to Apollo. Here’s the explicit reference that suggests this line of thinking:
Here we see Danny playing with his toy vehicles on the hallway carpet. A ball rolls up to him out of nowhere. You probably remember this scene. I think it’s one of the most frightening and impactful in the film. You probably don’t remember what Danny was wearing, though!
We have lift-off! And it really is- even the set helps recreate this historic event. The pattern on the carpet is quite striking, and strikingly similar to the shape of Launch Pad 39A, the one used by Apollo 11.
A couple other things of note: when the ball rolls up, there are 11 objects on the carpet, counting Danny. Also, the particular “wide Roman numeral two” form of the 11 on Danny’s shirt is mirrored all over the set. For instance, the elevator doors next to him.
Danny follows the source of the ball down the hallway to find a single room door opened; the one he was warned about.
In another deviation from the book, the number of this ominous room is 237 instead of 217. Kubrick explained that he had to change the room number because the Timberline Lodge, which was used for exterior shots, actually had a room 217 and didn’t want to scare potential guests. This turns out to be a flat-out lie. So what’s really going on here? The commonly-cited round figure for the distance to the moon in those days was 237,000 miles.
Taken together, the symbolism of this scene couldn’t be clearer. Danny is the rocket, taking off from the launch pad. His journey down the hallway is the journey of Apollo 11 to the moon. At this point, we don’t get to see what happens in room 237, only the aftermath.
Danny has suffered some terrible attack in the room. His sweater has been torn. Wendy tries to comfort him and coax him to tell her what’s happened, but Danny isn’t talking – A silence which is broken by the end of this scene in the book, but not the movie. From the perspective of Kubrick’s involvement, this can be seen as illustrating his disillusionment with the reality of the Apollo project, as well as the silence he had to maintain, even with those closest to him.
Moving forward, I’ll showcase the less-overt references to the moon and Apollo that require a bit more interpretation.
The Scene: Wendy finds Jack’s typewriter unoccupied. He has been hiding exactly what he’s working on from her, but now she has a chance to see for herself. In the book, Jack actually does start writing his novel, inspired by an old scrapbook of the Overlook’s history he found. Here, however, she discovers the depths of his madness, as he’s simply been typing the same phrase over and over for hundreds of pages.
Interpretation: The explanation for this phrase is actually staring us in the face, helped along by this particular font. “A-Eleven work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
The minor errors indicate the many minor technical errors in the Apollo photography that betray its falsehood. It could be these errors were the inevitable result of doing such a high volume of very technical work. My reckoning, though, is that Kubrick was too much of a perfectionist to simply miss these things. I suspect he, and possibly others involved, purposefully let some of these errors through as a subtle form of whistle-blowing. There’s an additional meaning to this phrase I’ll return to later.
Speaking of the typewriter, it happens to be an “Adler” brand (German for eagle)! Others have noted how the color inexplicably changes from white to dark grey in the course of the film, but I haven’t seen anyone offer this particular interpretation:
The images above are in sequence. The darkening of the typewriter mirrors Jack’s descent into darkness in the story, but the side-lighting in the second image makes me think of moon phases as well.
The Scene: Jumping back to the beginning, Jack is going through a final interview with the hotel manager, Stuart Ullman. Ullman tells Jack his primary duties will be to stave off the “very costly damage and depreciation” the winter can wreak by tending the boiler and doing minor repairs. He warns him about how a prior winter caretaker went mad and murdered his own family.
Interpretation: Ullman’s hair and general demeanor evoke John F. Kennedy. His entirely red, white and blue outfit and the miniature American flag on his desk solidifies this notion. Kennedy famously set the goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 60’s. The image of America to itself and the world stage in the 60’s was showing a lot of “damage and depreciation”. Therefore, this scene shows the visible leadership of the U.S. recruiting Kubrick for a project to preserve America’s image. Exactly what that project entailed is shown by the rest of the office.
Wide shot of this scene: There are two eagle statuettes in the office, one on the window sill, and one on the table next to the radio set. This window is rather odd. As Jack turns the hallway to reach this office it looks like he’s going deep in the interior of the Hotel. Yet, suddenly, here’s an exterior window (a courtyard??).
Interpretation: “The Eagle” was the name of the Apollo 11 lunar lander module. The blindingly-bright light coming in from the window-which-should-not-be-there is one of many “errors” in the film that subtly betray the artifice of what’s being presented. This is obviously part of a set. The eagle perched in front of this window reveals that the images of the moon landing(s) were created on a stage. The open blinds evoke theater curtains. Note also the echo of the II form from Danny’s shirt. (I leave it to the reader to evaluate the proposition that the exact system used was the same front-screen projection used in Dr. Strangelove and 2001). The second statuette’s position next to the radio indicates that the transmissions to the module were also faked, and in fact the Eagle was never that far from ground control.
The Scene: Head chef Dick Halloran is giving the family a tour of the kitchen and pantry facilities. Among the products on the shelves are canisters of Tang and Calumet baking powder.
Interpretation: Here we see both of the major hidden themes on show at once. The Indian face on the Calumet can is yet another visual reference that riddles the set. Tang was the official astronaut drink at the time of Apollo, and the labels in this scene are occluded in exactly the same way as the original Tang TV spot. Both of these products reappear later on the other side of the pantry when Jack is locked inside.
The Scene: Creepy twins! The previous caretaker murdered his wife and two daughters, but they’re never described as being twins in the novel. Ullman even mentions the girls being different ages in the film, but when they appear the twin angle is played up big-time.
Interpretation: The NASA program that preceded Apollo was, of course, Gemini.
The Scene: Jack, who demanded seclusion for his writing, apparently has writers block as his typewriter lies unused and he’s just hurling a tennis ball against the wall.
Interpretation: Here we see a cross-over of the Apollo and Native-genocide themes. The Navajo figures he’s throwing the ball against look quite similar to booster rockets. We hear the ball strike the wall 11 times. (By the way, there are many other occurrences of the number 11 riddled throughout the film.)
The Scene: The Torrances are settling in for the winter. Danny and Wendy are watching television while Jack sleeps upstairs. The TV is up on legs and in the middle of the room, so we can see there’s clearly no cord running from it to provide power.
Interpretation: Since the TV doesn’t have power, the images appearing on it couldn’t possibly be real. The whole world accepted the reality of Apollo because they “saw it with their own eyes” in broadcasts and printed photos… but not really. I think the overall point of these “errors” that break the reality of the film is to demonstrate how readily we accept film as documentation of real events. The details betray the unreality, but they slide right past our awareness on casual viewing.
Based on the above,
I don’t think there can be any doubt The Shining is saying something about Apollo. But am I right to assert that Kubrick’s intent is to confess his personal involvement in faking the Apollo record? After all, whispers of such an idea had already started by this time based on the production of 2001, and a special Zeiss lens borrowed directly from NASA to film in low-light for Barry Lyndon. It could be he’s playing a trick to reinforce that line of thinking. It could be he’s simply making a playful reference, like sticking a copy of the soundtrack to 2001 in the background in A Clockwork Orange.
I don’t suppose it’s a possibility I can totally exclude, and we may never know the real truth. But I doubt he would have gone to such lengths to hide references all over when the hallway scene would have sufficed. There are also several more tid-bits that lead me to conclude The Shining is really telling his own, personal story.
This phrase is another clue to the overall, hidden story of the film. It’s striking how flat the Torrances are compared to their characters in the novel. In the book, Jack truly means well, and holds onto himself for a long time even as he struggles with alcoholism and his dark side. In the movie, Jack is just…
…clearly some sort of sociopathic wolf, barely able to stand the strain on his sheep’s clothing, right from the start.
In the book, Danny is extremely bright for his age (5) and speaks at a practically adult level, owing to overhearing his parent’s thoughts his whole life. He’s quite outgoing, only becoming withdrawn right after certain traumatizing events. Danny in the movie is painfully quiet and withdrawn. He expresses either horror or signs of post-traumatic stress for most of his screen time.
Putting it all together, Jack and Danny can be understood as two aspects of the same person – Stanley Kubrick himself. Danny is the innocent, creative aspect; the inner child. Jack is his cold, ambitious side, perhaps his ego in general. So in “A11 work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, Danny is the dull boy. In context of the overall story, this expresses how Kubrick’s ensnarement in the Apollo job numbed, and nearly killed, his creative side. One can imagine the strain of working on two major projects, 2001 and Apollo, simultaneously while also having to keep one absolutely secret. Also the mind-numbing boredom such repetitive, purely technical work would induce in a creative individual. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…”
I’ll follow Jack’s story from this perspective…
Here is what Jack encounters when he investigates room 237 (the moon room). There’s a beautiful young woman in the tub, and Jack, wasting no time, starts to make out with her. In the midst of their embrace, he sees the truth. She’s actually the corpse of an old woman who had drowned in the tub!
In the book, this specter never appears beautiful. At first Jack sees nothing, but flees when things get spooky and he realizes the rotting woman Danny described actually is there. He doubts his own sanity and still lies (as in the film), telling Wendy he saw nothing, blaming it all on Danny’s ‘spells’.
Interpretation: When Kubrick first became involved with the Apollo job it seemed incredibly sexy and appealing. Maybe it was the money, the connections, or working on something of great importance. Only after it was too late did he realize what a nightmare- perhaps practical, perhaps moral- it really was. Despite how deeply it affected him, he had to maintain total silence and will spin pernicious lies to do so.
Now that the party is in full swing, Jack discovers that these ghostly forces are the real management of the hotel. A similar exchange between Jack and ghost-bartender Lloyd is in the novel, but the highlighted lines are noteworthy. Jack’s line is original, and Lloyd’s phrase, “It’s not a matter that concerns you…”, was originally in response to Jack questioning why the hotel is interested in Danny. Actually, his concern over Danny’s role drives this scene in the book, but this was saved for his talk with Grady in the film. Instead, Jack’s concern here is entirely focused on who’s picking up his tab.
Interpretation: If Jack’s interview with Mr. Ullman/Kennedy at the beginning represented Kubrick’s initial contact with the visible US government, then this scene shows him coming to realize that the real power employing him is something far more sinister and shadowy. People that aren’t elected, and hardly anyone ever sees. Kubrick was wary of being beholden to something he didn’t fully understand, but wise enough to realize these aren’t people you question too much. And hey, they’re paying…
This is what follows after Wendy discovers what Jack has actually been writing. She was looking for Jack, hoping to get his help because Danny is in a terrible state and needs a doctor. Jack toys with her before launching into a bitter, screaming tirade.
JACK: Have you ever thought about my responsibilities?
WENDY: Oh Jack, what are you talking about?
JACK: Have you ever had a single moment’s thought about my responsibilities? Have you ever thought for a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers?
Has it ever occurred to you that I have agreed to look after the Overlook Hotel until May the first? 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?
Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principal is? Do you? Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future, if I were to fail to live up to my responsibilities? Has it ever occurred to you? Has it?
This entire monologue is original to the movie! At the comparable point in the book Jack’s growing rage and madness is still overwhelmed by his love for Danny, and he agrees they have to try getting out on the snowmobile. Of course, by the time he gets to fixing the snowmobile his thoughts have darkened again and he betrays them, but he doesn’t say anything like this to Wendy.
Interpretation: Wendy’s discovery of Jack’s writing at the start of this scene represents Stanley’s wife similarly stumbling upon the reality of the secret project he was involved with. She’s understandably horrified, and her pleas for Danny here could be for Stanley to back out for his own sake. But he’s in too deep. He’s made his Faustian bargain and the ink is dry on his contract. The people that have him in their pocket now aren’t the sort of people you back out of an agreement with. He’s furious at her because this discovery seriously complicates his situation. Doesn’t she realize what would happen if he failed to live up to his responsibilities? His employers could easily destroy his career or worse! If the rest of the movie from this point is seen from this perspective, we have to infer that Kubrick was quite a monster at this time in his life.
One more deviation of note here is the fate of Dick Halloran. Though his actions save Wendy and Danny in the movie, instead of surviving to the happy(ish) ending, upon reaching the hotel he immediately gets an axe to the chest.
Interpretation: One possibility here is another thread in Kubrick’s personal story. Halloran was aware of the ghostly presence in the hotel, and warned Danny to stay away from Room 237. Then, Halloran could represent a friend of Kubrick’s with some degree of insider knowledge. But at some point Kubrick confided too deeply, let too much slip (Danny’s Shining message to him) and the outcome was his friend’s assassination.
I can also see this fitting with the theme of the racist, bloody foundations of America. The ghostly management of the hotel was none-too-happy about a “nigger cook” interfering with their plans. Halloran goes to tremendous lengths to save the Torrances, but instead of sharing in the victory he is sacrificed. In the book, Halloran survives and the hotel is destroyed. Since the Overlook represents America in the film, in this story the hotel gets its way.
To sum up my interpretation of the overall hidden story: Kubrick was approached by representatives of the government to direct the photography for the Apollo “moon missions”. Kubrick was offered very nice incentives, a bright future to his career, so he agreed. He soon realized what a mistake this was, as the strains of overwork, secrecy, and moral repulsion weighed on him. He also came to learn that his employers were actually a ghostly force behind the visible government. At some point, his wife discovered his secret. In the end, his selfishness nearly destroyed his marriage and himself as a person. Both of these barely escape once his egotistical aspect was tricked and surrenders from sheer exhaustion.
There’s so much more to discover hidden in The Shining! My purpose here was just to lay out the most important points of the Apollo connection. Like the film, I’ll leave you with one final thing to ponder. It seems that other people in Hollywood were aware of this connection well before anyone discussed it publicly. Take a look at the set of Toy Story. Here’s the scene after Buzz Lightyear sees himself on TV and realizes he’s not a real astronaut. Refusing to accept that, he tries to fly off the balcony.
- Kubrick’s Odyssey Part One: Kubrick and Apollo by Jay Weidner
- The Shining Code 2.0 by Michael Wysmierski
- Room 237 by Rodney Ascher
Another interesting tidbit – The discovery of subliminal audio cues with numerical arrangement.
Just for fun – What if The Shining was a romantic comedy?
Material on the Apollo hoax theory itself
- The works of Bill Kaysing – Good interview here.
- NASA Mooned America! -by Ralph Rene
- What Happened On the Moon? – Analysis of the Lunar Photography
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon (most important part at 32:02)
- The full footage of what was leaked to the makers of the above documentary. Latter parts show just what the Apollo Simulation Project was capable of producing in 1969.
Some examples of dirty tricks on the part of “debunkers”