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Was Aaliyah killed by Illuminati to make way for Beyoncé? 3 wildest conspiracy theories around singer's death

The singer's death left a massive impact on both her peers and her fans, many of whom continue to question whether her death really was an accident
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nearly two decades ago, the world lost one of its most promising and influential musical artistes when 22-year-old Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash almost immediately after the twin-engine Cessna 402-B she was on took off from Marsh Harbor. Her death rippled throughout the entertainment industry and drew an outpouring of grief from her fans worldwide. But not long after, whispers began to spring up that there was more to Aaliyah's death than what was being revealed. And soon conspiracy theories that ranged from the pilot being a fake to the Illuminati murdering Aaliyah to pave the way for Beyoncé surfaced, and eventually, it became impossible to tell fact from fiction anymore.

As we mourn the loss of one of the greatest R&B singers of all time, we look back at three of the strangest conspiracy theories that were used to explain exactly what happened to Aaliyah on that fateful day in 2001.

Did the pilot kill Aaliyah?

Aaliyah spent her last days in the company of the people she loved. After hanging out with her boyfriend and Roc-A-Fella Records mogul Damon Dash in the East Hampton, Long Island home he shared with partner Jay-Z, she traveled to Miami to shoot the underwater scenes for her single 'Rock the Boat'. She then flew with her crew to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, where the shoot continued. It was on this trip that Aaliyah began to feel uneasy about her journey, particularly the safety of the plane, an apprehension that was shared by Dash. The shoot continued, nonetheless, and on August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and her colleagues boarded the plane that would lead to her death.

Fans hold a memorial for the late R&B singer Aaliyah at Cipriani restaurant, as the funeral service is held at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, August 31, 2001, in New York City. The 22-year-old singer died August 25 in a plane crash in the Bahamas (Getty Images)

After crashing near the runway immediately after takeoff, the plane caught fire. At a 2003 inquest, a pathologist testified that Aaliyah was killed from severe burns and head trauma, all of which pushed her into such a state of shock that recovery would have been impossible. But out of all the reports, it was one in particular that people latched onto which claimed the deceased pilot, Luis Morales, had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system as per his autopsy, received probation for crack cocaine possession less than two weeks prior to the flight and was not certified to fly the plane Aaliyah was on. Had Morales informed aviation officials of the case within 60 days as per FAA guidelines, his license would have most likely been revoked. The FAA license he did obtain, he received by showing flights he had never actually flown.

The plane itself had been cited four times in the four years before the fatal crash, including once for a safety violation. Other reports pointed to there being too many people as well as excess baggage on board, which fellow pilot Lewis Key would later confirm to be true. Key also told The New York Post that Morales had trouble getting one of the engines started. The tabloid further reported that Morales and Aaliyah's crew got into a heated debate prior to takeoff over the excess weight, but ultimately went ahead with the flight anyway.

It still isn't totally clear what caused the crash. And this has led many to place the blame squarely on Morales, with accusations of drug use and ineptness flying around despite the pilot being one of the crash victims himself. In reality, the most commonly accepted theory is that an unauthorized pilot was given the go-ahead to fly a severely overloaded and potentially unsafe plane. Aaliyah's family would go on to sue Virgin records for precisely this reason, indicating it's the one they believed to be true.

Did Illuminati murder Aaliyah?

The claim that the Illuminati runs the entertainment business is hardly new. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that one popular theory around Aaliyah's death is that she was killed as a blood sacrifice, with many citing Jay Z, Beyoncé, and Dash as the main offending parties. As with most of these theories, proponents of it believe Aaliyah wanted to get out of the society or maybe even reveal the truth about it, and this believed to be what got her killed.

Jet Li (as Han Sing) and Aaliyah (as Trish O''Day) star in "Romeo Must Die." Photo credit: Kharen Hill 2000 Warner Bros (Getty Images)

Why Beyoncé, some might ask. The two singers shared very similar roots, hailing from an R&B background with a budding acting career on the side. For many, this proved the two singers were on the same path, and apparently, only one of them would be allowed to stay on it. The Illuminati, according to this theory, selected Beyoncé to carry on the legacy because Aaliyah was trying to get out of it. Many would go on to use everything from numerology to drawing links between the smallest and largest details to prove this theory. The numbers, however, rarely add up. For instance, one theory points out that Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001, and Amelia Earhart successfully completed her transcontinental flight on the same date in 1932. The link here is that they were both on planes, and that's about as deep as it goes. Another theory claims that Aaliyah hid secret messages in her music, alleging that if one played 'Rock The Boat' backward, they would hear her saying "Cannot be pushed," allegedly a message to the Illuminati.


Conspiracy theories are largely popular because of how fun they can be. In reality, however, most fall apart quite easily with just a minor bit of prodding. In this case, the likelihood of this being true is very low, especially given the fact that Aaliyah and Beyoncé were friends. Moreover, Beyoncé shared at a taping of Soul Train's Lady of Soul Awards in Los Angeles upon Aaliyah's passing that the singer was "the very first person to embrace Destiny's Child," making her a friend as well as a supporter of the group before anyone else was ready to give them their big shot. By the time Aaliyah died in 2001, Destiny's Child was already a massive success. Speaking about her friend's passing, Beyoncé added, "She was so sweet always. This is, it's just tragic. It's very sad."

Did R Kelly want to silence Aaliyah?

Aaliyah was just 12 years old when she was first introduced to R Kelly, soon becoming his protégée. By 15, she was married to the then 26-year-old rapper with Kelly enlisting the help of his tour manager Demetrius Smith to forge papers that listed her age as 18 instead. The marriage was annulled only months later when the forgery came to light, but many, including Dash, would go on to claim the experience of being with Kelly traumatized Aaliyah to such an extent, she couldn't bear to speak about it. Despite the various charges that have emerged against Kelly in the decades since, including allegations of sexually abusing minors, there is one that leads some to believe he may have had a hand in Aaliyah's untimely demise.

Outside of victims alleging Kelly went after underaged girls frequently and groomed them for his own purposes, Smith alleged in his 2011 book 'The Man Behind The Man: Looking From The Inside Out' that Kelly suspected Aaliyah was pregnant. The documentary 'Surviving R Kelly' furthered this rumor, with Kelly's former back up singer Jovante Cunningham claiming she caught him having sex with Aaliyah in the back of his tour bus. Many also point to hints of other artistes knowing this to be true, including producer Timbaland sharing a tribute to the singer on Mother's Day in 2017, before swiftly deleting the post.

Singer Aaliyah attends the world premiere of the film 'Planet of the Apes' July 23, 2001 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City (Getty Images)

While the pair were forced apart not long after their illegal marriage, many began to speculate that the singer's rising fame meant she could expose the truth of her traumatic relationship at any point, and this sparked rumors that her accident was, in fact, no accident at all, and was instead the industry attempting to silence her. There are, however, just as many that deny there is any truth to these allegations, including Aaliyah's own mother Diane Haughton who, in addition to repeatedly claiming her daughter was never in a relationship with Kelly, shared in a statement following the release of the documentary, "The woman and so-called backup singer in the forthcoming "Surviving..." documentary that describes seeing, meeting, or ever breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar."

Given that Aaliyah was at the height of her fame before she died, both as a singer as well as an emerging actress, it's quite unlikely she was on the verge of a tell-all. Thus these theories remain nothing more than speculation, and since the singer herself can neither confirm nor deny them, that's probably all they'll ever amount to.