Bielefeld (pictured) is a pleasant city of roughly 350,000 inhabitants, in the Western German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Or is it?

Ironically, the conspiracy theory about the city's non-existence was originally intended as a satire of conspiracy theories! It dates back to the very infancy of the Internet, with a posting on a newsgroup called "" in 1994. For the perpetrator, we must head further North to the University of Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein and a student party where a somewhat ambiguous phrase was overheard. A young man said he came from Bielefeld and elicited the response "das gibt's doch gar nicht!" Colloquially this implies "I don't believe it" - but the actual literal meaning is "that doesn't exist!" And so the idea was born, with one Achim Held as the ringleader.

The theory developed a life of its own, with the nebulous "Sie" - "They" as those who perpetrated the myth of Bielefeld existing. A set ritual involves the posing of three questions about visiting, or knowing anyone who has visited, the town. Anyone who gives the "wrong" answer, is, of course, regarded as one of "Them"!

It has been unkindly suggested that it is so readily believed as Bielefeld is boring, but this is unkind and untrue, as the town boasts, amongst other things, a splendid castle and town hall.

No less a person than Chancellor Angela Merkel has jokingly referred to the theory.

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