It’s no secret that America has a gun problem, and it’s also no secret that America has a school shooting problem. A page on the Washington Post website has kept a running tally of school shootings since Columbine in 1999 and as of 11 April 2023 there have been 377 school shootings across America that have exposed over 349,000 students to gun violence in the past 24 years. And a recent BBC News article reports that as of mid-April 2023 there have already been at least 160 mass shootings across the US this year. Unfortunately this has become all too commonplace, and the majority of these shootings don’t make international headlines because its become very ‘business as usual’ for life in the US.
But is it possible for a school shooting to be so underreported that there’s no record of it ever occurring? Are there so many school shootings every year that a particularly brutal one somehow managed to slip through the cracks? Let’s take a deep dive into a very niche and bizarre internet conspiracy referred to as the ‘2006 Volleyball Incident’ or, the school shooting that never happened.
The 2006 Volleyball Incident
According to the story, a shooting occurred during a volleyball game at an undisclosed school in 2006. Around twenty people were killed, with reports as low as 17 and as high as 24. The exact location is unknown, though its typically considered to be somewhere in the Midwest. You might read one person say it happened in ‘x’ town, while someone else will insist it happened in ‘y’ town. Sometimes it’s referred to as a school bombing instead of a shooting, though a school shooting is the more dominant version. Mysteriously, no reports of the 2006 Volleyball Incident exist on any news site and no one has come forward saying they or someone they know was involved that day. It’s as if the incident never happened at all.
Where did the story come from?
The earliest source discussing the 2006 Volleyball Incident comes from 4chan. However, the discussion took place in 2017 over a decade after the alleged shooting occurred:
The anon in the screenshot above makes reference to a previous 4chan discussion on the 2006 Volleyball Incident, however I wasn’t able to locate the original thread. Whether or not this earlier thread existed is definitely worth questioning since 4chan isn’t exactly known for being truthful. There’s another thread from 4chan on 3 July 2017 in /x/ with posters talking about the 2006 Volleyball Incident but a number of people aren’t taking it seriously and one anon suggests that anons in /pol/ (the screenshot above) made it all up. So do what you will with that information.
Any other references to the shooting online seems to be questioning whether or not the 2006 Volleyball Incident actually happened and have been posted online after the above 4chan post on 5 April 2017. However, a Reddit post from the following day on 6 April 2017 on r/conspiracy lists the 2006 Volleyball Incident on the lowest tier of a conspiracy iceberg chart. So either the person that made this chart was referencing the 4chan thread from the previous day, or they were referencing the original 4chan post (if it existed) before it was deleted/removed.
Going on IcebergCharts.com and searching ‘2006 Volleyball Incident’ returns 13 results, but they were all made after 2021. And any additional Reddit posts discussing the event were posted after April 2017. Which brings us to the question-
Did it actually happen?
Let’s do a little additional sleuthing.
If you Google search ‘2006 Volleyball Incident’ the first result (as of April 2023) is a Wikipedia article for the Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis that occurred on 27 September 2006 in Bailey, Colorado. A 53-year-old gunman held seven female students hostage, which led to the shooting and death of sixteen-year-old Emily Keyes. The gunman committed suicide and the other hostages were able to escape. The details of the incident at Platte Canyon High School are disturbing, so take care when reading further about the case. But it’s very clear from a quick glance at the Wikipedia article that this isn’t the same school shooting as the 2006 Volleyball Incident. For one, there’s no mention of a Volleyball game and there was only one shooting victim.
There was a shooting at an Ohio high school volleyball game in 2006, but the incident involved a robbery gone wrong at the concession stand and only one person was killed. The only place I was able to find information on this shooting was on the National School Safety and Security Services website, but regardless it doesn’t sound anymore related to the ‘2006 Volleyball Incident’ than the aforementioned hostage crisis.
Another sports related school shooting occurred on 17 September 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when five basketball players at Duquesne University were shot due to a random act of violence early on a Sunday morning. Fortunately in this instance none of the victims died. This is the most similar to the 2006 Volleyball Incident since a sporting event was involved and a number of people were injured, but it still doesn’t feel like a good fit as a candidate. Other than these three real shootings, I can’t find anything resembling the 2006 Volleyball Incident.
The distribution of misinformation on the internet is incredibly easy and this is especially the case when the story being spread around is perfectly believable. School shootings in America are so ‘normal’, so why would anyone question one that’s (most likely) completely made up?
If the 2006 Volleyball Incident actually occured it would have been a particularly harrowing event, even as far as school shootings go, since the death toll would have been higher than Columbine. It also would have stood out amongst other school shootings since it occured during a sporting event as opposed to during regular school hours. Most suspiciously, there is no indication of anyone coming forward – teachers, friends, family, fellow students, students from the rival team’s school, etc. No one had said a word. And why would this shooting in particular be covered up anyway?
Some Internet Theories
Below are some theories I’ve read online in relation to the 2006 Volleyball Incident. I don’t endorse any of these, I’m simply reporting what I’ve seen!
The Mandela Effect:
I’ve talked about the Mandela Effect before on Curious Archive when analysing the Tombstone Thunderbird Photograph. But as a quick recap, the Mandela Effect is a phenomenon referring to false memories shared by multiple people. The term was coined by paranormal researcher Fiona Broome in 2010 as a reference to the widespread false memory that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s when he actually lived until 2013.
The Mandela Effect has naturally been passed around online as a possible explanation for the 2006 Volleyball Incident. However, with the Mandela Effect the memory in question is often misremembered in a particular way: Berenstain Bears being spelt Berenstein Bears, the Thunderbird Photograph (based on a real newspaper clipping from the nineteenth-century) existing when it doesn’t, quotes from films being misremembered, etc. But with the 2006 Volleyball Incident it isn’t really a case of misremembering, but a case of pulling an entire event out of thin air. It’s likely those truthfully remembering the incident occurring in 2006 are confusing it with one of the many other school shootings that happened in and around that year. So you could argue this is an example of the Mandela Effect, but I really don’t think its best applied here.
A Botched Assassination:
Someone, somewhere (government, a hitman, etc) wanted someone at the school dead. The person sent to do the deed messed up and… slaughtered a bunch of people accidentally. I don’t know about this theory either, it would be pretty difficult to cover something up like this, which I’ll get into more shortly. Regardless, how can you mess up that bad?
A Social Experiment:
Of all the school shootings in recent history, the majority of us (American or not) remember the devastating incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 14 December 2012. In total 28 people lost their lives, among them 20 children aged 6-7. Despite the incredibly sensitive nature of this particular shooting, conspiracy theorists led by Alex Jones began harassing parents of the deceased students under the belief that the shooting was a hoax staged by gun control advocates. This ended, rightfully so, in a very large lawsuit.
So the proposed ‘social experiment’ angle of the 2006 Volleyball Incident is essentially the opposite of the Sandy Hook conspiracy. The shooting was ‘real’ but the media was silenced and the entire thing was covered up. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why it would be covered up other than the proposed theory that the government was experimenting if they could ‘get away with it’ and “stage more and more false flag shootings”. I’ve also seen people propose that the shooting never happened but discussions about it were ‘leaked’ online to see how people would react and to analyse how the information would spread. I definitely don’t think this is what’s happening here, but to each their own.
The Cost of Covering Up a Conspiracy
I read an article years ago that I unfortunately can’t track down (it might have been on Cracked.com) that went through how many people would have to be paid off if 9/11 was an inside job and how much money a massive conspiracy of that size would cost to cover up. I always consider this when I read similar but significantly lower scale conspiracy theories like the 2006 Volleyball Incident. As I mentioned before, it’s likely someone who knew the students would have come forward ages ago. But think about all the people that would need to be silenced, literally forever, if this was some sort of cover up: school admin assistants, janitors, the coaches and their extended network of family and friends, police (depending on who you think is covering it up), local government officials, anyone that happened to be walking by when gunshots were fired, the paramedics, nurses, doctors, surgeons, hospital admin assistances, hospital interns, other patients in the hospital, reporters, and this doesn’t even include the family, friends, and other students that I mentioned earlier. And a lot of this can be multiplied by 2 since it would have affected two different schools/two different teams. It just… doesn’t make sense. The stakes for covering up something like a school shooting of this calibre would need to be astronomically high for it to even be worth looking into any further.
So what makes the 2006 Volleyball Incident so appealing? It’s incredibly, mysteriously, vague. It appears on iceberg charts with little fanfare and little explanation. Whenever someone asks about it they get a shrug and an unsatisfying answer, and when it’s searched online you end up with more questions than answers. We also love a conspiracy, so how could we not get sucked in?
But until something more official is released regarding the so-called 2006 Volleyball Incident, I think it’s safe to say the entire thing was a clever and subtle (albeit morbid) hoax.
Sources and Additional Reading
ABC News – The 11 mass deadly school shootings that happened since Columbine (2019)
Limitless Possibilities – Conspiracy: The 2006 Volleyball Incident (2019)
Wikipedia – List of school shootings in the United States (2000 – present)