10 Real Events That Seem Like Hoaxes


The Band Played as the Titanic Sank

Eight musicians bravely played on while the Titanic sank. © Bettmann/CORBIS
Eight musicians bravely played on while the Titanic sank. © Bettmann/CORBIS

It's been told so often, for so long, the story that the band kept playing on the deck of the Titanic has the feel of myth. Many people don't even consider it might be true.

In fact, as the ship sunk into the Atlantic in 1912, eight musicians did play music instead of hurrying into lifeboats.

Beyond that, and the fact that none of the band survived, little is known for sure – especially why they did it [source: Boltz]. The captain couldn't have made them, because they didn't work directly for the cruise line. Historians' best guess is that band leader and violinist Wallace Hartley, a religious man who adhered to a higher-than-usual moral code, thought the music might calm people in a time of crisis, and the others followed suit [source: Turner].

A musician who once worked with Hartley said the violinist believed music could create order out of chaos. Another said Hartley had thought about the possibility of being on a sinking ship and had decided he would, in that case, play one of two hymns: "Oh God Our Help in Ages Past" or "Nearer, My God, to Thee" [source: Turner].

We'll probably never know for sure what he chose. You'll read in lots of places it was "Nearer, My God, to Thee," but don't forward that. That's what the folks behind 1997's "Titanic" decided to use.

Author's Note: 10 Real Events That Seem Like Hoaxes

It occurs to me some readers may mistake my joking tone in "Jesus Thwarts a Robbery" as joking about faith. I hope not, but anything's possible, so let me be clear: That story strikes me as funny (and wonderful) not because those women called on their faith to deal with a frightening and dangerous situation, but because a man with a gun ran as fast as he could from it. A bunch of unarmed women at a jewelry party shouting "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" vs. armed robber, and they won. Come on. It's awesome.

Related Articles


  • ABC News. "How Much Are Dolly Parton's Breasts Worth?" Aug. 19, 2005. (March 11, 2013) http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=1051637&page=1
  • Adams, Cecil. "The Great Australian Emu War." Connect Savannah. Aug. 3, 2010. (March 11, 2013) http://www.connectsavannah.com/savannah/the-great-australian-emu-war/Content?oid=2133393
  • Adams, William Lee. "New Book Claims Hitler Gave Sex Dolls to Nazi Soldiers." Time. July 12, 2011. (March 18, 2013) http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/12/new-book-claims-hitler-gave-sex-dolls-to-nazi-soldiers/
  • Associated Press. "Burtons Rent Boat to Keep Their 4 Pets". The Gettysburg Times. Feb. 17, 1968. (March 11, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2202&dat=19680217&id=si0mAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Zv4FAAAAIBAJ&pg=2473,997737
  • Boltz, Martha M. "Titanic Violin Owned by Band Leader Has Surfaced." The Washington Times. March 18, 2013. (March 20, 2013) http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/life-lines-where-readers-write/2013/mar/18/titanic-violin-owned-band-leader-has-surfaced/
  • Carlson, Peter. "When Elvis Met Nixon." Smithsonian Magazine. December 2010. (March 12, 2013) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/When-Elvis-Met-Nixon.html?c=y&page=1
  • Caryl, Christian. "Not forever Amber." U.S. News & World Report. July 24, 2000. (March 11, 2013) http://www.usnews.com/usnews/doubleissue/mysteries/amber.htm
  • Coren, Stanley. "Elizabeth Taylor and Her Life with Dogs." Psychology Today. March 23, 2011. (March 11, 2013) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201103/elizabeth-taylor-and-her-life-dogs
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship." (March 20, 2013) http://www.britannica.com/titanic
  • Heart Attack Grill. (March 18, 2013) http://www.heartattackgrill.com/index.html
  • History. "Aerosmith and 50 Cent headline a $10 million bar mitzvah." Nov. 27, 2005. (March 21, 2013) http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/aerosmith-and-50-cent-headline-a-10-million-bar-mitzvah
  • The Huffington Post. "Jennifer Lopez's Butt: Star's Behind Takes A Backseat." Feb. 14, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/jennifer-lopez-butt_n_2689112.html
  • Jaslow, Ryan. "Heart Attack Grill 'spokesperson' dies from heart attack, owner says." CBS News. Feb. 12, 2013. (March 11, 2013) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57568978/heart-attack-grill-spokesperson-dies-from-heart-attack-owner-says/
  • Lathan, Robert S. "Celebrities and substance abuse." Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2009 October; 22(4): 339–341. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760168/ (March 18, 2013)
  • Malone, Andrew, Vanessa Allen and Paul Bentley. "'I love her very much': Photographs found in Gaddafi lair of Condoleezza Rice, the tyrant's 'darling black African woman.'" The Daily Mail. Aug. 26, 2011. (March 12, 2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2030186/Colonel-Gaddafi-kept-photos-darling-Condoleezza-Rice-lair.html
  • News4Jax. "Women order armed robber 'out in Jesus' name'." Jan. 27, 2013. (March 11, 2013) http://www.news4jax.com/news/Women-order-armed-robber-out-in-Jesus-name/-/475880/18295714/-/mrs71cz/-/index.html
  • Romero, Francis. "Dolly Parton's Breasts." Time. Sept. 1, 2010. (March 11, 2013) http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2015171_2015172_2015159,00.html
  • Sullivan, James. "Go shorty! It's your bat mitzvah." TODAY/MSNBC. Dec. 8, 2005. (March 11, 2013) http://www.today.com/id/10295486/ns/today-entertainment/t/go-shorty-its-your-bat-mitzvah/#.UT433ldH73U
  • Szegedy-Maszak, Marianne, and Charles Fenyvesi. "Enemies in the mind's eye." U.S. News & World Report. Jan. 19, 2003. (March 12, 2013) http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/030127/27stargate.htm
  • Turner, Steve. "Why did the Titanic band play on?" Fox News. April 9, 2012. (March 11, 2013) http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/04/09/why-did-titanic-band-play-on/
  • United Press International. "Burton a Sighing Sight on Cleopatra's Barge." THe Milwaukee Sentinel. Feb. 20, 1968. (March 21, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19680220&id=e3ZQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-hAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5935,3415131
  • Willing, Richard. "Researchers tested pot, LSD on Army volunteers." USA Today. April 6, 2007. (March 11, 2013) http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-04-05-army-experiments_N.htm


Can a Country Buy Another Country?

Can a Country Buy Another Country?

Can a country actually buy another country? HowStuffWorks looks into the history and feasibility of countries buying and selling each other.