History vs. Myth

You don’t need fiction when history provides you with tales as crazy as the ones we’ve collected for you. Read up while your jaw drops.


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Was Napoleon really short?

If someone of small stature exhibits bullying behavior, that person is sometimes said to have a Napoleon complex. Did Napoleon himself have one, though?

Were there binoculars aboard the Titanic?

Imagine that one vital piece of equipment could've saved the Titanic ... if only one person hadn't forgotten to pass along the key to where it was stored.

Were witches really burned at the stake in Salem?

The infamous Salem witch trials showed what mass hysteria can do. But did those falsely accused witches suffer further by being burned?

Did the Druids really build Stonehenge?

The Druids certainly used Stonehenge, but it appears that building the monument was more of a multi-group effort.

Did the Spanish Flu pandemic really start in Spain?

More people died during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 than during World War I, but is it unfair to associate this strain of flu with Spain?

Did Mussolini really keep the trains running on time?

Mussolini's dictatorship was brutal, but supposedly efficient. The saying is that he kept the trains running on time, but did he?

Did Romans really purge their bellies in vomitoria?

The ancient Romans were so decadent in their feasting that it's said they'd vomit mid-feast in a special room just so they could eat more.

Did people in the past really only live to be 30?

Since people generally didn't live past the age of 30, our ancestors didn't have to contend as much with issues of aging, right? Not exactly.

Did George Washington really have wooden teeth?

George Washington is the subject of numerous myths, including a persistent one about the material used to make his dentures.

Did Einstein really fail math?

Einstein's genius supposedly had at least one glaring flaw -- that he failed math at some point in his educational career.

Did Benjamin Franklin really use a kite to discover electricity?

Ben Franklin flying a kite during a lightning storm makes for a great image, but skeptics question whether it really went down that way.

Did Paul Revere really yell 'The British Are Coming'?

Since Longfellow's famous poem, Paul Revere has gotten the credit for warning colonists about the British attack in 1775, but is he worthy?

Did Johnny Appleseed really plant apples all over America?

Johnny Appleseed is as much a staple of American folklore as Paul Bunyan, but is the image of him selflessly planting orchards of delicious apples across the country true?

5 Myths About How Cars Used to Work

You've likely heard tales about the automobile all your life, including pearls of wisdom about maintenance and even best color choice. But not everything you think you know about cars is true.

10 Expressions That Came From the Ancient World

If you can see the writing on the wall and know that all roads lead to Rome, you're using some expressions that are more than 2,000 years old. Where did they come from and why have they survived?

Did Settlers Really Land at Plymouth Rock Because They Were Out of Beer?

With all of myths about the Pilgrims, the notion that a beer shortage led to the Mayflower's landing seems ludicrous at best. Read on for the truth.

10 False History 'Facts' Everyone Knows

If you think Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head or Napoleon was extremely short, you may need a history refresher. These 10 “facts” are really fiction.

10 Conspiracy Theories About the JFK Assassination

Sixty-one percent of Americans think others beside Lee Harvey Oswald were involved in JFK's murder, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. While this is the lowest percentage in nearly 50 years, it's still very high. What are the leading conspiracy theories?

10 Famous Fake Antiques and the Suckers Who Bought Them

We use the term "suckers" lightly -- even experts have been fooled by some of the faux antiques on this list. How can a painting, sculpture or sacred document carry a false identity for so long, and what happens when the ruse is revealed?

10 Real Events That Seem Like Hoaxes

Did you hear the one about Elvis meeting President Nixon to help the youth stay off drugs? Or 50 Cent performing at a bat mitzvah? These may sound like urban legends, but this time the events are all true.

10 of History's Most Torrid Love Affairs

Scarlett and Rhett's relationship drama may seem fit only for fiction, but plenty of real-life couples could go toe-to-toe with them as far as torrid affairs go. Here are 10 historical duos that fit the bill.

Was there a real Atlantis?

The search for the lost city of Atlantis has obsessed scientists and historians for centuries, thanks to Plato's written account of its destruction. But is it real? If so, where is it?

What are the origins of democracy?

Democracy, a system of government that puts power in the hands of the people, is progressive enough to sound decidedly modern. But it's older than you'd expect. How did democracy come to be in the first place?

What was the 20th century's first genocide?

The 20th century was rife with genocide, from the atrocities waged by Nazi Germany to the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s. But what was the century's first genocide, and who waged it?

Has torture always been controversial?

Torture -- in all its variations -- has been around for centuries, but has the practice always been as controversial as it is today?