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.


Its broad stripes and bright stars are up for debate. Classic American lore would have us believe that Betsy Ross made the first U.S. flag, but some historians dismiss this as a campy tale.

When the U.S. president issues an executive order, he means business. These orders call for complete cooperation from federal agencies and officials. What was so remarkable about No. 9981?

The Warren Commission published its findings on President John F. Kennedy's assassination in a report in 1964. So why do people still ask who killed JFK?

In ancient Egypt, the ultimate political power couple was Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Their hopes of building a massive of empire hinged on the fateful Battle of Actium.

We can't quite figure out why rock stars such as Pete Wentz wear eye liner. But ancient Egyptian men had good reason to apply eye makeup, pluck their brows and don hair extensions.

Before Martin Luther King Jr., another man advocated civil disobedience: Gandhi. When India was under Britain's thumb, Gandhi's salt march became his most successful campaign in history.

It's the garnish of choice for eggnog, and some say it's an aphrodisiac. Nutmeg used to be a really hot commodity -- so hot, the Dutch thought it was more valuable than Manhattan.

You may have heard your parents say, "I know what's best for you." In the 14th century, some Christian parents thought sacrificing their children to slavery was a benevolent measure.

You don't look fat in those pants. I didn't copy off his paper. She's a natural blonde. I am not a crook. Lots of us lie, but what are the biggest fibs ever told?

Shipwrecks have been known to increase bank accounts. But only one has been known to double the size of an entire country. What happened to El Cazador?

A band of men assaulted the pope to force him out. When that failed, the pope sought asylum from the king. How did that form the Holy Roman Empire?

Harvard University was poised to bestow an honorary doctorate on George Marshall. He accepted the degree with a little speech about economic recovery.

These films look like blooper reels when you compare them to history books. From anachronisms to flat-out lies, creative license reigns in this list.

Many of the world's people regard the Bible as a sacred text that's integral to their daily lives. So what inspired a U.S. president to cut up a Bible and take out sections he disapproved of?

You've heard the fairy tale about the pied piper and how he lures away Hamelin's rats -- and the town's children when the mayor won't pay up. It it true? One thing's for sure: You won't be reading this article to your children as a bedtime story.

If there's one time of day that holds special significance for older Argentineans, it's probably 8:25 p.m. At that minute, on July 26, 1952, Eva Peron died of cancer at age 33. But the popular first lady wouldn't be buried for more than 20 years.

Most people can recount a rough outline of Joan of Arc's story: A young French girl hears voices, leads troops into battle and is burned at the stake as a heretic. But she was put to death for committing a rather unusual crime.

Thanks to smoky-eyed Cleopatra, the notion of liberated women in ancient Egypt isn't that hard to accept. Even the delicate features of Nefertiti's bust exude an air of authority and confidence. But was feminism alive and well along the Nile?

When you're memorizing dates in school, it's easy to think of history as a set of immutable truths. But some scholars say it's a living, evolving subject. And when you're discussing controversial topics like Nazi Germany, this raises some eyebrows.

When Gov. John White left Roanoke to gather supplies from England, he was astonished at what he found upon his return: nothing. The colonists were gone, their houses were gone and the only clue was a tree carved with the word "CROATOAN."

A bad LSD trip can drive a person to suicide. So what would have inspired the CIA to use American citizens as guinea pigs for its drug research?

World War II ended in 1945, but some soldiers in the dense jungles of Pacific islands didn't get the memo. What did it take to get them to stop fighting?

The name is synonymous with fine chocolates and a tawdry costume. But just who was Lady Godiva? And what inspired her to disrobe and ride through town?

He'd been shot in the back, had no pulse, and yet those piercing green eyes opened wide when his murderers shook his limp body. Why wouldn't the bearded mystic die?

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the most fashionable Europeans gazed upon wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosity. But Peter the Great's collection didn't appeal to those with weak stomachs.