One of the most contentious questions in American pop culture revolves around who should get the credit for inventing rock 'n roll music. Rolling Stone magazine helped propagate the myth that the genre was invented by Elvis Presley in 1954. As you might imagine, the real story is a bit more complicated. Tune in and find out how dirty jokes, "moondoggers", and a sexy fat man all play a role in the story.
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Richard the Lionheart did his best to make himself a legend in his own time. He was flamboyantly chivalrous in a way that was designed to get attention. His charm campaign seemed to work. Generations of minstrels and storytellers were happy to pick up on this thread and embroider his life story with colourful legends. But is Richard really deserving of this romantic reputation? Tune in and find out how brothel chicken, frying pan shields, and weird three-way handshakes all play a role in the story.
There are few English kings as legendary as Richard the Lionheart. In Robin Hood stories he was portrayed as the ultimate "good King". For the Victorians he represented everything that was noble about England's medieval past. However, Richard's reputation among historians is considerably less glamorous. Was Richard really the second coming of King Arthur, or was he something far more sinister? Tune in and find out how scammer monks, the court of love, and the kiss of death all play a role in the story.
Almost as long as people have been telling stories about Robin Hood, historians have been trying to find the real person who inspired the legend. Over the centuries dozens of researchers have cooked up elaborate theories in an attempt to locate the man who became the myth. Were any of them successful in finding a "real" Robin Hood? Tune in and find out how piggy-back-rides, dog-summoners, and fake family trees all play a role in the story.
Robin Hood is easily one of the most beloved characters in English storytelling. For centuries the forest outlaw has been the ultimate hero of the downtrodden. He steals from the rich, gives to the poor, and resists tyranny in all of its forms. But is Robin Hood just a fictional character, or could there have been a real person who inspired the legend? By taking a close look at the earliest Robin Hood ballads perhaps we can find some clues about the true identity of this mythic outlaw. Tune in and find out how forest elves, Kurt Cobain, and Kevin Costner’s bad accent all play a role in the story.
The podcast is celebrating its second birthday! For our season finale we have something a little special. This week Sebastian is joined by New York Times Bestselling author Mark Adams. Mark is the author of the excellent book Meet Me in Atlantis, an incredibly readable exploration of the weird world of Atlantis research. Sebastian and Mark get deep into Atlantis theories and commiserate about the professional hazards of dealing with historical mysteries. Tune in and find out how google earth, cooky theorists, and snarky McClean's reviewers all play a role in the story.
Piracy on the high seas has existed for as long as human beings have had boats. For most of history these maritime marauders were almost exclusively men. However, there have also been a handful of notable women who lived the pirate life. Their stories can often blur the line between myth and history. Tune in and find out how severed ears, guardian lizards, and the real life Captain Jack Sparrow all play a role in the story.
The 1683 Siege of Vienna often gets described in apocalyptic terms. It has been characterized as the ultimate showdown between Christianity and Islam. There is no doubt that it was a dramatic and significant moment in European history, but should it be mythologized as the ultimate battle for the fate of European civilization? Tune in an find out how the Riders of Rohan, mole wars, and knights with freakin' wings on their backs all play a role in the story.
In July of 1683 the Ottoman Turks were closing in on the city of Vienna. The outnumbered Austrians frantically prepared their defenses and did their best to manage the panic that was gripping the city. The battle that was about to begin would be so dramatic that it would give birth to countless myths and legends. Just how important was the 1683 Siege of Vienna? Did civilization really hang in the balance? Tune in and find out how rotten wigs, bands of brothers, and Austrian pee pee baths all play a role in the story.
The 1683 Siege of Vienna has been remembered as one of the most dramatic moments in European history. The Ottoman Turks threw the might of their empire against the walls Vienna in an attempt to capture a prize they called the "Golden Apple". This event would give birth to countless myths, both big and small. Tune in and find out how J.R.R Tolkien, a seven headed dragon, and 280 terrifying burlap bags all play a role in the story!
In the world of pseudo-historical theories there are few more radical than the Phantom Time Hypothesis and the New Chronology. These theories propose that hundreds of years of human history never actually occurred. Our current chronology has been inflated with fake events and "phantom time". These theorists would have us believe that most of our history has been faked by chroniclers and unscrupulous historians. Could it be that most of human history is a fraud? Tune in and find out how golf course owners, weird math, and Russian pride all play a role in the story!
The Lincoln County War was once called "a war without heroes". However, it did manage to produce an American legend. Billy the Kid would eventually be celebrated as a righteous avenger who fought for the little guy. But how accurate is this depiction? Was Billy the Kid really much more than a hired thug? Tune in and find out how the Princess Bride, the best scene in the Godfather, and some dude named Brushy Bill all play a role in the story.
There are few times and places as romanticized as America's "Old West". It has a robust mythology peppered with gunslingers, outlaws, and rugged pioneers. One of the most recognizable of these legendary rogues has to be Billy the Kid. The young outlaw barely lived to see twenty-one, but his legend would prove to be immortal. In a world that produced hundreds of outlaws and gunfighters, why has Billy the Kid been so lovingly mythologized? Tune in and find out how laundry theft, a gun hidden under a breakfast for two, and some dude named "Windy" all play a role in the story.
In the world of Atlantis research there are many who believe that ruins of the lost city can, and will, be found. By carefully considering the details in Plato's dialogues some researchers believe that fabled sunken city can be accurately located. Is there anything to the many theories about Atlantis' real location? Tune in and find out how the largest volcanic eruption in human history, math jokes, and Gotham City all play a role in the story.
The world of Atlantis research can be a very strange place. Some researchers believe that Atlantis was a real Bronze Age city whose ruins might one day be found near the rock of Gibraltar. Others believe that the true "lost civilization" is actually far more ancient. Perhaps the real Atlantis was a sophisticated maritime society that existed during the last ice age. Could it have been that the climate change that accompanied the end of the ice age also wiped away this amazing civilization? Tune in and find out how sleeping prophets, Noah's Arc, a brave muskrat, and our buddy Graham Hancock all play a role in the story.
In 360 BCE the Greek philosopher Plato wrote of a powerful island nation that had been sunk to the bottom of the ocean by wrathful gods. Plato called this lost city Atlantis. Little did he know that this story would go on to launch an entire genre of pseudo-historical speculation. The myth of the dazzling lost civilization would inspire countless amateur theorists and would-be archaeologists. Was a there a real city that inspired Plato's story, or was Atlantis just a figment of the philosopher's imagination? Tune in and find out how Graham Hancock, Charles Darwin, and the OFH drinking game all play a role in the story.
In the history of the Blues there are few musicians as revered as the great Robert Johnson. Although he saw little success in his own lifetime, his music would go on to influence generations of singers, songwriters, and guitar players. Legend has it that Johnson gained his great talent after he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads. His tragic life and violent death are often explained as the dark fallout of his ill advised contract with Satan. What can be said for certain about the most mysterious figure in American music? Tune in and find out how fake mothers, poisoned whiskey, Levon Helm, and guy named "Honeyboy" all play role in the story.
In the early 1600's most English people assumed that Captain John Smith was a liar. His memoirs were peppered with romantic stories of shipwrecks, duels to the death, and exotic lovers. His contemporaries were pretty sure he had made it all up. This included his most famous exploit--- when he was saved from execution by Pocahontas. Over the years this tale has been scrutinized by countless historians. Despite the fact that it seems completely made up, there are many who believe that there is more truth to Captain Smith's story than one might assume. Tune in and find out how defiant epitaphs, fairytale inventions, and running into your ex-girlfriend at the movies plays a role in the story.
The story of Pocahontas is one of the most enduring legends of America's early colonial period. Her relationship with the Englishman John Smith would become the inspiration for everything from cheesy romance novels to Disney films. However, the reality behind this beloved story is far more grim. Should the story of Pocahontas be written off as a romantic fable, or is there some truth to be found? Tune in and find out how international men of mystery, legitimate piracy, and three severed heads all play a role in the story.
Archimedes was one of the ancient world's most important mathematicians. His discoveries would form the foundation upon which all future western science was built. However, he's probably best remembered for his amazing inventions that saved his city from attackers during the siege of Syracuse. The most discussed of all of these amazing devices has to be Archimedes' "Death Ray". This mysterious machine was said to be able to set ships on fire from hundreds of meters away. Did this fabled "Death Ray" really exist, or is just another legend in a life filled with mythology.
P.T Barnum did everything he could to curate his own historical legacy. He was deeply concerned with how people would remember him after he was gone. Would he go down as a greasy hustler, or would he be celebrated as a great entertainer? Since that time historians have debated Barnum's legacy as a hoaxster and manipulator of the media. Were Barnum's "humbugs" just good fun, or was he too quick to dispense with morality in order to make a buck. Tune in and find out how fish-monkeys, a woolly horse, and the town of St. Thomas, Ontario all play a role in the story.
In the 19th century there were few Americans more famous than P.T Barnum. Long before he founded the circus that would bear his name, Barnum made a name for himself by pulling off elaborate hoaxes. Barnum's so-called "humbugs" walked the line between charming practical jokes and cynical frauds. How much should we believe about a man who lied for a living? Tune in and find out how fake news, George Washington's wet nurse, clockwork robots, an someone named "zip the pinhead" all play a role in the story.
The Crimean War cavalry action known as “the charge of light brigade” was immortalized by the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson . The poet described a glorious charge into the mouths of Russian cannon carried out by men who would sooner die than disobey their orders. But is any of this actually true? What was the real charge of the light brigade? Why has one of history’s biggest military blunders been remembered so fondly? Tune in and find out how the sick man of Europe, being “sporting”, and a whole lot of donkeys play into the story.
When Tsar Nicholas II was executed in 1918 the Bolsheviks pumped the Russian media full of misinformation. The official story was that the Tsarina and the Prince had been spared and moved to a safe location. Absolutely nothing was said about the four imperial princesses. This would give rise to one of the most robust historical myths of the twentieth century--- that the Princess Anastasia had escaped the execution and made her way to freedom. Soon impostors started popping up all over Europe claiming to be the missing princess. But were any of these claims legitimate? Tune in find out how "Dad behaviour", Jamie Lee Curtis, the German Kaiser, and the best brother in the world all play a role in the story.
If there is anything stranger than the life of Grigori Rasputin, then it has be his unbelievable death. As Rasputin's influence at court increased the rumours about his debauched personal life became even more intense. Could it be that he had actually seduced the Tsarina? His meddling in the Tsarist government eventually earned him powerful enemies who were happy to put the peasant out of his misery. But perhaps these assassins bit off a little more than they could chew. Tune in and find out how cool code names, cyanide laced cream puffs, and a well-placed genital wart all play a role in the story.