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.
There are few twentieth century figures as mysterious as Grigori Rasputin. The Siberian mystic has been portrayed as a scheming dark magician who seduced the Russian Queen and made a cuckold of Tsar Nicholas II. He’s been blamed for everything from the First World War to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. But how much should we believe about this strange Russian peasant? Is there anything to the legend of Rasputin? Tune in and find out how children with iron teeth, religious sex-parties, Robert Redford, and Homer Simpson all play a role in the story.
The deeper you dig into the claims made in 1421: The Year China Discovered America the weirder the story becomes. The author Gavin Menzies boldly asserts that the fleets of the Chinese Admiral Zheng He managed to circumnavigate the globe some 100 years before Europeans. But he is not content to stop there! By the end of his controversial book Menzies has the junks of Zheng He accomplishing feats of navigation that would not be repeated again until the late 19th century. But does his evidence stand up to scrutiny? Tune in and find out how paranormal maps, forged carbon dating tests, and prehistoric giant sloths all play a role in the story!
One of the most controversial historical theories to emerge in the last 15 years is the so-called "1421 thesis". The theory was originally formulated by the former British submarine commander Gavin Menzies. He contends that during the Ming Dynasty the Admiral Zheng He led an impressive fleet of Chinese junks on an unprecedented journey of discovery. According to Menzies this journey took them to the New World nearly 80 years before Columbus. But is there any proof to support this incredible claim? Tune in and find out how dragon thrones, giraffes masquerading as unicorns, and the Chinese Luke Skywalker all play a role in the story.
Our Fake History is celebrating its one year anniversary! In honour of this milestone we have turned the show over to the listeners. In this episode Sebastian does his best to answer as many of your questions as he possibly can! Tune in and find out how Fender Telecasters, know-it-all students, and the young Julius Caesar all play a role in the story.
Ty Cobb has been remembered as one of baseball's greatest villains. Despite being universally recognised as one of the game's most talented players, Ty Cobb is mostly remembered as violent racist who was hated by all who knew him. However, a new biography is claiming that Ty Cobb's reputation was unfairly tarnished by an unscrupulous biographer looking to make a name for himself by exposing the "real Ty Cobb". Was Ty Cobb really the monster that so many believe him to be? Tune in and find out how forged letters, pistol whippings, and Tommy Lee Jones all play a role in the story.
It has been nearly six hundred years since Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in Rouen. Since that time there have been no shortage of conspiracy theorists and armchair psychologists who have tried to explain the girl who stubbornly resists explanation. This episode we dive deep into the weird theories about France's favourite Saint. Tune in an find out how LSD experiences, the plot of Star Wars, and a Bishop called Pierre the Pig all play a role in the story!
If Joan of Arc's rise to fame was unexpected, then her success on the battlefield was completely flabbergasting. Joan would score a series of impressive victories over the English and clear a path to Rheims so her Dauphin could become King of France. But what's a girl to do when her mission from God wraps up more quickly than anticipated? How should a modern lover of history make sense of a life so filled with miracles and impossible deeds? Tune in and find out how foot spikes, a proud bastard, and an archer named Lionel all play a role in the story.
An historical myth managed to get loose and pass itself off as a fact in Episode #21! In this "Mini-Episode" Sebastian does his utmost to wrangle the loose myth and banish it to the pit. What results is a brief history of the most obscene gesture in the western world. Tune in and find out how Socrates, The Boston Bean Eaters, and the namesake of the "Charlie Horse" all play a role in the story!
The story of how Joan of Arc, an unassuming peasant girl, became the leader of French armies is one of the most dramatic in all of European history. In many ways Joan's biography can read like a fairytale, or like the classic hero's journey. As you might imagine it is a story that is coated in a healthy layer of mythology and exaggeration. Parsing the legends from the verifiable historical facts can get messy when it comes to France's most unlikely national hero. Tune in find out how a man made of glass, the history of obscene gestures, and the best way to shut down a cat-caller all play a role in the story.
There are few expeditions from the so-called "age of discovery" as harrowing as Ferdinand Magellan's attempted circumnavigation of the globe. The journey was plagued by storms, scurvy, starvation, and mutiny. By the time the expedition was over only one leaky boat and 18 traumatized sailors managed to make their way back to Spain. What became of the man who has so often been celebrated as the first person to sail around the world? Tune in and find out how blood filled goblets, vengeful slaves, and Quentin Tarantino all play a role in the story.
Famous historical "firsts" tend to be controversial as a rule, and the world's first circumnavigation is no exception. Ferdinand Magellan is often celebrated as the first person to sail around the world, but is that actually true? In many ways the expedition that is given credit for completing the first circumnavigation may have actually been one of the era's most disastrous sea-voyages. Who really deserves the title of "first person to circle to globe?" Tune in and find out how the flat earth, an island of people with no heads, and a retirement plan based on cloves all play a role in the story!
The story that a woman disguised as man was once elected Pope has been floating around since the 1200's. In fact it was widely believed for hundreds of years that there had once been a real female Pope. But during the tumult of the Protestant Reformation the story was rejected by the Catholic Church, and it has subsequently been scoffed at as a myth. Was Pope Joan just a strange medieval legend, or was her legacy erased by a conspiracy? Tune in and find out how transvestite nuns, anti-popes, and a weird chair with a hole in the seat all play role in the story!
We have explored the myth of Trojan War and we have sung the Ballad of Heinrich Schliemann. All that’s left is to answer the question that has inspired this entire trilogy of episodes. To determine whether or not the Trojan War was based on a verifiable historical event we are going to have to scour the Iliad for clues, peruse ancient Hittite clay tablets, and examine all the archaeological evidence that wasn’t thrown in the trash by Heinrich Schliemann. Will we solve the great Trojan puzzle? Tune in and find out how multiple Homers, Sea People, the god of earthquakes, and mean twelve-year-old girls all play a role in the story.
In our quest to discover if the Trojan War was a verifiable historical event we have to grapple with the amateur archaeologist who first tried to solve that mystery. Heinrich Schliemann believed that he had found real proof that the city of Troy actually existed. His discoveries were some of the most celebrated archaeological finds of the late 19th century, which earned him the moniker “the father of archaeology”. But Schliemann was also a prolific liar who freely misrepresented his findings and invented wild stories about his personal life. Can we trust one of academia’s greatest scoundrels? Tune in and find out how missing gold dust, fake treasures, Mike Meyers, and PT Barnum all play role in the story!
The story of the Trojan War is one of humanity’s oldest tales of armed conflict. For the Ancient Greeks the war represented the bloody end of an historical epoch. The fall of the city marked the end of the so-called “Age of Heroes”, and heralded a new era where superhuman demi-gods would no longer walk the earth. But is the Trojan War just a myth, or was there a real conflict that provided the inspiration for the story? It’s going to take three whole episodes to find out, so strap in! Tune in and find out how Oceans 11, heroes in drag, and divine bribery all play a role in the story!
The Pacific Ocean is the most expansive body of water on planet earth. Despite this fact ancient people managed to venture forth into its immensity and create a civilization of incredible sophistication. The question of how the ancients managed to settle the Pacific perplexed academics for generations. This left the door open for some pretty wild theories about the origins of the Polynesians. Chief among these theorists was the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdhal . Heyerdahl’s audacious stunts would make the world question the conventional wisdom on the Polynesians. But should his theories be trusted? Tune in and find out how stone giants, Gilligan’s Island, and the last cannibal on Fatu Hiva all play a role in the story.
The Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace is so deeply enveloped in mythology that finding the real man can seem almost impossible. His life story has doubled as both entertainment and propaganda since it was first recounted by the minstrel Blind Harry in the 1400’s. The film Braveheart brought the larger-than-life myth of William Wallace to a whole new generation, and also managed to add a few new (fake) details to the Wallace legend. As we close in on the end of William Wallace’s life, the fake history really starts to pile up! Listen and find out how spear hedgehogs, reformed pirates, lion fights, and Lando Calrissian all play a role in the story.
William Wallace is not only one of Scotland’s best loved national heroes, he’s also one of the most internationally well-known. His role as a leader in Scotland’s medieval wars of independence against the English made him famous, but the poetry of an obscure minstrel named Blind Harry would make him a legend. Blind Harry’s epic poem, “The Wallace”, would double as Wallace’s official biography for centuries, and would inform the script of the 1995 film Braveheart. But, how many of Harry’s tall-tales sync up with the verifiable facts of Wallace’s life? Listen and find out how fishing pole fencing, the King of England’s butt, a booby-trapped bridge, and a whole lot of missing limbs play a role in the story!
The spear that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross has been one of the most fabled holy relics in history. The so-called “Spear of Destiny” is said to possess incredible supernatural powers that can make its carrier unbeatable in battle. But the spear also carries a terrible curse: lose it and you’re dead. Legend has it that the “Spear of Destiny” has passed through hands of Europe’s greatest conquerors, and its occult properties are said to have obsessed the Nazis. Tune in and find out how ghost historians, Attila the Hun, pseudo-histories, and a supernatural Forest Gump all play a role in the story.