Our Fake History
Our Fake History
About Our Fake History
The character of Zorro clearly had a number of inspirations, some literary and some historical. But the proto-Zorro with the deepest mythology is undoubtedly the Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta. The outlaw was allegedly a master of disguise who made a sport of taunting his would-be bounty hunters. He was said to have escaped death countless times, while robbing gold and horses from the Americans he had grown to despise. But, for many Joaquin's remarkable life seemed out of step with his unceremonious death at the hands of the California Rangers. Was Joaquin actually killed in 1853? If not, then whose head did they put in a jar? Tune-in and out how Pathkiller II, a red-headed stranger, and three-fingered work all play a role in the story.
The co-creator of Batman has admitted that there would be no caped crusader had it not been for the inspiration of masked-avenger Zorro. In turn, the character of Zorro could not have existed without the inspiration of real California outlaws. In 1848 the Mexican-American War came to a close and a year later gold was discovered in the newly American territory of California. Tens of thousands of former Mexican citizens suddenly became Americans and thousands more soon flooded across the border, lured by the promise of gold. But, both native Californios and newly arrived Mexicans soon found themselves the victims of racist violence and restrictive government policies. In this climate Mexican bandits living outside the law became heroes to the oppressed. But were outlaws like the legendary "bandit king" Joaquin Murrieta more myth than man? Tune-in and find out how helpful butlers, liberal plagiarism, and three bitter blows all play a role in the story.
The Salem witch panic of 1692 can sometimes feel more like a natural disaster than a human event. When the crisis reached its peak in the late summer of 1692 it had become as chaotic and destructive as any extreme storm. The return of Governor William Phips from England with a new colonial charter in May 1692 meant that the official proceedings of the witch trials could finally get underway. However, the prosecution and execution of the first batch of Salem witches didn't seem to slow the rate of accusations. The more people who were hanged in Salem, the larger the Satanic conspiracy seemed to grow. Before the crisis was over the even the Governor's wife would be accused of consorting with the devil. Tune-in and find out how spectral evidence, a dude named Cotton, and a 300 year curse all play a role in the story.
Can a psychological illness become contagious? Many experts believe that in rare cases a phenomenon known as a "mass psychogenic illness" can break out in a population. Can this strange quirk of group psychology help us understand the Salem Witch Crisis of 1692? The community had been stressed by local factionalism, regional political turmoil, and a global climate crisis. The strange behavior of a few young girls quickly escalated into accusations of witchcraft against three local women. But a disturbing confession from one of the accused would transform a typical New England witch-hunt into uncontrollable witch panic. Tune-in and find out how a toxic bus event, a witch cake, and three-foot hairy imp all play a role in the story.
In 1692 in the town of Salem Village, Massachusetts, two young girls started acting very strangely. The girls suffered from uncontrollable fits, bouts of incoherence, and odd outbursts including barking and choking sounds. A physician summoned to examine them concluded that the only explanation was that the girls were "under an evil hand." They were bewitched. This sparked a full fledged witchcraft panic that ended up claiming the lives of 25 people and destabilizing the entire Massachusetts Bay Colony. The ensuing Salem Witch Trials have been pointed to as a pivotal moment in American colonial history, but so much of the incident remains mysterious and clouded by mythmaking. How do you explain one of the strangest events in American history? Tune-in and find out how Black Sabbath, Cunning Folk, and the Miracle Max all play a role in the story.
In 1906 an ex-convict named Wilhelm Voigt living pulled off one of the most audacious heists in European history. After cobbling together a realistic looking Captain's uniform, he convinced ten German soldiers to follow his commands and help him rob a townhall in the Berlin suburb of Köpenick. The heist played like a perfect piece of satirical theatre that revealed uncomfortable truths about Imperial German society. After his arrest Wilhelm Voigt was celebrated as a folk hero all around the country. All the German papers agreed that the caper had been hilarious, but they just couldn't agree on who had been the butt of the joke. Tune-in and find out how sleepy cops, 4000 marks, and the worlds most embarrassed mayor 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!
There are few tales of revenge as epic as that of Olga of Kyiv. In 945 AD Olga set out on a campaign of vengeance that would make a lasting mark on the history of Eastern Europe. However, there is good reason to believe it never actually happened. The source that contains the tale of Olga’s vengeance is among the most unreliable chronicles of the medieval era. What should we believe about one of Eastern Europe’s most merciless female rulers? Tune-in and find out how arrogant boat faces, burning bathhouses, and a baptism switcheroo all play a role in the story.
Most professional wrestling fans have accepted the scripted nature of wrestling for decades, but are we truly living in a post-kayfabe world? This week's guest, RJ City, thinks that maybe kayfabe never died. RJ City is a comedian, wrestler, bon vivant, the host of AEW’s Hey!(EW). You may have seen him beating up David Arquette, winning Celebrity Family Feud, mocking children on Nickelodeon’s Splatalot, or making coffee in his underwear on YouTube. RJ shares the insights he has gained working in the wrestling business over the course of 17 years. Can RJ act as Sebastian's "decoder ring" for the strange world of wrestling? Tune-in and find out how Lawrence Welk, a Daytime TV Warm-up Guy, and a circus with too many elephants all play role in the story.
Professional Wrestling had a long history of manipulated matches, but it took time to evolve into the pure theatre we know today. Along the road Professional Wrestling passed through a strange intermediary period, where the matches were mostly scripted, but occasionally real wrestling unexpectedly intruded into the ring. Wrestlers could double-cross their promoters, turn fixed matches into legitimate contests, and "steal" titles from a pre-determined champion. In the 1920's "breaking the rules" ironically meant honestly wrestling. When did Professional Wrestling finally purge the last vestiges of reality from it's "spectacle of excess?" Tune-in and find out how vaudeville endings, a French Angel, and a Super Swedish Angel all play a role in the story.
In 1957 the French philosopher Roland Barthes called professional wrestling a "spectacle of excess." That may be the most beautifully succinct description of sports entertainment ever written. For decades professional wrestling has existed as an athletic form of melodramatic theatre rather than an honest athletic competition. But has that always been the case? When and how did wrestling transform from a typical sport into a "spectacle of excess?" Tune-in and find out how weird carnival slang, a fake hanging, and a man with a pet 2x4 all play a role in the story.
In 1721 the first Hell-Fire club caused a scandal in London and quickly disbanded, but the story did not end there. Soon new blasphemous rake's clubs were being founded all over England, Scotland and Ireland. Some of these second-generation clubs became even more infamous than the original. Did these new Hell-Fire clubs earn their reputation as satanic blights on society, or was this just more of the same aristocratic excess? Tune-in and find out how incorporeal party guests, demonic kitty-cats, and naughty Latin puns all play a role in the story.
In Britain in the early 18th century private social clubs were all the rage. These societies grew out of the emerging coffeehouse culture and soon became an integral part of the social life of the British upper crust. The most notorious of all these groups was the so-called Hell-Fire Club. In 1721 a near panic was fueled by the English press, who reported that this club hosted orgies, encouraged blasphemy, and held rude pantomimes of sacred religious rituals. Even King George I himself became concerned that these clubs were corrupting British society. But how much of this was real and how much was invented by the imaginative British press? Tune-in and find out how the Farting Club, Giant Drunkasadog , and someone called Lady Polygamy all play a role in the story.
There is a long tradition of writers comparing Christopher Columbus to mythical figures. 16th century historian Peter Martyr believed Columbus was like a later-day Aeneas, the Trojan hero who travelled west to found a society in Italy that would one day become Rome. Over the centuries many Americans gravitated to the idea of Columbus as Aeneas--- a man who brought civilization west and gave it a new headquarters in America. However, more recently one historian has argued that Columbus is more like the tragic Greek hero Oedipus. In his estimation Columbus, like Oedipus, was a hero who brought about a tragedy unwittingly. Is this a fair analogy? While acting as the Viceroy of Indies and the Governor of Hispaniola, Columbus would personally oversee the enslavement of thousands of people and the institution of a tribute system so exploitative that it lead to one of history's more shocking humanitarian disasters. How "unwitting" can all of this really be said to be? Tune-in and find out how pear shaped globes, Columbus' chains, and America's worst statues all play a role in the story.
A Columbus biographer once wrote that the famous navigator had an "an imperfect understanding of the line between truth and falsity." The Genoese mariner had a habit of lying, exaggerating, or revising history in service of what he believed were his "higher ends." The fact that Columbus is such an unreliable narrator makes retracing his voyages particularly challenging. The first voyage across the Atlantic would nearly disintegrate as Columbus lost control of his subordinates and lost his flagship to the sea. But despite these near-disasters, the man styling himself Admiral of the Ocean Sea was intent on spinning the entire voyage as a roaring success. If nothing else he had found lands filled with people, who he felt confident he could conquer. Tune-in and find out how a false log, hawk's bells, and the world's most unlucky cabin boy all play a role in the story.
There are few historical figures whose reputation has swung in as many extreme directions as Christopher Columbus. The Genoese mariner once credited with "discovering America" has in recent years been called out as genocidal conqueror and slave trader. In 2020 many statues of Columbus across the United States were toppled by protestors, quite literally taking the man off of his pedestal. Why does the figure of Christopher Columbus continue to inspire so much passion from both his detractors and defenders? Despite the fact that Columbus may be one of the most famous names in history, many of us remain hazy on the specific details of his life and voyages. How well do the facts of his life align with his myth? Tune-in and find out how atomic bombs, bad math, and tales of "Cipango" all play a role in the story.
On today's show Sebastian has the opportunity to talk to one of his favourite film critics, podcasters, and cultural observers, the great Amy Nicholson. Amy writes about film for the New York Times and is featured regularly in Variety, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian. She is also the co-host of the wonderful movie podcast Unspooled, that she makes with actor and comedian Paul Sheer. Amy and Sebastian explore the importance of accuracy in historically themed movies, the most irresponsible history films, and movies that capture something true about the past while indulging in historical myths. Tune-in and find out how Elvis' mesh shirts, Hitler's lunch order, and Sebastian's middle name all play role in the story.
If you managed to get through elementary school math then you have almost certainly heard the name Pythagoras. The ancient Greek thinker has been celebrated as the man who first discovered the mathematical relationship between the sides of a right triangle. This has been known for centuries as the Pythagorean Theorem. But, if you poke your nose a little deeper into his story you will discover that he was also worshipped by some as a nearly divine figure who could communicate with animals, recall his past lives, and even had a thigh made out of pure gold. However, there were some who thought that Pythagoras was little more than a clever charlatan with a thirst for power. Who really was this strange character? Should he even be given credit for the famous triangle equation? Tune in and find out how Babylonian math homework, a prank drinking cup, and a taboo on beans all play a role in the story.
The myth of Mata Hari would have us believe that she was a turn-of-the-century super-spy. She has been celebrated as a master of the "honey trap" tactic, where a beautiful spy seduces her mark and extracts sensitive information over pillow talk. But, in reality Mata Hari was a remarkably ineffective spy. In short time dabbling in the world of espionage, she did very little that could be considered "spying." Her career as a "secret agent" lasted just over a year. There is very little evidence that in that time she managed to learn any information that was useful to either the German or French intelligence services. Despite this Mata Hari still managed to get collared by the French, who were convinced she had betrayed secrets to their enemies. Did Mata Hari deserve her fate in front of French firing squad? Tune-in and find out how smokescreens, broken codes, and a secret base inside the Eiffel Tower all play a role in the story.
Between 1905 and 1908 the dancer professionally known as Mata Hari was one of the best known entertainers in Europe. Her nearly-nude dances were given an air of respectability thanks to her presentation as Javanese temple dancer performing sacred religious rites. But by the outbreak of WWI her star had started to fade. To maintain her lavish lifestyle she began to rely heavily on her wealthy lovers. These lovers were often military men who fought on opposing sides of the war. This made Mata Hari of interest to a number of different intelligence services. Both the Germans and the French may have tried to recruit her as a spy. But did she ever do any real spying? Tune-in and find out how exotic dancer rip-offs, confiscated furs, and grey-area sex work, all play a role in the story.