Famous Historical Figures That May Have Never Existed

Where would we be without the historical figures we look up to? We grew up watching movies about them and learned about their accomplishments in our history books. For the most part, if we are told that someone existed, we tend to believe they did. Most of our stories, societal norms, morals, and philosophies come from the people in history. However, history can be misleading, and it’s hard to truly know if someone really lived, or if their existence is a legend. Let’s take a look at some famous historical individuals that may have never walked the earth.

Robin Hood

Known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, Robin Hood is a medieval folklore. He is regarded as Sherwood Forest’s most notorious outlaw and was featured in many songs and poems between the 14th and 15th Centuries.

Known for his advanced skills both as a swordsman and an archer, he is noted to oppose the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham with his band of “Merry Men”. His legend left an impact on history as the selfless hero who stood up for those who could not help themselves. Since medieval times, his legend has only grown into modern fantasy. But was he real? Find out next.

The Legend of Robin Hood

Although he has been mentioned throughout history, historical evidence has been found that the name “Rabunhod” or “Robehod” is a term for some criminals, and was also adopted by other outlaws during the time. Also, although many researchers have attempted to identify him as a real individual, evidence continues to point back that he may have been a follower of King Richard the Lionheart and even possibly a member of the Knights Templar.

However, it is also speculated that the legend of Robin Hood may be based on a man named Fouke le Fitz Waryn who rebelled against King John, leaving his existence still in question.

Beware Jack The Ripper

By now, you’ve probably heard the name Jack the Ripper. The 19th-century London-based serial killer’s story has been fodder for the legend for centuries, but his true identity has since remained a mystery. Most of his kills involved prostitutes in London’s East End, who were found murdered by having their throats cut before their stomachs were ripped out of their bodies.

So who exactly could be behind such an atrocity? Well, there are so many possible theories about this tall tale that you might even believe that the entire thing was made up!

The World May Never Know

The name Jack the Ripper originated from an anonymous letter sent to the press from someone who claimed to have been the culprit behind the gory murders. But now, the letter is deemed to be a hoax written by journalists who were trying to sell more papers. Still, it doesn’t explain who was behind the murders or if it was even one person, which many think is the case since all of the murders were similar.

One popular theory is that the murders were committed by multiple people who were being orchestrated by one person! However, authorities were never able to agree on theories about who Jack the Ripper was.

Lycurgus of Sparta

Lycurgus is the man who shaped the ancient Greek city-state into the hard and militarized society we know it as today. It is said that somewhere between the 7th and the 9th Century, Lycurgus instituted a series of laws regarding marriage, wealth, sex, and child-rearing in all of Sparta.

He is also considered to be the man that created the agoge, or multi-year training program to turn young Spartan boys into cold-blooded warriors, making them one of the most feared militaries in the ancient world. This program can be seen in the 2006 film, 300, which emphasizes the brutality of the program. But did Lycurgus even exist?

Man or God?

Although it has been considered factual that the certain laws and reforms credited to Lycurgus were implemented in Sparta, his actual existence is questionable. This is so since the Spartan’s didn’t record their history in writing, so the evidence of the existence of this leader comes from many contradicting sources.

Lycurgus’ biography is also full of mythical occurrences, which leads researchers to possibly believe that Lycurgus was a god-like figure invented by the Spartans to be the essence of Spartan life. Also, he is believed to have been a figure for all ancient Greeks to refer to when discussing politics.

Jesus

For centuries, humans have been searching for evidence that Jesus existed beyond the Bible. Although some claim that Jesus is simply an idea, rather than an actual historical figure, there is evidence that he existed some 2,000 years ago.

What evidence exactly? For starters, within decades of Jesus’ supposed life, he is mentioned in numerous Christian writings, as well as writings by Jewish and Roman historians.

But are these Christian readings accurate? How confident can be that they’re true?

There Is Significant Written Evidence That Jesus Existed

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There is significant evidence that Jesus existed in some way. The earliest Christian writings that talk about Jesus are the epistles of St. Paul. Scholars agree that these were written with 25 years of his death.

Furthermore, detailed accounts of Jesus’ life are included in the New Testament, which dates from approximately 40 years after his death. These writings appeared within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses and provide an insightful look into the culture of Palestine during the first century.

King Arthur supposedly lived around 500 A.D., but even he isn’t mentioned in any major historical texts.

King Arthur

The story of King Arthur, his sword Excalibur, and tales of his Knights of the Round Table is a common legend still told today. Although King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone or his exploits with his wizard companion Merlin are clearly embellished myths, it is believed that these stories are actually based off of a real person.

King Arthur is assumed to be derived from a King that repelled a Saxon attack on Britain in the 5th or 6th Century. However, although it is written that he won a total of 12 battles against the invader, the King is never mentioned and a description of Arthur did not come about until the 9th Century.

Who Was King Arthur Really?

Although the modern description of Arthur illustrates him as a knight in shining armor bearing Excalibur next to Lady Guinevere, historians depict something different. They believe he was based on a real person that may have been inspired by the past king Ambrosius Aurelianus or the Roman general named Lucius Artorius Castus.

So, although there may not have actually been a King Arthur who was made King of England by some divine power, there very well may have been an actual man that inspired this legendary tale to come about. The question is: just who was it?

William Shakespeare

For the most part, it has widely accepted that William Shakespeare was a real person who accomplished the things he is said to have done, which is writing some of the most well-known and greatest plays of all time.

His existence is believed to be true from his constant mentioning in various historical records and legal records. Also, he has been recognized by following playwrights and actors in their personal records as well. However, there has been some speculation regarding the existence of a real William Shakespeare.

Were There Multiple Shakespeares?

Although there was a man named William Shakespeare, he did not appear to be the great writer as we have come to know. There was no evidence of any schooling, knowledge of politics, and his will had no mention of any writings. So, now, some people have begun to consider the possibility that William Shakespeare is merely a pen name, and that his writings are the works of one or numerous other writers such as Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe.

This is believed because the supposed Shakespeare was born as a commoner and would have very little knowledge of the inner workings of aristocracy and court politics, in which most of his writings focused on.

Pope Joan

In 855 AD, a woman by the name of Joan became Pope during a time when women were still expected to clean, cook, and bear children for their husband. Being extremely pious, dedicated, and talented, she disguised herself as a man named John Anglicus and rose quickly through the levels of the Catholic Church and was eventually elected to the Papacy.

However, as the story goes, she got pregnant, gave birth, and somehow died, although it is assumed she was murdered. It is an amazing story, yet maybe too amazing to believed to be true.

Pope Joan: A Mistake In Papal History

However, believers of the story point to various historical records documenting her existence. One includes her name being placed in Renaissance poet Giovanni Boccaccio’s book 100 Famous Women, or a carving by Bernini in St. Peter’s Square of a woman wearing a Papal crown while giving birth.

However, the Catholic Church states that she is an urban legend. Academics believe that Joan’s story originated from a book in which somebody added her story in The History of Emperors and Popes after the author’s death. From there, her story continued to be written down although it may never have happened.

Pythagoras And His Theorem

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher and mathematician. He is most well-known for his discovery and implementation of the Pythagorean theorem in mathematics and is also regarded as the founder of the Pythagoreanism movement in ancient Greece, a religious cult based on numbers and other obscure obsessions.

It is noted that he was the first man to ever call himself a philosopher or “lover of wisdom’ and that his ideas helped to influence Plato, and therefore all of the Western philosophy. yet, the closer one looks at the life and stories about Pythagoras the less and less believable they become.

Pythagoras: A Fraud?

Apparently, there really is no significant contemporary accounts of his life. For the most part, all of the references, as well as his ideas and formulas come from his followers of his movement known as Pythagoreans. Within these tales and references to Pythagoras, there are also mythical and supernatural notions such as that he was the son of Apollo or that he had a golden thigh.

For researchers and academics, both the lack of any actual evidence of his existence along with the supernatural tales about him lead them to believe he was a constructed leader by the members of the movement he supposedly started. Furthermore, it has recently been discovered that the Egyptians may have been the first to actually implement the theorem that Pythagoras supposedly discovered.

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu is a famous ancient Chinese military leader and philosopher credited for writing The Art of War, a guidebook of sorts on how to properly wage war, as well as win. he was known to be stern and fierce, and it is even said that he beheaded two of the King’s friends to demonstrate to others that nobody was above law and discipline.

However, although it has been considered a fact that The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu, people are beginning to believe he was actually a real person less and less.

Sun Tzu

The reason behind the doubt if Sun Tzu was real at all mostly comes from the fact that there’s no proof is Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War or where it came from at all, just that it could randomly be found sewn onto bamboo slabs for use whenever it was needed. In addition, Sun Tzu is never recording having written it himself and most of the military techniques in the book are too sophisticated for when he supposedly lived.

For the most part, people believe Sun Tzu is a pen name and that The Art of War is a book compiled together by generations of Chinese military strategies and tactics. It is doubtful that one man named Sun Tzu managed to create let alone complete the whole thing himself.

King Midas

Have you ever heard that someone has “the Midas touch”? The expression means that everything they do is a success, and stems from legends about a King from Greek mythology who was named King Midas. But, unsurprisingly, it’s unclear whether there really was a fantastical ruler named Midas who could turn things gold just by touching them.

In fact, there were three different men with the name Midas who all ruled Phrygia at different times. There was even a city named Midaeum, presumably after one of the rulers called Midas.

So, was the man with the golden touch real or not?

Was Midas Just A Fable?

According to Claudian’s In Rufinem, “Midas…swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold; but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold, cursed his prayer.”

Although historians discovered an elaborate burial site dating from around the time that the Golden Midas is said to have lived, there is no hard evidence that the tomb is his or that the man with such magical powers ever lived.

Confucius

Some modern scholars doubt that Confucius ever existed, though…
Some modern scholars doubt that Confucius ever existed, though…

The Chinese philosopher Confucius is credited with many of the most famous quotes of our day, including “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and “It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them”. He’s thought to have been one of the wisest humans ever to walk the earth.

There’s even an ethical system, Confucianism, based on his thoughts and musings. The words and quotes attributed to him have been translated into different languages around the world.

Doubts Surrounding Confucius’ Existence

Modern scholars who study Confucius have doubts as to whether the man existed, or whether the words associated with his name came from him. There is very little hard evidence that he lived, which would have been around 1123-221 B.C.

According to the director of Chinese studies at the University of Colorado at Denver, Lionel M. Jensen, Confucius was invented by Jesuit missionaries when they entered China in the late sixteenth century. In an interview with The Atlantic, Jensen said “I think he’s a literary trope. He’s a figure who came to stand for certain things.”

Uncle Sam

Who was the real Uncle Sam?
Who was the real Uncle Sam?

It’s fairly common knowledge that Uncle Sam was not a real person, but rather a nickname for another historical figure in United States history. Uncle Sam is a symbol of America, and has been around for more than 200 years now.

The first known reference to him came about in the 1816 novel The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search After His Lost Honor. He was also referred to in the original lyrics of “Yankee Doodle:” “Old Uncle Sam come there to change some pancakes and some onions, for ‘lasses cakes, to carry home, to give his wife and young ones.”

Uncle Sam Wants You To Believe

Most people believe that the personification of Uncle Sam was modeled after a real man named Samuel Wilson. Wilson was a meat packer from Troy, New York, who shipped loads of meat to soldiers during the War of 1812 when he was appointed as a meat inspector for the Northern Army.

Every barrel of meat was marked “U.S.” and the soldiers who unloaded the cases came to associate those initials with “Uncle Sam” Wilson. In 1961, the United States Congress adopted this resolution: “Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives that the Congress salutes Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy, New York, as the progenitor of America’s National symbol of Uncle Sam.”

Sir Lancelot

Why do so many people believe that Lancelot was a real person?
Why do so many people believe that Lancelot was a real person?

Sir Lancelot, one of the Knights of the Round Table, is regarded by many to be one of the greatest warriors in history. However, he existed only in legend. Lancelot’s first appearance was in the 12th century, in a book called Le Chevalier de la Charette.

He was later depicted in countless other works and is usually presented as King Arthur’s top aide and most trusted confidante. In later years Lancelot is said to have begun a love affair with Arthur’s Queen, Guinevere, which led to a brutal civil war and caused the destruction of Arthur’s kingdom.

A Romantic and Believable Tale

Sir Lancelot’s legend is quite detailed and includes detailed accounts of his birth, childhood, adventures, romances, family relations, and eventual death. His story has been repeated in books, plays, and film throughout the ages. Lancelot is frequently depicted as a real historical figure, notably as in films like Lancelot and Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table.

Additionally, John F. Kennedy’s presidency is still referred to as the “Camelot era,” a reference to the heydays of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot’s time at the Round Table. Simply put, many people want to believe that the romantic figure of Sir Lancelot existed in real life.

King David

But did it really happen?
But did it really happen?

You might not recognize the name “King David” immediately, but chances are that you’re pretty familiar with the story of David and Goliath. In case it’s not a story you know, it involved a fierce Biblical warrior named Goliath.

Various texts list him as anywhere from 6’9” to 9’9”… he was a huge guy that many referred to as a giant. David, a young shepherd at the time, improbably brought Goliath down with a single rock thrown into the giant man’s forehead. This tale from the Bible is one of the greatest underdog stories in history.

Was There A King David?

After the incident with Goliath, David went on to become a great King, supposedly the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. But according to historian Steven McKenzie, David was never mentioned outside the Bible and there is no evidence that he ever lived.

Although archaeologists later discovered a tomb inscribed with the words “House of David,” there is no proof that King David is the David cited. In fact, the New York Times suggests that “’the house of David’ was a title for the nation of Judah or its ruling dynasty.” The verdict is out on whether King David ever existed.

John Henry

John Henry was a steel-driver – a man tasked with hammering a drill into iron in order to build our nation’s railways. Popular legend says that he once beat a steel-powered drill in a contest. In an essay, J Bicknell explains that “John Henry is a symbol of physical strength and endurance, of exploited labor, of the dignity of a human being against the degradations of the machine age, and of racial pride and solidarity.

During World War II his image was used in U.S. government propaganda as a symbol of social tolerance and diversity.” There are statues, songs, works of literature, and even video games in his honor.

Is it possible that a man so much larger-than-life really lived?

The Myth Behind The Man

Although he is heralded as the embodiment of resilience and physical strength, it is likely that John Henry’s story is nothing more than a tall tale. And as NPR asserts, the more people hear the famous ballad about John Henry’s life, the more they believe all the unbelievable elements of the story: “And as the songs started to become more popular, the legend of the man grew to even larger proportions.”

Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to believe that John Henry was a real person, there is no substantial evidence to prove it and historians have come up with multiple theories about his existence.

Tokyo Rose

Now, in a surprising twist of events…
Now, in a surprising twist of events…

During World War II, the United States government began referring to female Japanese radio broadcasters who issued anti-American propaganda in English as “Tokyo Rose.” These broadcasts were extremely demoralizing to American troops, and they exaggerated the losses Allied troops were experiencing. Soon, Tokyo Rose became a symbol for the supposedly “villainous” Japanese opposition.

She was featured in American propaganda films, cartoons, and radio broadcasts and helped rally US citizens against the Japanese. She was said to be eager to leak American intelligence via her radio broadcasts. In fact, the San Francisco Chronicle labeled Tokyo Rose as the “Mata Hari of radio” in 1949.

Wait, There Was A Real Person?

This one gets confusing. Although “Tokyo Rose” was not an individual, but rather a group of people, American authorities arrested an American-born Japanese disc jockey named Iva Toguri D’Aquino, and announced that she was the real Tokyo Rose. Interestingly, D’Aquino used the name “Orphan Annie” for her broadcasts.

She was arrested and tried, but her conviction for treason was later overturned because of lack of evidence. So although there was never a true Tokyo Rose, a real person paid the price for the fictional character. D’Aquino had to wait 20 years for an official presidential pardon.

The Legend Of Mulan

In the late ’90s, Disney brought the legend of Mulan to the mainstream. According to Chinese legend, there was a woman named Mulan who disguised herself as a male warrior to take her ailing father’s place in the war.

At the end of the war, Mulan was rewarded for her bravery, even after they found out she was a woman! But what if the story of this powerful, fearless woman is just that—a story? Many scholars say that Mulan may not have even been a real person since there is not enough evidence to support that she ever existed.

We Hope That She Was Real, At Least

Mulan’s story supposedly dates back to the Song Dynasty and comes from an ancient Chinese ballad called “Ode to Mulan.” To make things even more inconvenient, the ballad itself belongs to a lost collection of musical songs and lyrics, so origins of the story may not even be in existence.

Complicating things even more, the story is also about 1500 years old and over time, the story has taken on different variations which take scholars even further from any hope of finding out the truth. While Mulan could have been based on a real woman, at this point there is no way to really know for sure.

Betty Crocker

Ah, Betty Crocker. The name is synonymous with boxed cake mix and cans of frosting, but who exactly is the woman behind the name? Is she a woman from days of yore who perfected cake-making for the average housewife? Is she just a gal that a cereal company hired to act as a spokesperson for their cake mixes?

Americans may never know… Or will they? As it turns out, Betty Crocker was never actually a real person. That’s right, the person who was at one point the most famous woman in America (after Eleanor Roosevelt) was entirely made up.

The Truth About Betty

Image
Image

The company behind the name is Washburn Company of Minneapolis (who in 1928 joined other companies to form General Mills) and at the time of Betty’s conception, they were looking for a solution. The Washburn Company was receiving thousands of baking questions throughout the early 1920s.

In an effort to sound more personable in their responses, managers had the idea to use their company executive’s last name, Crocker. They chose the first name Betty because it was “warm and friendly.” As for Betty’s picture, she is actually a composite of all the women who were working in the company’s Home Service Department in 1936.

Homer

Homer’s texts The Iliad and The Odyssey have been key sources of evidence in helping to find out the truth of whether or not the legendary occurrences that happened in them are based on historical facts.

However, the more the texts are inspected and researched, it appears that we know more about the truth of the events within the tales than about the author himself! Now, his entire existence has been put into question, but it is almost certain that if he did exist, he was not the sole author of these two works.

Was Homer One Man?

Homer was considered to be an incredible influence in Ancient Greece, however, it is because he is so highly regarded that his existence is put into question. For a man with such a presence in the ancient world, there is little to no accounts of his life, which was supposedly around the 7th or 8th Century, 1,000 years after the actual events.

This lack of any biographical information has lead researchers to believe that the two epics are a collection of stories from other poets and the group accredited the work to a man named Homer. However, although the truth may never be discovered the two poems have provided much light into the history of Ancient Greece.

Carolyn Keene

If you’ve seen the name Carolyn Keene anywhere, then you were probably reading a Nancy Drew book. Carolyn Keene has been the name that supposedly penned the entire Nany Drew Mystery series. That’s right, supposedly. Think about it, the Nancy Drew books have been around for quite some time, yet sometimes a new book is added to the series.

How is that possible? Does Miss Keene not age? No, in fact, Carolyn Keene isn’t even a real person. We know you’re shocked because we were too when we found out. So what’s the real story behind the biggest mystery of them all?

She’s Just As Fake As Nancy Drew

Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym made up by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, the real man behind Nany Drew and The Hardy Boys. Stratemeyer actually hired ghostwriters to write the Nancy Drew books. This actually became a big problem when the ghostwriters started wanting credit for the books they were writing, but Stratemeyer’s company started threatening writers for trying to mess with the secrecy they were trying to uphold.

Eventually, by 1980, they were found out and relented by admitting that the books had different contributors. But apparently, a lawsuit wasn’t enough for them to publish the books with the real authors’ names.

Molly Pitcher

As we’ll see, the story of Molly Pitcher is inspirational even if it’s not entirely accurate.
As we’ll see, the story of Molly Pitcher is inspirational even if it’s not entirely accurate.

During the Revolutionary War’s Philadelphia Campaign and Battle of Monmouth, a woman was known to deliver pitchers of water to thirsty or ailing soldiers. She earned the nickname “Molly Pitcher” for her good deeds. Later, her husband is said to have collapsed with exhaustion in battle.

At that point, she also took over his cannon for him. The National Archives has this first-hand account of the incident: “While in the act of reaching a cartridge . . . a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat . . .She observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher . . .and continued her occupation.”

How Real Is Molly Pitcher?

Molly Pitcher is a symbol of American bravery and feminine strength. But did she really exist? Some historians seem to agree that the persona of Molly Pitcher is likely a composite of many women who gave their service during the Revolutionary War. But many accounts claim that there is one main woman behind the legend.

Her name was Mary Ludwig Hays, and she was born sometime around October 13, 1754. Hays received a medal for her bravery and service in 1822, but it was most likely a combination of other brave women’s contributions that was behind the “Molly Pitcher” legend.

Paul Bunyan

The story of Paul Bunyan is likely very familiar to most Americans. Paul Bunyan was a giant lumberjack, and tales about him are immensely popular with children. He’s been the subject of countless songs, books, cartoons, plays, campfire stories, and statues. Here’s his backstory:

Paul was so large that it required five storks to deliver him to his parents. By a week old he was already as large as his father and ate massive amounts of porridge. Paul and his giant blue ox, Babe, traveled the country together, and Paul created the Grand Canyon with his ax.

A Pretty Unlikely Story

The tale of Paul Bunyan sounds pretty unrealistic, but there are scholars who believe that his legend was based on real, living people. The most likely candidate was Fabian “Joe” Fournier, a French-Canadian lumberjack who lived in Michigan after the Civil War. Joe was said to be huge, standing over six feet tall, and often engaged in feats of strength.

Others believe that Paul Bunyan’s story originated over a famed French-Canadian soldier named Paul Bon Jean. Either way, as their stories was told and retold, it turned into the legend that’s now known as Paul Bunyan.

Aimi Eguchi

The Japanese pop idol Aimi Eguchi seemed to have it all: looks, talent, and a hugely successful musical career. She was introduced to the world in June 2011, as the newest member of the already-popular girl group AKB48. As of 2017, the band had recorded over six million albums and has sales totaling $128 million!

“Tsubasa wa Iranai,” “Heavy Rotation,” and “Beginner” are just a few of their biggest hit songs. There are four documentaries about AKB48, and the band even has a series of video games about its members. Hailing from Saitama, near Tokyo, new member Eguchi was born on February 11, 1995, and was 16 years old when she joined AKB48.

A Shocking Confession

Aimi Eguchi began appearing in promotions soon after joining AKB48, appearing in a commercial for a candy company and an issue of Weekly Playboy. But fans were suspicious of the band’s new member because of how perfectly beautiful she was. Then, AKB48’s management company announced something shocking – Eguchi was merely a computer animation!

She was actually a composite of other band members. Contributing to the project were Yuko Oshima (hair/body), Atsuko Maeda (eyes), Mayu Watanabe (eyebrows), Tomomi Itano (nose), Mariko Shinoda (mouth), and Minami Takahashi (outline). Aimi Eguchi is no longer listed on the band’s official member roster.

Uncle Ben

Mmm, that Uncle Ben sure makes some delicious rice doesn’t he? The iconic boxed food brand was first introduced to consumers in 1943. First owned by Converted Rice Inc. and later by Mars, Inc., Uncle Ben’s products feature a friendly-looking, elderly African-American man wearing a bow tie.

Converted Rice Inc. was founded by a man named Gordon L. Harwell, who had previously supplied rice to Allied troops during World War II. He wanted to expand his business and improve its packaging. The man featured on the box was the model Harwell chose for his trustworthy and approachable appearance.

Was Uncle Ben a Real Person?

It might surprise some people to learn that although the man depicted on rice packages in nearly every grocery store in the country is actually a real person. He’s not named Ben, however. Gordon Harwell based the character from someone he knew in real life, who worked as a maître d’hôtel in a Chicago hotel that Harwell frequently visited.

The man’s real name was Frank Brown, and the story goes that he was offered $50 for the use of his likeness. Interestingly, there was a real Uncle Ben who was a famed rice grower in Texas but had no connection to the boxed product. Due to America’s changing the racial climate, Uncle Ben’s look was given a much-needed makeover in 2007 and he now appears as a successful businessman.

George P. Burdell

George P. Burdell was a man of many accomplishments. After enrolling in the esteemed Georgia Institute of Technology in 1927, he went on to graduate with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1930 (complete with straight A grades and Dean’s List qualification).

Burdell later earned a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the institution. A military man, he served overseas during World War II and served in many wars after that. After getting married, he served on Mad magazine’s Board of Directors. Eventually, he was in the lead for Time‘s poll to name its 2001 Person of the Year award.

The Greatest Hoax Ever?

If you’ve been feeling a little jealous of this George Burdell and his impressive accomplishments, you can breathe a little easier now because he never existed. He was all an elaborate prank concocted by a devious undergrad named William Edgar Smith. In 1927, George Tech mistakenly mailed Smith two enrollment forms and Smith invented George P. Burdell.

He even completed Burdell’s homework assignments to keep up the ruse. To this day, Tech students try and enroll George P. Burdell in classes. Every April 1, his birthday celebrated in an event called the “Spirit of Georgia Tech”.

Was There A Real Uncle Tom?

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous anti-slavery novel has been in circulation since the mid-1800s when it was the second-best selling book of that century behind the Bible. Stowe gave readers a real view into the lives of slaves in pre-Civil War America, centered around the life of a lifelong Christian slave, Uncle Tom.

Interestingly enough, not many people at the time considered the fact that Uncle Tom was actually a real person. As research would later prove, there is a real-life person who inspired Stowe’s popular novel and his name is Josiah Henson.

The Answer Is Yes

Josiah Henson was a slave born in 1789 in Maryland, whose story inspired what Harriet Beecher Stowe would turn into a profound, best-selling novel. Stowe’s intention was to show America that “slavery was a degrading, humiliating, demoralizing experience.

Any black man or woman who endured it was reduced to subhuman status,” and would remain so for the rest of theirs and their descendants’ lives, according to History News Network. Henson’s story was such that despite his hard work, his master refused to let him buy his freedom. So Henson escaped to Canada where he prospered and helped other escaped slaves.

Rosie The Riveter

She became an icon of World War II, inspiring American women by saying, “We can do it!” Clad in a red bandana, a blue jumpsuit, and showing off her bicep, Rosie the Riveter was the emblem of America’s push to get women in the workforce while their husbands and sons were off fighting the second world war.

Rosie’s image and likeness has since been appropriated over the years, becoming a symbol of empowerment and feminism for women all across the world. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton even imitated the image for her campaign during the 2016 Presidential Election.

Was Rosie A Real Person?

Despite the iconic status that Rosie the Riveter attained, it might burst your bubble to learn that she wasn’t actually a real person. Rosie the Riveter was a Norman Rockwell painting that emblazoned the cover of the Saturday Evening Post’s May 1943 issue.

Sure, Rosie could have been modeled in someone’s likeness, but many women have come forward over the years claiming that it was themselves. The Associated Press reported in 2015 that the real model was a Vermont native Mary Doyle Keefe, who was allegedly paid $5 to pose while working as a telephone operator.

The Female Paul Revere: Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington has been considered as a forgotten heroine of the Revolutionary War. Some have referred to her as the female Paul Revere who rode a total of 40 miles in the rain to warn the Connecticut Yankees that the British were coming.

She is noted to have only been 16 years old, dodging the English and managing to sound the alarm in Putnam County, Mahopac, and Stormville. Yet, why was she forgotten if she supposedly rode twice as far as Revere? Or did she never even make the ride we are told she did?

Ludington’s Questionable Ride

According to Smithsonian Magazine, there was no mention of Sybil’s ride until 1880, over a century after the war. This seriously questions the validity of the original story, because there is no reliable source. Also, there was no account of any records from anybody that Ludington would have warned claiming that she did what we have been told.

Now, she has become a mascot to feminists and other certain political factions. Although her existence is questionable, it has provided the United States with a story that we can tell to inspire others regardless if it is true or not.

Have You Ever Heard Of N. Senada?

N. Senada is known throughout the realms of art as a Bavarian composer who apparently came up with some odd theories. N. Senada’s Theory of Obscurity suggests that artists must completely disregard any input from their audience in order to produce fine art.

According to Listverse, his Theory of Phonetic Organization suggests ” that musicians should, rather than developing the music first, put down the individual sounds and then develop music from there.” N. Senada is regarded as a pre-post-modernist theorist in the realm of art, but where exactly is all of this coming from?

He Was Possibly Made Up

N. Senada allegedly arrived in Northern California with musician Philip Lithman, who was a frequent collaborator with the avant-garde art collective The Residents. Born in 1907 and living until 1993, N. Senada’s true identity has been widely speculated over by many people in the art community. His origins are so obscure, however, that many believe he was just completely made up by The Residents themselves.

At one point it was believed that he was really a singer and songwriter Don Van Vliet, who is more popularly known by his stage name, Captain Beefheart.

Merlin The Magician

Merlin the Magician is a legendary figure most known for his exploits in the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. A figure of medieval Welsh poetry, the Merlin we are most familiar with was inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who according to historical accounts, based Merlin on an amalgamation of legendary figures from before medieval times.

But since not very many people believe in magic and Merlin is known as a great wizard, many brush him off as ancient folklore. However, there are some sources who say he might have been real.

Merlin Could Have Been A Real Person

Or at the very least, he could have been two real people, according to Listverse. Most people believe the real Merlin is the guy that Geoffrey writes about, but he could also have been a bard named Myrddin in Welsh. On either account, he was for sure born around AD 450-600 and some of the stories that he is in might actually have some validity.

For example, as the story goes, a tyrant named Vortigern fled from Saxon invaders and attempted to build a tower to protect himself. However, the tower kept collapsing and to seek a solution, Vortigern consulted someone named “Myrddin Embreis,” who historians believe was a figure just like Merlin.

William Tell

William Tell is a Swiss folk hero supposedly living in Switzerland during the 14th Century. The story behind Tell is that when Switzerland was controlled by the Hapsburg Dynasty of Austria, an Austrian official named Gessler made it so that every Swiss subject must take their hat off when passing a marker out of respect for Austria.

William Tell refused to do so and was made to shoot an apple off of his son’s head with a crossbow or they would both be executed. Tell successfully shot the apple. He later assassinated Geesler and sparked a rebellion that eventually led to the creation of modern-day Switzerland.

The Truth Behind William Tell

Although the tale of the man William Tell is heroic and inspiring, as it turns out, Tell most likely never existed. The whole story most likely would have been used by the Swiss as a source of inspiration during the rebellion, or a legend that came out of it to give the history a myth to go along with it.

Also, it has been assumed that the tale of William Tell was also created for profitable reasons by providing people in the 16th Century with organized tours and sightseeing of where Tell supposedly did his heroic deeds.