We’ve been told since elementary school that the victors write our history. While that statement may be partially true, even the victors often spread myths that somehow turn into well-known “facts.” Did Paul Revere ride through the streets to warn the colonials that the British were coming? Did the Pilgrims host the first-ever Thanksgiving? These are just a few examples of facts about history that you’re probably getting wrong. How many of these “facts” have you believed for your entire life?
Napoleon Bonaparte Was Short
Although Napoleon Bonaparte is described as a military genius with a “little man complex,” he wasn’t as short as we’re led to believe. Although Napoleon stood at 5 feet 2 inches, in pre-French Revolution Units, that’s around 5 feet 6 inches by US standards.
Furthermore, at the time, that’s taller than the average height of males in France, which was around 5 feet 5 inches. Even though Napoleon was given the nickname “Le Petit Caporal” (The Little Corporal), it’s believed that this was a term of endearment among his soldiers.
The Spanish Influenza Originated In Spain
Initially known as the “three-day flu,” this pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people in the year 1918 alone. It became known as the Spanish Influenza most likely because Spain was one of the first countries to get hit significantly hard early on. The flu even managed to affect Spain’s king who fell ill.
Although it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly where the Spanish Flu originated, John Barry, author of The Great Influenza, has proposed that the first case actually occurred in Haskell County, Kansas.
Christopher Colombus Discovered North America
Christopher Columbus never actually discovered North America, only ever exploring the Caribbean, Central, and South America, never finding himself in North America. Nevertheless, there is a United States holiday proclaiming that he did. Furthermore, there is proof that Europeans arrived in North America 500 years before Columbus, and they were Vikings.
There are eight Viking buildings on the Canadian island of Newfoundland that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s believed this was a winter stopover point where the Vikings would use the surrounding trees to repair ships and wait out bad weather.
Albert Einstein Failed Math
The supposed fact that Albert Einstein failed math is nothing more than a story that people tell each other, so others don’t feel bad about not being good about something. On the contrary, Einstein excelled at math, and the false rumor was started on the unreliable Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Einstein would go on to respond to the claim stating, “I never failed in mathematics. Before I was 15, I had mastered differential and integral calculus. His matriculation certificate, which he received at 17, also shows he had the highest marks in Algebra and Geometry.
The Vikings Wore Horned-Helmets
In popular culture, Vikings are often portrayed as big men with bushy beards, horned helmets, and wielding massive battle axes. However, there is no archaeological evidence that these Norsemen wore horned helms. What has been found, however, is that Viking warriors wore no helmet at all or leather headwear.
This false image of Vikings wearing these particular helmets dates back to the 1800s when Swedish artist Gustav Malmströmstems included them in his work. This idea was further established in some of Wagner’s operas which had Viking characters wearing horned-helmets.
The Jews Built The Pyramids
Amihai Mazar, a professor at the University of Hebrew in Jerusalem, recently concluded that the Jews did not build the Egyptian pyramids. Mazar claims that this myth was introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when visiting Egypt in 1977. Mazar explained that “No Jews built the pyramids because Jews didn’t exist at the period when the pyramids were built.”
According to Dieter Wildung, a former director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, further archeological evidence has shown that “The myth of the slaves building pyramids is only the stuff of tabloids and Hollywood […] The world simply could not believe the pyramids were built without oppression and forced labor, but out of loyalty to the pharaohs.”
The Pilgrims Hosted The First Thanksgiving
People have been led to believe that the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims in 1621. However, it’s been cited that they had eaten numerous meals of giving thanks prior, as well as the Spaniards in Florida as documented in 1565.
Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln didn’t make Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1863, on the last Thursday of every November. Then, for a period of time, President Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of the month to make more time for shopping to boost the economy until it was eventually changed back.
Marie Antoinette Proclaimed, “Let Them Eat Cake”
In his novel Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that “a great princess” said, “Let them eat cake” when referring to France’s starving poor. Many people assume these words were spoken by Marie Antoinette, although there’s no evidence to support this.
Biographer Lady Antonia Fraser claims that another French princess proclaimed this almost 100 years earlier, stating it was likely Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV. This quote, or something similar, has also been attributed to several other royals, even some ancient Chinese dynasties.
Paul Revere Yelled “The British Are Coming”
A classic story from the start of the American Revolution, Paul Revere making his famous ride is nothing more than a tall tale. He never went around from town to town shouting at the top of his lungs.
His knowledge of the British and passing that information along had to be done discreetly since a large number of British soldiers were hiding in the Massachusetts countryside. On top of that, the colonials at the time still considered themselves to be British, so he would have referred to them as “Regulars,” a term used to describe British soldiers.
A Cow Kicking Over A Lantern Started The Chicago Fire
In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned for more than three square miles of the city over the course of two days and killed approximately 300 people. There is a myth that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern, which was written by a journalist, who later admitted that he had fabricated the story.
Although the fire did begin in a neighborhood southwest of the city, the fire is attributed to a period of hot, dry, windy conditions, causing wood in the city to catch on fire naturally.
Wall Street Workers Started Jumping Off Buildings After The Crash Of 1929
After the crash of the stock market in 1929, rumors began to circulate that men that worked on Wall Street had begun jumping off buildings to their deaths. However, while the president of County Trust Co. and the head of Rochester Gas and Electric did both kill themselves, they didn’t jump; they used guns.
Comedians such as Will Rogers helped further these rumors, claiming that “you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of.” Although New York’s chief medical examiner tried to say otherwise, the rumors continued to spread.
People During Columbus’ Time Thought The World Was Flat
Many people believe that around the time Columbus “discovered” America half a century ago, that most people still believed that the Earth was flat and that Columbus’ expedition would result in him falling off the edge of the world.
However, the idea that the Earth was flat had been refuted as far back as the ancient Greeks. What Columbus did think was that if he sailed west from Europe, he would reach East Asia. This is why he thought he had come across the East Indies; he referred to the native people as “Indians.”
Vincent Van Gogh Cut His Ear Off In A Period Of Madness
One of the best-known stories about acclaimed impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh is that he cut his own ear off and mailed it to a French woman. This resulted in one of his most famous works, which shows van Gogh with a bandage over his ear.
Yet, in 2009, a pair of German art historians found a book titled Pact of Silence, in which Van Gogh’s close friend and rival Paul Gauguin admits that he sliced off van Gogh’s earlobe with a fencing rapier. They had a falling out after this, and they decided to keep silent about the matter, although Gauguin concocted the story about mailing it to a woman to make Van Gogh seem crazy.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation Freed The Slaves
Although a lot of people grow up being taught that the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves during the Civil War, that’s not the case. It only applied to the Confederate states, and because the North had no power to enforce the proclamation, it really didn’t accomplish what many people believe it accomplished.
The Proclamation also didn’t free slaves in the Northern states, and although slavery was rare after that point, it was still legal. It was only illegal to buy and sell slaves in the North, not to own them.
Charles Lindbergh Was The First Pilot To Fly Across The Atlantic
Although Charles Lindbergh gained popularity for being the first pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic in 1927, he was far from the first to cross it. The first were the two British pilots, Alcock and Brown, who had made the crossing in 1919 using a repurposed RAF bomber.
The two men flew from St. John’s Newfoundland to Galway, Ireland in just under 16 hours, paving the way for transatlantic aviation. Just a few weeks later, in a British airship R34, a couple of dozen crew and passengers on board made a double-crossing, which took four days.
Thomas Crapper Invented The Flush Toilet
Although this false fact has been making children giggle for decades, unfortunately, Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. While he was a 19th-century plumber and manufacturer who made a popular brand of “water closets” in England, he did not invent flush toilets.
This great invention had already been accomplished by the time Thomas Crapper had started his plumbing internship as a child in the 1840s. Furthermore, the word crappe is a 13th-century term for waste, so Crapper can’t take credit for that either.
George Washington Carver Invented Peanut Butter
Although botanist George Washington Carver used peanuts to help the American South’s economy and discovering uses for the nut, contrary to popular belief, he did not invent peanut butter. Incredibly, peanut butter has actually been around since 950 BC, in which the Incas in South America would smash peanuts to make a paste.
Furthermore, the first modern patent for peanut butter was in 1884 when Carver was around twenty years old. In Carver’s 1943 New York Times obituary, there’s also no mention of Carver inventing peanut butter.
Benjamin Franklin Suggested The Country’s National Bird Should Be A Turkey
Something that the ghost of Benjamin Franklin will never let down is that he claimed that the turkey should be the national bird over the bald eagle. However, the only time that Franklin mentioned bald eagles and turkeys together is in a letter to his daughter.
In the correspondence, he mentions the military group, Society of the Cincinnati, whose eagle seal he criticized for looking more like a turkey than an actual eagle. Although he mentions that he didn’t want the bald eagle to be the national bird, he never suggests that that he prefers a turkey.
Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball
In 1907, the Mills Commission ruled that Abner Doubleday, a Civil War general, invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York, back in 1839. Today, the city is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Museum. However, professor of history George B. Kirsch explains in his book that Doubleday was, in fact, at West Point in 1839 and not Cooperstown.
Furthermore, Doubleday never left any evidence behind that he was associated with the sport. In 1938, Congress recognized Alexander Cartwright as the creator of the sport. Not only was he the founding father of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, but he came up with the diamond shape.
Cleopatra Was Egyptian
Despite that Cleopatra was the last ruler of Egypt, she wasn’t Egyptian. Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family descended from the Greeks that ruled over Egypt after Alexander the Great. Even as rulers of Egypt, the dynasty refused to learn the language, although Cleopatra was the first to do so.
It’s believed that the misconception about her nationality may have come about how she dressed and represented herself in public, more or less as a reincarnation of Isis, an Egyptian goddess.
Your Hair Grows Thicker If You Cut Or Shave It
This one goes out to all the young men who desperately shave their essentially hairless faces in the hopes that their stubble will grow into a full-blown beard. While people may think that their hair grows in more abundantly after they shave, it just seems that way because a strand of hair that has been shaved has a blunter edge and therefore, feels thicker.
On the other hand, strands that have grown out for a long time taper at the end, giving them a naturally softer or finer feel. So your hair isn’t growing thicker, it just feels different after you cut or shave it.
Lightning Doesn’t Strike In The Same Place Twice
This saying most likely came about from somebody trying to convince themselves or others that they were safe during a lightning storm. When lightning didn’t strike the same spot twice, they probably took it as fact and decided to pass their newfound “knowledge” to others.
In reality, lightning can absolutely strike in the same spot twice, and it’s not even all that rare to happen. The Empire State Building in New York gets struck 20 to 25 times a year. On one occasion, it was hit eight times in just 24 minutes!
An Undercover Police Officer Is Obligated To Tell You They’re A Cop If You Ask
What makes people think that a police officer who’s undercover isn’t allowed to lie, if being undercover is one big lie to begin with? Of course they’re not required to tell you if you ask. If that was the case, why would anybody use undercover police officers at all if all? It’d be pointless if they could be revealed so easily.
In fact, undercover police officers are exempt from some criminal laws, so they are able to partake in committing crimes to not be suspicious. However, one thing they aren’t allowed to do is force someone to commit a crime.
Sugar Causes Hyperactivity In Children
While many people believe that giving little kids sugar will give them a “sugar high,” that’s not actually the case. Although sugar does contain a lot of glucose, that’s not what makes children hyperactive.
In fact, consuming a lot of sugar does the opposite and can lead to hypoglycemia, leaving you feeling tired and sad. It’s much more likely that the change in a child’s behavior after eating something with a lot of sugar is because they’re just excited about eating a sweet treat.
Chewing Gum Will Stay In Your Stomach For Seven Years
This myth probably came about because adults didn’t want children to eat gum like regular food or candy. The reason for not wanting kids to eat gum is that it’s possible that it could lead to some medical issues if they ate enough of it.
However, if you do end up swallowing a piece of gum, it’s not a big deal and it’s not going to stay in your system for seven years. In fact, it’s more like seven days. Just like most other things that you ingest, chewing gum will eventually pass through your digestive system.
Your Hair Will Grey Sooner If You Dye It
Once again, this false piece of information most likely came about from parents discouraging their children from frequently dying their hair. Hair gets its color from melanin pigment, so when the pigment begins to deteriorate from old age, an unhealthy lifestyle, or stress, the hair begins to turn grey.
Dying doesn’t do anything to deteriorate the pigment so it can’t be a factor that causes hair to become grey. However, dying your hair frequently can lead to scalp or other skin irritations.
You’ll Get Warts If You Touch A Frog Or Toad
Frogs and toads may look like they have warts on their bodies, but they’re not actually warts at all. They’re called parotoid glands, and they release a chemical that irritates the mouths of certain predators as a defense system.
Therefore, touching one of these amphibians won’t give anybody warts. If that was the case, a lot fewer people would probably own frogs as pets or be willing to pick them up at all. Warts are actually caused by HPV, or Human Papillomavirus — something frogs don’t have.
There Are Left-Brained And Right-Brained People
People like to claim that they are either left-brained or right-brained, meaning that they either rely on logic (left) or creativity (right). So, someone who is extremely good at math may be labeled as left-brained because they use their logic and analytics to deduce and solve problems.
Conversely, a painter is considered right-brained because of their artistic capabilities. It’s also said that it’s rare for people to use both and that you’re one or the other. This is false, as there’s no division between the talents of each hemisphere of your brain. In fact, they work together.
Mother Birds Will Disown Their Young If Touched By Humans
Chances are, if you’ve ever found a bird that fell out of its nest, someone was there to tell you not to touch it or it would be disowned by its mother. People believe that a mother bird can smell if its baby has been touched and won’t bring it into the nest.
However, birds have tiny olfactory sensors, which means that they have poor smelling abilities. The mother bird would never know if a human had touched one of her babies, let alone smell your scent on them.
You’ll Catch A Cold If You Go To Bed With Wet Hair
Going to sleep with your hair wet or being out in the cold without a jacket are classic misconceptions about how you can contract a cold. Yes, you shouldn’t sleep when your hair is wet because it can cause mold in your pillow, but it won’t lead you to catch a cold.
The truth is that the only thing that can cause you to get sick with a cold is a cold virus. The most common cold virus, responsible for an estimated 50% of colds, is known as the rhinovirus.
Defibrillators Can Restart A Stopped Heart
We see it all the time in film and television. Someone’s heart has completely stopped, so EMTs or other medical personnel use a defibrillator to shock their heart into pumping again. While defibrillators are used to help hearts beat normally again, they aren’t used to start up a completely stopped heart.
They’re used to fix irregular heartbeats. When using a defibrillator, it is also assumed that the heart it’s being used on has the proper balance of electrolytes in the first place. Otherwise, the machine can cause even more damage.
The Great Wall Of China Is Visible From Space
Yes, the Great Wall of China is incredibly large and is arguably one of the ancient world’s most astonishing creations. However, it is not possible to view it from space. Even from the lowest orbit possible, the monstrous wall is still not visible, mostly because of its color and the shape of its designs.
Any pictures in which you can vaguely see the Great Wall of China from “space” were images that were captured using a zoom lens.
Red And Blonde Hair Is Going Extinct
People with the genes that produce either red or blonde hair are not a different species and it’s impossible for genes to suddenly go extinct. These two hair colors come about due to recessive genes which are carried across generations.
Even people who don’t have red or blonde hair can carry the recessive gene and can pass it down to future generations. So, if you have red or blonde hair and someone jokes that your traits are going extinct, you can tell them otherwise.
Your Hair And Nails Continue To Grow When You Die
There’s been a rumor circulating around for ages that after you die, your hair and nails continue to grow. While this does create a rather disturbing image, it’s far from the truth.
When you die, your cells no longer function. There are cells in your hair and nails, so they definitely do not keep growing once you’re six feet under. People may see an old corpse and it looks like their nails grew longer, but that’s just because the skin shrinks after being dead for a while. This gives the impression that nails and hair are longer.
Standing By A Microwave Can Give You Cancer
Yes, radiation is very bad for you and microwaves rely on radiation in order to heat up your chicken nuggets. Although there’s a reason we refer to using a microwave as “nuking something,” it’s a lot safer than a nuclear bomb.
In fact, microwave ovens use non-ionizing radiation, which doesn’t have the power to affect the cells in our bodies. Do people really think that a common household appliance would continually be used by the majority of people if it was pumping us body full of cancer?
Using Soap Kills Germs
When the majority of people wash their hands, they think that they are killing germs, with many soap companies going so far as to advertise that’s what their soap does.
But that’s not what soap actually does. Bacteria sticks to, and survives off, the oils that accumulate on your hands. Using soap and water simply cleans the oil off your hands to eliminate the potential for the bacteria. It doesn’t actually kill any germs.
You Can’t Adopt A Child If You’re Not Rich
All you have to do is look around to see that not all adopted children have parents who are extremely rich. Plenty of typical families have adopted children without being classified as “upper class.”
Yes, the adoption process is long and arduous, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have tons of money to do it. All you have to do is prove that you are financially stable enough to care for a child, and that doesn’t always mean millions of dollars.
Daddy Longlegs Are Extremely Venomous
There’s a myth that daddy longlegs are extremely venomous, if not the most venomous spiders on earth. However, the reason we don’t fear them is that their pincers are too small, short, and sharp to have the ability to pierce human flesh. In truth, there are two types of daddy longlegs.
One isn’t venomous at all and the other has never bitten a human before. So, these spiders really are harmless, except for the legend that they are poisonous.
There Is A Dark Side Of The Moon
Pink Floyd claimed that there is a dark side of the moon, and it appears that a lot of people believed them. There is talk about sending people to the dark side of the moon to see what’s over there, but guess what? There is no dark side.
There is, however, what is known as the far side of the moon. The far side waxes and wanes light just like the nearer, bright side. So don’t be surprised if we never find anything unusual on the dark side of the moon.
Wait An Hour To Swim After You Eat
If you were an avid swimmer in the summertime, then your parents probably told you a time or two to wait at least an hour before jumping back into the water. And, as a kid, you sat on your towel with a sour expression because you wanted to go play.
Unfortunately, all of those long hours you could have been swimming are for naught. Eating actually doesn’t increase your chance of cramps. That being said, a full tummy will make it so you are a bit short on breath.
Adding Salt Makes Water Boil Faster
It may seem as though pasta water boils quicker after you add that dash of salt to the pot. Not to mention it makes it so the pasta doesn’t stick together, right? Nope. The only thing the salt is doing to your boiling water is making it salty boiling water.
Adding a sprinkle to salt doesn’t make the water boil faster, actually, the opposite effect can occur. Depending on the situation, adding salt can make it so the water takes longer to boil. That’s definitely something to keep in mind the next time you want to make spaghetti!
Dropping A Penny Off A Building Could End A Person’s Life
Most people have heard the myth that if you drop a penny off of the Empire State Building, the speed at which the penny falls is enough to end someone’s life. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about loose change falling over the ledge of any buildings.
Mythbusters tested the theory, shooting a penny at the same speed at which it would fall off of the New York City skyscraper, 64.4 miles per hour. It was proven that, although getting hit with the penny stings, it is not nearly going fast enough to terminally injure a person.
Dogs Sweat By Panting
If you have a dog, then you know that after they run around and play they wind up panting. You’ve also probably been told that this panting is the doggy version of sweating, as they don’t sweat through their skin under their fur.
This is actually not true! Panting is a pooch’s way of regulating their body temperature. The actually sweating takes place through their footpads. Dogs have sweat glands located on their paw pads called merocrine glands. If you don’t believe us, the next time you notice little paw prints around the house, touch your pooches paws, they’re sure to be a bit clammy.
Wait 24 Hours To File A Missing Person Report
We see it in movies and television shows, we even read about it in novels: wait 24 hours after filing a missing person report. The thing is, why would you wait? If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong and a person you know is in trouble, go to the professionals!
Contrary to popular belief, there is no rule stating that you have to wait 24 hours after someone has gone missing to file a report with the police. If someone is missing, go straight to the nearest police station and file!
Milk Develops Mucus
We’re not sure about you, but growing up we were always under the assumption that eating or drinking anything dairy-based while sick was going to make our throats more phlegmy and mucus based. That meant no milk, ice cream, or cheese.
Studies have found that ingesting milk does not increase the amount of mucus in your throat. While doctors do say that dairy will thicken your saliva, it does not actually cause the body to produce more mucus or phlegm. So, when you’re sick and have an ice cream craving, give into it!
Bats Are Blind
In school, we’re typically taught that bats hunt in the dark using echolocation, meaning they use self-produced sounds that bounce off of objects to help them navigate and find food. But that doesn’t mean they can’t see! Bats are one of the unique land creatures that can use both echolocation as well as sight.
So, contrary to the widespread myth, bats can actually see! Research actually shows that depending on the situation, bats might prefer to use their eyesight over echolocation. These animals have fantastic eyesight, and some species can even see ultraviolet light. Not too bad for an animal thought to be blind!
Caffeine Dehydrates You
If you’re in the workforce, a tired new mommy or a stressed-out college student, then you know that coffee can make the difference between awake and comatose. Unfortunately, the caffeine in “bean juice” supposedly has a dire dehydration effect. Or, at least that’s a common thought.
Katherin Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic says that “Drinking caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle doesn’t cause fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested. While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect, they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration.”
CPR Can Restart A Heart That Has Stopped Beating
Many people believe that by performing CPR, you can help to restart a non-beating heart. But much like defibrillators, CPR isn’t supposed to be used to “restart” a heart.
Instead, CPR is primarily used to prevent brain damage by ensuring that a person’s lungs are getting enough oxygen pumped into them, therefore feeding the brain the oxygen that it needs. That doesn’t stop Hollywood from using the technique to create some highly emotional scenes, with CPR usually saving the day.
Goldfish Have A Three Second Memory
Remember those goldfish that were prizes at the county fairs growing up? The ones that tended to live way longer than you ever expected them to? Well, there is one myth surrounding the little fish, and it’s not their life expectancy.
Most goldfishes owners have heard the “fact” that the fish only has a memory span of three seconds. We’re here to tell you that it is not true! Scientists have found that goldfish can actually remember things going back at least a few months. So be sure not to make fun of your goldfish in front of them, they’ll remember!
Bulls Hate Red
As depicted in movies and during Spanish bullfighting, bulls tend to get a bit aggressive when they see a matador wave their red cape in front of them. Then, most people know the next event, the bull charges. The myth is that bulls do not like the color red, and for some reason, they get mad over it.
Well, like most other cattle, bulls are actually color-blind to red and green! The animal isn’t mad over the color, but rather the movement of the cape. The bull breed used in these fights is known for their aggression, so any sudden movement is reason enough for them to attack.