One of the legendary stories that re-appear during Thanksgiving season is that no less a luminary and Founding Father than Ben Franklin thought that the bald eagle was an improper choice as national bird and a national symbol. Franklin preferred the more “dignified” turkey, and tried to convince Founding Fathers to agree. Apparently they thought Ben was a senile old sentimentalist, and so they ignored him. But is any of this story true? Listen and find out!
As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That’s how Americans got popcorn, right Buzzkillers? Well, maybe not. but you’ll have to listen to find out!
The Pilgrims and Indians sat down on the fourth Thursday of November in 16-something and started the first Thanksgiving dinner, right? You guessed it. Wrong! It took almost 300 years to get to Norman Rockwell’s painting and the Macy’s Parade. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
Did George Washington have a vision one evening at Valley Forge? Did an angel descend and tell General George about the future of the country, and give him the emotional stamina to carry on and win the Revolutionary War? Or is this Revolutionary-era story really a product of the 1860s? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Did Richard Nixon genuinely “concede” the 1960 Presidential Election to John Kennedy the day after the election, as so many commentators now tell us? Or did he qualify his remarks so much, and work so feverishly behind the scenes to overturn the election, that he should be considered a “sore loser”? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers!
Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball, and he didn’t do it in Cooperstown in 1839, Buzzkillers. Once again, a second- or third-hand story created a persistent myth. It was Alexander Cartwright in Manhattan in 1845. The Baseball Hall of Fame is still a great place to visit and I hope to run into you there sometime, Buzzkillers!
Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban legend. Get the full story from the Buzzkill Institute.
We look at the story that men dressed as women to get into lifeboats escaping the sinking Titanic, which struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York close to midnight on 14 April 1912. Didn’t those men know that it’s “women and children first”? I hope they weren’t Buzzkillers!
Super Buzzkiller Professor Philip Nash joins us to dispel myths about Hitler during World War II. We talk about strategic and operational blunders (especially Operation Barbarossa), harsh occupation policies, declaration of war against the US, and imperial overstretch. We also examine the Holocaust and Holocaust deniers, Hitler’s micromanagement, his declining health, the plots to kill him, and his eventual suicide. Join us in the Buzzkill Bunker!
We call them “Levis,” no matter what brand they are. But maybe we should call them “Jacobs.” Blue jeans weren’t invented by Levi Strauss, but by Jacob Davis, a fellow European immigrant and tailor. Was it a story of expropriation and exploitation? Thankfully, no, Buzzkillers. Both men worked together to bring “Jacobs” to the world, and we are all grateful.
The 1937 Hindenburg disaster was one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. And it certainly was dramatically reported. But what if the report we're used to hearing was partly the result of a mechanical error in the recording equipment? What if the emotion that comes through in the "oh the humanity" quote was inadvertently enhanced through this error? Would the disaster "sound" different to us if we heard the genuine report?
Did radio listeners really think that Nixon won the first 1960 presidential debate, while TV viewers thought the more telegenic Kennedy won? This story is the most repeated myth in the history of presidential debates. The Professor explains why. Make sure to listen and tell us what you think about the Professor’s “presentation.”
Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine the many myths surrounding Adolf Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to the outbreak of World War II. These include: how Nazi Germany functioned; the myth of purely tyrannical dictatorship; and the myth of an efficient, orderly dictatorship. We also explore Hitler’s genuine popularity, and explain the successes of Hitler’s diplomacy and expansionism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!
Was Civil War Union General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker’s last name the origin of the slang term for prostitute? He had a perhaps undeserved reputation as a party animal, but did that reputation actually add a new word to the language? Find out, Buzzkillers!
So you think you know all about Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongol who built an enormous empire by slaughtering millions? but much of what you know is either exaggerated or just plain untrue. He was unmistakably brutal, but not as brutal as you may think. Listen to our interview with Professor John Giebfried, an expert on this period!
Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine some of the zillion myths surrounding Adolf Hitler and his early years. We discuss the myth of his brutal childhood and youthful poverty, the complicated story of his service in World War I (and the ways in which he wrote about it later in Mein Kampf), and the myths surrounding his early political career and political activism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!
The painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is one of most iconic images in the American cultural consciousness. But how accurate a depiction is it? By standing up in the boat, did George risk tipping over and falling into the icy river? Would his soldiers have laughed or panicked? Find out, Buzzkillers!
In the Academy Award-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson is portrayed as a man who willingly betrays his country and his men for an easier ride as prisoner of war. He collaborates with his captors in order to build a railway bridge that is key to Japan's war efforts in Burma and Thailand. While the men under his command are initially intent on sabotaging the bridge, Nicholson convinces them otherwise, ostensibly in order to maintain troop morale, and to show that British engineering is superior to that of the Japanese. The only problem, Dear Buzzkillers, is that the real commanding British Colonel on the River Kwai was was nothing like the character portrayed in the movie.
The silk top hat was common headwear in high society from the middle of the 18th century all the way to at least the beginning of the 20th. By the middle of the 20th century, however, the top hat was in rapid decline – and many blame President John F. Kennedy for its demise. Did Kennedy break with tradition by not wearing a top hat during his inauguration – and if he did, how much did that really contribute to changing fashions? Read on and find out, Buzzkillers!
Like most Americans, I suppose I assumed that Jesse Owens was the only African-American athlete at the 1936 Olympic Games. A new documentary, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice not only shows that there were 18 African-American athletes on the US team in Berlin, but that they were remarkably successful in winning medals and representing their country. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
It’s the classic image from Hollywood movies about ancient Egypt -- slaves (usually Israelites) building the pyramids under the harsh lash of their masters. While Egyptian pyramid builders might have been harsh, relationships with their workers were much more complicated than master-slave. Recent archaeological evidence has put this old myth to rest.
George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Where did they come from? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers.
This week’s MiniMyth takes on the Iron Maiden! No, not the heavy metal band, the “medieval torture device.” We also look at the Pear of Anguish and the Spanish Chair. Take extra pain medication, Buzzkillers, this episode rips apart a big historical myth. And the blood flows everywhere!
The Venus de Milo is considered one of the most beautiful representations of ancient Greek sculpture. But she is probably more famous for her missing arms. Were they really broken off in a fight over her by zealous archaeologists? And what would she look like if her arms weren’t missing? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Was Amelia Earhart really an important aviation pioneer? Did she deserve all the attention she got? Hell yes, Buzzkillers! She was an aviation rock star! What she did was amazing, and an important part of her contribution to the 20th century was promoting female aviation. So the hype was worth it. But the myths and conspiracy theories about her disappearance have tended to swamp the history of her actual accomplishments and those of other early female aviators.