The Great Escape (1963) is in the pantheon of World War II films, and deservedly so. Generations of Buzzkillers have grown up watching Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, and other film stars try to outsmart their captors at Stalag Luft III. But how true was the “Great Escape” story that became a best-selling novel and box-office smash at the movie theater? Listen carefully, or Professor Buzzkill will send you to the cooler!
Christian churches and institutions, especially Catholic ones, keep a lot of relics. In some churches or reliquaries, you may see a small piece of the true cross, or a lock of St. John’s hair, or even an alleged piece of Christ’s foreskin – since all the rest of him was taken up into heaven, of course. But are these remnants ever genuine? You may be surprised at the answer.
Candy canes are a well-known symbol of the holiday season, but what is the origin and meaning of this peculiar candy? Some say it was invented by a German choirmaster in the 17th century. Others say it was invented by an Indiana confectioner in the 19th century. Or maybe it was a Catholic priest? Is the candy cane is full of religious symbols that represent the blood of Christ, the nativity, and the strength of the Christian church? Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain the myths and misconceptions about the December 7th, 1941, as well as the complexities of the cultural importance of the attack since then. Did FDR know about the attack ahead of time? And who was the attack more devastating for - the United States or Japan? You’ll learn more about an event that you thought you already knew well by listening to us!
In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’. We took a little bacon and we took a little beans. And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.” It’s a stirring folk song, perfect to stoke the patriotic fires of a young nation. But did the Battle of New Orleans really take place after the War of 1812 was over? Keep your powder dry, Buzzkillers, because you’re about to find out!
President Lincoln comforted Lydia Bixby over the loss of her five sons during the Civil War in the one of the most famous letters in American history. But what really happened to Mrs. Bixby’s five sons? Did they all die fighting for the Union? Or, were things a lot more complicated than that? Find out, Buzzkillers!
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!
Was the Black Death really the most deadly disease in human history? And did it really come from outer space? From the time of the first plague outbreak all the way until now, the Black Death has ignited imaginations. Some cite it as the first example of biological warfare, while others say that the death toll estimates you learned about in school are actually too low. Professor John Giebfried join us to examine the real history of the Black Death, and separate truth from fiction!
The blackout of November 1965 was a big event in the north-east of the United States and in Ontario. But did it result in an increase in babies born nine months later? When deprived of other “entertainments,” did people divert themselves with love? Snuggle up with the Professor, Buzzkillers, and hear the full story.
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!
Professor Perry Blatz joins us to explain why democracy didn’t work well enough in the US election of 1860, and why it led to the Civil War. The Democratic party split over the issue of slavery, the Republicans were fraught over the issue, and a whole new party, the Constitutional Union party for formed. The country ended up with four political parties running candidates for president! This election makes the complicated 2016 election seem like amateur-hour!
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!
Churchill wouldn’t be Churchill if there weren’t myths about him from the very beginning. Stories about his birth in 1874 usually include the “facts” that he was born in a closet or ladies’ room at Blenheim Palace. The birth was premature, dramatic, and rushed, according to legend. And there wasn’t time to find a more suitable room. Or was there? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Marco Polo was a Venetian Merchant who left Europe in 1271 at age 17, traveled all around the Mongol Empire in the time of Genghis’ grandson Kublai Khan, and then came back to Europe in 1295, age 41. But did he really go on this trip, or are the stories that he made it all up true? Professor John Giebfried enlightens us, Buzzkillers!
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.
Laura Trevelyan from the BBC joins us to discuss to her new book, Winchester: the Rifle that Built an American Dynasty. She busts myths about the famous rifle and family, and explains its importance in American history. Recorded live in Georgetown, Washingtong DC! The first Buzzkiller who emails us - firstname.lastname@example.org - gets a signed copy of the book!
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.”
The White House is called the “White House” because it was painted white to cover up the fire damage from its burning by the British army in 1814, right? Well, no. But that’s the myth that has been flying around the internet for years. Unfortunately, the story is less dramatic, but the history of the White House name is interesting. Listen up, Buzzkillers!