Gregor Rasputin (1869-1916) is one of the most fascinating people in modern history. Who was he? Religious visionary? Mystic healer? Charlatan? Spiritual con man? Political snake? All of the above? The story that it took being drugged, poisoned, shot, beaten, and drowned for him to die is a myth, Buzzkillers. But the broader story is fascinating. Listen and learn.
“Quotations” from Chief Seattle (c.1786-1866), particularly those that have ecological tone, appear on posters, photographs, monuments. These “quotes” are used almost everywhere that people want to express the idea that Native Americans had natural wisdom about the land and that the tragedy is that it was taken away from them. But what did Chief Seattle actually say? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Everyone was killed at the Alamo. Right, Buzzkillers? That’s why “Remember the Alamo” is such a famous rallying cry in American history. But was everyone killed inside the Alamo? Civilians? Women and children? Was Santa Anna essentially a murderer? Find out, Buzzkillers, by listening to our latest MiniMyth!
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“Amazing Grace” is one of the most popular songs in Christian songbooks, and one of the most recognizable songs in the world. By one account, it is sung over 10 million times annually. It’s has also been the font of historical myths and misunderstandings. One particularly dramatic one, and one that has been flying around the internet for over a decade, is that the author John Newton had a Christian conversion after surviving a devastating storm that almost wrecked his ship. True story? Afraid not.
What can possibly be wrong with St. Patrick’s Day? Not much, except that there’s very little historical basis behind stories about St. Patrick. And there’s certainly no historical basis for excess drinking, green beer, and the Chicago River turned green. Or is there? The Professor becomes more open minded right before our very ears!
The Honor Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier seem superhuman. Their ceremonial duties are handled with the ultimate in precision and professionalism. But are the email stories about them having to live like military monks for the rest of their lives true? We interview First Sergeant Dennis McMahon from the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to get the lowdown, Buzzkillers!
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“The Great Train Robbery” (1903) was not the first feature film, despite what you learned in film studies class, Buzzkillers (or from some tiresome, drunken film-studies major at a boring film-studies party). The Aussies beat Hollywood to the punch. Find out how they did it!
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Is the “west” locked in “conflicts unending” with Islam? Is it a “clash of civilizations”? Professor Karl Barbir from Siena College in New York shows us the problems with this overly general thinking. Things were much more subtle and complex in the long history of international relations between European cultures and Middle Eastern cultures.
Did you struggle over long division, Buzzkillers? Did your math teacher try to console you by telling that Einstein was bad at math when he was young? Well, I hate to bust one of your cherished childhood stories, but it isn’t true. Einstein rocked the mathematics. Don’t use that excuse when you can’t balance your checkbook.
Captain’s Quint’s story about the USS Indianapolis in the movie Jaws is only the beginning of an gut-wrenching piece of history, Buzzkillers. There’s a lot more to the Indianapolis sinking than most people know. Join me for a special episode prompted by the popularity of Episode 44 on the Atomic Bomb.
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!
Was there an actual decision whether or not to use atomic bombs in World War II? If not, what were the questions and issues about using the bomb? Why did the US choose Hiroshima and Nagasaki as targets? Did Truman do it to scare the Soviets? Did dropping the bomb actually save lives compared with how many would have died during an invasion of Japan? Professor Philip Nash enlightens us.
One of the most most popular history exercises in elementary schools these days is to have students learn about Quilt Codes and the Underground Railroad and make some designs themselves. Students are told that quilt patterns gave escaped slaves directions and warnings on their way to freedom. Alas, it’s a myth, Buzzkillers. But it’s a highly textured one. Geddit? Listen in!
Droit du Seigneur (French: “right of the lord”) refers to the “right” of a feudal lord to sleep with the bride of one of his vassals on their wedding night. While this “right” appears as early as the Epic of Gilgamesh (c 2100 BC), is an important plot device in The Marriage of Figaro (the play by Beaumarchais, written in 1788) and in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart (1995), there’s no solid evidence that it ever existed in medieval European law or that it was ever practised then.
Hey you Buzzkillers and backfillers, you listeners and glisteners! Did you think The Sarah was the first whackadoodle presidential candidate? Distinguished historians join me to discuss "fringe" candidates from the glorious American past. Listen in and cast your vote!
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.
We interview Professor Michael Rectenwald of NYU about his new book, Nineteenth-Century British Secularism (2016). We learn how diverse non-religious philosophies were and what the real meaning of secularism was in its early decades. Secularism sought to build a society were believers and non-believers could co-exist peacefully and equally before the law. It was not anti-religion. In fact, many secularists saw willful atheism as harmful to society. One of our most thought-provoking shows, Buzzkillers!
Herr Hitler gets credit for an awful lot, Buzzkillers, including the invention of the Volkswagen. The story is that he demand a “people’s car” that the average German could afford. Alas, Buzzkillers, the story is much more complicated than that, and Adolph played only a small part in the invention of the cute, little VW Beetle.
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This episode looks at the dramatic combination of advancing industrialization, and the dirty business of coal mining both from the miners’ side and from the operators’ side. Specifically we’re going to talk about what happened when poor industrial relations, bigoted immigrant relations, and distrust between workers and bosses ignited violence, murder, undercover police work, and crime and punishment in the late 19th century coal fields of industrial America. In short, the Molly Maguires!
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!
The Martians were invading! People went hysterical and ran for their lives! Some committed suicide. Farmers brought out their shotguns to protect their homesteads. Americans panicked, or did they? Find out on Professor Buzzkill!
How did New Year’s Day end up in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere (and the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere)? Wouldn’t a day in spring be more fitting? Find out how people celebrated New Years in past centuries and why things turned out the way they did.
How do you solve a problem like Sound of Music myths? When did The Captain and Maria get married? How anti-Nazi was he? How many dozens of kids did they have? How did the von Trapps escape the Nazis? Movie myths are always fund, Buzzkillers!
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The Literary Churchill, Buzzkillers! We finally get to hear what was going on inside the old bulldog’s head. Prof Jonathan Rose schools us on how Churchill’s reading, writing, and acting affected his decisions and political career. We even play Churchill Quote or No Quote!