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Napoleon Wasn't Really That Short
Napoleon Wasn't Really That Short

Revisionist history sometimes blames Napoleon's obsession with conquering Europe on his supposedly short stature and his desire to show people he was a "big man" despite his vertical challenges.

Here's the thing though - Napoleon wasn't short. Sure, at 5'6" he was short by modern standards, but in his day, he was absolutely of average height, though he was probably a little short by French military officer standards.

So where does the myth come from?

Napoleon's height was listed as 5'2", but most historians agree that it was an old French standard of measurement and that 5'2" would equal 5'6" using modern measurements.

Orson Welles' War Of The Worlds Broadcast Did Not Cause Mass Panic
Orson Welles' War Of The Worlds Broadcast Did Not Cause Mass Panic

On Sunday, October 30, 1938, Orsen Welles made one of the most famous radio broadcasts of all time. In it, he described an alien invasion in Grover's Mill, NJ, based on the science fiction novel "War Of The Worlds" by HG Wells (no relation). The lore goes that thousands or even millions of people that tuned in late and didn't realize it was a radio play, which were popular at the time. Instead, those thousands or millions of people thought it was an emergency broadcast and the United States was, in fact, being invaded by creatures from above. The lore also says that people panicked and crashed phone lines to their local police stations and radio stations trying to find out what they should do or where they should hide. The legend continues that Orsen Welles was intending this widespread panic to occur, he was hoping for it.

Here's the thing -there wasn't mass hysteria. Sure, there were some panicky people that called the radio station and made it a long night for employees and a few policemen showed up and demanded that the broadcast be stopped. But there were no riots nor widespread panic attacks. Nor did Welles intend to create hysteria. The show had been announced earlier in the day, including teasers about the content and throughout the broadcast, there were alerts that stated it was a fictional radio show.

So where did the myth come from?

In the days after the broadcast, newspapers around the country wrote sensational headlines like "Radio Listeners In Panic!" But those headlines were way overblown and intended to sell papers based on the general public's reluctance to accept new media and technology, which radio was at the time.

Einstein Did Not Flunk Math Class
Einstein Did Not Flunk Math Class

Einstein is considered one of the smartest men of all time and his work in astrophysics fundamentally changed our understanding of the world and the universe. So is it possible that he failed a math class early in his life? Sure, it's possible - but it didn't happen.

It is true that he failed an entrance exam to a trade school when he was a teenager, but it's likely he didn't try very hard, as he only took the exam because his father forced him to and he didn't have any interest in passing it, knowing that he wanted to study physics not work in any sort of trade.

So where does the myth come from?

Most likely, in our humble opinion, it probably comes from a combination of the story about the trade school exam failure and a desire for anecdotes showing early failure in life doesn't forecast a lifetime of such. The idea that even the best amoung us might have failed early on, so keep working. Much like the story of Michael Jordan getting cut from a junior high basketball team - another story that doesn't tell the whole truth.

Catherine The Great Did Not Die While In Bed With A Horse
Catherine The Great Did Not Die While In Bed With A Horse

This one shouldn't even be remotely believable and yet the myth persists year after year. The myth is that Catherine The Great, Empress of Russia was killed while trying to perform a sex act with a horse.

It is true that Catherine was a keen equestrian and was... ahem... ah... somewhat promiscuous, but that doesn't mean she was into farm animals. She wasn't. She is believed to have had 20 or so lovers in her life, which, by Taylor Swift standards is basically nothing, but back in her day it earned her the nickname "The Scarlet Empress."

But no, a horse was not one of the 20.

So where does the myth come from?

Who knows with this one, it's so ridiculous. It most likely came from political rivals trying to hurt her reputation, which was already checkered because of her actual sex life. In actually, she died after suffering a stroke.

Paul Revere Probably Never Said
Paul Revere Probably Never Said "The British Are Coming!"

It's one of the most enduring stories of the early United States. Paul Revere's heroic ride to warn fellow revolutionaries that the British army was advancing towards Concord and for them to prepare for battle.

Here's the problem - the colonists were British. They were British subjects and they thought of themselves as such, so yelling "The British are coming!!" would make no sense to them. Additionally, his mission was secret, so the idea of him riding through the streets yelling, even if it was "The Redcoats!" or "The Regulars!" (both were common names for British soldiers) would have completely defeated his goal of being discreet.

No, what likely really happened was that Revere, along with fellow rider William Dawes, rode through Sommerville, Medford, and Arlington, stopping along the way to warn their brothers in arms. Eventually, more than 40 other riders had joined them on their way to Concord.

As a side note - Revere never made it to Concord, he was stopped by British soldiers at a roadblock, but other riders did make it.

So where does the myth come from?

Good old-fashioned lore. A story told to children to build the mythos of a young country. The good news? The other part of the story you remember, "1 if by land, 2 if by sea" is completely true. And if you were wondering, the British came over the Charles River, so 2 lanterns were hung in the steeple of the Old North Church.

Walt Disney Did Not Invent Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney Did Not Invent Mickey Mouse

The myth goes that Walt Disney drew a mouse on an envelope while on a train ride from New York to LA and that drawing served as the prototype for Mickey Mouse.

While that seems to be true, that's not the whole story. The truth is that an animator named Ub Iwerk, who worked for Disney, came up with the Mickey we all love and recognize today. Disney did apparently draw a mouse on an envelope one day, as he and Iwerk had been trying out various cartoon animals trying to settle on one they thought would work as a signature character. They had tried just about everything before Disney struck on the idea of a mouse and took the idea to Iwerk who drew the first Mickey, the version that would appear later in the famous "Steamboat Willie" cartoon short that set Disney's company and his mouse on their way to becoming the success they are today.

Abner Doubleday Did Not Invent Baseball
Abner Doubleday Did Not Invent Baseball

Abner Doubleday lived one heck of a life. He famously fired the first shot on the side of the Union in the first battle of the Civil War and fought in many battles in that war, but he did not invent baseball. That myth was born out of a study known as the Mills Commission which came together in 1905 to study the origins of the game.

The question the Mills Commission sought to answer was whether or not baseball was invented in America in the 19th century or if it was a game that Americans adapted from the older sport in England, known as Rounders. A number of people, including the president of the Chicago Cubs at the time, Albert Spaulding and National League President, Abraham Mills thought of themselves as great patriots and they were determined to make sure baseball was 100% American.

During the commission's study, they were presented with information by a man named Abner Graves, who claimed he saw early diagrams but Doubleday and told the commission that Double had invented the game in Cooperstown, NY in 1939. The evidence he presented was dubious. He claimed it was a variation of a game called 'town ball,' and sent the commission a reproduction of the diagrams he claimed he saw Doubleday draw. Naturally, the original documents no longer existed and most or all of the players at that game in 1839 were dead. Pretty convenient for Graves' case. Nonetheless, the Graves Commission bought it and declared that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of this all-American game.

The myth was continued for years and is, in fact, the reason that The Baseball Hall Of Fame is located in Cooperstown, NY. It is still wholeheartedly believed by many, including former commissioner of baseball Bud Selig, who said: "I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the 'Father of Baseball." More recently, the myth has been debunked by a number of historians and the general consensus is that the game did begin as a variation of rounders and probably started in and around New York City in the 1840s. The first official game for which we have conclusive records took place in Hoboken, NJ on June 19th, 1846.

More recently, a claim has come from England that the game began there in the 1750s. So, maybe baseball isn't as American as apple pie but actually as English as steak & kidney pie

Men Didn't Wear Cowboy Hats In The Wild West And Gun Fights Were Very Uncommon
Men Didn't Wear Cowboy Hats In The Wild West And Gun Fights Were Very Uncommon

If you believe the movies, guys like Billy The Kid and Wyatt Earp wore 10-gallon hats and participated in gunfights almost daily. The problem is, they didn't. Billy and Wyatt and the rest of the men living in the American West in the second half of the 19th century generally wore hats that more resemble bowler hats than cowboy hats and there were really only a handful of gunfights, most becoming very notorious, like the gunfight at O.K. Corral.

Lizzie Borden Didn't Murder Her Parents
Lizzie Borden Didn't Murder Her Parents

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.

It's a famous little poem that school kids all over the country knew by heart for many years, even if it's less known today. Everyone knew the story of Lizzie Bordon, the young girl accused of killing her parents on August 4th, 1892 in Fall River, MA. Because of the poem, it's usually assumed that Bordon killed them but, in fact, she was acquitted at her trial for killing them and to this day, there is still rampant speculation as to what really happened.

The case was the original "Case Of The Century," captivating a stunned nation that couldn't believe how this young girl could commit such a brutal murder. It not only spawned the famous poem but is also likely the origin of the idea of the "axe murderer" that has become an enduring legend in popular culture.

Bordon died in 1927 of natural causes.

Nero Did Not Fiddle While Rome Burned
Nero Did Not Fiddle While Rome Burned

One of the most enduring stories of antiquity is that the lazy, feckless leader of the Roman Empire, Nero sat by and fiddled on the outskirts of Rome and watched the city burn. The story has become an allegory for all aloof, spineless and clueless leaders.

Alas, the burning of Rome and Nero's response did not go down as the myth says. Setting aside, for a moment, the fact that the fiddle (the violin) wasn't invented until about 1,600 years after Nero's death, there is much dispute among historians, even those giving the first-hand accounts of the fire.

The Great Fire Of Rome took place in 64 AD, while Nero was Emperor. Nero himself was very controversial in his day. He was thought to be far too extravagant and aloof. He was notoriously brutal, even ordering the execution of his own mother. When the fire broke out, most witnesses at the time said Nero sent men into the city to set it, to clear the way for a redevelopment plan he had. Those same witnesses claimed Nero watched from a nearby tower and played his lyre while the city was consumed, but others claim that he was at his country home in Antium, and when he heard of the fire, he responded by sending in fire brigades and even helped haul water buckets himself in an effort to save the ancient capital. All the reports can probably be chalked up to propaganda for either Nero's friends or their enemies, so it may be impossible to know the whole truth. After the fire, Nero laid blame on Christians in the city and executed many in response.

Whatever the case may be, we'll likely never know which claim is true, but one thing is for sure, he wasn't playing a fiddle while it happened.

Witches In Salem Were Not Burned At The Stake
Witches In Salem Were Not Burned At The Stake

The Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century were a brutal affair. They were sensational and obviously not based on a lot of facts. The superstitious, ultra-religious leaders in Salem held the trials with the colonialists in a state of near mass hysteria over witches and demons. The result was the trial and conviction of 20 people for witchcraft and the execution of 14 of them. But all 14 were hanged, none were actually burned at the stake.

So where does the myth come from?

It's like that it is simply the fact that in Europe, in the 16th Century, there were also a series of similar witch trials and many of those convicted of being witches at those trials were, burned at the stake. Burning at the stake became a notorious conclusion to those trials, so the myth that the Salem trials ended the same is not surprising.

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