The epidemic known as the Black Death struck Europe in 1347 and completely upended medieval society. It's been estimated that roughly half of the European population was killed by this gruesome disease. Despite huge advances in our understanding of this epidemic debate still remains about the true cause of the plague. The so-called "Great Mortality" also remains the source of a number of tenacious historical myths. Tune in and find out how biological warfare, pockets full of posies, and rattus rattus all play a role in the story.
In November 2019 Sebastian was asked to perform at the Toronto Hot Docs Podcast festival. Our Fake History was featured on a show called "Sounds of the Six". Sebastian was given 15 minutes to both introduce newcomers to the podcast and tell a story about the city of Toronto. The weird story of Toronto's Phillip Experiment fit the bill perfectly. Tune in and find out how fake ghosts, amateur sketches, and psychokinesis all play a role in the story.
The Santa Claus legend may be one of the most sturdy pieces of mythology in modern times. While other magical creatures have faded from our common lore, the legend of Santa Claus has only grown. However, the evolution of this beloved holiday character has been downright strange. How did a lank and serious Bishop from Anatolia become the jolly bringer gifts we know today? Tune in and find out how pickled kids, Dwight Shrute, and horned gods all play a role in the story.
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In celebration of Our Fake History's 100th episode Sebastian runs the podcaster's gauntlet in front of a live crowd. Your host tells tales, plays guitar, and interviews an illustrious guest. But the show is stolen by guest Katie Daubs and the tales from her new book The Missing Millionaire. Tune in and find out how ritual murder, the French revolution, and the mysterious disappearance of Drake all play role in the story.
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These days it's impossible to speak about the mysteries of the pyramids without saying something about aliens from outer space. Thanks to the writings of authors like Eric Von Danieken and a slew of cheesy cable shows, the ancient astronauts hypothesis has thoroughly infected the popular understanding of the pyramids. Is there anything to these theories? What about the belief that an army of ancient Israelites was forced to builds great tombs? Tune in and find out how Carl Sagan, a monument to botched construction, and Sebastian's favourite bible story all play a role.
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The most elaborate theories concerning the pyramids of Giza usually position those monuments as deeply different and distinct from all other Egyptian pyramids. However, to fully understand the pyramids of Giza we need to understand them in the context of the monuments that came both before and after. As soon as we add that context some of the more audacious claims about Egypt's pyramids become much harder to believe. Tune in and find out how Pimp My Ride, missing mummies, and way too many OFH call backs all play a role in the story.
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The Egyptian pyramids are easily the most mythologized pieces of architecture on the planet. They have inspired historical myths and misconceptions essentially as long as "history" has been a literary genre. The so-called "father of history" Herodotus was one of the first writers to try and explain the construction of the Pyramids. But should we really trust a guy who has been called the "father of lies". Tune in and find out how my weird dating system, ancient machines, and Egyptian bathroom habits all play a role in the story.
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In the 1930's a famous California history professor thought he had discovered a long lost historical treasure. It was a brass plate apparently inscribed by the famous English adventurer Sir. Francis Drake. The plate was heralded as an amazing discovery, but it was actually an elaborate hoax orchestrated by an irreverent secret society. The group behind the hoax is known as E Clampus Vitus and it may be America's weirdest secret society. Tune in a find out how tin-can medallions, "widders", and a Grand Noble Humbug all play a role in the story.
Since The Prince was first published in 1532 it has attracted an eclectic group of admirers. Figures as diverse as Napoleon Bonaparte, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, and Tupac Shakur, have managed to find some deep wisdom in the pages of Niccolo Machiavelli's little book. Machiavelli's enduring allure has always been fueled by the controversy that swirls around his work. To this day there is no consensus around what Machiavelli's "real" goal was when he wrote The Prince. Is it possible to determine if Machiavelli deserves his bad reputation when there is so little agreement about him? Tune in and find out how 90's rap beef, The Grateful Dead, and the weirdest job application in history all play a role in the story.
There are few political thinkers with as evil a reputation as the Florentine writer Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli's philosophy was believed to be so cutthroat and cynically ruthless that some thought it was demonically inspired. There is even a historical myth that Niccolo Machiavelli's first name inspired the English to call the devil "Old Nick". Despite the fact that the story probably isn't true, Machiavelli's Satanic reputation has persisted. However, we need to ask if Machiavelli's reputation deserved. Have people been misunderstanding his writing for centuries? Tune in and find out how Beelzebub, Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Pope's Banker all play a role in the story.
Once someone has embraced the moon landing hoax conspiracy it can be hard to change their mind. More often than not it's arguments concerning the Van Allen radiation belts and tiny photographic cross-hairs that convince people that the moon landings were faked. What makes these arguments so convincing? Should they be believed? In the season finale Sebastian evaluates these claims and even speaks to someone who worked on the Apollo missions. Can we finally put this conspiracy theory to rest? Tune in and find out how radiation donuts, golf balls on the moon, and Neil Armstrong's love of hobbits all play a role in the story.
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The foundational text for all moon landing conspiracy theories is a humble little book called We Never Went To The Moon. It was self-published by the author, Bill Kaysing, in 1976 and soon became the de-facto bible of moon landing deniers. In this book Kaysing collects a handful of anomalous photographs, suggestive quotes, and common sense arguments that help him build a case against the reality of the moon landings. How well does Kaysing's "evidence" stand-up to scrutiny in 2019? Tune in and find out how suicidal astronauts, Watergate, and joy of RVing all play a role in the story.
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As we near the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission many have started to reflect on the legacy of the moon landings. However, in 2019 it's hard to discuss this amazing human achievement without mentioning that it has also been the subject of one of the most tenacious and widely believed conspiracy theories. As the moon landings move further into our collective past do they risk becoming labelled "fake history". Tune in and find out how Nazi scientists, farmers meeting a spaceman, and Buzz Aldrin punching a guy all play a role in the story.
Part 2 of this 3 part series will launch on July 16th.
Want to learn more about the moon landing? "Make it to the Moon" uncovers the unsung heroes of the moon landing and premieres on Discovery Canada on Sunday, July 14th at 9PM.
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Thanks to the mysterious pirate historian Captain Charles Johnson, Blackbeard became a truly legendary villain. According to the Captain, Blackbeard indulged in practically demonic behavior. The devil himself was rumored to be a crew member aboard Blackbeard's infamous flagship, The Queen Anne's Revenge. However, most of the really scandalous stories about the pirate cannot be verified by independent sources. Does Blackbeard really deserve his terrifying reputation? Tune in and find out how sniveling puppies, swimming headless bodies, and the ultimate double-cross all play a role in the story.
Blackbeard may be the most iconic pirate to ever roam the seas. His fearsome reputation and distinctive sense of personal style have made him the template upon which countless fictional pirates have been based. But how much do we really know about Blackbeard? How many of his infamous exploits really took place? Do we even know this guy's real name? Tune in and find out how gentleman pirates, punk rock poseurs, and the criminal patriots all play a role in the story.
There are few periods in history as hotly contested as the so-called "Dark Ages". Traditionally, the 5th to 10th centuries in Europe have been characterized as "bizarre and monstrous". But is this perception justified? Also, if there was a "dark age" should it be understood as a global phenomenon? Tune in and find out how Chinese paper, the biggest domed roof in the world, and Matt Damon movies all play a role in the story.
There is evidence out there that King Arthur was more than just a myth. However, that evidence often comes in the form of tiny scraps found in questionable sources. Those bits of evidence can be arranged and interpreted in a variety of different ways. As a result there are a plethora of plausible theories about the identity of the historical King Arthur. Which of these theories offers the best explanation for the legendary king's true identity? Tune in and find out how the last of the Romans, savage tongues, and some dude named the Venerable Bede all play a role in the story.
The Arthurian legend has been described by at least one scholar as a giant mythical vacuum. It has a reputation for sucking in and absorbing previously independent legends and making them part of Arthur's story. One of the most famous characters to be absorbed into the Arthurian legend was the ultra-devoted Sir. Lancelot. What can the Lancelot stories teach us about the evolution of Arthur's legend? Tune in and find out devious dwarves, a sword bridge, and guy named Bademagu all play a role in the story.
King Arthur is easily the most requested topic in the history of this podcast. This probably isn't a surprise given Arthur's stature in world of mythology. But is Arthur more than a myth? Was there a real person who lived around 500 AD who inspired the tales of Arthur? Before we can answer that question we need to dive into the weird history of the medieval scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth. Tune in and find out how Trojan refugees, Wile E. Coyote style deaths, and a giant named Gogmagog all play a role in the story.
OFH will return on April 9th after a short hiatus. Sebastian announces what topic he will be covering when the show returns!
Vodka may be the most controversial alcohol in history. The origin of the distilled liquor continues to be one of the culinary world's most bitterly contested historical debates. This is partially due to the fact Vilyam Pokhklebkin, the worlds foremost expert on vodka's history, was a known liar. The fact that Pokhklebkin was found murdered with a bottle of vodka in his system, makes the story all the more intriguing. We needed to conscript a real-life academic to get to the bottom of this one! Tune in and find out how sleeping potions, ancient distillation, and a murder mystery all play a role in the story.
Some of the most enduring historical myths have to do with food and drink. Food history can sometimes be seen as frivolous, which makes it particularly vulnerable to myth-making. As a result some of the world's most popular foods are saddled with bogus origin stories. Getting to truth of these stories can often reveal surprising things about the cultures that birthed them. Tune in and find out how 24 hour gambling marathons, pizza snobs, and champagne jams all play a role in the story.
Recounting the atrocities that took place in the Congo Free State during the reign of King Leopold II is a daunting process. It was a state where sadism was the norm and severed human hands became a grizzly form of currency. Still, a proper accounting of these horrors is essential to getting to truth of Leopold's regime. How bad did things get in the Congo Free State? What did it take to end the crimes against humanity? Tune in and find out how the first African-American historian, Bob Marley, and the greatest act of pimpery in history all play a role in the story.
The creation of the Congo Free State was one part cheap hustle and one part military occupation. King Leopold II managed to convince Europe he was a noble humanitarian while he was secretly building one of the most exploitative colonial states in Africa. With the help of the explorer Henry Morton Stanley and a well placed endorsement from the President of the United States the Congo Free State came into being. Sadly for the natives of the Congo river basin, this new regime would prove to be uniquely sadistic. Tune in and find out how red toilet paper, fake names, and the Goodyear tire guy all play a role in the story.
There are few colonial enterprises as infamous as the Belgian King Leopold II’s Congo Free State. While most people have a vague understanding of the atrocities that took place there, many don’t know the strange story of international fraud that led to the founding of the state. King Leopold successfully convinced the world that he was a great humanitarian and anti-slavery advocate, while he was secretly operating one of the planet's most brutal slave states. In this episode we look at colonialism in the late 19th century and try and set the scene for one of the era’s most audacious cover-ups. Tune in and find out how murderous cyclops explorers, infamous poetry, and a guy who hates music in general all play a role in the story.