When I was researching Helena Blavatsky I was often amazed at how someone so weird, with such an outrageous life story, could inspire so much dull writing. That was until I discovered Gary Lachman's 2012 biography Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality. Gary graciously agreed to join me on the podcast to discuss Blavatsky, the challenges that come with writing about the occult, and even David Bowie. Tune in and find out how cats named Khoot Hoomi, female body guards, and rock n' roll occultists all get mentioned in the interview.
In the final chapter of our series on the occult guru Helena Petrovna Blavatsky we look at her surprising move to India and the scandal that ultimately destroyed her reputation. After being publicly called out as a fraud Blavatsky's Theosophical Society never really regained it's prestige. But how legitimate were the accusations that were leveled against the so-called "mother of the occult"? Tune in and find out how Thomas Edison, a mysterious hole in a wall, and Ghandi all play a role in the story.
Occult guru Helena Blavatsky lived a life that defied explanation. However, her books might be even harder to explain. Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine are massive collections of esoteric thought that defy description. Her supporters have hailed these unruly tomes as landmarks of modern spiritual philosophy. Her critics have called them impenetrable, pseudo-scientific, and racist. What should we make of Blavatsky's unorthodox and often problematic ideas? Tune in and find out how materialized tea cups, the wisdom of the gods, and everyone's favourite lost continent all play a role in the story.
There are few stranger figures from the 19th century than Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Her absolutely unbelievable life story has puzzled biographers since the 1800s. Nevertheless, her occult spiritual philosophy would end up being remarkably influential. Was Helena Blavatsky truly a modern sage gifted with improbable spiritual powers? Or, was she just another 19th century huckster duping the naive? Tune in and find out how Tartar Shamans, ghost boxes, and a magician who pretends to be Chinese all play a role in the story.
The legend of the fountain of youth is one of humanity's oldest pieces of lore. Tales of magical water sources that can reverse the aging process exist in dozens of different cultures around the world. But perhaps the person most associated with the fountain of youth is the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon. For generations it was believed that he discovered Florida while on a hunt for the fabled waters. But is this story actually true? Tune in a find out how a land of darkness, the "father of lies", and history's most influential dick-joke all play a role in the story.
An essential part of Cleopatra's legend is her relationship with the Roman Marc Antony. Everything from their first meeting, to their decadent courtship, to their inevitable suicides has become the stuff of legend. Despite being remembered as two of history's greatest lovers, the pair has also had to deal with some of the worst historical slander. Tune in and find out how Queenly poops, lion chariots, and tiny boys dressed as cupid all play a role in the story.
Ancient authors would have us believe that the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra, used an intoxicating blend of sexuality and extravagant living to manipulate powerful men. In fact some have gone so far as to lay every bad decision made by her lovers at her feet. Julius Caesar was obviously taken by the Queen, but was he really "bewitched" and "manipulated". Tune in an find out how Indian Tortoises, fake boat trips, and a golden armor death-trap all play a role in the story.
There are few ancient women as well-known as the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. However, most of what we know about her comes from sources that were edited and censored by her enemies. She has been portrayed as a manipulative seductress whose influence destroyed her powerful lovers, but is that actually accurate? Tune in and find out how Hollywood flops, cadaver theft, and centuries of incest play a role in the story.
Socrates has been celebrated as the "father of western philosophy". This is particularly remarkable when you consider the fact that we know almost nothing about him for sure. What we consider "Socratic Philosophy" is what has been reported to us by his students. Should we trust what they are telling us about him? Tune in and find out how ancient fart jokes, free lunch, and a wrestler-turned-playwright-turned-philosopher all play a role in the story.
In the summer of 1096 the "People's Crusade" led by Peter the Hermit was on the cusp of flaming out spectacularly. Luckily for the Europeans this group of zealous peasants were not the only crusaders on route to the holy land. Once the nobility of Western Europe arrived on the scene the crusade was able to begin in earnest. The arrival of the so-called "Baron's Crusade" would signal a new phase in this conflict. Visions, magical objects, and signs from God would turn this military campaign into a truly legendary event. Tune in and find out how donkey blood, conveniently placed relics, and a runaway prophet all play a role in the story.
Peter the Hermit was one of the most important people of the medieval era. He was instrumental in rousing the peasants of Europe and convincing them to march east on crusade. However, for someone so significant we can say almost nothing about him for sure. His life is basically one big legend. In our quest to explain the First Crusade we first need to try and explain its most charismatic leader. Tune in and find out how fake massacres, holy visions, and donkey riding all play a role in the story.
There are few medieval events that are still as politically loaded as the Crusades. Even though the First Crusade was launched well over 900 years ago people are still debating it's merits. The debate becomes even more complicated when you consider all of the mythology, falsehoods, and popular misconceptions that surround this event. How should we make sense of this deeply complex and sometimes downright unbelievable story. Tune and find out how people being hung from their bits, the Sultan of Rome, and the end of the world all play a role in the story.
You can expect the next episode of Our Fake History on Tuesday, Jan. 23. In the meantime tune-in and get the inside scoop on what our next series will be about!
In the 10th century a letter started circulating that had been allegedly written to the Byzantine Emperor by a mysterious eastern King. The King identified himself as Prester John and claimed that he was marching to relieve the crusaders in the holy land. He also claimed that his kingdom was filled with wonders including a fountain of youth, eagles that deliver magical gems, and a menagerie of monsters. Was Prester John an elaborate hoax or was there a real figure who inspired the story? Tune in and find out how Jesus' twin brother, lady ogres, and a very confused Ethiopian King all play a role in the story.
In classic samurai films the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi was always presented as rough but honourable. The real Musashi may have been considerably more complicated. If we look closely at some of the samurai's most famous duels, we may find reason to question Musashi's reputation as the ultimate "lone wolf". Tune in and find out how pot-lid duels, swords carved from oars, and a Samurai/Ninja showdown all play a role in the story.
The samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is the archetypal lone-wolf warrior. Legend has it that in course of his life he fought over sixty duels and never once lost. His psychological strategies and unique two sworded fighting style made him one of the most famous martial artists in Japan's history. However, many of Musashi's most celebrated exploits have been distorted by centuries of myth-making. What should we believe about the famously scruffy swordsman? Tune in and find out how flabbergasted monks, Harry Potter, and the Samurai Forest Gump all play a role in the story.
It's been said that finding the first rock 'n roll song is akin to finding the spot on the colour spectrum where blue becomes indigo. The task might be impossible, but Our Fake History has never been afraid of the impossible. If we search through the rich musical histories of cities like Chicago, Memphis, and New Orleans we might just find the inventor of rock 'n roll. Tune in and find out how cracked amps, too many dudes in a car, and a quick mention of "Wang Dang Doodle" all play a role in the story.
One of the most contentious questions in American pop culture revolves around who should get the credit for inventing rock 'n roll music. Rolling Stone magazine helped propagate the myth that the genre was invented by Elvis Presley in 1954. As you might imagine, the real story is a bit more complicated. Tune in and find out how dirty jokes, "moondoggers", and a sexy fat man all play a role in the story.
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Richard the Lionheart did his best to make himself a legend in his own time. He was flamboyantly chivalrous in a way that was designed to get attention. His charm campaign seemed to work. Generations of minstrels and storytellers were happy to pick up on this thread and embroider his life story with colourful legends. But is Richard really deserving of this romantic reputation? Tune in and find out how brothel chicken, frying pan shields, and weird three-way handshakes all play a role in the story.
There are few English kings as legendary as Richard the Lionheart. In Robin Hood stories he was portrayed as the ultimate "good King". For the Victorians he represented everything that was noble about England's medieval past. However, Richard's reputation among historians is considerably less glamorous. Was Richard really the second coming of King Arthur, or was he something far more sinister? Tune in and find out how scammer monks, the court of love, and the kiss of death all play a role in the story.
Almost as long as people have been telling stories about Robin Hood, historians have been trying to find the real person who inspired the legend. Over the centuries dozens of researchers have cooked up elaborate theories in an attempt to locate the man who became the myth. Were any of them successful in finding a "real" Robin Hood? Tune in and find out how piggy-back-rides, dog-summoners, and fake family trees all play a role in the story.
Robin Hood is easily one of the most beloved characters in English storytelling. For centuries the forest outlaw has been the ultimate hero of the downtrodden. He steals from the rich, gives to the poor, and resists tyranny in all of its forms. But is Robin Hood just a fictional character, or could there have been a real person who inspired the legend? By taking a close look at the earliest Robin Hood ballads perhaps we can find some clues about the true identity of this mythic outlaw. Tune in and find out how forest elves, Kurt Cobain, and Kevin Costner’s bad accent all play a role in the story.
The podcast is celebrating its second birthday! For our season finale we have something a little special. This week Sebastian is joined by New York Times Bestselling author Mark Adams. Mark is the author of the excellent book Meet Me in Atlantis, an incredibly readable exploration of the weird world of Atlantis research. Sebastian and Mark get deep into Atlantis theories and commiserate about the professional hazards of dealing with historical mysteries. Tune in and find out how google earth, cooky theorists, and snarky McClean's reviewers all play a role in the story.
Piracy on the high seas has existed for as long as human beings have had boats. For most of history these maritime marauders were almost exclusively men. However, there have also been a handful of notable women who lived the pirate life. Their stories can often blur the line between myth and history. Tune in and find out how severed ears, guardian lizards, and the real life Captain Jack Sparrow all play a role in the story.
The 1683 Siege of Vienna often gets described in apocalyptic terms. It has been characterized as the ultimate showdown between Christianity and Islam. There is no doubt that it was a dramatic and significant moment in European history, but should it be mythologized as the ultimate battle for the fate of European civilization? Tune in an find out how the Riders of Rohan, mole wars, and knights with freakin' wings on their backs all play a role in the story.