Sometimes in life (but especially when on the internet) it's difficult to know whether you're reading a crazy historical fact or a straight up lie. We've all been there: you learn an awesome new fact, spread it amongst your friends, feel all smart... and then realize that some person on Tumblr made the entire thing up. But in your defense, so much of history is kind of crazy, and seriously sounds like something your grandpa makes up to mess with you.
It's also something that John Oliver would do. Oliver has fans reeling after he announced his upcoming book of historical lies, Stranger Than Truth, which included delightful fabrications about history that were so insane they might almost be true. The Last Week Tonight host offered up one alternative to the famous tale of Paul Revere, saying, "Due to a severe horse allergy, Paul Revere spent most of his famous midnight ride sneezing and vomiting into the streets." He also made up a really grim story about Catherine the Great's death.
But in classic Oliver fashion, he followed up his big announcement by saying that it was all one big lie. So right now basically no one has any idea if there's a book coming out or not.
Whether the book is real or not, Oliver is on to something — if you seem confident enough, you can lie to anyone about history, and probably make them believe it. And it doesn't hurt that people used to do seriously weird things. So here are some real historical facts, mixed in with a few lies. See if you can tell what's true or fake.
1. In Addition To Painting, Adolf Hitler Wrote Several Full Length Plays, Including One Musical
False. As much as I wish this was true, Hitler never composed any musicals. But can you imagine if he did? It probably would have been really, really horrible.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte Was Attacked By A Horde Of Rabbits
True. According to history, Bonaparte and friends went of a celebratory rabbit hunt after signing the Treaties of Tilsit. But instead of hunting down some furry friends, the rabbits turned on Bonaparte and his men and charged. The little furry creatures allegedly even climbed on top of the dictator, causing the men to quickly retreat. Apparently the rabbits were actually tame — they weren't looking for blood, but rather for food.
3. Ancient Romans Would Season Food With Animal Feces
False. This may be false, but the Romans did use human urine as mouthwash and toothpaste, and also used it to wash their clothes. So no matter how you get down to it, they still were way too comfortable ingesting waste.
4. The Hundred Years War Actually Only Lasted For 98 Years
False. The Hundred Years War actually lasted for closer to 116 years, so either way, the name is still wrong.
5. Ancient Egyptians Believed The World Was Ejaculated Into Existence
True. One ancient Egyptian creation narrative focuses on the god Atum, who was believed to have ejaculated into his own mouth and then sneezed out the world. Understandably, this creation story isn't illustrated in little kids books.
6. Lyndon B. Johnson Named His Penis Jumbo And Exposed Himself To Reporters
True. Johnson, crazily enough, was very enamored with his penis. According to one reporter, when Johnson was asked why the United States was in Vietnam, he withdrew his junk and said "this is why." Apparently none of the reporters questioned him. This was also not the first documented time he waved his junk around.
7. The CIA Attempted To Breed Werewolves During WWII
False. Unfortunately. Both the Americans and the Germans did some weird things in the name of military advances, but werewolves weren't one of them. The only werewolf Hitler dealt with was Operation Werwolf, a failed plan to create elite forces that operated behind Allied lines.
8. Neil Armstrong Totally Messed Up His Famous Moon Landing Quote
True. According to NASA and Armstrong, upon setting foot on the moon he said, "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." But on the audio, you can't hear the "a" at all, leading it to become one of the most debated words ever. Armstrong insisted he said the line perfectly, but in later years even he was willing to admit he might have messed it up.
9. Shakespeare Started The Myth That Queen Elizabeth Was A Man In Drag
False. While there is this crazy conspiracy theory that Queen Elizabeth I was actually a man in drag, the famous bard had nothing to do with it. Dracula author Bram Stoker wrote a story about it though, but Stoker was probably just trying to troll Victorian sensibilities.
Maybe, if we're really lucky, Oliver will continue to mess with our minds by actually releasing his book full of lies. And then we can sit back and watch as hundreds of years from now, our descendants truly believe Paul Revere was allergic to horses. Wouldn't that be beautiful?
Image: Wikimedia Commons