Professor Buzzkill: History 101

Professor Buzzkill: History 101

professorbuzzkill.com
A podcast created to debunk historical misinformation.
#268 - Coming Close to Nuclear War
Jul 17 • 62 min
How close have the United States and the Soviet Union come to nuclear war in the past several decades? How many accidents, miscommunications, and misunderstandings have brought us to the brink of annihilation? Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain…
*Flashback Friday* #85 - Droit du Seigneur
Jul 13 • 2 min
Droit du Seigneir (French: “right of the lord”) refers to the “right” of a feudal lord to sleep with the bride 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…
#267 - Man Crush Monday: Melvin Purvis
Jul 9 • 12 min
Melvin Purvis, head of the Chicago Division of the young FBI, is usually overshadowed by the character of J. Edgar Hoover. But who did the real work of capturing or killing Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger. Professor Nash joins us to discuss G-Man…
*Flashback Friday* #73 - Mini-Myth: Marie Antoinette and “Let Them Eat Cake”
Jul 6 • 3 min
The one thing that everyone knows about Marie Antoinette (Queen of France in the late 18th century) is that, when told that the peasants were starving because they had no bread, said, “then let them eat cake.” How cold is that, Buzzkillers? It’s…
*Encore Episode* #23 - Mini-Myth: Betsy Ross Didn’t Sew the First American Flag
Jul 4 • 4 min
It’s a great and heart-warming story, Buzzkillers, but meek and modest Betsy Ross did not design or sew the first American flag. The story itself follows the classic myth pattern, a second-hand family tale that caught on with a receptive public….
*Encore Episode* #211 - Signers of the Declaration of Independence
Jul 3 • 20 min
When was the Declaration of Independence signed? July 4th? August 2? Later? Why did John Hancock sign so prominently and hugely right in the middle? Did he have signature envy? What price did the signers pay for their patriotism? And how did the story…
#266 - Canadians Burning the White House, 1814
Jul 1 • 4 min
Did Canadians burn the White House in 1814, in the last few months of the War of 1812, as President Trump apparently believes? Who was in command, Tim Horton? Bob and Doug MacKenzie? Or was it British forces, as we’ve been told in our history…
#265 - World War II Internment in the United States
Jun 30 • 25 min
Government internment of “enemy aliens” during World War II has been a controversial topic ever since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Not only is the history much more complicated than is popularly known, the various policies…
*Flashback Friday* #66 - Mini-Myth: The Alamo
Jun 29 • 5 min
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?…
*Flashback Friday* #61 - Mini-Myth: Patrick Henry “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”
Jun 22 • 4 min
“Give me liberty or give me death,” Virginia patriot Patrick Henry was supposed to have said in a stirring speech before the American Revolution. We Buzzkill this quote and show that, like most “quotes,” it was written decades after the event….
#196 - Immigration to the United States *Encore*!!
Jun 19 • 20 min
The history of immigration to the United States is very complicated, Buzzkillers! Millions of people came from all over the world to the United States, and there are almost as many myths about immigration as there were immigrants. What did it mean to…
*Flashback Friday* #60 - Mini-Myth: Magellan Didn’t Circumnavigate the Globe
Jun 15 • 2 min
He may have had a GPS system named after him, but Ferdinand Magellan wouldn’t have needed it during his trip around the globe back in the early 1500s. He only made it halfway, dying in the Philippines at the hands of natives who got sick of him asking…
#264- Quote or No Quote: Einstein | A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing
Jun 12 • 5 min
One of the most common Einstein No Quotes you see coursing around the internet is: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Sometimes the mis-quote-meisters add “so is a lot,” to this pithy quote saying about knowledge, and we end up with…
*Flashback Friday* #58 - Mini-Myth: Witches Burned at the Stake at Salem
Jun 8 • 2 min
Burn the witch! Burn the witch! It makes for a dramatic story, with about as final an ending as you can imagine. Suspected witches were nabbed, but on trial, convicted, and burned at the stake in the 1690s in Massachusetts. But it’s just not true. The…
*Encore Episode* #202 - D-Day
Jun 6 • 74 min
D-Day, June 6, 1944, is one of the most well-known events of World War II. Why did it happen the way it did and why did it succeed? Was it the turning point in the war in Europe? How many other military operations were going on at the same time in…
#263 - Nadir of African-American History
Jun 5 • 43 min
1865. The Civil War is over. Slavery has been abolished. The country is “reconstructing” itself. This should have meant that the lives of African-Americans improved during this period. But it didn’t. 1865-1930 is often called the “nadir of…
*Flashback Friday* #56 - Mini-Myth: Lee Offered His Sword to Grant
Jun 1 • 2 min
It’s a great “Gone with the Wind” romantic-type story. The defeated, but honorable, General Robert E. Lee offered his sword to the victor, U.S. Grant, during the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. Grant, just as honorably, refused to…
#262 - Woman Crush Wednesday: Elizabeth Magie
May 30 • 8 min
The board game Monopoly seems too complicated to have had one single inventor, right? Well, no. Elizabeth Magie invented it in the first few years of the 20th century, and called it The Landlords Game. But the original game was anti-landlord, and…
*Flashback Friday* #71 - Mini-Myth: Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, and Ub Iwerks
May 25 • 3 min
Walt Disney is one of the most famous names in entertainment. But have you ever heard of Ub Iwerks? Good old Ub was the real artistic genius behind many of Disney’s most beloved characters, including Mickey Mouse. Yet there is no IwerksWorld, no…
#261 - U.S. Reconstruction
May 22 • 42 min
The Reconstruction period (1865-1877) after the Civil War was at least as complicated as the war itself. It’s also been fraught with different historian interpretations over the generations. Professor Phil Nash joins us to untangle what happened and…
*Flashback Friday* #52 - Mini-Myth: Sir Walter Raleigh, Potatoes, and Tobacco
May 18 • 2 min
Almost nothing about Sir Walter Raleigh is true, or at the very least it’s all been highly exaggerated. He didn’t lay his clock down for Queen Elizabeth, and he didn’t introduce potatoes and tobacco to Europe after his travels in the New World. He…
#260 - Man Crush Monday: Tommy Flowers
May 14 • 10 min
Tommy Flowers was a very important British scientist and engineer during the first half of the 20th century. Not only did he do essential work in cracking secret German codes during World War II, he is usually credited with inventing (and building)…
*Flashback Friday* #51 - Mini-Myth: Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned
May 11 • 2 min
Did the Roman emperor Nero really fiddle while his glorious city of Rome burned? Politicians may often be bad guys, Buzzkillers, but there’s no good evidence for this level of mania in old Nero. It’s a good story, but that’s all it is— a story.
#259 - Mother’s Day
May 9 • 18 min
Major social and political forces led to the establishment of Mother’s Day as a major and official holiday. Our new episode explains those forces, and also tells us who founded Mother’s Day. Was it Julia Ward Howe with her famous “Appeal to Womanhood”…
*Flashback Friday* #49 - Mini-Myth: African-American Code Quilts
May 4 • 4 min
One of the most popular history exercises in elementary schools these days is to have students learn about Quilt Codes and the Underground Railroad and make some design themselves. Students are told that quilt patterns gave escaped slaves directions…
#258 - Quote or No Quote: Otto Von Bismarck | Laws and Sausages
May 1 • 3 min
Politics is a messy business, even in the best of times, and especially in the worst of times. Many people console themselves with this reality by quoting Otto von Bismarck, the 19th century Prussian politician who, among other things, was the the…
*Flashback Friday* #47 - Mini-Myth: Catherine the Great Died While Attempting to Have Sex with a Horse
Apr 27 • 1 min
Find any fraternity member who’s also a freshman history major. Get him drunk, and he’ll start reeling off myths like crazy. One of them will probably be that Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (1729-1796) died by being crushed by a horse. While…
*Encore Episode* #198 - Watergate Myths
Apr 24 • 18 min
Is Watergate the story of heroic journalists working against all odds and in great danger to get at the truth of presidential corruption? Is it more complicated than that? How accurate was All the President’s Men? Who really brought the Nixon…
*Flashback Friday* #45 - Mini-Myth: Napoleon Short?
Apr 20 • 1 min
You’ve probably always seen Napoleon depicted as a shorty. And you may have heard that his ambition was driven by a classic “short man’s complex.” Alas, it’s not true. At least not by his measured height. The nickname came about differently. Listen to…
#257 - Americans Bailing Out the French
Apr 17 • 45 min
Did the United States really “bail the French out in two world wars,” or is it a blustering, bigoted myth? Professor Phil Nash joins us to discuss what actually happened in World Wars I and II, and whether the United States was “bailing out”…
*Flashback Friday* #44 - Mini-Myth: Ben Franklin and Electricity
Apr 13 • 2 min
Did Ben Franklin really discover electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm? Well, he may have flown the kite, Buzzkillers, but knowledge of electricity’s been around a long, long time. Take the journey of discovery back in time with the old…
#256 - Woman Crush Wednesday: Alice Hamilton
Apr 11 • 6 min
Alice Hamilton was a pioneer in occupational medicine and industrial toxicology. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that she was the most important person in helping to make the American workplace safer. She also campaigned for women’s rights,…
*Flashback Friday* #42 - Mini-Myth: George Washington Carver and Peanut Butter
Apr 6 • 4 min
Like all good Americans, I just had a PB&J for lunch. I couldn’t help thinking of George Washington Carver, the reputed inventor of peanut butter. You won’t be surprised to hear that the invention of peanut butter is much more complicated (and…
#255 - Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Speech about Martin Luther King
Apr 4 • 40 min
Historian Ray Boomhower joins us to analyze the famous speech given by RFK in Indianapolis, on hearing about the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. It’s one of the most famous and touching speeches in modern American history, and is…
#254 - The Unknown Martin Luther King
Apr 3 • 40 min
Martin Luther King did so much more for American society, and wanted so much more from the US government and US elite, than most people realize. Popular history has airbrushed out far too much about his life and work. Professor Phil Nash reminds us of…
*Flashback Friday* #40 - Mini-Myth: Lady Godiva Riding Naked Through Coventry
Mar 30 • 2 min
What a great way to get taxes lowered! Get your land-owning husband to agree to lower property taxes if you ride naked on horseback right down main street. That’s just what Lady Godiva agreed to do in 11th century England in order to get her…
#253 - Man Crush Monday: Robert Sherrod
Mar 26 • 6 min
Robert Sherrod was the pioneering journalist who portrayed the Pacific battles in World War II, and risked his life in doing so. In a time when stark battle news was largely kept from the American public, Sherrod convinced President Roosevelt to allow…
*Flashback Friday* #38 - Mini-Myth: Caesar Wasn’t Born by Caesarian Section
Mar 23 • 2 min
It’s an exciting and romantic tale: a future Roman hero had to be cut out of his mother’s womb as she’s dying in childbirth. The procedure is later named after the famous baby who survived — Julius Caesar. Alas, the story is as mythological as the…
#252 - Civil War Medicine
Mar 20 • 62 min
We usually hear that surgery and medical treatment during the Civil War was backward butchery. But was it? Let’s cross over the inter-sphere to listen, as historian Nic Hoffman from Kennesaw State University tells us how complicated it really was….
*Encore Episode* #93 - Mini-Myth: St. Patrick’s Day
Mar 17 • 9 min
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…
*Flashback Friday* #31 - Mini-Myth: JFK Not a Jam Doughnut
Mar 16 • 3 min
Cold War Berlin was a tense place, and certainly not the place to make an embarrassing gaffe in a major speech. So it’s a good thing that President Kennedy didn’t call himself a jam doughnut while speaking to a massive crowd in front of the Berlin…
#251 - Quote or No Quote: Churchill | Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Mar 13 • 5 min
After his first speech as prime minister, Winston Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” got shortened and re-arranged. As “blood, sweat, and tears,” it’s become one of the most quoted Churchill-isms. But like some many of these “quotes,” the…
*Flashback Friday* #162 - Mini-Myth: The Great Escape
Mar 9 • 17 min
The Great Escape (1963) is in the pantheon of World War II films, and deservedly so. Generations of Buzzkillers have grown up watching Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, and other film stars try to outsmart their captors at Stalag Luft III. But How…
#250 - Benjamin Lay and Anti-Slavery in the 18th Century
Mar 6 • 47 min
We interview Professor Marcus Rediker about his new book, Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist. Benjamin Lay was one of the most famous anti-slavery protesters in colonial Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He…
#249 - Bonus Episode: Buzzkillers and Checkers Unite!
Mar 5 • 22 min
I live a happy life. I really do. I’ve got Lady Buzzkill and the Buzzlings, a fulfilling career, and money in the bank. But I guess I never knew true happiness until I was asked to be on The Reality Check Podcast, also on the Entertainment One…
*Flashback Friday* #141 - Mini-Myth: General Hooker’s hookers
Mar 2 • 4 min
Was Civil War Union General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker’s last name the origin of the slang term for prostitute? He had a perhaps undeserved reputation as a party animal, but did that reputation actually add a new word to the language? Listen to this…
#248 - Women Crush Wednesday: Alison Palmer
Feb 28 • 19 min
Alison Palmer was a pioneer in gaining increased women’s rights and human rights in the American State Department. While working there in the 1950s and 1960s, Palmer ran up against the glass ceiling when trying to advance in the civil service at the…
*Flashback Friday* #75 - Mini-Myth: Rule of Thumb
Feb 23 • 3 min
The rule of thumb about history myths is that they’re persistent. Ever hear the one about an ancient law that allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick as long as it was not thicker than his thumb? Well, it’s a myth, Buzzkillers. But how it became a…
#247 - Pentagon Papers
Feb 20 • 67 min
Professor Phil Nash helps us explain the complicated and much-mythologized history of the Pentagon Papers, which is shorthand for the government-funded study of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. Once leaked by Daniel Ellsberg and others,…
#246 - Computer Dating
Feb 13 • 58 min
Professor Marie Hicks joins us again, this time to discuss the yummy history of computer dating. Did it start with Operation Match at Harvard? Or was it a young entrepreneur in London? What were their reasons for thinking that computers could match…
*Encore Episode* #179 - Quote or No Quote: St. Valentine | “Your Valentine”
Feb 12 • 4 min
Valentine’s Day is here again, Buzzkillers, and you can be certain that we’re depleting the Buzzkill bank account at a rapid clip so that we can give Lady Buzzkill all the best tokens of lova and affection befitting her rank and station. And it’s…
*Flashback Friday* #35 - Mini-Myth: Hitler and the Volkswage
Feb 9 • 5 min
Herr Hitler gets credit for an awful lot, Buzzkillers, including the invention of the Volkswagen. The story is that he demanded a “people’s car” that the average German could afford. Alas, Buzzkillers, the story is much more complicated than that, and…
#245 - Impeachment, Presidential Removal and Replacement
Feb 6 • 50 min
Impeachment? The 25th Amendment? Resignation? How do the American people remove a president from office? Why is it so complicated, and what’s the history behind each way to get a dangerous, criminal, or just plain crazy chief executive out of the…
#244 - Electricity in American Life
Jan 30 • 46 min
From 1876, when the first effective dynamo/generator that produced a steady current of electricity was invented, Americans reacted to this new phenomenon of electricity in many different ways. Professor Jennifer Lieberman is one of the first academics…
*Flashback Friday* #90 - Mini-Myth: George Washington Crossing the Delaware
Jan 26 • 2 min
The painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is one of the 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…
#243 - Man Crush Monday: Varian Fry
Jan 22 • 7 min
Varian Fry started life as a journalist. He spent the early years of World War II, however, rescuing Jews from occupied Europe, and agitating against immigration restrictions against refugees. Working with a small team of dedicated volunteers in…
*Flashback Friday* #96 - Mini-Myth: Rasputin’s Death
Jan 19 • 6 min
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,…
#242 - The Pizza Effect
Jan 16 • 19 min
The “pizza effect” helps explain why assumptions about the history and development of certain cultural practices and traditions are among the strongest historical myths out there, how they are self-reinforcing, and how they can build up mistaken…
*Encore Episode* #173 - Quote or No Quote: Martin Luther King | Arc of the Moral Universe Bends Toward Justice
Jan 15 • 10 min
Lots of people take comfort from the quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and it’s usually credited to Martin Luther King Jr. He said it, but was it an original MLK thought? The long history of this famous quote…
*Flashback Friday* #36 - Black Adder and World War I
Jan 12 • 47 min
It’s time to go over the top, Buzzkillers! We interview Professor Richard Grayson about the wildly popular BBC television series, BlackAdder, and how close it is to historical reality. There are probably more myths about war than any other part of…
*Flashback Friday* #27 - Mini-Myth: Great Train Robbery
Jan 5 • 2 min
“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….
*Encore Episode* #166 - Mini-Myth: Auld Lang Syne
Dec 31, 2017 • 15 min
Should old acquaintance be forgot? What? Should we forget old friends? Should we sing about remembering them? What does Auld Lang Syne actually mean? Why do we sing it every New Year’s Eve? Join the Professor in this classic Buzzkill episode as he…
*Flashback Friday* #79 - Mini-Myth: New Year’s Eve/ Day
Dec 29, 2017 • 4 min
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…
*Encore Episode* #163 - WWI Christmas Truce
Dec 26, 2017 • 42 min
The truce between the trenches in Christmas 1914 is one of the most famous stories from World War I. Was it one big truce across the whole Western Front? Or was it lots of little ceasefires? How did it happen, and what did the soldiers do during the…
*Flashback Friday* #77 - Mini-Myth: Santa Claus
Dec 22, 2017 • 3 min
Who was Santa Claus, Buzzkillers? The jolly old man from Miracle on 34th Street? The round-bellied man wearing a red costume, driving a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny reindeer? Was there a Rudolph involved? Check out this Buzzkill favorite to find out!
#241 - Woman Crush Wednesday: Hatshepsut
Dec 20, 2017 • 4 min
Egyptologists consider Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history. Her name means “Foremost of the Noble Ladies” and she was very successful in trade negotiations, diplomacy,…
*Flashback Friday* #100 - General Patton
Dec 15, 2017 • 77 min
General George Patton was one of the most famous, colorful, and talked about US generals in World War II. He is also among the most misunderstood military men in history. Famously played George C. Scott in a 1970 movie, Patton’s image is one of the…
*Encore Episode* #165 - 12 Days of Christmas
Dec 12, 2017 • 12 min
Was there a special, secret meaning behind the lyrics in the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas? Ten Lords a Leaping and Nine Ladies Dancing sounds like a pretty good party! But why wasn’t Professor Buzzkill invited? We explain it all and…
*Flashback Friday* #71 - Mini-Myth: Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, and Ub Iwerks
Dec 8, 2017 • 3 min
Walt Disney is one of the most famous names in entertainment. But have you ever heard of Ub Iwerks? Good old Ub was the real artistic genius behind many of Disney’s most beloved characters, including Mickey Mouse. Yet there is no IwerksWorld, no…
#240 - Quote or No Quote: Yamamoto | I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant
Dec 7, 2017 • 4 min
Movie scripts are responsible for more mis-quotes than almost any other source. In Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is shown reacting to the attack on Pearl Harbor by saying, “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant.”…
*Encore Episode* #159 - Pearl Harbour
Dec 5, 2017 • 49 min
Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain the myths and misconceptions about the December 7th, 1941, as well as the complexities of the cultural importance of the attack since then. Did FDR know about the attack ahead of time? And who was the attack…
*Flashback Friday* #21 - Mini-Myth: Reagan Not Up for Casablanca
Dec 1, 2017 • 2 min
It’s a Buzzkill favorite! Warner Bros Studios pumped out this myth, Buzzkillers, before production had even started on the movie. But Bogie had the part all along!
#239 - Man Crush Monday: Benjamin Lay
Nov 27, 2017 • 5 min
Benjamin Lay was one of the most famous anti-slavery protestors in colonial Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He agitated against slavery and the slave trade in very unusual ways, and was eventually kicked out of his church, the Quakers, for his…
*Flashback Friday* #69 - Mini-Myth: Thanksgiving Popcorn
Nov 24, 2017 • 4 min
As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That’s how Americans got…
*Encore Episode* #155 - American Thanksgiving
Nov 23, 2017 • 10 min
The Pilgrims and Indians sat down on the fourth Thursday of November in 16-something and started the first Thanksgiving dinner, right? You guessed it. Wrong! It took almost 300 years to get to Norman Rockwell’s painting and the Macy’s Parade….
#238 - Vietnam War: Myth and Memory
Nov 21, 2017 • 85 min
Professor Phil Nash shows how the myths and misconceptions about the Vietnam War started, grew, and have plagued our historical consciousness since the late 1950s. Among other things, the large number of myths about the Vietnam War shows us that our…
*Flashback Friday* #89 - Atomic Bomb Myths
Nov 17, 2017 • 57 min
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…
#237 - Quote or No Quote: Gandhi | First they ignore you…
Nov 14, 2017 • 5 min
There’s a great quote and sentiment about sticking with a righteous movement for much-needed change, particularly when it’s faced with a big, entrenched and powerful foe. That quote goes like this: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then…
*Flashback Friday* #19 - Mini-Myth: Einstein Bad at Math
Nov 10, 2017 • 3 min
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…
#236 - Vietnam: War and History
Nov 7, 2017 • 51 min
Professor Phil Nash explains the history of Vietnam in the 20th century, and the very complicated ways in which it was torn apart by war and civil war throughout the mid-century. Along the way, we learn about the deep complications in the history of…
*Flashback Friday* #97 - Woodrow Wilson
Nov 3, 2017 • 55 min
Prof. Phil Nash joins us once again to bust US history myths. This time it’s about President Woodrow Wilson. How much of a progressive was he? What were his real attitudes towards race? How much idealism did he pump into his policies on foreign…
#235 - Woman Crush Wednesday: Stephanie Shirley
Nov 1, 2017 • 7 min
It’s our first Woman Crush Wednesday! Professor Marie Hicks tells us the story of Stephanie Shirley, one of Britain’s computer programming pioneers. Imagine starting your own company with just £6 (roughly $12) and building it into one of the most…
*Encore Episode* #63 - Mini Myth: Halloween
Oct 31, 2017 • 11 min
Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an…
*Flashback Friday* #13 - Mini-Myth: Vikings Didn’t Wear Horned Helmets into Battle
Oct 27, 2017 • 1 min
A Buzzkill favorite! A Viking horned helmet would have been very impractical, and perhaps dangerous, in battle, Buzzkillers. A sword blow to the head might glance off a smooth helmet. But it would surely catch on a horn and send the helmet flying,…
#234 - October Revolution 100th Anniversary
Oct 23, 2017 • 77 min
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most important events in the 20th century. Professor Nash joins us to untangle the extremely complicated history of Russian politics between 1905 and 1917. He tells us what happened and why. Why, for…
*Flashback Friday* #94 - Amazing Grace
Oct 20, 2017 • 12 min
“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 has also been the font of historical myths and…
#233 - Man Crush Monday: A. Philip Randolph
Oct 16, 2017 • 9 min
Professor Phil Nash joins us on our very first Man Crush Monday to tell us about the most important American Civil Rights leader that most people haven’t heard of — A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, and founder of the idea for a march on Washington….
*Flashback Friday* #91 - USS Indianapolis
Oct 13, 2017 • 11 min
Captain’s Quint’s story about the USS Indianapolis in the movie “Jaws” is only the beginning of a gut-wrenching piece of history, Buzzkillers. There’s a lot more to the Indianapolis sinking than most people know. Listen and learn from one of…
#232 - Programmed Inequality: Women and British Computing
Oct 10, 2017 • 51 min
Professor Marie Hicks joins us to talk about gender and employment in the emerging field of computing in Britain, and all the historical myths that surround them. In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer…
*Flashback Friday* #113 - Scopes Trial
Oct 6, 2017 • 33 min
Introducing the first ever Professor Buzzkill Flashback Friday! Every Friday we’ll be re-releasing old favorites. This week we have episode #56 - the Scopes Trial! On April 24, 1925, a high school teacher named John Scopes taught a class in Dayton,…
#231 - Quote or No Quote: General Curtis LeMay | Bomb the North Vietnamese Back to the Stone Age
Oct 2, 2017 • 7 min
General Curtis LeMay became one of the most important US military leaders during the Cold Wa. One of the most famous or well-known things about LeMay is that he reportedly said, in the mid-60s, that, in order to win the Vietnam war the US Air Force…
*Encore Episode* #127 - Hitler, Jesse Owens, and the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Sep 28, 2017 • 12 min
We’re bringing back one of your favorites, Buzkillers! Hitler storming out of the stadium after Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of most enduring images we have of the tumultuous history of Nazi Germany. Hitler…
#230 - Quote or No Quote: Muhammad Ali | No Viet Cong Ever Called Me N****r
Sep 25, 2017 • 6 min
When asked about being drafted for the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali is often quoted as saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” This was immediately followed by the now-more-famous quote, “No Viet Cong ever called me n****r,” in a…
#229 - Irish Slaves Myth
Sep 21, 2017 • 35 min
The Irish slaves myth claims that Irish people were enslaved by the British and sent to the Americas (especially the Caribbean) to work on plantations. This myth primarily appears in emails and Facebook posts, and goes like this: Irish people were…
#228 - Quote or No Quote: Chief Seattle | We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children
Sep 18, 2017 • 4 min
As a parting piece of wisdom about generational stewardship of land and nature, Chief Seattle supposedly said to American colonizers pushing west, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” But, like spiritual…
#227 - The Lost Cause Myth
Sep 14, 2017 • 68 min
The Lost Cause is one of the most troubling aspects of American history. The ways in which the Confederacy and the pre-Civil War south has been romanticized and fictionalized has done immense damage to American historical consciousness and…
#226 - Quote or No Quote: Mark Twain | Life is just one damn thing after another
Sep 11, 2017 • 3 min
Sometimes, Buzzkillers, the stars just seem to align. There’s a meteor shower and a rainbow on the same day. And a whole bunch of writers, pundits, journalists, and aphorists come up with roughly the same idea at roughly the same time. Or at least…
#225 - Cause of the Civil War
Sep 7, 2017 • 63 min
Cause. Singular. Not plural. We talk about the cause of the American Civil War because there was one overwhelming cause — slavery. Not tariff disputes. Not states’ rights. The Civil War was fought over the preservation of slavery in the south and its…
#224 - Quote or No Quote: Abraham Lincoln | Government of the people, by the people, and for the people….
Sep 4, 2017 • 4 min
Anybody who’s completed an elementary school education knows that Abraham Lincoln finished his dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863 by saying that, “…we here highly resolve that these dead…
#223 - Confederate Statues, Memorials, and Flags
Aug 31, 2017 • 51 min
When and why were statues to Confederate soldiers, generals, and politicians put up across the American south? Why is the Confederate Battle Flag so proudly waved and displayed in many parts of the US? Professor Nash joins us to explain why all of…
#222 - Quote or No Quote: Woodrow Wilson | It Is Like Writing History with Lightning
Aug 28, 2017 • 4 min
Upon seeing “The Birth of a Nation,” the ground-breaking, if highly racist, piece of cinematography in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson is often quoted as saying, “It is like writing history with lightning.” Nearly every American Buzzkiller out there…
#221 - The KKK: History and Myth
Aug 24, 2017 • 29 min
Practically nothing in the history of the United States has suffered from myth-making and misunderstanding as much as the history of race relations and racist violence. The history Ku Klux Klan is no exception. This is ironic. In its various…
#220 - Quote or No Quote: Winston Churchill | Some Chicken, Some Neck
Aug 21, 2017 • 5 min
In the aftermath of the Dunkirk evacuation and the fall of France in June 1940, things looked pretty bleak for the British, and indeed they were. The Battle of Britain followed almost immediately, and lasted until the end of October 1940, but the…
#219 - Trump Fire and Fury, Truman Rain of Ruin
Aug 17, 2017 • 21 min
The Buzzkill Institute has been inundated with phone calls, text messages, and panicked faxes after President Trump’s recent response to North Korea’s nuclear threats. He said: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They…
#218 - Quote or No Quote: Martin Luther King Jr. | I Will Mourn the Loss of Thousands of Precious Lives…
Aug 14, 2017 • 4 min
I like this “no quote,” Buzzkillers, because it’s history of full of all the things we’ve been talking about on this show — phrases and sentiments that “sound” like they were said by a prominent person so “they must be from him,” misplaced (or moved)…
#217 - The JFK Legacy
Aug 10, 2017 • 58 min
Professor Phil Nash joins us for part three of our examination of John F. Kennedy in the 100th anniversary of his birth. This episode looks at how the JFK legacy was constructed in the immediate aftermath of the assassination in 1963, how it was…
#216 - Quote or No Quote: Zhou Enlai | Too Early to Say
Aug 7, 2017 • 2 min
In 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was asked about the impact of the French Revolution. “Too early to say,” he replied. Given that the French Revolution of 1789 had occurred nearly 200 years before, Zhou Enlai was expressing the long view of history…
#215 - Dunkirk
Aug 3, 2017 • 33 min
It’s 2017, Buzzkillers, 77 years after the Battle of Dunkirk and the subsequent evacuation of allied troops from that area between the 26th of May and the 4th of June 1940. The evacuation has become a very famous and celebrated event in World War II…
#214 - Quote or No Quote: Teddy Roosevelt | Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick
Jul 24, 2017 • 3 min
Finally a quote that’s actually true! Yes, Teddy Roosevelt did say that the best advice he’d ever heard about dealing with foreign affairs and potentially hostile foreign powers is to, “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Speaking softly and carrying a b
#213 - FDR, Polio, and the Press
Jul 20, 2017 • 41 min
FDR became governor of New York and later President for four terms despite having contracted polio. Professor Matthew Pressman from Seton Hall University joins us to discuss how the press and the American public were told about his disability, and how the
*Encore Episode* #184 - Clean Wehrmacht
Jul 13, 2017 • 72 min
How “clean” was the regular German army (Wehrmacht) during World War II? The Nazis and the SS usually get all the blame for war crimes and for the Holocaust. How much blame can be placed at the feet of “ordinary” German military units? Turns out t
#212 - Quote or No Quote: Thomas Jefferson | The Best Government is That Which Governs Least
Jul 10, 2017 • 2 min
“Quotes” supposedly from the Founding Fathers seem to rear their misattributed heads in the United States every year in the weeks surrounding July 4th. And Americans are often treated to a number of false quotations from the George Washington, John Adams,
#211 - Signers of the Declaration of Independence
Jul 4, 2017 • 20 min
When was the Declaration of Independence signed? July 4th? August 2? Later? Why did John Hancock sign so prominently and hugely right in the middle? Did he have signature envy? What price did the signers pay for their patriotism? And how did the story of
#210 - Quote or No Quote: Oscar Wilde | Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Already Taken
Jun 26, 2017 • 5 min
Ah, Buzzkillers, good old Oscar Wilde, the author of so many excellent plays, novels, and poems. Dripping with epigrams, Oscar entertained literary circles in London, Paris and Dublin with his wit, often pairing philosophical and comical themes to excelle
#209 - The Age of Charisma
Jun 22, 2017 • 62 min
Professor Jeremy Young joins us to discuss the Age of Charisma (1870-1940). It was an exciting period in US history: industrialization was in high gear; railroads and telegraph lines were spreading widely; mass media was born; and increased concentration
#208 - Quote or No Quote: Eleanor Roosevelt | It’s Better to Light a Candle Than Curse the Darkness
Jun 19, 2017 • 5 min
We all love, and should live by the sentiment expressed in “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” But did Eleanor Roosevelt say it? Was it Confucius or an ancient Chinese proverb? Or does it come from the 19th century? We explore the ori
#207 - JFK: The Presidency
Jun 15, 2017 • 76 min
Professor Nash joins us to discuss the misconceptions and the realities of JFK’s presidency, its successes, its failures, and its legacies. We look specifically at the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and Civil Rights. And we address the question of whether
#206 - Special Episode: Eco-Soap Bank CNN Hero 2017
Jun 14, 2017 • 9 min
Samir Lakhani, the founder of Eco-Soap Bank (one of our Buzzkill partners) has been named a CNN Hero for 2017. We interview him about the project and how the CNN recognition has affected the Eco-Soap Bank. The Buzzkill Institute is committed to helping th
#205 - Quote or No Quote: Winston Churchill | Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…
Jun 12, 2017 • 4 min
The exact wording of the “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…” quote varies a little bit from time to time, but it essentially conveys the same message — Americans are a self-interested people, but they eventually do the right thi
#204 - Frank Lloyd Wright
Jun 8, 2017 • 73 min
Frank Lloyd Wright is the most famous architect in American history. But why is he so famous, and was it just about his architecture? In his own mind and in the popular mind, he is often considered a god and an artistic prophet. How did he become so famou
#203 - Quote or No Quote: Yogi Berra | It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again
Jun 5, 2017 • 4 min
One of Yogi Berra’s best-known “Yogi-isms,” “it’s like déjà vu all over again,” has a complicated history, Buzzkillers. He may have said “déjà vu all over again” after Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit back-to-back home runs in a Yankee game in 1961,
#202 - D-Day
Jun 1, 2017 • 74 min
D-Day, June 6, 1944, is one of the most well-known events of World War II. Why did it happen the way it did and why did it succeed? Was it the turning point in the war in Europe? How many other military operations were going on at the same time in Europe
#201 - Quote or No Quote: Albert Einstein | The Definition of Insanity
May 30, 2017 • 2 min
Albert Einstein was a scientific genius, and he often discussed many topics outside his field. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is attributed to
#200 - JFK: the Man and the Myths 1917-1963
May 25, 2017 • 88 min
John F. Kennedy was one of the most fascinating Presidents in US history. And perhaps more fascinating are the ways in which he is remembered by succeeding generations. In this first part of a three-part series, Professor Nash joins us to discuss JFK’s ba
#199 - Quote or No Quote: P. T. Barnum| There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute
May 22, 2017 • 3 min
P. T. Barnum, the famous 19th century American showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, is often quoted as saying “there’s a sucker born every minute.” This “quote” is usually trotted out to refer to something that con-men or other shysters who
#198 - Watergate Myths
May 15, 2017 • 19 min
Is Watergate the story of heroic journalists working against all odds and in great danger to get at the truth of presidential corruption? Is it more complicated than that? How accurate was All the President’s Men? Who really brought the Nixon presidency d
#197 - Quote or No Quote: Mark Twain | History Rhymes
May 8, 2017 • 2 min
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” according to Mark Twain, perhaps the most most-quoted writers and humorists in American literary history. But does the history of quoting Twain repeat itself, or does it simply rhyme? In this episode o
#196 - Legal Immigration to the United States
May 5, 2017 • 23 min
The history of immigration to the United States is very complicated, Buzzkillers! Millions of people came from all over the world to the United States, and there are almost as many myths about immigration as there were immigrants. What did it mean to come
#195 - Quote or No Quote: Harry Truman | The Buck Stops Here
May 1, 2017 • 5 min
Did President Harry Truman coin the phrase, “The Buck Stops Here”? Did he use the quote as a way to define his Presidency? And what does the phrase “I’m from Missouri” have to do with it? It’s all more more interesting than just a simple midwestern truism
#194 - Medieval Indulgences
Apr 26, 2017 • 46 min
What were “medieval indulgences”? Were they a way for rich people to buy their way into heaven, and help corrupt priests to line their own pockets at the same time? “Indulgences” aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but they became heavily used in the Middle Ag
#193 - Quote or No Quote: Hitler | Today Germany, Tomorrow the World
Apr 24, 2017 • 4 min
Most people believe they know what Adolf Hitler’s plans for a post-war world would be — German domination. After all, didn’t he say, “Today Germany, Tomorrow the World”? Well, Hitler certainly expressed ideas along these lines, although there is no recor
*Encore Episode* #169 - Quote or No Quote: Gandhi Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
Apr 18, 2017 • 5 min
Mohandas K. Gandhi should also be known as the Mahatma of Misquotation. Did he ever say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as we read in so many inspirational tweets and messages? Listen as Professor Buzzkill delves into the origin of this
*Encore Episode* #170- The Nuclear Button
Apr 14, 2017 • 17 min
What is the actual history behind “The Nuclear Button” and “The Nuclear Football”? And what has to happen before the missiles are launched? Is it automatic, or are there confirmation measures in place? Could we ever find ourselves in a Dr. Strangelove sce
#192 - Quote or No Quote: Titanic SOS
Apr 10, 2017 • 3 min
What do the letters “S.O.S.” actually stand for? “Save Our Ship”? “Save Our Souls”? And why were those three letters chosen? The Professor explains this famous quote, and also the myth that it was first used by telegraph operators on the Titan
#191 - Churchill, Fleming, and Penicillin
Apr 5, 2017 • 15 min
One of the absolute best stories emailed by your nutty uncle is the one where a young Scottish farmer boy saved a young English aristocrat from drowning. The aristocrat’s grateful father pays for the farmer boy’s education. That young farmer boy grows up
#190 - Quote or No Quote: Maya Angelou | A Bird…Sings Because It Has a Song
Apr 3, 2017 • 5 min
The phrase and sentiment, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song,” is one of the best-known expressions of the intrinsic nature of art and beauty. It has been quoted by presidents and school teachers, and practical
#189 - Drugs in the Third Reich
Mar 29, 2017 • 64 min
Was the Nazi high command, including Hitler, soaked in hard drug use? Over the course of the war, Hitler became increasingly dependent on injections of a cocktail of drug (including a form of heroin) administered by his personal doctor. Drugs alone cannot
#188 - Quote or No Quote: Voltaire | I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Mar 27, 2017 • 3 min
In times of political turmoil and rhetorical strife, commentators sometimes wheel out this old “quote” by the French philosopher and Enlightenment writer, Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” They
*Encore Episode* #170 - The Nuclear Button
Mar 22, 2017 • 17 min
What is the actual history behind “The Nuclear Button” and “The Nuclear Football”? And what has to happen before the missiles are launched? Is it automatic, or are there confirmation measures in place? Could we ever find ourselves in a Dr. Strangelove sce
*Encore Episode* #167 - Quote or No Quote: Churchill and Poisoned Tea
Mar 20, 2017 • 3 min
One Winston Churchill’s most famous quotes supposedly occurred at a social occasion in the 1920s, and went like this. Lady Astor (never one of Winston’s admirers) said, “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your tea.” Churchill replied, “
*Encore Episode* #93 - Mini-Myth: St. Patrck’s Day
Mar 15, 2017 • 13 min
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 g
#187 - Quote or No Quote: Gloria Steinem | A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle
Mar 13, 2017 • 4 min
The number of different images and different sayings or phrases printed on t-shirts exploded in the early 70s. And one of the most striking was the t-shirt from the women’s rights movement which said, “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle,” m
#186 - FDR’s Fireside Chats
Mar 8, 2017 • 72 min
President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” are famous for breaking new ground in how political leaders communicate with their people. But where they really as ground-breaking as we all tend to believe? Did they really help the American people get throug
#185 - Quote or No Quote: Abe Lincoln | Fool Some of the People
Mar 6, 2017 • 3 min
Have we all been fooled all the time by people applying this quote to Abraham Lincoln? Where did the quote originate? Honest Abe or someone else? When was it said? During the Lincoln-Douglas Debates? During the 1860 Presidential Election? Find out in this
#184 - Clean Wehrmacht
Mar 1, 2017 • 72 min
How “clean” was the regular German army (Wehrmacht) during World War II? The Nazis and the SS usually get all the blame for war crimes and for the Holocaust. How much blame can be placed at the feet of “ordinary” German military units? Turns out t
#183 - Quote or No Quote: Sigmund Freud | Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar
Feb 27, 2017 • 3 min
Many things seemed phallic to Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. But did this include the humble cigar? Or did Freud just dismiss overanalysis by saying, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”? What that a genuine Freudian quip? Did Groucho Marx agree?
#182 - Special Episode: All American Legacy “War’s End”
Feb 24, 2017 • 46 min
Join members of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army as they interview Professor Jennifer Keane and our own Professor Buzzkill! We discuss the complicated history of the end of World War I, as well as the historical legacy of the 82nd Airborne, the “
*Encore Episode* #107 - George Washington’s Political Beliefs
Feb 22, 2017 • 11 min
George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Wh
#181 - Quote or No Quote: Marilyn Monroe | Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History
Feb 20, 2017 • 4 min
Lots of people are credited with coining the great phrase, “well-behaved women rarely make history.” These include Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Boleyn, and our own Aunt Ginger from the Buzzkill Institute. Given time, any pow
#180 - Executive Orders
Feb 15, 2017 • 21 min
Huge numbers of listeners have flooded the Buzzkill Institute with emails, faxes, texts, and Tweets, asking about President Donald Trump’s Executive Orders. They’ve come so fast and furious! With a little help from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and
#179 - Quote or No Quote: St. Valentine | “Your Valentine”
Feb 13, 2017 • 4 min
Valentine’s Day is here again, Buzzkillers, and you can be certain that we’re depleting the Buzzkill bank account at a rapid clip so that we can give Lady Buzzkill all the best tokens of love and affection befitting her rank and station. And it’s al
#178 - Lumber Super Bowl Ad
Feb 7, 2017 • 9 min
The 2017 Super Bowl ad by 84 Lumber was dramatic and touching. It shows a Mexican mother and young daughter trying to get to the United States. They struggle for many days to reach the border, but are confronted by a huge obstacle when they get there. Fin
#177 - Quote or No Quote: Vince Lombardi
Feb 6, 2017 • 3 min
Legendary American football coach, Vince Lombardi, was fond of telling his players “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” He employed it many times to motivate them, as well having it posted all around the locker room. And he’s usually
#176 - The Marie Celeste
Feb 1, 2017 • 24 min
The tragic story of the ship “Marie Celeste” has been told for over a hundred years. And tale gets wilder and wilder every time. On December 5, 1872, the vessel was found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,400 miles west of Portugal. The crew and
#175 - Churchill Fighting for the Arts
Jan 30, 2017 • 3 min
At the height of World War II, the British people and British government finances were stretched to the limit. A journalist asked Winston Churchill if the government should cut funding for the arts. The Prime Minister replied, “Then what are we fighting
#174 - Rommel
Jan 25, 2017 • 64 min
German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel has gone down in history not only as a genius soldier and commander, but also as a military leader above politics, and a hero because he participated in the plot to kill Hitler. How much of this is true, and how much of t
#173 - Quote or No Quote: Martin Luther King | Arc of the Moral Universe Bends Toward Justice
Jan 23, 2017 • 10 min
Lots of people take comfort from the quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and it’s usually credited to Martin Luther King. He said it, but was it an original MLK thought?
#172 - Andrew Jackson
Jan 18, 2017 • 88 min
Who was Andrew Jackson? Youngest POW in the Revolutionary War. War hero in the War of 1812. Passionate dueler. Senator. Seventh President of the United States. Highly controversial historical figure. All these things! Listen as Professor Perry Blatz and I
#171 - Quote or No Quote: Patrick Henry Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
Jan 16, 2017 • 3 min
“Give me liberty or give me death,” Virginia patriot Patrick Henry was supposed to have said in a stirring speech, trying to convince his fellow Virginians to join with the other colonies in opposing British rule. We Buzzkill this quote and show that,
#170 - The Nuclear Button
Jan 11, 2017 • 17 min
What is the actual history behind “The Nuclear Button” and “The Nuclear Football”? And what has to happen before the missiles are launched? Is it automatic, or are there confirmation measures in place? Could we ever find ourselves in a Dr. Strangelove sce
#169 - Quote or No Quote: Gandhi Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
Jan 9, 2017 • 5 min
Mohandas K. Gandhi should also be known as the Mahatma of Misquotation. Did he ever say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as we read in so many inspirational tweets and messages? Listen as Professor Buzzkill delves into the origin of this
#168 - Eastern Front in World War II
Jan 4, 2017 • 66 min
What actually happened on the Eastern/Russian Front during World War II? Why did the Germans invade? And why did they get beaten? Was it the Russian winter? Was it the “Russian Horde”? Or are those myths? Super Buzzkiller Professor Nash joins us to ex
#167 - Quote or No Quote: Churchill and Poisoned Tea
Jan 2, 2017 • 3 min
One Winston Churchill’s most famous quotes supposedly occurred at a social occasion in the 1920s, and went like this. Lady Astor (never one of Winston’s admirers) said, “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your tea.” Churchill replied, “
#166 - Mini-Myth: Auld Lang Syne
Dec 29, 2016 • 15 min
Should old acquaintance be forgot? What? Should we forget old friends? Should we sing about remembering them. What does Auld Lang Syne actually mean? Why do we sing it every New Year’s Eve? Join the Professor as he waxes lyrical and sentimentally about
#165 - 12 Days of Christmas
Dec 27, 2016 • 14 min
Was there special, secret meaning behind the lyrics in the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas? Ten Lords a Leaping and Nine Ladies Dancing sounds like a pretty good party! But why wasn’t Professor Buzzkill invited? We explain it all and wis
#164 - Mini-Myth: Jesus Born on December 25th
Dec 22, 2016 • 4 min
Was Jesus born on December 25th, over 2000 years ago? Buzzkill Institute historians estimate that the chances are about three-tenths of one percent – or one out of 365. In other words, December 25th is as good a candidate for Jesus’s birthday as any o
#163 - WWI Christmas Truce
Dec 20, 2016 • 44 min
The truce between the trenches in Christmas 1914 is one of the most famous stories from World War I. Was it one big truce across the whole Western Front? Or was it lots of little ceasefires? How did it happen, and what did the soldiers do during the Chris
#162 - Mini-Myth: The Great Escape
Dec 15, 2016 • 18 min
The Great Escape (1963) is in the pantheon of World War II films, and deservedly so. Generations of Buzzkillers have grown up watching Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, and other film stars try to outsmart their captors at Stalag Luft III. But how true
#161 - Christian Relics
Dec 13, 2016 • 41 min
Christian churches and institutions, especially Catholic ones, keep a lot of relics. In some churches or reliquaries, you may see a small piece of the true cross, or a lock of St. John’s hair, or even an alleged piece of Christ’s foreskin – since al
#160 - Mini-Myth: Candy Canes
Dec 8, 2016 • 5 min
Candy canes are a well-known symbol of the holiday season, but what is the origin and meaning of this peculiar candy? Some say it was invented by a German choirmaster in the 17th century. Others say it was invented by an Indiana confectioner in the 19th c
#159 - Pearl Harbor
Dec 6, 2016 • 52 min
Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain the myths and misconceptions about the December 7th, 1941, as well as the complexities of the cultural importance of the attack since then. Did FDR know about the attack ahead of time? And who was the attack more de
#158 - Mini-Myth: Battle of New Orleans
Dec 1, 2016 • 5 min
In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’. We took a little bacon and we took a little beans. And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.” It’s a stirring folk song, perfect to stoke the p
#157 - Lincoln’s Civil War Letter to Mrs. Bixby
Nov 29, 2016 • 11 min
President Lincoln comforted Lydia Bixby over the loss of her five sons during the Civil War in the one of the most famous letters in American history. But what really happened to Mrs. Bixby’s five sons? Did they all die fighting for the Union? Or, were
#156 - Mini-Myth: Ben Franklin’s Turkey
Nov 24, 2016 • 8 min
One of the legendary stories that re-appear during Thanksgiving season is that no less a luminary and Founding Father than Ben Franklin thought that the bald eagle was an improper choice as national bird and a national symbol. Franklin preferred the more
*Encore Episode* #69 - Mini-Myth: Thanksgiving Popcorn
Nov 23, 2016 • 4 min
As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That’s how Americans got pop
#155 - American Thanksgiving
Nov 22, 2016 • 13 min
The Pilgrims and Indians sat down on the fourth Thursday of November in 16-something and started the first Thanksgiving dinner, right? You guessed it. Wrong! It took almost 300 years to get to Norman Rockwell’s painting and the Macy’s Parade. Listen a
#154 - Mini-Myth: Washington’s Vision at Valley Forge
Nov 17, 2016 • 14 min
Did George Washington have a vision one evening at Valley Forge? Did an angel descend and tell General George about the future of the country, and give him the emotional stamina to carry on and win the Revolutionary War? Or is this Revolutionary-era story
#153 - The Black Death
Nov 15, 2016 • 36 min
Was the Black Death really the most deadly disease in human history? And did it really come from outer space? From the time of the first plague outbreak all the way until now, the Black Death has ignited imaginations. Some cite it as the first example of
#152 - Mini-Myth: 1965 Blackout Increased Births
Nov 10, 2016 • 4 min
The blackout of November 1965 was a big event in the north-east of the United States and in Ontario. But did it result in an increase in babies born nine months later? When deprived of other “entertainments,” did people divert themselves with love? Sn
#151 - Nixon’s 1960 Presidential Election “Concession”
Nov 8, 2016 • 20 min
Did Richard Nixon genuinely “concede” the 1960 Presidential Election to John Kennedy the day after the election, as so many commentators now tell us? Or did he qualify his remarks so much, and work so feverishly behind the scenes to overturn the elect
*Encore Episode* #33 - Mini-Myth: Abner Doubleday and Baseball
Nov 6, 2016 • 7 min
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
#150 - Sore Losers in the 1860 Election
Nov 1, 2016 • 75 min
Professor Perry Blatz joins us to explain why democracy didn’t work well enough in the US election of 1860, and why it led to the Civil War. The Democratic party split over the issue of slavery, the Republicans were fraught over the issue, and a whole n
*Encore Episode* #63 - Mini-Myth: Halloween
Oct 31, 2016 • 11 min
Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban le
#149 - Mini-Myth: Men Dressed as Women to Get into Titanic Lifeboats
Oct 27, 2016 • 4 min
We look at the story that men dressed as women to get into lifeboats escaping the sinking Titanic, which struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York close to midnight on 14 April 1912. Didn’t those men know that it’s “women and children first
#148 - Hitler in World War II
Oct 25, 2016 • 63 min
Super Buzzkiller Professor Philip Nash joins us to dispel myths about Hitler during World War II. We talk about strategic and operational blunders (especially Operation Barbarossa), harsh occupation policies, declaration of war against the US, and imperia
#147 - Mini-Myth: Churchill Born in a Closet
Oct 20, 2016 • 3 min
Churchill wouldn’t be Churchill if there weren’t myths about him from the very beginning. Stories about his birth in 1874 usually include the “facts” that he was born in a closet or ladies’ room at Blenheim Palace. The birth was premature, drama
#146 - Marco Polo
Oct 18, 2016 • 23 min
Marco Polo was a Venetian Merchant who left Europe in 1271 at age 17, traveled all around the Mongol Empire in the time of Genghis’ grandson Kublai Khan, and then came back to Europe in 1295, age 41. But did he really go on this trip, or are the stories
*Encore Episode* #83 - Mini-Myth: Levi Strauss, Jacob Davis, and Blue Jeans
Oct 13, 2016 • 5 min
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 exploitatio
#145 - The Winchester Rifle
Oct 11, 2016 • 45 min
Laura Trevelyan from the BBC joins us to discuss to her new book, Winchester: the Rifle that Built an American Dynasty. She busts myths about the famous rifle and family, and explains it’s importance in American history. Recorded live in Georgetown, Was
*Encore Episode* #106 - Mini-Myth: The Hindenburg Disaster
Oct 6, 2016 • 6 min
The 1937 Hindenburg disaster was one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. And it certainly was dramatically reported. But what if the report we’re used to hearing was partly the result of a mechanical error in the recording equipment? What if
#144 - Kennedy-Nixon Debates
Oct 4, 2016 • 10 min
Did radio listeners really think that Nixon won the first 1960 presidential debate, while TV viewers thought the more telegenic Kennedy won? This story is the most repeated myth in the history of presidential debates. The Professor explains why. Make sure
#143 - Mini-Myth: White House Painted White after War of 1812
Sep 29, 2016 • 3 min
The White House is called the “White House” because it was painted white to cover up the fire damage from its burning by the British army in 1814, right? Well, no. But that’s the myth that has been flying around the internet for years. Unfortunately
#142 - Hitler In Power
Sep 27, 2016 • 52 min
Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine the many myths surrounding Adolf Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to the outbreak of World War II. These include: how Nazi Germany functioned; the myth of purely tyrannical dictatorship; and the myth of
#141 - Mini-Myth: General Hooker’s hookers
Sep 22, 2016 • 4 min
Was Civil War Union General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker’s last name the origin of the slang term for prostitute? He had a perhaps undeserved reputation as a party animal, but did that reputation actually add a new word to the language? Find out,
#140 - Genghis Khan
Sep 20, 2016 • 35 min
So you think you know all about Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongol who built an enormous empire by slaughtering millions? but much of what you know is either exaggerated or just plain untrue. He was unmistakably brutal, but not as brutal as you may thi
#139 - Mini-Myth: Issac Newton and the Apple
Sep 15, 2016 • 5 min
Hello again, fellow Buzzkillers. In this week’s mini-myth, we tackle Isaac Newton’s famous apple – an object we all heard about in grade school that allegedly hit Isaac Newton on the head some time in 1666, causing him to have a sudden epiphany abou
#138 - Hitler’s Early Years
Sep 13, 2016 • 66 min
Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine some of the zillion myths surrounding Adolf Hitler and his early years. We discuss the myth of his brutal childhood and youthful poverty, the complicated story of his service in World War I (and the wa
*Encore Episode* #90 - George Washington Crossing the Delaware
Sep 8, 2016 • 3 min
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
#137 - Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel
Sep 6, 2016 • 5 min
Everybody knows that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, but how did he do it? Did he really paint the entire ceiling from atop a scaffold while reclining on his back? Well, yes and no. In some cases, the truth is even more amazing than the myth, and
#136 -Mini-Myth: Ring Around the Rosie
Sep 1, 2016 • 4 min
“Ring Around the Rosie” has been a popular nursery rhyme for a very long time. Many of us learned it when we were children. But we often hear people claim that the rhyme is traceable to the time of the Black Plague, and that each line is a morbid remi
#135 - Bridge on the River Kwai
Aug 30, 2016 • 4 min
In the Academy Award-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson is portrayed as a man who willingly betrays his country and his men for an easier ride as prisoner of war. He collaborates with his captors in order to build a railway brid
#134 - Mini-Myth: JFK Hatless at Inauguration
Aug 25, 2016 • 3 min
The silk top hat was common headwear in high society from the middle of the 18th century all the way to at least the beginning of the 20th. By the middle of the 20th century, however, the top hat was in rapid decline – and many blame President John F. K
#133 - Stonehenge
Aug 23, 2016 • 8 min
Who built the ancient monument, Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in England? Merlin and King Arthur? The Devil? The Druids? And what was it used for? Religious rituals? As a solar or seasonal calendar? A burial site? Or as site of ancient healing? Find out,
#132 - Mini-Myth: African-American Athletes at the 1936 Olympics
Aug 18, 2016 • 4 min
Like most Americans, I suppose I assumed that Jesse Owens was the only African-American athlete at the 1936 Olympic Games. A new documentary, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice not only shows that there were 18 African-American athletes on the US team in B
#131 - The Olympics
Aug 16, 2016 • 9 min
The idea that the “original” Olympics in ancient Greece (which ran from 776 BC to AD 393) were only open to amateurs, void of cheating and corruption, free from commercialism, and a time of peace across Greece is just a myth. It didn’t exist in Gree
#130 - Mini-Myth: Polish and American Enigma Codebreakers
Aug 11, 2016 • 4 min
Enigma, the German World War II message encoding machine, was famously cracked by British codebreakers led by Alan Turing. But were there more people involved? Buzzkillers in Dayton, Ohio, will be very proud to hear that one of their native sons, Joseph D
*Encore Episode* #84 - Whackadoodle Presidential Candidates
Aug 9, 2016 • 69 min
It’s election time, Buzzkillers! Should we pillory Hillary? Throw the Trumpster in the dumpster? Distinguished historians join me to discuss “fringe” candidates from the glorious American past. Listen in and cast your vote!
#129 - Mini-Myth: Slaves Built The Pyramids
Aug 4, 2016 • 4 min
It’s the classic image from Hollywood movies about ancient Egypt — slaves (usually Israelites) building the pyramids under the harsh lash of their masters. While Egyptian pyramid builders might have been harsh, relationships with their workers were muc
*Encore Episode* #107 - George Washington’s Political Beliefs
Aug 2, 2016 • 8 min
George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Wh
#128 - Mini-Myth: Medieval Torture Devices
Jul 28, 2016 • 3 min
This week’s MiniMyth takes on the Iron Maiden! No, not the heavy metal band, the “medieval torture device.” We also look at the Pear of Anguish and the Spanish Chair. Take extra pain medication, Buzzkillers, this episode rips apart a big historical
#127 - Hitler, Jesse Owens, and the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Jul 26, 2016 • 12 min
Hitler storming out of the stadium after Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of most enduring images we have of the tumultuous history of Nazi Germany. Hitler famously “snubbed” Jesse Owens and all African-American at
#126 - Mini-Myth: Venus de Milo
Jul 22, 2016 • 2 min
The Venus de Milo is considered one of the most beautiful representations of ancient Greek sculpture. But she is probably more famous for her missing arms. Were they really broken off in a fight over her by zealous archaeologists? And what would she look
#125 - Amelia Earhart
Jul 19, 2016 • 12 min
Was Amelia Earhart really an important aviation pioneer? Did she deserve all the attention she got? Hell yes, Buzzkillers! She was an aviation rock star! What she did was amazing, and an important part of her contribution to the 20th century was promoting
#124 - Mini-Myth: School’s Out for Summer
Jul 14, 2016 • 4 min
In 2010, Time magazine called the traditional school year calendar a “legacy of the farm economy.” And a few years later, National Public Radio referred to summer vacation as having its origins in an “agrarian calendar that dates back to farm cycles
#123 - Molly Pitcher
Jul 12, 2016 • 8 min
“Molly Pitcher” was the legendary water carrier who kept American soldiers hydrated and poured cool water on cannon barrels during the crucial Battle of Monmouth in 1778. But was she a real person? If so, who was she? As you’ll find out, Buzzkillers
#122 - Mini-Myth: The Liberty Bell
Jul 7, 2016 • 6 min
Was the Liberty Bell used to announce the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776? Did get its crack from zealous and patriotic bell-ringing? Those are the standard stories, Buzzkillers. But, like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, there
#121 - Bombing of Dresden
Jul 5, 2016 • 36 min
The bombing of Dresden on 13-14 February 1945 was one of the most destructive of the Allies’ late-war bombing campaigns over Germany. Somewhere between 22,000 and 25,000 people were killed and a famously beautiful city was leveled. It’s been called an
#120 - Mini-Myth: Star Spangled Banner
Jun 30, 2016 • 3 min
The Star Spangled Banner has been the national anthem of the United States since its founding, right? Wrong. Francis Scott Key wrote it 1814, and the song didn’t become the official national anthem until 1931, 117 years after it was written, and 155 yea
#119 - Douglas MacArthur Part 2
Jun 28, 2016 • 46 min
Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous and celebrated generals in American history. Along with Patton, however, he’s one of the most misunderstood and most mythologized. Born in the 19th century, MacArthur served in both World Wars, the Korean War,
#118 - Mini-Myth: Hitler Didn’t Dance that Jig
Jun 23, 2016 • 3 min
Did Adolph Hitler really dance a little victory jig after the surrender of France in June 1940? Could such a nasty and maniacal person really show such light-hearted emotion? Turns out that high-quality film editing and special effects by the British wart
#117 - Douglas MacArthur Part 1
Jun 21, 2016 • 46 min
Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous and celebrated generals in American history. Along with Patton, however, he’s one of the most misunderstood and most mythologized. Born in the 19th century, MacArthur served in both World Wars, the Korean War,
#116 - Mini-Myth: Eve and the Apple
Jun 16, 2016 • 1 min
Many of us “know” that, in the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by a serpent to eat an apple from the tree of knowledge. She ate the apple and that led to God expelling her and Adam from the Garden of Eden. This is known as the “Fall of Man.” But w
#115 - Paul Revere
Jun 14, 2016 • 8 min
Listen, oh Buzzkillers, and you shall hear, the true story of the Ride of Paul Revere. Silversmith, patriot, brave man and true, but he wasn’t the only one to carry the news.
#114 - Mini-Myth: Titantic
Jun 9, 2016 • 4 min
The myths about the RMS Titanic, which sank on April 15, 2012, are themselves so big and numerous that we could call them titanic in their own right. In fact, they’ve lasted so long they might be considered unsinkable. Listen and learn the real story, B
#113 - Scopes Trial
Jun 7, 2016 • 33 min
On April 24, 1925, a high school teacher named John Scopes taught a class in Dayton, Tennessee, using a state-mandated textbook that included a chapter explaining Darwin’s theory of evolution. In doing so, Scopes was in violation of Tennessee’s Butler
#112 - Mini-Myth: Pony Express
Jun 2, 2016 • 3 min
The image of the Pony Express is very strong in the American consciousness. Here’s what we “remember” — a rider galloping as fast as the wind through the wild west, ignoring the elements, dodging hostile Native Americans, and delivering the mail.
#111 - Workers Entombed in Concrete
May 31, 2016 • 6 min
The image of the Pony Express is very strong in the American consciousness. Here’s what we “remember” — a rider galloping as fast as the wind through the wild west, ignoring the elements, dodging hostile Native Americans, and delivering the mail.
#110 - Mini-Myth: Spanish Flu
May 26, 2016 • 2 min
The great influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 was the one of the worst disasters in human history. Somewhere between 50 and 100 million people were killed by the flu world-wide. But did it start in Spain? Was the Spanish health-care system to blame. Listen an
#109 - St Francis of Assisi
May 24, 2016 • 39 min
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular saints in the Christian religion. He’s known as a lover of animals, the first eco-warrior, and a peace-negotiator during the crusades. How much of this is true, and how much is myth? “Make me the instru
#108 - Mini-Myth: Ty Cobb
May 19, 2016 • 3 min
Was the Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach, rotten to the core? He is often referred to as one of greatest baseball players of all time. But was his professional greatness mirrored by personal reprehensibility? As is so often the case, his soiled reputation was m
#107 - George Washington’s Political Beliefs
May 17, 2016 • 8 min
George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Wh
#106 - Mini-Myth: The Hindenburg Disaster
May 12, 2016 • 6 min
The 1937 Hindenburg disaster was one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. And it certainly was dramatically reported. But what if the report we’re used to hearing was partly the result of a mechanical error in the recording equipment? What if
#105 - Cocaine in Coca Cola
May 10, 2016 • 7 min
For decades, a story flew around that Coke was originally full of coke, as in cocaine. The early developers of Coca-Cola stirred cocaine into its famous syrup, so the legend goes. Once mixed with energizing carbonated water, early Coca-Cola became irresis
#104 - Mini-Myth: Bra Burning
May 5, 2016 • 2 min
Did women’s rights protesters go so far as to burn their bras in public in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the same way that anti-war protesters burned their draft cards? Well, no, Buzzkillers. They did throw them in “freedom trash cans,” along w
*Encore Episode* #80 - The Molly Maguires
May 3, 2016 • 44 min
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 r
#103 - Mini-Myth: Cowboy Hat
Apr 28, 2016 • 1 min
Everyone loves the cowboy hat. Even if you don’t wear one, you want to see your cowboy movie heroes wearing one. Anything else would be un-American, right? Wrong. The classic, iconic cowboy hat design didn’t appear until 1865 and didn’t become popul
#102 - Currency Changes
Apr 26, 2016 • 13 min
The U.S. Treasury has finally taken our advice, Buzzkillers! Harriet Tubman will be the new image on the $20 bill. It took a lot of work on our part to convince the old fuddy-duddies at Treasury to make the change, but it was worth it. You’re welcome, A
*Encore Presentation* #10 - Mini-Myth: Queen Victoria
Apr 21, 2016 • 1 min
Queen Victoria Not Amused? There is no good evidence for the quote “we are not amused” being uttered by Queen Victoria. The original story is dubious, Buzzkillers. Find out why. Read more at http://professorbuzzkill.libsyn.com/page/5/size/25#1qF2mSbO6
*Encore Presentation* #84 - Whackadoodle Presidential Candidates
Apr 19, 2016 • 68 min
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 ca
#101 - Mini-Myth: My Name Is Mud
Apr 15, 2016 • 2 min
Is there any truth to the story that the saying, “my name is/will be mud,” or “your name is/will be mud,” refers to the stain on Dr. Samuel Mudd’s reputation based on his relationship with John Wilkes Booth in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assass
#100 - General Patton
Apr 12, 2016 • 78 min
General George Patton was one of the most famous, colorful, and talked about US generals in World War II. He is also among the most misunderstood military men in history. Famously played by George C. Scott in a 1970 movie, Patton’s image is one of the m
#99 - Pre Dawn Raid: Palin and Patton
Apr 11, 2016 • 2 min
It’s an American election year, Buzzkillers, and we can absolutely count on misquotes and other abuses of history. Join us on this Pre-Dawn Raid as we expose Sarah Palin’s mis-use of General George Patton during this year’s election. It’s a doozy!
#98 - Mini-Myth: Twinkie Defense
Apr 7, 2016 • 4 min
Was a junk food diet really used as a defense in a murder case? Did the Twinkie do it? Alas, Buzzkillers, the answer is no, but the story about this myth is fascinating. Sit back, unwrap one of your favorite snacks, listen and learn!
#97 - Woodrow Wilson
Apr 5, 2016 • 56 min
Prof. Phil Nash joins us once again to bust US history myths. This time it’s about President Woodrow Wilson. How much of a progressive was he? What were his real attitudes towards race? How much idealism did he pump into his policies on foreign affairs?
#96 - Mini-Myth: Rasputin’s Death
Mar 31, 2016 • 7 min
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, bea
#95 - Chief Seattle
Mar 29, 2016 • 16 min
“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 natura
*Encore Episode* #66 - Mini-Myth: The Alamo
Mar 24, 2016 • 5 min
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?
#94 - Amazing Grace
Mar 22, 2016 • 13 min
“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 misunderstan
#93 - Mini-Myth: St. Patrick’s Day
Mar 17, 2016 • 9 min
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 g
*Encore Episode* #65 - Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guards
Mar 15, 2016 • 72 min
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 live
*Encore Episode* #27 - Mini-Myth: Great Train Robbery
Mar 10, 2016 • 2 min
“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. F
#92 - Conflicts Unending
Mar 9, 2016 • 36 min
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 i
*Encore Episode* #19 - Mini-Myth: Einstein Wasn’t Bad at Math
Mar 3, 2016 • 3 min
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 m
#91 - USS Indianapolis
Mar 1, 2016 • 11 min
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 prompte
#90 - Mini-Myth: George Washington Crossing the Delaware
Feb 25, 2016 • 3 min
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
#89 - Atomic Bomb Myths
Feb 23, 2016 • 58 min
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
*Encore Episode* #49 - Mini-Myth: African-American Code Quilts
Feb 11, 2016 • 4 min
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
#85 - Mini-Myth: Droit du Seigneur
Feb 5, 2016 • 2 min
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 import
Professor Buzzkill #41 - Whackadoodle Presidential Candidates
Feb 2, 2016 • 68 min
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 ca
#83 - Mini-Myth: Levi Strauss, Jacob Davis, and Blue Jeans
Jan 28, 2016 • 5 min
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 exploitatio
*Encore Episode* #35 - Mini-Myth: Hitler and the Volkswagen
Jan 15, 2016 • 5 min
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
#80 - The Molly Maguires
Jan 12, 2016 • 44 min
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 r
*Encore Episode* #33 - Mini-Myth: Abner Doubleday and Baseball
Jan 7, 2016 • 3 min
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
*Encore Episode* #62 - War of the Worlds “Hysteria”
Jan 5, 2016 • 32 min
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!
#79 - Mini-Myth: New Year’s Eve/Day
Dec 31, 2015 • 5 min
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
*Encore Episode* #70 -The Sound Of Music
Dec 30, 2015 • 21 min
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! Read more at
*Encore Episode* #46 - The Literary Churchill
Dec 28, 2015 • 35 min
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 Churc
#77 - Mini-Myth: Santa Claus
Dec 24, 2015 • 5 min
Who was Santa Claus, Buzzkillers? The jolly old man from Miracle on 34th Street? The round-bellied man wearing a red costume, driving a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny reindeer? Was there a Rudolph involved?
#75 - Mini-Myth: Rule of Thumb
Dec 18, 2015 • 3 min
The rule of thumb about history myths is that they’re persistent. Ever hear the one about an ancient law that allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick as long as it was not thicker than his thumb? Well, it’s a myth, Buzzkillers. But how it became a
#73 - Mini-Myth: Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake”
Dec 10, 2015 • 3 min
The one thing that everyone knows about Marie Antoinette (Queen of France in the late 18th century) is that, when told that the peasant were starving because they had no bread, said, “then let them eat cake.” How cold is that, Buzzkillers? It’s Roya
#71 - Mini-Myth: Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, and Ub Iwerks
Dec 3, 2015 • 3 min
Walt Disney is one of the most famous names in entertainment. But have you ever heard of Ub Iwerks? Good old Ub was the real artistic genius behind many of Disney’s most beloved characters, including Mickey Mouse. Yet there is no IwerksWorld, no Iwerks
#69 - Mini-Myth: Thanksgiving Popcorn
Nov 26, 2015 • 4 min
As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That’s how Americans got pop
*Encore Episode* #16 -Mini-Myth: Jumping Wall Street Stockbrokers
Nov 19, 2015 • 1 min
The weather report for the morning of October 29, 1929, the day of the famous Wall Street Crash, called for falling stockbrokers. Ruined businessmen were supposed to be flinging themselves out of their high office windows in despair. Alas, Buzzkillers, fo
#66 - Mini-Myth: The Alamo
Nov 12, 2015 • 5 min
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?
#64 - Mini-Myth: Guy Fawkes
Nov 4, 2015 • 5 min
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot…. Children’s rhymes make poor history. So do modern day movies, like V for Vendetta. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators weren’t radicals fighting for the working people. So wh
*Encore Episode* #36 - Black Adder and World War 1
Nov 3, 2015 • 47 min
It’s time to go over the top, Buzzkillers! We interview Professor Richard Grayson about the wildly popular BBC television series, BlackAdder, and how close it was to historical reality. There are probably more myths about war than any other part of hist
#63 - Mini-Myth: Halloween
Oct 29, 2015 • 11 min
Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban le
#61 - Mini-Myth: Patrick Henry “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”
Oct 22, 2015 • 4 min
“Give me liberty or give me death,” Virginia patriot Patrick Henry was supposed to have said in a stirring speech before the American Revolution. We Buzzkill this quote and show that, like most “quotes,” it was written decades after the event. Dow
*Encore Episode* #32 - The Cultural Cold War
Oct 20, 2015 • 28 min
The Cold War was about more than nuclear missles and bomb shelters, Buzzkillers. Literature and art were weapons in the Cultural Cold War, according to Professor Greg Barnhisel. He overturns decades-old myths about Cold War era writers and artists who wer
#60 - Mini-Myth: Magellan Didn’t Circumnavigate the Globe
Oct 15, 2015 • 2 min
He may have had a GPS system named after him, but Ferdinand Magellan wouldn’t have needed it during his trip around the globe back in the early 1500s. He only made it halfway, dying in the Phillipines at the hands of natives who got sick of him asking f
#59 - Cuban Missile Crisis
Oct 13, 2015 • 69 min
The Cuban Missile Crisis! Kennedy, Castro, Khrushchev, missiles, submarines, cigars! It was the closest we’ve gotten to World War III and nuclear annihilation. Professor Philip Nash joins us in the Buzzkill Bunker as we sweat the details an
#58 - Mini-Myth: Witches Burned at the Stake at Salem
Oct 8, 2015 • 2 min
Burn the witch! Burn the witch! It makes for a dramatic story, with about as final an ending as you can imagine. Suspected witches were nabbed, put on trial, convicted, and burned at the stake in the 1690s in Massachusetts. But it’s just not true. The c
#56 - Mini-Myth: Lee Offered His Sword to Grant
Oct 1, 2015 • 2 min
It’s a great “Gone with the Wind” romantic-type story. The defeated, but honorable, General Robert E. Lee offered his sword to the victor, U.S. Grant, during the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. Grant, just as honorably, refused
*Encore Episode* #22 - Family Names Changed at Ellis Island
Sep 29, 2015 • 28 min
Did your great-granny tell you that your family name was Americanized at Ellis Island? Well, either she was mainlining the dinner sherry, or she had bought into an old historical myth. Join the Buzzkill team as they walk Vito Corleone and other immigrants
#55 - Mini-Myth: Walt Disney
Sep 24, 2015 • 2 min
#53 - Pre Dawn Raid: Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment
Sep 18, 2015 • 11 min
The Republican Primary this year will see a lot of havering between all the different candidates. They all will be breaking Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Speak ill of a Fellow Republican.” The historical problem is that Re
#52 - Mini-Myth: Sir Walter Raleigh, Potatoes, and Tobacco
Sep 17, 2015 • 2 min
Almost nothing about Sir Walter Raleigh is true, or at the very least it’s all been highly exaggerated. He didn’t lay his cloak down for Queen Elizabeth, and he didn’t introduce potatoes and tobacco to Europe after his travels in the New World. He c
*Encore Episode* #34 - The Houses of Parliament
Sep 15, 2015 • 42 min
The Buzzkill has landed! Right in the heart of London, in Parliament Square. We interview Dr. Caroline Shenton, from the Parliamentary Archives, about myths surrounding the Houses of Parliament. We broadcast directly from Westminster Hall, the oldest and
#51 - Mini-Myth: Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned
Sep 10, 2015 • 2 min
Did the Roman emperor Nero really fiddle while his glorious city of Rome burned? Politicians may often be bad guys, Buzzkillers, but there’s no good evidence for this level of mania in old Nero. It’s a good story, but that’s all it is, a story.
#49 - Mini-Myth: African-American Code Quilts
Sep 3, 2015 • 4 min
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
#47 - Mini-Myth: Catherine the Great Died while Attempting to Have Sex with a Horse
Aug 27, 2015 • 1 min
Find any fraternity member who’s also a freshman history major. Get him drunk, and he’ll start reeling off myths like crazy. One of them will probably be that Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (1729-1796) died by being crushed by a horse. While s
#46 - Literary Churchill
Aug 25, 2015 • 34 min
Inside Churchill’s Brain 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
#45 - Mini-Myth: Napoleon Short?
Aug 20, 2015 • 1 min
You’ve probably always seen Napoleon depicted as a shorty. And you may have heard that his ambition was driven by a classic “short man’s complex.” Alas, it’s not true. At least not by his measured height. The nickname came about differently. Lis
*Encore Episode* #12 - Rosa Parks
Aug 18, 2015 • 34 min
eek and mild Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1950s Alabama because she was just tired after a long day at work. That’s mostly myth, and it obscures all the work that Mrs. Parks did, as well as over-simplifying the complicat
#44 - Mini-Myth: Ben Franklin and Electricity
Aug 14, 2015 • 2 min
Did Ben Franklin really discover electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm? Well, he may have flown the kite, Buzzkillers, but knowledge of electricity’s been around a long, long time. Take the journey of discovery back in time with the old Prof
#42 - Mini-Myth: George Washington Carver and Peanut Butter
Aug 7, 2015 • 5 min
Like all good Americans, I just had a PB&J for lunch. I couldn’t help thinking of George Washington Carver, the reputed inventor of peanut butter. You won’t be surprised to hear that the invention of peanut butter is much more complicated (and more im
#40 -Mini-Myth: Lady Godiva Riding Naked Through Coventry
Jul 30, 2015 • 2 min
What a great way to get taxes lowered! Get your land-owning husband to agree to lower property taxes if you ride naked on horseback right down main street. That’s just what Lady Godiva agreed to do in 11th century England in order to get her tight-fiste
#38 - Mini-Myth: Caesar Wasn’t Born by Caesarian Section
Jul 23, 2015 • 2 min
It’s an exciting and romantic tale: a future Roman hero has to be cut out of his mother’s womb as she’s dying in childbirth. The procedure is later named after the famous baby who survived — Julius Caesar. Alas, the story is as mythological as the
#37 - Pre Dawn Raid: US-Cuba Relations
Jul 22, 2015 • 3 min
The Cuban Embassy in Washington DC re-opened yesterday, symbolizing the thaw in US-Cuba relations in the past year. This is all warm and fuzzy, but we look at one of the most important historical myths of US-Cuba relations since the start of the Cold…
#36 - Black Adder and World War 1
Jul 21, 2015 • 47 min
It’s time to go over the top, Buzzkillers! We interview Professor Richard Grayson about the wildly popular BBC television series, BlackAdder, and how close it was to historical reality. There are probably more myths about war than any other part of hist
#35 - Mini-Myth: Hitler and the Volkswagen
Jul 16, 2015 • 5 min
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
#34 - The Houses of Parliament
Jul 14, 2015 • 41 min
The Buzzkill has landed! Right in the heart of London, in Parliament Square. We interview Dr. Caroline Shenton, from the Parliamentary Archives, about myths surrounding the Houses of Parliament. We broadcast directly from Westminster Hall, the oldest and
#33 - Mini-Myth: Abner Doubleday and Baseball
Jul 9, 2015 • 3 min
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…
#31 - Mini-Myth: JFK Not a Jam Doughnut
Jul 2, 2015 • 3 min
Cold War Berlin was a tense place, and certainly not the place to make an embarrassing gaffe in a major speech. So it’s a good thing that President Kennedy didn’t call himself a jam doughnut while speaking to a massive crowd in front of the Berlin Wal
#29 - Mini-Myth: Captain Cook Didn’t Discover Australia
Jun 25, 2015 • 2 min
Pity the poor Dutch, Buzzkillers!. They travelled all over the world and get almost no credit for it. Captain James Cook of England wasn’t the first European to discover Australia. Willem Janszoon was. Ever heard of him? I didn’t think so.
#27 - Mini-Myth: Great Train Robbery
Jun 19, 2015 • 2 min
“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. F
#26 - Pre Dawn Raid: Battle of Waterloo
Jun 18, 2015 • 5 min
June 15th is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Buzzkillers. But was it such a big deal? Does it deserve the attention and praise it’s gotten? Join the Professor’s Pre-Dawn Raid to find out!
#24 - Pre Dawn Raid: Magna Carta
Jun 15, 2015 • 4 min
Robin Hood did not force King John to sign Magna Carta. Neither did King Arthur or Merlin, or Gandalf for that matter. Magna Carta (800 years old today) is a cluster-bomb of myths. The Professor defuses them and makes the world safe for democracy!
#23 - Mini-Myth: Betsy Ross Didn’t Sew the First American Flag
Jun 12, 2015 • 4 min
It’s a great and heart-warming story, Buzzkillers, but meek and modest Betsy Ross did not design or sew the first American flag. The story itself follows the classic myth pattern, a second-hand family tale that caught on with a receptive public. Listen
#21 - Mini-Myth: Reagan not up for Casablanca
Jun 4, 2015 • 2 min
Warner Bros Studios pumped out this myth, Buzzkillers, before production had even started on the movie. But Bogie had the part all along!
#19 - Mini-Myth: Einstein wasn’t Bad at Math
May 28, 2015 • 3 min
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 m
#16 - Mini-Myth: Jumping Wall Street Stockbrokers
May 21, 2015 • 1 min
The weather report for the morning of October 29, 1929, the day of the famous Wall Street Crash, called for falling stockbrokers. Ruined businessmen were supposed to be flinging themselves out of their high office windows in despair. Alas, Buzzkillers, fo
#13 - Mini-Myth: Vikings Didn’t Wear Horned Helmets into Battle
May 14, 2015 • 1 min
A Viking horned helmet would have been very impractical, and perhaps dangerous, in battle, Buzzkillers. There is only one depiction of a horned helmet in ancient Nordic art, and it was probably ceremonial. Horned helmets are most likely the invention of l
#12 - Rosa Parks
May 12, 2015 • 34 min
Meek and mild Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1950s Alabama because she was just tired after a long day at work. That’s mostly myth, and it obscures all the work that Mrs. Parks did, as well as over-simplifying the complica
Pre Dawn Raid #2
May 8, 2015 • 1 min
Kristollized Churchill Quotes. We point to a recent article in New York Magazine, exposing the bromance that Bill Kristol of Fox News has with the memory of Winston Churchill and the Munich Crisis of 1938. Get a life, Bill, and listen to Professor Buzzkil