Mind Candy

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Historical facts your teachers got wrong

Posted by mandyf on August 14, 2012

History has a way of getting distorted over the years. Just like some people today will say they slept with hundreds of partners, inflate their income, or lie on a resume, people did the same thing in the past. Sometimes jokes get taken out of context, or we’ve just heard something so many times we start to accept it as the truth without even thinking it could be wrong for a second. There are literally hundreds – probably thousands – of things in history that are presented out of context today, but rather than try to run them all down, here a re a few fun ones from the esteemed C. Coville who really gets into finding this stuff.

The wild wild west wasn’t in all reality very wild or violent – it was just west. Thanks to decades of western movies and shows that presented crazy gunfights with gun slingers dropping people just for looking at them wrong, the old west murder rate was actually pretty much negligible – in town at least. In reality, the bloodiest year an old west town saw was five murders. A decent L.A. drive by does that in maybe 15 seconds?

Even the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral only resulted in 3 deaths, and the average murder rate for a town was only 1.5 per year during the old west era. Guns didn’t really allow for all the cool stuff we see in movies like rapid fire and fanning. Gunfights weren’t even contests of quick draw skills, they were more or less duels where guys stood X amount of paces apart and kept firing until someone died. Sometimes they even had to stop to reload. How wild and bloody is that?

How about the 1968 feminist bra burning outside of the Miss America pageant held in New York City? The short answer is it never happened. There was a feminist protest, and there were women that removed their bras, girdles, high heels, and tossed them into a barrel along with assorted fashion magazines and the like but there was no fire. No bras were burned n the staging of the protest. Nothing was burned period and you can check the fire and police logs to back that up. There wasn’t even anyone getting naked, they came prepared with their bras and other items in hand. What a rip off, naked hippie chicks are cool.

A favorite historical myth is that America went nuts when the “War of the Worlds” was aired. It has to be true because the newspapers ran stories about it happening, the radio announcers said people had done gone and lost their minds, Life magazine had a picture of a guy armed with a shotgun prepared to defend his land, and even Adolf Hitler commented Americans were nuts to go into hysterics over it. It’s a great story, but it’s just a story.

The Life magazine photo was staged, it was just a random guy with a gun they got to pose for a picture. Newspaper and the radio hams picked up on it and spread the story. If you go back and try to find any evidence of mass hysterics there isn’t any. People that were alive for it never seem to recall seeing any hysterics, but they have stories about other people that told them they saw other people engaged in general lunacy. So much for the little green man hysteria.

Some people – actually a lot of people – believe the Iron Maiden was perhaps the ultimate medieval torture device. Check out the photo of one opened up – it’s pretty horrific. A live body would be placed inside and impaled by all the spikes which were designed to provide a slow agonizing death if the victim was to actually be left for dead. They could be removed and tortured with other devices – it was an option.

Here’s the problem – the Iron Maiden was not a medieval era torture device, and try as you may find anything reputable that says they were ever used or even existed prior to the 1700’s. is it possible they date back to those days – sure it’s possible. It’s possible a monkey will spring forth from your backside also, it just isn’t very likely. One would hope it isn’t likely at least. So far as all those Iron Maidens you see in museums, well most can be dated to the 18th century when they were popular items for traveling exhibits that displayed the odd and gruesome. It really is that simple.

While the list could go on and on, these are just a few fun things to pique your curiosity and maybe get you thinking that just because it’s on TV, or just because you heard something somewhere over and over, it may be questionable.


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