While there’s certainly enough happening in the world to delight and entertain us for the rest of our lives, it’s unfortunately part of the human condition to always want a little more. As such, we sometimes want to believe things that can’t possibly be true. Sometimes, we do it collectively. And that’s how rumors are born.
To be sure, many popular myths are quickly proven false (no, McDonald’s burgers are not made from rat meat), but an inspirational few remain pervasive throughout the years. You know: tale about the history-shifting physicist who failed math, meaning you too can bounce back from any bump in the road. Or the one about the Holy Grail. And then, of course, there are the myriad stories about alien life, confirming that we’re not hurtling through the universe, scared and alone, on a cold, uncaring rock.
Herein, we’ve gathered together the 20 absolute best, most awesome-in-a-literal-sense rumors of history. Read on, and watch your spirits soar—and then immediately sink, once you realize these tall tales are entirely false. (Sorry.) And if you want some info you really can believe, discover these 20 Crazy Facts That Will Blow Your Mind.
Alligators Live in NYC Sewers
The rumor that alligators live in the sewers of New York City dates back to the 1920s or ’30s. Legend has it that tourists in Florida would buy baby alligators as souvenirs, bring them home, and then flush them once they got too big, leading to a city with sewers swarming with alligators, which would be super-cool (and super-scary) if true. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Alligators live in warm climates and likely wouldn’t survive the frigid New York winters. Also, no creature would last long if they had to spend all their time swimming around in sewage.
Nicolas Cage Is a Time Traveling Vampire
The rumor that Nicolas Cage is a time traveler—or a vampire, or a time-traveling vampire—got started when a picture of his Civil War-era doppelganger went up for sale on eBay in 2011. (For what it’s worth, the actor also looks like 19th century Mexican emperor Maximilian I.) If the rumor were true, not only would time travel be possible, but we would have also all seen a time traveler (and possibly a vampire) attempt to steal the Declaration of Independence multiple times on the big screen. And for more ridiculous rumors about your favorite stars, check out the 20 Craziest Celebrity Rumors.
Keanu Reeves Is Immortal
Nicolas Cage isn’t the only person in Hollywood who’s “immortal” (or a time traveler, or possibly a vampire). There’s a rumor that Keanu Reeves has also been around for a long time, at least since the days of Charlemagne, in the 8th century, whom Reeves bears a striking resemblance to. There have been other portraits of “not Keanu Reeves” over the centuries, which has led some folks to believe the actor, who is aging really well for his age (53!), is actually hundreds of years old.
George Washington Wore Wooden Teeth
Legend has it that George Washington’s false teeth were made out of wood, but the actual truth is much less pleasant. Washington wore dentures, yes, but they weren’t wooden. They were made from elephant ivory, cow teeth, and the teeth of slaves. And for more surprising facts from our nation’s history, check out The 28 Most Enduring Myths in American History.
Area 51 Is an Alien Warehouse
As of 2013, we’ve officially known that Area 51 exists. But the highly classified facility in Nevada is probably used for weapons testing, not for storing and experimenting on beings from other planets. Well, probably. What goes on in there is still anyone’s guess, so there’s hope yet for this rumor to be true, confirming the existence of life on other planets in the universe. And for more awesome scientific trivia, learn the 20 Types of Artificial Intelligence You Use Every Single Day And Don’t Know It.
The “Whoomp (There It Is)” Video Had an Obama Cameo
Who doesn’t want to believe that Barack Obama was an extra in the Tag Team video for “Whoomp (There It Is)”? If you look at the screenshot out of the corner of your eye very briefly, it’s so easy to believe that it’s true, which would make him hands down the coolest president in history, regardless of his policy opinions.
Lady Godiva Rode Naked Through Town
The story that Lady Godiva rode naked on horseback through Coventry to keep her husband from raising taxes is one for the ages. But this tall tale didn’t pop up until nearly 200 years after her death, and it’s highly unlikely it ever happened. She and her husband were both generous, and the tale was probably made up by somebody in the monastery they founded as a way to immortalize her generosity. And if you really want to get some clarity on the past, discover these 30 Crazy Facts That Will Change Your View of History.
Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola Make Your Stomach Explode
The legend that consuming Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola at the same time will make your stomach explode plays double duty as both a legend and the rumored cause of death of Mikey from the Life cereal commercials. Neither is true, as Mikey is alive and well, and combining Pop Rocks and Coke at the same time doesn’t really do much of anything at all.
Jimmy Hoffa Is Buried at Giants Stadium
Since mobster Jimmy Hoffa went missing more than 40 years ago, the whereabouts of his body have remained a mystery. But one story posited that his body was actually buried in the end zone at Giants Stadium. MythBusters failed to find any evidence of a body, but it would still be pretty cool if hundreds of thousands of people had inadvertently been visiting Hoffa’s grave over the years.
Shakespeare Didn’t Write His Plays
There’s a popular conspiracy theory that Shakespeare didn’t actually write his plays. The people who think this believe that Shakespeare wasn’t educated enough to write his works, nor had the time to pull it off. Instead, some think Francis Bacon was the man behind this voluminous body of work. Others believe Christopher Marlowe wrote them. And yet a third faction thinks Shakespeare’s works should actually be attributed to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. The lack of manuscripts in Shakespeare’s own hand, coupled with an extremely limited amount of tangible information about his life, fuel such rumors. And they have some weight! People as esteemed as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and Orson Welles all expressed their doubts about Shakespeare’s authorship.
Still, basically everyone who’s anyone in academia steadfastly believes that Shakespeare did, in fact, write his own plays, with perhaps a touch of editorial assistance in the latter stages of his career. If this rumor were proven true, not only would there be a lot of academics with egg on their face, but nobody at a party could bring up this theory as an attempt to sound interesting.
Beyonce Is Solange’s Mother
This rumor hinges on a lot of factors, the biggest of which is that Beyonce was actually born in 1974, not 1981. Then, when Bey was just 13, she got pregnant, and the family decided to cover it up by raising Solange as her sister. If true, this would mean Beyonce is a grandma. Yeah. Okay.
The City of Atlantis Exists
The city of Atlantis was first mentioned by Plato as part of an allegory in The Republic. His allegory was mistaken for history by several scholars in the 1800s, and now some people believe there is really a lost utopian civilization somewhere in the ocean. Despite the fact that classicists and philologists, as well as historians, all agree that Plato was created a fictional place to illustrate a point, the misinterpretation of Plato’s Atlantis as an historical place by amateur scholar Ignatius L. Donnelly in the 1880s spurred a movement to find this city that never actually existed. Part of the reason why people are still looking for it today is that Plato wasn’t exceptionally precise in his description of the location of Atlantis, so the multitude of interpretations about where it might be means that people can keep hypothesizing a new spot each time a previous one is disproved.
Cindy Crawford Insured Her Mole
Betty Grable’s legs were insured for $1 million, and Bruce Springsteen insured his voice for $6 million. But there’s no existing record of Cindy Crawford buying insurance for the beauty mark on her face.
Elephants Go to Elephant Graveyards to Die
The notion of elderly elephants wandering off from the herd and making their way to an elephant graveyard to die is very lovely, but it isn’t true.
John Wayne’s Body Was Frozen
Walt Disney isn’t the only famous person who was allegedly cryogenically frozen. Rumor has it that John Wayne’s body was also frozen after he died. It’s a fun rumor, yes, but the facts have it that he’s buried in a cemetery in California.
A Mothman Haunts Chicago
In 2017, people all over the city of Chicago were reporting sightings of a flying humanoid creature they called a mothman. Most of the sightings happened over the northern part of the city. The creature by varying accounts looked like a gargoyle, a giant bat with red eyes, or a mothman. There were 55 mothman sightings last year alone, which suggests something was definitely flying around in the sky, though “mothman” has no basis in any biologically confirmed fact.
The Jersey Devil Is Real
In the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey lives a creature with the body of a kangaroo, the wings of a bat, and the head of a goat, known as the Jersey Devil. The Jersey Devil has been around since at least the 18th century, and there were numerous supposed sightings in the 20th century. It was also the subject of an episode of The X-Files, so if this thing turns out to exist, that would be one point for Fox Mulder.
Albert Einstein Failed Math
Albert Einstein failed math and still went on to be one of the greatest physicists in history. That’s how the story goes, leading plenty of young kids to believe that, if they fail math, hey, it’s no big deal. However, surprising no one, Einstein was actually really, really good at math and had mastered both differential and integral calculus before he turned 15. (The rumor got its start from an entrance exam to a polytechnic school that Einstein failed. He passed the math section on the test, but saying Einstein was a terrible botany student doesn’t pack the same punch.)
Tootsie Pop Wrappers With a Star Win a Prize
Every child knows that if the wrapper on your Tootsie Pop has a full Native American and a star on it, you get a prize! Except, of course, that you don’t get a prize, unless a convenience store owner happens to take mercy on you. And for more enigmatic mysteries, discover America’s 30 Most Fascinating Unsolved Mysteries.
Tupac Is Still Alive
If only it were true.
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