Did These Historical People Actually Exist?


Studying history can be challenging because you have to go back to every little detail that happened before. Sometimes it may also feel like a giant guessing game. Part of studying history is encountering a lot of names and beloved historical figures. But would you agree if we tell you that some of the historical people you know might not have even existed at all?

A lot of people from history, as well as pop culture, are just products of either some marketing campaign or just bad record keeping. Here are some of the historical people which we thought actually existed.

William Shakespeare

Whenever William Shakespeare is being discussed in history and literature classes, a lot of questions about his existence are being asked as well. Some of those are, was he gay, did he stole his writings or was he a woman who is secretly writing under a pseudonym?

Many people believe that William Shakespeare stole content from Christopher Marlowe who is another playwright. But for some, they believe that William Shakespeare is just a pseudonym for Marlowe in the first place.

King Arthur

The story of King Arthur is one of the cornerstones of British history together with stories of Queen Guinevere, Sir Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Some of them has always been a myth but most people believe that King Arthur is based on a real person. However, this is not true.

For some people, the king of the Britons in the 5th century could be the Roman soldier Lucius Artorius Castus, and others believe that it was Riothamus. And there was nothing about the mythical King Arthur that seems to be true.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is famous for stealing from the rich to help the poor people. When the stories about Robin Hood became popular in Britain, there were outlaws who referred to themselves as Robin Hood, making people confused who the real one is. However, there is no original Robin Hood because he is only based on tales that originate in the early 12th and 13th centuries.

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper was known to kill those ladies of the night in the East End of London in the late 19th century. But for some people, it wasn’t just a single Jack the Ripper who is responsible for all the killings, but multiple different people instead.

The target of this Jack the Ripper was poor women who did “adult” work. This lead to some speculations from people that church officials, police, or other moralists arranged the killings so that women will be scared to engage in their activities.

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu is known to be the author of the most important military book of all time which is The Art of War. According to some legends, he was also a trusted military adviser in China. But scholars were unable to tell where The Art of War really came from because there was nothing written about Sun Tzu. So, it’s likely that Sun Tzu is just a pseudonym and the book is a culmination of military lessons that the Chinese military had learned over the years.

Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker is a famous name because cake mixes and other products bear that name. Many people might have thought that the company was run or owned by her. She became famous in the 1920s when she personally responded to questions from the customers of Washburn Crosby Company. She even got her own radio show and cooking school in 1924 because of her popularity.

But the truth is, Betty Crocker never existed. It was just a name created in 1921 to personalize the responses to consumer inquiries. Sam Gale who was Washburn Crosby’s advertising director invented Betty Crocker because he didn’t think women would take cooking advice from a man. Many people believed she was a real person and they were shocked to know that she’s just a made up name.

Mavis Beacon

Mavis Beacon is popular in teaching people about typing through the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing software. She also has a website and a Twitter account in the present time, as well as a charity called Mavis Cares. She seems to be a great lady, but the truth is, she does not exist.

The woman’s face that was used on the software’s box as Mavis Beacon was from a woman working at a department store and then replaced with computer-generated images. Mavis Beacon’s voice, on the other hand, came from an assistant at the company. Her popularity really grew, that’s why whenever people learn about her origins, they were always shocked.

Carolyn Keene

Many of us grew up reading Nancy Drew books, and Carolyn Keene is known to be the author of those books. But did you know that Carolyn Keene never existed? Books such as Nancy Drew, as well as The Hardy Boys and other series, were invented by a publisher named Edward Stratemeyer. He hired a lot of ghostwriters to write stories for these books under the name of Carolyn Keene.

There was even an instance in the 11930swhere a writer named Walter Karig wrote to the Library of Congress asking to be credited as the writer of three Nancy Drew books because he truly wrote those books. But Stratemeyer claimed that he never heard of such a man. Most of the early Nancy Drew books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson, but since she signed a secrecy contract, she’s not allowed to claim any credits from them.

William Tell

William Tell

William Tell is famous for shooting an apple off of a child’s head. The story happened in the 1300’s when Switzerland was occupied by Austria. An official named Albrecht Gessler ordered everyone in the village of Uri to bow to his hat. William Tell refused, so as a punishment, Gessler forced him to shoot an apple off his son’s head using an arrow at 120 paces. If he failed to do it, then him and his son will both be put to death. William Tell successfully shot the apple from his son’s head and he was able to kill Gessler as well.

But for some historians, neither Tell nor Gessler ever existed. The Swiss might just have borrowed the story from the legend of a 10th century Viking named Toko, who also had the same story of shooting an apple off his son’s head.

Tokyo Rose

Tokyo Rose was a sexy speaking lady on the radio who broadcasts anti-American propaganda which were aimed at demoralizing troops overseas. After the war, two journalists were able to find Tokyo Rose and the government put her in jail.

However, the truth is, there is no real Tokyo Rose. It was just a universal name given by soldiers to all English-speaking Japanese women on the radio. So, who did the government put in jail? It was Iva Toguri, who did the exact opposite of how Tokyo Rose was described.

She’s a California-born woman who worked under a captured Australian major in Radio Tokyo. She was tasked to broadcast propaganda in English. Toguri began slipping pro-American messages into the broadcasts which were done in a playful tone, because Japanese captors were unable to understand English. Her moniker was Orphan Annie and never Tokyo Rose. Her voice wasn’t sexy as well. She was out of prison in 1977 when reporters confirmed the rumors that they just conned her into admitting that she was Tokyo Rose.

It’s indeed surprising to know that these famous historical people did not really exist. Though they were just made up by other people and companies, they still gave a lot of contribution to the histories all over the world.

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