There are a ton of myths, urban legends, and popular misconceptions circulating the world today. We’re currently in the era of “fake news,” but many people fail to realize that some of the nonsense we believe was passed around even long before the internet was around. Remember the legend of Marilyn Manson we all heard as kids? The one where he removed a rib so he could suck his own dangus? That’s a piece of fake news that was around long before the advent of Facebook’s algorithm.
Some of these myths and urban legends were created and popularized by the internet, but many started even long before that. In fact, one could argue that we’re better equipped to battle this type of disinformation today with heroes like me (your words not mine) writing articles like this.
In order to make a myth or urban legend stick, it has to seem believable. A lot of them have a basis, in fact, and almost all of them make sense on some level. Many of the items on this list are those that you have undoubtedly believed at some point in your life while some of them are things you still believe today. Let me be of service and bust some of these rumors for you so you can shut them down the next time your friends repeat them.
15. Coca-Cola Dissolves Your Teeth
This myth is another one that has a basis on logic. Obviously, drinking a bunch of Coke without brushing your teeth is going to put you in a pretty nasty mouth situation. According to the internet, Coca-Cola is so bad for your teeth that if you leave a tooth in a glass of the drink overnight, it will be gone in the morning. It’s probably a good thing that this isn’t the case, and if it was, I think we’d have bigger problems on our hands than disappearing teeth.
Variations of this theory have the Coke disintegrating a penny or a nail, but it’s the same general sentiment. It looks like the people who started this rumor (let’s be honest, we all know it was Pepsi) were pretty confident that no one would try it, and they were right for the most part.
14. Toilets Flush Backwards In The Southern Hemisphere
We’ll start this list by blowing your minds right away. Those who have spent all of their lives in the northern hemisphere have been hearing this forever—toilets flush in the opposite direction below the equator. Unfortunately, while this myth has a basis in fact, the location of the drain or toilet has no effect on the direction the water will spin.
The natural phenomenon that is said to be at work here is called the Coriolis Effect. This is a natural effect that causes the direction of the air to change, but this makes no difference in which way the water goes when the toilet flushes. The only thing that would change the direction of the water is a different pipe. Think about it. The water follows the pipe; not any sort of outside force that relies on which side of the equator you sit.
13. Napoleon Was Short
This is one of those facts that will change the way you think about anything. One of the most popular misconceptions on this list was that Napoleon was actually a short guy and that he had to compensate for his height by trying to take over the world. This birthed the “Napoleon Complex” idea, where short people compensate for their height by being tough guys.
Unfortunately for all you short guys out there, Napoleon actually had an average height. Yes, he was only 5’2″, but France’s measurements weren’t the same as ours are today. If he was measured by our standard of measurement, Napoleon would have been 5’7″. Sure, he still would have been short in today’s world, but 5’7″ was slightly above the average male height at the time. England knew this to be the case at the time, but it served their interest to paint Napoleon as a short guy, which is why this myth still continues today.
12. We Swallow 8 Spiders A Year While We Sleep
This is the type of thing people believe their entire lives until they click on an article like this one (you’re welcome). No, the average person does not swallow eight spiders a year in his/her sleep.
It’s one of those theories that sounds true, but falls apart under tight scrutiny. First of all, spiders are in no hurry to be eaten by humans. It’s not like they think “And for my final act, I’m going to make this dude eat me whole MWAHAHA.”
A sleeping human will scare a spider nine times out of ten. We snore, breathe heavily, and fidget, which are all warning signs for potential spiders. There is no prey around a sleeping human, which means a spider has no business hanging around in the first place.
On top of that, most people are going to feel the spider crawling in their mouth before it goes down the pipe. Most of us aren’t heavy-enough sleepers to keep snoozing while a spider crawls into our mouths; meaning, we’d wake up and spit it out.
11. The Bill Murray French Fry Story
<sigh> This news is just as disappointing to you as it is to me.
For those who don’t know, there’s a popular story about actor Bill Murray that goes like this: A man is sitting at a table eating dinner by himself. Bill Murray walks up, sits across from him, and takes a fry from his plate. He gets up and leaves, saying, “No one will ever believe you.”
Bill Murray is a national treasure, and he’s notorious for showing up at college parties unannounced and meeting fans in peculiar ways. This story fits so perfectly in the Bill Murray mythos that it just has to be true. Unfortunately, it’s another urban legend. Murray cleared things up in a GQ interview.
10. Kidney Theft
Most people have heard of the mythical dangers of traveling abroad, specifically the possibility of being drugged and waking up in a pool of ice missing a kidney. While there are certainly some dangers lurking for foreigners abroad, having a kidney removed and sold on the black market is not one of them.
The popularity of this myth came from (where else?) an email chain. In January of 1997, an email was sent that appeared to be a valid story of a South American tourist who was drugged and robbed of one of his organs. The origin of the story is even earlier, and the location and circumstances changed over time. Eventually, the urban legend landed on someone waking up in a bathtub of ice without telling them to call 911. Fortunately for us, all of this is fake and no one ever reported losing a kidney by this means.
9. Bulls Hate Red
If you’ve ever seen a bull fight, then you know the reason why this myth exists. It’s completely understandable to think a bull hates red when you see it charging at that red cloth. But in all honesty, the bull doesn’t care what color it is.
Bulls are pretty aggressive creatures, especially when they’re being hunted for show. In these scenarios, they will attack anything that moves. The fact that the color of the fabric is red is only tradition and has no affect on aggravating the bull any more or less than green or blue.
Matadors obviously don’t want to get skewered, so the capes are necessary. But bulls couldn’t care less. They hate all colors equally, and if those colors happen to have a couple legs behind them, then they’re going down as well.
8. 33% Gender Wage Gap For The Same Job
The above statement–while it’s only a few words away from being technically correct–is misleading.
The accurate way to say this is that women get paid 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, and this is technically true. If you take the median income of a woman and compare it to the median income of a man, you get a 33% wage gap. It’s a subtle difference, but these statistics aren’t comparing apples to apples.
The fact is that it isn’t so simple as comparing income to income. Women and men are different. These statistics don’t factor college majors and career choices. Women are statistically more likely to work part-time and in lower-paying fields than men. Men are more likely to work longer hours and in more dangerous occupations.
When it’s all said and done, with everything accounted for, the wage gap shrinks closer to about 7%. It’s not nothing, and there should be more insight into why it exists. But as long as people are championing this mythical 33%, nothing is going to change.
7. Duck Quacks Don’t Echo
The popularity of this ridiculous myth can be 100% credited to the internet. You may have seen a lot of these “facts” appear on your Facebook feed, and one of the most ridiculous has to be the theory that a duck’s quack doesn’t echo.
First of all, if anyone has even been in a rural area, he/she knows for a fact that a duck’s quack echoes. There is no fact attached to this myth; it’s just 100% false. Of course, a duck’s quack echoes. Any sound that is loud enough will cause an echo in the right environment. If you ever spent the night on a lake, then you can find this out for yourself.
6. Walt Disney Is Cryogenically Frozen
There have been a few famous people who want future scientists to reanimate their corpses, and many people thought Walt Disney was one of them. It’s not the craziest thing in the world; he had a lot of money and power and wanted to live again. When the topic comes up, you may hear someone say that Walt Disney had himself frozen in a cryonic chamber; but now, you can tell them they’re wrong.
The myth of Walt Disney’s funeral wishes started because of the lack of information surrounding his funeral. No one knows where it began, but it was just believable enough to get people talking. Disney was an innovator; everyone knew that. So, finding out that he wanted to try the most technological funeral would make sense. Alas, Disney was buried like most people are, so our future society will never be able to reanimate the entertainment great.
5. The Great Wall Of China Myth
One of the popular and oft-quoted myths of the modern age is that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from the moon. This sounds like a theory that was created after we made it into space, but its roots are actually much earlier. It’s easy to have such a myth become popular before anyone was able to prove it true or false.
Even if we give the myth some room for error and say “from space,” it still doesn’t hold up. In the low orbit of earth, multiple man-made structures are visible. A satellite can see highways and large buildings from a low orbit, but there is one thing missing—The Great Wall of China. That’s right. Even at a low orbit, The Great Wall of China is barely–if not at all–visible from outer space.
4. Vikings Wore Horned Helmets
The misconception that Vikings wore horned helmets is everywhere in fiction, probably because it was the arts that originally popularized this misconception to begin with. Archaeologists have never found horned helmets anywhere around Viking battle sites, and there is nothing in history to suggest that Vikings wore this type of helmet.
In reality, Vikings wore similar helmets to the rest of the world at that time. It wasn’t until after the Vikings were all dead and buried that images of Vikings in these classic helmets started to appear.
If you consider the horned helmet idea logically, it makes little sense. The horns atop the Viking’s helmet would serve as an easy way for their opponent to gain an advantage. For a group of savage warriors, having a disadvantage on this scale for aesthetics alone is lunacy.
3. Alligators Live In The NY Sewers
A popular urban legend that you may have heard–especially if you live in New York–is that there are gangs of alligators that live in the sewers beneath the city. Alligators are basically dinosaurs, so it makes some sense that they’d be able to rough it in the conditions beneath one of the dirtiest cities in the country.
The origin of this myth can be credited to Robert Daley’s 1959 book, World Beneath the City. This was the first time the alligator myth appeared in literature, but there are also some real-life evidence to which proponents of the myth point. Since the 1900’s, there have been multiple alligator sightings in New York, although most of them are already dead when they’re found.
People believe that pet alligators from Florida were brought to New York and discarded in the sewers. The only problem is that there is no way the alligators would survive down there. First of all, there are tons of diseases they’d need to contend with. On top of that, alligators live in warm weather which means that each winter, they would die off if there were any down there.
2. Humans Only Use 10% Of Their Brain
This is a classic one, and one that you’ll hear repeated in the science-fiction realm quite a bit. It’s a good myth to use when you’re trying to explain a science-fiction plot. There are also a lot of psychics and mediums who quote this figure in order to explain why they have such abilities. They’ll tell you that all humans have this capability, but that they were able to tap into the 90% of usually unused brain power that other people leave dormant.
This is one of the more popular and supported urban legends out there, probably because it fits so nicely into multiple arguments. It is theorized to have first started in the early 1900’s or late 1800’s but was quickly proven false. Because it fits the narrative of so many niche industries, however, it continues to be voiced in our society.
1. Christopher Columbus
Most people probably already know that Christopher Columbus actually gets way more credit than he deserves, but that doesn’t change the fact that we all pretend like he was really the one who discovered America. He was partly responsible for the colonization of America, but the Vikings had him beaten by 500 years.
To go one step further in the Columbus mythos, it’s a popular misconception that Columbus was the original round-earther. He theorized that the world was round while everyone else thought it was flat. This was the reason he set out on his journey in the first place.
The truth is that everyone knew the earth was round at that point. Knowledge of a spherical earth dates back to 500 BC, and there are multiple historical examples of people’s knowledge of this. The argument with Queen Isabella that is normally attributed to the shape of the earth was actually over the size of the earth. Columbus thought it was much smaller, which was why he believed he could make it to India. Of course, Columbus was wrong, which sent him to America instead.
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