Professor Buzzkill

Professor Buzzkill is an exciting new blog & podcast that explores history myths in an illuminating, entertaining, and humorous way
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Professor Buzzkill



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Dec 1, 2016

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 patriotic fires of a young nation. But did the Battle of New Orleans really take place after the War of 1812 was over? Keep your powder dry, Buzzkillers, because you’re about to find out!

Nov 29, 2016

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 things a lot more complicated than that? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Nov 24, 2016

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 “dignified” turkey, and tried to convince Founding Fathers to agree. Apparently they thought Ben was a senile old sentimentalist, and so they ignored him. But is any of this story true? Listen and find out!

Nov 23, 2016

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 popcorn, right Buzzkillers? Well, maybe not. but you’ll have to listen to find out!

Nov 22, 2016

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 and learn, Buzzkillers!

Nov 17, 2016

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 really a product of the 1860s? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Nov 15, 2016

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 biological warfare, while others say that the death toll estimates you learned about in school are actually too low. Professor John Giebfried join us to examine the real history of the Black Death, and separate truth from fiction!

Nov 10, 2016

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? Snuggle up with the Professor, Buzzkillers, and hear the full story.

Nov 8, 2016

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 election, that he should be considered a “sore loser”? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers!

Nov 6, 2016

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 a great place to visit and I hope to run into you there sometime, Buzzkillers!

Nov 1, 2016

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 new party, the Constitutional Union party for formed. The country ended up with four political parties running candidates for president! This election makes the complicated 2016 election seem like amateur-hour!

Oct 31, 2016

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 legend. Get the full story from the Buzzkill Institute.

Oct 27, 2016

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”? I hope they weren’t Buzzkillers!

Oct 25, 2016

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 imperial overstretch. We also examine the Holocaust and Holocaust deniers, Hitler’s micromanagement, his declining health, the plots to kill him, and his eventual suicide. Join us in the Buzzkill Bunker!

Oct 21, 2016

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, dramatic, and rushed, according to legend. And there wasn’t time to find a more suitable room. Or was there? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Oct 18, 2016

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 that he made it all up true? Professor John Giebfried enlightens us, Buzzkillers!

Oct 13, 2016

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 exploitation? Thankfully, no, Buzzkillers. Both men worked together to bring “Jacobs” to the world, and we are all grateful.

Oct 11, 2016

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 its importance in American history. Recorded live in Georgetown, Washingtong DC! The first Buzzkiller who emails us - - gets a signed copy of the book!

Oct 6, 2016

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 the emotion that comes through in the "oh the humanity" quote was inadvertently enhanced through this error? Would the disaster "sound" different to us if we heard the genuine report?

Oct 4, 2016

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 to listen and tell us what you think about the Professor’s “presentation.”

Sep 29, 2016

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, the story is less dramatic, but the history of the White House name is interesting. Listen up, Buzzkillers!

Sep 27, 2016

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 an efficient, orderly dictatorship. We also explore Hitler’s genuine popularity, and explain the successes of Hitler’s diplomacy and expansionism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!

Sep 22, 2016

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, Buzzkillers!

Sep 20, 2016

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 think. Listen to our interview with Professor John Giebfried, an expert on this period!

Sep 15, 2016

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 about the universal law of gravitation. So, did Sir Isaac really discover the secrets of the heavens because of a sudden, concussive insight under an apple tree, or is this just a fruity story, embellished over time by overzealous Newtonians?

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