10 Well Known Things That Never Actually Existed


The world is full of mysterious things. If you had to Google right now you’ll find countless sites where people detail with utter sincerity their encounters with aliens, Bigfoot, and ghosts. Are any of those things real? Are those people lying? Or did they honestly see something that the rest of us just haven’t experienced yet? We may never know the answer to ghost questions, but one thing we do know is that there are plenty of things that people have assumed existed over the years that never really did.

10. Shazaam

One of the most bizarre mysteries to ever hit the internet was the story of the film Shazaam. That’s Shazaam with two As, not to be confused with the DC film Shazam with one A. Shazaam is a movie about a genie in which the titular character is played by actor and comedian Sinbad. That’s the story, anyway. Except for the fact that Sinbad has never been in a movie about a genie and there’s no movie in the world named Shazaam with two As.

Despite the fact that Shazaam doesn’t exist, the number of people who apparently have memories of the film existing and can even relate particular scenes from the movie is staggering. Now, on some level, this can be chalked up to a case of slight misremembering. Shaquille O’Neal starred in a film called Kazaam in which he played a genie. However, the people who insist Shazaam starring Sinbad was a real film acknowledged that Kazaam is also a movie but they think Kazaam ripped off Shazaam.

People have told stories of how they literally bought copies of this movie before and remember seeing it very clearly. Despite that, Sinbad himself has assured everyone that there is no such thing as the movie Shazaam and he never starred in it. 

9. Pirate Treasure Maps

If it’s one thing everyone knows about pirates it’s that they can headline multi-million dollar franchises for the Disney Corporation. Beyond that there are peg legs, eye patches, parrots, and a lot of rum. Along with the whole pirate mythos is the idea of the pirate treasure map. This is pretty much where the idea of ‘X marks the spot’ comes from. Everyone knows that pirates would take their treasurer to some exotic, deserted tropical island and bury it in a secret location that could only be found with the help of a pirate treasure map. Except that as far as anyone knows that never actually happened.

There is no historical evidence of anyone finding a genuine pirate treasure map. It’s never happened once in history. That doesn’t mean pirates never buried their treasure anywhere, they probably had to put it somewhere since if all they had was a boat it would be pretty obvious where their loot was stashed. But the idea that they created an elaborate map written in code or that needed to be deciphered to track it down simply never happened.

In terms of how real pirate treasure worked, pirates would hide their treasure somewhere and just remember where it was. When you think about it, that makes a lot more sense. That way you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing your map 

The idea of maps can be attributed to Captain Kidd. He was known to stash treasure in a number of places, and some of the found treasure was actually used to help prosecute him for theft. But because he was known to have stolen so much stuff people just assumed he had maps to help him remember where all of it was. There was no evidence that this happened in real life, but  rumors have a way of spiraling out of control.

8. Mountains of Kong

Believing in something like Bigfoot is not that hard to wrap your head around. Even if you’ve never seen the creature before you can at least imagine how it could exist, hidden away in the woods somewhere. Now try to imagine how people manage to fall under the false impression that an entire African mountain range existed when there was no such geographical feature.

The Mountains of Kong we’re said to exist in the west of Africa. Numerous maps of Africa that were produced during the nineteenth century include the mountain range between the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger River. 

The existence of the Mountains of Kong can be attributed to a geographer James Rennel and the explorer Mungo Park. Park was said to have traveled to Africa and seen a mountain range in the distance. He said the locals told him that they were part of the Kingdom of Kong. Based on nothing more than that description, Rennel drew himself a map of Africa that included the mountains. And pretty much every map maker for the next 100 years included the exact same mountain range even though obviously none had ever seen it because it wasn’t really there.

The weirdest part was that some people who wrote about the mountains later had actually been through Africa and simply decided to ignore the fact that they hadn’t seen them in person. That didn’t stop him from writing descriptions of the mountains including geographical features like their height, the landscape, even the rocks that they were made of.

7. Flails

If you’ve ever watched a movie set during the medieval period in which any warfare occurs you’ve probably seen a battle in which one person is wielding a flail. The weapon consists of a handle, usually a simple piece of wood with a chain to fix to one end. At the other end of the chain is a spiked metal ball. The warrior wielding the flail would spin the chain and then slam that spike down onto the head of a hapless enemy. In fact, during the epic battle scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy when the armies of men and elves are fighting Sauron, Sauron wields a giant flail.  This is appropriate because the Lord of the Rings is pure fantasy and so, it seems, are flails.

Despite how ubiquitous they are in period pieces like Braveheart and other such films, and the fact that you can even see some of these in museums, it turns out that these were never actually used as weapons before. Military historians have pretty much dismissed the idea of the flail as a real weapon across the board. Most examples of the actual weapon, such as the ones you can find in museums, were created later in history. And there’s also the fact that, from a purely practical standpoint, the flail is actually a terrible weapon to use in battle. The logistics of it make it a bad design. Having a chain with a deadly ball on the end would be extremely unwieldy and just as dangerous to you and your allies as it would be the enemies. Plus it can easily get stuck on something and render you defenseless. 

The only real evidence of flails from the time period when they were supposed to have existed comes from a very scant handful of paintings. However these artworks depict fantasy scenes in which warriors from distant lands are fighting monsters that don’t even exist. So to assume this is a historical account of a real weapon would be somewhat of a stretch.

6. Snakes in Ireland

When most people think of Saint Patrick they think of green beer and a day of excessive drinking. Unless you stop to think of the actual St. Patrick that the day celebrates in which case the most popular story about the man is how he drove the snakes out of Ireland. And while it’s true that in modern times you’re not going to find any snakes in Ireland, you may not need to thank Saint Patrick for that because it looks like there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with.

Fossil records from Ireland show that there has never been a snake slithering across the island at any point in history. And if one did show up it certainly didn’t die there which makes it seem unlikely that there was ever a population present. The fact is that Ireland is an island and thanks to the last ice age it was probably never hospitable for snakes and there was no opportunity for them to reach the island once temperatures warmed up a little bit. 

5. Sandy Island

There’s no shortage of fake lands that you can find if you scroll back through history. Shangri-La, Xanadu, Atlantis; there are plenty of places that people have claimed were real that turned out to just be fanciful stories. But one of the most unusual fake places is Sandy Island. It’s the size of Manhattan and it’s nestled in the South Pacific. You could once find it on a variety of maps including on Google Earth.  Considering that the island isn’t real, that’s a pretty impressive feat.

Australian researchers went to locate Sandy Island in the year 2012 just Northwest of New Caledonia. When they got there they discovered nothing at all. This after the island had been showing up on maps since all the way back in the year 1876.

During the next 100 and some odd years the island continued to find its way onto other maps even though obviously no one had ever actually been there.  The current theory is that the original map that details the island may have discovered a giant pumice raft and assumed it was an island even though it wasn’t. Subsequent mapmakers just referred to previous maps to include it and it spiraled out of control over the years. When Australian researchers actually sailed through the spot where the island was supposed to be it was officially declared a non-place.

4. Truth Serum

Hollywood has done a good job of convincing us that, under the right circumstances, you can be forced to tell the truth. A drug like sodium thiopental administered to an unwilling subject can put them in a stage where they have no choice but to tell the truth. For lack of a better term, this is what is known as the truth serum. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work quite the way movies would have you believe.

Sodium thiopental does have a dramatic effect on your cognitive abilities. The drug is a barbiturate and it was designed as an anesthetic. Take too much of it and you’re going to pass right out. But there is what you might call a sweet spot between being your normal, sober self and being completely unconscious as a result of taking too much of the drug. In that spot you are in a haze, not too different from being drunk. And it has been observed that people who are administered sodium thiopental will be very uninhibited and talkative. However, the truth is not guaranteed.

Those who have taken the drug as an experiment to see whether or not they were capable of lying have discovered that they are certainly able to stick to a fictitious story if they want to. Of course, they may also tell the truth even though they don’t mean to but there’s no guarantee one way or the other. So while sodium thiopental can be used as a truth serum, the person under the influence of it could just as easily be lying and you would have no way to know the difference.

3. Betty Crocker

Call it one of the great betrayals of Americana, but it turns out that Betty Crocker, the spokeswoman for a wide range of baking products and other down home goodies was never a real person. Betty Crocker was developed by the Washburn Crosby Company in the late 1800s as a marketing tool. The company has run some contests in the newspaper and ended up receiving thousands of responses, many of which included questions about baking. 

Since the people in charge of the company at the time were all men and this was a time when businessmen weren’t inclined to do a lot of baking, they felt like they needed a woman to answer the questions for their customers. In order to make it easier they just invented a fictional woman who could answer all the correspondence for the company. And thus, Betty Crocker was born.

2. Trojan Horse

If you have read the Odyssey you’ve heard of the Trojan Horse. The giant wooden structure that Greek soldiers built as a gift for the city of Troy. But secretly soldiers had hidden inside of it so that when it was brought beyond the city gates they were able to creep out in the night and lay siege to the Trojans.

As popular as the story is, it may just be nothing more than a story. Many historians have concluded that the horse was probably just a bit of flowery fiction to make an exciting battle sound a little bit more exciting. The city of Troy was certainly real, and it was destroyed, but there’s no evidence to suggest a hollow horse and anything to do with it. 

1. Pee Dye

At some point in time nearly every kid who goes to a public pool is warned about what might happen if they were to do the unthinkable and pee in the water. A special chemical dye that is put into the water will trigger the moment urine hits it and you’ll be surrounded by a cloud of accusatory color letting everyone around know that you just peed in the pool.

This urban legend is enduring and has been around for decades now. Likely because it sounds entirely possible that someone could put something in a pool that would react to the presence of urine. However, no such chemical actually exists. It never has and you’re unlikely to find anyone who can honestly tell you they’ve ever experienced the reaction in a pool in real life because it never has actually occurred.

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