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11 Famous People Who Never Actually Existed [Pic]

It seems ridiculous that people could ever mistake a fictional character for a real person – well, except for any of the Kardashians, who can”t possibly be real, right? However, back in the day things weren”t so easy. You never saw anyone who lived outside your own village and so hearsay and rumor was enough to convince a lot of people that all manner of ridiculous legends were true. And then once legend became accepted truth, it was passed down through the years to today, where believe it or not, there are still a handful of notable fictional figures who many people are convinced were actually real, live people. Sure, most people understand that there was never a giant named Paul Bunyan who hung around with a massive blue ox – at least if they”re not flying high on acid – but they might be surprised that none of the following eleven famous people ever existed either.

Betty Crocker

She is a cultural icon. She had her own radio show. In 1945 she was voted the second most popular woman in all of America, right behind Eleanor Roosevelt. And for over 80 years she has kept defying aging and assuming new appearances not because she is Doctor Who or feeds on the blood of Duncan Hines employees but because she never was real. Betty was created as a corporate spokescharacter who could write “personal” responses to homemaker”s questions. Her last name was chosen to honor the original company”s director. Her first name was picked because it sounded friendly and somehow even then people knew “Bertha” or “Gertrude” would not stand the test of time.

William Tell

William Tell is a Swiss folk hero, most famous for shooting an apple off his son”s head in order to get his freedom because I guess that”s just how fucked up the criminal justice system was back in the day. The story has inspired the Swiss people for centuries, but there”s just one problem: ol” Willie never actually existed. Don”t tell that to the Swiss, though, who have tried in vain for hundreds of years to prove his historical existence, only to be foiled by historians at every turn. In 1760, a historian even claimed in writing that the story was based on an old Danish tale, which was so unpopular that it led the Swiss people to stage a good ol” fashioned book burning. But can you really blame them? I mean, in 100 years people in New Mexico will probably go crazy and burn their meth labs if you try to tell them that Walter White was never real. Hey, we all need heroes.

Otto Titzling

If ever there was a person whose very last name said he was destined to create the bra it would have to be Otto Titzling, who is said to have invented the garment in 1921 to help a very buxom neighbor. And if ever there was a person who would go on to steal the idea of a bra it would have to be someone named Phillip de Brassiere. And if ever there was a story that didn”t have a damn ounce of truth to it, it would have to be this one, fooling historians, authors, and even the makers of Trivial Pursuit despite all coming from a work of complete fiction called “Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling” and the fact the bra has been around since Ancient Greece. On the other hand, Thomas Crapper did exist, he was in fact a real plumber, but he never invented the flushable toilet.

Franklin W. Dixon

A lot of living authors have pen names. Daniel Handler goes by Lemony Snicket. Eric Blair wrote as George Orwell. And the Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books are not written by a hastily scrawled stick figure at all. But Franklin W. Dixon did them all better by writing hundreds of “Hardy Boys” mystery novels without ever taking a single breath of air or being a another author”s pen name. Instead, he was the imaginary alter ego of countless unknown authors, all who wrote the original young adult novels in the same voice, for the same pay, and with the same knowledge that when they bragged about their writing careers to people they tried to pick up in bars they would never have the proof to back up their claim or score that one-night stand.

Donald Kaufman

He was the brother of famous screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). His life-and death-were portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the movie “Adaptation.” And he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay along with Charlie, making Donald Kaufman the very first fictional character to ever receive an actual Academy Award nod. Of course, had he won he would not have been able to accept his Oscar since he was both killed and never existed in the first place. Unless his death was a hoax… and his non-life was also a hoax… meaning he could have actually died but didn”t so he was actually alive despite… I think I have a headache.

St. Christopher

St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, which is why you”ll find his statue on the dashboard of some creepy old lady”s car that smells like mothballs and regret. Historically, he was supposedly a martyr killed by the Roman emperor Decius in the third century AD. Unfortunately, several years ago, the church decided that they could find no evidence supporting that this dude ever existed and so they quietly kicked him off their calendar of saints. Look, when you”re shunned by a church that wholeheartedly believes a dude lived inside of a whale in olden times, or that a dude built a big-ass boat which doubled as a massive zoo while Earth went all Waterworld, then chances are good that you really, really never existed. But don”t worry, Chrissy, that weird old lady with the smelly car still loves you, bro.

Pope Joan

Speaking of fictional religious characters, Pope Joan was supposedly a female Pope who lived sometime in the middle ages. Let”s face it, as soon as the words “female Pope” were uttered, this one should have lost all credulity. I mean, come on, this is an institution which still bugs out about ladies in the 21st century. Somehow, I doubt they would have been chill with a female boss of bosses way back in a time when most women were considered little more than personal property to be traded for a few goats and a bottle of nice wine, and the rest were considered witches. I”m sure the priests back then would have been totally cool with a lady putting that giant hat on and cruising around town in the horse-drawn Popemobile. Sure, she could have worn a disguise like Hilary Swank, but still, I can”t believe this one ever caught on, and yet it did, surviving as a widely-believed fact, even amongst reputable church scholars for hundreds of years.

Robin Hood

This one is kind of stretching it since a lot of people probably realize that Robin Hood is as real as Batman, but there are still a lot of people who try to argue for the existence of a historical Robin Hood. Honestly, that kind of makes you worry for society a few hundred years for now, when they”re all arguing for the historical existence of Bruce Wayne. The truth is, though, is that no one has ever been conclusively able to link Robin Hood with a real dude. Sure, they have pointed to noted outlaws of the time, or men with similar names, but the tales are so vastly different from those dudes” real lives that it just seems like way too much of a reach. It would be like people arguing in that far off future that the historical Bruce Wayne/Batman was Bill Gates because they were both billionaires, which… oh my god, you guys, is Bill Gates Batman?

Prester John

Prester John was a legendary Christian king who Europeans swore for centuries was the leader of a kingdom somewhere in the Orient. Because they were unbelievably gullible, they clung to this myth so hard that people forged fake letters to try to prove his existence, even though it required them all to ignore basic math and biology. After all, the legend was believed to be real for over 500 years, meaning Prester John must have had a damn good healthcare system in his kingdom. Of course, people were insane back then, and probably believed he was immortal since his kingdom was supposedly also the home of the Fountain of Youth amongst other wonders. The story was so widespread and got so out of control that it even helped to inspire many of the famous explorers of the day, including Christopher Columbus. Basically, they were all searching for Prester John and his hidden paradise, and instead all they found was the future home of Snooki, who, to be fair, probably has parasites that are capable of living for 500 years, and she might have gotten them from a dude named John, so maybe they were onto something after all.

Sir Lancelot

The entire Arthurian Camelot story is shrouded in confused myth, and while there may be some basis for a historical King Arthur – albeit, one a lot like the Robin Hood “historical” character – the rest of the famous characters from his story are all fanciful bullshit. Most people can accept that to some degree since a lot of the characters are simply too unbelievable – Merlin is basically a slightly cooler Gandalf (and no, Gandalf isn”t real either, sorry nerds) – but Lancelot has always seemed just solid enough to maybe be real. I mean, after all, he isn”t slinging spells or hanging out with the Lady of the Lake, he”s just a dude who”s good with a sword. But sadly, Lancelot is just the invention of medieval poets, which means that just like the chivalry he”s so famously tied to, he doesn”t really exist.

Sun Tzu

This one remains controversial, as there are some historians who argue that Sun Tzu did indeed exist and that he wrote that infamous book that your one sociopathic friend quotes like it”s the Bible. But just as many historians think that Sun Tzu”s existence is probably bullshit. They note that certain terms and tactics described in The Art of War wouldn”t have been known to Sun Tzu when he supposedly lived. There are also several other discrepancies and “come on, now, that”s ridiculous” moments that jump out to historians, and the most likely explanation is that “Sun Tzu” was actually an amalgam of several historical figures, and that his teachings were actually more of a compendium of information and tactics added to over the years by teachers and their students, sort of like a book of wisdom handed down from one frat boy generation to the next, only instead of tips on keggers and how to sex the ladies, it was a book about how to handle your enemies like a boss. But that”s not very much fun, and it”s cooler to imagine that some maniacal badass Chinese general actually did exist because it inspires the imagination, which is the real reason why these legends linger. People want to believe. I want to believe.

We know their names. We know their faces. But do you know they were never alive?

[Total: 19    Average: 4/5]
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Category: Weird
Date: 04/28/14 01:50 PM

22 Responses to 11 Famous People Who Never Actually Existed [Pic]

  1. Profile photo of kitteh9lives
    kitteh9lives Female 70 & Over
    8012 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 11:36 am
    Link: 11 Famous People Who Never Actually Existed - We know their names. We know their faces. But do you know they were never alive?
  2. Profile photo of bompa1997
    bompa1997 Male 60-69
    92 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm
    My childhood was just ruined...I LOVED the Hardy Boys and now I learn that Franklin W. Dixon is not real...awww man.
  3. Profile photo of llaa
    llaa Male 30-39
    1627 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm
    I know the W.S. Burroughs killed his wife in Mexico during a drunken William Tell re-enactment with a handgun.
  4. Profile photo of AGit
    AGit Male 30-39
    996 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 5:05 pm
    "ruin one of mel brooks greatest films"

    Please tell me you are joking. Or 10.
  5. Profile photo of 5Cats
    5Cats Male 50-59
    30837 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 5:25 pm
    William Tell and Robin Hood are loosely based on real people, but yeah they didn`t actually exist.

    @llaa: It`s a true fact! It was a .45...
    He chronicles it in "Queer" (iirc) and other books too. Huge WSB fan here! I have a copy of one of his rarest books :-) Not worth much, but it`s cool!
    (Cobble Stone Gardens - poetry)

    You a fan?
  6. Profile photo of CodeJockey
    CodeJockey Male 40-49
    5557 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm
    "I do feed on the blood of Duncan Hines employees. And what`s wrong with Gertrude? My mother was named Gertrude..."
  7. Profile photo of llaa
    llaa Male 30-39
    1627 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I`m a HUGE fan of his cut-up method and style of writing. I havent read any other novels outside of Naked Lunch, but what drew me to his work was the film adaptation. But Ive read much of his articles, interviews and film cameos, he`s got a real queer mind. :) I`ll have to check out "Queer".
  8. Profile photo of 5Cats
    5Cats Male 50-59
    30837 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 9:17 pm
    @llaa: "Cut Up" is hard to pull off! Many have tried, but it takes a combination of creativity and "sticking to what you find" eh?

    His BEST work is "Junky", it`s sheer genius. `Understated` is an understatement! More is written in between the lines than can be described here.

    Exterminator! Is a very good collection of his short stories, riveting reading!

    His other novels are interesting, but other than Junky and Queer I`d recommend his short stories.

    Naked Lunch contains bits and pieces of other works (or vice-versa!) and while the movie did a VERY good job? It`s a bit too inconsistent for me to rate it as his best novel.

    His vocal work is excellent! Any recording of him performing is worth watching / listening to.

    Laurie Anderson`s "Home Of The Brave" features not only WSB`s works? He makes an appearance too!

  • Profile photo of monsterzero
    monsterzero Male 40-49
    352 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 9:59 pm
    Historians believe that Homer also did not exist and the Iliad and the Odyssey were written by multiple authors.
  • Profile photo of llaa
    llaa Male 30-39
    1627 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Yup and thanks! I`ve tried to show people how brilliant cut ups are, but so many are afraid of the hidden discovery within their writer`s frame of mind that they become uncomfortable with its results.

    Thank you for the breakdown! I`ll start with Exterminator and go on...

    I know its past TG, but I always liked this one

    Oh and this awesome Ministry video directed by Sleazy (ex-TG, Re-TG, Ex-Alive). Just One Fix
  • Profile photo of madduck
    madduck Female 50-59
    7252 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 11:04 pm
    Most of these I knew- or simply had not heard of, Sun Tzu is one where I had heard the argument, and to be fair I have read some interesting ideas about Pope Joan (verdict- most likely fictional but with a grain of truth in there). then I have at least one friend who believes completely in all the Arthurian legends and gets REALLY angry when you explain, but then she gets upset when I don`t believe in Angels either.
  • Profile photo of 5Cats
    5Cats Male 50-59
    30837 posts
    April 28, 2014 at 11:33 pm
    @llaa: Thanks! I hadn`t see either of those :-)

    I`ll run this past @kitteh9 for a Friday or Saturday night movie:

    Home Of The Brave (full)

    @madduck: I`m in agreement that Pope Joan has more truth behind her than fiction. Sun Tzu is quite likely a composite of several writers, but together they`re pretty darn smart!

    Exterminator! Junky, Queer. All three are short but packed with, um... STUFF!
  • Profile photo of som-tam
    som-tam Male 18-29
    711 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 12:40 am
    @mosterzero: I was under the impression that Homer was accepted a being real but not the original creator of those stories. Merely the first person to write it down, probably because he thought the resulting fame would go down well with the ladies.
  • Profile photo of fuzzysheep
    fuzzysheep Male 18-29
    187 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 4:05 am
    Fun fact: Walter White does exist
  • Profile photo of captkava
    captkava Male 40-49
    257 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 10:12 am
    strange, my first thought at #2 was "its time for our william tell routine" from naked lunch.
    then i read llaa & 5cats .....

    well played gents.
  • Profile photo of 5Cats
    5Cats Male 50-59
    30837 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 12:17 pm
    Thanks @captkava! It`s a story so strange that if you made it up? No one would believe it.

    It was used very effectively in the movie, iirc.
  • Profile photo of QueenZira
    QueenZira Female 18-29
    2228 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 1:27 pm
    I think Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu ought to get together for tea.

    Lao Tzu is the purported founder of Taoism. Legend says in old age he determined to leave China on oxback (literally riding off into the sunset) when he was stopped at the westernmost gate and asked to write down all his collected wisdom, which became the Tao Te Ching.

    The Tao Te Ching is a great bit of chill philosophy that thumbs its nose at Confucian ideas of morality and propriety every chance it gets and shakes up the status quo. In reality, it likely has the same genesis as The Art of War, many authors over time. But no less kicka$$ for it`s history, again just like Art of War.
  • Profile photo of RinjiHalfElf
    RinjiHalfElf Female 18-29
    335 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm
    Funny, I had purchased a 1951 printing of `Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook` last summer.
    Some of the recipes had commentary about where the recipe was served, who made it, or who`s favorite it was amongst the staff.

    It also had a lot a little cute sayings, and info on how to make the perfect (insert item here) so I browsed it cover to cover.

    I have to wonder if the company`s director started taking on the persona of Betty Crocker as well.
    The book did mention that a particular recipe was served by `Betty herself` at a dinner party. I was always under the impression that Betty Crocker was fictitious. Why would the book mention all these people, and make up one person? I have my doubts.
  • Profile photo of Ani187
    Ani187 Female 30-39
    4448 posts
    April 29, 2014 at 4:52 pm
    Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew series, also never existed. Like Franklin Dixon, Keene was actually several different writers.
  • Profile photo of broizfam
    broizfam Male 60-69
    4660 posts
    April 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm
    They left out God.
  • Profile photo of 5Cats
    5Cats Male 50-59
    30837 posts
    April 30, 2014 at 7:58 pm
    @broizfam: God isn`t a "people" He`s God.

    You may make a claim for Jesus, but there`s no evidence he did NOT exist, just theories.

    Next you`ll suggest "Bob Dobbs" didn`t really exist! Pfft.
  • Profile photo of CrakrJak
    CrakrJak Male 40-49
    17516 posts
    May 1, 2014 at 2:57 am
    Why not we just pretend, after the 2016 election, that Obama never actually existed?
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