Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that you’ve already listened to.
I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me are:
I’m Shea, and this week I learned that Easter Bunnies are hollow to represent God’s promises.
I dunno, give money to WyoAIDS.
- Junior Astronaut Juice: Double Dry-hopped IPA.
Over the years astute listeners will have noticed that Shea and I occasionally watch Dr. Who.
As long as by occasionally you mean “all of” and by watching you mean “get tattoos.”
So how could I resist when I stumbled across a collection of stories from way back to nearly now of people who claim to be time travelers?
This story is going to be a little different than what we usually do. Normally, we do one long story with a bit of research. We’ve deviated from that a few times, like the Funny and Unusual Deaths episode, and this week I’m doing a similar thing with a collection of short stories.
Enjoy all the Dr. Who and Terminator jokes that are about to happen.
Speaking of The TheAter!, we should begin with Chaplin’s Time Traveller, and YouTube.
In October of 2010, Northern Irish filmmaker George Clarke — producer of award-winning, $200, zombie movies — uploaded a video onto YouTube. It was a clip of a DVD extra (well, bonus footage) from the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s film, The Circus. In the clip, you can see what appears to be a woman on a cell phone — something of an accomplishment in 1928. The footage is from outside the Manns Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
But even if the phone is from the future, who does it get a signal? Talk about roaming fees…
If you look at your phones now, you’ll see the jpg I’ve embedded anyway. The woman is on the right by the “zebra’s” nose. I’m not sure this constitutes evidence but I am sure that Steven Moffat can make it stupid.
From Mr. Clark:
‘I have studied this film for over a year now – showing it to over 100 people and at a film festival, yet no one can give any explanation as to what she is doing. My only theory – as well as many others – is simple… a time traveler on a mobile phone. See for yourself and feel free to leave a comment on your own explanation or thoughts about it.’
To that, the internet at large has another theory: Mr. Clark is full of shit. Remember, he’s a filmmaker and… not a popular one. A viral ghost hoax is a good way to drum up some attention and sure enough, this went viral. The Daily Mail ran a story that was “just asking the question,” the Telegraph, Vulture, and HuffPo did the same thing. CBS, ABC, and the BBC ran slightly more critical stories but were just in it for the slow-news-day-lolz. Even Know Your Meme has a write-up. The Atlantic, at least, called their article a debunking.
Following the YouTube sensation, Clark made like 3 more, cheap-ass, handy-cam horror movies, and then, I assume, The TVA got him.
When shown to people who know what the fuck they’re talking about, the answer is pretty straightforward. From the Atlantic, there most probably explanation is a portable hearing aid, a new and bulk technology. Philip Skroska, an archivist at the Bernard Becker Medical Library of Washington University in St. Louis, thought that the woman might have been holding a rectangular ear trumpet. A few more folks chime in, but the answer always seems to be “hearing aid.”
If you look at your phones now you’ll see a photo of Hipster McGee palling it up with one ye-oldie old guy.
Looks like every asshole who tells you about how they’re gonna be the next Elon Musk right before asking you for a fiver and weed
The photo is authentic. Our hipster is on the right, the guy wearing Oakleys and a screen-printed T. The image is courtesy of the Bralorne Pioneer Museum in Gold Bridge, British Columbia, from their “Their Past Lives Here” exhibit.
It was taken at the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia in 1941. The allegations are, essentially, that he’s wearing modern clothing.
If he is a time traveler, it begs the question: of all of time and space, everything that ever was or will be, you chose to start at a bridge re-opening in 1940s BC? Really?
The trick to debunking this claim is remembering that fashion is cyclical. And if you don’t believe me go look at some pictures of your parents in the 80s and then cry yourself to sleep in your cool new Fonsey cosplay.
So what’s up with Cool Hand Chad here? Well, for one the glasses you see him wearing look kinda MIB, kinda Oakley was first made in the 1920s. The T-Shirt that looks like a screen-printed band shirt is actually, upon closer inspection, a hand-stitched hockey jersey that looks an awful lot like the ye-oldie, 1924 – 1938, logo for the Montreal Maroons.
What many online, super credulous, super sleuths, say is the clincher is the camera he appears to be holding. Now, we all know that in the 1940s everything was made out of lead and gumption so having a camera that small must mean it’s from the future. Except that Kodak made the popular Kodak 35, the quintessential, 35mm, tourist camera. If you’ve seen a period movie or show where any character takes a picture, it’s with this camera.
The only real debate here seems to be how this hoser got into the frame with all these other fine, upstanding, suits.
Our next story is an urban legend of sorts. Or, at least, that’s the explanation.
The story of Rudolph Fentz is right out of Torchwood’s archive. We begin around 11:15 pm on a warm, mid-June night in 1951. Passers-by in New York’s Times Square was suddenly aware of a man who, to everyone’s recollection, wasn’t there but a moment ago. Further, he was described as appearing confused and, probably the reason everyone remembered seeing him, he was confused… while standing in the intersection when he was quickly struck by a taxi and killed.
Officials searched his body and found:
- A copper token for a beer at an unknown saloon,
- A bill for the care of a horse at a long-gone Lexington Ave stable,
- $70 in old banknotes,
- A business card with “Rudolph Fentz” on it,
- A letter to the address on his business card, sent in June of 1876, from Philadelphia,
- And a medal for coming in 3rd in a three-legged race.
The odd part was that all the items appeared as new. For collectibles, that’s one thing, but for the rubbish in a dead man’s pockets, it’s quite another.
Through an amount of detective work, Captain Hubert V. Rihm of the Missing Persons Department of NYPD found Rudolph Fentz Jr… in an old phone book from 1939.
While Jr. had passed four years earlier his widow confirmed to Rihm that her husband’s father (Rudolph Fentz) had disappeared in 1876, aged 29, without a trace, never to be seen again.
Dun dun dunnnnnn! If that ain’t some Cardiff Rift stuff I don’t know what is.
Captain Rihm then checked missing persons from 1876, which they just had laying around, and found that the dead man’s description, clothing, and possessions matched exactly to the missing Fentz. The only conclusion is that he was yeeted out of the 1800s by forces beyond our imaginings, to his tragic death in the 1950s. However, fearing he would appear incompetent, Rihm noted his findings officially and the case remained unsolved.
Storie of the Times Squire Time Traveler is told to this day… because that’s how novels work.
What is now an urban legend with just enough detail to seem plausible is a science fiction short story by Jack Finney published in Collier’s magazine on Sept. 15th, 1951, called “I’m Scared.” In which a 19th-century-looking young man with a handful of pocket junk is found dead in contemporary Times Square.
The story was referenced by writers like Viktor Farkas without context and assumed to be true. Stories ran wild but received little attention until in 2000 the Spanish magazine Mas Alla published the story as a factual report. Folklore researcher Chris Auback saw and investigated the story and found it to be the basis for several sci-fi stories and a few films.
Because humans see patterns and everyone has a phone now, people see phones everywhere. Perhaps notably in the 1860 painting by Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller titled The Expected One.
Look at your phones now, and as expected, you’ll see the painting.
The Expected One, oil on Canvas, 1860
The painting is of a young woman walking down a dirt road while a man, presumably in a suit but probably a dudebro, hides behind some bushes, waiting to surprise-propose — because gorilla-bush-proposals are the most romantic kind.
In the painting, she appears to be holding an iPhone in her hands. And indeed she is holding a rectangle as one holds Apple’s rectangles now, so I get it.
However, at any degree of inspection, she is holding a prayer book.
“The girl in this Waldmüller painting is not playing with her new iPhone X, but is off to church holding a little prayer book in her hands,”
Gerald Weinpolter, CEO of the art agency Austrian-paintings. at, told Vice writer Brian Anderson.
This makes sense, not a lot of people are familiar with prayer books now, and the ones who are, are less familiar with technology and the internet – I mean, in general.
Russell was struck by something different.
“What strikes me most is how much a change in technology has changed the interpretation of the painting, and in a way has leveraged its entire context,”
Russell wrote on his blog about the misconception. And he’s right, people are dumber now.
No, not like that. At no point in this story will we put an asshole on your phone.
But, new research from Collabra Psychology, impact factor 3.65, so not the worst, at the University of California Press has helped us diagram assholes.
I’m not making this better.
People. I’m talking about people who are assholes, not the pit of despair that most people eject their opinions from.
According to a few articles about the study, they asked 400 (really 397, it’s weird the details they choose to omit) people to describe in open-ended questions as well as through the use of the Five-Factor Model of personality, the assholes in their lives.
The answers ranged from bosses and public figures to friends and family. Apparently, everyone knows an asshole, but that said, if you only know assholes… you’re probably the asshole.
“People didn’t really have very much trouble figuring out who the ‘biggest asshole’ in their life was,”
Said Brinkley Sharpe, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Half-ish of the asshole were exes, bosses, or family. No surprises there.
“On average, participants didn’t think that they were very close to these individuals, which makes sense because these people are being described as having pretty aversive behaviors.”
Perhaps surprisingly, if you’ve never met people, is that a third of the “biggest assholes” in people’s lives were co-workers of course, and current romantic partners… less great.
So what makes you an asshole?
It’s excessive anger, indifference to their effect on the lives of others, and an unwillingness to change. Which… yeah that just about sums it up. Participants were asked to each give three assholish traits and those won, but the other high scoring traits were…
Aggression/Antisociality is defined as “acts like a bully”; “cruel to animals”; “sexually harasses women.”
Anger/Emotion Dysregulation, such as “always in a bad mood”; “yells when they don’t get their way”; “is Donald Trump.”
Arrogance/Self-Centeredness/Entitlement, the asshole hat trick, “extreme ego”; “she brags a lot”; “wants special treatment.”
At the fourth spot, we have the single attribute, Bigotry, which was actually listed as an underlying attribute of shittiness for all three of the big asshole traits. They sum it up well, “disrespectful towards women”; “he uses racist language.”
The rest of the list is no surprise:
- externalization of blame
- Inconsiderateness/Boundary Violation/Passive Rudeness
- and, of course, “other”
The other category was described as “caused me anxiety”; “is a giant hypocrite”; and “this person eats too much.”
That last one… maybe makes them the judgy, judgy, asshole.
“It’s interesting to me that the behaviors people were keying in on sort of run the gamut,” Sharpe said. “When we talk about personality, the asshole was described as somebody who is not agreeable and is angry.
Which tracks. “Disagreeable” can mean a lot of things but add “angry” to the mix and suddenly you’ve got a douchy powder keg ready to ’splode shit everywhere and no one wants that.
“When we talk about behaviors, the asshole was not necessarily being antagonistic toward people, but they just didn’t really care about what others were thinking or how they were perceived by others.”
Speaking of others they did the same math, more or less, with Bitch and Dick as well. Turns out that even for gendered terminology like Bitch, it’s still, mostly, shitty, old, white, guys…
“There’s clearly a lot of variation in how people use this word,” Sharpe said. “I think the implication of the study is that insults matter. We do mean certain things by using them or we associate them with certain characteristics.”
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Fossils are all over the place and have been for all of human existence. But this week I was thinking about what happened when ancient civilizations found them? First off, did they find any, I would be surprised if none did. Also, what did the ancients think? Is this where we get mythical creatures and dragons?
Dinosaur bones, it turns out, have been part of our culture for centuries. The remains of dinosaur bones were considered by many ancient and aboriginal cultures to be the remains of real animals, but western savants often passed off fossils as supernatural “sports of nature” created by supernatural forces. Today I’m going to introduce you to some of the civilizations that found fossils and what they thought they were.
Due to extensive travel, Greeks and Romans discovered fossils throughout the Mediterranean and into India. The fossils of dinosaurs, mastodons, mammoths, and other creatures were pervasive parts of the natural landscape in the Greek and Roman periods, helping to account for why Greeks and Romans developed mythologies about giant creatures as they sought to understand the presence of these remains.
“Before there were any humans,” the Greek historian Solinus wrote 1,800 years ago, “a battle was fought between the gods and the giants.”To Solinus, this was no myth. He knew for a fact that giants had once roamed the Earth. He’d seen their bones himself. He was writing about a town called Pallene where Greek mythology tells us that Heracles had destroyed a lawless tribe of giants. Every time it rained, Solinus wrote, massive bones would poke out of the ground “like men’s carcasses but far bigger.”
For much of history, Solinus was written off as a liar. Then, in 1994, a rainstorm hit the place where Pallene had once stood and a villager uncovered what he believed was a giant’s tooth. The ancient town became the site of a paleontological dig. There, we found the remains of ancient mastodons. The Greeks had only found their remains one bone at a time. With no concept of mastodons, they assumed that they were looking at the remains of massive men. To them, it was concrete proof that they’d built their town on top of a giants’ burial ground.
The earliest records of people discovering dinosaur remains are from the 8th century BC. A Greek philosopher, Xenophanes, sought to understand fossils. He found fossilized seashells on a mountain, so he took a more logical approach. He accepted that they were probably nothing more than what they seemed to be: the remains of shellfish now resting on dry land. These fossils, Xenophanes argued, were proof that those mountains had once been underwater, however many thousands of years ago. This was way back in the sixth century BC—and Xenophanes was exactly right. But he took his conclusions a bit further than modern scientists. He believed that all of the Earth had once been covered in water and that man had risen out of primordial slime. So far, that isn’t that too different from our modern understanding of the world. But he insisted that it would be cyclical. In time, Xenophanes claimed, the world would sink under the sea once more and man would revert into the mud. Then we would emerge once more, and the eternally repeating cycle of human history would begin again. I can’t see any fault in his ideas about global warming and rising seas…
Chinese travelers once feared entering the deserts of Issedonia. They believed that those lands had once been haunted by demons and dragons. The remnants were still there: fields upon fields of white dragon bones. Issedonia struck a special fear in their hearts, but it wasn’t the only place overrun with dragon bones.
The Chinese believed that they were all over the nation. In the I Ching, a farmer uncovering dragon bones in his field is listed as a “good omen.” You can look at the I Ching like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy, it had everything you needed, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, an oracle of one’s future, and more. In the second century BC, a canal was named the “Dragon-Head Waterway” on the basis that “dragon bones were found” at that site.
In the 4th century BC, a Chinese historian named Chang Qu recorded he found a massive ‘dragon bone’ in present-day Sichuan Province. Several Chinese drawings and texts also described giant beasts with spikes, wings, and reptile-like bodies. However, our present-day knowledge later confirmed them as dinosaurs.
Historian of ancient science Adrienne Mayor believes that those lines stem from farmers digging up the massive bones of extinct animals, and she has a pretty good reason to believe it. As late as 1919, China still had exhibits of dragon bones on display—some of which paleontologists still have today. However, the bones came from extinct species of horses and deer. They had fossilized into such hard shapes that the ancient people couldn’t imagine that they came from anything less than supernatural monsters.
The Chinese also believed that these dragon bones, dinosaur bones, had medicinal properties. They cooked the bones into a special elixir that had extraordinary healing powers. Its medicinal properties were documented in a 2nd-century book named Shennong Bencao Jing as,
- Dragon bone is sweet and balanced.
- It mainly treats heart and abdominal influx, spiritual miasma, and “old ghosts.”
- It treats cough and counterflow of Qi, diarrhea, and dysentery with pus and blood. It also tackles vaginal discharge, hardness, binding in the abdomen, and fright epilepsy in children.
- Dragon teeth mainly treat epilepsy, madness, manic running about, binding Qi below the heart, inability to catch one’s breath, and various kinds of spasms.
- It kills spiritual disruptors.
- Prolonged use taking may make the body light, enable one to communicate with the spirit light, and lengthen one’s life span.
Between 1300 and 1200 BC, the ancient Egyptians uncovered at least 3 tons of black fossils worn smooth from the desert sands. They found the bones of massive, extinct breeds of hippos, crocodiles, boar, horses, antelopes, buffaloes, and more in a huge excavation project.
One can only guess what was going through their minds. Not a single written record of this ancient dig exists today. All we have are the bones and our best guesses. The ancient Egyptians, after all, hadn’t put these bones on display. Instead, they’d taken them to a rock-cut tomb near a town called Qau el-Kebir. There, they’d given the massive, prehistoric bones the sort of dignified burial fit for royalty. They’d wrapped them up in fine linens and placed them in the tomb, buried with ivory tools to help them through the afterlife.
Whatever it was they thought they’d found, they believed it was something worthy of their respect. The tombs of Qau el-Kebir weren’t just makeshift graves thrown together for the occasion; they were the ancient resting places of powerful Egyptian lords, built 1,500 years before the fossils were found.
It was a place for the revered ancient dead; a place fit for the bones of a creature that, 2 million years ago, had terrorized the land that would become Egypt.
Seems fitting that the bones were placed inside shrines to Set, the god of darkness and chaos. Perhaps they thought that these were the remains of gods or some minions of Set. All we know for sure is that they stayed in those tombs wrapped in linen and untouched for more than 3,000 years before they were finally discovered in 1922.
An ancient Greek fisherman once cast his net into the sea and found something unexpected. It was a long, thin, white bone, far too large to have come from anything he’d ever seen before.
After a bit of panicking, the fisherman brought the bone to the oracle, who told him that she knew exactly what it was—the shoulder blade of a demigod. She claimed that the bone came from Pelops, son of Tantalus and grandson of Zeus, who supposedly had a shoulder of pure ivory.
He had an ivory shoulder because Greek mythology is freaking weird as hell. Pelops’s dad Tantalus, son of Zeus, invited all the gods over for a dinner party. He wanted to test the gods, prank more as I think, so he slaughtered and cooked up his son Pelops to see if they would eat him. They realized before taking the first bite, well most of them realized. Demeter, sad because Hades kidnapped her daughter, wasn’t paying attention and had a bite which happened to be Pelops’s delicious braised shoulder.
Zeus, being pissed about losing a grandkid, ordered Hermes to bring Pelops back to life. Hermes put all the bits into a big pot and they realize they are missing a piece so why not use ivory. Out pops Pelops with a new shoulder and everything is good.
According to legend, Pelops had fought and died in the Trojan War. As the Greeks carried his body back home, their ship was hit by a violent storm that knocked Pelops’s body into the water. There, the oracle told the fisherman, the body had lain until he unearthed it.
The bone was put on display at the Temple of Artemis, and the fisherman and his family, who were now seen as blessed by the gods, were appointed as the official caretakers of Pelops. Apparently, they weren’t great at it because the bone had disappeared by AD 150.
We can only speculate about what the fisherman found. But the leading theory is that he stumbled upon the tusk of a wooly mammoth, perhaps smoothed down from the years underwater until it could pass as the chunk of an ivory shoulder bone. A tusk could maybe look like a collarbone.
It’s cool to think what ancients would have thought when finding a huge bone or skeleton poking out of the earth. It’s easy to see how fantastical creatures were imagined and brought to life through myths and legends. There are more instances of Ancient fossils such as the graveyard of The Mahabharata or the stone chakras of Vishnu but I will save those for next time.
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