12 Famous People That Never Actually Existed
History is an amazing thing. The personalities of great people get surrounded by all sorts of legends, so much that it sometimes gets hard to tell truth from reality. And while some people still argue about whether King Arthur really existed, others create legendary characters on their own.
We at Bright Side tried to figure out which famous people didn’t actually exist.
The Ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi is believed to be the founder of Taoism, but the very fact that Laozi existed is questionable. Some scientists think that several authors used this name, and others think that Laozi is a collective term for all the philosophers of Ancient China.
Journalist Martha Sherrill made up a young Hollywood star named Allegra Coleman. In 1996, Allegra appeared on the cover of Esquire. The article published in the magazine was about the relationship between Allegra and actor David Schwimmer and it also said that she was going to appear in a new Woody Allen film and that Quentin Tarantino was madly in love with the rising star. The point of the article was to talk about how Hollywood worked. In the end, the whole thing was a good boost for Ali Larter’s career who played the young actress.
The national hero of Switzerland and the fighter for the independence of his country, William Tell, was famous for the fact that he shot an arrow with a crossbow at an apple that was on his son’s head. For a long time he was believed to be a real person, but now historians are debating whether he was real or not. Most likely, this is just a collective character from mythology and local legends.
In Hollywood, there is a tradition that if a director doesn’t want their name to appear in the credits, they use the name Alan Smithee. This name was first used in the credits for Don Siegel’s Death of a Gunfighter.
Alan Smithee has his own IMDb profile. This name was used as the name of the director in 81 films, as the scriptwriter in 18 films, as the actor in 9 films, and as the producer in 8 films. The Directors Guild of America prohibited the use of the name Alan Smithee at the end of the ’90s after the film An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn where the main character had this name.
Everyone probably knows the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Many novels and legends tell the stories about Arthur and his knights. Mostly, they look for the Holy Grail and save women. But historians still doubt that King Arthur was a real person. They think this is probably a collective term for all the brave knights of the Middle Ages.
In 1964, journalist Åke Axelsson decided to do an experiment. He took some paintings made by a chimpanzee named Peter and said that they had been made by an unknown French artist named Pierre Brassau. The journalist sent several of the paintings to an exhibition. Critics spoke well about the paintings. A collector even bought one of the works by the “artist.”
Soon, the public found out that the paintings were made by a chimpanzee. But the critics continued saying that on that day, Brassau’s paintings were the best in the exhibition.
In the 19th century, all the members of Russian nobility just couldn’t stop reading stories by Kozma Prutkov. But the thing was that Kozma Prutkov was a fictional name that a whole group of authors used to hide their real names. In order for Kozma to have his own recognizable image, he had a biography, relatives, a house, a job, and even a portrait.
Japanese singer Miku has thousands of fans all over the world. She gives concerts, performs on TV, and does commercials, and her Facebook page has almost 2.5 million subscribers. But there is a problem here: Miku is a character created by computer software called Vocaloid. The base for Miku’s voice comes from the voice of the Japanese actress Saki Fujita and a hologram of the singer appears at live concerts.
Many people know the story of the girl Mulan that fought in a 12-year war in place of her elderly father. A crater on Venus is named after this girl and the FIFA Women’s World Cup even chose Mulan to be its symbol. The first mentions of Mulan date back to the 6th century in a poem called Ballad of Mulan. But whether Hua Mulan had a real prototype still remains a mystery.
The story of the black worker, John Henry, was the inspiration for a lot of songs, novels, cartoons, and urban legends. John beat a steam-powered rock drilling machine in a competition and made a tunnel faster than the machine. Unfortunately, his body couldn’t stand up to the work and he died of exhaustion. Historians still argue about whether John even existed, because there are no documents or other evidence that he was real or that such a competition ever took place.
The poems of the warrior Ossian, found by writer James Macpherson, were allegedly dated to be from the 3rd century C.E. But in fact, Macpherson just combined some pieces of Irish ballads with the works of Milton and Homer. But Ossian’s works inspired a lot of writers around the world, even when it was discovered that he didn’t exist.
The fact that King David or his kingdom even existed is up for debate. For a long time, scientists believed that there was no direct evidence that King David existed. At the moment, there are different opinions: some historians believe that David was just the head of a small principality, and others think that David was not any more real than King Arthur.
Were you amazed by any of these stories? Did you think that some of these people really existed?
Preview photo credit Mulan / Walt Disney Pictures