There are many stories and tales about the American Revolution. Many of them are true, involving figures like George Washington or Benjamin Franklin, but some of them just don’t stand up to scrutiny. One such example is that of Sybil Ludington, a girl of only sixteen, who is said to have played a significant role in alerting militia forces in New York of approaching British troops – similar to Paul Revere.
However, the name first appeared in writing in 1880, more than a hundred years after her supposed ride, which cast plenty of doubts on the tale. The Daughters of the American Revolution have also determined it’s likely Ludington never existed, or at least the story is fictional.
Pope Joan, as the story goes, was a woman that reigned as the Holy Father for an unknown number of years during the middle ages. Usually, the tale ends with that she managed to rise through the ranks by disguising herself as a man, eventually being elected pope.
However, the truth comes out when Joan gives birth during a procession, and she dies shortly after. While the story was popular for a long time, modern scholars now believe it to be entirely fictional. The earliest version of the story comes from the thirteenth century, and the events are set in 1099.
Her name is on plenty of books that lined your grandmother's shelf, but this famous food matriarch never really existed. Despite being the queen of the kitchen for more than a few generations, she was only a fictional character, invented to give a humanizing aspect to the cookbooks that the company was selling.
While the “First lady of the Kitchen” wasn't real, she inspired more than a few people to try their hand at making tasty food on their own, which led to plenty of real names you might recognize. The character and brand were created in 1921 by Washburn-Crosby, which later became General Mills. Plenty of women have portrayed her anonymously, but they had their own names.
Whether you picture Antonio Banderas fighting with scoundrels, or you imagine one of the earlier versions of the character, you're still just picturing a fictional creation. He was created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919, fighting against the corrupt in an all-black costume and mask, which must have been sweltering in that California heat.
While it's no doubt that Zorro (Spanish for “Fox”) was fictional, inspiration came from a number of places. Chief among them was the bandit Joaquin Murrieta, whose life was fictionalized in an 1854 dime novel by John Rollin Ridge. His closest literary relative is probably Sir Percival Blakeney, hero of the “Scarlet Pimpernel” pulp series.
Helen of Troy
The most beautiful woman in the world is a subjective moniker, but historically it's been given to Helen of Troy, who was so beautiful she started wars. Specifically, the war that takes place in “The Iliad.” While it's very likely there WAS a woman that inspired some animosity between the fiery armies of the Greek states at that period, it probably wasn't the woman we all know.
Seeing as her father was apparently Zeus, the leader of the Greek gods, we can safely assume that some of the details have been manipulated for the purposes of the classic stories.