Sunday, May 15, 2022

20 Habits Of Untrustworthy People

It goes without saying that you'll want to avoid untrustworthy people. While you'd think it would be easy to spot a dishonest character, that's simply not the case. It's often near-impossible to tell whether that new colleague or romantic interest is a compulsive liar at heart. Thankfully, there are some tell-tale personality traits that will help you.

20) They try a little too hard to charm you:

As the old saying goes, "Flattery will get you anywhere." And perhaps that's why untrustworthy people often try to get into your good graces with a little sweet talk. When someone is overly complimentary, it's not always because that person is nice. It's probably because they want you to see them in as a good guy.

Keeping an eye out for over-flatterers isn't just helpful in everyday work situations. Lawmakers say flattery is often used by potential perpetrators in interviews. Excessive fawning is a sign that one lacks authenticity and sincerity. What these people say shouldn't necessarily be taken at face value.

9) They dominate the conversation:

Have you ever been at a party where one person dominates the room with their stories? You shouldn't necessarily believe what they say—those tales might be made up. According to psychologists, controlling the room could be a signal of Machiavellianism and an indication that this person isn't entirely trustworthy.

In 2011, an article in Scientific American said Machiavellians "are pragmatic liars who aren't fearful or anxious." And this is why at parties "they tend to dominate, but they also seem relaxed, talented and confident." Because of this, it can be hard to ignore their lies. Their charms can be "hypnotic." as body language reader Patti Wood explained to Bustle in 2020.

18) Buzzwords are their mother tongue:

"Solutionize. Ideation. Enterprise Thinking." These are the kinds of words you often hear managers say, phrases that sound big and fancy but mean nothing. To those in the business world, buzzwords tend to be an annoying part of the daily grind. But to those in the know, they're a signal of so much more.

A former FBI operative associates the tendency to use buzzwords with dishonesty. Writing for CNBC in 2020, the expert argued that these phrases are used "to substitute quantity for quality" and are helpful in diverting from the truth. Buzzwords are also a great tool for incompetent leaders, as they hide the fact that the speaker doesn't have anything to say.

17) They love bonding over mutual dislikes:

Everyone loves a little gossip. Who can deny that dishing dirt with a confidant about someone you don't like isn't a little fun? What makes gossiping so rewarding, though, is the fact that by doing so, you're establishing a rapport with someone else. And these are the sort of connections that dishonest people love to seek out.

Untrustworthy people will use gossip as a way to establish a connection with you. They imply that you're better than those other people, otherwise they wouldn't be confiding their disapproval. They give you opportunities to jump in with your own disapproval for those people as if it's a healthy form of bonding.

16) They move quickly in their relationships:

When a new partner shows signs they want to commit, it's thought of as a good thing, right? While they're asking to meet your parents, planning a weekend away, or even suggesting you move in together, you'll probably be thinking you've found the one. Sadly, the truth is usually a little more complex…

In reality, a partner may only be moving so fast because they know doing so lowers your defenses. Often people who are likely to harm others will sweep in quickly and forcefully and try to foster a false sense of trust. If things are moving at a lightning pace, don't be afraid to apply the brakes.

15) They don’t take criticism well:

Most of us can be sensitive to criticism, it's hard not to be. If you've invested your time and effort into a project, it can be a little demoralizing when someone picks it apart. While criticism for many of us is a necessary part of personal growth, it's a completely different story for dishonest people.

Sensitivity to criticism is one of the most common traits of untrustworthy individuals. And it can be dangerous as people who become defensive feel if they deny something, it ceases to exist. Dishonest people tend to derive their sense of worth from positive feedback, making it easy for them to block out negative opinions.

14) They become aggressive when challenged:

Should you ever succeed in calling a liar out on their lies, don't expect them to take it in their stride. Unlike ordinary folk, untrustworthy people tend to become angered when confronted with their dishonesty. Untrustworthy people pout. They act aggressive. They change the subject. They distort the accusation.

In these cases, it often feels like you've done something wrong. But don't be fooled: this behavior is merely a front to cover up the fact that they've been caught. When a liar becomes hostile or defensive, he is attempting to turn the tables on you.

13) They always, definitely, unequivocally speak in absolutes:

"You never finish your work on time." "You're always late." "You don't care about me at all." Statements phrased as strongly as these are very effective in convincing you that the accuser has a point. And because of this, strident words such as always and never are a gift for untrustworthy people who want to present their lies as truth.

Problems may arise later if these exaggerations aren't corrected. When absolutes go unchallenged, they have a tendency to become seen as truth. In contrast, words such as usually or often express doubt and soften the absolutes. They can be a good indicator that the speaker can be trusted.

12) They have a new set of friends every week:

While a lot of us find it difficult to make new friends, untrustworthy people don't seem to have this problem. For them, finding folks to hang out with is no trouble, and they often appear to have a wide circle of acquaintances. The thing is, though, keeping relationships alive when you're a liar is tough. So their amiability is more out of necessity than choice.

If dishonest people keep losing friends, how come they're always able to make new friends? It all comes down to them projecting an image of themselves as someone with whom you'd want to be friends. Dishonest people are often quite charming and good storytellers.

11) They love a robust debate:

One thing that untrustworthy people love to do is engage in debates—not civilized and rational debates. They prefer one-sided wars of words focusing on attacks of character as opposed to ideas. For this reason, engaging a dishonest person in a debate can be dangerous because they have no interest in an honest discussion."

Untrustworthy people resort to underhanded tactics such as insinuation and playing on fears when arguing. And these days these dubious techniques are everywhere. Once upon a time you couldn't get a passing grade in English if you communicated like that.

10) What they're saying vs. how they're saying it:

Throughout your life, you may have found that body language conveys just as much meaning as spoken words. When someone is frowning while speaking, for example, that's probably a good indicator that they have something negative to share. Liars, on the other hand, may be more inclined to smile when delivering a supposedly unhappy story.

In general, dishonest people will convey one emotion through their speech and another with their bodies. Such disconnect is a tell-tale sign of dishonesty. It's easy to lie with words, but our bodies know and show the truth," he wrote.

9) Their facial expressions seem off:

A dishonest person may find it easy to lie to you, but lying to themselves is a different matter entirely. Untrustworthy individuals often exhibit unique mannerisms that show just how awkward they really find the act of lying. Learning to hone in on these clues is a good way to separate the truth from fiction.

An FBI agent identified a series of behaviors that can indicate an individual's true nature. These could be a fake smile, a head that's rolled back just a little bit, and staring eyes. When you see these signs, it's wise to give them special attention about why they feel uncomfortable.

8) They deflect blame while apologizing:

Apologizing when you're in the wrong is a vital part of maintaining a healthy relationship. And yet saying sorry isn't always as easy—it involves owning up to your mistakes and acknowledging your own fallibility. Perhaps this is why dishonest people—who are often blind to their imperfections—find this task especially difficult.

Admittedly, untrustworthy people can say they're sorry. But they usually use it as a prefix for an accusation that reframes the recipient as the real villain. This happens out of fear, particularly in fear's common disguises of arrogance, perfectionism, or some other form of superiority. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of apology, quit while you're ahead.

7) They like to sour your opinion on others:

Thanks to their superficially charming natures, dishonest people are often very good at forming bonds with others. But it's not enough for these untrustworthy individuals to count you as a friend. Sometimes, they will purposefully try to drive a wedge between you and your other acquaintances—just for the sake of it.

One way in which untrustworthy people may tear down bonds between friends is through hearsay. And according to specialists, manipulation and gossip are perfect tools for liars to pit people against each other. After the dust has settled on these arguments, the dishonest individual may also find themselves in a situation that's better for them.

6) Their body language is closed-off:

No matter how good somebody is at lying, the act itself will usually leave that person uncomfortable. The discomfort comes from the fact that lying makes them feel exposed, vulnerable, and open to attack.

Someone who's lying to you will shield the most exposed sections of their body such as their head, neck, or abdomen as a defensive measure. But what's more telling than these gestures is a full or partial covering of the mouth. As Bradberry stated, a covered mouth quite literally represents a closing off of communication.

5) Their movements and emotions are hard to predict:

Certain people seem to change on a daily basis. One moment, they won't leave you alone; the next, they won't even respond to your texts. If you have a friend who's this unpredictable, it could be a signal of untrustworthiness. Behaviors that are either aggressive or erratic are signs that someone hasn't yet figured out who they are.

Small changes in emotions can be a giveaway, too. For example, does this person experience mood swings? Can they switch between opposing emotional states in an instant? Someone who exhibits these behaviors is likely prone to narcissism and the habit of saying or doing anything to emerge on top.

4)They never work on a relationship:

It goes without saying that relationships are hard. And in order to maintain a healthy one, couples must work together to understand each other's changing needs. Sadly, not all parties are interested in putting in the work, which leads to a situation where one partner is shouldering all of the responsibilities.

In many cases, a simple conversation can restore the balance. But partners who are dishonest, unreliable, or controlling may exhibit what is referred to as a demand-withdrawal. These individuals are more likely to withdraw from the conversation and discussion rather than confront the issue.

3) They project all their insecurities onto you:

As Sigmund Freud said, psychological projection is a common condition recognized within psychoanalysis. Essentially a form of self-defense, this behavior is used as a way for certain people to avoid dealing with their own bad habits while simultaneously calling out somebody else. It's a technique commonly used by the dishonest in society.

People who are untrustworthy have a consistent habit of accusing others of behaviors that they are exhibiting or contemplating themselves. So, if somebody you know is accusing you of something you've never done, don't take it to heart. They're probably just trying to divert attention away from their own shortcomings.

2) They can't keep secrets:

If someone who can't be trusted enters your life, then you should under no condition tell them anything that you don't want anybody else to know. But how can you tell if someone new can keep a secret without actually giving them a secret to spill?

One way to identify an untrustworthy person is to see how well they keep their own confidential information under wraps. Did that person unload all of their emotional baggage onto you when you met them? If yes, then it's a sign they lack control over themselves and are probably unlikely to keep their mouths shut.

1) They show little to no empathy:

We've talked about the habits and peculiarities of untrustworthy people. But one thing we haven't mentioned is why dishonest people lie in the first place. For many psychologists, it all boils down to empathy—something many of us take for granted but that untrustworthy people are fully or partially lacking. And this deficiency allows them to ignore the pain their lies cause.

Assuming everyone has empathy is partly why we let people like this into our lives in the first place. Our natural empathy makes it difficult for us to imagine someone without it. So many people get into relationships with pathological liars because they're trying to fit these people into the ordinary standards of what it means to be empathetic. 

Monday, May 9, 2022


I recently came across an article listing 10 lies that we all hear (and say) on a daily basis…things you don't necessarily think of as lies.  These are usually considered as slight exaggerations, an attempt to be polite rather than confrontational, or merely being nice rather than hurt someone's feelings.  But no matter how you rationalize it, they are still lies.

1)  "Everything's great."

It's the usual response in a restaurant when your server asks how everything is, a brush-off even though the soup is too salty.  And the possible consequences of this insignificant little lie?  The chef never finds out he's heavy-handed with the seasonings, people stop coming to his restaurant, and you end up with the same too-salty soup everyone else was also reluctant to mention.  You might be doing the chef a favor if you tell your server—politely—that something is off.

2)  "I'm fine."

Reality check for men: No woman who says this to you is actually fine.  Something's wrong and you need a strategy to figure out how to fix it.  Most of the time it's as easy as asking her how she really feels.

3)  "I love your new haircut."

People usually compliment anything that catches their eye as new or different—no matter how ugly it may be or how much they don't like it.  If your significant other has a different opinion on your new hair style—or jacket, or shoes—than your chipper coworker, trust your significant other's take.  The I get so many compliments on this defense doesn't hold up.

4)  "No thanks, I've got it."

Guys, in particular, feel guilty accepting assistance from others, especially from a woman—even if they could really use it.  If you have to ask, "Can I give you a hand with that?" you should already be helping—not offering to lend a hand.

5)  "I couldn't find time to look at that today."

It doesn't matter if your boss said that, a client, or someone else, rest assured that you're being put off.  If you need the feedback right away but fear you might irritate your boss or client with repeated requests, you'll need to come up with a new way to present your need.

6)  "It's so great to see you."

Is it really great?  Your wife's or husband's friend from college looks to be in a huge hurry, and you don't really know the person that well.  This is a polite lie that really means, "I want to stop talking to you now."  Offer a quick smile then you can both get on with your day.

7)  "That's interesting."

People throw out this meaningless phrase so often it's become more of a cliché or silence-filler than a lie.  Instead, consider what you actually think before speaking, and come up with a more insightful adjective (and "That's stupid!" doesn't count).

8)  "Your email ended up in my spam folder."

Of all the emails you've successfully sent this person and it's this one that mysteriously ended up in the spam folder?  No need to call this person out on it.  Recognize this deception for what it is and figure out a better way to grab this person's attention next time.

9)  "I just saw your text."

Your friends have no problem lying about being busy when they're actually looking at other things or surfing the net.  But when they actually have a lot on their plates, they become reluctant about admitting it (sometimes for fear that it sounds like a flimsy excuse).  This text message is their polite way of saying, "I was too busy to answer you right away."

10)  "Sorry."

Admit it: Even you toss out apologies as readily as you would a losing lottery ticket.  At least 95 percent of the time you tell someone you're sorry when you really mean, "That's too bad."  Don't apologize unless there's something you need to apologize for and you mean it. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Mother's Day—A Brief History

Mother's Day is a holiday honoring motherhood. It's observed in different forms in many countries, the date traditionally falling on the second Sunday in May in the United States (in 2022 it falls on May 8).

The celebration of mothers and motherhood goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals honoring the mother goddesses. The clearest precedent for Mother's Day is the early Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday. This was once a major tradition in the UK and parts of Europe, falling on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was a time when the faithful would return to their mother church (the main church in the vicinity of their home) for a special service. Over time the tradition shifted into a secular holiday with children bringing flowers to their mothers as tokens of appreciation.

Although the roots of the modern American Mother's Day go back to the years prior to our Civil War (1861-1865), the official Mother's Day holiday in the U.S. arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis. Following her mother's death in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother's Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother's Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mothers Day event at a retail store in Philadelphia.

Following the success of her first Mother's Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912, many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother's Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother's Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother's Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation and visiting one's mother or attending church services. But once Mother's Day became a national holiday, it wasn't long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise the Mother's Day profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced what she believed it had become and urged people to stop buying Mother's Day flowers, cards and candies. Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother's Day profiteers and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name "Mother's Day," eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

Even though versions of Mother's Day are celebrated throughout the world, traditions vary from country to country. For example—in Thailand, Mother's Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen. And in Ethiopia, families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the US, Mother's Day has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Famous People Who Possibly Never Existed

In our present age of instant information sources (both real and fake), it's easy to search for the biography of a well-known person. However, it was not always this way. The facts about many historical figures weren't written down until years, sometimes decades or even centuries, after they allegedly lived. With these large gaps of time, any evidence of the person's actual existence may be nothing more than stories with an absence of any real proof.

Here is a list of famous people whose names you will recognize but who may never have existed at all, at least not in their popular and commonly accepted form. This list of 6 is only a small number of famous people who may or may not be real. The original list I came across had 17 people on it.


The tale of a woman dressing as a man and fighting for a cause (whether family, country, or religion) is a timeless theme (think Joan of Arc). Disney introduced movie fans to the legend of Mulan, though she was already famous in Chinese literature. It's commonly accepted that Mulan was a real person who actually did this. But any evidence of this actually happening is scarce.

The book Chinese Shadow Theatre: History, Popular Religion, and Women Warriors says Mulan might have been a fictional character based in part on Wei Huahu, an actual female warrior from ancient China. As for Mulan herself, the earliest known reference was in an ancient song, The Battle of Mulan. But it doesn't specify when she lived, gives few details of the actual battles she fought, and didn't give a full name for her other than Mulan.

Then there's a text called Lienü zhuan translated as Exemplary Women of Early China, written by Liu Xiang around 18 BC, and packed with over 120 biographies of famous women from ancient China. Despite supposedly being a prominent person, Mulan is not listed. Even though she supposedly lived several hundred years after Xiang first published his book, there's a section at the end for supplemental biographies. No one has ever added Mulan, even though her alleged exploits were quite exceptional.


Surely the great William Shakespeare was a real person. He has lots of writings and there are portraits of him. So, how could he not be real? I'm been to Stratford-Upon-Avon in England and have toured Shakespeare's house. Surprisingly, many people are convinced that "William Shakespeare" was a pen name, and whoever wrote those stories might be lost to history.

As presented on PBS, there was a man named William Shakespeare, but we know little about him. We don't know where he learned to write, how he learned so much about law, politics, and history, and his will mentioned no plays or sonnets, which you'd think would be foremost on his mind. It sounds like the real Shakespeare didn't write much more than the daily to do list. If true, then who is the real Shakespeare? Plenty of candidates have emerged over the years, like Francis Bacon, Ben Johnson, and Christopher Marlowe, but these possibilities haven't stuck.

There's another legitimate possibility in Edward de Vere—the Earl of Oxford. According to J. Thomas Looney, a schoolteacher who uncovered a great deal about the man, Vere wrote poetry that reads much like what is attributed to Shakespeare. According to this theory, Vere used an assumed name because being one of the nobility he didn't want to be associated with a low-brow art like playwriting. Then, when he died, his followers published his plays under the pen name of some random commoner named William Shakespeare who had died years before.

Robin Hood

The legendary English folk hero Robin Hood is well-known for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, residing in Sherwood Forest with his band of merry men, and wooing Maid Marian. The stories are certainly fictitious, but was Robin Hood a real person or simply based on one? It's impossible to say if any one individual inspired the legend's creation. The stories are either totally invented, or are a combination of elements taken from different historical sources.

Identifying a single person as the basis for the famous outlaw becomes even more difficult as the stories began to grow in popularity in the 13th and 14th centuries. Various English outlaws began calling themselves Robin Hood. Nevertheless, some historians speculate that Robin Hood was based at least in part on nobleman Fulk FitzWarin, who rebelled against King John (one of Robin Hood's foes). FitzWarin's life was later turned into its own medieval tale, Fouke le Fitz Waryn, which holds some similarities to the Robin Hood stories. If he was the basis, then a name change was a good decision. The name Fulk FitzWarin doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of villains.

William Tell

William Tell is a Swiss folk hero who allegedly lived in Switzerland during the early 14th century, when the Hapsburg dynasty of Austria ruled the land. As the story goes, an Austrian official placed a hat on a pole in city of Altdorf and commanded every Swiss subject to remove their caps in a show of respect as they passed by it. One day, William Tell, a local peasant accompanied by his son, refused to comply. In response, the Austrians forced him to shoot an apple off his son's head at 120 paces or face execution. Tell loaded his crossbow and skillfully shot the apple. He then went on to lead a small revolt against the Austrians.

Tell is essentially the Swiss version of Robin Hood and, much like the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, he probably never existed. The apple story is extremely similar to a Viking folktale, which most likely was imported to Switzerland at some point and used by Swiss patriots as a rallying cry against their Austrian rulers.


Homer is the Greek poet who wrote two of the books that your English teacher probably required you to read in high school—The Iliad and The Odyssey. Despite the popularity and importance of these mythological epics, their author remains shrouded in mystery. Homer almost certainly was not the creator of these tales, which likely preceded him by about 1,000 years. He was simply the first to write them down. As for the poet himself, some say Homer was blind, while at least one author argues that Homer was actually a woman.

Some historians believe that Homer was not a single person, but rather a group of Greek scholars. In the end, we will probably never know the answer, but the legacy of Homer's works will continue.

King Arthur

We're all familiar with the Arthurian legend. Even if you haven't read the stories, you likely saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail or are familiar with the theatrical production and subsequent movie, Camelot. In any case, the British king is said to have claimed the sword, Excalibur, from the Lady of the Lake and found the aforementioned Holy Grail. These stories are most likely a mishmash of folklore, but was the Arthur of legend based on a real man? The first tales of Arthur appeared in the ninth century and chronicle his battle against the invading Saxon armies, so it's likely that the individuals who served as the basis for Arthur lived sometime before then. Some historians suggest the Roman military commander Lucius Artorius Castus as a possible candidate. Others suggest Riothamus, king of the Britons during the fifth century.

John Henry

John Henry—the steel-driving man has been immortalized in folk music since the 1800s. His Ballad of John Henry tells the story of an ex-slave working on the railroad. He challenged a steam drill to see which could work faster, and he won. He died soon afterwards from sheer exhaustion. The greatest heroes die in the end, and Henry's story has ascended to near-myth because of it.

Thing is, he might actually be a myth. As NPR explains, John Henry is almost certainly a "tall tale," though one based on "historical circumstance." There were obviously men working on railroads back in the 1800s, and steam drills were eventually introduced as a way to speed up labor and reduce costs. More than likely, the rail workers disapproved of a machine taking their jobs, though it's unproven if anybody actually attempted to work faster than one.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

6 Important Lands That Never Existed

This week's blog is about six lands at one time believed to be real but since have been proven to be no more than myths.

Ancient travelers (and by ancient I mean many centuries ago, maybe even millenniums) told stories of mysterious places located in the unexplored reaches of the world—fabled cities, phantom islands, and exotic civilizations.  Even though these lands were usually dismissed as myths and legends, a few of them found their way onto world maps and helped inspire some of history’s most important journeys of discovery.  From a fabled Christian empire in Asia to a supposed lost kingdom in Canada, find out more about six of the most influential lands that never were.

1) Thule

A subject of fascination for ancient explorers, romantic poets and Nazi occultists.  Thule was an elusive territory believed to be located in the frozen north Atlantic near Scandinavia. Its legend dates back to the 4th century B.C. when the Greek journeyman Pytheas claimed to have travelled to an icy island beyond Scotland where the sun rarely set and land, sea and air combined into a bewildering, jelly-like mass.

Many of Pytheas' contemporaries doubted his claims, but that didn't stop distant Thule from lingering in the European imagination.  It eventually became synonymous with the northernmost place in the known world.  Explorers and researchers variously identified it as Norway, Iceland and the Shetland Islands, and it served a recurring theme in poetry and myth.  The island is perhaps most famous for its connection to the Thule Society, a post-World War I occult organization in Germany that considered Thule the ancestral home of the Aryan race. The Munich-based group counted many future Nazis among its members, including Rudolf Hess, who later served as Deputy Führer of Germany under Adolf Hitler.

2) The Kingdom of Prester John

For more than 500 years, Europeans believed a Christian king ruled over a vast empire somewhere in the wilds of either Africa, India or the Far East.  Talk of this mythical land first surfaced in 1165 after the Byzantine and Holy Roman emperors received a letter—most likely a European forgery—from a monarch calling himself Prester John.  The mysterious king claimed to serve as supreme ruler of the three Indies and all its 72 kingdoms.  He described his realm as a utopia rich in gold, populated by exotic races of giants and horned men.  Perhaps most important of all, Prester John and his subjects were Christians—even the name Prester meant Priest.

Despite the fact that a Papal mission to find Prester John's court disappeared without a trace, the myth of his kingdom took hold among Europeans.  Crusading Christians rejoiced in the idea that a devout ruler might come to their aid in the struggle against Islam during the Crusades, and when Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes conquered parts of Persia in the early 1200s, many mistakenly credited Prester John's forces with the attack.  The kingdom later became a subject of fascination for travelers and explorers.  Marco Polo provided a questionable account of encountering its remnants in Northern China.  Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese mariners searched for it in Africa and India.  While explorers eventually discovered a Christian civilization in Ethiopia, it lacked the grandeur and the gold Europeans had come to associate with Prester John's realm. By the 17th century, the legend had faded, and the famed empire was dropped from most maps.

3) Hy-Brasil

Long before Europeans ever stepped foot in the New World, explorers searched for the island of Hy-Brasil, an ethereal land said to exist off the west coast of Ireland.  The story of Hy-Brasil most likely comes from Celtic legend—its name means Isle of the Blest in Gaelic—but its precise origins are unclear.  Hy-Brasil first appeared on maps in the 14th century, usually in the form of a small, circular island with a narrow strait splitting it in two.  Many mariners accepted it as a real place until as recently as the 1800s, and it became popular as the basis for myths and folktales.  Some legends described the island as a lost paradise.  Others claimed that it was perpetually obscured by a dense curtain of mist and fog, only becoming visible to the naked eye every seven years.  [which sounds as if it might have been the genesis of the Lerner & Lowe musical Brigadoon about a village in Scotland that appeared out of the mist every one hundred years]

Despite its somewhat whimsical reputation, Hy-Brasil was widely sought after by Britain-based explorers in the 15th century. The navigator John Cabot launched several expeditions in an attempt to find it.  It's suggested that he had hoped to locate it during his famous journey to the coast of Newfoundland in 1497.  Documents from Cabot's time claim that previous explorers had already reached Hy-Brasil, leading some researchers to argue that these unnamed mariners may have inadvertently traveled all the way to the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus.

4) El Dorado

Beginning in the 16th century, European explorers and conquistadors were intrigued by tales of a mythical city of gold located in the unexplored reaches of South America.  The city had its origin in accounts of El Dorado (The Gilded One), a native king who powdered his body with gold dust and tossed jewels and gold into a sacred lake as part of a coronation rite.  Stories of the gilded king eventually led to rumors of a golden city of untold wealth and splendor.  Adventurers spent many years—and countless lives—in a futile search for its riches.

One of the most famous El Dorado expeditions came in 1617, when the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh traveled up the Orinoco River on a quest to find it in what is now Venezuela.  They didn't find any trace of the gilded city, and King James I later executed Raleigh after he disobeyed an order to avoid fighting with the Spanish.  El Dorado continued to drive exploration and colonial violence until the early 1800s, when scientists Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland branded the city a myth after undertaking a research expedition to Latin America.

El Dorado wasn't the only gilded city supposedly tucked away in the New World.  European explorers also hunted for the Seven Cities of Cibola, a mythical group of gold-rich settlements said to be located somewhere in what are now Mexico and the American Southwest.  The most famous search for the Seven Cities came in the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado scoured the Great Plains of the U.S. in search of a city of riches called Quivira.

5) St. Brendan's Island

St. Brendan's Island was a mysterious manifestation of Paradise once thought to be hidden somewhere in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.  The myth of the phantom island dates back to the Navigation Brendani, or Voyage of Brendan, a 1,200-year-old Irish legend about the seafaring monk St. Brendan the Navigator.  As the story goes, Brendan led a crew of pious sailors on a 6th century voyage in search of the famed Promised Land of the Saints.  The journey on the open sea describes attacks by fireball-wielding giants and run-ins with talking birds.  According to the tale, Brendan and his men landed on a mist-covered island filled with delicious fruit and sparkling gems. The grateful crew are said to have spent 40 days exploring the island before returning to Ireland.

Although there is no historical proof of St. Brendan's voyage, the legend became so popular during medieval times that St. Brendan's Island found its way onto many maps of the Atlantic. Early cartographers placed it near Ireland, but in later years it migrated to the coasts of North Africa, the Canary Islands and finally the Azores. Sailors often claimed to have caught fleeting glimpses of the mystical isle during the Age of Discovery, and it's likely that even Christopher Columbus believed in its existence.  Its legend eventually faded after multiple search expeditions failed to track it down. By the 18th century, the famed Promised Land of the Saints had been removed from most navigational charts.

6) The Kingdom of Saguenay

The story of the mirage-like Kingdom of Saguenay dates to the 1530s, when French explorer Jacques Cartier made his second journey to Canada in search of gold and a northwest passage to Asia.  While traveling along the St. Lawrence River at what is modern day Quebec, Cartier's Iroquois guides began to whisper tales of Saguenay, a vast kingdom that lay to the north. According to a chief named Donnacona, the mysterious realm was rich in spices, furs and precious metals and populated by blond, bearded men with pale skin.  The stories eventually transitioned into the realm of the absurd when the natives claimed the region was also home to races of one-legged people and whole tribes possessing no anus.  Cartier became intrigued by the prospect of plundering the riches of Saguenay.  He brought Donnacona back to France, where the Iroquois chief continued to spread tales of a lost kingdom.

Legends about Saguenay haunted French explorers in North America for years, but treasure hunters never found any trace of the mythical land.  Most historians now dismiss it as a myth, but some argue the natives may have been referring to copper deposits in the Canadian northwest.  Others have suggested that the Indian tales could have been inspired by a centuries old Norse outpost left over from Viking voyages to North America.

Fortunately, today we have Google Earth to confirm or deny such rumors of mythical places.  :)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Famous Historical People And Their Favorite Food (part 2 of 2)

Which world leader's favorite food was the simple grilled cheese sandwich? Which Hollywood star earnestly yearned for a plate of beef tripe? This week in part 2 of 2, I'm presenting the favorite food of famous historical people who achieved fame and/or notoriety after 1900.

Albert Einstein

A 2014 article in Time magazine reported that frequent fish-eaters had increased brain power. If that's true, then Albert Einstein, one of the smartest people who ever lived, probably ate fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But in reality, he didn't. In fact, his favorite dish was distinctly unfishy—it was pasta. If he came to your house for dinner, you could make him happy with a heaping plate of spaghetti.

Alfred Hitchcock

Master film director Alfred Hitchcock seemed like the kind of man who enjoyed his food. And his favorite meal? Ham pie. It actually sounds pretty tasty with ingredients including nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and eggs. Strangely, he'd eat eggs cooked in a dish but individual eggs completely horrified him. He claimed to be terrified by the sight of the yellow yolk leaking out.

Andy Warhol

Given some of Warhol's most famous artworks, you might assume his favorite meal would be a can of Campbell's tomato soup. He claimed he had it for lunch every day for 20 years. Yet it wasn't his number one food. That honor went to cake, just about any kind of cake. One story said he had his own unique recipe—a chocolate bar stuffed in between two slices of bread.

Benito Mussolini

To say that Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had little to recommend him as a human being is putting it mildly. And not surprisingly, his eating habits also left a lot to be desired. Apparently, his favorite snack was a salad garnished with lots of raw garlic. It must have been possible to smell him approaching before he entered a room.

Charlie Chaplin

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, perhaps the most famous movie actor of his era and still highly popular today, loved to eat something seldom seen on today's menu—beef tripe. It's so rarely served nowadays, you might not even be sure what it is. It's the stomach lining of an animal, usually pig, sheep, or, as in Chaplin's case, cow.

Elvis Presley

Elvis famously struggled with his weight in later years, and when you take a look at his favorite food, that comes as no surprise. The King's number one snack was a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Basically, you make this calorie-heavy dish by spreading mashed banana and peanut butter between two slices of white bread. But the killer blow is that you fry it in two tablespoons of butter.

Ernest Hemingway

American literary giant Ernest Hemingway spent a considerable amount of time in Europe, especially Paris. That might make you think he would be partial to fancy French cuisine, but he wasn't. When it came to food, Hemingway was as American as apple pie. Or, in his case, hamburgers, as it was those tasty beef patties in a bun that he loved above all other goods.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was one of the smoothest crooners of all time. But when he wasn't making us swoon with his voice, he loved nothing more than to eat Italian food. Many say his favorite restaurant was Patsy's Italian in New York City. And when he visited, he was sure to order their artichokes with a stuffing that included Parmesan, olives, capers, and herbs.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

When he wasn't steering America out of the Great Depression or leading the country to World War II victory, it seems that President Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed simple things. One of those was his favorite snack—grilled cheese sandwich. And when he wasn't eating that, he enjoyed a plate of scrambled eggs or a hot dog.

Harry Houdini

When he wasn't freeing himself from chains, straitjackets, and even coffins, Harry Houdini kept up his strength with platefuls of spaetzle. For those not sure exactly what spaetzles are, you're in good company. They are actually a type of egg dumpling originating in central Europe. Since Houdini was born in Hungary, spaetzle may have been a favorite from childhood.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller's lack of sight and hearing—caused by an illness in infancy—didn't stop her from becoming a distinguished writer and advocate for disabled people's rights. Bug given her undoubtedly sharp intellect, you might have thought she'd have a sophisticated palate. But not so. Her favorite snack was the reassuringly informal hot dog.

John F. Kennedy

The fact that President John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, means that his favorite food should hardly come as a surprise. It was clam chowder, a dish much loved throughout New England. Of course, for a Massachusetts man, the chowder had to be made with plenty of cream in the traditional style of the region.

Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il (father to North Korea's current dictator) was the second of the hereditary communist dictators from the Kim dynasty who ruled North Korea until his death in 2011. It's reported that his favorite food was dog meat stew—and no, not a dish made from meat usually served to dogs. It was a stew made with dog [definitely a horrible thought]. Apparently, he liked to wash it down with a disgracefully decadent Western product—Hennessy brandy.

Margaret Thatcher

British prime minister from 1979 to 1990, Margaret Thatcher was unusual among world leaders due to her pre-politics career. A chemistry graduate, she actually worked as a food scientist for a time, and some even claim she developed soft scoop ice cream. But that wasn't her favorite food. Her favorite was a strange concoction called "mystery starter." This was an unlikely mixture of Philadelphia cream cheese, tinned beef consommé, and curry powder.

Pablo Picasso

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, perhaps the 20th century's most famous painter, was tremendously successful during his lifetime. He could have eaten the fanciest food available in his adopted country of France. But when it came down to it, nothing pleased Picasso more than a plate of Catalan sausages from his native Spain, accompanied by beans.

Sammy Davis, Jr.

Speaking to the Evening Independent in 1966,Sammy Davis, Jr., made it no secret about his favorite food. The talented singer and actor said he loved spaghetti and meatballs. He added that it dated to when he was a child. Even when touring internationally would take him to Rome, Italy, he would always end up ordering spaghetti and meatballs.

Vladimir Lenin

When he wasn't leading and consolidating Russia's communist revolution, ruthless Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin likes to relax with a bowl of his favorite broth. And that was milk soup with dumplings, a dish that many of us may be unfamiliar with. In fact, it sounds more like a drink than a soup since its ingredients were simply milk, salt, and sugar. Although it was fortified with the addition of hearty dumplings.

Winston Churchill

British wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill was well-known for his enjoyment of alcoholic beverages and large cigars. Nothing particularly peculiar about that. But his favorite food is quite a surprise, it was soup. But not just any old soup—it had to be turtle soup. Of course, in today's conservation-conscious era, killing a turtle to make soup is frowned on. 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Famous Historical People And Their Favorite Food (part 1 of 2)


This week in part 1 of 2, I'm presenting the favorite food of famous historical people who achieved fame and/or notoriety before 1900.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was a man of straight forward tastes, and one dish in particular whetted his appetite—a simple place of baked beans. During the Civil War, it's said Lincoln would often join his personal guard detachment to share their humble meal of beans.

Alexandre Dumas

Best known for The Three Musketeers, French author Alexandre Dumas was something of a gourmet who ate at the fanciest Paris restaurants. One of his works was an encyclopedia of cooking, the Grand Dictionaire de Cuisine. His favorite food was actually an elaborate salad dressing, which included herbs, boiled eggs, anchovies, and gherkins.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn—one of six women unlucky enough to marry Henry VIII. It didn't end well for her since Henry had her beheaded for alleged infidelity. But before that fateful day, her favorite meal was apparently venison. When Henry was courting her, it's said one way he tried to win her favor was to gift her with deer meat.


Even though he was a famous composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven seldom had much money to spare. It's not surprising that his favorite food would be the economical mac and cheese. But it wasn't really all that inexpensive, as Beethoven insisted the dish had to be made with Parmesan, not the cheapest of cheeses.

Charles Darwin

British naturalist Charles Darwin shot to fame with the publication of his revolutionary book The Origin of Species. Darwin didn't just study the natural world: he also ate it. While he was a student at Cambridge University in England, he was a member of a group called the Glutton's Club. It was dedicated to eating creatures not normally on human menus. So later in life, it was only natural that he would dine on an armadillo. Apparently, it tasted like duck.

George Washington

When George Washington sat down at the meal table, there was one thing that had to be on hand: mushroom ketchup. When we think of ketchup today, tomatoes immediately come to mind. But back in Washington's day, ketchup was tomato-free. It was made with horseradish, anchovies, and mushrooms.

Grover Cleveland

President Grover Cleveland, in office for two separate terms in the 19th century, was apparently no fan of some of the fancier cuisine served up in the White House. He actually had the misfortune of inheriting a French chef from his predecessor Chester A. Authur, but it seems that what Cleveland really craved was a simple plate of pickled herring.

Henry VIII

In popular belief, Henry VIII ate whole roast chickens with his bare hands, throwing the remains over his shoulder to be tidied up by servants. That's probably a myth. But according to actual history, his favorite food was fruit preserves, otherwise known as jam. And not spread on bread, either. He ate it by itself using a fork.

James Monroe

Founding Father James Monroe, who was also U.S. President from 1817 to 1825, was a native Virginian. Apparently it was in Virginia that his favorite dish originated. Although it's said that Monroe was no stranger to more elaborate French cuisine, he turned to spoon break—similar to break pudding—for comfort. It's commonly thought that this dish tasted best when eaten right from the pan where it was cooked.

Julius Caesar

When he found time between conquering large parts of the known world and running the Roman Empire, there was one dish he craved—asparagus. But it had to be served just right. According to The National Geographic, apparently the Roman emperor was once served asparagus prepared in myrrh. The only way to serve it was with olive oil.

Leonardo da Vinci

Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci lived for many years in Tuscany, and it was this Italian region that was responsible for his preferred dish: minestrone soup. Some historians believe the great master was actually a vegetarian in his later years. He seems to have thrived on his favorite minestrone soup since he lived to be 67, a very old age in medieval times.

Mark Twain

Literary giant and accomplished humorist, Mark Twain was in little doubt about his favorite food. At one point, he sat down and made a list of all the foods he missed during his foreign travels. Oysters prepared in various ways appeared no fewer than five times. He was partial to them fried, roasted, stewed, in soup, or simply on the half shell. Obviously, Twain loved oysters.

Mary Shelley

English author Mary Shelley is primarily known for just one of her books, her 1818 work, Frankenstein.  She obviously had a vivid imagination. But when it came to food, she was a bit of a plain Jane. Her heart's desire was simple kale.


The 18th century Austrian composer Wolfgang Mozart produced an astonishing amount of truly beautiful music. But when he wasn't hard at work creating those heavenly melodies, he appetite was more earth bound. His favorite dinner was liver dumplings accompanied by sauerkraut.


Napoleon Bonaparte could presumably have had any dish he wanted from across his extensive empire. But appropriately enough for this military mastermind, the recipe he loved best was actually created on the battlefield. He defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo in 1800. As well as a battlefield victory, the conflict yielded Chicken Marengo. Napoleon's favorite dish. It's a stew with eggs, crawfish, tomatoes, and herbs added to chicken.

Oscar Wilde

Flamboyant British literary figure and legendary wit Oscar Wilde is said to have been a man who enjoyed his meals, and one of his favorite dishes was roast duck. But for Wilde, the duck had to be an actual wild bird, not a farmyard bred fowl. The probably meant he ate mallard ducks, the most popular wild breed eaten in the U.K. to this day.

Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I—on the English throne for 70 years until her death in 1603—is said to have dined on roast cygnet for Christmas dinner. Eating swan was a sign of high status during the Middle Ages, so it was a dish truly fit for a queen. But apparently swans are best eaten as juveniles, when they're called cygnets. According to chef and author Hand Shaw, mature swans taste like "fishy mutton."

Queen Victoria

Presumably, Queen Victoria could have snapped her fingers and ordered any dish available in the sprawling British Empire of the19th century, so her favorite food comes as a genuine surprise: the humble potato. Evidence comes from an anonymously authored 1901 publication, The Private Life of the Queen by a Member of the Royal Household. The writer made the startling claim that, "Her Majesty confesses to a great weakness for potatoes, which are cooked for her in every conceivable way."

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is best remembered for his two presidential terms at the beginning of the 19th century, but he also spent five years as the U.S. Minister to France. And when he returned to America, he brought with him some of his favorite foods. Notable among those was French fried. So, as well as his formidable political achievements, Jefferson can take credit for a dish that has become a central staple of the American diet.

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison served as President of the United States for a mere 32 days in 1841 before he was struck down by a severe case of pneumonia. That made him the shortest term White House occupant in history. We don't know if he was the only president who often dined on squirrel, but the bushy tailed rodent cooked in a stew was his favorite dish.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor occupied the White House for only 16 months before his premature death in 1850. Although he was a native of Virginia, apparently he was a big fan of Creole cuisine. His favorite snack was calas, a sugary fried-dough treat similar to beignets.

Next week, in part 2, I'll be sharing the favorite food of famous historical people who achieved fame between 1900 and present.