Aluminum Christmas Trees

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Wow. They really do exist.

Roadrunners are real?

Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "Last of the Red Hat Mamas"

Remember A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) when Lucy said, "Get the biggest aluminum tree you can find, Charlie Brown! Maybe painted pink!" to Charlie Brown? Aluminum Christmas trees painted pink? Modern-day viewers are frequently surprised to find that that line wasn't merely a witty bit of satire about the commercialization of Christmas. The Sixties had their share of oddball kitsch, and the aluminum Christmas tree is a God's-honest-truth real example—it even came in pink (although it was not, as depicted in the cartoon, simply a hollow metal cone; imagine a modern fake tree, only shiny all over). In fact, that cartoon basically put a stop to the sales of aluminum trees.

Aluminum Christmas Trees result when a quaint element of Real Life appears in a work of fiction, but people viewing that work on a later day or in another country mistake the element to be an Unusually Uninteresting Sight the writers made up. In the most extreme cases, they think the element is absurd and dismiss it as "unrealistic".

This can also occur in a period work when the writers did do the research, but the truth they uncovered is so bizarre or surprising that audiences think they must have just made it up. In this case, they may add a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.

There was actually a brief revival of real aluminum Christmas trees in the late 1990s, just about the time the baby boomers turned fifty and the late-1950s-early-1960s nostalgia revival got seriously underway; and actual replicas of one branch with a single ornament on it, inspired by the Peanuts special. They continue to be popular in some quarters, especially in urban areas where the logistics of acquiring, transporting, and disposing of a real tree are more trouble than they're worth. You can still buy them online, along with slowly spinning electric wheels that reflect many colours (including pink) onto the tree.

Compare Tech Marches On, Seinfeld Is Unfunny, and Poe's Law. A subtrope of Reality Is Unrealistic and Truth in Television. Frequently found in Unintentional Period Pieces.

Nothing to do with the Christmas tree the Skylab astronauts made from left-over aluminum cans.

It could simply be a case of Small Reference Pools.

Examples of Aluminum Christmas Trees include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Azumanga Daioh, Tomo believed reindeer didn't exist. This can be Truth in Television as in the Santa Claus mythos, Santa's sleigh is powered by flying reindeer. Meanwhile, outside the countries they live in, "real" reindeer are not commonly featured in non-Christmas media, or in zoos, etc. When they are, they tend to be called by their other name: caribou. From this, many Santa-believing children assume that "reindeer" means a magical deer that can fly, so belief in them eventually goes out the same window as belief in Santa. (Flying caribou, we regret to say, almost certainly are fantasy.) It also doesn't help that until fairly recently, Santa's "reindeer" were depicted as flying roe deer or white-tailed deer, rather than caribou. These depictions, in some cases themselves due to the Aluminum Christmas Trees phenomenon, are semi-examples of Call a Smeerp a Rabbit.
  • Darker than Black. As noted on the Cloak and Dagger page, the British Secret Intelligence Service is popularly called MI-6 thanks to the James Bond series. So, the name "Secret Intelligence Service" seemed too "spy-like" to be real and looks like a fictional agency created by the show. MI-5 and MI-6 were real organizations with responsibility for domestic (MI-5) and overseas (MI-6) human-intelligence assets.[1]
    • Also with the British spies of Darker than Black- it's easy to think that the designs of November 11's cigarettes, black with white skulls on them, are just a joke. Nope, they are an actual British product, which fits perfectly with November 11's sense of humor.
  • Although it didn't reach Urban Legend level in reality, the whole "Rail Tracer" idea in Baccano! has some (possibly unintentional) equivalent in reality. The original Murder, Inc. rode trains and committed hits in various cities so that their crimes were essentially untraceable, as police from the cities where the crimes were committed would naturally suspect local criminals, who likely would have alibis for the time the murders were committed.
    • Completely intentional. The train-hopping assassin is kind of important to the plot. Welcome home, Claire!
  • In Naruto, there was some controversy over a claim that octopuses eat sharks said by Killerbee while fighting Kisame. In real life though it's been known to happen.
  • The title character of Rurouni Kenshin fits this trope in two respects. One, he's loosely based on an actual person, and likewise, so were a number of the other characters (see below). Kenshin's original was named Kawakami Gensai. Potentially, Kenshin's Bishounen to the point of Dude Looks Like a Lady appearance could be an example of this. Word of God states that Gensai had feminine features and carried out assassinations in drag, but this doesn't seem to be reported elsewhere and like the term rurouni might have been something Watsuki made up. It also might have something to do with Uesugi Kenshin,[2] who is presented as a bishonen in some historical fiction works.
    • Shinomori Aoshi was based off historical character Hijikata Toshizo, and his boss Kanryuu based on Takeda Kanryuusai. Also, there really was a Saito Hajime. And Saito Hajime was married, which the author predicted would be so unbelievable that there was a tag that said "This is historical fact" when Saito mentions he's married. He also spent much of his later life as a school teacher and died of an ulcer.
  • An episode/chapter of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei has most of the girls visit Nozomu at his ancestral home, but Nami doesn't make it on time, because she's on the "Normal train". This seems like it would just be a joke, since everyone constantly calls Nami "normal", but that is the actual name of the train - as explained in the English translation, that train is cheaper and runs a bit slower, and is called "futsu", which is the word the characters are using when calling Nami normal/ordinary.
  • One episode of Lupin III shows Lupin in a race driving a six-wheeled car. At the time of production, the Tyrrell P34 was competing in F1, using the four small wheels up front to maintain traction while having better aerodynamics than a pair of taller wheels.

Comic Books

  • There's a 1940s JSA comic that consists pretty much entirely of anti-German war propaganda, which claims (among other things) that the German people are violent by nature. One example of this "natural German barbarity" was called "scar dueling," where young men from high-end academies would fence with the intention of scarring each other's faces, then wear the scars as a status symbol. More than one modern reader thought this was ridiculous propaganda, except it was an actual occurrence in German academies! The scar was called a schmiss, and famous Nazi commander Otto Skorzeny had a prominent one.
    • Mensur dueling is a tradition among many of the German equivalent to American fraternities ("Studentenverbindung", types of which include "Burschenschaften", "Corps", "Landsmannschaften" etc.) Nowadays it is not mainstream any more, which they were and it was in those times, and the scars ("Schmiss", pl. "Schmisse") are no longer a status symbol accepted throughout society, deliberately sought, deliberately emphasized (by deliberately bad stitching, by adding dirt to the wounds, by excessive use of alcohol specifically aimed at impeding the healing of the fresh wounds), which they were at the time, but rather a prominent (very recognizable, definitely not universally desirable) side effect. Here's the type of safety equipment worn for a mensur duel in the late 1950's; unlike a normal fencing mask, it protects the eyes, nose, and throat but leaves the cheeks and forehead vulnerable.
    • In Star Trek: New Frontier, it is assumed (though never said outright) that Katerina Mueller's scar was from a mensur duel from her Heidelberg days. Apparently, the practice is still in existence in the 24th century (though probably on the DL).
    • There is a Genius Bonus about that in Batman: The Animated Series, where Duvall tells Jonah Hex "You cannot defeat me. I am a Heidelberg fencing champion". Jonah is not impressed...
    • E.C. "Oscar" Gordon, protagonist and narrator of Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein, briefly considers going to Heidelberg after leaving the army, in part to be able to claim that the scar he got in Southeast Asia is actually a dueling scar.
  • On a related JSA note, in the 1980s new stories were told about the JSA, and how it disbanded in the 1950s due to pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee to unmask, and answer charges of suspected Communist sympathies. Some younger readers thought that the HUAC couldn't possibly be real. Though by now, The HUAC hearings have become such a staple of comics (due to the real life impact they had on that industry) that any regular reader would know about them.
  • As in Watchmen, there really is a smiley face crater on Mars. This smiley face is called Galle (which is another huge element of the series). Dave Gibbons admits that was incredibly lucky.
  • Jughead's trademark beanie in Archie Comics was actually once a real fashion trend amongst teenagers during the years in which the comic debuted. They would cut up their fathers' old fedoras into jagged-edged inverted caps. Nowadays, Jughead's hat now just makes him look eccentric, or maybe just like a hipster.
  • One of the more frequent nitpicks about the Batman comics is the corruption of the Gotham City Police Department, from the Bronze Age onward. People thought that there's no way a major city could be that openly and utterly corrupt without someone (city government, the Feds) stepping in and cleaning house. Then you get a look at stories about New York City and Chicago, from as recently as the early 90s. Mob control of both departments (in addition to the courts and local government) was near absolute and took the FBI decades to break their hold.
  • The Faygo soft drink, beloved of characters in Knights of the Dinner Table, and the bizarre flavours mentioned (like Rock & Rye), is an actual US brand and not something Jolly Blackburn had made up. Fans of the Insane Clown Posse will recognize it as the band's drink of choice.
    • For added surprise, Rock & Rye is both a whiskey cocktail and a commercial liqueur made with rye whiskey and rock sweets.
  • Amazingly enough, Giant Size Man-Thing was an actual, six-issue, comic book series. Marvel had many "Giant-Size" comic books in the 1970s, in this case for the character Man-Thing. Other titles included Giant-Size Invaders, Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action, and the legendary (if less innuendo-laden) Giant-Size X-Men.
    • Ridiculously enough, this trope also applies to Power Pachyderms, and everything described about it in this Ménage à 3 strip.
  • In some Superboy comics, the title character being subjected to a spanking machine, which gets destroyed due to being Man of Steel. Speaking of which, one can find an actual patent for such device.


  • In Good Night and Good Luck, preview audiences thought that "the actor playing McCarthy" was way over the top. All clips of Joseph McCarthy in the film were footage of the late senator himself. To be fair, though, the editing of the film did significantly increase the "over the top" effect—much of it plays like a greatest-hits compilation of McCarthy's most extreme moments.
  • From Monty Python's Life of Brian, although it was intended as a metaphor for the British Left during the 1970s, We ARE Struggling Together! is also quite accurate to how Judean groups acted during Jesus' life and the writing of the Gospels. For instance, neither Jesus' followers nor the Pharisees liked the Romans, but they also both disliked each other.
    • Also from Life of Brian, the "What have the Romans done for us?" scene is very similar to a tractate in the Talmud.
  • From A Christmas Story: the "Red Ryder" model of BB guns really existed in The Thirties and weren't just a product of Jean Shepherd's imagination. Daisy manufactures Red Ryder BB rifles even today. They've been in continuous production, too, not reintroduced after the movie became popular. While the Red Ryder didn't have "the compass in the stock and the thing that tells time", another model in the product line, the "Buck Jones", did have both a sundial and a compass in the stock. The Buck Jones was a 60-shot pump action, though, not a carbine action, 200-shot. The most likely explanation is that Shepherd merged the two models in his memories.
    • And "You'll put someone's eye out" was a warning that many mothers issued concerning it... in no small part because this was a distressingly common accident in the first part of the 20th century among suburban and rural boys who used such guns.
    • Lifebuoy soap is almost completely forgotten now but it's actually still being made.
  • Many viewers probably laughed at the "anachronistic" fountains on the grounds of the French royal palace in the 1998 movie version of Alexandre Dumas' novel The Man in the Iron Mask. Truth is, not only were they real, but they're also Older Than They Think: the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, has fountains powered not by electricity, but by gravity, with an aqueduct that brings water from the uphill Darro river. The very idea of gravity-powered fountains, in fact, dates back at least to the ancient Romans.
    • Pre-electricity fountains were to be found in parks and ornamental gardens throughout Europe at one point. They've mostly been replaced or fallen out of use now, though.
  • It's easy to assume that Kate, the female medieval blacksmith from A Knight's Tale, is just another piece of the movie's deliberate Anachronism Stew. But, according to the law of the Blacksmith's Guild of the time, if a blacksmith died and his widow was trained in the profession, then she was allowed to work as a blacksmith to support herself and any children from the marriage unless she remarried, and Kate refers to her late husband in one scene.
  • Likewise, the presence of black cowboys in recent westerns. Many cowboys in The Wild West in the 1870s-90s were freedmen. It is their absence from the classic Western format of the '30s through early '60s that is inaccurate. This omission is hinted at in The Cowboy Way through one of the two main characters' skepticism concerning the existence of famous black rodeo performer Bill Pickett. Then again, very few characters in Westerns are actually cowboys, i.e., they don't drive cattle to market to earn their living.
  • Almost example: In the Ridley Scott film Gladiator, after the producers learned that gladiators did product endorsements much like modern-day athletes do, there was supposed to be a scene with gladiators endorsing products of the time. It was cut because the idea felt unbelievable.
  • The humongous bank vault door in Tron may look like a slightly over-the-top prop. It (along with the laser lab and computer room) is real and can be found at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. The door does weigh four tons; it serves to allow heavy equipment to access the laser lab. The false bits: it opening by itself (it's opened by hand—the hinges are frictionless and perfectly balanced—one fit man can do it); the fancy but hackable electronic lock (it's locked by a simple manual mechanism inside—its purpose is to stop radiation from getting out, not thieves and spies from getting in); and the reaction closeup shot facing away from the door (this was shot in Disney Studios' parking lot).
  • The climax of Terminator 2 involves a tanker truck full of liquid nitrogen crashing into a steel mill. That's not as ridiculous as people assume. Large volumes of liquid nitrogen are transported in tanker trucks in real life, because it's used in the manufacture of trunnion hub girders.
  • Look at how many people smoke cigarettes in movies set from the 1930s on. Compare that to movies filmed in that time period. In particular, Fred Flintstone is seen smoking -- he even did cigarette ads. Notable exceptions are Good Night and Good Luck, where everyone chain smokes in the film, accurately depicting the 1950s and the TV series Mad Men, set in the '60s. Both generally used herbal cigarettes rather than the real thing.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, General Ripper's paranoia about fluoridating water is most likely to come across as simply a manifestation of him being insane. However, his suspicion was shared by the ultra-right John Birch Society, and thus was an allusion to an actual conspiracy theory which was shared by people with similar ideology as the fictional character.
    • Sadly, this theory still exists. It is not uncommon in certain parts of rural small-town America to occasionally read local letters to the editor insisting on the "truth" of it (usually as part of a longer screed about the evils of government). Not helped when the "conspiracy" was given national voice in 2009 by conservative icon Glenn Beck.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Eddie charges A.K. Maroon $100 to spy on Jessica, and Maroon thinks that's too much, agreeing to it only when he demands paying half upon completion. It seems like a paltry amount to most viewers, until they remember the movie takes place in 1947 -- $100 in 1947 was the equivalent of $1399 in September 2023!
  • The Anachronism Stew in the Mel Brooks film History of the World Part One includes a "stand-up philosopher" in ancient Rome. There was a point in time when Romans actually hired philosophers to recite at dinner parties so that the host could look cultured.
    • Which was just another custom they swiped from Greeks wholesale. In Ancient Greece there were traveling philosophers for hire who advertised their guest-entertaining services to wealthy hosts with pretensions of culture.
  • Many of the varying scenes of The American Civil War depravity in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are actually Sergio Leone showing his work, much to the confusion of most of his prop builders, cinematographers and actors who were confused by everything from the long coat Leone chose to dress Blondie in to the train cannon with the deserter tied to the front of it and the scene where the soldiers grimly shoot a criminal after standing him next to a coffin.
  • Just in case anyone was wondering about that scene in The French Connection where the traffickers are testing the purity of their merchandise... pure substances (such as heroin) have fixed melting points, but the melting point will become lowered if the substance is impure. So, if the powder tastes like heroin and melts at the right temperature (as determined by a Thiele melting point apparatus in this case), then it's got to be pure heroin. The trafficker's expert demonstrates all the salient points of the lab procedure, even displaying the mineral oil bottle just to show us that he's using the usual heat transfer medium.
    • Also, the entire plot is based on the real "French connection" case where raw Turkish opium was processed into heroin in Marseilles before coming to the US. Many other countries have also served as drug middlemen.
    • On top of that, real heroin was used for that scene.
  • CSA: Confederate States of America contains several faux commercials for some very afrophobic products, including a brand of tobacco you need N-Word Privileges to say. Disturbingly, all of the products (with the exception of an electronic slave monitoring system) turn out to be real (though no longer existent) brands. Also, drapetomania, a "disease" believed to cause slaves to run away, was sadly once a real medical theory.
  • The Korean movie A Tale of Two Sisters is extremely symbolic, and there is a lot of stuff that goes on that doesn't immediately make sense and you have to think about it in order to get what is going on. Therefore, Western viewers can be forgiven for the Epileptic Trees they come up with in trying to deduce the symbolism of the tents right by the road in a scene where two characters are driving at night. These tents are actually a common sight in rural areas of Korea as they serve an agricultural purpose.
  • The World Sudoku Championship that featured in the mockumentary Colours By Numbers? It's real, as are some of the competitors mentioned.
  • The film To Hell and Back was based on Audie Murphy's experiences in World War II. Audie Murphy is famous for being an incredible Badass and managed to earn every single medal the American military could award, and was even awarded medals by the French and Belgians! Yet, despite how epic the film was, Murphy's scenes were actually toned down because he felt nobody would take his accomplishments seriously if they tried to portray them faithfully. Additionally, some folks didn't believe that he played himself in the film, credits or no credits.
  • The entire story in I Love You Phillip Morris counts as one of these; if the film didn't specifically tell you at the beginning that "This actually happened," there's no way anyone could believe it.
  • The tag line "More of this is true than you would probably believe" in The Men Who Stare at Goats pretty accurately sums up the weirdness that the movie is based on.
    • One example that kind of hurt the film is that the real organization covered actually used Star Wars references (such as calling themselves "Jedi Warriors"). Unfortunately, several reviewers assumed that this aspect was a labored Actor Allusion to Ewan McGregor and criticized the film for it.
  • After It's a Wonderful Life was released, Frank Capra received several letters complaining about the idea of a high school gym with a swimming pool underneath its floor, saying that no such places exist. Reviewers also knocked the scene as being too obviously contrived and unrealistic. The scene was shot at Beverly Hills High School's "Swim Gym", which opened in 1939 and is still used today.
    • Though that scene takes place in 1937 at the absolute latest, and probably closer to 1935. It's before George decides to send his brother to a four-year college, and his brother graduates before George falls in love, gets married, and has a baby. All of that happens before WWII begins. So it was anachronistic, if not necessarily unrealistic.
    • Also in It's a Wonderful Life, there is a brief shot of a rotisserie powered by a record player. That may seem improbable today, but those things actually did exist.
    • Also, $8,000? Surely that isn't more money than could conceivably paid back in a week, right? Well, some fans forget that the movie is set on Christmas Eve 1945, and that $8,000 is equal to over $135,000 in 2023 terms.
  • Nacho Libre: the story of a monk who wrestled under a mask to earn money for his orphanage? Too silly to be anything other than a comedy? Tell that to Fray Tormenta.
  • To a modern viewer, the "anti-drug" message of Reefer Madness is assumed to be straightforward. Not quite: that movie, and others like it, were made under the strict censorship of the Hays Code, which didn't allow lurid material unless some kind of moral statement was made. Adultery? Murder? No problem, filmmakers could tack on some kind of token "moral message", and stay within the rules of the game. Another infamous example is Child Bride, which includes an extended scene of a 12-year old skinny-dipping by claiming to draw attention to the problem of child marriage.
  • Movies and TV series, often considered cult nowadays, made by the director Stanisław Bareja after 1970 display many absurdities of living in the People's Republic of Poland that seem surreal even to those Polish viewers who are too young to remember this era.
  • A number of the complaints about inaccuracy in the Mel Gibson film Apocalypto actually fall into this category.
    • "Black panther" is actually a generic reference to any melanistic (atypically black furred) big cat, and jaguars, which are native to South America, do indeed produce melanistic individuals.
    • The Mayans did actually practice human sacrifice, though scientists debate when precisely they adopted the practice.
    • They also did have a blue paint-like dye that they used to mark individuals before sacrifice.
    • The Mayan civilization had collapsed by the time that the movie is set, but the Mayan people were (and are) still alive and there were also small, dying cities still being occupied, even when the Spaniards arrived.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean and some other pirate movies feature female pirates. Hollywood History? Not so! There were female pirates, notably Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Jeanne de Clisson and Grace O'Malley. Zheng Yi Shao ended up being one of the most successful pirates ever.
    • Similarly, the commonness of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything would imply that real pirates were all bloodthirsty ravenous wild men. Only a few of them were that terrible, but many liked to be thought of that way because people who're frightened out of their wits are much more likely to give up their valuables. In other words, yes, the Dread Pirate Roberts' reliance on reputation was sort of used in real life.
  • Some people have been surprised to learn that The Castle Aaaaargggh from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a real place and not "only a model". It's called Castle Stalker, and it's in an inlet on Loch Linnhe in Scotland. 'Camelot' in the "Knights of the Round Table" song wasn't a model, either - it, and all other castles depicted in the film (other than the aforementioned Castle Aaaaargggh) were in fact Doune Castle in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Although the shots looking up at the French throwing animals over the battlements was done with a mock up (for logistical and safety reasons). On the special edition DVD, there's a surreal moment when Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam travel to Doune Castle (and the other locations used in the film) - and buy a copy of their own movie script in the castle's gift shop.
  • Star Wars has elected officials who happened to have titles such as "Queen", and that some places actually did elect monarchy, including medieval Ireland, early modern Poland and Horde. There are still elective monarchies, including Malaysia, Cambodia (where the King is elected by other members of the Royal Family), and Wallis-and-Futuna, a French territory in the Pacific Ocean, which is divided into three traditional kingdoms each led by a king elected among the local aristocracy.
    • Podracing in The Phantom Menace seems to be as much of "crazy SF stuff" as anything can hope to get, yet the only fantastic part in it was antigravity. That is, motorcycle chariot racing was a real thing for a while, and jet-propelled racing vehicles were tried — though not both at once [3].
  • Many viewers of Borat did not know that Kazakhstan was a real country. In fact, it is the ninth largest in the world and also the largest landlocked country.
    • This has more to do with Hollywood often making up a new "former Soviet republic" when they need a villain to steal a nuke from somewhere, often adding "-stan" to the end, like the Republic of Kreplakistan in Austin Powers.
    • Also, Kazakhstan is where Russia launches all of its rockets into space thanks to a lease agreement between the two governments (Kazakhstan doesn't have much of a space program, so they don't really need the Baikonur Cosmodrome).
  • The system James Bond uses at the end of Thunderball is commonly viewed as the most unrealistic thing James Bond ever does, even in 1965. That device is the Fulton Surface to Air Recovery System, or STARS, a very real and very safe air recovery system, with only one death throughout its history, caused by improper use. The pocket-sized breathing device used by Bond during the movie, on the other hand, was fake but thought to be real, even by the Royal Navy, who tried to get some from the producers, only to be told it was only as effective as the user's ability to hold his breath.
    • There are small chemical oxygen generators, but not pocket flashlight size, closer to a hipflask volume.
  • The smoking ticket gag in Airplane! The "smoking or non-smoking" line wasn't just invented for the joke; airplanes actually did have smoking sections at the time (the FAA would ban smoking on all flights a couple years after the movie came out).
    • This really applies to any TV show or film made before the smoking ban, including the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" episode of The Twilight Zone, where William Shatner lights up right before seeing that thing... on the wing.
  • In Blast from the Past, Dr. Calvin Webber (Adam's father) likes him some hot Dr Pepper.
    • A personal bomb shelter for a private home owner was common during the Cold War Era, and many can be made to recreate one’s home like this model.
  • There are actually two ice-related function in Frozen that are the real deal.
    • The harvesting of ice was common in the 19th century when owning an icebox, the ancestor of the refrigerator, were in demand and so was the ice for it.
    • Buildings made of ice, like the one Elsa made, has been a common practice in many Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway[4]. Japan and Canada have also made ice hotels and rent out rooms to travelers.
  • Many people who watched Turning Red thought that the overinvested and even stalker-ish nature of all female adults in Meilin family towards their children is an exaggerated humorous comment on helicopter parenting in general. As many Asian people can tell, they are actually how most Asian mothers just are, and in fact the very over-the-top scene of Ming stalking her daughter Meilin was in turn based on the film director Domee Shi's actual experiences.


  • Readers of Junichiro Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows may be puzzled when the author waxes lyrical about the old custom of ohaguro, or tooth blackening. Yes, prior to the Meiji era, Japanese women would dye their teeth black with a ferrous solution; black smiles were considered more elegant than natural, ivory-coloured teeth Here you go.
    • It's also the basis of a Youkai called Ao-nyōbō.
    • Also in Elizabethan England people were really fond of sugar and had the expected dental hygiene practices of Elizabethan English (ie none), with predictable results for their teeth. Those who could not afford their dose of sugar sometimes coloured their teeth to gain the proper look.
  • Discworld:
  • Good Omens mentions the angel Aziraphale's collection of Infamous Bibles, named from errors in typesetting. Amazingly, all of these Bibles (other than the Charing Cross and the Buggre Alle This Bibles) actually exist.

These Bibles included the Unrighteous Bible, so called from a printer's error which caused it to proclaim, in I Corinthians, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God?"; and the Wicked Bible, printed by Barker and Lucas in 1632, in which the word not was omitted from the seventh commandment, making it "Thou shaft commit Adultery." There were the Discharge bible, the Treacle Bible, the Standing Fishes Bible, the Charing Cross Bible and the rest. Aziraphale had them all. Even the very rarest, [...] the Buggre Alle This Bible.

  • In Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, there is a character who has turned his house into a miniature castle complete with moat and drawbridge. To modern readers this may seem eccentric, but this was actually quite common for wealthy Victorians.
    • Then again, it may also seem like the act of a rich idiot who wants to impress other rich idiots, and We Have Those, Too here in the 21st century.
  • The character of John Blackthorne in Shogun is quite obviously invented by the author, surely? Well... no. He's an expy of William Adams
  • The "rest cure" described in The Yellow Wallpaper was considered a proper treatment for certain mental illnesses around the turn of the 20th century. The author went through it herself, and was quite happy to learn that her story helped to discredit it as quackery.
  • Stephen Fry's retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is titled The Stars' Tennis Balls (or just Revenge in the U.S.), which sounds like an Intentionally Awkward Title and/or a pun on The Stars My Destination, another Monte Cristo retelling. However, the seemingly ridiculous title references a quote from the Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi: "We are merely the stars' tennis balls, struck and banded which way please them."
  • Hold on: a black bosun onboard HMS Sophie? Multiracial crews with sizable Muslim, Jewish, and Lascar minorities? East Asian crew members, and all living in relative harmony? Surely P.O'B. is rewriting a bit of Politically-Correct History? As it turns out, nope. He wasn't. The Royal Navy's global reach and perpetual manpower shortage meant that it would recruit whatever seamen were available, wherever they were. It helps that the best captains and crews would largely ignore race - as long as you were a good seaman, you were in.
  • Douglas Adams invented a lot of ridiculous things, but telephone sanitizers were not one of them.
  • The Eye of Argon features the now-infamous "scarlet emerald". There is in fact such a thing as a red emerald, though it's more commonly known as red beryl or, archaically, bixbite..
  • The titular house in Anne of Green Gables was based on a real farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, which still exists today, is a Canadian National Historic Site and Federal Heritage Building, and the destination of thousands of international tourists every year.
  • All of the dishes in the late Brian Jacques' Redwall series are real. He found out about Turnip'n'tater'n'beetroot pie from a New York restaurant, in fact.
  • Hobbits are among the most common creatures in the The Lord of the Rings. For decades, many readers thought they existed in the fantasy realm and those with dwarfism were closest to a hobbit. The most well-known and common form of dwarfism, Achondroplasia, is found in a dominant gene and two dominant genes would kill a fetus, which it’s why those born are heterozygous and have 25 percent chance of having a normal-sized offspring since they would lack the gene. Yet, in 2003, archaeologists in Indonesia found fossil of a human-like species, Homo floresiensis, which stood on avenge 3.5 feet (1.1 m) in height, similar to the hobbit species in Tolkien’s work. It was even nicknamed “hobbit” after the work.

Live-Action TV

  • The Christmas Episode of Corner Gas actually features an aluminum Christmas tree.
  • A Christmas Episode of Green Acres had Oliver eager for a traditional rural Christmas, and discovering 'traditional' in Hooterville meant aluminum Christmas trees.
  • During an early episode of Seinfeld, Jason Alexander objected to the actions of his character, George Costanza, insisting that no sane person in Real Life would ever react this way; specifically, quitting his job and turning up the next day as if nothing happened. Larry David informed him that he himself did exactly that when he worked as a writer on Saturday Night Live. This completely changed how Jason came to see the character; imitating Larry David from then on instead of his previous Woody Allen-like portrayal.
    • Knowledge that all four of the core characters on Seinfeld are based on real people can lead one to view the early episodes of the show (when the correspondence was the most direct) in an entirely new light. These people existed, and they were doing things like this in New York in the 1980s.
  • In-universe example in Jonathan Creek: Maddy's literary agent finds that Jonathan is much less plausible once she learns that he's a real person (complete with windmill).
  • 30 Rock has several:
    • In the pilot episode, Jack mentions the GE Trivection Oven, an oven that combines three types of heat with ludicrously over-the-top descriptions of it. Though meant more as Biting the Hand Humor than Product Placement, NBC ran special commercials during the premiere to convince the world that yes, this was a real product.
    • One episode featured a gold necklace with the acronym EGOT (referencing the quest for an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) and said that it was originally made for Philip Michael Thomas. Younger audience members may not have realized that this wasn't just a random pop culture reference—the term "EGOT" was actually coined by Thomas, back in the '80s, when he frequently stated that his goal was to win all four awards. (To date, he has never scored so much as a nomination for any of them.)
    • Other examples: rat kings, Anna Howard Shaw Day, Jon Bon Jovi actually being named "artist in residence" at NBC, and Ikea being the cause of breakups.
  • At least one fan of Merlin had this reaction to the mention of belladonna eye drops to 'make the eyes look more beautiful'. They were immediately corrected - belladonna dilates the pupils, so therefore did have this effect. Amongst others.
    • Furthermore, dark-skinned Angel Coulby getting the role of Guinevere was derided by many as being anachronistic (despite the show being set in a fairy-tale kingdom). Even if the show wasn't an Anachronism Stew anyway, the presence of non-white people in pre-Saxon England was certainly not an impossibility.
  • In the commentary for Generation Kill, Evan Wright often had to state "this actually happened" during the more absurd, fantastical-seeming occurrences on the show. In fact, they actually had to tone down the more bizarre shit that the so-called Captain America pulled.
  • It was a little surprising to see Gibbs refer to a suspect as "Master Chief" on NCIS. The US Navy rank of Master Chief Petty Officer exists, and the correct way to address one is "Master Chief".
  • In the BBC's version of Robin Hood there was much derision when the character of Isabella was appointed Sheriff of Nottingham. However, there was a female Sheriff of Lincolnshire in approximately the same time period, who (like the fictional Isabella) was appointed by Prince/King John. There's still no excuse for the hang-gliding though...
  • Remember mockolate (fake chocolate made from suspicious substances) on Friends? Disgusting and potentially hazardous? Well, so does anyone who grew up in the Soviet Bloc.
  • The writers of Heartbeat learned that at the time when the series is set, bobbies were still wearing capes. They shot some test scenes with Nick wearing a cape but audiences felt it looked too weird so they switched to the more familiar modern-day overcoat. (And when some fans wrote in to point out the inaccuracy, the producers wrote back explaining that Aidensfield was in a region selected to test the new police uniforms before they were adopted across the country.)
  • In Sesame Street, the Count's obsession with counting seems like it would just be an Incredibly Lame Pun. However, in Eastern European folklore regarding vampires, one way to escape a vampire was to scatter seeds on the ground, as they had a compulsion to count them all, and would be distracted until they finished. This may also be the strangest ever example of Fridge Brilliance.
    • This was lampshaded in an episode of The X-Files when Mulder, being attacked by a vampire, reaches for his nightstand, where lies his gun and a bag...of sunflower seeds. He scatters the seeds and distracts the vampire, who laments that now he has to pick them all up, and does so compulsively as Mulder flees.
  • In an episode of Have I Got News for You, they showed a picture of Viktor Yushchenko before and after he was poisoned. The audience laughed, even when told it was real. It just seemed too ridiculous.
  • There were many complaints in online fandom about the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code" suggesting there were black people living in England in Shakespeare's time. In real life, Queen Elizabeth I wrote letters to the Mayor of London complaining about the "great numbers of Negars and Blackamoors" in the city.
    • There is also some evidence that Shakespeare had—at least briefly—a black girlfriend.
    • A similar case was President Nixon's black Secret Service agent in "The Impossible Astronaut". He actually had at least one black Secret Service agent in real life.
    • The very next episode revealed that Canton was kicked out of the FBI for wanting to marry another man. Some felt this wouldn't even have occurred to someone in 1969 - except the episode is set less than a year before a gay couple in Minnesota applied for a marriage license, and was also the year of the Stonewall Riot (the reaction to a police action credited with starting the Gay Rights movement).
  • Barney Miller - Wojo had to improvise when the precinct room was out of coffee. Barney does a disgusted spit take at the result - hot Dr. Pepper. The soft drink company actively marketed this treatment of their drink in the early '60s, but it didn't catch on.
  • Many modern American viewers can't make sense of a scene in the original Captain Scarlet. Lt. Green is manning the gun turret on a moon rover. After blowing up all the enemies (for the moment), he asks, "Do I get a coconut?" The response is something like, "When we get out of this, you'll have all the coconuts you can eat." This is often misinterpreted as a racist joke. It's actually a reference to Coconut Shies, where coconuts were a common prize. (See the song "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts".) They're still common enough at fairs in England.
  • On the mid-to-late 1980s episodes of Saturday Night Live, Nora Dunn and Jan Hooks appear on a recurring skit involving a Lifetime network show called Attitudes, which appears to be an outrageous spoof on the sort of shows that aired on Lifetime. It was actually a parody of a real show.
    • Ditto for Christopher Walken's The Continental recurring sketch. The kicker: Walken actually remembers seeing the original version as a kid.
    • On the season 34 episode hosted by Anne Hathaway (her first time hosting), there was a CSPAN sketch showing various deadbeats who would be benefiting from the bailout during the 2008 housing crisis-cum-recession. Then-cast members Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson played a couple named Herbert and Marion Sandler (no relation to Adam) who cheated Wachovia Bank out of a lot of money and made off like bandits. Lorne Michaels didn't know until after the sketch aired that Herbert and Marion Sandler were a real couple that actually did this (making the "People Who Should Be Shot" caption underneath them during their time onscreen a little uncomfortable to laugh at). Because of this, NBC's SNL video website and the network reruns edit out the entire part featuring Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson as Herbert and Marion Sandler (though the shots of them as background characters weren't edited in any way).
  • Stargate SG-1‍'‍s military base in Colorado, bizarrely burrowed into Cheyenne Mountain, is, in reality, fake... no, wait, it's NORAD's headquarters, and the Stock Footage so often shown of its entrance is the real thing, even though it looks like they just took some video of actors in uniforms marching around outside a highway tunnel. The ridiculously thick blast door, shown sealing itself whenever there's a crisis, is also real. Also, not only is there a real Stargate Program, it actually involves science fiction and, like the show, it has been cancelled.
  • In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Legendaddy", Robin didn't know that the North Pole was a real place. She only knew it as the legendary place of residence of Santa Claus.
    • Barney's story about early sailors mistaking manatees for mermaids is actually true, although they were more accurately the closely related sea cows.
  • There is a blog, Polite Dissent, that did reviews of every episode of House for medical accuracy; a typical episode would have several errors, mostly of the nit-picky variety, (excusable for the sake of story) and occasionally something boneheadedly and obviously wrong. Such seemed to be the case early in the seventh season, when Dr. House was brought in to diagnose not a patient, but a set of lungs for transplant, kept in a glass box, which were showing signs of premature deterioration. A great deal of disbelief was shown at the shows depiction of the lungs, clean, dry, and sterile, in a clean, dry, sterile box. Cut to fans providing pictures and video of actual lungs ex-vivo, looking just like that, to the amazement of the other commenters, trained medical professionals among them.
  • In the Scrubs episode, My Lucky Charm, a character named Jerry has Cotard Syndrome -- a mental disorder where the victim thinks they’re dead and/or have become a zombie. The condition seem too strange to be in a fictional comedy-drama, yet it actually exist.
  • In the Kenan and Kel episode, Freezer Burned, Kel accidentally switches a sign leading to the freezer, rather to the restroom. While trapped in the freezer, along with other customers, Kel purpose that to stay warm by rubbing icicles to make a fire. This idea got rejected immediately. However, an episode of MythBusters did confirm that one can make a clear convex lens out of ice to create... fire.
  • In the Power Rangers franchise, most Monsters of the Week work well even thirty years later; Terror Toad is just as terrifying when viewed by 21st-century children as it was in 1993. However, one monster that is very dated is Photomare (from the the two-part episode “Rangers Back in Time”), a camera-themed monster created by Lord Zedd from a Polaroid. While her powers (able to trap foes in Phantom Zone Pictures by photographing them) made her a formidable villain, most kids viewing the episode in 2020 and onward will likely wonder how a picture can be taken without a mobile phone. The same could be said for a lot of her dialogue, like when she contacts Zedd to say she's "zooming in on the Rangers". Funny then, confusing now.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • The Trojan War was long believed to have been pure myth until the ruins of Troy were actually discovered in Turkey. They still turned out to have grown in the telling somewhat, however.
  • Archaeological discoveries apparently related to myths and legends tend to be all over the place with regards to this trope. Each new find has different groups declaring that a tale is confirmed, disproved or needs to be rewritten and all can usually offer up at least a token bit of evidence for their viewpoint. Even the discoverers themselves are often at odds with each other over how to interpret what they've dug up.

Newspaper Comics

  • A story arc in the 1980s Old West comic strip Latigo starts with one character, who is a bit impractical and thoughtless, rejoicing at finding a "three-dollar gold piece". It's got to be a fake, right? Nope, the US mint tried it, from 1854 to 1889. Nobody liked it. In the 35 years it was produced, less than half-a million were struck, at all three US Mint facilities, combined.
  • A Garfield strip where he put on another performance on top of the fence had money thrown at him by the resident of some distant Pacific island in the form of a millstone. The Yap islands in the Pacific really do use enormous round stone discs with a hole in the middle as a form of currency. See The Other Wiki for details.
    • This is a very good example of an Aluminum Christmas Tree, if only because anyone who grew up in the 60s or 70s would remember the Yap stone coin's frequent appearances in Ripley's Believe It or Not! on the funny pages.

Tabletop Games

  • In the Dungeons & Dragons campaign "Living Greyhawk", there was a Veluna event where the heroes visited an anarcho-syndicalist commune near the border of the country. Many players claimed that this was a blatant reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail that had no purpose in the setting. The author had to explain both on the Internet and repeatedly in person that much of Monty Python's humour was based on British politics, and that there once was such a political system.
    • Early Anglo-Saxon communities were rather democratic, often appointing a honcho solely to command in wartime and booting him shortly thereafter.
    • In pre-industrial societies, it would be quite common to find communes making collective decisions and informal positions of authority. Many people wouldn't even know the king's name; the young Chairman Mao didn't hear of the Emperor's death until two years after.
    • Even as late as the early eighties, some Chinese peasants were still referring to Deng Xiaoping as "the best Emperor we've ever had."
  • Also, a lot of players may be surprised to learn that a fair amount of the more ridiculous monsters of Dungeons & Dragons are actually derived from real mythology, most notably the Peryton (a stag headed eagle that needs humanoid hearts to reproduce) and Al'Miraj (a giant unicorn-horned bunny)
    • One of the most iconic dragons, Tiamat, is a real part of the Babylonian mythology. Though she'd likely be less than pleased with the combining of recent edition rules' Power Creep, Power Seep with Badass Decay resulting in many players measuring their character's killing power in "Tiamats Per Second".
  • One may be forgiven for thinking that, due to frequently going for The Theme Park Version of feudal samurai culture, the majority of samurai family names in Legend of the Five Rings are faux-Japanese hackjobs. Well, several are, but the game gives us a good number of legit surnames as well: Shiba, Matsu, Yoritomo, Asahina, Isawa, Togashi, Ujina, etc...
    • A few others aren't proper PEOPLE'S names, exactly, but do reference things that were actually in Japan. Hida was the name of one of the old feudal provinces on Honshu Island, and Ikoma is the name of a mountain.


  • The musical 1776 is filled with odd or bizarre details that are true, discovered because its authors did an amazing amount of research. For instance, John and Abigail's "pins/saltpetre" Running Gag comes right from their letters to each other (as do much of the lyrics of their duets); and Benjamin Franklin is carried into Congress in a sedan chair, not because he's Too Important to Walk, but because his gout is acting up and he can't walk (and the servants carrying him were prisoners from the local jail). Sometimes the details were so hard to believe, the writers had to ignore or change them because they were afraid the audience would think they had made it up. The most significant example of this would be a line taken from something John Adams wrote in one of his letters -- that if the Founding Fathers did not ban slavery, "there will be trouble a hundred years hence." The writers had to modify the line because if they quoted it word-for-word no one would believe they hadn't put those words in Adams' mouth with the clarity of a century of hindsight.
    • It didn't always help. Ill-informed critics -- like Roger Ebert -- mistook the genuine details used to show that the Founding Fathers were real people as flights of fancy and complained the musical did them a disservice in presenting them so.
  • Performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare often result in the audience asking "did Shakespeare really write that?" afterward; he did. Sort of. Many of the Shakespeare quotes are verbatim.[5]
  • In Mozart's opera Don Giovanni there is a scene where there is a party where everybody is supposed to watch Don Giovanni eat. A satire on the decadence of eighteenth century aristocracy? An example of an absurdist flight of fancy? Not at all: watching the nobs eat was a popular form of entertainment in pre-revolutionary France. The Palace of Versailles even sold tickets to the King's meals. (Anyone could go, whether local or tourist.) It could be described as the eighteenth century version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; unfortunately, the logistics of providing viewing space meant that the food served, while superficially magnificent from the audience's point of view, was often cold, congealed, and barely edible by the time it reached the head table. And testing each dish and drink for poison meant that a glass of wine takes about 20 minutes to pour.
  • Given the changes made to the story of the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music, viewers might be forgiven if they assume that Georg's membership in the navy of landlocked Austria was invented as well, but they'd be wrong. Before 1918, Austria owned a large empire including all of what is now Croatia and far-northeastern Italy (specifically, the city of Trieste), in that territory were numerous sea ports that were protected by a small but well-respected navy. The real Kapitan Georg von Trapp in the Austro-Hungarian navy he had a pretty distinguished career during World War I in submarines: he was the commander of a submarine that sank an Italian cruiser.

Video Games

  • Many gamers thought that Colin McRae was a dour Scottish rally driver character made up by Codemasters to narrate their new driving game.
  • There's a part in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater where Sigint tells Snake the story of a unit of Russian "bomb dogs" during World War II, who were to be used to destroy tanks (and failed because the Russian tanks had been used for the training, causing the dogs to attack them instead of the German Panzers). Since he describes it as a secret military project, it's safe to assume it's just the usual Hideo Kojima insanity and just another detail in a game about psychic bee soldiers and electric megalomaniac Communists. It isn't. The bomb dogs were real and the plan ended up that way.
    • MGS is basically what the world would be like if fringe military research projects actually worked. Mind control, psychic soldiers, weaponized animals, robot assassins, space lasers, and most of the rest of it have all been given serious research dollars at one time or another.
    • There's another take on the antitank dogs, and it's even more hilarious. Y'see, the original idea was to train dogs to run to the tank, drop the mine and return back—after all, the multi-use dogs are much more practical. Only the dogs weren't as stupid as to run all the way to the tanks under fire—they would leave the trenches, drop the mine right there and then jump back.
    • Additionally, the flying platforms seen in the game were jet versions of this experimental US aircraft. Oh, and the drone used by Snake at the beginning of Operation: Snake Eater, and the WIG? Both real.
    • And the Shagohod. One look at the Shagohod and you might think Kojima was going overboard with the mechanical designs. Thing is, however, there really were tanks designed to fire nuclear artillery. Keep in mind that they don't actually function like the Shagohod does.
    • A lot of people think Calorie Mates are a fictional product even though they are sold in Japan. In fact, the only fictional products are probably the cigarettes.
  • In a similar vein as the above: at one point in Alpha Protocol, nutbar conspiracy theorist Steven Heck asks the protagonist, à propos of nothing, if he knew the CIA once wired a live cat with radio equipment back in the 60s. Operation Acoustic Kitty really happened.
  • Samurai Warriors. The self-proclaimed "demon king", the rampant homoeroticism, the ridiculous headgear [dead link], the 9-foot purple psychopath; all well-documented historical facts.
  • Namco Museum Volume 4 for the original Playstation contained an arcade game called Genpei Toumaden, which up until then had not been released in the U.S. Renamed The Genji and the Heike Clans, the game features a "character" called "Taira no Kagekiyo". A number of American game players may or may not know that he isn't a character created by Namco for the game. Kagekiyo was a true historical person. A member of the "Taira" ("Heike") clan, he fought during Japan's "Genpei" Wars where he died in battle. In the game, he comes back to life and seeks revenge on the Genji clan.
  • "Dr. Ryuta Kawashima" isn't a character Nintendo created for the Brain Age series, he's a Real Life Japanese scientist whose research inspired the creation of the games.
  • The world of Fallout mirrors quite a number of ideas from the 50s and earlier, and believe it or not, the idea of selling beverages containing a healthy dose of radioactive elements is not just the game's invention. In fact, it's Older Than Radio—the first such products appeared back in 1890s!
    • The Fat Man? It's a real thing.
    • Remember the Punch Gun, or its latest incarnation, the Ballistic Fist? There existed a real version of those gun-gloves, used mainly by spies as a concealed weapon. Not only that, but it functioned the same way -- to fire the gun, you had to push down the plunger on the front by punching your target with it.
  • A surprisingly large number of people think the M3 Carbine in Return to Castle Wolfenstein is some crazy fictional gun. Nope, it just wasn't silenced.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, one can mine for asbestos ore (a fibrous, horrendously toxic material used in fireproofing). There's a whole family of different minerals called "asbestos", you do mine for them, and some of them are chunky. It's also not inherently toxic at all—it's completely inert silicon oxide. Asbestos health hazard comes from the fact that its fibers are very easy to break, so even when it isn't disturbed it constantly gives off a stream of microscopic glass needles that tend to accumulate in lungs and irritate the hell out of them, eventually leading to inflammation and/or lung cancer.
    • Although the Kingdom of Loathing version was created when prehistoric fire-breathing dragons died and then were buried in landslides and such, undergoing a process similar to the creation of crude petroleum, which is not how the real thing forms.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has you destroy a prototype tank designed by Leonardo da Vinci. You might think that's over the top, right? Wrong.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Sea Salt Ice Cream, which is a favorite of many a character from the second game on. It sounds too weird to exist and even if it did, the salt would lower the freezing point of the mixture, making it difficult to maintain a solid form in the real world. Not only does this stuff exist, it's sold in Tokyo Disneyland, where the creator of Kingdom Hearts tried it and loved it so much he put in Kingdom Hearts II.
  • Baslam in Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is a merchant who built a town, gathering the stone by dismantling ruins of priceless historical value. It sounds like a comically over-the-top bit of Corrupt Corporate Executive behavior, medieval fantasy-style... unless you know this has actually been done in real life. Multiple times. Medieval Cairo was built by raiding limestone from the pyramids, the Renaissance Italians would tear marble off of Roman buildings and melt down statues in order to get the materials needed for their own works, and numerous houses built in the immediate aftermath of the English Civil War contain identifiable pieces salvaged from castles destroyed by artillery.
  • The Copy Protection of Leisure Suit Larry 5 (the Aerodork pamphlet) includes many destinations that sound fake, being overtly sexual (Intercourse, PA; Spread Eagle, WI; Loveladies, NJ; etc.) All of these towns/cities are real.
  • The Soul Series has Cervantes, who Dual Wields Soul Edge and a pistol sword, that is, a sword fused with a gun. This may sound like just another over-the-top detail about Ghost Zombie Pirate Lich, but it isn't. Pistol swords did exist and were in use since the XVI century. They were, however, considered Awesome but Impractical, and were thus quite rare. They were quickly eclipsed by the much more practical bayonet.
  • Most of the tourist attractions in Sam and Max Hit The Road are based on exaggerations of real ones. Including the Mystery Vortex, although the size-changing effect isn't quite as drastic in real life.
  • With all the weirdness and silly humor associated with Portal, you'd think that Cave Johnson's moon rock poisoning was just another silly joke. In fact, lunar dust is an actual hazard to humans. It's just as destructive to human lungs as asbestos, since it's just as sharp and brittle unlike earth dust, which has been rounded by natural actions (wind, rain, etc.) that don't exist on the moon, and you will die a slow, horrible death if you breathe in too much of the stuff.
  • The ocarina, featured in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, was a real musical instrument even before the game came out.
    • And the rupee is a real currency. Of course, in real life it's represented by coins and bills, not colorful gems.
  • The mud crab is not something made up for the universe of The Elder Scrolls, it's a real species of crab. In Oblivion, they even look like the real thing!
  • Some of the more memorable enemies of EarthBound are its animated enemy trees which explode when defeated. Not quite as farfetched as one would think: Australia (no surprises there) is home to the eucalyptus tree genus, which are prone to exploding when exposed to fire. Admittedly, they don't look much like EarthBound's exploding trees, and they certainly aren't animated or otherwise trying to kill you.
  • The Rocketbelt featured in Pilotwings actually exists, although impractical, since it burns through its fuel in 30 seconds.
  • The World Ends With You has the sewer at the end of the game: just another Absurdly Spacious Sewer, right? Nope, that sewer really exists in Shibuya.
  • Followers of the Let's Play thread for Hatoful Boyfriend were convinced that the bird photograph used for Anghel Higure was either Photoshopped or a bird that had been shot (or 'shopped from a bird that had been shot). Bleeding-heart doves do exist, and the namesake red stain on their chest is natural.
  • Before Wikipedia or the Internet, it was difficult to explain that Pokémon were inspired by mythological animals.
    • Moonstone is also a thing.
      • As is sunstone.

Web Animation

  • In the Homestar Runner short "Meet Marshie", the titular talking marshmallow mascot advertises "all-marshmallow mayonnaise". To those not in the know, it just sounds like a silly (and rather disgusting) idea, but "marshmallow creme" is an actual product sold in some parts of the world. Apparently, it goes well with peanut butter.
    • It does, the sandwich is called a "fluffernutter". The disgusting part is when the Fluffy Puff variety is used in the context of less desserty sandwiches, like veggie burgers.

Web Comics

  • A lot of readers of Harkovast believed the strange, forward curving Junlock swords were a concept invented by the author (referred to by some readers as 'crowbar swords'), rather than based on the falx used by Ancient Dacians.
  • A number of Homestuck readers on the MS Paint Adventures forum didn't realize that John's Trademark Favourite Food, Fruit Gushers, are an actual product (ironic considering how often they're advertised on child-targeted TV stations). Ditto for WV's and Gamzee's Trademark Favorite Drinks, Tab and Faygo, respectively.
    • The troll culture might seem like an over-the-top spoof of militaristic civilisations and Proud Warrior Races. In fact, many elements of troll society - including anyone above a certain age being drafted into the military, a strict class society, and babies being left in a hostile environment at birth - were practiced by the original Proud Warrior Race Guys, the Spartans.
  • How many people realized the "Sogs" featured in this Captain Crunch parody were actual characters in old Captain Crunch commercials?
  • Digger by Ursula Vernon frequently invokes this trope; most notably with the Hyenas' creation myth, and the vampire squash. A direct result of the author having been an anthropology major in university, and being fond of showing her work (she often comments on her website about the sources of the various odd myths, folklore, and biological quirks used in her comic).

Web Original

  • Trinton Chronicles features seemingly impossible future technologies, several of which are actually being tested in Europe and Asia right now, including:
    • Mag-Lev Trains: Trains that ride on magnetic thrusting power like a roller coaster using LMS launch systems. Japan is a world leader of this super silent and fast system but France is building an infrastructure based on Maglevs. The first commercially operated Maglev train was a 1984 low speed system at Birmingham airport. The first commercial high speed Maglev line is the Shanghai Transrapid, which was developed by the German company Transrapid International and completed in 2003.
    • Recycle Tanks: Pay-As-You-Recycle devices that give change for weight of aluminum, plastic, and paper.
    • Paper-Thin Phones: Actually real world tech is going into making cellphones disposable and paper-thin using nano fibers and microchips the size of ants.
    • Hydrogen Power Cars: A new fuel source using hydrogen gas to power cars. Testing in Germany mostly, although there was a bit of a push in California in the mid 00s. The main problem is people's fear of what will happen in an accident.
  • Parody example: In Metal Gear Awesome 2, the player is skipping through an annoying Cutscene when Snake first meets Otacon (at Snake's suggestion). Halfway through, he stops skipping just when Otacon is complaining about Snake coming onto him, causing Snake to get annoyed the player had to stop skipping at that part. People not familiar with the game but familiar with the flash thought this was so weird it had to be a straight up Shallow Parody gag, but in fact the scene is a fairly direct spoof of an out-of-place Ho Yay moment that actually is in that cutscene, in which Snake starts feeling up Otacon asking if anything's wrong, and Otacon complains that Snake's "getting friendly all of a sudden" (in reality, Snake is checking Otacon for symptoms of FOX-DIE). It's also immediately after a cutscene 'chapter break', so a player skipping through could easily stop skipping exactly at that scene.
  • Syphon Filter 2 has the caseless round-firing H11 assault rifle. Looks and sounds like science fiction, but it's actually a renamed version of the G11. Even Harsher in Hindsight, there have been real-life cases of people being set on fire by tasers.
  • For people who entered into fandom during the 2010s, the tradition of "I Do Not Own" disclaimers, as chronicled here. As fanfiction and fandom has become more organized and well known, younger or newer members of fandoms didn't get why the fic author has to point that they aren't the original copyright holders, specially as they are reading in a site obviously geared towards fan fiction.
  • The line "Penguins are getting taller. Soon they'll be bigger than people again." was randomly placed on its own between a paragraph of racial slurs and a paragraph calling for genocide in the 800-page "manifesto" of former UCLA instructor Matthew C. Harris. People reading his crazed ramblings for comedy or mockery have been very surprised to learn ancient penguins were as tall as, if not taller, than humans. Given the rest of the manifesto's contents, it's entirely possible Harris didn't really know about them either.

Western Animation

  • South Park:
    • Ran a disclaimer that Scientologists really do believe that all our problems are caused by nuked alien ghosts, which they really don't tell their minions until they're quite involved. It's hard to believe that all that is necessary.
    • The episode about Mormons has a similar disclaimer.
    • Another episode of South Park features Cartman tricking Butters that the world is coming to an end just so he can take his place when Kyle and his friends go to Casa Bonita. What some people may not realize is that the place isn't a figment of the creators' imagination, but rather an actual restaurant in the Denver, Colorado area. They have everything featured in the episode, from the more tacos flags to professional divers. There's even a second one in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    • The Jonas Brothers spraying foam on preteen girls in season 13 premiere "The Ring"? That's real too.
      • The little girl saying "My giney tickles" was actually based on a daughter of a member of the production staff saying it when she was at one of their concerts.
    • A lot of people would be surprised to learn that South Park, Colorado, itself is in fact a real place (as is Park County). Though the town in the show is based off of Conifer, Colorado (where Matt and Trey used to live), not the town named South Park itself.
    • Some might not know that super AIDS is a real form of AIDS discovered in 2005.
    • Judging from youtube comments, many people saw the South Park parody of the Adam Sandler movie Jack And Jill before they saw the trailer, and didn't think the movie was real.
    • P Diddy's 'Vote or Die' campaign in Douche and Turd is real.
    • Whenever the kids often go in superhero outfits, Kyle goes as Human Kite. Many fans who have read comic books might find a similar character named Charles "Chuck" Brown aka Kite-Man, who's a supervillain unlike Kyle. That's right... Batman had his run-ins with someone who uses a kite.
    • The episode where Cartman is excited to find candy-corn-filled Oreos, which Stan and Kyle are revolted by? Yeah, that was a real Halloween-exclusive flavor of Oreos.
  • The Simpsons:
    • If you saw the episode parodying Shakespeare's Hamlet before reading the actual play, you might be surprised to discover that the ear poison was used in the original, and not merely a comedic prop used in the parody. Shakespeare's usage was based on a contemporary urban myth circulating in the day (the murder of that myth was well-known, the method was unverified).
    • The episode "All Singing, All Dancing" opened with the family watching what seemed to be a Western, with The Man With No Name walking into a dusty town - and then breaking into song about 'painting his wagon' with Lee Marvin, horrifying Bart and Homer who wanted them to kill each other. The portrayal is exaggerated in the episode, which also inserts Lee Van Cleef dressed as Colonel Mortimer, but it surprised a lot of fans who later discovered the film Paint Your Wagon, starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, actually exists. And it was after Clint gained his credibility in the Leone westerns. And, yes, they both sang. Well... okay... they both tried to. The song and wagon-painting scene used on The Simpsons aren't part of the musical, though.
    • In the 1996 episode "Two Bad Neighbors", Homer tries to trick George H. W. Bush into coming outside by claiming his sons, George Bush Jr. and Jeb, had arrived. According to the DVD commentary, the writers (and the 1996 audience) had no idea George Bush did have a son who shared his name, and thought this was just Homer being an idiot as usual. After 2000, Homer doesn't seem so stupid after all. (At least about this one thing.)
    • In the future Christmas episode, Homer has an invisibility cloak. This seems like a throwaway gag about future technology when Homer wants to take Bart's kids on a tour of the shady parts of Springfield, but scientists really are working on this in real life.
    • In “Homie the Clown”, the cities Krusty mentions actually exists.
      • Walla Walla and Seattle are in Washington.
      • Keokuk is in Iowa.
      • Cucamonga is in California.
    • In “Last Exit To Springfield”, Moe orders the restaurant's top two popular dishes in one… lobster stuffed with tacos. A taco made with sea food is actually a real meal.
    • The idea of Spider-Pig that Homer explained in the film version was actually done by Marvel with the 1980s comic series known as Spider-Ham.
  • A hamburger with donuts instead of buns and full of bacon? Surely that was an invention of The Boondocks! Nope, it's called The Luther Burger, is very, very real, and may or may not have been actually invented by Luther Vandross. Either way, you'll probably die if you try to eat it.
  • On The Fairly OddParents, Adam West does the trope that was named for him by playing a version of himself who thinks he's Catman. One might be surprised to learn he isn't just being a Captain Ersatz of Batman, but is actually modeled after a small time Batman villain of the same name.
    • Also like three superheroes. Oddly, all the Catmen look the same. One of them has a girl sidekick called 'The Kitten.'
  • This one might be a coincidence, but one episode of Batman Beyond features Terry trying to see Batman: The Musical. There really is a Batman the Musical, and it came out a year before Beyond debuted. (And the late Jim Steinman had been working on another for many years.)
  • In Titan Maximum, Willy picks up Clare's sword and declares it to be made of "aggregated carbon nanorods", a substance harder than diamonds. A disclaimer appears on-screen adding that despite this being a sci-fi show, this is in fact a real substance.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, one of Squidward's favorite foods, canned bread, actually does exist in reality.
    • Having an actual lake underwater may sound fiction but they happen to exist.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Mc Stroke", Peter claims to be a business man from Asia looking to invest in Mc Burger Town, as a way to spy on his local franchise. When the restaurant employee tells Peter that he doesn't look Asian, he says “Well, I guess we'll just take our millions of dongs elsewhere”. Most people probably thought that this was just Peter being stupid/a penis joke (or perhaps, a reference to Gedde Watanabe's character of the same name in Sixteen Candles), but dongs are a real currency, and in an Asian country to boot: Vietnam.
  • A surprising number of people outside of Mexico and the south-western U.S. are, like Homer's quote above, startled to find that roadrunners are totally real. They're only about six inches high, they're not purple, and they don't say "Beep beep", but they're real. They're a kind of cuckoo.
  • While the penguins being depicted, known as Adélie, are normally found in the Antarctic coast, but the The Penguins of Madagascar were correct to show penguins finding themselves in urban settings. There's a species of penguins known as Jackass penguins that does voyage into urban places, where humans are common, mostly in South Africa. The penguins got that name due to the sounds they make, which it's similar to that of a donkey.
  • If you watch the original Scooby-Doo cartoons, you might remember an episode where the villain is a con artist about to sell a phony time machine for a quarter of a million dollars; this causes Shaggy to exclaim that the money is "enough to buy a million hamburgers". Indeed, a hamburger cost about 25 cents at the time the cartoon was made.

Other/Multiple Media

  • Ambergris: Yes, it exists. Yes, it's essentially sperm-whale puke. Yes, it is a component in many high-end perfumes.
    • "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" might be the worst South Park episode ever on first viewing because the NAMBLA concept is too creepy even for Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Unfortunately, it is a real group; once you know this, the satire makes sense.
    • The "Right Love" organization from Transmetropolitan looks like just a made-up Acceptable Targets.
  • So real, it's a long (and hilarious) running joke on The Daily Show about the greatness of American culture and cuisine... Jimmy Dean's Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick!
    • Baconnaise! And Lite Baconnaise!
    • John Oliver did something similar with the Domino's Oreo Pizza.
  • In the early days of the National Football League many teams used the wide appeal of Major League Baseball in the '40s to their advantage. So, yes, there were american football teams called the New York Yankees, Boston Braves (Now the Washington Redskins), Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Steelers. Get it?). The lasting relics of that era are the "New York Football Giants" (whose baseball analog are now based in San Francisco). Note that while it may seem as such due to their prior home of Saint Louis, the Arizona Cardinals are not an example of this, as the name dates to their days in Chicago, and came from the faded colour of their once-maroon uniforms.
    • The NHL attempted this in its early years as well. There was, indeed, a Pittsburgh Pirates hockey team (which eventually moved to Philadelphia to become the Philadelphia Quakers, who later folded.)
  • Also, the "Steagles"? An amalgamation of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles? Yes, that happened, too, during World War II, when both teams sent most of their players to war and had to consolidate their rosters to get a coherent team going.
    • And the Card-Pitt 1944 merger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Phoenix St. Louis Chicago Cardinals. It even lent itself to a derisive nickname, the "Car-Pitts" (carpets), due to their poor play.
  • A staple of many comedic routines: Lawn darts. Unfortunately, the high incidence of injuries caused by wayward darts led to them being banned in 1988.
    • The sharp, pointy metal ones any way. You can find fully plastic ones that look more like a combination of badminton birdies and rugby balls nowadays.
  • "This looks Photoshopped."
  • Noted on the Unfortunate Names page is the name Zoltan, which people tend to assume is a sort of "joke" or made-up name, given the B-movie Zoltan: Hound of Dracula or the nerd cult from Dude, Where's My Car?. It's an actual Hungarian name and is, for instance, the middle name of Hungarian-American author Steven Brust, Hungarian soccer player Zoltan Gera, fantasy artist Zoltan Boros, Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Zoltan Bathory, and orchestral composer Zoltan Kodaly, among others.
    • Along similar lines, Kermit is a real name. For several years Lucasfilm's official Darth Vader stand-in for promotional appearances was a man called Kermit Eller, who eventually got sick of the attention ("the whole Muppet thing just got old") and decided to use his middle name, Bryce, instead.
    • Along the same line, American President Theodore Roosevelt had a son named Kermit, who was an explorer on two continents. He in turn had a son, also named Kermit, who was a CIA agent who overthrew the democratically-elected government of Iran, paving the way for the Shah's autocracy and (eventually) the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
  • In an odd example from a few years ago that has already become almost nostalgic Christmas weirdness, some companies marketed upside-down artificial Christmas trees. Though it started as a department store's cheesy attempt at humour (so you can fit more presents under the tree!), there was a brief period during which they were quite popular. It's Older Than They Think, though, as 12th Century Europeans were said to have hung their trees upside-down from the ceiling.
  • Many Westerners were introduced to eating fertilized duck eggs through reality shows; mainly as a challenge to the contestants. Many still find it hard to believe that it really is a very common and much-loved delicacy (called balut) in several Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In fact, you can find the eggs sold by street vendors in those countries.
  • Some of the award citations for the Medal of Honour recipients may qualify. This was Lampshaded by Ronald Reagan when he was presenting the award to Roy Benavidez.

If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.

  • Look at The Other Wiki's discussion pages, in any language, on the Liger. Apparently there is a lot of people out there that not just doubt it, but actively refuse to accept that such an animal can exist. It probably doesn't help that occasionally a wiki vandal will add a reference to it being "bred for its skills in magic".
  • Two suburban boys in their late teens, going camping for the first time, amazed at the fact that fireflies do as a matter of fact, exist, and are not special effects in media and little mythological bugs.
    • Or, indeed, adults from the West Coast of the USA travelling east for the first time.
    • They're not just real. They're carnivorous. Well, some are.
  • Many animals and natural phenomena are restricted to certain geographic areas. Crickets, though a staple in rural settings and anywhere bad jokes are told, are a rare find in colder climates.
      • This bit about crickets is not accurate. It is true that they cannot survive the cold, but most northern areas are plenty warm enough for them to survive during non-winter months. They die before winter, burying eggs which produce young in the spring. They are indeed common in colder noise levels (which can be highly annoying, at times).
    • Also, if you think the Stock Sound Effect of crickets in the background to indicate night-time is in any way exaggerated, you are entirely wrong.
  • Bedbugs are real. However, they've become freakishly common in cities in the Northeast US and Southern Ontario (Canada), particularly New York, Boston and Toronto, so nobody really doubts they exist anymore. Some do have problems believing just how brutal the damn things are. And in 2023 Paris (the one in France) was hit by a virtual plague of them.
    • They're not exactly dangerous to human health (they aren't known to carry any diseases and their bites are more or less the same as a mosquito's). They're just bloody persistent and extremely hard to get rid of. Not only can they go for months without a meal, but fumigation does not work very well. So you cannot starve them to death or poison them. Luckily, pest control has ways to get rid of them, so call them first before attempting removal.
    • The only reliable way to kill them is to heat the affected home to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours and cook them to death.
      • Diatomaceous earth kills them, by being sharp and hard enough that they abrade themselves to death by walking around.
  • Similarly, a group of non-Americans (primarily early-20s) traveling in the US were surprised to find that IHOP, the Cheesecake Factory, and Denny's were real restaurants and not no-brand-names-were-harmed TV inventions.
  • In the early 2000s, a lot of people laughed at claims of "killer mould" in New York city apartments. Then Brittany Murphy and her husband dropped dead.
    • The mould theory was quickly debunked, though. Murphy died from a deadly combination of over-the-counter drugs. So killer mould is probably still laughable.
      • It's not laughable at all. Black mould is a major problem in parts of the US that are known for sudden torrential rain, have poor drainage, and do not freeze (for instance, coastal east Texas).
  • Tattoos in Britain. Nowadays they are so associated with vulgar lower-class stereotypes that people refuse to believe that people like Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill had them. But in fact they were first brought to England by Captain Cook in the eighteenth century, having visited Tahiti, and became a craze among the upper classes (and, obviously, sailors). They were associated primarily with the upper classes until around World War II.
    • Oddly fitting, given that both "Britannia" and the "Picts" were names derived from being "tattooed".
  • Alcoholic root beer. The general consensus is that the soft drink commonly called root beer is actually a recent invention, but recipes for mildly-alcoholic beers using fermented sassafras root bark as a main ingredient have been around for at least some 200-odd years. Fun fact: they still make the stuff.
  • It is a frustrating experience for history enthusiasts to explain to others that the Ancient Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Aztecs and Egyptians had invented highly advanced technology.
  • Articles in The Onion are often mistaken for being genuine - see An article called "Creationist Museum Unveils 5000-Year-Old Dinosaur" did the rounds via email several years ago, and while the story obviously was a fabrication, many people who saw through it were nonetheless unaware that the Creationist Museum itself is real.
  • When it comes to any work set in a school, the idea of the area becoming a terrified location isn’t that hard to believe to the point there’s such fear of going to one called Didaskaleinophobia.
  • The Tasmanian devil is a real species of marsupial found in Tasmania. While they don’t spin around like in the cartoon, but they got their name from the call they made being described as coming from hell by early European explorers.
  • Former US President Barack Obama isn’t the first politician to have his own brewery. In a beer company in Boston has a brand called Samuel Adams named for one of the earlier governors of Massachusetts who happened to brew his own beer.
  • Tar and Feathers was an actually form of punishment and humiliation that dates back to Medieval Times, rather play for laughs.
  • The Ren and Stimpy Show episode, “My Shiny Friend”, focuses on Ren’s attempts to curb Stimpy’s addiction to TV.
    • Clarissa Explains It All had two episodes, one where the title character watches TV for 24-Hours for research study, and another where Janet tries to banned TV for a week to curb everyone’s addiction.
    • In the third Sims game, if a Sim is employed in the Journalism Career path, they would be required to watch TV for a certain amount of hours to improve their job level.
      • While they were played for laughs, Television Addiction is actually a real condition.
  • In Arrested Development, Tobias Funke, has fear of being in the nude, to the point he even showers with shorts on. In the Third Sims Game, a player can chose a Never Nude trait that results them taking baths with their swimsuit on. Yet, there is a name for this known as Gymnophobia, which is an actual condition.
  • For many professional wrestling fans, Death Valley sounds like a dark haunting place, fitting for someone like The Undertaker. Though the man behind Taker is actually from Texas just like Mark Henry and Shawn Michaels, the town of Death Valley actually exist; it's really a desert located in California, and is the home to the lowest elevation and highest ambient temperature in North America. While now lacking a permanent population, in the 1940s, Franklin D. Roosevelt forced over 10,000 people to live in the hellscape, but The Undertaker is both twenty years too young, and the wrong ethnicity to have been born there.
    • Similar to the Jack Black example seen in the Films section, Vince McMahon had a 'mad monk' called Friar Ferguson, but it was dropped due to the feedback. To top it off, this was 13 years before Nacho Libre, which meant McMahon likely heard about Fray Tormenta as well.
  1. The terms come from offices in the British War Office in and around the World War I - seventeen different MI numbers were used, from MI-1 to MI-19, handling a variety of war-oriented duties. Except for MI-18 and MI-13. There never was an MI-18. With the exception of 5 and 6, none had intelligence responsibilities as the term is used today.
  2. Kenshin is not Himura's birth name. He was orphaned and given that name by his master, who might have been inspired by Uesugi Kenshin, who was a famous swordsman
  3. jets didn't became popular because their exhaust is dangerous in several ways to vehicles in its general direction, and a chariot's tugs would threaten to point-blank blowtorch their own cart too, making even a simple turn risky
  4. overall it's not as popular as Igloo types, mostly because solid ice is both harder to work with than compressed snow bricks and less heat insulating
  5. Quite a few are not, though; Hamlet didn't really use the words "Piss off" to Horatio, nor did Juliet reply to Romeo's "Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized" with "Okay, 'Butt Love'."