Historical In-Joke

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Year 33 -- The Malkavians claim that their greatest practical joke happens during this year, when they perform a bit of graverobbing in Jerusalem.

Happens when a show references a historical event, and provides additional information about the event, relating it to the show. This either changes the meaning of the event, or shows what really caused it, as opposed to what everyone thinks really happened.

Don Bellisario, the producer/creator of Quantum Leap, called these "kisses with history".

Given the painful lack of research that most writers perform before writing, it should come as no surprise that many Historical In-Jokes are painfully inaccurate anachronisms. Or they may be taken for being fiction by the audience.

The most common variation is that the characters are responsible for some famous bit of damage: Venus de Milo's arms, the Sphinx's nose, etc. Usually these are shown to occur when the artifacts are new, even if the real damage occurred much later.

Naturally will involve a Historical Domain Character or two.

When this occurs in an Alternate History setting it's a case of Allohistorical Allusion.

Compare It Will Never Catch On. A character who does a lot of these becomes The Gump. If the protagonists blunder into a famous event instead of interfering deliberately, this can also be evidence that In the Past Everyone Will Be Famous. Naturally, this is a form of In-Joke.

Subtropes include:

Compare with Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act, which frequently inverts this.

Examples of Historical In-Joke include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the Inuyasha movie, we find out that the storm that thwarted the 1281 Mongol invasion of Japan was caused by a battle between Inuyasha's father and a Chinese demon lord.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, the murder of Japanese minister of the interior Okubo Toshimichi in 1878 is retconned to have been executed by fictional character Seta Sojiro, rather than a group of sympathizers of Takamori Saigo. They just show up and take credit for it.
  • All of Le Chevalier d'Eon is an elaborately staged Historical In-Joke told in the context of an 18th Century spy adventure. It covers the rise of Catherine the Great and Robespierre, among others....
  • An omake in Zettai Karen Children reveals that it was BABEL's Tsundere director who proposed a day where "girls give presents".
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, the original visual novel version has soldiers from Hinamizawa being responsible for the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. It was the first outbreak of the Hate Plague Hinamizawa Syndrome.
  • Half the point of Axis Powers Hetalia.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist movie we find out that the Beer Hall Putsch failed because of our protagonists' activities.
    • In Brotherhood, among mentions of violent insurrections in Amestris across the centuries include the Wellesley Incident of 1811. No hint of what it is, but depending on how alternate the show's world is, Arthur Wellesley may have been involved.

Comic Books

  • Done a lot in the French comic Asterix. To name just a few examples:
    • In Asterix Meets Cleopatra, Obelix is revealed to be responsible for the Sphinx's missing nose.
    • In Asterix in Britain, Asterix introduces tea to the British and Obelix suggests introducing rugby to the folks back in Gaul (rugby is quite popular in several European countries, including both France and Great Britain). One of the Britons mentions that they've started digging a tunnel between Gaul and Britain, "but it looks like taking a jolly long time, what!"
    • In Asterix in Spain, when Asterix and Obelix ask if Unhygienix the fishmonger will rent his fishing boat to them, he mentions in passing that he'll take his payment in menhirs (stone monoliths), as he's looking to develop some land he owns in Britain (which a footnote explains is on Salisbury Plain, i.e. the location of Stonehenge). The original French version of this same book used Carnac instead of Stonehenge, a French town in the southern coast of Brittany, home to another big megalithic site.
      • Later in the book, Asterix accidentally invents bullfighting when he gets captured by the Romans and, instead of being thrown to the lions, is forced to fight a wild aurochs (a sort of now-extinct bull). Which might not sound very terrible, unless you know aurochs were twice the size of modern bovines. Kind of like having to fight a tank made of meat.
    • A Running Gag in Asterix And The Chieftain's Shield is whenever someone mentions Alesia (the last stand of the Gauls) to a Gaul, said Gaul will respond (usually enraged) that "I don't know where Alesia is! No one knows where Alesia is!" This is a reference to archeologists' (currently dispelled) doubts about the city's location.
      • Could also be a reference to the way people don't like to remember defeats and other shameful episodes, often to the point of denial. It is probably not irrelevant that the story is set in the part of France that includes the little spa town of Vichy.
      • Also in that album, they visit the town that is now Clermont-Ferrand to see a former Roman Legionary who owns a wagon-wheel manufacturing firm (Clermont-Ferrand is home to the Michelin tyre company). In the city they see a big statue of Caesar standing at the exact spot where today stands a big statue of Vercingetorix, so French readers know turned out to be the moral victor in the end!
    • In Asterix in Corsica, the Corsican leader tells Caesar that Corsicans will never accept being part of an Empire unless it was ruled by one of their own.
    • In The Big Fight, Asterix and Obelix visit the druid Psychoanalytix, who specialises in diseases of the mind. The nurse is telling them about the patients as they go along, with the last one standing in the classic Napoleon pose.. The nurse says "No one knows who this man thinks he is."
  • Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck features quite a few historical in-jokes. Apparently, during his rise to fame and fortune, Scrooge has met such personalities as Wyatt Earp, Theodore Roosevelt, and P.T. Barnum. (And, as Rosa explains in the collected edition, all of the scenarios are somewhat plausible, as the people in question were, more or less, where Rosa has them. He prides himself on his research.)
    • All except Geronimo, that is. Rosa just Handwaved that it would be just like Geronimo to sneak out of a reservation for awhile without anyone noticing.
  • The Sandman has several, though "jokes" may not be the correct description. For a prominent example, William Shakespeare's talent comes as a results of a proto-Deal with the Devil with Morpheus (he gets his talent, but Morpheus essentially becomes his patron in return).
    • There's also a very meta-example. Wesley Dodds (the original Sandman in comics) was inspired by Morpheus through his dreams.
    • The Arabian Nights as Morpheus' deal with Harun al-Rashid, anyone?
  • Hellblazer does this with John Constantine's ancestors, usually Johanna Constantine. One ancestor disrupted the dream that became "Kublai Khan" because Angels are describing how awesome Heaven is, which isn't kosher.
  • This trope is also featured in the Predator comics, after it was already implied in the movies that these Sufficiently Advanced Aliens had been visiting Earth for a veeeery long time.
    • In Predator: Concrete Jungle, Major Phillips (the one that sent Dutch's team to the jungle in the first movie) claims the Predators exterminated the dinosaurs and gave birth to Ancient religions. Both claims were ignored in later comics and even denied by some fans till they were (partially) confirmed in the Alien vs. Predator movies.
    • In Predator: The Bloody Sands of Time, the main character discovers that Predators were responsible for the fall of Fort Douamont to the Germans in February 1916, thus triggering the Battle of Verdun as the French attempted to recover the position.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has quite a few of these, although most connect events in several other works of fiction—several of those are analogues for real-world events, like WW 2 and Jack the Ripper murders. One of the funniest examples might be Orlando having posed for Leonardo Da Vinci—while changing hir sex.
  • Transformers: Hearts of Steel has Tobias Muldoon, a young engineer, demonstrate his new invention, a 'sub-marine', to an audience that includes Jules Verne. In-story, this happens a couple of years before Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
  • The Ultimates had a whole storyline about a race of aliens called the Chitauri who, as Nick Fury revealed, were the real Nazis trying to take over the world to subvert the people of Earth to their will if not for the actions of Captain America. They end up coming back to try again in the present day by infiltrating SHIELD, led by the very same Herr Kleiser who tormented the Allies in the past, which eventually leads to the resurrected Cap yelling the now famous (or infamous) quote, "Surrender?! You think this "A" on my head stands for FRANCE?"
  • Marvel has revealed, among other things, that the San Francisco earthquake was caused by a time traveling X-Club; Hitler's rise to power was backed by a cabal of sorcerers in an attempt to summon Dormammu, who had previously caused the Great Fire of London in battle with the Ancient One; the Hindenburg crashed in an attempt to prevent the unleashing of demonic entities onto Earth; Hitler was killed by the Human Torch when he tried to blow up Berlin; and Deep Throat was really the alien who crashed at Roswell.
    • This can cause problems as some events are explained in obscure stories leading to multiple explanations - the Salem Witch trials, for example, have been explained to have been due to the influence of Dracula, the influence of an ancient sorcerer who wanted to feed on the victims, a manipulative time traveler and many genuine witches (both good and evil).
  • A Dark Horse comic involved the Hindenburg, Doc Savage, and Prof. Reinstein (the inventor of Captain America's super-soldier formula).
  • The Heroes graphic novels had Mindy Sprague accidentally causing the 1978 blizzard over the Northeastern United States in an attempt to avert a meltdown at Three Mile Island.
    • Also, apparently Benjamin Franklin survived his kite experiment because he had electrical superpowers.
    • And the Egyptians apparently used superpowers to build the Pyramids.
  • Alan Moore's first DR and Quinch comic strip for 2000 AD is almost entirely based on this trope.
  • Want to know how Amelia Earhart disappeared? According to Empowered, Imperial Pimpotron Alpha abducted her for a cosmic emperor's harem.
  • In one Batman Elseworlds title set in the Old West, Batman is an agent of Abraham Lincoln who repeatedly asks Lincoln if he can come back to Washington, as he has reservations regarding the President's security precautions...
  • Angel, the Buffy ally. A black and white tie-in comic had the WW 1 era Angel deciding that vampire reports from Europe needed looking into. He stabbed a lot of vampires, saving some Germans from being eaten/turned. One of them, of course, had his entire worldview altered. Corporal Hitler went back to the front lines a changed man. Oops.
  • One Wallace and Gromit comic had the duo traveling through time to find Wallace's missing slipper. At one point, Wallace attempts to prevent primitive roller-skates from causing too much havoc by providing a far more angular design to his caveman counterpart, Ug-Wallace, who proceeds to get the design completely wrong and invent Stonehenge.
  • Lucky Luke has been involved in pretty much every major event in the history of the West.


  • Back to The Future and Back to the Future III show the "real" origin of rock-and-roll music, skateboarding, and Frisbee discs.
  • Watchmen involves the introduction of masked avengers into a "normal" earth, and quite a lot of these result—amongst them, JFK's assassination is heavily implied (and plainly shown in the movie) to be performed by The Comedian. Nite Owl punches out a mugger in front of a young Bruce Wayne and his parents. Silhouette and her lesbian lover enact the VJ Day Parade embrace photo. Nite Owl II meets Andy Warhol who has made a painting of him. Ozymandias is greeted by Mick Jagger and David Bowie outside Studio54. More obscurely, the movie also shows Neil Armstrong saying, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!".
  • Dick explains the identity of the mysterious "Deep Throat" (the movie was made years before it was revealed in Real Life to be someone else), and the 18-minute gap in Richard Nixon's private tapes.
  • The Godfather Part III RetCons the death of Pope John Paul I and the murder of the Vatican's chief banker into part of a Mafia vs. Vatican conspiracy. Assuming they weren't in the first place.
  • Recurring joke in Forrest Gump (as Forrest inadvertently invents jogging and the smiley face, teaches Elvis to dance, etc.) The DVD includes a deleted scene of Forrest playing fetch with those nice police doggies playing with Mr. King and his sign-carrying friends.
  • In The Hudsucker Proxy, Tim Robbins supposedly invents the Hula Hoop and Frisbee. Presumably, the elevator boy eventually made good with his bendy-straw idea.
  • Men in Black
    • The depletion of the ozone layer was caused by aliens siphoning it off for the galactic black market. The well-propagated vicious rumors that fluorocarbons dissolve the ozone layer are just Plausible Deniability.
    • Agent K explained early in the first movie that the 1977 New York Blackout was the result of a practical joke by an alien ambassador known as "the Great Attractor" when he released an extremely bouncy ball. He thought it was funny as hell.
    • MIB also shows that many of the famous celebrities and historical figures are/were aliens. Late in the movie, Agent K outright states that Elvis Presley's mysterious death was really him just returning to his own world. There's also a screen showing numerous celebrities that are really aliens, like Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Michael Jackson, Oprah and Dennis Rodman, although that wasn't much of a disguise. Two are self-deprecation: producer Steven Spielberg and director Barry Sonnenfeld).
  • Shakespeare in Love is another movie that lives and breathes this trope. It's subverted when Christopher Marlowe is killed in suspicious circumstances as he was real life, and the implication is that he was murdered because Shakespeare used his name as a pseudonym to Wessex. Then Shakespeare learns in relief that Marlowe's death was a coincidence, and had nothing to do with the plot.
  • Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights both had this. The end of the first movie revealed that Roy O'Bannon's real name was Wyatt Earp (a famous Western lawman from the 19th century). The second film was loaded with the things, from Roy's defense of losing Chon's money investing in dead-end airship research ("Chon, you're lucky I didn't invest in that ridiculous 'auto-mobile' idea.") to the appearance of a (very) young Charlie Chaplin. The Scotland Yard detective accompanying O'Bannon and Chon turns out to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We also learn why Jack the Ripper stopped killing.
    • However, that doesn't really work because Arthur Conan Doyle never worked for Scotland Yard.
  • From Walk the Line: When Johnny Cash wakes up on the tour bus, he walks past a passed out Luther Perkins (his guitarist) with a lit cigarette in his mouth and he casually put it out. Luther Perkins died months after the "At Folsom Prison" recording/performance when he fell asleep in his Tennessee home with a lit cigarette in his mouth, and died from injuries sustained in the resulting fire.
  • Young Einstein starring Yahoo Serious is basically a 91-minute long collection of historical in-jokes, although the end result is not quite an elaborated version of history as we know it. Albert Einstein is from Tasmania, invents foamy beer by splitting the beer atom and ends up romantically with Marie Curie... oh, and he also comes up with Rock & Roll.
  • In Oscar, mob boss Angelo Provolone asks his accountant Little Anthony why he doesn't remember something, to which Anthony replies, "You were in Chicago. It was St. Valentines Day?"
  • A scene from Walk Hard implies that Dewey invented Punk music.
  • In X Men Origins Wolverine, Wolverine and Sabretooth fight Weapon XI atop the cooling tower at Three Mile Island, destroying it in the process.
    • In X-men: First Class, we see that the Cuban Missile Crisis was apparently set up by the Hellfire Club, who bullied the Russians and Americans into that position. There's also a Word of God example which may or may not make the sequel, that Magneto was responsible for the bullet that went into JFK's head, explaining the strange path it took.
  • Some Like It Hot starts with the protagonists witnessing the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and being forced to run/hide from the mobsters.
  • Rose, in Titanic, is fascinated by the paintings of Picasso and purchases several while in Europe, despite her fiance Cal's assertion that they'll never be worth anything.
  • In The Rocketeer, the Hollywoodland sign was shortened to Hollywood after the primary antagonist Neville Sinclair crashes into the 'LAND' portion of the famous sign.
  • The trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon implies that the real purpose of the Apollo 11 moon landings was to investigate Decepticon wreckage on the Moon.
  • The Mask: In a deleted scene, Leif Erikson sailed to America not out of any desire to find new lands, but just to get rid of the mask. When pressed by his colleagues to name the new world, he said, "Leave that to the Italians. This land is now cursed."
  • No direct changes, but in Time Bandits, the Mona Lisa is unintentionally transferred from Napoleon to Robin Hood (and possibly to before it was painted).
  • There are a few in A Knight's Tale, mostly centered around the fact that Geoffry Chaucer is a member of the group. At one point, Chaucer falls into the debt of and is humiliated by two men, who are identified as a pardoner and a summoner. He tells them "I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity." The Pardoner and the Summoner are the most disgusting characters in The Canterbury Tales. At the end of the movie, Chaucer comments that he wants to write everything down, implying that the plot served as inspiration for The Canterbury Tales. Finally, Word of God is that the movie was deliberately set up to take place during a period of time when Chaucer really did go missing in real life, suggesting that the events in the film were adventures he might have had during that time.


  • Many in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Just a few:
    • After meeting (and disliking) the eponymous Jonathan Strange for the first time, Lord Byron went and wrote Manfred to create a wizard he liked better.
    • After Strange and Byron become friends and Strange goes a bit of the dramatically inclined deep end, Byron starts taking notes.
    • Strange's use of black magic during the Napoleonic Wars is suggested to have inspired the artist Goya's production of hellish paintings of war and witchcraft.
  • Victor Hugo loved these. Les Misérables and Ninety-Three have so many that it is necessary to take several encyclopedias out of the library and maybe a history and mythology degree in order to know what he is talking about sometimes.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams ties together the origins of life on earth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem Kubla Khan, the extinction of the dodo and dozens of other epochal or trivial events into an excellent approximation of a coherent plot. It also explains how a couch can get impossibly stuck in a stairwell!
  • In Isaac Asimov's short story "The Message" (1955), a time traveler goes back to observe the Second World War, ancient history to him. Desperate to leave some kind of mark that signified his presence and yet wouldn't change the outcome of any major events, he carves a message on a wooden fence somewhere on a North African beach. The traveler is named Dr. George Kilroy, and the message he leaves is the first-ever KILROY WAS HERE graffito.
  • Dave Barry Slept Here makes excellent use of this.
  • In Avram Davidson's Full Chicken Richness, a time travelling cook kills off the dodo to use in his soup. (In Real Life, according to the sailors who discovered them, dodos tasted terrible.)
  • Lampshaded in The Three Musketeers. John Felton is so seduced by a captive Milady De Winter that not only does he set her free but also goes as far as assassinate her captor, George Villiers, the First Duke of Buckingham. Alexandre Dumas's work was written in 1844, making this Older Than Radio. Felton did, indeed, assassinate the Duke, but more likely for political reasons, probably due to discontent regarding the state of the English navy.
  • Umberto Eco's Baudolino, being a historical novel about an influential liar, is full of these. Among other things, it gives an alternate explanation for the death of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and reveals the "true" origin of the works of the Archpoet and the letter of Prester John, as well as the correspondence attributed to Abelard and Heloise.
    • As well as the inspiration for Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and Robert de Boron's Merlin and Joseph d'Arimathe, the founding of Alessandria and its salvation from Barbarossa's wrath and the assassination of Emperor Alexios II Komnenos of Byzantium.
  • This the entire premise of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, extended to all fictional events from written literature as well.
    • In The Eyre Affair, for example, it is established early on that Nextiverse!Jane Eyre ends differently from how it does in real life. Toward the end of the book, however, Thursday goes into the novel in order to put things back to normal... but, in her effort to catch Jane Eyre's attention without becoming mentioned in the first-person narrative, she ends up becoming the mysterious disembodied voice that is an integral part of real world!Jane Eyre.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Croup and Vandemar were responsible for burning Troy and spreading the Black Death. It is also hinted that they were the men who crucified Jesus.
  • Erek in Animorphs is more than five thousand years old, was Franklin Roosevelt's butler, and apparently coined the phrase "New Deal" during a card game. Going back even further, he personally helped build the pyramids (No, he did not design them, he was a slave and helped carry bricks) and then cut and styled Cleopatra's hair several centuries later.
    • Another Animorphs explains that broccoli tastes bad to humans because it was brought to Earth by alien colonizers during the time of the dinosaurs. These aliens were then wiped out by the impact that killed off the dinosaurs, which was brought down by refugees of another race that had lost a war to the first mentioned race. A handful of survivors from one of those alien races apparently evolved into ants.
    • Yet another mentions that Elfangor was once friends with two guys named Bill and Steve, whom he helped explain computers to. They were unable to grasp the more complex concepts, so he had to simplify matters and explain it to Bill with the term "Windows."
  • In Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, a man goes back in time in an attempt to meet Jesus. However, he finds that Jesus' life is a total myth. He then takes it upon himself to become Jesus, preaching the teachings he learned in the future, until he is finally crucified by the Romans.
  • Grim Tuesday, the second book of Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series, reveals that The Great Depression was caused by Grim Tuesday's greedy meddling. This also counts as Parental Bonus as it's not outright stated and most of the 9-12 year old kids that the books are marketed towards probably wouldn't know enough to make the connection.
  • The Areas of My Expertise, by John Hodgman, is filled to the brim with them. Its sequel, More Information Than You Require, has one on every page.
  • The novel series about Erast Fandorin revels in Historical In Jokes. What caused the rapid scientific advancement of late 19th century? Why did the Siege of Pleven take place? Who murdered General Skobelev? Who was Jack the Ripper really? Who was behind the Khodynka Tragedy?..
  • The two-part Star Trek novel The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh is an attempt to reconcile real world history with the fact that, in the Star Trek time line, the Eugenics Wars occurred in the 1990s.
  • Jonathan Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy is filled with this, mostly in footnotes, where the titular demon often refers to his previous masters, most of them being real famous (along with a few more obscure) historical figures.
  • In the sixth book of The Dark Tower, the protagonists are trying to get rid of Black Thirteen, a cosmic artifact that continually brings bad luck and catastrophe to whomever holds it. As part of a plot necessity, they travel to New York City in 1999, and get a brilliant idea to stash the trouble-making object in a storage locker under the World Trade Center towers. As they leave the scene, Jake looks up at the towers, and wonders idly whether the object might be destroyed if say, the towers just happened to crumble on top of it somehow. It's further intimated that due to its evil nature, the presence of Black Thirteen may have caused the WTC attacks.
  • The sequel of I, Claudius, Claudius the God, features the Emperor Claudius' lifelong friend, King Herod Agrippa of Judea, the grandson of Herod the Great. Herod Agrippa sends Claudius a letter warning him about a cult that believed that the now-deceased Joshua ben Joseph was the Messiah and asking for permission to do something about their current leader, Simon-called-Peter. Claudius barely cares. Interestingly, the book has Herod Agrippa meeting the same fate that both Josephus and the New Testament's Book of Acts gives him, being eaten alive from the inside by worms after proclaiming himself a god, which feels a bit out of place in the realism the rest of the novel promotes.
  • Dracula: The Un-Dead -- Jack the Ripper is actually Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
    • Wait, how does that work? Elizabeth Bathory killed virgins, and Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes. Not much overlap there...
  • YA novel Kruistocht In Spijkerbroek (Crusade In Jeans) by Thea Beckman has a number of these. Most notably, the time-travelling hero meets a medieval guy named Leonardo da Pisa, who becomes his best friend during the story. He teaches Leonardo modern math. The guy turns out to be Fibonacci.
  • In the first Percy Jackson novel, when Grover is explaining to Percy about demi-gods, he mentions some famous demigods who successfully ventured to the Underworld and returned.

Grover:' ...Orpheus, Hercules, Houdini...

    • There are more Historical In Jokes like this in the series, since one of the plot points is that the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) are not supposed to have any more half-mortal children, because the powers of their children keep leading to history being screwed up. George Washington is mentioned as one such example, and World War II is mentioned as a battle between the children of Zeus and Poseidon, against the children of Hades.
  • The Squire's Tales has Geoffrey of Monmouth as a scholar at King Arthur's court.
  • Brazilian novel O Vampiro que Descobriu O Brasil has a Portuguese vampire coming after the body snatching one that bit him, leading both to Brazil. Among the many facts caused by them, the protagonist invents sunglasses, and the decapitation of a vampire mare leads to the Headless Mule myth.
  • Several times in The Dresden Files. Most notably, the White Court of vampires had Dracula written as an all-purpose how-to guide for killing the rival Black Court, a godlike necromancer named Kemmler was responsible for World War I, and Ebenezar McCoy caused Krakatoa and The Tunguska Event. There's plenty of others, though—for instance, Bob's offhand mention of the last time a loup-garou got loose.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series, two mages discuss some magical Noodle Incident which will probably make Loch Ness infamous. On the darker side, in another novel an evil Earth Master engineers and sends out the flu strain of 1918 in order to prolong the War. Then there was backlash after that earthquake when the Fire Master was killed in California... Throw a stone, you'll catch one such reference in the books.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien couldn't resist slipping at least one of these into The Lord of the Rings, suggesting that the nursery rhyme "The Cat and the Fiddle" is derived from an old hobbits' pub song.
  • In Dinotopia, escapees from the island formed the Egyptian civilization, and it's suggested that Poseidos was the source of both the Atlantis myth and the sea-god's name.

Live-Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike inspired Billy Idol.
    • He also lampshades the trope in his first line, mocking a low-ranking vampire claiming to have been at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Spike: If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there it would've been like Woodstock. I was actually at Woodstock... that was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person and I spent six hours watching my hand move.

  • Quantum Leap had at least one every episode, including (among other things) Sam teaching a five-year-old Michael Jackson to moonwalk.
    • Other notable figures Sam meets (or Leaps into!) include: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Stephen King, and Lee Harvey Oswald.
    • Sam also suggests that a young would-be boxer who worked in a meatpacking factory train by sparring with the frozen beef carcasses hanging around his workplace, mentioning that it was "something I saw in a movie." The grateful young boxer thanks Sam and closes his locker, upon which is his name: "S. Stallone".
  • In the episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actually did this to a bit of Star Trek's own history—in something much more than a simple Continuity Nod, the episode revealed that there was much more going on in the background of the original series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" than was initially seen by viewers in the 1960s.
    • Also, the scene of Tribbles continuing to fall down on Kirk's head, one every ten seconds or so, long after the storage compartment had been opened and most of the tribbles had fallen out proves to be the DS9 team's tossing Tribbles aside once scanned.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus got some nice examples. Like in e.g. 'The Funniest Joke In The World': "It was a fantastic success, over 60.000 times as powerful as Britain's great pre-war joke (cue PM Neville Chamberlain waving around a certain piece of paper[1] in public)!".
  • Same with the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback", where Tuvok flashes back to his service aboard the Excelsior... during the time of Star Trek VI. He's even the one who gave Sulu the tea that we see knocked over at the beginning of the movie. Interestingly, since the original Trek actors had aged a good bit, many scenes that happened exactly as seen in Star Trek VI had to be redone (or else, Sulu ages ten years once original footage kicks in.) Watch 'em back to back and you'll notice the tiniest differences, like the way Valtane's hand moves when he puts it on the railing, or Sulu saying "Shields! Shields!" a bit more loudly, or a few camera angles being different. Also, the Excelsior‍'‍s warp engines only glow in original (i.e., "shot for the show") footage, as a new model's being used — although the nacelles of the movie model were wired to glow, they didn't.
    • An incident occurred during the filming of this episode that is either the greatest Historical In-Joke, or the luckiest accident, of Star Trek history. During the flashback sequences, we see Dimitri Valtane die, despite his chronologically later appearance at the end of Star Trek VI. Word of God jokingly suggested he had a twin brother serving on the same ship, but the general fanon response was that he had been successfully resuscitated off screen. The former is now accepted as correct, however, because in the opening scenes of Star Trek VI, because of a poor editing job, Valtane is seen to be manning two separate consoles on opposite sides of the bridge. Only one of him appears at the end, so the twin theory is actually the best solution.
    • In the two-parter "Future's End" the Digital Revolution only happens because of a crashed timeship.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did this with the episode "Little Green Men", where the Roswell aliens turn out to be Ferengi.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise pulled a cute one in the episode "Carbon Creek". Star Trek canon states that humanity met the Vulcans in the late 21st century after Cochrane's warp flight. Apparently, a little-known fact is that a Vulcan survey ship crashed in Pennsylvania in the '50s. A Vulcan woman raises money for a boy to go to college by introducing the bank owner to a strangely adhesive fabric, better known as Velcro, invented in the real world by "George" de Mestral. One of the Vulcans in the episode is named Mestral.
  • The two-part episode Time's Arrow in Star Trek: The Next Generation has Data accidentaly sent back to 1893 San Francisco where he meets the author Mark Twain and a young bellhop named Jack London, who has an inexplicable desire to visit Alaska.
  • Red Dwarf did a double in-joke by having an alternate dimension President John F. Kennedy assassinate himself—from behind the grassy knoll.
    • Timeslides has a few for World War II. Using the titular 'timeslides', Lister travels back to a Hitler-led rally and attempts to persuade the crowd not to believe him because he's 'a complete nutter - and he's only got one testicle.' Lister returns from the past with a suitcase from Claus von Stauffenberg, which triggers a predictable panic if you know who he was.
  • The X-Files, "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", shows the CSM writing a fictionalized account of a mysterious government operative (himself) assassinating JFK and MLK. However, it is strongly implied that much of the story is made up to make him seem more important.
    • He also gives a standing order for the Bills to never win a Super Bowl, which explains a lot.[2]
    • He also apparently drugged the Russian goalie during the 1980 Miracle on Ice when the US men's hockey team beat the far superior Russian squad.
  • Both Star Trek: The Original Series and Babylon 5 revealed the secret truth behind Jack the Ripper.
  • Hilda's and Zelda's exploits in Sabrina the Teenage Witch are liberally sprinkled with historical in-jokes. "And that was how Aunt Hilda started something called the American Revolution."
    • "Oh, so that's why [the Parthenon is] in ruins!" "Yes! Luckily, History blamed the Turks."
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. has historical in-jokes in virtually every episode, as Brisco encounters some gizmo which is sure to be the next "coming thing".
  • Naturally, Doctor Who, being a show centered around time travel, had plenty of these. The Doctor himself, for instance, wrote Hamlet down for Shakespeare after the latter had sprained his wrist writing sonnets, and the Great Fire of London was started by a dying alien.
    • In the new series episode "The Shakespeare Code", the Tenth Doctor accidentally suggested a good many of his most famous lines to the Bard, including "to be or not to be". The Doctor even gives him Dylan Thomas's "Rage, rage against the dying of the light", but tells Shakespeare that "it's been used." Also, Shakespeare wrote the sonnet beginning with "Shall I compare thee...?" to the Doctor's companion, who also happened to be the Dark Lady mentioned in some of his other poems. (Although that particular sonnet is not believed to be about the Dark Lady.)
    • In the episode "Father's Day", the whole of time itself begins screwing up due to interference with someone's death, causing such stuff as a phone ringing which when picked up treats the listener to "Watson, come quickly, I need you...", the first words ever spoken through a phone, by Alexander Graham Bell.
    • Similar to the way the Doctor name drops the famous historical figures he's met, Jack Harkness has a tendency to drop the names of famous historical figures he's dated in Torchwood.
      • The Doctor does the same at least once, when Ten informs Ood Sigma (who seems completely unimpressed, and probably has no idea what he's talking about anyway) that he married Queen Elizabeth I and that one of her nicknames is no longer accurate.
    • And in the 2008 series it is also revealed that the Doctor and his companion were responsible for the eruption of Vesuvius. Earlier in the same episode, we get both a Historical In-Joke and a Continuity Nod, as the Tenth Doctor very quickly tells Donna that "Before you ask, that fire had nothing to do with me. Well, a little bit..." referring to the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, which in a VERRRRRRRRRY early episode was shown to have been inadvertently inspired by the First Doctor accidentally setting a map on fire with the light through his spectacles...
    • Donna, being unaware of the exact point of Agatha Christie's career at the point where she meets her, tries to sell the author several of her own ideas, like Miss Marple, or Murder on the Orient Express.
    • In series five, The Doctor and Amy go to visit Van Gogh; Amy greets the artists with lots and lots of sunflowers. Very subtle. (The Doctor also reveals in the same episode that apparently Michelangelo had a fear of heights.)
      • Seriously, when you start watching a lot of Doctor Who, this trope starts to look like the summary of the show.
    • The Eleventh Doctor gave Richard Nixon the idea of taping everything in his office...so he'd know if he had his mind wiped by aliens.
  • All of Blackadder.
  • The single-season Sci Fi series Dark Skies centered around this trope, "revealing" that aliens or the Government Conspiracy to fight them have been involved in almost every major event over the course of the mid-60s, from the Kennedy assassination on down.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles sees Indy meeting virtually every major historical figure of the early 20th century before his 21st birthday.
  • I, Claudius has Nero proclaim, "Such a pretty thing, a fire..." Uh-oh.
  • Mr. Jimmy James on News Radio has claimed to be the informant Deep Throat on more than one occasion.
    • It's also strongly implied that he is D.B. Cooper (explaining how he came to be rich)
  • Vorenus and Pullo from Rome have been called the Forrest Gumps of Ancient Rome. During the course of the show they witness, cause or partake in pretty much every single important event during the end of the Roman republic. Caesar finally lampshades this in a later episode.
    • One good example is the second episode, where the attack on Marc Antony by Pompey's men when he's heading for the senate is actually an attack on Pullo by a random thug Pullo gambled and argued with (and killed his friend). This attack on Antony is believed to be Pompeius's thugs trying to prevent Antony from wielding his lawful power of veto, and becoming the key incident that led to Caesar crossing the Rubicon. The episode is even titled "How Titus Pullo Brought Down The Republic".
    • Pullo is the real father of Caesarion, the historical son of Caesar and Cleopatra.
    • Vorenus believing himself responsible for Caesar's death, as he was to accompany Caesar the day of his assassination, but was stopped by a woman who told him that his daughter's child was actually his wife's child by another man, causing him to leave and confront Niobe, while Caesar goes and gets killed on his own.
    • Pullo uncovering the stash of gold and silver from the treasury looted by the Optimates, stealing it all for himself before handing it back over to Caesar when he's caught. Historically, it's said that none of Pompey's supporters, nor Pompey himself, managed to empty out the treasury, allowing Caesar to claim it for his war effort, seriously hampering the optimates' finances for the civil war, causing them to heavily tax the provinces of the east, drawing heavy resentment from them.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a story arc where Pearl, Observer, and Bobo travel back to ancient Rome. As they leave for their own time, Bobo steals a wheel of cheese, knocking down a candle in the hay-filled room and starting a fire that can be heard throughout the end credits. It's implied that this is the great fire that burned down the city.
  • Sanctuary does this with explaining several historical figures as being abnormals. Several of them are important characters.
  • Ashes to Ashes had a scene in season 3 which made Gene Hunt responsible for the vandalism to the Blue Peter garden in the 80's.
  • A season 3 episode of Murdoch Mysteries has H. G. Wells in Toronto to speak at a meeting of the "Eugenics Society", a group dedicated to the improvement of humanity by scientific means. The event and the discovery that a local scientist is experimenting on animals give Wells an idea for a story about human experimentation, "...perhaps on a remote island."
    • A different episode had Arthur Conan Doyle visiting the police station, where he finds Inspector Brackenreid is a great fan of his work. All through the episode, Brackenreid keeps telling him about an idea for a new Sherlock Holmes book he had, and had thought of calling it "The Hound Of The Baskervilles". Doyle walks away at the end of the episode repeating the title to himself.
  • A character from Charmed called "The Angel Of Destiny" was the reason Britney Spears got famous.
  • In Merlin, the court historian is none other than Geoffrey of Monmouth, the man who wrote the King Arthur legends. Of course, that's a bit of Artistic License (at best) and Critical Research Failure (at worst); the historical Geoffrey of Monmouth lived about 500 years after when King Arthur would have been alive (were he real-no one knows for sure).
    • Given that the Kingdom of Camelot does not appear to even be on an island, that caveat is somewhat beside the point. No one is pretending these people are English or anywhere in actual history. Speaking as someone who got the reference, though, it was still funny.
  • Warehouse 13 loves these. Expect to hear at least two per episode.
    • Usually in a one-line throw away gag, or even just items sitting innocently on shelves in the background.
  • In Lost Girl, the Sudanese genocide is thought to be partially attributable to the Djieiene, a mystical spider whose bite causes Hate Plagues.
  • From the Glee episode "The Rhodes Not Taken":

Emma: A couple of years ago I started an online flirtation with an old high school flame, Andy. Things got weird and I called it off. And two months later (Dramatic Pause) Versace was dead. (Dramatic Pause) Dead.

Lord Sarc: If it's not too much trouble, do you think we could make this roof leak a little more?
Vassal: Why, yes. Yes, we could.
Lord Sarc: That's wonderful! Here's an idea: maybe in the next house I have, maybe you can all go out and you can just throw together a collection of random stone blocks in the middle of nowhere and I'll live there! You think you can handle that?!
Vassal: At once, my Lord.
Narrator: And so Stonehenge was built.

  • A quote attributed to the historical Louis XIV is, "I am the State." In fact, he said the opposite: "I depart, but the State shall always remain." In the Young Blades episode "The Girl from Upper Gaborski," Louis utters a similar quote — "I am the mighty state of France!" — while flexing shirtless in the mirror and fantasizing about how to impress women. Putting the quote in the mouth of a 15-year-old Spoiled Brat / Cloudcuckoolander — someone who's just discovered women and the fact that he has royal power — explains how the same person could say both quotes.
  • Pan Am is prone to a few of these, as it is set in the 1960's. Examples include:
    • "It's Castro's country. He'll never keep it."
    • "That Bob Dylan will be famous, mark my words."

Newspaper Comics

  • Dilbert has the character of The Big Topper, a man who butts in on conversations and pretends like he did bigger and better things. Usually, his boastings include him introducing things to famous people. Dilbert calls him out on it once. The response?

Ghandi said that too, and I said "I'm not eating until you take that back!"

Tabletop Games

  • The Old World of Darkness had a number of these; for example, the Malkavian clan claim to have done a bit of grave-robbery in Judea in the first century AD. If you're wondering, think The Joker as a vampire, and then make them thousands strong (though, as might be imagined, rarely united). Another, borderline example is Dark Ages: Werewolf, which linked the fairy tale of Red Riding Hood to a young werewolf's First Change — Red is the werewolf, and in the throes of her First Change, kills her grandmother and is found (and implied to be killed, or at least grievously wounded) by a lumberjack who finds her grieving.
    • In fact, in the old World of Darkness, the one thing the supernaturals never had an active hand in was the Third Reich and the Holocaust. This itself proved to be a pretty funny, if unintentional, historical joke in the context of the game. The intent was to avoid cheapening the full inhumanity of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany by ascribing it to supernatural influence; the effect was to make readers scratch their heads wondering how, in a game overflowing with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, none of the countless supernatural groups had anything to do with the largest war and most notorious genocide in history.
      • Then again, none of the supernatural factions had a great deal of interest in the Third Reich. Even the most callous vampires aren't messed up enough to waste that much food (and even the freaks following the Path of Night want mortals to fear them, not some twat with a silly moustache), for the Werewolves it's just another sign that the Wyrm is winning, the fairies are the ray of hope that wants nothing to do with this mess, the war seriously fucks with the Shadowlands and leaves the Wraiths in a sad state, and the last thing the Technocracy wants is to display the wonders of technology as soulless forces of destruction. The Traditions are the only ones who might benefit, and they're on the run. Well, and maybe the Antediluvians, but their machinations are so subtle and far reaching that the war is a footnote to them at best. The real question becomes why none of these groups stopped Hitler before things got out of hand.
  • Due to heavy cross-marketing between the Shadowrun and Earthdawn games, a number of early Shadowrun products indulged in this trope with immortal-elf references. If the spinoff novels are to be credited, Queen Elizabeth I was a usurping immortal elf in disguise, as was Leonardo da Vinci and (implied) the Apostle Thomas.
  • In one of the Sourcebooks for Mage: The Awakening, it states that the Halifax explosion was actually caused by a battle between Pentacle mages and Church Militant members of the Seers of the Throne. Mages are said to refer to the explosion as the "Battle of the Maritime".
  • Promethean: The Created claims that The Tunguska Event was the result of an attempt to summon a arch-qashmallim. The Knights of St. George failed to stop it in time.
    • Also, a qashmallim inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write Kubla Khan. A Promethean, in turn, was the "Person from Porlock" who interrupted him and caused him to forget the ending.

Video Games

  • Many of the major characters that Altair is sent to assassinate in Assassin's Creed were real historical figures who died during 1193, the year in which the game is set.
    • The sequel takes this up to 11, with database entries on all the assassination targets that tie them all in to the Templars or their allies, while still staying faithful to their real-life history.
    • And the disclaimer at the beginning of the game actually states that it was "Inspired by historical events," which pretty much means that it was made for this express purpose.
    • Brotherhood has Machiavelli at one point say that he intends to write a book about Ezio. Given that Cesare's on the other side, it seems obvious who The Prince was really based on.
      • Then again, considering The Prince is widely accepted as being a snarky Take That of the "this is what this asshole does and believes, people. Ain't it GREAT ?!" variety, the Shout-Out kinda backfires. Not that Ezio is the nicest carebear on the rainbow cloud but...
    • Revelations had more Historical In-Jokes compared to the first few games.
      • Set in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in Constantinople. Constantinople/Istanbul Jokes fly around.

Ezio: "Istanbul? No doubt one of the many names for this city?"
Yusuf: "Yes! It's quickly becoming the local favourite!"

      • On mention of The New World's name (Continent of Amerigo), Ezio smiles and remarks "poor Colombo..."
      • Piri Reis, a legendary Ottoman Admiral, was not an admiral by the time of the game, but the Assassins of Constantinople do jokingly call him "Piri" (Ottoman for "Admiral").
      • Prince-Governor Suleiman keeps on talking to Ezio about tolerance between the Ottoman Empire's subject peoples and a standard and written state law, things he will work on and accomplish as Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
      • Upon Sofia mentioning that she posed for a certain Albrecht Durer, Ezio asks if he's an artist of some renown.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3, the Cuban missile crisis was actually resolved by handing over a Soviet scientist who'd defected to the West, and the Turkish nukes were outdated and going to be removed anyway.
    • Later, Snake makes a joke that the prototypical Russian helicopter which is smaller than the Hip should be called a Hind. His support team agree to use Hind as the code for the kind of helicopter from now on. Also a Continuity Nod, since a Hind helicopter was a boss fight in Metal Gear Solid.
      • In fact, MGS3 is rife with instances of this, including Snake being the first to perform a HALO jump (which was actually first performed in 1964), as well as Snake finding an XM16E1 and making suggestions for how it would be a better rifle, echoing complaints from soldiers in Vietnam who made the same suggestions that were ultimately incorporated into the rifle's design.
  • Red Alert 2 plays the Cuban missile crisis too, in an alternate history: to achieve the best results, the Chronosphere had to be built in a specific place in the Earth's magnetosphere or the Allies can't use it to invade Moscow from across the globe. Problem is, said place is in the Florida Keys, well inside the range of the Soviet nukes in Cuba. Since the US and the USSR are already at war and Romanov won't negotiate as Khrushchev did in real life, the Allies say "screw negotiations" and instead chronoshift some troops into Cuba to blow the missiles sky-high before they could be launched. Cue Villainous Breakdown from Romanov.
    • And the invasion of Pearl Harbor too, this time with Soviets as aggressors and the US anticipating the attack via U-2 spy planes. It can be played from both sides, interestingly; though the Soviet version has a South Korean fleet moving in to assist the defenders.
    • Then came Yuri's Revenge, taking this trope to the logical extreme by making an in-joke on it's own history: one Soviet mission had the player re-doing - via time travel - one of the vanilla game's Allied missions... from the other side. Bonus points because said mission enabled the Allies to win the war with the aforementioned re-take of the Cuban missile crisis... which this re-take mission, appropriately named "Operation Deja Vu", retcons into the Chronosphere prototype being destroyed and the Allies surrendering.
    • Red Alert 3 also has a defense of Pearl Harbor, this time Allies versus the Empire of the Rising Sun. With the latter defending.
      • Also, as a call back, the penultimate Allied mission is a take on the Cuban missile crisis, with another historical in joke: the blimps carrying the missiles launch out of hangars disguised as sports stadiums. In real life, one of the things that tipped the US off to the Soviet presence was the building of soccer fields (Russians play soccer; Cubans, at that point, preferred baseball).
  • Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is canon in Castlevania chronology. John Morris and Johnathan Morris, protagonists from Bloodlines and Portrait of Ruin respectively, are descendants of Quincey Morris.
    • So, not terribly canon- Quincey Morris dies without children in Dracula.
  • Evil Genius has you perform several Acts of Infamy based on real-life Cold War events, most notably staging the Cuban missile crisis.
  • Fallout 2 has a special encounter in which the player can return to Vault 13 in the past. The player cannot leave until they break the water chip, thus setting up the basis of Fallout. It's not canon, though.
  • Touhou mostly just messes with mythology, but some actual history does get involved. Among other things, Apollo 13's failure was apparently caused by Eirin, and Futo burned down Japan's first Buddhist temple.
  • The Shadow Hearts series. Many of the catastrophes that occurred around World War I was all because of Lovecraftian hellspawn.

Web Comics

  • Questionable Content suggests that World War I was started due to a badly worded sexual innuendo about someone wanting to "invade her Alsace", and things spiralling out of control from there. Whether they were joking or not seems to be unknown.
  • Irregular Webcomic provides a different explanation for the start of World War I.
  • This is more or less the raison d'être of Hark! A Vagrant.
  • Homestuck: The universe of Earth was created by the trolls, and so they had some influence on some things that eventually happened, like possibly the existence of the Insane Clown Posse. A particularly amusing example comes from a trans-timeline bulletin board conversation involving a future instance of Vriska, aka arachnidsGrip (AG)...


Web Original

Western Animation

  • Pretty much the entire premise of "Peabody's Improbable History" segment on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  • Family Guy is fond of this, in flashbacks which sometimes don't even relate to the show in any way. For example, when Peter was arguing that Stewie might be too young for potty-training, a flashback suggested that the Lindbergh baby was accidentally flushed down a toilet. And that Amelia Earhart was done away with for witnessing it.
    • John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln for talking on his cellphone.
    • Peter killed Nicole and Ronald. OJ was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Another incident showed a drunken Stewie told OJ to kill his wife.
  • American Dad had the main character shooting Ronald Reagan, because, well: He originally wanted to kill Jane Fonda because he blamed her for the war on Christmas, then he found out that she was influenced by Donald Sutherland, who was in turn influenced by Martin Scorsese. Stan convinces Scorsese to give up drugs, which in turn causes him to lose his edge. As a result, Taxi Driver is never made, so there's no star vehicle for Jodie Foster, and no one for John Hinckley to become obsessed with. As a result of that, Reagan is never shot, which means there was no incident to bolster public support; so Mondale won, and practically "handed over the country to the Commies". Thus, Stan Smith shoots Reagan. Also, in the same episode, Roger "invents" the genre of disco. Whew.
  • Clone High being what it is, it's rife with these. In it, Marie Curie is a giant, misshapen mutant of a girl because of her irradiated DNA. People such as the clones of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and half of Lynyrd Skynyrd go up in a plane made of junk.
  • Time Squad did this almost every episode, as the entire premise of the show was that they went back in time to make sure that history happens correctly. The main characters are singlehandedly responsible for such things as The Boston Tea Party, the Battle at the Alamo, and the invention of peanut butter.
    • Also, in the episode where the team has to make Betsy Ross design the American flag, one of the colonial hippies blends his own brand of coffee to energize the others. His name as a hippie? Starbuck.
    • After a whole episode dealing with putting Abraham Lincoln's presidency back on track, the time travelers return to the future just as Abraham suggests to his wife that he feels like visiting Ford's Theater...
  • In Futurama: Bender's Big Score, the titular robot travels back to the year 2000, where his virus-induced homicidal rampage accidentally destroys a large number of ballots in Florida. This virus was used by a group of greedy, nudist, and narcissistic alien scammers to make Bender to go back in time and steal treasures, and as a result, he is seen with several artifacts that have gone missing, like the Sphinx's nose and the Holy Grail.
    • His time-traveling also causes several in-show historical in-jokes as well. For example, one episode revolved around Fry finding his pet dog Seymour as a fossil in a museum and his attempts to resurrect it. In the movie, while the scammers are forcing Bender to assassinate Fry in 2012, the year Seymour died at a "healthy old age", one of Bender's futuristic weapons misses him and encases the poor dog in stone. This quickly goes from a joke to a happy when one recalls that Fry decided not to bring Seymour back because he thought he died of old age, but now we find out he died of old age after spending an entire life with Fry's time-clone.
    • Time-travel is also how Zoidberg became the Roswell alien.
    • One of the Brainspawn also killed the dinosaurs.
  • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to an alternate past comes near the end of the Fairly Oddparents special "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker". Right after '70s-Jorgen shows up to erase everyone's memories of the fairies being revealed, present-Jorgen shows up to take Timmy back to his own era and says that Timmy is forbidden from returning to March 1972, but can still travel to any of the other months "so long as you don't interfere with the election of President McGovern". This implies that either The Fairly OddParents takes place in an alternate continuity where Nixon was never re-elected, Timmy didn't listen and is somehow responsible for Nixon's re-election, or Timmy's interference already made McGovern the president without Jorgen realizing it.
    • There was the one where Timmy released the kids from the Cosmo & Wanda's "Wall of Shame". One of them "took out" Archduke Franz Ferdinand, triggering World War I.
    • In an earlier episode, they inspire a young boy to "Connect all the computers in the world together, and call it the internet," Wanda's response? "That Billy Gates and his CRAZY ideas," Of course, he gets the name wrong...

Billy Gates: And I'll call it the Internet.
Cosmo: That's a stupid name, you should call it The Timmy!

      • And at the episode's end we find out that "The Timmy" apparently stuck, because his mother calls out "Internet, come to dinner"
      • Although, thanks to the Reset Button, that doesn't catch on.
    • It's also been mentioned several times that Cosmo is responsible for having destroyed the city of Pompeii.
  • In the Disney film |Hercules, it's indicated that the reason the Venus de Milo has no arms is because Hercules accidentally broke them off.
  • In Aladdin, the crack in the Sphinx's nose happens during the flyby in "A Whole New World".
  • Whereas The Prince of Egypt posits that it's Moses' fault, when he crashes his chariot, setting in motion Disaster Dominoes.
  • A Halloween episode of The Simpsons suggests that Wiggum's ancestor's insult to Orson Welles inspired Citizen Kane.
    • At the end of the Paul Bunyan tall tale segment, Paul saves the town from a meteor. He throws the meteor towards Chicago, starting the Great Chicago Fire.
  • In Aaahh Real Monsters, Ickis' father was the one responsible of causing the crack on the Liberty Bell when the humans he scared dropped it.
    • And when the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, the reason why everyone in the audience was screaming was because of a monster scaring them, not because of hysteria over The Beatles' music.
    • A monster inspired Franklin D. Roosevelt to include "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his inaugural address. A monster was also the reason Christopher Columbus discovered America.
    • An old monster the trio had to escort home told stories of himself of scaring George Washington (which motivates him in crossing the Delaware River) and Albert Einstein (which is why his hair is what he's known for).
  • An episode of Justice League revealed that ancient hawkmen were responsible for the rise of Egypt as a civilization.
  • Rocko's Modern Life showed that Heffer's past lives were responsible for why the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans and the Hindenburg disaster.
  • South Park. Chef gave Meat Loaf his nickname and he introduced Elton John to the songwriter which gave him his first hit.
  • In Robin Hood, one scene had Prince John crying and sucking his thumb, lamenting how his mother always liked his brother over him. In real life, Prince John's mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine, who really did favour her oldest son King Richard over John.
  1. The Munich Agreement.
  2. CSM's operatives have been following his order a little too zealously. Since the episode aired in 1996, the Bills haven't even won a playoff game.