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Beethoven Was an Alien Spy

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What history didn't tell you about Honest Abe.

"Historians still argue as to whether Shakespeare was gay, a front for the Earl of Oxford and/or Sir Francis Bacon, or a cyborg from the future sent back in time to found Western civilization, thereby hastening the creation of the McRib sandwich."
"11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy", by Michael Swaim, on Cracked.comnote 
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The "revelation" that a famous historical figure actually had a secret life far more fantastic (figuratively or literally) and/or magical than history records. A historical retcon, if you will. Artists and writers tend to be the most common examples, followed by American Presidents. (At times, per the Men in Black II example below, a current figure also can be a subject of this trope, as can groups, per the National Treasure and Transformers examples below.)

This is sometimes a way for a show to capitalize on sudden popular interest in some historical figure, or just to exercise a writer's pet interest.

In such a story, Plausible Deniability is almost always the order of the day; we have to be given this fantastic secret history in such a way that we can believe that the fantastic elements were kept out of public record.

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In Time Travel stories, this often involves Retroactive Precognition, and one possible form it can take is You Will Be Beethoven.

Ancient Astronauts does this for entire ancient civilizations.

While the mixing of fantastic elements into historical texts is as old as mankind (see the Arthurian cycle for one example), the modern form of this trope probably originates with Dracula, essentially the incorporation of a fantastic secret life into the history of Vlad the Impaler.

This trope can very effectively add an air of mystique to otherwise familiar historical material and personages, but it can become distracting if overused, to say nothing of the unpleasant implications of having everyone remotely skilled at anything in history be nonhuman or relying on superhuman powers.

See also Julius Beethoven da Vinci and, for a few particularly popular alien spies, see Elvis Has Left the Planet, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and — in Japanese media — Demon King Nobunaga. We Didn't Start the Führer is a subtrope of this. For a specific Biopic example, check out Biography à Clef. Often it leads to a Historical Badass Upgrade. May involve Gender Flipping, in which case expect a Samus Is a Girl reaction (or "Samus Is a Guy", if "Samus" was originally a girl in the first place) when the character's true identity is revealed. Contrast No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus. Also the Been There, Shaped History character where they simply use a fictional character. If the alien spy initially appears to be a fictional character, and only late in the story is revealed to be a historical figure, it's a Historical Person Punchline. Also compare Real Event, Fictional Cause (with real events instead of people).

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Vision of Escaflowne strongly implies that its main villain is Isaac Newton.
  • In Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, it is revealed that Jeanne d'Arc's military achievements were only a side thing — her real mission was to cleanse the worlds of demons.
  • In Master of Mosquiton, the mysterious Big Bad is revealed to be an immortal — most recently known as Grigori Rasputin — who had manipulated most of human history so he could fight against a monster that had exiled him on Earth, and was planning to eat the world's souls.
    • And he's a demoniac sorcerer in Shadow Hearts.
    • He also appeared as one of Diva's Chevailer's in Blood+. Rasputin's quite popular with this trope, isn't he?
    • In addition, he also makes an appearance in Dance in the Vampire Bund as Ivanovic, head of one of the three pure-blooded vampire clans. The woman he chased and originally lusted over, shown in the manga as 'Natasha', is also a case of this, being Anastasia Romanova.
    • And it turns out the whole assassination thing was a massive disaster between three time powers and a couple dozens of temporal copies. It was hilarious.
      • Given the polarizing effect he had on people, and how allegedly hard he was to kill, it shouldn't be surprising. The attempts to smear him before his assassination may only have served to make him more enigmatic, and thus more appealing to authors looking for such a figure.
  • Le Chevalier d'Eon is built on this trope. At least two historical figures (including the titular character) share their bodies with the souls of their dead sisters and most others are involved in an arcane conspiracy and/or actual sorcerers themselves.
  • Code Geass: An alternate version of C.C.'s past in the Nightmare of Nunnally manga reveals that she is the "Witch Of Britannia". Since she was an Eden Vital, a witch, she didn't die. Her scar was cut into her by Joan Of Arc.
  • Read or Die - maybe. It contains "I-jin" which are clones of various historic characters, but with super-powers. It's a bit unclear exactly how powerful the original historical figures were supposed to have been - it's made clear that the I-jin have been "enhanced" during the cloning process. Most of the story revolves around a book written by Beethoven himself, suggesting that the original Beethoven was more special than generally known.
  • In Fantastic Children, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was an alien, sort of.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
    • In Part 1, Jack the Ripper was turned into a zombie by Dio Brando.
    • In a flashback in Part 6, DIO and Pucci theorize that Leonardo Da Vinci was a Stand User.
    • It seems to be the case in Part 7, Steel Ball Run. The corpse parts they are traveling the USA to find are blatantly, almost outright confirmed to be from Jesus Christ. Making him one of the most powerful Stand users from the series, since he can actually pass Stand powers even after his death.
  • In Black Butler, Jack the Ripper was a female doctor and her Shinigami butler.
  • In Yaiba's Universe, the famous poet Basho Matsuo was actually a ruthless assassin whose goal was to Take Over the World with the power of Ryujin's Orb.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, historically powerful/influential/famous women like Cleopatra, Queen Himiko of Yamataikoku, Saint Joan of Arc and Anne Frank were Magical Girls. One of them would get her own series.
  • Interstella 5555 has some of the most famous composers and song writers of all time turning out to be aliens used in a sinister plot to acquire gold records.
  • Sigmund Freud and Carl-Gustav Jung were both Travellers in Dreamland it seems, and a pretty strong one for the former. Considering it's Freud, it's not all that surprising...
  • Blood+ A (prequel manga to Blood+): Grigori Rasputin is an evil vampiress' thrall (and a blonde, clean-shaven Bishōnen) and the evil vampiress herself is impersonating Princess Anastasia. Alexi Romanov is very briefly a vampire.
  • Jabberwocky: Galileo, Helen of Troy, and maybe even Adam and Eve were actually intelligent dinosaurs.
  • Haiyore! Nyarko-san reveals that the various Eldritch Abominations of the Cthulhu Mythos were actually members of alien species who visited Earth incognito. One Nyarlathotepian befriended H. P. Lovecraft and told him stories about these beings, which inspired Lovecraft to create the Mythos.
  • Steins;Gate takes Internet hoaxter "John Titor" and makes his claims of being a time-traveling soldier entirely true. Her claims on her gender, on the other hand, are false.
  • In Dance in the Vampire Bund Ambrose Bierce's mysterious disappearance is explained as him having been turned into a vampire, now allied with the Tepes clan. Grigori Rasputin was an alias of the vampire lord Ivanovic, who turned Princess Anastasia Romanova and kept her as a plaything. She later escaped and joined the Tepes clan.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Alexander the Great had the Millennium Ring, which helped him conquer the world.
  • Beyblade:
  • In The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar, it is outright stated that protagonist Yuuto Suou is the likely source of Norse mythology, as the world Yggdrasil is supposedly around 1500 B.C., Yuuto's name translates to Surtr in Norse, and several of his more high-profile battles match Norse oral lore quite well...
  • Tokimeki Tonight seldom uses this as a nice little throwaway gag. Mori Eto (a vampire by birth)'s family tree shows that one of his relatives is... Christopher Lee. Also, one panel that shows a vampire village in Magic World has Vlad Tepes as one of the inhabitants (among other references such as Graf Orlok and... Frank N. Furter!?).

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • "The Kingmaker" paints William Shakespeare in rather a different light, revealing that he was, later in life, actually Richard III. (He'd traveled back in time to goad the pragmatic and unpleasant-but-not-actually-villainous Richard into following the version of history outlined in his play, and ended up victim of a case of mistaken identity at Bosworth thanks to a broken arm and wounded leg. The Doctor sent the real Richard back to Stratford with some play outlines.) Richard, for his part, had many experiences with aliens, having been visited regularly since his youth by time-tourists, who routinely pestered him about whether or not he was going to kill his nephews, and ran away if he mentioned doctors. And the Princes in the Tower? Well, they were actually girls, and following his relocation, Richard/Shakespeare raised them as his daughters.
    • The Eighth Doctor travels with Mary Shelley, and she bases Frankenstein on her experiences.
    • In "Invaders from Mars", the Doctor uses Orson Welles' radio version of The War of the Worlds to persuade some not-especially-bright aliens that Earth has already been invaded, by a force far superior to their own, making it a poor choice of breeding ground.

    Comic Books 
  • Howard Chaykin's Barnum!: In Secret Service to the U.S.A. has P.T. Barnum and his menagerie of sideshow entertainers thwart an assassination of President Grover Cleveland, then get recruited to stop Nikola Tesla's attempt to overthrow the United States.
  • Witchblade reveals Joan of Arc as one of the keepers of a mystical weapon (quite a few other historical warrior-women including Cleopatra and Mulan were wielders as well).
  • The Magdelena, from the same universe as Witchblade, is descended from a long line of women warriors sworn to protect the Catholic Church (and supposedly descended from the offspring of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdelene). She also wields The Spear of Destiny as a weapon.
  • Tales from the Bully Pulpit has Theodore Roosevelt stealing H. G. Wells's time machine and going on an adventure with the ghost of Thomas Edison.
    • In fact, mixing Wells's life with time travel is practically a Dead Horse Trope these days. As well as the Doctor Who example further down, there's also a time-traveling Wells in Lois & Clark, Time After Time, Inspiration and The Librarian, amongst others. Another variation is to have Wells mixed up in extraterrestrial plots that would inspire his The War of the Worlds.
      • This is partly because, with the exception of The Island of Dr. Moreau, Wells usually does not give his narrators names or complex personas. They more or less simply retell the action. Thus it is simple to use Wells in place of his characters.
      • Hilariously subverted in Fans! when, after a time-travel-based encounter with robots and supernatural/alien life forms, Wells remarks that he wanted to write about things that weren't real and utterly fails to write his books. Even more hilariously, this leads to an Alternate Universe where he instead draws on the real life Kavorka Man aspect of his personality (helped along by one of the fans deciding it would be a good idea to sleep with him) and becomes a romance novelist instead.
  • The comic book series Lovecraft featured H. P. Lovecraft as its main character, revealing his stories were all based on actual adventures involving monstrous god-like extraterrestrial horrors he encountered and personally did battle with.
    • The aforementioned War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches makes nearly the same claim, but with a twist: Lovecraft's writing was inspired by his own suppressed memory that he is one of the godlike horrors the Martians had invaded Earth to escape.
    • The Atomic Robo story arc "The Shadow from Beyond Time" starts out with two issues where Lovecraft turns out to be possessed by a true Lovecraftian monster that breaks out and rampages through the streets of New York.
  • In the Image comic Invincible, the superhero known as "The Immortal" looks very familiar to students of U.S. history — one of his previous identities in his long life was Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly, this wasn't intended. Rather, it was Ascended Fanon on the part of the author when fans pointed out how much The Immortal looked like Honest Abe.
  • Matt Fraction's graphic novel The Five Fists of Science features Nikola Tesla teaming up with Mark Twain and Baronness Bertha von Suttner to bring peace to the world using a giant robot, and is opposed by a Lovecraftian cult lead by J.P. Morgan, with the assistance of Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, and Andrew Carnegie. The Morgan-financed cover-up of the comic's events is intended both to explain why Tesla, despite being a brilliant engineer, was later perceived as an unstable quack, and also to ground the story in true reality as a chapter of the main characters' lives that has been lost to history.
  • The Authority never comes out and says it, but via some well-placed art, hints that figures like Jesus, Gandhi, and Albert Einstein were previous Shamans. In addition, Einstein was apparently involved in at least one cross-dimensional adventure with Jenny Sparks.
  • In Howard Chaykin's The Shadow miniseries, Lamont Cranston is made into an ambassador of Shangri-La, like others before him. Including Clark Gable and Veronica Lake.
  • Helen Killer is the story of how Alexander Graham Bell gives an adult Helen Keller a device that allows her to see and hear, and she becomes a super-ninja, trying to stop the assassination of President McKinley and an attempt to turn all of the world's gold into lead to get revenge for losing out on the telephone patent. Seriously.
  • In The Umbrella Academy, Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower) was apparently a Mad Scientist Zombie-Robot.
    Luther: And just as I expected? Zombie Robot Gustave Eiffel!
    Ben: Alive! After all these years—!!
  • Issue 3 of IDW Publishing's comic book prequel to the 2007 Transformers movie establishes that scientists Robert Oppenheimer, William Hayward Pickering, Frederick Sanger and Jack Kilby were secretly working for the secret government organisation Sector Seven (as an Easter Egg, artist Don Figueroa added himself as another member). The movie includes other such information, but not as openly.
    • In Hearts of Steel, Mark Twain and John Henry supposedly fought Decepticons. Jules Verne also makes an appearance for a Historical In-Joke.
    • Also, according to the semi-senile Jetfire, his father was "The wheel! The first wheel!" And what did he turn into? "Nothing! But he did it with honor! Dignity, dammit!"
  • In The DCU, Leonardo da Vinci was a member of the magic-wielding Homo Magi sub-species.
  • The Marvel Universe has the Voluntary Shapeshifting race of Skrulls.
    • Deep Throat was really a Skrull spy living as a government official, who had come to love the United States.
    • The Beatles aren't Skrulls, but they did have Skrull impersonators who went native.
    • And on the other side of the Kree-Skrull War, we had Dr. Walter Lawson, better known as Captain Marvel. Or Captain Mar-Vell, amongst the Kree.
  • Also in Marvel, immortal monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone once went by "Captain Ahab" in the 19th century while on the hunt for a colossal whale-like monster; this fact bears the clear implication that he inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick.
  • In 1602, Virginia Dare, the first colonist born in the United States, is a mutant with the uncontrollable ability to change into animals native to the New World.
  • One Spawn comic showed Harry Houdini as a powerful sorcerer who uses his stage act to cover himself. He teaches the title character a few more tricks he can do with his hell-born powers. He even got a mini-series spin-off Daring Escapes and yes it is the same one as Spawn makes a cameo and the bust Spawn made is the MacGuffin.
    • Houdini also figured prominently in a DC Elseworlds special, "Batman: The Devil's Workshop", where a 1920s Batman teamed up with Houdini to fight vampires. Other Elseworlds books had historical appearances; "Dark Allegiences"(1930s) featured a plot to assassinate both Hitler and Roosevelt, and install a fascist leader in the White House, who would ally the US with the Axis during WWII, while "Detective 27" also featured FDR and Babe Ruth (talk about your Bat-Man!)
  • Related to that, Uri Geller is implied to have superpowers in Daredevil #133 (1976), and to have fought the villain Mind-Wave.
  • Hellboy extrapolates Hitler's real life fascination with the occult to astronomical proportions, up to and including an attempt to hire out the vampire Count Giurescu and funding a project to create artificial vampires to ravage Europe should the war's tide turn against him.
    • Rasputin wasn't merely a mad mystic—he was also friends with the Baba Yaga and a servant of the Cthuloid Ogdru Jahad. He hired himself out to Hitler in an attempt to use Nazi resources to cause the end of the world.
    • Earlier in Russian history than that, Peter the Great had three demons summoned to aid him in seizing Swedish land. As payment, they ensured that his sons would die young and that his heart would be cold and unfeeling.
  • In the Marvel mini-series Colossus: Bloodlines, Rasputin was an ally of Mister Sinister, as well as an ancestor of Piotr "Colossus" Rasputin. Piotr is not proud of that fact.
  • Princess Diana almost became a member of the X-Men splinter group X-Statix, as depicted here.
  • The basic premise of Void Indigo was that Mick Jagger was a resurrected alien prince out for incredibly violent revenge.
  • In the WildStorm universe, Napoleon was really an alien warlord named Lord Emp, and many other historical figures were actually one of four alien warlords.
    • The Backlash series reveals that Atlantis was a Kherubim colony.
  • Marvel's 2010 S.H.I.E.L.D. series has Leonardo da Vinci: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. In fact, all polymath geniuses, from Zhang Heng to Galileo to Isaac Newton, were agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Which was founded by Imhotep.
  • Spanish webcomic-turned-comic-book El Joven Lovecraft ("Young Lovecraft") features young Howie summoning the monsters he'd later write about (a pet Ghoul, someone?), meeting Poe's ghost and overall having a boring pre-teenage life. The initial stip says that other works have fictionalized Lovecraft's history by either presenting him as a forced transvestite child or as an Indiana Jones-like adventurer fighting sectarian minions, but El Joven Lovecraft was to show, for the very first time, The Truth.
  • 2000 AD:
  • Vertigo's The Unwritten shows that several authors of world history have been secret agents of a conspiracy or were troubled by said conspiracy in giving life to the things they wrote (literally), e.g. Kipling.
  • In the French comic La Licorne, Ambroise Paré, Andreas Vesalius and other Renaissance scientists (including Paracelsus and Leonardo da Vinci) are members of a secret sect controlling the "Primordials", monstrous creatures that mimic legendary beasts such as griffins or dragons.
  • In The Secret History, this is the natural result of the Archons' conspiracies. A number of historical figures are aware of who and what the Archons are, and are able to assist them in their plots, sometimes using lesser forms of the runestones. Once tarot cards are developed as mini-runestones, they become known as "players." The players include Moses, Renaud de Chatillon, Nostradamus, Benvenuto Cellini, John Dee, William Sidney Smith, Napoleon Bonaparte, T.E. Lawrence, Rudolf von Sebottendorf, St. John Philby and his son Kim, just to name a few. Many real-life painters are employed to paint the tarot card sets, including Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.
  • In The Sandman, some of the historical figures who have had encounters with Dream include Emperor Norton, Harun al-Rashid, Emperor Augustus and William Shakespeare.
  • The Thunderbolts committed Jack the Ripper's murders in order to stop evil witch ghosts from claiming mortal hosts.
  • The Manhattan Projects has this as its central premise — almost everything you've heard about the scientists who shaped the latter half of the 20th century is a lie. Fermi? A man-eating, shapeshifting alien. Einstein? The real Einstein's less intelligent Evil Twin from an alternate universe. von Braun? Had a giant robotic left arm. And they're all working together to take over the world, and thereafter the entire galaxy. Mentions are made here and there of other noted figures in science, industry, and politics and what they're "really" up to in the same period; for instance, Soichiro Honda, founder of the car company that bears his name, designed samurai Mecha-Mooks for the Japanese military.
  • In the Italian comic book Gea, the eponymous character is a member of a group of super-powered individuals who work to send intruders from parallel worlds back, under the orders of a mysterious man known just as "the uncle" whom she's never met, bringing them to a nexus dimension. Said dimension looks a lot like the surreal landscapes of Roger Dean. Near the end of the series, Gea meets "uncle" and finds out he is Roger Dean - turns out his paintings were inspired by frequent visits in the nexus.
  • In DC comics history, more than a few of history's conquerors and despots were actually personae used by the millennia-old immortal villain Vandal Savage. At one point it was even suggested he was Cain, although that was later retconned to be that he'd taken the Mark of Cain at some point.
  • The Phantom Stranger, he of the Multiple-Choice Past, was revealed to be a penitent Judas Iscariot.
  • In Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose every President we've had, including the then current one was an Expy of Iron Man. Turns out it was Washington's Powered Armor that was wood, not his teeth.
  • The Wicked + The Divine has implied that, in its universe, a number of equivalents of historical celebrities in our universe were Pantheon members. An early issue suggested that Lord Byron was an incarnation of Lucifer. Instead, the gods of each Pantheon take inspiration from influential figures of the era in which they appear, making them closer to an Expy. Just as the modern Lucifer isn’t actually David Bowie or Sakhmet isn’t Rihanna. In-universe, the historical figures still exist.
  • In Marvel 1602: Witch Hunter Angela, James VI of Scotland and I of England turns out not to be James Stuart but James Howlett.
  • Action Man: Apparently, Victor Hugo was at one point head of the Action Man program.
  • In the Italian satiric webcomic Jenus Ronnie James Dio, who had come to Earth to spread music and left in disgust at the Church shortly before the Second Coming. Incidentally, "Dio" is Italian for "God".
  • Cleopatra In Space: What if young Cleopatra VII (albeit an obviously fictionalized version of her) was the savior of a galaxy far away?
  • Rough Riders: In the case of poor Colonel George Armstrong Custer, driven insane by an alien brain parasite only to be shot to death by an alien spaceship. At the end of the first volume, Rasputin the Mad Monk is possessed by a similar parasite. Annie Oakley has an arguably kinder fate as a immortal zombie brought back to life by Thomas Edison.

    Fanfiction 

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bubba Ho Tep posits that Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy (who has been turned into an African-American to disguise his identity) are secretly still alive in a Texas retirement home. Fighting mummies.
  • Death Becomes Her involves a secret society of the world's rich and famous who have been given an ancient elixir that gives them eternal life and youth. Their members are shown to include Greta Garbo, Elvis Presley, James Dean, Andy Warhol, and Marilyn Monroe.
  • Dracula 2000 postulates that Dracula was Judas Iscariot, who was turned into a vampire when he hanged himself after betraying Jesus. It also explains that he fears silver because of the thirty pieces he was paid for the job, and crosses since they're a reminder for him of what he did.
  • Edge Of Sanity reveals that Jack the Ripper (played by Anthony Perkins, appropriately enough) was actually Edward Hyde.
  • Fright Night 2: New Blood: Gerri is strongly implied to be none other than Elizabeth Báthory.
  • Ambrose Bierce had a run-in with vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter.
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle suggests that Winston Churchill was a founding member of Kingsman.
  • Lisztomania, Franz Liszt used his music to stop Richard Wagner, the Antichrist who later becomes Frankenstein Hitler.
  • In The Man from Earth, the protagonist is immortal, and was the person history remembered as Jesus.
  • Men in Black does this multiple times. At one point in the movie there is a screen showing numerous people who are really aliens with most of them being celebrities, including Al Roker, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Spielberg (who produced the film; the film's director is also in the monitor), Newt Gingrich, and Danny Devito. Later on, while listening to an 8-track tape of Elvis Presley songs, Agent J remarks that Elvis (as in, the popularity of his music) is dead, which prompts K to remark that "Elvis is not dead, he just went home", implying that Elvis is an alien who left the Earth. Also included: a Take That! at Dennis Rodman's expense.
  • Men in Black II even had Michael Jackson begging Z to let him be an Agent, please Z, come on, he'd be the best Alien agent ever! He could be Agent M! Unfortunate cameos ahoy... It also implies that Martha Stewart (or possibly her cat) is actually an evil(?) alien overlord.
  • Men in Black 3 reveals that Andy Warhol was actually "Agent W" and that his identity as an artist was merely to attract aliens to monitor. He was also completely faking his persona and actually had his death faked by K by his request. In the beginning, one of the screens showing disguised aliens briefly shows Lady Gaga as well.
  • In The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Johann Sebastian Bach is stated to have been a Shadowhunter and wrote chords that repel demons into his music.
  • National Treasure depicts the founding fathers of America as the most recent safekeepers of a massive treasure trove. And the sequel does the same, proposing an alliance between Queen Victoria and the South, with assistance from Edouard de Laboulaye, in order to find funds for the Civil War via the 'real' El Dorado. Oh, and a secret book belonging to the President, detailing...''things'' about the government.
  • Netherbeast Incorporated reveals that President James Garfield was one of the titular netherbeasts.
  • In Paul, Paul's advanced knowledge appears to negate Christian beliefs, while his powers, including healing and resurrection, appear similar to those in the Biblical stories, implying extraterrestrial visitors utilized such abilities in the past, that were then recorded as miracles by witnesses, being the basis of the Biblical stories that became religious beliefs.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard is a voodoo sorcerer, and survived for many years past the battle that history records as his death.
  • A key plot point of The Prestige is the fact that Nikola Tesla was able to invent a device that created copies of whatever was put in it. He's also David Bowie, although that doesn't have anything to do with the plot (apart from being awesome).
  • In Prometheus, the opening scene shows around ten Engineers in robes, like a group of disciples talking to one figure. In an interview, Ridley Scott reveals an Engineer appeared in Earth's past and was crucified by humans, inspiring the myths of Jesus. The sequel may explore this concept further.
  • In The Raven (2012), Edgar Allan Poe is recruited by the police to solve a series of murders based on his stories.
  • The premise of Shadow of the Vampire is that Max Schrek, the actor playing Count Orlok in Nosferatu really was a vampire.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, General Chang claims that you haven't heard Shakespeare unless it's in the original Klingon. Shakespeare Was A Klingon Spy?
    • In the same movie, Spock uses the quote that "if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth." and attributes it to his ancestor but it's entirely vague if his ancestor is Sherlock Holmes or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Time After Time had H.G. Wells build a time machine and travel to the future in pursuit of Jack the Ripper, who happened to have been a friend of his. He meets a woman there and brings her back to his time and marries her. His girlfriend makes a quip about becoming Susan B. Anthony although she probably wasn't being completely serious. The girlfriend's name was Amy Robbins. Historically, Wells' second wife's name was Amy Katherine Robbins.
  • Tomorrowland, in which Gustave Eiffel, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Jules Verne and Mark Twain established a Secret Circle of Secrets known as Plus Ultra at the 1889 Universal Exposition of Paris that found a way to enter another dimension, find an unlimited power source, and establish a technological/creative think tank called Tomorrowland. Later members would include Amelia Earhart, Ray Bradbury and Walt Disney himself, who used the area in his theme parks as equal parts cover story and a way to prepare people for the real Tomorrowland.
  • The Transformers movie showed that 5 US presidents knew about Megatron and The Cube. Hoover Dam was constructed to hide and store the Cube.
    • In the sequel, the Great Pyramids are a cover-up for an alien portal generator.
    • And in the third film, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the Moon to explore the ruins of a Cybertronian starship. Also, the stopping of both the American and Soviet space programs was engineered by the Decepticons so that the ship remains undiscovered. The Chernobyl disaster is also revealed to be the result of an experiment with a power cell from the same ship..
  • A Doorstop Baby, apparently delivered by alien spaceship, in the beginning of Todd Haynes' film Velvet Goldmine, is... Oscar Wilde. (It could make The Star-Child semi-autobiographic...)
  • Watchmen In the opening credits it is vaguely implied that the Comedian may have killed Kennedy.
  • In Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled, the Djinn implies he once served Caligula.
  • The Wolfman (2010):
    • Years after failing to catch Jack the Ripper in London, Inspector Abberline was sent to the Moors to investigate a werewolf's killings and became a werewolf himself.
    • Max von Sydow's Deleted Role (still present in the director's cut) implies that the Beast of Gêvaudan (a legendary beast alleged to have terrorized the former province of Gêvaudan between 1764 and 1767) was a werewolf.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: First Class reveals that Professor X and Magneto brought a peaceful end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was actually a plot by the megalomaniacal Sebastian Shaw to start World War III.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Magneto is imprisoned because intelligence agencies believe he assassinated JFK, using his powers to curve the bullet. Magneto claims he was actually trying to save him, because Kennedy himself is a mutant. According to the writer, Magneto is telling the truth, and JFK's mutant power was probably some form of telepathy for persuasion.
  • Young Einstein, the most famous scientist in history was actually from Australia, created Rock and Roll, and dated Marie Curie.

    Literature 

By Author:

  • Dan Brown:
    • The book The Da Vinci Code provides silly, entirely fictional, insights into Leonardo da Vinci's motivations in his artwork. Leonardo may have been insane.
    • His earlier book, Angels & Demons, includes similar fictional insights into the lives of Galileo and Bernini.
  • Clive Cussler:
    • In Sahara, Abraham Lincoln is captured by the South (a double is killed by Booth in the theatre) and is held captive on an ironclad, which runs the Union blockade and escapes to Africa, where it ends up trapped in the Sahara Desert after a river it followed dries up.
    • Atlantis Found reveals that Hitler and Eva Braun were actually cremated and interred in the same urn until Dirk flushes their ashes down the White House toilet.
  • Tim Powers gives secret, supernatural histories to real-life figures in a lot of his works.
  • There is a series of novels by Michael Thomas that have Jane Austen as a vampire.

By Work:

  • Scholastic's The 39 Clues claims that every single influential person in the world is a member of the Ancient Conspiracy family, the Cahills. And that they're all part of four hou - er, branches reminiscent of Harry Potter.
    • Well, not every single influential person in the world. Anyone born before the 16th century is out, for starters, and while the Cahills try to get people to marry into the family, it doesn't always work; Rembrandt is a canonical example.
  • The title premise of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (also the trope's current image).
  • In Animorphs the alien Elfangor-Sirnial-Shamtul has taken on a human form to live among humans. Because his species is centuries ahead of humanity, it was easy for him to work as a computer programmer. He founded a company that was very successful, and keeps mentioning his friends Steve and Bill. Most likely are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
  • Thomas Wheeler's The Arcanum is about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, Harry Houdini, and Marie Laveu are all members of a secret organization that protects the world from the occult.
  • According to The Autobiography of Santa Claus, King Arthur, Attila the Hun, and various other famous historical figures did not actually die, they decided to join in with old Saint Nick and the gang and gained immortality. Amelia Earhart even staged her own "mysterious disappearance" instead of finishing her flight around the world so that she could head up to the North Pole.
  • According to Rebecca Young from Woodwalkers, various gods like Zeus, Hera, Anubis, Thoth or Sekhmet were actually shapeshifters who just posed as gods.
  • In the Legions of Fire Trilogy (commonly known as the "Centauri Trilogy"), part of Babylon 5's Expanded Universe, it is mentioned that there was a Drakh who once inhabited Earth—named Drak'hul.
  • In Kim Newman's Bad Dreams Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn and Ayn Rand are all pawns of a vampire.
  • Information on the webpage for The Big One and its sequels indicates that certain figures helping run the United States in that Alternate History are extremely long-lived (but not immortal) mutants. Two of the women have been around since 1250 BCE, and one of the men, Parmenio, was a general for Alexander the Great. Hannibal, Scheherazade and William Shakespeare are also among the mutants.
  • Black House features a demon named Mr. Munshun, who is possessing a grotesque child Serial Killer and cannibal named Charles Burnside. Much later in the story, Munshun is also revealed to be responsible for the likes of Albert Fish, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Fritz Haarmann, among many, many others.
  • In Tanya Huff's Blood Books series, vampire Henry Fitzroy is the Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII.
  • In Walter Jon Williams' The Boolean Gate, Nikola Tesla's inventions are the result of his occasional possession by an alien machine intelligence seeking to create a worldwide AI. He is prevented in this when his friend Mark Twain figures it out (Tesla himself is unaware of where his inspirations come from) and discredits him among his potential backers.
  • Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well On Ganymede has the title musician as the pawn of the Illuminati. Or aliens. Or Atlanteans. Or all three.
  • In a Callahan's Crosstime Saloon story, Spider Robinson has an alien reveal that he was Hitler, among other historical people. Later in the Callahan's books, Nikola Tesla became a recurring character, having been made immortal by Lady Callahan and cured of his various phobias so that his scientific genius could aid Jake Stonebender and his friends in saving the world.
  • Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick's The Cassandra Project reveals that Jesus was actually a messenger sent by an alien race to humankind.
  • In Children of the Lamp, it is stated that Harry Houdini was a djinn, possibly of the same tribe as the heroes.
  • James A. Owen's The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica is a series in which the main characters, John, Jack, and Charles are the protectors of an Atlas of a magical realm where all myths are true. John, Jack and Charles actually are: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. Oh, and H. G. Wells was their mentor.
    • Jack accidentally kills Nemo, Jules Verne is running The Plan, Jamie Barrie is Peter Pan's greatest enemy after Captain Hook, also known as Mordred, Mordred and Merlin are brothers, their father was Odysseus, who was six generations removed from Deucalion son of Prometheus, their mother was Calypso, Arthur is the son of Merlin and married to a descendant of the Jesus (the Holy Grail), an alternate version of Charles burned down the Library at Alexandria, Mark Twain had an agent (Hank Morgan) at the tournament where Arthur became the High King and Hank's banner was a Cubs pennant, which apparently used to mean Triumph over Adversity, but now better represents Impossible Quests and Lost Causes, Jack is the Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, the Pandora are a group of three witches, Mordred was the good guy until the fire of Alexandria and Merlin was the bad guy, "Aragorn" is a corruption of "Argo", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were rogue Caretakers, Houdini had a pair of wardrobes that formed a passage between them and those were the inspiration for the wardrobe into Narnia, the Red Dragon ship was originally the Argo, the Yellow Dragon is the Nautilus, Pythagoras built Archimedes, a clockwork owl, Alexander the Great was descendant of the Argonauts, Verne was an apprentice of Twain, Caliburn (better known now as Excalibur) was the sword of Aeneas (a hero of The Trojan War and one of the possible ancestors of the guy who founded London), etc. These books are full of nothing but plot and this trope. Any genius in history was a Caretaker. Oh, and Da Vinci wasn't a genius, he was just a plagiarist. All of his sketches and paintings were originally by Bacon. Mona Lisa was smiling because Bacon was doing something rather obscene while he painted her.
    • Actually, not everyone was a Caretaker. It's revealed in Book 4 that several of the villains are the brilliant guys that were never given the proper chance to be Caretakers, and the fifth book in the series reveals that there's another society made of people that aren't Caretakers that includes Benjamin Franklin. Oh, and villains include John Dee and Nikola Tesla.
  • According to Kage Baker's The Company Novels, William Randolph Hearst should have been a miscarried fetus before he was saved (very creatively) by a Company doctor. He later ends up an immortal and plays My Grandson Myself.
  • A recurring joke throughout John Hodgman's Complete World Knowledge trilogy. There are too many of instances to fully list here. Just go out and buy the book.
  • The book and film Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind reveal gameshow host Chuck Barris's past as a hitman working for the CIA. This is probably fictional - though Barris insists otherwise.
  • In Laura Anne Gilman's Cosa Nostradamus universe the founder of the system of modern magic and, to a large extent, of modern magical society is Benjamin Franklin.
  • In Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was possessed by the ghost of an alien bent on destroying mankind, and left coded messages in his poetry. In addition, the work of Johann Sebastian Bach was actually produced by hyper-advanced extra-terrestrials observing all the natural phenomena on earth and translating them into music. This all led, eventually, to the title character being the 'mysterious wanderer' who interrupted the writing of "Kubla Khan".
  • The Divine Comedy: Three prominent Genoans are portrayed in the Inferno as traitors of such magnitude that their souls were immediately damned to Hell, while their historical lives after that point were carried out by demons who had taken their bodies.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
  • In The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein, the protagonist (Davis) contacts a man who has invented a time machine. It is blatantly implied that the only person ever to have used the machine (an engineer who would have found himself marooned in a time too backward to make use of his advanced technical knowledge) was Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Implied in the Dora Wilk Series: Miron admits that he once published his poetry under a false surname and after many years discovered that he became a classical English poet, but he refuses to say which surname he used, as he claims that if Dora ever found out, he'd Never Live It Down.
  • The Trope Maker is probably Bram Stoker's Dracula, in which an obscure 14th Century nobleman is made into the most famous vampire in history. Also makes this trope Older Than Radio.
  • In Dacre Stoker's Dracula The Un Dead, Jack the Ripper is revealed to be... Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
  • In Dracula Unbound by Brian W. Aldiss, Bram Stoker and a time-traveling scientist from the modern day fight vampires. This was actually a sequel to Aldiss' earlier novel Frankenstein Unbound, in which the same time-traveling scientist encounters Doctor Frankenstein and his monster in the late 1800s, along with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley. He even ends up having an affair with Mary.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • According to the author, several historical figures have been Knights of the Cross at one point in their lives. Knights are men or women who take up a Sword of the Cross that contains a Nail that pierced Jesus to the Cross, and represent either Faith, Hope, or Love. It should be noted that one does not need to be a Christian to be a Knight, merely be a good person who represents the ideals of that Swordnote . Neither does being a Knight mean a lifetime commitment. Some Knights take the Sword for one mission and put it down.
      • George Washington, during his time fighting in the French and Indian War, became a Knight of the Cross holding Esperacchius the Sword of Hope.
      • Saladin and Joan of Arc are also stated to have been Knights of the Cross at one point. Their blades have yet to be mentioned.
    • Some characters have dealings with the Fae as well.
  • In the first Empire from the Ashes book, mutineers FROM SPAAAAAACE have been manipulating human civilization from the very beginning, and Hitler himself is singled out as being one of them. Evidently his enhanced body (strong enough to wield Gatling guns akimbo) is how he survived the attempted bomb assassination.
  • In Laura Whitcomb's The Fetch, Rasputin is a cover identity being used by a supernatural being. Only Anastasia sees him as he truly is.
  • Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson has Galileo visited by time travelers who show him how life is doing on the colonies of the Galilean Moons.
  • In Amber Benson's The Ghosts of Albion series, the mystical Protectors of Albion are aided by the ghosts of Lord Byron, Admiral Horatio Nelson and Queen Boudicea, the last of whom was killed by a demon.
  • Jamie Simons' children's book series Goners revolves around a group of time-traveling aliens trying to find out which historical figures were alien spies and bringing them home.
  • In Patrick Graham's The Gospel Of Evil, the Knight Templars were actually Satanists who knew the Cosmic Horror Story our universe is.
  • Harry Potter's expanded universe provides a few examples.
    • Famed Scottish rugby player Angus Buchanan is revealed on Pottermore to have been a Squib (someone born to a wizarding family but with no magical powers to speak of), who was kicked out of his home when this fact was discovered. He ended up becoming a famous professional rugby player in the Muggle world and an activist for equal rights in the Wizarding world, making him one of the few people in the series to attain fame in both worlds.
    • For an animal example, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reveals that dodos never went extinct—they were actually magical birds called "Diricawls" who have powers of teleportation. This ability allowed them to hide from Muggles when they realized they were being hunted. Apparently, the Ministry of Magic decided not to allow Muggles to become aware that the Diricawls still exist, as the belief that they had hunted them all to extinction led to them becoming more environmentally conscious.
  • In the novels Heretic and Prophecy Giordano Bruno is a spy working for Lord Walsingham, head of Elizabeth I's secret service.
  • The Hexer von Salem stories by German author Wolfgang Hohlbein, being grounded in his take on the Cthulhu Mythos, quite naturally have Howard P. Lovecraft himself as an important supporting character with actual if only occasionally used time travel powers who helps the main protagonist Robert Craven deal with the assorted horrors as best he can, especially early in the series. He's also a former high-ranking member of the actual (modern-day, which here means late 19th century) Knights Templar, who'd still like a word with him about quitting on them... — The series in general isn't at all shy about dragging famous historical or fictional characters into its plot, but Lovecraft is probably the most straightforward and prominent example of the trope.
  • Hex Hall: Lord Byron turns up as a vampire.
  • In The Historian, the titular character is a vampirized Vlad the Impaler. Against the norm, Vlad explicitly isn't Dracula (as in reality, the novel is just loosely inspired by him), and instead of becoming a vampire the usual way, he became so through some medieval magic supposed to confer immortality note . The title refers to Vlad's hobby since becoming a vampire. He created an immense library in his makeshift resting place with thousands upon thousands of books. Features to note are his first editions of Thomas Aquinias and one of the original Gutenburg printing presses.
  • The Western Galactic Empire presumes (but does not prove) this of Shakespeare and, to a lesser extent, Jesus, in Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land.
  • In The House of Night, a lot of historical figures as well as current famous people are said to be vampyres, including Shakespeare and Cleopatra VII, just to name a few.
  • On a slightly larger scale, in the Humanx Commonwealth series, it is revealed that a entire astronomical phenomenon known as the Great Attractor was constructed by the Precursors as a superweapon.
  • The Illuminatus! trilogy did this with a large number of real and fictional characters; John Dillinger as a set of quintuplet Zen masters, Jesus as the world's first Bingo caller, Billy Graham as the Devil, and the Beatles as anarcho-capitalist prophets, among many others. Perhaps most notably, Marilyn Monroe was trained to become an avatar of Eris (although her identity is only implied).
  • In Charles Stross's The Laundry Files, Alan Turing discovered a way to use mathematics to do magic, which was immediately covered up by the government.
  • The Lensman novels reveal that many historical tyrants, including Nero and Adolf Hitler, were all guises adopted by a single alien spy - Gharlane of Eddore.
    • A variant occurs when the protagonists ask the Arisians if they interfered with human history in a similar fashion. While no great human leaders were actually Arisians, the character of Bergenholm (a fictional scientist from earlier in the book who developed a truly efficient FTL drive) was in fact one of their agents - for their Gambit Roulette to work, they needed humans to get proper FTL now. Bergenholm may not be real, but the impact on the characters was similar.
  • In The List of Seven by Mark Frost, a young Arthur Conan Doyle gets swept up in a conspiracy against the British Government, working alongside a mysterious investigator named Jack Sparks. This adventure would inspire him to create Sherlock Holmes.
  • Frank Beddor's The Looking-Glass Wars. Alice Liddell, according to the book series, is NOT who Lewis Carroll made us think she was. She was really Princess Alyss Heart, the daughter of the King and Queen of Wonderland who was exiled to the real world after her Aunt Redd staged a coup that killed her family.
  • Tom Holland's novel Lord of the Dead reveals that Lord Byron was a vampire. Mad, bad and dangerous to know indeed.
  • Though the main character of The Madness Season was not historically significant, his father was an employee of the Library of Alexandria and his mother was worshipped in ancient times as a goddess (though we aren't told which goddess she may have been).
  • In the Magic Ex Libris series, Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press to promote a kind of magic where you pull things out of books. He's also immortal thanks to creating the Holy Grail with this power. There's also Juan Ponce de Leon being a powerful Sorcerer who made himself immortal via the Fountain of Youth. Oh, and Bruce Lee has been turned into a vampire.
  • The Lewis Padgett short story "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" sees a scientist millions of years in the future sending two boxes of educational toys into the past. One of the boxes ends up in the major setting of the story—a small family's home in 1942 England. Scott and Emma, the family's children, begin to play with the toys and, thanks to their futuristic influence, gradually develop strange intelligences far beyond normal human capacity. The latter part of the story sees them trying to construct some sort of machine from the toys, but they can't complete or activate it. That gap is explained when, during a flashback, we see that the second box of toys ended up in the hands of an unnamed English girl in the late nineteenth century. She's unable to be fully influenced by the playthings due to her slightly higher age, but they still "talk" to her by telling her seemingly nonsensical stories and poetry. One day, she recites a few lines of one of those poems to a man who promises to write the whole thing, word for word, in the book he's writing based on her (supposedly) imaginary tales. She happily calls him "Uncle Charles," revealing that she's none other than Alice Liddell. The verse she's repeating is "Jabberwocky", and the apparently made-up words are actually an equation key to finish and power the time-space travel device. The story ends with Scott and Emma using "Jabberwocky" to complete their machine and vanish to parts unknown.
  • The Missing series, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, involves a future where rich families pay a corporation to go back in time and kidnap certain famous children (usually famous missing children, such as Anastasia and Charles Lindbergh Jr.), while they are babies. The children are then taken back to the future for these families to raise as their own. Except the ones that accidentally end up in our time.
  • In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, it's stated that Jeffrey Dahmer was a wight.
  • The Mortal Instruments shows several examples.
    • The Seelie Queen once met Thomas the Rhymer. She lured him into the fairy kingdom. And after releasing him, he mentioned her in his ballads.
    • The founder of the vampires was Vlad. The real Count Dracula was also the first vampire.
    • Magnus Bane keeps claiming that he met famous people. However, one does not know how much of it is the truth and how much of it was invented.
      • A flashback shows, however, that he at least met Marie Antoinette, and wanted to help her escape.
    • In Tales of the Shadowhunter Academy we learn that Jack the Ripper was a demon child who killed several women.
  • The background of Newshound reveals that Theodore Roosevelt was secretly a werewolf.
  • In the Night Watch books, the mythological Tibetan hero Gesar is head of the Moscow Night Watch. Joan of Arc was a weak dark witch. Thomas the Rhymer is head of the Edinburgh Night Watch, and was also an ancestor of Mikhail Lermontov. Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin is a Dark Other and a prophet. Other examples include:
    • Certain historical figures (especially authors) are revealed to have either been Others (e.g. Robert Louis Stevenson, Ambrose Bierce), uninitiated Others (e.g. Mikhail Bulgakov, Stephen King), or influenced by Others (e.g. William Blake, William Shakespeare).
    • Bruce Lee is alive and well. There was a crisis in Hong Kong in 1973, and he was recalled to active duty in the Night Watch, requiring the Watch to fake his death. His Twilight form is a small dragon.
    • Also, Alexander the Great is still alive and well, and is the one who secretly runs the European Bureau of Inquisition.
    • Edgar Allan Poe was an uninitiated Other whose works were influenced by the Twilight. It's speculated that his death was the result of him accidentally stepping into the Twilight and staying there too long, resulting in hypoglycemia (which humans attributed to alcoholism).
    • H. P. Lovecraft was a low-level Dark Other, who lived the life of a recluse but somehow entered Twilight in his sleep, inspiring the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • In the novel One Foot In The Grave the protagonist half-vampire encounters and enters into an uneasy team-up with the vampire that unintentionally transformed him into his partially converted state: Vlad Tepes aka Dracula. Vlad relates the atrocities he had to commit to protect his tiny kingdom from being conquered and his recent abandoning leadership of the vampire enclave in NYC (enclaves being scattered locations where vampires and other supernatural creatures attempt to live in secret and relative peace with human society and lead by a vampire lord with greater powers than the standard) in order to lead a more trouble-free life (didn't quite work out that way for him).
  • Gyles Brandreth's Oscar Wilde Mysteries have Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Sherard fighting crime together. It's just as awesome as it sounds.
  • The Parasol Protectorate is set on an alternate Earth where several historical figures were supernaturals.
    • The vampire potentate for the first part of the series is Lord Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I.
    • It's mentioned that Boudicca was an Alpha werewolf.
    • More spoilery, Queen Zenobia of Palmyra was a metanatural.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan has a couple of throwaway lines to the effect that several famous people were demigods - George Washington (his mother was Athena), Harry Houdini (who successfully traveled to the Underworld and back), Underground Railroad operator Harriet Tubman (daughter of Hermes), Secretary of State William H. Seward (son of Hebe), Alfred Hitchcock, the Beatles, and Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (a son of Ares and namesake of the famous Sherman Tank).
    • One of the key plot points in the series is that the three chief gods (Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) aren't supposed to father any more demigods — in no small part because their recent offspring included almost every major player in World War II. The Son of Neptune later has Hazel note that Hades/Pluto bears a very strong resemblance to Adolf Hitler (though Word of God is that he was not a Demigod).
  • In Bruce Sterling's novella Pirate Utopia, Harry Houdini is a spy for the American government using his act as cover, H. P. Lovecraft is his publicist and Robert E. Howard his teenage sidekick.
  • The President's Vampire series:
    • Johann Konrad, the real-life basis for Mary Shelley's Doctor Frankenstein, was a real Necromancer, dark wizard and all-around Mad Doctor, who perfected his Elixir of Youth, and has been using it to live for centuries and continue his obscene work.
    • Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, bound Cade to the service of the President, by order to Andrew Johnson.
    • Elliot Ness was a member of the taskforce that Cade led in destroying Innsmouth.
    • Osama bin Laden was an agent of the Shadow Company, who Cade killed in Tora Bora (his survival and later "real" death both being faked by the government for political reasons). Oh, and he was an early test subject of the Snakehead virus, so he wasn't human anymore when Cade killed him.
    • John Wilkes Booth was a patsy of the Order, who faked his own death in 1865 and went into hiding, until the guilt caught up with him decades later and he started drunkenly announcing the truth. So Cade hunted him down and killed him.
    • Jack the Ripper was a "starchild" created by Aleister Crowley, in the same sort of ritual that later created the Boogeyman.
    • Every Serial Killer in the 20th century has either been a host of the Boogeyman, or a member of the cult worshiping it.
  • In Elizabeth Bear's The Promethean Age novels, Christopher Marlowe, who may actually have been a secret agent, is taken into Faerie by Morgana after his "death". His place as a spy is taken by William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Eventually he sells himself to the devil and becomes a warlock. The three of them along with others contend with the Promethean Society, a secret society of sorcerers whose ranks include the Earls of Essex, Southampton and Oxford (The latter of whom is one of the popular candidates for the role of the man who "really" wrote Shakespeare's plays. In here he does cowrite some of Shakespeare's earlier works but his "help" is more of a hindrance.)
  • In James P. Hogan's The Proteus Project, Winston Churchill, Edmund Teller and Albert Einstein, among others, work with time travelers to ensure a Nazi defeat (in the travelers' timeline they won).
  • The Radix: Carl Jung was a leader of a cult that searched for the Radix, a miraculous plant that belonged to Jesus Christ.
  • Red Moon Rising (Moore): Several celebrities are either vampyres or, rarely, werewolves, in additional to the normal humans. They often have different names than in our timeline, such as vampyre rockstar David-bo E.
  • In Sacré Bleu Vincent van Gogh doesn't commit suicide; he's murdered by a millennia old shaman who works with the Muse of Painting. Other painters involved, past and present, with the duo are Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Pierre-August Renoir, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Georges Seurat and Joseph Turner. The shaman, named The Colorman, is hinted to be the inspiration for Quasimodo. Later a drunken Lautrec gives his version of things to an equally drunken Oscar Wilde and it becomes the seed from which The Picture of Dorian Gray grows.
  • In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, a surprising number of historical figures are still alive today, having gained immortality by various means. The entire human cast of the series except the two main characters consists of these immortals.
  • In Daniel Handler's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the narrator and his comrades imply that V.F.D. dates back to Ancient Greece, that Martin Luther King, Edith Wharton, and Thomas Malthus were involved with it — although Malthus was on the evil side of the schism — and that Shakespeare may be alive. However, these may be the result of revisionism in accordance with V.F.D.'s own views.
  • In Shadow's Bend H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith learn that the Cthulhu Mythos is real and get involved.
  • Sigma Force and The Order of the Sanguines, both by James Rollins, use this trope repeatedly. Marco Polo, Thomas Jefferson, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and even Jesus have been featured as part of some kind of Ancient Conspiracy or other.
  • The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries have Bubba Elvis, vamped a little too late, leaving him simple. Either that or he's putting on an act. Later she meets the undead Tsarevitch Alexei Romanov, saved by the vampire who had been donating his blood to fight his hemophilia.
  • In The Stand, Randall Flagg claims to have been Cinque/Donald DeFreeze, one of the key figures in the Patty Hearst case and leader of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
  • Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker series has a subtle variant, since it takes place in an Alternate History version of 19th century America where folk magic and supernatural "knacks" are accepted parts of everyday life. Among other tidbits, Napoleon Bonaparte's military career is made possible because he has a knack that makes people trust and obey him, William Blake becomes a great poet because he has a knack for prophetic visions, and Tenskwatawa becomes a revered Shawnee leader because he's a genuinely powerful prophet and Earth wizard.
  • Dan Simmons' The Terror adds a supernatural arctic menace to the doomed Franklin Expedition, which allows a lone survivor, Crozier. His Carrion Comfort blames many tragedies of the 20th century, such as Nazi atrocities and the assassination of John Lennon, on a lethal competition between sociopathic human mind-controllers.
  • This is one of the many theories surrounding the identity of Jack the Ripper in Time Scout. It's surprisingly credible.
  • Touch the Dark has the Consul Cleopatra, not Shakespeare himself, but Christopher Marlowe, Raph the Renaissance artist Raphael, and Rasputin (which explains why he was so hard to kill).
  • This happened with Harry Houdini in what has to be the most awesome historical crossover ever, the short story "Under the Pyramids" by H. P. Lovecraft. Houdini goes on vacation, crosses paths with a sinister cult and winds up facing down the Eldritch Abominations of ancient Egypt. While he doesn't exactly emerge victorious, he does end up in far better shape than the typical Lovecraft hero. Now if somebody would just make a video game about Harry Houdini versus the Old Ones...
  • In Unholy Night (by the same author as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), the three wise men who visited Jesus Christ on the night of his birth are shown to be three ruthless thieves on the run from King Herod. Two of them, Melchyor and Gaspar, become the two thieves who are crucified alongside Jesus, while the third, Balthazar, is later shown to be the one who burned down Rome.
  • Another famous vampire; in Christopher Golden's Vampire Odyssey trilogy, one of the main protagonist vampires is Buffalo Bill Cody.
  • In the book Vampyres of Hollywood and its sequel, Love Bites, many Old Hollywood film stars and producers such as Mary Pickford, Theda Bara, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, etc. are actually vampires who used their abilities to mesmerize audiences on film. Many of them are actually responsible for popularizing false myths about vampires being vulnerable to garlic and holy symbols by depicting vampires that way in films so humans would underestimate them. Many of these old film stars faked their deaths and are trying to get back into the film business without being recognized as their old selves. Since the books were written by Adrienne Barbeau, they give a very detailed portrayal of Hollywood and the film industry from an insider's perspective, as well as a very detailed "what-if" scenario that shows Hollywood as being created and run by vampires from the beginning. There are a lot of humorous throwaway lines about various celebrities, such as a brief description of Joan Crawford as an out-of-control werewolf.
  • War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches is a collection of short stories revealing the involvement of many other historical figures (such as Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Henry James) with the invasion described in The War of the Worlds.
  • In Gabriel King's The Wild Road (and its sequel, The Golden Cat), The Alchemist (the series' Big Bad) was actually Isaac Newton. Although this was never explicitly stated, enough hints were dropped to make it indisputably obvious. Including his surname being NEWTON, and his THEORY ON GRAVITY.
  • In the novel Yellow Blue Tibia, Stalin is revealed to have been an alien invader (on the grounds that no human could ever do what he did; c.f. We Didn't Start the Führer).
  • Bentley Little's short story "The Washingtonians", which depicts George Washington as a murderous
cannibal.
  • In Marie Brennan's Never Come Midnight Elizabeth I became queen due to a bargain with the local Fae queen who was also instrumental in foiling the Grand Armada.

    Music 
  • The They Might Be Giants song "Ballad of Davy Crockett in Outer Space", performed to the tune of the original Davy Crockett song. "Messin' around with the fabric of time / He knows who's guilty before there's even a crime. / Davy Davy Crockett, the buckskin astronaut / Davy Davy Crockett, there's more than we were taught."

    Podcasts 
  • In The Adventure Zone: Amnesty, Tommy Wiseau is a Sylvan exile. A mummy, to be exact.
  • The Magnus Archives has several:
    • Wilfred Owen encountered the Slaughter in WWI and it apparently provided him the inspiration for his war poems.
    • Robert Smirke was apparently heavily involved with the supernatural and his buildings are noted as reacting to it in unique ways. He also catalogued all of the Powers.
    • Joseph Grimaldi and Wolfgang von Kempelen were servants of the Stranger.
    • Edmond Halley (yes, THAT Halley) was not only a servant of the Dark, but his body also served as the first host of the entity that later called itself Maxwell Rayner).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nephilim. This French role-playing game's whole background was solely designed to allow game-masters to re-write History and incorporate it in their scenarios in any way they liked. They give you a basic backstory about the world; then you are supposed to study your region's various historical details to build up various conspiracy theories. Even if that's not your thing, the way they rewrote the entire history is absolutely overwhelming; evil secret societies trying to take over the world galore! Then they explain very seriously to you that the myth of modern Santa Claus was solely created to put back the actual Saint Claus in the collective imagination, in order to liberate him from the parallel dimension he had been put a millennium before. And don't get me started on Joan of Arc, Atlantis or the Dinosaurs... This game just defines the trope and has exploited it further than everything else.
  • If this goes on for too long, you'd end up with something like Diana, Warrior Princess
  • The Old World of Darkness used this all the time. Most every sourcebook includes at least one, and typically more than one, historical figure, though not always a highly well-known one.
    • Averted with one historical group: Nazis. After a few missteps (including Heinrich Himmler as a vampire in Berlin by Night) in First Edition, the creators came to believe that painting World War II as the product of supernatural influence would remove some of the basic horror from it and "cheapen" the events of the war, as well as be somewhat awkward since there are still people alive who were affected by the war. As a result, all horrific events within the past 100 years had been deemed off limits to writers. This rule was swiftly invoked following 9/11, when all sorts of crazy supernatural whodunnits started to pop up in "explanation."
    • The basic rulebook in Vampire: The Masquerade features a historical account of Vampire society through the ages, with annotations from a powerful Sabbat member. When World War II is addressed, in an interesting use of the "avoid awkwardness" rule, said Sabbat member muses upon the fact that the Camarilla always tends to underestimate the capacity of humans to perpetrate great evils upon themselves, and that with the Kindred's loss of humanity a certain flavor of evil seems to have been lost as well.
    • The fifth edition Camarilla sourcebook was slated to include a chapter that, after editing was done messing with it, ended up claiming the modern persecution of gay people in Chechnya was a vampire feeding plot, not as in-character conspiracy speculation as had originally been intended, but as objective in-setting fact. Heavy backlash from the audience and a literal international incident involving a pissed-off Chechen government caused the owners of the company, Paradox Interactive, to come down on this like a hammer and cut the chapter entirely.
    • Wraith: The Oblivion plays with this; being about ghosts, it can have various historical figures continue on in the Underworld without rewriting their established histories. The second ed corebook even has in-character writings on the history of Stygia from Lord Byron, Ernest Hemingway, and Dante Alighieri. That said, historical importance is no guarantee of post-mortem importance. As with Vampire, above, it does address the Holocaust, but only in the context of what happened to the victims' souls after their deaths; the atrocities themselves were completely free of supernatural influence and the book that covers the Holocaust explicitly overrides anything that says otherwise, like the aforementioned "Himmler the vampire" idea from Berlin by Night.
    • Hunter: The Reckoning is an aversion, with the imbued first showing up around 1999 (the year of the game's release), and none of them being well-known. There're theories about historical antecedents, but nothing solid.
    • One interesting twist: Rasputin. Several sourcebooks claim him as a supernatural, but each time a different sort of supernatural, suggesting...what? Canon Discontinuity? That the World of Darkness is built on multiple non-exclusive truths? Lampshading the authors' own practices? That Rasputin is a Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot? The Malkavian source book has the insane clan claiming him as one of its members, and his slumbering place in Asia Minor being responsible for the turmoil in Russia and the Middle-East. Probably lampshades the tendency of all clans to claim a greater influence on human history than they actually have. The latest 'official' suggestion as of Beckett's Jyhad Diary is that for some reason, there are multiple Rasputins extant across the supernatural realms, who see themselves as "brothers".
  • The New World of Darkness mostly scraps the idea of supernatural string-pullers. Mostly.
    • Genius: The Transgression, being a fan-made game, can get away with it. Only three of the world's great inventors were Geniuses: Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, and Enrico Fermi. Of them, the latter two were part of the Genius status quo while Leonardo rebelled against it. Notable in being justified however, as Tesla in particular fits the mad science nature of Geniuses to a tee.
    • The Halifax Explosion was caused by a battle between Pentacle Mages and a Church Militant branch of the Seers of the Throne, and Task Force VALKYRIE first came into existence when they hired the actor who'd stand in for Lincoln during the infamous night at the theater... to cover up for the fact that some thing had already eaten the president.
    • Vlad Dracul became a vampire, founding his own covenant, the Ordo Dracul.
    • The "person from Porlock" who stopped Coleridge from finishing Kubla Khan was actually a Promethean who sensed Coleridge was inspired by a qashmallim and felt it necessary to disrupt its plans. A Promethean also caused The Tunguska Event by trying to summon one of said qashmallim, despite the Knights of St. George's best efforts to stop him.
    • Demon: The Descent has Seattle's real life Mother Damnable as a Cover assumed by a demon - if off in one of Seattle's splinter timelines. The writers even included a sidebar saying that normally they wouldn't do this, but they couldn't resist writing a figure named "Mother Damnable" into a game about demons.
  • The d20 Modern supplement Menace Manual lists a number of organizations, both fictional and real, for use in games. One of the organizations is the Final Church (originally from Dark Matter), a satanic cult. The entry states that Hitler and the other high-ranking Nazis were members, and the Holocaust was actually a human sacrifice of vast proportions.
    • And the small-press RPG Shattered Dreams claimed that Hitler wasn't initially evil, but was driven mad by Vacyge who'd invaded his nightmares.
  • "Masque of the Red Death":
    • A somewhat meta example: In the spin-off from the Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft campaign setting, we get an alternate Earth stalked by the usual cast of supernatural villains, Dracula etc. etc. Also the fictional James Moriarty is real, and for some reason a rakshasa.
    • A Dragon article on using the Historic Sourcebooks to set a Red Death game prior to the 19th century was all over this. Heroic qabalists included Plotinus of Alexandra, Hypatia, Galileo, possibly Leonardo da Vinci, and Queen Christina of Sweden, with at least Hypatia and Christina having magic abilities. Monsters included doppelgangers in the Paetorian Guard (including Cassius Chaerea), Ganelon from The Song of Roland who is actually a pit fiend, and Cardinal Richlieu who is actually a lich. William Shakespeare gained his inspiration by being fey-touched and Nostradamus was empowered by the Red Death.
  • The GURPS Who's Who sourcebooks cover realistic stats, personality, and recommended campaign usage of 104 historical figures. Also included is a "What if?" section for every person, suggesting possible deviations from accepted history. Some of the more fantastic suggestions that other works on this page haven't covered include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart being assassinated for encoding Illuminati secrets in his music and Mata Hari being a time traveling grad student studying Europe before and during WW1 with a Snowball Lie alias.
  • The Shadowrun game-setting was rife with this for a while, back when the writers were stuffing it with historical ties to Earthdawn. Figures such as Elizabeth I and (yet again) Leonardo da Vinci were revealed to have been immortal elves, left over from the Fourth World and killing time while awaiting the next Awakening of magic.
  • In Unknown Armies, any number of celebrities past and present are listed as Avatars (people who channel archetypes to gain god-like powers). This list includes Joe McCarthy as The Demagogue, Amelia Earhart as The Flying Woman, and Neil Armstrong as The Pilgrim, amongst others.
    • In addition, a school of magic called Iconomancy allows its practioners to channel the famous dead. Curiously, you can't channel Jim Morrison. One wonders why...
      • Because the only person that can channel Jim Morrison is Morrison himself, who is currently living in Los Angeles.
  • Deadlands has some of these, including Abraham Lincoln (Harrowed following his assassination), Jefferson Davis (killed and replaced by a shapeshifter), and Edmond Hoyle (whose Book of Games is the coded grimoire of the hucksters).
  • One of the more infamous bandit leaders in Rifts Texas goes by the name of Sundance. As in "Butch Cassidy and the Kid". A freak time warp during that whole thing in Bolivia put him several centuries into the future.
    • Rifts: England revealed that Merlin is an evil immortal being that had been trying to take over the world when he was helping out King Arthur.
  • There's a Savage Worlds setting entitled "The Day After Ragnarok," in which much of the Western Hemisphere has been destroyed in the aftermath of the Nazis' plan to summon Jormungand, which was successful until an American plane flew through the World Serpent's pupil and detonated a nuclear bomb in his skull.
  • In Witch Girls Adventures Gilgamesh was not only genuinely the superhuman The Epic of Gilgamesh paints him as, but was the only son of the first witch, Lilith (Not the Lilith, but almost certainly the inspiration for her in the game world); progenitor of a race of immortal superhumans which included King Arthur; and the father of Zephyr. Compared to that, the other examples are downright mundane — Vlad Dracula is actually an evil vampire and was a major player in the now-secret supernatural portion of World War II, and Lovecraft (not referred to by name, but described in terms that leave little doubt) was an acolyte of a race of Eldritch Abominations — the book only briefly covers his involvement and doesn't make it clear whether he outright worshipped them, or just formed a belief system that integrated his knowledge of them.
  • Nobilis 2nd ed. offers Isaac Newton as the Power of Motion and Johann Sebastian Bach as the former Power of the Fugue.
    • 3e's "A Diary of Deceivers" mentions Ronald Reagan and several of his staffers were killed and resurrected by an Excrucian Deceiver.
  • Warhammer 40,000's major background character, the Emperor, is an immortal, incredibly powerful psyker who adopted various guises as he subtly guided mankind's evolution - it's known that he was Saint George, and implied that he was even Jesus. It was only when subtlety failed that he stepped out of the shadows and emerged as the founder of the Imperium.
  • In the Freedom City setting's Atlas of Earth Prime, it's revealed that the more ... unusual ... President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov's edicts were the result of him being possessed by a prankster spirit.
  • In Pathfinder, Grigori Rasputin was in fact the estranged son of Baba Yaga, living on Earth while his mother is on Golarion. The players can fight him in Rasputin Must Die! of the Reign of Winter adventure path. Also, he's the real father of Anastasia, who isn't really dead, but has in fact left Earth to become the queen of the nation of Irrisen.

    Theatre 
  • From the musical 1776: When John Adams complains about the difficulties he and other pro-freedom delegates at the Second Continental Congress are facing, Benjamin Franklin assures him that "the history books will sort it out." Adams has this to say:
    John Adams: [Ben] Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them — Franklin, Washington, and the horse — conducted the whole revolution by themselves.
    Ben Franklin: ...I like it.
    • This is almost written word for word in one of Adams' letters. Adams is talking about what later people will tell. It's probably safe to say Ben Franklin could not actually conjure generals on their horses.
    • The whole point of this musical was arguably to present a "realistic" version of this trope. Creators Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone wanted to deconstruct the popular myth of the Founding Fathers as near-deific, perfect figures who formed a unified body determined to free the United States from English rule, instead presenting them as a flawed, argumentative, very human group of men split by infighting and contrasting goals at the Second Continental Congress.
  • Michael Jackson ONE presents the late musician as an embodiment of magic and wonder to the point that its misfit protagonists gain magical abilities when they find and use his iconic wardrobe pieces. An enforced example because this Cirque du Soleil show is co-produced by Jackson's estate.

    Video Games 
  • The series Shadow Hearts is full of varying degrees of this, from H. P. Lovecraft being able to summon monsters, to Mata Hari being pulled into a quest to save the world from evil sorcerers.
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines plays with the story of the original Dracula novel, stating that Quincy Morris had a son, John Morris, and that the family was related to the Belmonts. The Castlevania series also does this with non-fictional characters. Aside from Dracula himself, Elizabeth Bathory (translated as "Bartley") is an antagonist in Castlevania: Bloodlines, and happens to be a different character from Carmilla. Gilles de Rais is The Dragon in the Nintendo 64 games, and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness casts the Count of St. Germain as a Trickster Mentor.
  • Eternal Sonata's main character is Frederic Francois Chopin. Yes, the famous pianist and composer. The whole game's set in the fever-induced deathbed dreams of Chopin himself...
  • Though it's probably lost on anyone not familiar to Japanese history, Ōkami suggests and eventually confirms that historical figure Minamoto no Yoshitsune is a 200+ year old Moon-born celestial. For those wondering when Yoshitsune was ever shown or even mentioned in the game, just remember that his childhood nickname was Ushiwaka
  • Near the end of the game Destroy All Humans! 2, it is revealed that Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev were either influenced by the Blisk, crablike aliens from Mars, or were themselves Blisk in disguise. It's also implied that the Blisk also mated with humans thousands of years ago, and that perhaps the Russians are the decendents of those matings.
  • The plot of the 2nd Gabriel Knight. Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria was seduced by a charismatic male werewolf (Which actually indicates nothing about Ludwig's sexual preference; Even the Guys Want Him, and the same werewolf, it is all-but-explicitly-stated, seduces the otherwise straight Gabe), and that Ludwig and Richard Wagner had worked together to create an opera which, when performed under the acoustic conditions specially engineered into Neuschwanstein Castle, would trigger a werewolf's transformation involuntarily. Ludwig's purported "madness" was a cover for lycanthropy.
  • Assassin's Creed gets a ton of mileage out of showing how nearly every historical figure was secretly a Templar, a group dedicated to controlling humanity from behind the scenes, or an Assassin, the opposing group who believes humans should be free to live however they want, or were somehow affiliated with the two groups. Most evil people were secretly Templars and most good people were secretly Assassins, but sometimes the games like to throw in a surprise.
  • The ending of The Conduit reveals that President John Adams is actually an alien mastermind who helped create the United States for his own purposes. The ending of Conduit 2 has George Washington and Abraham Lincoln alive and well and ready to help fight the upcoming alien invasion.
  • Touhou:
    • Imperishable Night says that there was a war between Earth and the Moon sparked by the Apollo 11 lunar landingnote , with Neil Armstrong specifically getting name-dropped. Moon Rabbit Reisen Udongein Inaba fled to Earth to get away from said war, and it's strongly implied that the Apollo 13 malfunction was caused by Reisen's future mentor Eirin Yagokoro shooting the oxygen tank with an arrow.
    • Ten Desires features Toyosatomimi no Miko, a.k.a. Prince Shoutoku, except that spreading Buddhism across Japan was only used to control the people, while "he" secretly pursued immortality through Taoism. Oh, and "he" was actually a girl.
  • Live A Live: Sakamoto Ryouma fought robots.
  • The Neverwinter Nights module "The Bastard of Kosigan" has an ancient civilization of primordial hyper-advanced humans playing god (or more specifically angels (the 'control' faction, led by Gabriel) and demons (the 'free will' faction, led by Elisa Than (geddit? Elisa Than? Satan?))) to use humans as proxies in their constant war with each other. Among other things, Jesus was sponsored by the demons (the apostles John (who you get to meet) and Judas were immortals, the rest were normal humans and actually believed it all), Gabriel did appear to Muhammad in a dream, the demons set off the barbarian invasions to destroy the corrupt Roman Empire the angels had set up, and the angels created Catholicism to use Jesus' message against those who sent him in the first place.
  • In Team Fortress 2, it is revealed that there have been several generations of predecessors to the mercenaries we all know and love, and that the first generation was an... interesting bunch. For instance, the original ensemble included Billy the Kid (Scout), Stonewall Jackson (Soldier), Abraham Lincoln (Pyro), Nikola Tesla (Engineer), John Henry (Heavy), Alfred Nobel (Demoman), Sigmund Freud (Medic), Fu Manchu (Spy) and Davy Crockett (Sniper). Abraham Lincoln also invented stairs, before he was assassinated by John "Tower of Hats" Booth.
    • The rocket launcher, the two-story house, America and the stage play were all invented by Shakespearicles, the strongest writer who ever lived.'
    • George Washington's greatest regret was not being permanently invisible. The Cloak and Dagger lets the Spy do just that.
  • Various famous explorers and historical figures in Uncharted are revealed to have discovered famous hidden cities, searched for (and found) supposedly lost forever artifacts and treasure hordes, as well as belonged to the infamous secret societies of their day.
  • Similar to the Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne example above, the PSP game Jeanne d'Arc has Jeanne as a magical girl fighting an invasion of demons spearheaded by a demonically possessed King Henry and the Duke of Bedford, who used to be a demon-battling hero himself. Although this may not qualify, as it doesn't seem to take place in our 15th Century Europe.
  • Interstate '76 avoids this trope, but the sequel Interstate '82 plays it straight. The game's Big Bad is Ronald Reagan and his Dragon is John Hinckley Jr. After Taurus shoots the former, the latter is set up to take the fall. Although this event actually took place the previous year.
  • The not-well-known Hercs Adventure for the PS1 reveals that Hades (the Big Bad) was... A giant robot piloted by aliens.
  • Kane, leader of the Brotherhood of Nod in the Command & Conquer series, turns out to have a long and storied history. His most fanatical followers, the Black Hand, are implied to be the same Black Hand that assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, and fittingly his main Temple of Nod is erected in Sarajevo. He makes an appearance in the Soviet campaign of Command & Conquer: Red Alert, acting as Stalin's adviser even while furthering Nod's interests. He claims to be the biblical Cain, and indeed in Command & Conquer: Renegade the Temple of Nod in Cairo features Abel's sarcophagus in a catacomb beneath it. When the alien Scrin arrive in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars they're surprised to see him, and Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight confirms that Kane is in fact an immortal alien that just happens to look human, who has been manipulating human history in his efforts to leave Earth.
  • Rasputin the Mad Monk appears as this in Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army - as a lecherous android devil summoner sent from an apocalyptic future to destroy an alternate timeline which should never have come into existence, with evil Matryoshkas and mysterious dimensional warping powers!
  • In Clive Barker's Jericho, many famous conquering leaders attempted to harness the power of the Firstborn under Al-Khalid. Of a more specific example, Aleister Crowley is said to have worked with the OSS.
  • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa is found alive and trapped in an extremely aged shell of a body, kept alive by magic. An optional side-quest allows you to rescue him, and is required to be done for the 'good ending'. Johann Weyer is a character that's mentioned and heard, but never met in person, he's implied to have been a pupil of Agrippa.
  • Star Trek Online's blogs detailing the Temporal Crisis of Season 11 onward continue the mention of Jack the Ripper being an alien by saying that he was actually one that possessed people. It got caught up in fights between Temporal Agents and the Na'khul.
  • In the Persona series, Igor mentions that Carl Jung, father of the Jungian psychology the series is based around, happened to be a Persona user.
  • In Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, it is revealed that Altera was an alien superweapon sent to destroy human civilization long ago. She was defeated, but her remains transformed into a human girl. The Huns took her in and raised her to be their leader, a Gender Flip Attila the Hun.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Mordred claims in an offhand comment that the Picts were in fact aliens.
    • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a member of a magical bloodline destined to become vessels for a Demon Pillar. Mozart himself avoided this fate through either his love for Marie Antoinette or his dedication to music.
    • The Queen of Sheba was part djinn and commanded a number of them.
    • The Romanov royal family were a family of mages who controlled a demon known as Viy, with Anastasia being the last in their line to form a contract just before her death.
    • Yu Miaoyi/Consort Yu was a True Ancestor who faked her death and survived to the present day. Her spouse Xiang Yu was an automaton created from the remains of Nezha.
    • Murasaki Shikibu was a practicing onmyoji who occasionally got dragged into misadventures with Abe-no-Seimei.
  • In-universe example in The Journeyman Project series. Elliot Sinclair, inventor of time travel, is eventually revealed to be a 3000-year-old Atlantean guardian of a piece of Precursor technology entrusted to his people, and his distrust of Cyrollans is due to their role in the Atlantean genocide.
  • In Vampyr, the famous 12th Century knight Sir William Marshall is revealed to have been an vampire, the oldest one in Britain who served as sire and mentor for London's Council of Vampires. Furthermore at the end of the game, Jonathan's sire (who is heavily implied to have been Merlin) states that King Arthur was also a vampire warrior himself. An annoyed Jonathan then rhetorically asks if Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Alfred the Great, Francis Drake, Thomas More and Guy Fawkes were vampires too. His sire replies that at least one of them was.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Shinsengumi were an interesting enough group on their own, but in Hakuouki they're secretly used by the shogunate as a testbed for a mysterious elixir which turns those who take it into nigh-unkillable but unstable and bloodthirsty superhumans. In addition to adding intrigue and a degree of uncertainty to the Foregone Conclusion, this also provides a convenient device to allow characters like Keisuke Sannan, Heisuke Toudou, and Souji Okita to remain involved in the plot well beyond the points at which their real-life counterparts died.
  • Fate/stay night likes to play with this one. The most prominent is that King Arthur was actually born a girl named Arturia — her gender was disguised from her subjects by Merlin — but there are a few other examples as well, most notably Angra Mainyu.
  • From Dies Irae there are a fair number of historical people that are made into extremely powerful warriors. Perhaps most notably the infamous man behind the Holocaust, Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, is the stories main Big Bad and possesses powers so immense that he is a candidate for ascending to godhood.
  • In Monster Prom, 400-year-old vampire Liam de Lioncourt mentions that the Roman Emperor Caligula was a vampire who later became Jack the Ripper.

    Webcomics 
  • Dresden Codak has some interesting theories about notable scientists/psychologists/etc. One of the more notable examples suggests that Niels Bohr was a cat, and thusly, by Schroedinger's principles, is immortal, so long as he remains unobserved.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja implies that the Michael Jackson we all know and love(?) is a phony, and that the real (read: Thriller era) Wacko Jacko lives on a secret Moon base, run by Dracula. And his flatmates include Paul McCartney, Tupac Shakur, Adolf Hitler, Elvis Presley, and Bruce Lee. Though, given the nature of the comic, fantastic scenarios like this are standard operating procedure. Plus jet pack Jefferson.
  • Homestuck: Colonel Sassacre (who is a Mark Twain Expy) raised young Nanna Egbert and was killed by a baby pistol-wielding Grandpa Harley. Oh, and Betty Crocker, instead of being a brand image, is actually a ruthless alien empress.
    • Andrew Hussie would release some concepts for the series that he later declared non-canon, further messing with history. Among other things: Albert Einstein, Lou Costello, and Adolf Hitler were raised as assassins by the aforementioned Betty Crocker, with most of their successes arranged by Skainet; Hitler and Einstein had a relationship that ended in a very nasty breakup, causing him to channel his feelings into the Third Reich while Einstein took the opposing side to avoid him; Costello was kept around as essentially a sex slave before he bailed. Oh, and Calamity Jane was an alien stranded on earth that got into a fight with the Condesce. Is it any wonder he never went through with this?
  • Jesus Christ In The Name Of The Gun is about Jesus getting fed up with God's "let's watch and see what happens" attitude towards all this suffering going on down on earth, so he kick-starts the Second Coming a little early so that he can go out in the middle of World War II and fuck up some Nazi shit. Ernest Hemingway comes along to give him a hand, and he needs it, because Hitler is a werewolf. Ethan Nicolle drew it.
  • The entire Dungeons and Dragons game in The Word Weary is based off of this idea- the characters play D&D characters in a version of the 1917 Russian Revolution in which Rasputin is a high-level cleric, the Tsar is a white dragon (and the Tsaritsa is a half-dragon) and most of the Tsar's supporters are Hobgoblins.
  • In Unwinder's Tall Comics, Barbecue Sauce writes "Tesla fics", in which various heroes from history and fiction are revealed to actually be an immortal Nikola Tesla in disguise. Supposedly, Tesla fics are popular enough to have entire websites devoted to them.
  • In Dracula The Unconquered, it's revealed early on that "The Black Death" was actually a euphemism for Dracula himself, and the millions of deaths were caused by vampires rampaging across Europe.
  • Spinnerette revealed that Benjamin Franklin travelled forwards in time to the desk of Adolf Hitler, where an assassin from the future promptly arrived to kill Hitler, but Franklin, not knowing the implications of the action, stops him and is accidentally pulled into a sort of time travel warp-tunnel. The assassin drops him in the year 2002 and continues on his merry way. Because he hadn't discovered electricity (required for time travel) yet, he's effectively immortal and invincible (e.g.: it is impossible to land a blow or shot on him) until he gets back, in order to prevent a time paradox. Presumably, no one realized what had happened until he showed up in 2002.
  • Fake News Rumble has Dick Cheney - Evil Alien Overlord.
  • In Casey and Andy, Grover Cleveland's wife is Satan. Not a euphemism.

    Web Original 
  • According to the Elias Material New Age website, the being Elias is the essence of the simultaneous focuses known as Ludwig van Beethoven, Lord Byron, Don José, Gandalf, explorer Vasco da Gama, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Seymour Guado, Homer, Laozi, God-Emperor Leto Atreides II, Sir Palamedes, Salome, William Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway, Italian artist Francesco Squarcione, Oscar Wilde, and Knar of Tüle, a planet outside of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • In lonelygirl15, Aleister Crowley was a founding member of a secret society which aimed to gain eternal life by draining the blood of the legendary descendants of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. That's actually probably the most likely thing mentioned on this page.
  • Tech Infantry, due to its early history as an expansion pack for the Old World of Darkness, kept much of that backstory about people like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison being rival mages. Modred, a recurring Big Bad, also qualifies.
  • New Vindicators features an immortal Isaac Newton as a recurring character, as an Esper (normal person with psionic powers) able to listen to spirits who drank an elixir to make him immortal. He's also a genius even beyond his real world self, having built sophisticated androids, and is part of the world's Illuminati along other immortal types. Ambrosius Aurelianus, a real life historic Romano-British warlord, is also the mythical King Arthur and his time's own Aurelius-which is to say, master mage.
  • In The Salvation War Dante's Inferno is an accurate portrayal of Hell based on visions sent to him by demons.
  • George Washington "had a pocket full of horses, fucked the shit out of bears, threw a knife into heaven, and could kill with a stare!"
    • And JFK was a telepathic, zebra healing, flying robot.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor claims that both Moses and Chris Chandler were actually iterations of Him. Apparently, he penned the Sonichu series to teach mankind the error of its ways, but his messages were misinterpreted.
  • In James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing, they reveal that the headmaster of the American version of Hogwarts (or one of several, it is not clear how many wizarding institutions America has) is Benjamin Franklin. Yeah, apparently the coolest Founding Father was also a wizard, and has a machine that has slowed his aging so much he's still alive.
  • In Fate/Nuovo Guerra, it was said that Archimedes was actually a magus, and the legend about him using mirrors to burn a Roman fleet was actually a heat beam spell that he created, the Heliocaminus.
  • In the Whateley Universe, H. P. Lovecraft was writing stories that were largely accurate, because he had psychic powers.
  • Inglip was once Henry VI, King of England. After the cult that arose following his death faded, it seems the late king... changed.
  • According to the SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-1084 is the grave of Ambrose Bierce, who cursed the town that had killed him and slew all but one of its citizens.
    • SCP-1447-2 is Steve Jobs, who apparently went to Tibet in 1985 and created his own Tulpa. Meanwhile, another Steve Jobs replaced him in public.
    • Mountaineer George Mallory was killed on Mt. Everest by a frostbite-causing monster, one that later spared Lincoln Hall. It's also heavily implied to be responsible for at least half of all recorded deaths for climbing Everest.
    • Roman Emperor Septimius Severus was apparently a talking lion.
    • Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs would have become a world-conquering monster were it not for the intervention of the Foundation (which included going back in time to invent the game of basketball and cause Hurricane Hugo).
    • SCP-2264 heavily implies that "The Hanged King's Tragedy" was written by Christopher Marlowe.
    • George Washington, or at least the one we're most familiar with, is a powerful robot.
    • Nikola Tesla not only successfully built his planned Death Ray, but it worked a little TOO well, resulting in SCP-2700, a ticking time-bomb that will bring about the end of the universe as we know it in 2234. He finished the plans with the help of a universe-hopping traveler, who promptly sabotaged it to destroy our universe, viewing humans as flawed compared to their own.
    • According to SCP-3822, Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire was an amateur Sarkicist who used genetic engineering to make sure the Habsburgs would always have "pure blood" despite their inbreeding. It worked...very well.
    • Al Gore was coerced to run for the presidency in 2000 by Garber Gore, the alien parasite embedded in the back of his skull. Additionally, George W. Bush died in 1998 and was immediately replaced by Dr. Jack Bright in order to keep up appearances.
  • In Jerma985's 'Jerma Rumble', Benjamin Franklin used a time travelling machine solely to compete in the Jerma Rumble so that he can beat Jerma's ass.
  • It's mentioned in The Out Crowd that David Bowie is an interdimentional traveler.
  • Red vs. Blue offers a variant: Sarge recruits three historical figures and brings them to their present. One, Private Alex, just dies of a disease like he was supposed to. Another, Private John, being an accomplished actor, is hired to star in a movie replacing a guy Sarge ended up killing. And the case most fitting of the trope, Private George, becomes an assistant director in said movie.7
  • Beatrix Released by Shaenon Garrity portrays Beatrix Potter as a Reluctant Mad Scientist who creates Uplifted Animals and was inadvertently responsible for the Tay Bridge Disaster.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Mary Todd Lincoln invented peanut butter. It wasn't George Washington Carver, that's for sure.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door reveals astronauts never landed on the Moon, they just thought they did. The KND hacked the transmission and sent them to a fake Moon so the adults wouldn't find out about their Moonbase. Also, according to a tie-in comic, the Great Wall of China was built to be the world's biggest water slide.
  • A few episodes of The Fairly Oddparents use this trope.
    • One episode sees Timmy shrinking down to enter Cosmo and Wanda's goldfish-bowl castle, where he discovers what he thinks is a "Hall of Fame" for their favorite godchildren. It turns out that they're actually the worst godkids they ever had, magically sealed inside paintings to keep them from causing any more harm. The most evil of them is a little girl who caused World War I (and, by extension, World War II and the Cold War) by wishing for Cosmo and Wanda to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand!
    • "Beach Bummed" has Cosmo and Wanda lose their wands on the beach. While they're digging, Cosmo comes across "a guy with a big collar and peanut butter and banana sandwich!", who promptly asks the fairy not to tell anyone about his "secret underground rock 'n roll beach kingdom." Exactly how the King vanished into said kingdom is never explained.
  • Family Guy:
    • Lou Gehrig created the disease bearing his name to take over the world.
    • Charles Lindbergh accidentally flushed away his son when he was teaching him how to use the toilet, then got rid of Amelia Earhart because she had seen too much.
    • Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are just Real Life characters made by Fred Savage. This one's justified; Fred Savage wanted fame.
  • Futurama does this a couple times.
    • A What If episode shows that if Fry had not been frozen, a universe-destroying Temporal Paradox would happen (because Fry's life is a Stable Time Loop that would not happen if he wasn't frozen). When the universe starts breaking down, he meets then-Vice President Al Gore. Gore leads the Vice Presidential Action Rangers, whose sole duty it is to prevent disruptions in the space-time continuum... and cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. The group includes Gore, Stephen Hawking, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and Deep Blue the chess-playing supercomputer.
    • "The Duh-Vinci Code" reveals that Leonardo da Vinci is still alive because he's from a race of long-lived Human Aliens and actually the dumbest person on his home planet, coming to Earth as he'd be far smarter in comparison.
  • There was a real Macbeth, although he wasn't quite the power thirsty regicidal dude depicted by William Shakespeare. In Gargoyles, though, Macbeth is a Highlander-style Immortal, still alive today thanks to an immortality pact. Word of God states that he and Shakespeare were drinking buddies, and that he was amused by the play named for him.
  • The founder of Gravity Falls, according to the episode "Irrational Treasure", was Sir Lord Quentin Trembley III, the 8th & 1/2 president of the USA. He was the most ridiculous president of the US, and was kicked out of office and erased from the history books. His term was replaced by William Henry Harrison (the official 9th and thus why Trembley was 8th & 1/2), and the government claimed some waste shoveling village idiot was the founder of Gravity Falls. Oh, and Ben Franklin was secretly a woman, and Abe's tall hat was used to conceal an extra arm on the top of his head.
  • Men in Black The Animated Series states that Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, and Raffi were human mecha powered by the tiny, peace-loving Arquellians. Presumably, they haven't dabbled in Earth politics for quite a while.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, several historical figures, including Joan of Arc and St. George, are mentioned to have been past Miraculous holders.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Alexandre Gustave Eiffel is discovered to be a 19th-century ghost hunter, and the prominent French landmark which bears his name turns out to be a primitive ecto-containment system.
  • Rick and Morty has a few examples, most notably Albert Einstein, who pretty much was his real life self, except for the part where he's inspired to write his famous Theory of Relativity out of spite for the Time Police who beat him up up because they mistook him for Rick ("I VILL mess vith time!"), and Ice-T, who's apparently an alien from a planet where everyone's an elemental letter, who was banished for not caring about anything.
  • A classic Rocky and Bullwinkle arc involved the Kerwood Derby, a hat that made its wearer the smartest person in the world. Supposedly Einstein was wearing the Kerwood Derby when he developed his Theory of Relativity, and Archimedes wore the derby in his bathtub when he discovered his theory of water displacement (or at least remembered where he left the soap). According to the narrator, it was worn by Alexander the Great when he conquered the world, by Philip of Macedonia when he conquered the world, and by Elvis Presley when he...well, you get the idea.
  • The Simpsons had an episode where Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and King George banded together to hunt for an ancient ruby and created the Revolutionary War as a cover-up for their search.
  • South Park:
    • While investigating how he's able to appear at so many different gigs seemingly all at once, Craig and Clyde discover that Slash is really a mythological character based on the Dutch legend of Vunter Slaush. Turns out it was just one of their parents that actually played at Cartman's party.
    Clyde: "One of our parents!"
  • An episode of The Tick features several major historical figures transported through time to the present. When the historical figures are all captured and tied up by the bad guys, George Washington Carver (who is among them) utters the immortal words, "If only I could get my hands on those peanuts!" He eventually does, and turns them into weapons of mass destruction.
  • Time Squad is all about secret historical weirdness, Hand Waved by history becoming "unstable" as it "ages". This apparently leads to stuff like Ludwig van Beethoven becoming a professional wrestler, Eli Whitney inventing flesh-eating robots instead of the cotton gin, and Albert Einstein giving up his work as a physicist to take on the identity of a boisterous used-car salesman.
  • The Venture Bros. suggests that Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens, Eugene Sandow & Nikola Tesla (along with Fantomas and Dr Venture's ancestor) were members of a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque Guild that was meant to safeguard and research an artifact made by the greatest minds of the past (from Archimedes to Leonardo). The fracturing of this guild would give birth to the Guild Of Calamitous Intent (a name coined by Wilde), which would become a Weird Trade Union for Supervillains.
    • This gets a little weird when Tesla joins forces with the Avon Ladies to fight the rest of them, despite the fact that Tesla and Twain were real-life Heterosexual Life-Partners.
    • Two of the Guild's highest ranking members are implied to be Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, with the plane crash that supposedly killed them both being a coverup. There is also Guild's leader, The Sovereign, who is a shapeshifter that everyone knows as David Bowie. Except it's not literally him, since it's later revealed that The Sovereign is actually an anonymous shapeshifter impersonating Bowie, who is apparently a good friend of his.


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