America’s involvement in World War I began with the sinking of the British civilian cruise ship Lusitania by a German torpedo in 1915. The German government had warned Britain to suspend tourism during the hostilities, because German ships weren’t going to discriminate between civilian and military vessels when they got trigger-happy. Nevertheless, the Lusitania embarked from New York to Britain on May 1, under the captain’s naive impression that the Germans wouldn’t really blow up a cruise ship full of innocent tourists. Over a thousand people died when Germany called that particular bluff.

As with Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and basically any tragedy ever, there are conspiracy theories that say the American government allowed the attack to go ahead because they wanted an excuse to enter the war and start whooping German ass. But when it comes to the Lusitania, that idea is a little more plausible.

For one thing, the official story at the time was that two torpedoes launched by a German submarine sank the ship, but it’s since been proven that only one torpedo was launched. The cause of the well-documented second explosion remains a mystery, which is like Viagra for the kinds of people who Google jet fuel temperatures on their lunch break.

5 Insane Historical Theories That Actually Make Sense

The Mary Shelley thing reminded me of how every year a book is published claiming that Shakespeare didn’t really write Shakespeare’s plays, and every year the evidence they present is… not really there.  What is likely true is that some of his later plays were co-written or perhaps even mostly written by someone.  This is something that still happens today – a producer finds a promising new writer but are worried about the fact that no one else has ever heard of them, so they start them off by teaming them with someone already established.  (Admittedly, a friend of mine once sold a script to a movie studio, and they just took his name off it and slammed a more well known writers name on there…)  Anyway, it probably is true that Percy helped Mary with at least some of the writing, perhaps explaining some of the more fragrant flowery language used.

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