Human history is benchmarked by myth and legend. True or false, many have endured and have today become the backbone for our most popular books and films. After all, one of the major differences between us and other animals is an ability to bring imagination to life.
Sometimes, however, as we will see, the myths are complete BS! They have been handed down to each generation with increasingly exaggerated plotlines but no sense of reality. Still, they reach us today through the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and the books of Tolkien.
Past cultures more readily believed in the unseen and the unusual. The Victorians, for example, had a fascination with fairies, the Romans with material-linked gods and the ancient Greeks with monsters like the cyclops and minotaur.
We’re more hardwired to reality these days and put a lot of effort into finding answers rather than settling for the unanswered. Plus, with our advancements in science and technology, we're often too quick to dismiss a 'myth' for the sake of it.
There are, however, some myths that warrant a closer inspection – those that appear to be based on hard facts rather than folklore, and those that allude to a truth. Here are 16 myths -- both true and false -- that could do with some closer investigation.
Back in 2014, British newspaper The Independent ran a story of a potential sighting of a Gollum-type creature. The beast was spotted in a narrow valley in a wooded area close to Beijing known for its supernatural essence. However, this was the first time something had been filmed. The photos were caught by a tourist from China, who was said to have “had an encounter with a 'monster' with human-like form but enormous ears” (The Independent, 2014).
However, on closer inspection, the creature looked too much like Gollum to be real. While the photographer was certain of what he saw, there's another side to the story. Several weeks later, a Chinese film crew admitted that they had gone into the same forest to film a short Sci-Fi film and that one of his cast had been dressed in a Gollum-esque outfit. He had gone down to the stream to relieve himself!
Where Bigfoot and the Yeti are concerned, there is proof of their existence. Many eyewitnesses have reported first-hand encounters over the years, and it's hardly surprising, given the expanse of woodland in both the USA and Russia, that large hominid apes are living and breeding.
A recent sighting of the Bigfoot comes from Rhinebeck, N.Y., where a young man was driving in the early evening. He caught sight of a plastic bag on the road, so he stopped to pick it up. Finding nothing much of note in the bag, he drove off but as he did, he saw behind him a large figure lifting the bag from the road. He said it was "something walking on two feet" about 50 feet away. He described the creature as being between 7 and 7.5 feet tall, covered with black hair, and had "arms that swung in an exaggerated fashion and palms that faced upwards” (Animal Planet, 2017).
In 2011, unemployed bricklayer Jose Maldonado was farming guavas when he saw a small object on the ground in front of him. The object was said to be emitting a light. He knelt down and, thinking it was a firefly, picked up the object. He realized he was holding a fairy just like Tinkerbell in the Peter Pan novels. He placed the fairy in a jar before preserving her in formaldehyde.
He now exhibits his find to interested people and charges them money for a chance to see the jar. According to online magazine The Mary Sue, Maldonado has been visited by thousands of people hoping to catch a glimpse of his fairy. However, it's clear to some that all Maldonado has done is pop a small plastic figurine into a jar.
The legend of the Chupacabra started in 1995 in Puerto Rico after scores of farm animals were discovered gorged of their blood. Initial suggestions were that the animals had been attacked by a satanic cult, but when similar reports were heard across South and Central America, people began to fear the attacks were by an unknown creature.
Sightings over the next few years confirmed that the animal was unlike anything classified in textbooks. The description of the Chupacabra most commonly seen is of a "reptile-like creature, [said to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back," according to “Chupacabras Biography," 2007. Recently the Mail Online ran a story of a sighting of a similar beast in Portugal. The footage was caught on an amateur video.
Although there's a question of the credibility of this next story, the number of sightings of a cryptid called Mothman in and around West Virginia surely warrants more investigation. The first sightings of the Mothman began in 1966 in the area of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. These were the first of a long run of sightings up to the present day. Typically, the Mothman flies alongside cars traveling along a freeway. It is said to be a large humanoid figure with a large wingspan and glowing eyes.
One group of witnesses recall seeing the Mothman flying behind their car at speeds of up to 100mph almost as if it was giving chase. The creature is also seen prior to or after disasters, leading some to speculate that it's also a powerful omen of death or serious injury. According to online zone exemplore.com in 2017, “Mothman sightings continued until the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant on December 15th, 1967.”
The mystery of the Loch Ness monster had been ongoing since 1934 when a picture of what looks like an aquatic dinosaur surfacing in the loch was snapped by a local resident. After the picture made the news, a group of scholars decided to do an investigation of the loch. Although they didn’t have the hi-tech equipment available to modern-day teams, they took hundreds of photos but concluded that any surfacing creature was probably a seal and that the photograph was faked.
The monster affectionately known as Nessie was great for tourism, but despite many searches, there have been no conclusive sightings. A sonar sweep of the loch in the 1950s located a large object keeping pace with the vessel at a depth of 146 meters before contact was lost. And a recent picture taken by boat skipper George Edwards in 2011 was later admitted to have been faked – by the photographer himself!
Though dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago after a giant asteroid hit the earth, it hasn’t stopped people imagining that they could be recreated through genomic technology. However, their DNA was also wiped out in the disaster (despite the Jurassic Park license), which prevents any strand of genetic material being used to aid rehabilitation. However, some people believe that still in existence in certain parts of Africa are sauropods, stegosaurs, and ceratopsians.
Indigenous tribes have often reported to explorers the presence of large unknown animals. The descriptions lend themselves to a dinosaur appearance. Some critics have suggested that these accounts are fallible because the tribes don't know the Western names for certain species. However, when shown pictures of indigenous species, they're able to identify those readily.
Crop circles came about in the 1970s when a glut of perfectly formed and intricate geometric patterns started appearing in fields across England and the rest of the world. There was a mystery surrounding them because observers believed that such designs couldn't be made by humans. It was therefore concluded that aliens had made the imprints and were using them as a way to communicate.
Although we shall see that aliens have visited earth, it wasn’t to draw on wheat. The crop circles were admitted fake by many of the artists who designed them… some of whom were arrested for destruction of farm crops. After all, the major drawback of these circles -- while nice to look at -- was the flattening of crops and the effect on its value in food markets.
With sightings of a beast increasing in the late 1970s, Bodmin Moor in the south west of England became a feared place to venture. The rumors continued for years, with reports of sightings and the mutilation of livestock. After Mary Chipperfield's Plymouth zoo closed in 1978, the beast started to appear soon after three of her pumas were released into the wild. Subsequent sightings of these animals helped fuel local fear.
In 1995, the British government conducted a secret investigation of the myth and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food input £84,000 for the investigation. The six-month probe revealed that the creature was, in fact, an unusually large domestic cat. Central to the examination were a series of surveillance details and multiple staged reconstructions of the creature’s behavior. Photographic and video evidence were also used, according to The Sun in 1995.
NASA has often implied the presence of alien life but has never admitted it. Conspiracy theories about how pictures from lunar missions were doctored to hide alien images abound to this day. With SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) regularly announcing that they encounter anomalous readings from unknown stellar sources, the thought of alien contact is never far from our minds.
A recent article in Newsweek quotes Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate who told the House Committee on Science in 2017: “Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented discoveries in history.” With many other life-sustaining planets being found (around one a week) the chances of making contact with alien life are high.
While there is much to be said against disturbing the resting place of any human, the likelihood of a curse befalling anyone intrinsic to that process is remote. Howard Carter, the explorer who unearthed the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922 lived to an old age and died of natural causes.
The curse of the mummy is said to stem from a time around two decades after the discovery, with films depicting ransack of the tombs of the great Egyptian warriors. But prior to Carter’s expedition, the Victorians regularly exhibited actual mummies on stage, unwrapping them in front of audiences. Egyptologist Dominic Montserrat believed that a well-enacted stage show in which real Egyptian mummies were unwrapped would naturally have inspired writers of the time to imagine the concept of the mummy’s revenge.
Back in ancient Greece (800 B.C. to 500 B.C.), a myth was the beating heart of a story. There are books written by Homer that are still used today as templates for modern movies. These narratives are thought to be the bedrock of human plotlines. The power of imagination has not waned since.
The ancient Greeks found fossils on the rocks around their shores, including a fossil of a primitive elephant-type creature called Deinotherium. The Greeks mistook the nasal aperture of the skull for an eye socket (having not seen elephants, they didn't know that it had a central trunk). Thus, they concluded that the central hole in the skull could only have been of an eye. This gave rise to the myth that the cyclops used to roam the land and perhaps still do. Homer, in his Odysseus Epic, writes of the cyclops.
There are many creatures we are yet to find. Some live underground, some in water, and others are too small to be noticed without years of exploration. New species are always being classified. The Mongolian Death Worm is meant to exist in the Gobi desert. The creature first came to the attention of Westerners in 1926 because of Roy Chapman Andrews's book On the Trail of Ancient Man after his travels to the Far East. Although he was skeptical, he was certain the locals knew of this creature because of the way in which they described it in minute detail.
The large worm is said to spew formic acid from its mouth in order to paralyze its prey. The venom is so powerful that it can kill a human being. It can also disable nearby prey by emitting a powerful electrical discharge. A joint expedition in 2005 by the Centre for Fortean Zoology visited the Gobi desert to investigate new local sightings of the creature.
It was often reported by sailors returning to land that mermaids had been spotted on a voyage. But they were not the kind and sultry creatures that Disney wrote about. Mermaid folklore labeled them as sirens, luring men to their deaths, stealing treasure, and even sinking whole ships. Many of these sightings were dismissed as the result of hallucinations of sailors after months at sea, starved of female company.
However, scholars who follow the Aquatic Ape Theory haven't ruled out the possibility of an evolutionary throwback that could manifest as a mermaid. The AAT foments the theory that the ancestors of modern humans were more like aquatic mammals. As such, it's likely that as with similar genetic reversals found in the animal kingdom, an aquatic ape-like creature might exist if only in small numbers or in remote corners of the globe.
A Kelpie is a water spirit that's meant to frequent the water courses of Scotland and Ireland. It appears as a horse at times but can shapeshift and sometimes adopts a human form. Poet Robert Burns believed the Kelpie to be connected in some way to Satan, but the common belief is that it's benevolent, possibly offering guidance to travelers. It's been depicted in countless classic pieces of literature and has even had statues erected in its honor.
The myth of the kelpie was originally born from the folklore of the time that warded children from the dangers of being too near deep water. It's a prime example of how such long-standing tradition can last for hundreds of years in the minds of parents and their children and their children. According to history-uk.com, “Falkirk in Scotland is home to The Kelpies, the largest equine sculpture in the world.”
Werewolves are a part of many works of fiction, even used as the basis for the characters in the Twilight saga. It's believed that the creature is a mere figment of the imagination; however, reports from recent witnesses have cast doubt on whether it's just a fictional character. In 1936, 1964, 1972, and 1989, several residents of the State of Wisconsin have reported werewolf sightings.
One of the most written about occurred in 1999 near the town of Elkhorn. A young woman was driving at night when her car ran over something on the road. The woman got out of the car to see what it was she had hit but found nothing. Within a matter of moments, she saw a large wolf-like creature with oddly shaped hind legs and a large human upper torso rushing towards her. She managed to get back into her car and drive off to report the sighting to authorities. Since then, several other sightings have heightened tension in the area.
Sources: exemplore.com, independent.co.uk, animalplanet.com