A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends – WIF Myths and Legends

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Ancient Places

of Legend

That May

Never Existed

History books tell us of ancient places with amazing architecture, and world wonders long past. Archaeological discovery has learned much about the world before us. The idea of many of these locations has inspired imaginations for many years. However, the truth is that history gets distorted over time both through constant re-telling and sometimes through historical records that were actually just fanciful stories written after the fact. Many of the most famous locations may not have existed at all. Many of those that did, were much different than most people usually imagine.

The Holy Bible is a source of stories that Believers will never dismiss as fiction.

10. The Legend of El Dorado Didn’t Start Out About a City

The City of El Dorado, also known as the City of Gold, was popularized in myth. Fairly recently, it was retold in a very shiny and colorful Disney movie. The myth claims that there was a city of gold, told of by the South American natives. Many explorers went searching for it in the hopes of finding amazing riches. However, the original legend was actually about a person, not a city. It morphed into a city that needed to be searched for, because many of the natives were happy to lead the explorers on a wild chase.

The original legend told of an ancient leader who was so rich, that every morning he would be doused in gold dust. Then every evening, he would bathe in sacred waters, washing the dust off again. This was an example of his absolutely ridiculous wealth. However, while the legend is based on this, it isn’t actually true either. Archaeologists have discovered that the original story began because of the Musica people who would perform a similar ritual when anointing a new king. But they certainly weren’t wasting that kind of gold every day. It was for very special occasions.

9. The City of Troy May Not Be At All Like People Think

The City of Troy has captured people’s imaginations ever since The Iliad and The Odyssey. More recently, there have been very visually stunning movies that have helped rekindle modern interest in the ancient city. Many people assume the city and the famous siege that took place may have been similar to how it was described in Homer’s work, or in the movies. But the issue of Troy is extremely complicated.

To begin with, much of Homer’s original work that would complete the two famous stories is missing, and may never be found. This makes it difficult to understand how much of his work was fact, and how much was fiction. Also, for some time historians weren’t sure the city of Troy existed at all. Now they have found an archaeological site that they believe may contain the city, but that has only made the problem even more complicated. The site has several layers built on top of each other, which means that even if Troy was once there, figuring out which layer was the Troy described in Homer’s epic would be incredibly difficult.

Archaeologists also have good reason to believe at this point that the siege described in Homer’s work actually took place over the course of many years. There also may have actually been more than one siege, of more than one Troy, over the course of history — all on the same spot. For this reason, trying to get a historically accurate picture of Troy may be next to impossible.

8. The Lost City of Atlantis Was Probably a Myth, Or Just a Regular Destroyed Island

The Lost City of Atlantis has been popularized in myth for millennia. The idea of a lost city of prosperous people, who perhaps had interesting knowledge or technology is a fascinating idea. Some myths even go so far as to suggest that the people of Atlantis somehow continued to survive underneath the ocean. Wilder myths even suggest they are responsible for the Bermuda triangle — bringing down anything that gets too close to the truth of their hidden existence.

However, in all likelihood if Atlantis did exist, it was just an ordinary island struck by natural disaster. The first references to such a place were in an allegory by Plato about the suddenness that something could disappear, and about the hubris of not being prepared for danger. Many people are convinced this is the truth, and that there was no Atlantis. But, people often write about what they know. There is evidence that a prosperous island fairly near Plato was swallowed up almost instantly by a volcano, so he could have been making a reference to that event. Either way, there was nothing particularly special about the city Plato was referencing.

7. The Fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon Were Probably Not That Advanced

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the wonders of the ancient world. They also probably never existed at all. Many people have an idea from artwork of a huge city of mostly sandstone, with beautiful terraced gardens throughout, despite being in the middle of the desert. It certainly captures the imagination, but the first references to such a place were not written until hundreds of years after the city of Babylon was gone, greatly calling into doubt their existence.

The site of Babylon was only recently found, and wasn’t exactly where archaeologists expected, either. It turns out it was closer to a neighboring city known as Nineveh. The people of Nineveh had taken over the Babylonian culture through war. But they liked to assimilate the enemies’ names into their own cities, making archaeological identification difficult at first.

Archaeologists have not yet been able to prove the existence of any kind of hanging gardens or super advanced irrigation system. But even if they had, it wouldn’t have been that impressive to begin with. It turns out that the actual site of Babylon is not particularly arid, and would be quite useable for growing vegetation.

6. The Bermuda Triangle Is A Modern Myth, Not An Ancient Danger For Mariners

The Bermuda Triangle is a place that will cause many people to short circuit the logic part of their brain. They’ll start talking about the silliest paranoid conspiracy theories imaginable. Nearly everyone knows a mysterious story or two about the area. While most people would agree it is a natural phenomenon, the average person is convinced that something is going on there.

However, the truth is that there is no such thing as the Bermuda Triangle in the first place. What we mean by this is that there is no map in the world that has ever considered that particular region to be anything special to avoid or not. The entire idea of the triangle was made up by folklore.

Statistics show that there are no more accidents or disappearances of boats and planes in the triangle than anywhere else in the ocean. In other words, you could draw a triangle anywhere in the ocean and you would be just as likely to find a similar set of mysterious disappearances. This is because weather can cause ships and boats to go under, and the ocean is incredibly vast. Any part of the ocean can be dangerous. But there’s no evidence that particular area is any more dangerous than any other.

5. The Garden Of Eden Was Probably Philosophical, Not Physical

The Garden of Eden is a subject that has caused some controversy for many years. Certain Christians are convinced that the Garden of Eden was once a physical location somewhere on the globe, and have done a lot of research to suggest various possible locations. Most of them are somewhere in the Middle East, fairly near the locations mentioned in the early days of the bible.

Interestingly though, the Jewish faith never believed in the Garden of Eden as a physical place to begin with, but as a state of being. When men were first created, in their view, they were in a state of perfect harmony. The sin of man broke that harmony and they were no longer in the Garden of Eden, but harshly viewing the world as it actually was — alone, in the desert to fend for themselves. Many Christian scholars have increasingly taken up a similar viewpoint over the years.

4. The Tower of Babel was Probably Just an Unfinished Building

The legend in the bible says that after the great flood, many people who spoke the same language came together and arrogantly forgot about God. They planned to build a tower to reach the heavens. Partway through their building, God struck them with confusion. Now, they had many languages, and they scattered across the globe. Some people dismiss the entire thing as just a story, and some people have looked for archaeological evidence. The truth is a little more complicated.

There is no evidence to support the biblical story itself. However, there is evidence of a great Ziggurat that could fit the description of the tower that existed in the Babylonian Empire while the Hebrews were their slaves. The Ziggurat was unfinished during that time. Despite being quite grand, multiple attempts had been made to finish it. Some historians believe that the Jewish writers of the time, looking for allegories to teach important lessons, were inspired by the unfinished Ziggurat nearby.

3. Ponce De Leon was Probably Never Actually Searching for a Fountain Of Youth

We already know there was no actual fountain of youth. The idea of a magical fountain that could restore the vitality to anyone who bathed in it is quite ridiculous. However, while no one today really believes the story, some assume that the people of a few hundred years ago would have been stupid enough to believe it.

The legends claim that Ponce De Leon wasted years of his time in Florida searching for this mythical fountain. A fountain, it turned out, that was a trick allegedly played on him by the natives. However, there is no evidence in his writings he was searching for any such thing. The only source for his alleged search was a fanciful account written by a suspect source, trying to gain political favor with his views. It is more than likely the entire legend was a complete fabrication from beginning to end.

2. Jericho Was Probably Just Built on a Fault Line

Many people have heard the story of the fabled Wall of Jericho. Jericho was an ancient city in biblical days, held under siege. God was to help bring down the city, but needed the help of His chosen. The army was to blow their trumpets and march around the city continuously, and He would bring the city walls down for them. After several days, the walls came down, and the people of God were victorious.

Now, while the city of Jericho was real, many historians believe this story was far stranger than many people first realized. The city was actually in an area that would have been prone to earthquake activity. With armies using up nearby waters during a siege, it could increase the risk. Some historians would say that the army got lucky. Or, that someone knew the earthquake activity in the area and hoped to use it to their advantage. Believers would suggest that perhaps God chose that moment to activate an earthquake along that particular fault-line. No one will ever know.

1. Roswell is Really Just Home to an Old, Unused Air Force Base

We know the military presence at Roswell was hardly anything ancient. But with the belief many people have in ancient aliens, and their connection to Area 51 and the US government, it brings the entire thing full circle. Now, we aren’t saying that the town of Roswell, New Mexico doesn’t exist. But we are saying that there is a lot of confusion over what exactly Roswell is. Most people know that it’s the town where there was an alleged crash of a UFO. The Air Force would later claim it was just a weather balloon. Over time, most secret government projects have been associated with Area 51. Somehow the two places — Roswell and Area 51 — have often become conflated in the popular mindset.

While there was an Air Force Base located at Roswell, it has not been functioning for many years now. And it was never used for highly secret projects. In fact, Walker Air Force Base was a fairly generic and unimportant military post. When budget cuts came near the end of Vietnam, it was one of the first bases to close up shop. There’s a museum celebrating the legacy of the base, but what is left now serves commercial purposes. And no, there are no aliens there.


A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends

WIF Myth and Legend

Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random – Historical Coincidences

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Bizarre

Historical

Coincidences

Given how many humans have existed in the world and how many events and incidents, both big and small, happen every day, history is littered with examples of strange coincidences. But the ones we will be looking at today are so unusual that they strain credulity and, should they have come from the pages of a book, they would have been deemed contrived or unbelievable.

10. Poe’s Tale of Cannibalism

At one point, the ship wrecks during a storm and only four men survive and are washed ashore. With no food whatsoever, after a few days they resort to the most drastic solution – cannibalism. They draw straws and the unlucky one is a young man named Richard Parker who is killed and eaten.

At first, this would seem like a straightforward, albeit grisly story. But then we move forward 46 years and something strange happens. In 1884, a yacht called the Mignonette left England headed for Sydney, Australia. Carrying four men, it also shipwrecked and left the seafarers stranded with no food. As a last resort, they also cannibalized one of their own – a 17-year-old named Richard Parker. The only main difference was that the survivors saw no need to draw straws as the real-life Parker had fallen ill after drinking seawater and was considered a goner.

Eerie coincidences aside, the case that followed after the remaining men were rescued and arrested for murder represented a landmark ruling in English law. It stated that necessity does not excuse murder, meaning you cannot kill someone else to save your own life.

9. Where the War Began and Ended

On July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run marked the first major engagement in the American Civil War. Of course, the war was horrible for many people, but it was a particularly strange inconvenience for one wholesale grocer named Wilmer McLean. He lived on a plantation near Manassas, Virginia, and the Bull Run River passed right through his land. In fact, most of the battle took place on his property and the Confederate leader, General P.G.T. Beauregard even commandeered McLean’s house to use as his headquarters.

Obviously, McLean and his family couldn’t live in the middle of a war so they relocated. A few years later, they were residing in a house near a village called Appomattox Court House. As it happens, that is where the last battle of the Civil War took place. Afterwards, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to Union leader Ulysses S. Grant. And he did it in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s new home.

The McLeans later moved back to their previous estate and simply abandoned the house in Appomattox County. They also defaulted on the loans they took out to buy it so “Surrender House”, as it came to be known, was confiscated and sold at auction. Today, it operates as a museum and it is a designated National Historical Monument.

As for Wilmer McLean, he liked to say that the Civil War “began in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.”

8. The Curse of Tecumseh

Ever since 1840, American presidents have died according to a pattern which is remarkable enough that people have ascribed it to a curse. Every president who is elected in a year ending in 0 (something which happens every two decades) is fated to die in office.

First was William Henry Harrison. Elected in 1840, he died of pneumonia a month after being sworn in. Then, in 1860 came Abraham Lincoln, and we all know how that ended. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president and he was also assassinated by a man named Charles Guiteau.

William McKinley might have escaped this alleged curse if he stuck at just one term. Alas, in 1900 he was elected president to his second term, and a year later, he was shot and killed by an anarchist. Next up was Warren G. Harding, who suffered a stroke three years after being elected in 1920. Afterwards came Franklin Roosevelt who passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945. While he did die in office, he didn’t actually die during the term which allegedly sealed his fate. And last, but not least, there was JFK, who won the 1960 election and whose assassination is all too well-known.

As you can see, seven presidents followed this extraordinary pattern. Many see it for what it probably is – a series of incredible coincidences, but others claim it is a curse placed originally on William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee people, for the former’s role in Tecumseh’s Rebellion.

Ronald Reagan would have been next in line. He was elected in 1980 and, although someone did try to kill him, he survived his injuries and died of old age decades after he left office. Even if the curse was real, it appears that he broke it.

7. The Church Explosion

At 7:25 p.m., March 1, 1950, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, exploded due to a natural gas leak ignited by the fire from the furnace. It was a Wednesday and every Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. sharp, the church choir gathered there to practice. People were expecting the worst as they approached the smoking rubble, but it soon became apparent that nobody had been injured in the blast. Even though the choir director was very strict about tardiness, on this particular night, none of the 15 choir members arrived on time.

It wasn’t one single thing that caused the delays, either, but rather a series of minor occurrences that detained each person enough to evade the deadly blast. The reverend and his family, for example, were late because his wife had to iron a dress at the last moment. Two sisters both had car trouble. Two high school girls wanted to finish listening to a radio program, while another student was struggling with her geometry homework. The pianist fell asleep after dinner. A man was late because he wanted to finish writing a letter he kept putting off, while one woman was simply feeling lazy because it was cold outside and her home was warm and cozy.

And so went all the other excuses. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the circumstances, some people considered it divine intervention.

6. Right Place, Right Time

Joseph Figlock became a hero of Detroit due to a bizarre series of events that happened over the course of a year. One morning in 1937, Figlock was at his job as a street sweeper when he was struck by something that landed on his head and shoulders. That “something” was a baby girl who fell out a four-story window. Because Figlock broke her fall, the infant survived her drop that, otherwise, would have almost surely been fatal.

A year later, the street sweeper was back at his job when he was, again, hit by a falling object. And you guessed it – it was another baby. This time, it was 2-year-old David Thomas who also fell out of his window on the fourth floor. This baby did sustain some injuries but, once more, had escaped certain doom thanks to Joseph Figlock being in the right place, at the right time.

5. Miss Unsinkable

Violet Jessop was born in Argentina to Irish immigrants in 1887. When she turned 21, she found work as a ship stewardess and, in 1911, secured a position aboard the RMS Olympic, the first of the Olympic-class ocean liners built by the White Star Line at the start of the century.

At the time, these were the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. Jessop was probably thrilled with her new job but, pretty soon, she might have reconsidered her fortunes. In September 1911, Jessop was onboard the Olympic when it collided with a warship called the HMS Hawke. The collision wasn’t too bad and the ocean liner managed to make it to port without any fatalities.

This incident didn’t deter Jessop from continuing her career as a stewardess. Although she was content aboard the Olympic, her friends persuaded her that it would make for a much more exciting experience to work aboard the White Star Line’s new ocean liner. After all, this vessel was proclaimed to be “unsinkable” and its name was the Titanic.

You already know how this went down – just four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Jessop survived the ordeal as she was lowered down into lifeboat 16 which was later picked up by the RMS Carpathia. She later recalled that, as the boat was being lowered, an officer put a baby in her lap. Later, aboard the Carpathia, a woman leaped at her, snatched the baby and ran. Jessop always assumed that was the mother, but she never saw either one of them again.

Then World War II started and Jessop served as a nurse for the British Red Cross. She worked aboard the Britannic, which was the third and last of the Olympic-class ocean liners and had been repurposed into a hospital ship. In 1916, the vessel suffered damage from a mine explosion and sank in the Aegean Sea. For the third time in five years, Violet Jessop had survived a shipwreck, retroactively earning her the nickname “Miss Unsinkable.”

4. The Opposing Graves

Just outside the Belgian town of Mons sits the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery which serves as the final resting place for over 500 soldiers who died in the First World War.

Many of these men perished in the Battle of Mons which took place on August 23, 1914, and is considered to be the first major action of the British army in the war. One of these men, however, died a little earlier. John Parr was a private who was born in London and lied about his age so he could enlist. He served as a reconnaissance cyclist and scouted the area ahead of his battalion. However, he was gunned down by enemy fire and died on August 21, at only 17 years of age. He is generally considered to be the first British serviceman killed in action during the First World War.

His grave is at St. Symphorien and opposite of it, just a few yards away, is the grave of Private George Ellison. He died years later on November 11, 1918. This date is significant because it is, in fact, the day that Germany and the Allies signed an armistice, bringing an end to the war. George Ellison was killed just 90 minutes before peace was declared, thus giving him the unfortunate distinction of being the last British soldier killed in the war.

These two graves face each other, although this was done completely unintentionally as nobody was aware of their “first” and “last” positions when they were buried.

3. Death at Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam was one of the greatest, most ambitious engineering projects of its day, but it came with a heavy price as a lot of people died during construction.

Exactly how many is a matter of debate. Officially, the death toll was 96, but historians argue that the real number would be much higher because the official version didn’t take into account workers who died off-site of construction-related injuries or illnesses. An inquiry by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased the number to 213 deaths between 1921 and 1935.

The first fatality was a surveyor named John Gregory Tierney who drowned in the Colorado River on December 20, 1921, after he got caught in a flash flood. Technically, another worker named Harold Connelly died first, but his demise was completely unconnected with the project as he drowned in the river when he went swimming.

Here is the truly tragic part – the last fatality registered during construction of the Hoover Dam occurred on December 20, 1935, exactly 14 years to the day after Tierney drowned, when a 25-year-old electrician’s helper plummeted 320 feet from one of the intake towers. That man was Patrick Tierney, the surveyor’s son.

2. The King and His Double

Some say that we all have a doppelganger somewhere in the world, a person who isn’t related to us in any way but they look just like us. King Umberto I of Italy found his doppelganger in 1900 when he went to eat at a little restaurant in Monza. He discovered that the proprietor looked almost exactly like him but, more than that, they had been born on the same day.

At this point, you would think this was more a case of twins separated at birth, but the coincidences did not stop there. Both men had married women named Margherita and had sons named Vittorio. Moreover, the restaurant owner had opened his establishment the day of King Umberto’s coronation.

Shocked to his core by these revelations, the king invited his doppelganger or long-lost twin to an event taking place the next day. Sadly, neither one made it. The next morning, the restaurateur was killed under unexplained conditions. Just hours later, when King Umberto found out about his demise, he was assassinated by an anarchist named Gaetano Bresci.

1. The Writer and the Comet

The life of American writer Mark Twain has been inexorably linked to the passing of Halley’s Comet from beginning to end.

This famous comet visits us every 75 to 76 years. It will next be visible in 2061, but a noteworthy appearance happened in November 1835. Just two weeks after its perihelion (meaning the point of its orbit which is closest to the Sun), Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. He would go on to adopt the pen name Mark Twain and become America’s most celebrated author.

Throughout his life, Twain took a keen interest in science and he was well-aware of his connection to Halley’s Comet. In the early 20th century, the writer was getting on in years and knew that the end was near. However, he also knew that the comet was due to pass by Earth again soon, and he was convinced that he would not die before that happened. As he put it: “Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

He could not have been more right. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, just one day after Halley’s Comet reached its perihelion.


Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random

Historical Coincidences

Not Your Cleveland Indians – WIF Into History

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Misconceptions About

Native Tribes of

North America

Whether or not you think it’s disrespectful to have Native American terms attached to sports teams or not, television, specifically Westerns may have unintentionally provided us with more than a few misconceptions.

Never mind that the cowboys, gunfighters and saloon girls were mostly figments of fertile imaginations.

North Americans tend to generalize when considering the native tribes that once populated the continent. An idea that they all lived in small villages, in tents of animal skins or small wooden lean-to’s predominates. It is an image presented by Hollywood, television, and the western novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. The image is inaccurate in most cases. The Native American tribes were of several nations, diverse cultures, and their impact on modern life remains immeasurable.

They changed the way the world ate, and still eats. They were the first society to cultivate corn, potatoes, and the southwestern Native Americans and those of Mexico gave the world chocolate. Though some lived in primitive conditions, others developed large and complex societies, with class systems and forms of government which rivaled those of contemporaneous Europe. Here are 10 misconceptions about the native tribes of North America, and some insights into tribal life when the Europeans first came to the New World.

10. They were primitive tribes of hunter-gatherers

The ancient city of Cahokia alone belies the idea that North American natives were primitive tribes, living in tents of animal skins, or simple wooden huts. Archaeological studies prove Cahokia was a thriving city covering more than six square miles of Illinois land across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. More than 100,000 people lived there four centuries before the coming of Christopher Columbus. Houses were placed in a manner similar to modern American cities, with open public spaces and parks, in a grid marked by wide streets. Evidence of water distribution systems exists in the ruins of the ancient city, which was abandoned around the beginning of the 13th century, for reasons as yet unknown.

The Algonquian tribes of North America built large towns, with multi-storied dwellings in many cases, surrounded by fields of crops and orchards. Game and fish provided a significant portion of their diet, and roving bands from within their own tribe and others often competed for food, and raided the villages of other peoples. The majority of North American natives spent their lives near the place of their birth, unless war or natural disasters forced them to move to more promising areas. There were tribes of nomadic peoples, such as the Apache in the southwestern states and the Plains Indians, but the majority of native tribes occupied lands for centuries, and defended them against their enemies.

9. They had no concept of land ownership

The often cited idea that American Indians had no concept of land ownership and property rights is completely devoid of fact. They did. Native Americans claimed ownership of vast tracts of land, on which they lived, hunted, and farmed. They claimed territorial rights based on conquest, purchase, exchange, and inheritance. They bought and sold land, to each other and to arriving European settlers. Often, in dealing with the latter, they sold property rights to lands which were claimed by other tribes, essentially swindling the Europeans. The mythical sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets was one such instance. The natives (Canarsees) that sold the island to Peter Minuit, for sixty Dutch guilders (about $1,000), conveyed land which was not theirs to begin with. The Weckquaesgeeks tribe controlled the island.

Later, the Cherokee sold the rights to live in the Transylvania region of then-Virginia, now Kentucky, in the Sycamore Shoals treaty. The Cherokee sold lands which were not strictly theirs, it being shared by mutual agreement as hunting grounds with the Shawnee and Wyandot. The Cherokee nation splintered following the treaty, with numerous bands of warriors attacking the ensuing white settlements in the Blue Grass region. Similar events with the Shawnee and allied tribes, such as the Mingo and Miami, occurred in the regions which became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. American history is replete with incidents in which native American tribes sold or traded lands in agreements which tribal elements refused to accept, and started wars with the settlers who occupied the lands.

8. The European and later American settlers broke every treaty made with them

The idea of the white settlers scamming the Native Americans, treating with them under false pretenses and violating every treaty made with them out of greed gained precedence in the 1950s and 1960s. The acceptance of the concept coincided with the civil rights movement in the United States. Both sides broke treaties, just as both sides committed atrocities on the other. For example, in 1757 the British garrison at Fort William Henry in New York surrendered to a French and Indian force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Montcalm promised the British and American troops, and several of their families, safe passage. His Indian allies ignored the agreement, and massacred men, women, and children.

Pontiac’s Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Northwest Indian War, and the Black Hawk War, all began with native violations of treaties negotiated and agreed to by tribal elders. Conversely, the Great Sioux War and other conflicts with the western tribes began following encroachments of American settlers on Indian lands in violation of treaties. The history of negotiations and treaties with the American Indian tribes contains incidents of false dealings, misrepresentations, and out and out falsehoods by Indians and whites, going back to the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by the Europeans.

7. They lived in humble dwellings of earth, wood, and animal skins

Well, some tribes did live in such abodes. The tepees, wooden huts, and igloos of Hollywood and history were real. Not all Native Americans lived in crude structures, however, and some resided in dwellings of considerable sophistication. When General John Sullivan commanded the punitive expedition against the Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga in 1779, his troops were surprised at the native villages they encountered. They observed well-built homes of stone and wood, many with multiple stories and windows  with real glass. More the forty such villages and large towns were destroyed by the troops during the campaign, breaking the back of the longstanding Iroquois Confederacy.

Elsewhere, American Indians built elaborate homes with an eye towards their architecture. Tribes of the American southwest built roomed homes of mud and adobe. The Navajo constructed permanent homes known as hogans, with wooden frameworks forming a dome, covered with mud and stone. In the southern plains, houses covered with grass protected the inhabitants from the elements. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the Pacific northwest, Native Americans used cedar planks lashed to wooden frames to erect houses and to serve as drying sheds for the fish they harvested from the region’s streams and the water of the Pacific.

6. They were a largely egalitarian society

Class status among the vast majority of American Indian tribes followed family lines, with some tribes based on matrilineal societies and others patrilineal. For nearly all, status was conferred based on the degree of relationship with tribal leaders. Among the Cherokee, for example, women owned the property belonging to the family. Women brought their husbands into the family, often into the family home. The descent of tribal chiefs in matrilineal clans, and thus control over tribal affairs, was through the mother. Men marrying into the family in matrilineal tribes had no standing within the clan, not even as fathers raising their children. The mother’s brothers, or sons, assumed the role of raising their nieces’ or sisters’ children.

Among the northern plains tribes, particularly the Lakota and Dakota, the longstanding myth of women serving as humble squaws, subservient to their husbands, is false. Lakota women and girls were trained in the arts of hunting and war, and frequently fought enemies in defense of the home, though they seldom joined raiding parties. Their standing within the community depended on their abilities to serve the tribe, as did that of the men. In matrilineal tribes the male leader, known as the chief, remained in practice subservient to his mother, by tradition and by unwritten law.

5. The Southwestern tribes roamed the deserts and mountains

Some did, particularly after the horse was introduced to the continent when the Spaniards arrived. The Apache and Comanche in particular adapted to the horse for both hunting and raiding enemies. Centuries before that event, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples resided in the area now known as the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they cultivated corn, in the form of maize, to supplement their diet of game. They built irrigation systems to support their crops which included waters routed from the Rio Grande, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Their irrigation systems allowed the planting of beans and squash to supplement their crops of corn.

The Apache and Navajo roamed the region, hunting the area to exhaustion over the centuries, and leaving to pursue the game. The Ancestral Pueblos endured several extended droughts, followed by flooding which destroyed much of their farmlands and irrigation systems. By the time the Spanish arrived, most of them were gone from the region, having fled the area and the Apache and Navajo raiders. The Spaniards encountered their relatively few descendants, still living in the multi-story dwelling complexes which the Europeans called pueblos, or villages. Most were located along the rivers which had once fed the complex system of canals and dams watering their crops.

4. The New World was sparsely settled at the time of Columbus

When the first Europeans arrived at what they soon called the New World, they encountered spaces like nothing ever seen before. Vast virgin forests stretched to nearly the water’s edge in some areas. Others found open plains and what they believed, and reported, as small populations of natives. In Meso-america the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered the cities of the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. In North America the early European arrivals reported the Indians living in relatively small villages and towns. With no idea of the size and diversity of the North American continent, rulers and scholars in Europe believed the New World sparsely populated by uncivilized peoples, as wild as the game which teemed in the woods.

In truth, between 60 and 70 million natives lived on the North American continent, from the Arctic Circle to its southernmost extremity. Numerous cultures emerged on the continent before the European arrival, including the mound builders, the Confederation of the Iroquois, the Hopi and Pueblo, and the Inuit in the north. The various Indian nations and clans were connected by a complex system of trails through the eastern woods and on the plains, cut by migrating buffalo. Elaborate diplomatic relationships developed, with alliances and agreements over the use of hunting grounds, water rights, and tribal property. Trade between tribes, such as furs and game for crops and weapons, was in place. The Europeans understood none of it, nor the extent of the population in North America which exceeded that of the continent from whence they came.

3. The North American natives did not engage in warfare with each other

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, a myth over inter-tribal warfare among the American tribes gained acceptance. The myth essentially blames the Europeans for introducing warfare to North America. Its proponents claim the native tribes did not make war on each other, other than in demonstrations of courage by touching an enemy with a coup stick. The claim is utter nonsense, archaeological evidence and the various tribes’ own folklore describe centuries of warfare between tribes across the entire continent. Cannibalism among the North American tribes was ritualized, eating the flesh of enemy warriors killed in battle, or tortured as prisoners, was recorded contemporaneously by witnesses.

The western plains saw numerous wars between the various tribes competing for the resources offered by the land. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo, their chief source of meat, furs, and tools manufactured from the bones. In the eastern woodlands, European explorers found many of the tribes living in villages and towns protected by palisades, and extensive alarm systems in place to warn of an impending encroachment. The completely peaceful, idyllic existence described by some required neither. Warfare between tribes did not end with a united attempt to wipe out the arriving Europeans, instead many tribes allied themselves with the new arrivals, happy to have their superior weapons available for use against ancient enemies.

2. Their religions were based on a Great Spirit

Hollywood created the myth of all Indians worshiping a “Great Spirit,” though they had other gods and spiritual entities as well. The North American Indians had as many religious systems as tribes, and differing ways of worshiping. Some, such as the Pueblo, worshiped the crops as they grew in the fields. Some tribes believed spirits controlled the weather and developed rituals to appease them. Nearly all worshiped the sun in some form or another, as well as the moon and other celestial bodies. Omens, revealed through trances achieved by various means, bore great spiritual significance, and affected the direction of personal and tribal affairs.

The Iroquois did believe in a Great Spirit, the creator of all things, including the spirit which flowed through all things. The Mohawk, like many eastern tribes, believed in all existence imbued with spirit. Nearly all the North American Indians held similar beliefs, creating religions based on animism – the idea that all things possess life in some form, and hence are animated. The belief extended to rocks, water, the weather, animals, birds, trees, and even sounds. The spirits in control could be either evil or good, with existence a continuous struggle between the extremes. Many eastern tribes believed the smoke from tobacco carried messages to the spirits, and smoking was a major part of religious ceremonies.

1. They grew only simple crops to supplement their diets of meat and fish

Native American tribes are connected to maize, a type of corn which they grew so extensively it came to be known as Indian corn. They also grew beans of several types, gourds to serve as utensils, pumpkins for food, and other forms of squash. Along the eastern seaboard Indians husbanded tobacco crops from Florida to the Connecticut Valley. Through time, myths emerged about the Indians which led to the belief they sustained themselves with game and fish, supplemented by just a few berries and nuts harvested from the forests. Not so. Many Indian villages had extensive farms, with the crops grown communally.

As with all farmers, crops grown depended on the local climate and soil conditions. The Spanish in the south were astonished to see Indians eating freely of tomatoes, at the time believed in Europe to be poisonous. In the southwest, progressive farming techniques such as terracing and crop rotation were applied by Indian farmers. Indian crops included potatoes and sweet potatoes, several types of peppers, peanuts, avocados, sunflowers, and wild rice. Most Indian villages had communal storehouses to store crops for the winter months. Orchards cultivated by Indians provided cherries, apples, and crab-apples. They also resorted freely to native plants for greens, including dandelion and chicory.


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The Road to Nowhere – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Ancient Places

That Might Have

Actually Existed

Myth and legend are full of wondrous places that capture the imagination and have inspired generations of adventurers to explore the world in search of their treasures. Often they come up empty-handed, but every once in a while there seems to be a sliver of truth to the tales of these mythical places. Let’s take a look at 10 that may have been based in some degree of reality.

Let us take you away…

10. Atlantis

The story of Atlantis can be traced to the Greek philosopher Plato. He spoke of the fabled land back in 360 BC. In Plato’s telling, Atlantis was a land of rich and powerful people who were technologically advanced. It was not a complimentary tale though, and his stories about it were meant to illustrate that their knowledge and might had corrupted them as a people.

For most of history these tales were regarded as allegorical, used by Plato to illustrate a point. There are no other writings of the time that ever mention anything like Atlantis, so it was generally considered just to be something he made up to be illustrative. Not everyone believes that was the case though.

In more recent years, the belief that Atlantis may have been based on Minoan society has achieved some notoriety. The Minoan kingdom, ruled by King Minos, was said to be remarkably wealthy and advanced and had spread across much of Ancient Greece.

Minoans had paved roads and were believed to have been the first Greek society to use a written language. And then one day they vanished. It’s believed that sometime around 1600 BC a massive earthquake set off the volcanoes on the Minoan island known as Thera, burying it and destroying the culture forever.

9. Norumbega

Norumbega was said to be a legendary land of riches, named for an Algonquin word for the area, discovered by the Vikings well before North America was settled by Europeans. It showed up on maps in the 1500s and was situated around modern-day New England.

Archaeological evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Vikings ever settled anywhere that far south, and there’s only one confirmed Viking settlement in North America that exists in Newfoundland. That doesn’t mean there weren’t others though, and there is some evidence to suggest that perhaps Vikings did in fact settle farther north in places.

So what about Norumbega? The people of Boston commissioned a statue of Leif Erikson in the 1870s, in honor of his discovery of this legendary land.

In Viking tales, North America was called Vinland, or at least that’s what some people believe. Other historians who have analyzed the often contradictory data presented in Viking sagas have determined that Vinland couldn’t be where the Vikings landed in Newfoundland because of the lack of certain features like salmon and grapes. It’s believed that those things were found farther south around Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps as far down as Boston, which would have lent itself to the Norumbega myth.

8. Shangri-La

The legendary city of Shangri-La traces its origins to the works of British author James Hilton. He wrote of the city in his 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” According to Hilton, Shangri-La was essentially an earthly paradise hidden within the Kunlun Mountains. While many have dismissed the story as pure fantasy created by Hilton, others believe that there’s some truth to them. Especially because Tibetan myths hold that there were several such cities hidden within the mountains.

In 1998, explorers trekking through the area discovered an area that they believe may have actually inspired the Shangri-La story. To the best of their knowledge, no Western humans had ever set foot in this place. Called “The Hidden Falls of the Tsangpo,” this valley of lush greenery was hidden even from satellite imagery in the mountains.

7. El Dorado

The legendary city/kingdom/empire of El Dorado is arguably one of the most interesting in all of mythology. Conquistadors searched throughout South America to find this place, which was apparently a vast city made of solid gold. While some legendary places were based entirely in fiction, and other places like Xanadu turned out to actually be real, the truth about El Dorado is a complete sidestep from either of these things.

Perhaps the results of the same phenomena that happens during the telephone game, when you tell a story to one person and they tell it to another, and they tell it to another, and the details get muddled, the truth of El Dorado also changed over time.

The idea that El Dorado was a golden kingdom came from something a little less vast, but still pretty impressive. El Dorado was no kingdom, but a king. Archaeological evidence shows that El Dorado was a person who was, for all intents and purposes, golden. This Chieftain would be covered from head to toe in gold and every day would bathe in a sacred lake to wash the gold off before applying it again the next day.

Unlike most other legends, this makes El Dorado curiously true and false at the same time, sort of like Schrodinger’s cat: neither outcome was expected, but not entirely false either.

6. Camelot

The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a pretty fantastic one, especially when you consider it involves pulling a magical sword from a stone, and a wizard. These things are generally not found in real life history. Despite that, there’s some evidence that Arthur’s stomping grounds, better known as Camelot, was an actual real place at some point in time even if Arthur was never a real man, or perhaps a gestalt of several kings.

Retired British Professor Peter Field believed he stumbled upon the actual location of Camelot while doing some research. Based on his findings, he came to the conclusion that Camelot was a Roman fort at Slack, to the west of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.

The Roman fort, called Camulodunum, was strategically placed but currently exists underneath a golf course, so any excavation is probably going to have to wait a few years.

5. Hy-Brasil

Said to be located off the coast of Ireland, the island of Brasil, sometimes called Hy-Brasil so as to not confuse it with the South American country, is supposedly hidden except for one day every seven years. You don’t need to have a degree in geography to know that’s not a realistic feature of most islands, which is why it’s generally considered to be purely fictitious.

Despite the mysterious nature of the island, there have been accounts of people discovering similar places over the years. The island appeared on maps as early as the year 1325 and continued to appear on maps all the way up to the year 1800.

Several explorers and sailors claimed to have either seen, or even visited the island, though most who went in search of it came back empty-handed. It’s been theorized that the Porcupine Bank might be the actual source of the story — a raised shoal in the general vicinity where Hy-Brasil was said to exist.

4. Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Constructed in the 6th century BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II, the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon were supposed to be quite the sight to behold. Cascading gardens that reached 75 feet in height and featured flowers, herbs and all manner of exotic plant life to such an extravagant degree they became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And as far as anyone knew in modern times, they had never existed at all.

In order for such a garden to have existed, an impressive irrigation system had to have been constructed to bring enough water into the desert for all the plants to thrive. No evidence in modern times has ever been found to indicate such a massive undertaking ever existed around Babylon. It doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t exist though.

According to research by Dr. Stephanie Dalley, the reason we never found any evidence of the Hanging Gardens in Babylon was that they were never in Babylon in the first place. She believes she discovered evidence of their existence and the ancient city of Nineveh, part of the Assyrian Empire.

Dalley’s research shows Assyrian King Sennacherib was responsible for an extravagant garden about a century before the supposed Babylonian version. His writings describe such a thing, including irrigation technology thought to not exist until four centuries later.

3. Zerzura

West of the Nile, somewhere in the desert in Egypt or Libya, was said to be the legendary oasis of Zerzura. Written accounts of it can be traced back to the 13th century, mentioning a city that was as white as a dove. It was said that it is ruled by a sleeping king and queen; it was guarded by black giants, and it was full of treasures.

Numerous European explorers set out to discover the location of Zerzura in more modern times, some as late as the 1930s. It was in 1932 when Hungarian Explorer Laszlo Almasy led an expedition through the desert and discovered a series of wadis. Though there was no shining white city with a sleeping king, the truth was that they did discover some oases in the desert that had been clearly visited by the local Tebu nomads who had built huts around the area.

It’s worth noting that in the recounting of Almasy’s tale, he started his day of discovery by dusting the desert sand off of his plane. Had there been something in that area in the past it’s just as likely that the desert had swallowed it and only the vegetation remained. Regardless of whether there was a real city or not, the oasis does seem to exist and it’s possible something else may have once been there as well.

2. Thule

In ancient Greek and Roman writings, the farthest north you could get was a land called Thule. It was in the 4th century BC when Greek explorer Pytheas came to Athens with stories of this land where the sun never set and the land and ocean came together in a sort of jelly-like substance. So that was weird.

In later years some people came to believe that perhaps what Pytheas was describing was Iceland or even Greenland, but the details didn’t always line up. In time people came to believe that perhaps Pytheas had just made up the entire story. The only problem was he had been consistently reliable with what he had written about in the past. And the fact remains that his description of the Arctic summer was accurate. When you go far enough north, you will reach places where the sun stays up for days at a time. It would be a remarkable thing for him to have just guessed that.

Pytheas claims to have discovered the land six days across the sea from the Orkney islands. The people there were said to be fair skinned and with light hair, and barbarians by his description. In later years the Nazis would latch onto this story and mount their own expedition to find Thule, believing it to be the birthplace of the Aryan race.

Obviously the Nazis never found this mythical land of Aryan supremacy, but there were enough details of a land that clearly existed somewhere in the Arctic to confirm that wherever Pytheas had gone, it was likely a real place.

1. Sodom and Gomorrah

In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God told Abraham that the two cities were going to be destroyed because of how wicked the inhabitants were. Abraham’s nephew Lot lived in one of those towns and Abraham didn’t really want to see him destroyed. Only Lot and his family were worthy enough to live, so they were told they could flee just as long as they didn’t look back. But as they left, Lot’s wife took a peek and was turned into a pillar of salt. As for everyone else in town? Nothing remained.

You’d think the historical evidence for two cities destroyed by God himself would be pretty thin. But there is a belief that the two cities did exist and the ruins are currently near a former peninsula of the Dead Sea in Israel. As for God’s wrath, it took the form of an earthquake that was believed to hit the region around 1900 BCE, and naturally occurring petroleum and other gases in the area may have actually exploded and rained fire at the time.


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Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi – WIF Myths & Legends

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Universal Myths

That Persist

We all have the inner yearning that calls for answers on our basic questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going, and what is our purpose? In most cases, myths are obviously metaphoric and completely inconceivable. Others can be found in various societies that are completely remote from one another, where the similarities in the accounts are so distinct that they suggest a common historical basis. The following myths all led to controversial hypotheses and theories, adding mystery and wonder to our united consciousness.

10. Time

In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher claimed the world began in 4004 BC and that it would exist for 6,000 years until the final battle with the Antichrist – leading to the 1,000-year rule of the saints and then, finally, the end. Nostradamus used this chronology and claimed the year 1999 would be the beginning of the end times.

In mythic tradition, time is more irregular, intricate, and recurring. The Mayans thought the time had a seasonal or cyclic rhythm, and the Celts believed it ran at different rates in different realms. This mythic understanding of time is backed up by modern cosmology. The English astronomer Fred Hoyle, however, claims the idea of time as an ever-rolling stream is “a grotesque and absurd illusion,” stating that everything was, will be, and has always been. According to him, the sense of past, present, and future is all an illusion.

9. Astrology

The night sky is a portrait painted by myths. We all know our “star signs” – which consists of 12 constellations of the zodiac. Few know that the 12 symbols, or signs, that we love to plan our futures on are only part of the 88 identified constellations.

The oldest astronomy/astrology (in those days it was the same thing) records to survive are those of the Chaldeans, who nightly observed the sky looking for omens and clues to their fate, more than 2,000 years before the Romans. Modern dismissals of the role these constellations play on our futures have not ended the mythic identification with the celestial bodies and probably never will.

8. Curses

What we know from the myths and legends today are that curses are either cast on humanity by the gods or by lesser, human priests and witch-doctors, or by one wronged person onto another. Either way, intentional harm or death is intended. The most famous curse is found in the Bible when the serpent is cursed for tempting Eve, followed by the cursing of Adam and Eve, leading to the doctrines of the fall of man.

In most Eastern beliefs, however, the curse is our inability to see through illusion. Today it is said that a curse only works if the victim believes in it. The Hamitic hypothesis claims that Ham (along with his son Canaan), son of Noah, was cursed after exposing his drunken father to his brothers. According to the hypothesis they were “marked” by the shade of their skin, becoming the forefathers of the black race – the curse accounts for all the suffering the black race has endured through the ages.

7. Supernatural Beings

The belief in supernatural beings is ancient. Where demons want to cause us injury, angels offer protection, direction, and religious insight. The names of the great archangels are known to Muslims and Christians alike. People have seen shining winged human beings everywhere in the world. At Fatima, Portugal in 1917, shepherd children met a beautiful young woman who claimed to be from Heaven. Subsequent visions led to a crowd of 70,000, witnessing the sun descend to earth. Today the event is commonly known as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

At this event and others that were similar, mass healings followed. Scientists have ascribed the events to mass hysteria, but another more controversial theory claims that these events (as well as the ones in ancient times) were all actually close encounters with aliens, or UFOs. Whatever the environment or circumstances, the visitation of winged messengers persists.

6. Dying Gods

Examples of gods who die and then return to life are most frequently derived from Ancient Near East religions, and practices inspired by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity by extension. The archetype’s characteristics are that their birth is announced by a star, as children they teach their teachers, they predict their death, and after their death they return.

The Middle Eastern dying gods are normally searched for and resurrected or restored by their wives or sister. It has been hypothesized that religion fills a void, and that we created it to help us feel more secure and safe in a world that seemingly delivers more questions than answers.

5. The Flood Stories

Renditions of the myth of a worldwide flood, or deluge, are found the world over. Typically they agree that the entire world was inundated, that the event (though foreseen) was sudden, and that the few survivors built arks, rafts or other vessels having been warned by God (or the gods). The best known account is the biblical story of Noah.

The corresponding themes are global – arks and rafts are mostly built on high ground, and sin caused the flood. Just as odd is the wide agreement about the details (such as the size of the raindrops and hailstones, as well as the heat of the deluge). From Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology to Pralaya in Hinduism and Belgermir in Northern mythology, today it is widely believed that the global Flood was not a mythic but an actual historic event.

4. Megalithic Myths

There are normally two varieties of megalithic myths: first the myths of the builders/designers’ mysterious and supernatural powers, and second about the mystical or magical properties of the stones. Great Britain and Egypt are hosts to the most famous ones but they can be found the world over.

Having been associated with healing, fertility, giants, and the devil, the renewed interest came about when science stepped in. It became clear these stones worked as giant calendars, with individual stones marking seasons or the movement of the sun and the moon. The most interesting speculation about them came from a man called Paul Devereux, he claimed that UFOs are terrestrial emanations connected with faults in the megalithic system and that they access our brains directly as they are electromagnetic.

3. Omens

Beliefs in omens, events, or objects that forewarn us about good or evil that may be coming our way have existed since time immemorial. The Druids sought omens in the flight of birds and in Ireland each sound, position, or movement of domesticated ravens has a different connotation. Omens are also drawn by different cultures from the direction of flames, the howling of dogs, shapes of tree-roots, the state of entrails, and even from the way sandals fall when they are tossed.

At the heart of these myths is the view that everything interconnects. Jung reasoned that the collective unconscious knows all things – implying that the view may not be that absurd.

2. Creation

There are three basic questions when it comes to how the Earth, cosmos, and all life were created. How did something come from nothing? How was it created and how did the natural order of all minerals, plants, animals, and human kingdoms come to be? Theories range from the modern “Big Bang” to the older and even ancient approaches.

In most myths, the elements are favored – claiming that air, wind, fire, and sometimes vibrations caused all things to be. Another very common theme is the “World Tree” creation legends that can be found from Africa to Tonga. These are normally rooted in Paradise and all life springs from it, or it can be linked with dimensions and various created worlds. The most subtle myths imply that there is no beginning and no end, that everything is in balance, and that all is as it should be.

1. Afterlife

In all quarters of the world, the individual soul/spirit is believed to survive death. This belief goes back to as early as 80,000 BC, as Neanderthal burials would suggest that they, too, prepared for the afterlife. From the Christian beliefs of Heaven and Hell, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead that advises the newly-dead how to avoid rebirth, the belief remains despite lack of proof.

Many interesting theories exist apart from the religious views on what happens to the soul after a person dies. Edmund Fournier d’Albe was one of the first researchers that came up with an afterlife hypothesis, claiming that one’s soul leaves the body after death and lives off ultraviolet rays from the sun in another realm of the Earth’s atmosphere. Others say that the soul will find itself in a dream world or simply that only the mind will live on, becoming part of the collective consciousness.


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Did You Hear About the…? – WIF Urban Legend

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Strange – World

As a species, human beings share a love of stories. Some are based on real events. Others are pure fiction, and in some cases the line between the two can be blurred or uncertain.

Urban legends tend to fall into the latter category, but they can be found in some form in every culture and society.

These are 10 examples of some of the stranger urban legends to be found.

10. Killer Electric Fans

South Korea is amongst the most scientifically advanced nations on the planet. Despite this it’s also home to a peculiar modern day urban legend that has little or no scientific support.

Some South Koreans believe that leaving an electric fan switched on overnight can be fatal. It’s not entirely inconceivable that an electric fan might on very rare occasions malfunction and catch fire, but this isn’t what believers are worried about. The fear is that anybody who goes to sleep in a closed room with an electric fan running might never wake up.

While this particular urban legend is almost entirely unique to South Korea, and while there’s very little evidence to back it up, it’s none the less prevalent enough that even major fan manufacturers issue warnings not to leave fans pointed at people overnight.

It seems that the roots of this particular urban legend can be traced back to 1927, when an article was published warning that electric fans circulating stale air could lead to nausea or even suffocation.

9. The Zambezi River God

In 1955 an Italian construction firm began work on the Kariba Dam on Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River. It would produce huge amounts of hydroelectric power, but at the cost of forcing thousands of locals from their homes and their land.

Some warned that the Zambezi River God would be angered into unleashing floods and dire retribution. This serpent-like creature known as Nyaminyami is said to inhabit Lake Kariba and act as protector of the Tongan people.

The Kariba Dam engineers weren’t concerned. The giant structure’s defenses were designed to withstand anything up to a once-in-a-thousand-year flood.

Despite their confidence, in 1957 the dam was hit by that thousand-year storm. Damage was extensive and several Italian construction workers were killed. Construction was delayed by several months until work could begin again.

In defiance of all their calculations a second even larger flood followed just one year later. Several more workers were killed, their bodies falling into the dam’s still-setting cement from where they could not be recovered.

Construction of the dam was finally completed, but not before 82 construction workers had lost their lives. Some believe the completed dam has cut the Zambezi River God off from his wife, and that even to this day he is working to destroy it.

If so then he seems to be making progress. Engineers warn that the Kariba Dam is now in dire need of extensive repairs and at risk of collapsing entirely, with catastrophic consequences.

8. Spring-Heeled Jack

With a population in excess of two million people, 1830s London was the most populous city in the world. It was a global hub of science, invention, and innovation, and in 1829 it introduced the first professional police force anywhere in the world.

Despite all this London was a city in the grip of fear. A mysterious figure was attacking young women across the city, and the police seemed powerless to apprehend him.

It wasn’t even clear if the menace was human. Eyewitnesses reported him as having a demonic appearance, the ability to spit flames, and even leap huge distances in one bound. He came to be known as Spring-heeled Jack.

Mass hysteria presumably played a part, but fear of Spring-heeled Jack was very real. The newspapers, who knew a juicy story when they saw it, were only too happy to run articles on this shadowy character.

In 1838 a man named Thomas Millbank, somewhat worse for wear in a London tavern, boasted that he was none other than the mysterious Spring-heeled Jack. He was promptly arrested for the attack on a victim named Jane Alsop. However, he soon had to be released. Jane Alsop remained adamant that her assailant had breathed flames. If Millbank had indeed been able to manifest this ability, he stubbornly refused to do so.

Whether there ever was a single real person behind the legend of Spring-heeled Jack is difficult to say for sure, but the legend lives on and occasional sightings continue to be reported even to this day.

7. The Black Bird of Chernobyl

The mere mention of Chernobyl is enough to conjure up feelings of unease. The name is inextricably linked to the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen, and it’s seared into our collective consciousness as something dark and terrifying.

Most people know the story well enough. A nuclear reactor in the Soviet power plant melted down, and only good fortune and heroism prevented a far greater disaster that would have rendered much of Europe uninhabitable.

The supernatural aspect of the story is less well known. Thousands of people were evacuated after the meltdown, but many still speak of a horrifying apparition that appeared as a harbinger of disaster.

In the weeks leading up to the catastrophe they claim to have seen a terrifying humanoid creature with huge wings, and eyes that glowed like hot coal. This airborne apparition came to be known as the Black Bird of Chernobyl.

Whether this was an urban legend created after the disaster or whether it has some basis in reality is impossible to say for certain.

6. The Deadly Drop Bear

Australia is home to some of the deadliest animals in the world. If the snakes, spiders, jellyfish, and the lethal blue-ringed octopus weren’t enough, there’s also the drop bear.

The creature is said to be a relative of the koala, but considerably less appealing. Roughly the size of a leopard or a large dog, drop bears are ambush predators.

They live in the forests where they hide in the canopy waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass beneath. Dropping from the trees they use their powerful arms and venomous bite to subdue their prey, and sometimes even attack humans.

In reality the drop bear is an urban legend created to scare and amuse tourists, and occasionally play pranks on unsuspecting journalists. Curiously enough, however, during the last Ice Age Australia was home to a carnivorous marsupial that lived and hunted from the trees, similar to the mythical drop bear.

5. Bodies in Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney is one of the world’s most famous cities, and it seems to be Australia’s hot spot for urban legends. If they are all to be believed then there is a secret network of tunnels beneath the streets, a hidden lake populated by giant albino eels, escaped big cats on the loose, and even a prehistoric river monster.

Other urban legends are linked to Sydney’s architecture, such as Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The bridge opened in 1932 and became famous across the world. However, its construction came at a cost in human lives. The official figures state that sixteen people were killed in falls, construction accidents, and in one case from tetanus after suffering a crushed thumb.

Local legend has it that this is not the full tally of fatal accidents. Several workers are rumored to have fallen into the structure as it was being built. Since these dead bodies would be bad for publicity, not to mention difficult and expensive to retrieve, their grisly demise may have been covered up.

4. The Wendigo

In November 2019, Gino Meekis was hunting grouse in the forests of northwest Ontario. Whilst there he heard a wailing noise unlike anything he’d encountered in more than twelve years of hunting.

Gino was sufficiently unnerved to pull out his phone and take a recording, and that subsequently sparked an online debate as to what exactly was responsible for the eerie noise.

One suggestion was a grizzly bear, but that species had never been sighted in the region. Others speculated it may have been a wendigo.

Bumping into a grizzly in the forests is dangerous, but it would be vastly favorable to an encounter with this terrifying supernatural beast.

The Wendigo of legend is said to be fifteen feet tall with a stinking, rotting, emaciated body. Its lips are tattered and bloody, and it’s haunted by a constant hunger for human flesh. The beast is constantly hunting for victims, but no matter how much it eats it can never satisfy the craving.

This monstrous creature has made its way into modern medical parlance. The thankfully rare psychological condition of Wendigo Syndrome is characterized by a desire to consume human flesh.

3. The Rock Star’s Parakeets

There are plenty of urban legends surrounding animals or beasts whose existence is questionable at best.

This one is slightly different as it concerns tens of thousands of parakeets that have made their home in London’s parks.

The parakeets definitely exist, but they equally definitely aren’t indigenous to Britain, and nobody is entirely sure where they came from.

One popular suggestion is that Jimi Hendrix is responsible. He’s said to have released two of the birds, Adam and Eve, into the skies of London whilst stoned in 1968. The multitude of parrots now resident in England are said to be descendants of this first pair.

The idea has even been investigated by researchers at Queen Mary University. Unfortunately, whilst it’s possible that Hendrix may have added to the parakeet population, they concluded the birds are too widespread to all be descended from a single pair.

2. Aka Manto

The yokai are a group of supernatural beings and monsters that populate Japanese folklore. Varied in their appearance and temperament, some are benevolent, others are cruel, and one has an unusual predilection for women’s bathrooms.

Descriptions of Aka Manto’s appearance varies, but he is always depicted as wearing a mask and a red cape. The supernatural being is said to periodically appear in public or school toilets offering the occupier a choice between red and blue toilet paper.

Neither of these is a good option. Choosing the blue paper results in being strangled to death, but opting for the red paper is no better and leads to death by laceration.

Aka Manto is also wise to anyone who might try to trick their way past him by requesting different colored toilet paper to the ones he offered. Their fate is to be dragged off to the underworld and never seen again.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Politely declining Aka Manto’s offer of toilet paper will cause him to leave in search of another potential victim.

The legend of Aka Manto can be traced back to at least the 1930s, and he’s said to be still haunting public toilets to this day.

1. NASA’s Billion Dollar Pen

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first ever satellite into space. It didn’t do anything other than whizz around the planet emitting regular beeps, but it was sufficient to spark a hugely expensive space race with the United States of America.

America would claim victory by landing men on the moon in 1969, but there were a huge number of challenges to overcome before that point could be reached.

Even something as simple as writing proved to be problematic in space. It turned out that regular pens just didn’t work in zero gravity.

The American response was to begin a lengthy research project and sink billions of dollars into a solution. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union took a cheaper but far more straightforward approach and used pencils instead.

Many people are aware of this story, but it’s not actually true. It’s an example of a particularly successful urban myth, one that’s now so firmly embedded in our collective psyche it’s unlikely to ever go away.

The reality is that the American space program, just like the Soviet one, initially switched to using pencils. When a pen was developed that could be used in space, it was designed independently of the U.S. Government or military by an inventor named Paul C. Fisher.

NASA approved them for use in space and purchased a grand total of 400 of them at the modest price of $2.95 each. The Soviet space agency bought some too.


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WIF Urban Legends

Fallacies, Falsehoods, Facts and Furthermore – WIF Science

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Widely Misunderstood

Scientific Theories

People often misunderstand scientific theories — partly because science can be complicated, but also because many people are confused about what a scientific theory actually is. A theory, in science terms, is not just an extremely good educated guess, nor is it expected to ever reach a higher burden of proof. It is, in fact, a common misconception that a scientific theory can ever become a scientific law. This is because they aren’t really part of a hierarchy of evidence, but separate aspects of understanding and classifying the world around us. A scientific law is something we know, and a theory is a model to explain it that has stood up to repeated testing and research. Now, since people often misunderstand what a theory is, they also often sometimes get the science confused as well. In today’s article, we will go over 10 examples of just that.

10. “If We Evolved From Monkeys, Why Are There Still Monkeys?”

Something you will often hear from people who deny the theory of evolution is that it is silly to say we evolved from monkeys, because there are still monkeys around today. To begin with, we didn’t evolve from monkeys (at least not the ones you are thinking of and see today) — we may have evolved from a common ancestor to monkeys, many, many ages ago.

The idea that one species would disappear just because another evolved from it is simply confusing. A new species evolving from an old one doesn’t necessarily mean the old species is obsolete, nor that it will suddenly vanish from the face of the earth. There is also the matter of how more genetic diversity is created. When a group from a species ends up isolated from other members of its species, different forms tend to emerge due to the different environments or habits of the group. There are many, many different forms of monkeys today, which makes perfect sense with the theory of evolution — we are just the smartest kind. And yes, we are still basically monkeys, as far as the term can be loosely used with regard to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution… maybe.

However, God had a better idea; Creation.

9. Time Is One Of The Most Misunderstood Ideas In All Of Science

Time is something we take for granted, but in the physics community, its nature and existence is a source of constant research and debate. Some people aren’t even sure it is even really a thing… at least not the way we tend to think of it. Experiments with a unit of a measure even smaller than an atom, on something called the Planck Scale — which is a scale for incredibly small measurements — have found that time seems to cease when you get down to a small enough level. Some physicists think that this could indicate that at the very basic level of the universe, time doesn’t exist, which would mean what we think we are seeing is just a macroscopic effect of something else.

This can be quite confusing even to a trained physicist, and there really is no one truly defined explanation accepted by the majority of the community. Some are trying all sorts of equations and ideas in attempts to come up with some kind of overall rational, but have thus far not quite succeeded. The problem is that time has already recently thrown physicists for a loop, when Einstein proved that it was at least relative. Now, we have to figure out if it exists at the most base level of the universe, and if it does, in what form, and what it actually is. For now though, just accept the illusion, as your job will still expect you to show up on time.

8. The “Law Of Averages” Doesn’t Really Even Exist — It’s A Fallacy

Some people will talk about something called the “law of averages,” whereby they claim that over a given amount of time, things will basically even out in terms of odds. Usually, this is applied to some sort of competition, or even gambling. The thing is, though, there really is no such thing as the law of averages — it’s just a fallacy. The law of averages generally assumes that because something is statistically likely, that it’s going to happen soon. This fallacy can be part of the gambler’s fallacy, where people lose a lot of money, continuing to bet because the “law of averages” says it should happen “imminently.”

The problem is that these people have a poor understanding of probability. If we are talking about truly random chance, just because something is likely to happen doesn’t mean it will — there’s just a level of probability that it will happen. Calculating probability can be quite complicated, and the number usually ends up lower than you would expect. There is a real concept that people might be getting things confused with called the Law of Large Numbers. This simply posits that if you do something an incredible amount of times, the average should be close to the expected value. For example, if you roll a six-sided die hundreds of thousands of times, the average should be about 3.5, as that is the average value of the die. Some people get confused thinking that in a specific gambling run, or perhaps a game of Risk, that luck will even out. This is unlikely — the sample size is too small and you are falling prey to the gambler’s fallacy.

7. Gender And Sex Are Constantly Confused, But They Are Not The Same Thing

Today, there’s a lot of talk about various different genders, such as pansexual, demisexual, and so on. On top of that, there’s increased awareness and tolerance for those who are transgender; however, just because people are talking about these things more doesn’t mean that everyone necessarily understands the concepts. Some people get very confused about the difference between gender and sex, and the difference is important.

We aren’t here to weigh in on how many genders there should be, or how you should feel about people who feel they were born a different sex. We just want to get the science accurate. When it comes to sex, there really can only be two. You simply cannot make up any more than that, because sex consists of the physiological characteristics such as the actual differences in organs and the different hormones that naturally affect you. However, gender has always been an entirely sociological construct to begin with, and is perfectly open to create as many as you want, as it has nothing to do with physical characteristics. Gender is really about how you feel, what attracts you, and other nebulous factors that can’t be properly physiologically measured.

6. The Artificial Intelligence Scientists Are Creating Is Not What You Think

Artificial intelligence is probably one of the most misunderstood basic theories in science, but we don’t suggest that most people misunderstand this because they aren’t intelligent. Rather, movies have done an incredibly good job of twisting people’s understanding of this one, and unless you’ve studied computer science you may not realize how silly and wrong most movies have this.

In movies artificial intelligence reaches some level of consciousness, and people are quite used to this image of AI. To make matters worse, the news will get quick clicks with headlines about famous scientists being worried about the rise of AI, and then people start worrying about Terminators. Now, there is some reason to be worried about AI, but no researcher expects it to reach actual consciousness, because that’s just not how it works. Rather, the goal of AI research is to make it better at doing tasks and organizing the flow of various goings-on without much human intervention. The fear of experts is AI making bad decisions after being given control of important infrastructure, not because they have transcended to the level of conscious beings and are being malicious, but because they could make stupid mistakes due to lacking context, and not seeing the entire picture that a human would — or just thinking in an unpredictable way.

5. Survival Of The Fittest Isn’t About Strength Or Immunity, But Characteristics

A lot of people are taught about the theory of natural selection, but many of them come away with little memory of it except “survival of the fittest,” which many take to mean that if you are the strongest and toughest, you are more likely to survive. However, this is really only true if the environment you live in requires physical strength and toughness as the best way to not only live, but pass on your genes to a new generation.

This is because the whole point of natural selection is that those with the best characteristics for the environment they live in will be more likely to pass on viable offspring, not that strength and machismo will always rule the day. Species not only tend to naturally select over time for the better traits, but also will drop things over time that they don’t need anymore. A good example of this is wisdom teeth, which some humans are already being born without.

4. Everything You Know About Pavlov’s Experiments And Theories Is Probably Wrong

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiments with dogs, where he taught them to salivate at the sound of a buzzer by making them associate it with food. Most people think that Pavlov’s whole deal from the get-go was studying psychology by using dogs, and that no dogs were harmed in his experiments.

However, the truth is that the real story behind Pavlov is kind of horrifying if you like dogs. So, if you really, really love dogs and hearing about awful things done to them makes you upset, you might want to skip to the next entry. You’ve been warned.

Pavlov was not really interested early on in his career in psychology — that came much later after he had already won a Nobel Prize and reached his peak. Rather, Pavlov was interested in physiology, especially when it comes to the digestive system. He would do something called “sham feeding” where he would make a hole in the dog’s throat called a fistula, so that the food would drop out and never reach the dog’s stomach. By continuing to make lower holes on various dogs, he was able to measure excretions at various levels and his comprehensive picture of the digestive system won him a Nobel Prize in 1904 in Physiology or Medicine. While in his later years he did do a little bit of psychological research with dogs, a bell was almost never one of the sounds he used to trigger dogs’ association.

3. Freud’s Most Disturbing Theories About Sexuality Were Never Taken That Seriously

Many people today think of most of Freud’s absurd theories about young children or infants having unconscious sexual thoughts and not only scoff, but wonder what the medical community was thinking, taking such nonsense so seriously. However, the truth was that Freud had one of the most complex careers, and also has one of the most complex legacies, when it comes to his work. While people were interested in his ideas on psychoanalysis, the importance of dreams, and his general belief in a subconscious, it is important to understand that even during his time, his more radical ideas about unconscious sexual thoughts in children was not really accepted by most in the medical or burgeoning psychological community.

Also, it is important to understand that today, the psychological community thinks of most of Freud’s theories as a joke, and they don’t really teach him seriously in classes. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater, either. Freud may not be a huge influence today, but psychologists believe it is important to study him from a historical perspective because of the huge influence he had on early psychology, and also to understand which of his ideas did turn out to be correct. Now, while psychology doesn’t exactly believe in the breakdown of the subconscious quite the way Freud described it, a subsconscious is a widely accepted idea and we have Freud to thank for that one. And while his practice of psychoanalysis, which is the talk therapy where you try to understand the unconscious thoughts, is not that popular among psychologists anymore, there are those who practice it and some who incorporate elements into their therapy repertoire.

2. Black Holes Are Accepted By Most, But Their Nature And Existence Is Controversial

Black holes are something most of us understand very well. You can’t see them, but you know they are there because they are dragging light and matter into them like… well, like a black hole. However, back in the 1980s Stephen Hawking shocked the scientific community when he used the quantum laws of physics to prove that black holes were actually emitting particles — something now known as Hawking radiation. Now, this is where things get really tricky, because we still don’t fully understand black holes.

Hawking’s research contends that since the black hole is losing heat and matter, it will eventually dissolve like an aspirin in a glass of water, instead of continuing to just suck up light and matter without pause. However, this leads to the question of where the information that was sucked up goes to when the black hole dissolves. Some physicists contend that according to our knowledge of the laws of the universe, no information can be lost forever, but Hawking disagreed, wagering that the information would be lost. At this point, physicists can only scratch their heads, as we really have absolutely no way of knowing — we have never been able to yet witness a black hole dissolving to find out.

1. You May Have Seen Some Confusing Claims That Electrons Can Go Faster Than Light

This has been passed around the internet and even confused some kids in science classes when well meaning teachers didn’t explain it properly. People heard claims that electrons can go faster than light, and everyone got all excited about how we had allegedly cracked the speed of light barrier. However, the unfortunate truth was that no such thing has occurred. Electrons can move faster than light when they are sped up enough, but only in a medium that already slows down the speed of light moving through it.

This is a known phenomenon seen at nuclear reactors, that creates a really cool looking blue glow effect, and is known as Cherenkov Radiation. While in this context it’s easy for a flashy news media headline to confuse people into thinking scientists somehow found some amazing breakthrough and managed to exceed the speed of light, there has not yet been any situation where this has actually occurred. It is important to read the fine print, as in this case, going faster than light makes you think something special has happened, but faster than light and faster than the speed of light are not the same thing at all.


Fallacies, Falsehoods, Facts and Furthermore

WIF Science

History Channel Side-Hustle – “Ancient Aliens”

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Way-out Theories

on “Ancient Aliens”

The TV show Ancient Aliens has now run for 14 seasons, and has gone over nearly every half-baked theory, pseudo-scientific rambling, dumb hypothesis or just plain crazy alternate scientific idea or “fact” that you could possibly tie into myth, legend, or aliens in some way or another. It has inspired countless memes about its crazy-haired host, but it has also spread an entire alternate set of untruths that questions a lot of legitimate science.

It is important sometimes to look at the height of such a show’s absurdity, to remind ourselves it is really nothing more than entertainment value at the end of the day, and doesn’t belong on something that calls itself the “History” channel. In today’s article, we will go over 10 of the craziest things talked about on Ancient Aliens

10. Nazi Germany Experimented With Advanced Alien Technology 

In “Nazi’s And The Third Reich,” which is one of the earlier episodes in the epic that is the Ancient Aliens series, they discuss the connection between Hitler, his Nazi regime, and ancient aliens, as well as possible more recent alien visitors. One of the more intriguing things they discuss is a little known event that many in most parts of the world, even those who are into aliens, may not be aware of. Apparently somewhere around the middle of the Nazi regime, the Nazis had a Roswell-like incident with an unidentified spacecraft that crash landed.

After this, the Nazis, according to Ancient Aliens, kickstarted their rocket program and even started working on anti-gravitational technology. They speculate that much of the technology the Germans were working on was passed on to the United States when the USA used Operation Paperclip to poach Nazi scientists before they could end up in jail. They also discuss Hitler’s search for biblical and other relics, and how those relics may actually be real, at least in part, and may actually be alien tech and not just biblical magic. In fact, Hitler believed that his superior technology would win him the war, and the Ancient Aliens people are convinced that this superior technology was at least partially based on alien technology.

9. Human-Animal Hybrid Mythological Creatures Were Alien Experiments 

In “Aliens And Monsters,” the crew explores the connection between the various mythological creatures that have captured our imaginations over the years, and alien beings. Particularly, they talk about creatures like the Chimera, the Kraken, the Cerberus, the Hydra and even the Loch Ness Monster. They suggest that these beings did indeed exist, and that all the various mythological stories must have been talking about something real.

However, they suggest that these beings were not natural occurrences, but the results of advanced alien experimentation. They believe that many of the hybrid beings you see in old tales were the early experiments aliens were doing in regard to gene splicing human and animal DNA together. On top of that, they suggest that the ancient Hindu legend of the Garuda, an enormous flying creature that shook the earth when it landed, may have actually been a tale describing an alien spacecraft. Interestingly, in many of the early tales of the Garuda it is depicted as an entirely animal being, but in later lore it is often referred to as a hybrid that is part human. If the slightly later legends were the more accurate ones, the Garuda could also fit within the potential pantheon of creatures created by aliens doing gene splicing with human and animal DNA.

8. Aliens May Actually Be Future Human Time Travelers Visiting The Past 

In “ The Time Travelers,” the Ancient Aliens hosts decide that they need to mix things up, and suggest that maybe many of their own previous theories were too crazy… or maybe not crazy enough. The gang suggests that perhaps many of the UFOs we think we have seen, or alleged alien visitors we think we have encountered, are actually from the future, and aren’t aliens at all. Instead, the aliens are suggested to be visitors from the future that may even just be really advanced humans, who look extremely different from us (their ancient ancestors).

They bring up ancient Hopi legends about ant people who came up from the ground to help jumpstart human knowledge, and suggest these legends could translate to something similar to the name of the alleged Annunaki (aliens UFO theorists allege helped create early man). As far as this theory is concerned, ancient aliens who visited us may have been aliens from the future, but they could also have been humans from the far future, coming to influence man for the better. When it comes to more recent visitors, it is possible they are just coming to check out their past, and see how things are going. The episode also goes over all main theories about how one could travel through time, and mentions various mythological stories that could be interpreted as time travel tales.

7. Bigfoot May Have Been Connected To Past Alien Visitors 

In “Aliens And Bigfoot,” the folks at Ancient Aliens cover all of the possible crazy bases regarding what Bigfoot could possibly be. Of course, the one thing they don’t speculate that Bigfoot might have been is non-existent, because they are convinced he is real. The gang points out that Bigfoot legends of various sorts have existed across pretty much all cultures, and suggest that perhaps Bigfoot-type creatures have managed to stay hidden for the most part by hiding deep in caves. They claim that these creatures, when spotted, often have a sulfur smell that could come from an underground cavern. As for what Bigfoot is, the folks at Ancient Aliens have a few different theories.

They first point out that in some early folklore, there are hairy, primitive beings who live in the woods, and that in some stories, these are speculated to possibly just be humans who eschew society and don’t really shave much. However, they are also convinced there is more to the legend than just hairy humans, and suggest that remaining creatures could either be some type of aliens or perhaps the remains of an alien experiment. The Ancient Aliens people point to an ancient myth where the “gods,” which the show hosts suggest were aliens, created a hairy, man-like being called the “Enkidu” to be their slave and do manual labor for them. They speculate it is possible the Bigfoot-type creatures are remaining Enkidus that escaped any purges when the alien visitors left for their own planets so long ago.

6. The Ark Of The Covenant Could Be Tech From Ancient Aliens 

In “Aliens And The Lost Ark” the crew discusses their interesting ideas about the biblical artifact known as the Ark of the Covenant. Now, for those of you who aren’t too familiar with it, the Ark of the Covenant was a wooden and gold ornamental box carried by the Jews in the bible during their wanderings in the desert. (And let’s be honest: you’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know what the Ark of the Covenant is.)

It was credited with helping them stay alive and communicating with God, and as it could only be used or approached or uncovered by specially ordained high priests, many people have come to great speculation about what it may or may not have been.

Now, it could have just been a biblical legend,  or perhaps a small piece of basic technology — that was lost to us at least until modern times — that helped them with a few small applications, but the Ancient Aliens people believe something crazy may have been going on. Many take the idea it could “speak to God” quite literally, in that they believe it was used to communicate with Alien beings who acted as gods to early man. The gang also speculate that it could have been used to create the miracle of the manna in the desert, may have been some kind of electrical capacitor, and even suggest that it may be hiding in a small, unassuming church in Ethiopia, where it is guarded by priests who die shortly after taking the assignment, because of the alleged power of the device.

5. Ancient Sources Allegedly Talked About The Large Hadron Collider 

large-hadron-collider

In “The God Particle” the gang discusses the discovery by CERN in 2012 of the elusive Higgs Boson. Now, the folks behind the Large Hadron Collider don’t actually want it to be called the “God Particle” but the show insists on it for the episode’s entire runtime. The Ancient Aliens gang first speculate on what damage the LHC might have done to Earth when it was used, and what other damage it might do if it were to be given more power (such as creating its own miniature black holes). After that, they first talk about the connection between physics and divinity, and then get into the weeds.

They claim that the Large Hadron Collider and its function and purpose were predicted by ancient sources. They claim that the Veda (which are the ancient Hindu scriptures) have not aged in thousands of years — which is provably untrue — and even suggest that it predicted the Large Hadron Collider. They then go on to the Mayans, whom they claim also predicted the Large Hadron Collider in their primitive artworks. As if all of this wasn’t crazy enough, they go back to the Indian theories near the end, and suggest that the Hindu god Shiva was actually an ancient alien. As for all those mythological stories about the universe ending in Hindu mythology, those can be attributed to the Large Hadron Collider being used to tear particles apart on a subatomic level.

4. Underwater Monsters May Come From Another Dimension Through Wormholes 

In “Creatures Of The Deep,” the gang go over the deep, mysterious depths of our oceans, and speculate on just what might be lurking beneath. With most of our ocean’s creatures unidentified, and millions of creatures (estimated) yet to be discovered, they wonder if many of the craziest creatures from mythology like the Kraken and the Kappa may actually be based in truth, and just be hiding deep beneath the sea.

They point out that not long ago, astronauts found plankton living in space on the outside of the space station, and this led the Ancient Astronaut Theorists to speculate that perhaps all kinds of strange ocean life could be living within our own oceans; perhaps even crazier things than our strangest legends speculate. Many of the strangest creatures in our oceans could even be alien creatures hiding out in the deep, and they believe some could even have come straight to our ocean from other worlds using wormholes, instead of even needing to bother with a spaceship at all. This would certainly make it hard to track them coming here, and would be a very hard theory to disprove. While some creatures like Nessie have been pretty handily disproved, as the area where she is expected to be is not very large and can be proven with sonar to not have a bunch of secret exits, creatures that are potentially lurking beneath the deep are a mystery that will always fascinate the human consciousness.

3. The Space Station Moon Theory (It May Not Actually Be Natural At All)

In “Space Station Moon,” the gang goes over all their craziest theories about what the moon really is… and boy, is it a doozy. Apparently, the moon is actually not at all a natural construct, and their “experts” are happy to explain to you why, as well as provide their novel idea on why the moon is almost completely hollow. At least they aren’t moon landing deniers, but they claim the astronauts were shaken upon returning, that they reported aliens through their medical radios, and that aliens even warned us to stay away from the moon.

So this brings up the real question: why were the aliens allegedly so worried about us landing on the moon? Well, the Ancient Astronaut Theorists claim that NASA is withholding the truth from the public to prevent a mass freakout, because the moon is actually an artificially made space station whose purpose is at least partially to monitor the human race. They even suggest that our military (even though they claim we didn’t go back to the moon), or possibly aliens have secret bases on the dark side of the moon. While the Space Station Moon theory is not novel to the Ancient Aliens series, they consider every possible crazy angle of it, and one of the hosts even suggests that the moon was built by time traveling Freemasons.

2. King Tut’s Curse Was Some Kind Of Technological Protection Used By Ancient Aliens

In “The Pharaoh’s Curse” the gang talk about the opening of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922. Now, the opening of the tomb sparked a fire in the imaginations of people around the entire globe. In fact, people got so into it that they were closely following Ancient Egyptian lore, and some rumor mongers claimed that the tomb had a great curse on it, and that it followed those who opened it and struck them down one by one. Seven people died, and the Ancient Aliens people are quick to point out that all of these people were involved in the opening of the tomb. However, they do fail to point out that the person who actually opened the tomb itself was never struck down, which kind of invalidates the whole curse.

Regardless, even though the curse can be traced back to the most dubious of sources, which comprise a mix of pseudo-scientist musings and old myths, the Ancient Aliens people spend most of an episode on it. They suggest the curse might be alien technology, meant to keep us from discovering the secrets of King Tut’s tomb, which may have even included the Ark of the Covenant. Of course, if it had been in the tomb we would have discovered it, so they have a handy explanation for that. According to the Ancient Astronaut Theorists on the show, the Knights Templar took it to America before we could open the tomb, and hid it on Oak Island (nicely tying Ancient Aliens and The Curse of Oak Island, which are both owned by the same production company, together). We would like to add that not only has the Curse of the Pharaoh been fully debunked over the years, but there is absolutely no evidence to even suggest the Knights Templar ever went to America, or were in possession of the alleged Ark of the Covenant.

1. The Earth Has Black Holes And This Is The Reason For The Bermuda Triangle 

In “The Earth’s Black Holes” the gang go over their belief that perhaps Earth could have its own miniature black holes that most of us know nothing about. They point to mythological stories about various points in Earth being holy, or being a place you could communicate with the gods, and suggest these were black holes. They also suggest that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he disappeared into a black hole and this explained his temporary disappearance. As to where he went, they suggest he traveled potentially to a completely different world, or perhaps another dimension.

Now, they also take a flight through the Bermuda Triangle in this episode to play up drama, and mistake turbulence for something strange happening before the pilot himself has to humiliate them by correcting them. They are already embarrassing themselves though, as the Bermuda Triangle has been debunked incredibly hard in recent years, and it has been proven there are no more disappearances or ship accidents there than anywhere else in the ocean.

After their romp through the Bermuda Triangle nets them nothing horrifying, they start talking about people who disappear, and some who show up months later not remembering what happened. They suggest these people disappeared through a “black hole” somewhere on earth, and then showed up later, possibly going through some kind of time distortion as well and not understanding how much time had passed. However, the biggest problem with this entire episode is that most of what they are talking about would be better described by perhaps a stargate or a wormhole. While we don’t completely understand black holes, what we do know suggests that even if they could take you to another universe, you could be completely crushed before you could get there.


History Channel Side-Hustle

“Ancient Aliens”

Stuff in “America’s Attic” -WIF Museums

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Mysteries Locked

in the

Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian Institution is often called America’s attic, and within its vast collections can be found items ranging from mundane to utterly unique. Over 150 million items are contained within the Institution’s collections, scattered throughout its many museums, affiliated museums, temporarily displayed at other locations on loan, or carefully stored. It should be no surprise that, considering the size of the collections, an accurate inventory has been elusive at times. In 2010 an independent study revealed discrepancies in the Smithsonian’s inventories that indicated approximately 10% of items claimed by the Smithsonian were unaccounted for; that is, they were missing. Across the 19 museums operated directly by the Smithsonian, the number could be much higher.

The Smithsonian fields queries from collectors, salvagers, and archaeologist both professional and amateur, evaluating items and documents for their authenticity and historical significance. In doing so it runs into the occasional, shall we say, quack. These queries and of course the spread of unconfirmed reports across the internet have led to the belief of items in the institution’s care which are wholly unfounded. Others seem to be true. Since only a tiny percentage of the Smithsonian’s collections are actually on display, there is an opportunity to assign to them the holding of objects which cannot be confirmed visually by a visit to one of their facilities. Denials of possession from the Institution’s docents are treated with a conspiratorial wink. Here are 10 items believed to be in the possession of the Smithsonian, and whether or not such possession is true.

10. John Dillinger’s sex organ

Where and when the story of John Dillinger’s improbably large penis being housed in the Smithsonian Institution began is elusive. It has been debunked by writers and fact checkers, denied by the Institution itself, and still the story won’t go away. The Smithsonian has for years maintained a form letter denying its possession of Dillinger’s member, which it sends in response to queries regarding its existence and asking for confirmation of its size. During the 1960s the story was spread further to explain that the organ was actually on display at the Institution, with hundreds claiming to have personally examined it as it lay pickled in a jar of formaldehyde. Embellishments to the story had the organ displayed, in its jar, in the office of J. Edgar Hoover before it found its way into the nation’s attic.

The story of Dillinger’s penis being, shall we say, larger than life began shortly after photos of the dead criminal awaiting his autopsy were seen by the public. A large bulge in the sheet covering his lifeless body was the culprit. Dillinger had more than his share of admirers in the Depression years, including those who admired his many known trysts with attractive women. How the item in question moved from his autopsy room to a place in the Smithsonian, and why it did, are both questions with an array of answers, none of which can be confirmed. But nobody has been able to prove that the item doesn’t exist in the Smithsonian’s collections either, though the museum has long maintained that it has no record of possessing the curious article.

9. George Washington’s missing bed

Within the inventory of the collection held by the National Museum of American History is George Washington’s bed, which he slept in while at home on his Mount Vernon Plantation. During an inventory review in the early 21st century the inspectors reported that parts of the bed in question, surely significant as it was likely the bed in which the Father of His Country breathed his last, were missing, and had been for many years. The Smithsonian responded that the bed had in fact never been delivered to the Institution, and although it was not in their material position, they knew where it was. It was on display in Washington’s bedroom, at Mount Vernon, where visitors could view it when touring the estate.

Technically the bed is in the possession of the Smithsonian, though there is dispute over whether the Institution ever had physical custody of the bed. The bed and another item in the Smithsonian’s collections – George Washington’s uniform – can be used to answer another often debated feature regarding the Virginian. Washington’s height has been reported as being as tall as 6-foot-6 by some historians, with others stating he was just over 6-feet tall. Washington indicated the latter when ordering suits from London tailors. Measurements of the uniform, and the longer than average length of the mattress of the Mount Vernon bed, indicate his height was 6-foot-2; not a giant, but considerably taller than the average height for his day.

8. A steam engine lost in the Titanic disaster may be owned by the Smithsonian

Hiram Maxim was a British inventor (though he was born in America) who held a multitude of patents, including one for the invention of a better mousetrap. He is most famous for the advances he made in automatic weapons. Among his interests was the invention of a heavier than air flying machine, powered by a steam engine. When the aircraft experiments ended in failure, Maxim donated the engine, which was of his own design, to the Smithsonian Institution. The engine was shipped to the United States in the hold of the new White Star Lines steamer, RMS Titanic. Although the ship’s manifest did not specifically list a shipment made by Maxim, unidentified crates and cartons arriving at the docks just prior to departure could have included the engine.

Officially the Smithsonian has not confirmed ownership of the engine. Nor has it denied it. Numerous items from the wreck of Titanic have been displayed by the Smithsonian; however, the Institution insists that the items were recovered from the surface following the sinking, or were washed ashore. The Smithsonian has steadfastly refused to accept or display items retrieved from the actual site of the wreckage of Titanic, citing the principle of sanctuary. The Smithsonian does hold a patent model of a steam pump donated by Maxim in 1874. The possession of the Maxim pump and the letters covering the donation lost on the Titanic have been confused into the belief that a steam engine retrieved from Titanic’s wreck is in the Smithsonian’s collections.

7. John F. Kennedy’s brain has been rumored to be held in the Smithsonian’s collections

During the autopsy on the body of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, his brain, or rather what was left of it, was placed in a steel box and put in the custody of the Secret Service. It was taken to the White House, where it remained until 1965, when it was transferred to the National Archives for safekeeping. During an inventory of medical evidence from the Kennedy assassination, conducted in 1966, the National Archives could not locate the late President’s brain. Besides giving fuel to the conspiracy theorists who speculated on the reasons for the brain’s disappearance, it revealed a mystery which has yet to be solved more than 50 years later (what happened to the portion of skull and brain matter retrieved by Jackie Kennedy from the trunk of the limousine remains unknown as well).

Rumors regarding the reason Kennedy’s brain vanished into seemingly thin air abound, with some speculating that it was ordered by Robert Kennedy to prevent the press from learning the truth regarding the number of physical ailments suffered by his brother, from the drugs used to treat them. Others believe the brain was hidden from public sight, as it were, to prevent the revelation that JFK had been hit from the front during the fatal shooting. Was the President’s brain transferred to the Smithsonian for safekeeping? If so the fact has never been confirmed by either the Kennedy family, the National Archives, or the Smithsonian Institution. It’s possible that the box was simply lost, though how likely such an event could be is subject to debate as well.

6. Ghosts might be found in the Smithsonian in several of its buildings

For those who believe in the supernatural and the haunting of ghosts, the Smithsonian Institution is a natural place to expect the visitations of the dead. In the past, reports by employees and visitors of spectral visitors have been common. As early as 1900, the Washington Post reported on ghostly visitors, former officials of the institution returned in the night to keep watch over the work they had supervised in lives long since ended. The Post reported that several Smithsonian watchmen had encountered the spirits of former – and deceased – secretaries who vanished when approached and spoken to. They were described as being attired as they had been when they were at their jobs in life.

It wasn’t only human ghosts reported by the Post. Numerous residents in the vicinity of the Castle, as well as those going about their business in the city’s evening hours, told of hearing the disembodied screams of birds and other animals emanating from the building. The newspaper recounted their claims of the sounds coming from exotic birds and animals which had been sacrificed to fill the Institution’s taxidermy collections. The residents were reported as being near desperation in their attempts to silence the unearthly wail of one bird in particular. Over the decades, ghosts have been reported in other buildings housing the Smithsonian collections, including in the Museum of Natural History. Ghost sightings became so common that in the 1940s Secretary Alexander Wetmore dictated that all employees had to vacate the premises by midnight.

5. The Smithsonian has a storage facility to protect meteorites from contamination

When the early Apollo missions went to the moon, the astronauts were quarantined upon their return to earth, to prevent possible contamination exposure from the lunar mission spreading to the general population. After Apollo 14 the quarantine period was eliminated. In the 21st century, the Smithsonian Institution operates a quarantine system which protects meteorites recovered from Antarctica from earthly microbes. The storage center consists of a clean room, with an atmosphere of nitrogen (an inert gas) which ensures that the specimens recovered from the Antarctic are not exposed to the risks present in the air which we all breathe to sustain life.

The clean room and other complex support facilities for the Smithsonian’s collections are located in the Museum Support Center (MSC) operated by the Institution at Suitland, Maryland. Inbound donations to collections are examined and prepared at the facility, which includes a facility to ensure that all biodegradable material is examined for and treated for pest contamination, in order to protect both new and existing collections. For example, a piece of wood from Noah’s Ark, long rumored to be in the Smithsonian’s possession, would be required to undergo examination and possible treatment to prevent it from infesting other items held by the museum (the Smithsonian officially denies holding a piece of Noah’s Ark). The MSC is not open to the public, and visitors and staff are subject to extensive security.

4. The Hope Diamond and its curse may be encountered at the Smithsonian

The presence of the legendary Hope Diamond within the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is well known, and it is one of the most popular exhibits of the entire collection. The curse of the Hope Diamond might be encountered there as well. According to the curse, anyone possessing the diamond, no matter for how short a time, suffers from misfortunes great and small. The curse was in truth a fable embellished by Pierre Cartier as a sales pitch, adding to the stone’s notoriety. In 1911 Evalyn Walsh McLean bought the stone, and her own succession of unfortunate events added to the luster of the curse (her husband abandoned her, her son was killed in an auto accident and her daughter died of an overdose).

The Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian by Harry Winston in 1958. It was delivered, believe it or not, by registered mail, and the mailman who made the delivery also suffered a run of bad luck, though he refused to accept that it was caused by the curse. Visitors to the Smithsonian are not afforded the opportunity to handle the diamond, merely to view it, and are thus evidently immune to the curse which according to some resides in the Institution within the stone. In the sixty-some years the stone has been in the museum’s possession it has certainly not brought ill fortune. Millions of visitors have gone to the museum to view the diamond, despite the protests of many when the museum accepted it, who feared that the curse would be extended to the nation.

3. You can learn a lot from a dummy

During the late 1980s a series of Public Service Announcements were produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The PSAs appeared in print in magazines as well as in commercials for airing on television. Two talking crash test dummies were created as partners for the campaign, Vince and Larry. Vince was voiced by character actor and comedian Jack Burns, who had earlier appeared as Deputy Barney Fife’s replacement on The Andy Griffith Show. Larry, who was often a foil for Vince’s mistakes, was voiced by Lorenzo Music, later the original voice of Garfield. The two demonstrated the proper use of seat belts and the consequences of failing to wear them properly.

“You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy” was their catchphrase, and became a part of the lexicon in the late 1980s. Eventually they were replaced by other dummies, and they were so popular that a line of action figures featuring crash test dummies was marketed by toymaker Tyco in the early 1990s. They even became the basis for a one hour television special. Crash test dummies are still used to demonstrate the proper use of seat belts and children’s car seats, but Vince and Larry were retired long ago. Larry’s head, the only part of him known to still exist, is within the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, though as of early 2019 not on public display. Photos of the head, somewhat battered, are visible on the Smithsonian’s website, where one may still learn a lot from a dummy.

2. The model of Lincoln’s patented device is a replica

Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History are able to see one exhibit which is truly unique. On display is a model depicting the invention of a system to raise riverboats over sandbars on the inland rivers, which were not yet improved with dams to allow continuous navigation. It was an invention of Abraham Lincoln’s, the only president in US history to be awarded a patent. Never put into production, the device nonetheless proved workable in theory, and on the Smithsonian website there are comments which describe the ease with which the design could be modernized, using materials unheard of in Lincoln’s day.

The model was commissioned by Lincoln — he did not make it with his own hands — and at any rate the model on display is not the original he submitted. That model resided at the Patent Office during Lincoln’s tenure in the White House, a place to which he frequently resorted as president, escaping the cares of his office. By 1978 it was deemed too fragile for display, and the currently displayed model was built to replace it, though the original remains in the possession of the Smithsonian. Lincoln is not often linked with American infrastructure, though he was a railroad lawyer, a supporter of the Transcontinental Railroad, and of the improvement of rivers and streams. A visit to the display may serve to remind that the 16th President was a multi-faceted man, far from the country lawyer as he is all too often portrayed.

1. Missiles guided by pigeons along for the ride might have worked

During the Second World War missiles were, for the most part, a point and shoot weapon, which were unguided once in flight. It took Yankee ingenuity, in the form of psychologist B.F. Skinner, to come up with the idea of using pigeons riding inside the missiles to guide them to their target. Relying on their pecking instinct and rewarding them with food, Skinner trained pigeons to peck at the images of enemy ships, planes, tanks, and other equipment. Pecks on the center of the screen maintained the weapon on course, pecks off-center led to signals which caused the missile’s fins to change alignment and alter the course of the weapon in flight. The pigeons rode in a capsule which was attached to the nose of the missile. Obviously, it was a one-way trip.

The pecking pigeons project was pursued for months before it became clear that the guidance technology of the weapons available at the time – the speed with which course could be altered – was too slow to keep up with the little peckers, and the project was abandoned. As evidence that such a project actually existed, the Smithsonian in its collection has a capsule in which a pigeon would have flown, attached to a missile as he guided it to its target by pecking away at the image he had been trained to recognize. The capsule can also be viewed on the Smithsonian’s website, along with a description of the project. Skinner later claimed that the project would have been successful, and was only abandoned because, “no one would take us seriously.”


Stuff in “America’s Attic”

WIF Museums

Diving Deep Into Oceans – Sea-ing WIF Mysteries

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Bizarre Mysteries

of the Sea

Oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface, and if you think what horrors and marvels the rest of the 30% host, it should come as no surprise that the watery parts of our planet have more than their share of strange stuff as well.

What may surprise you, however, is just how unbelievably weird and mysterious the oceans can get. Here are 10 of our favorite creepy secrets of the sea.

10. Something is eating great white sharks

In 2014, scientists discovered that some strange and no doubt terrifying aquatic creature was snacking on great white sharks, which was worrying because great whites are pretty much the apex predator of the oceans. The phenomenon was discovered off the coast of Southwest Australia where a great white wearing a research tag suddenly dove to 1,903 feet, while the tag (which was later discovered on a beach 2.5 miles from the incident) recorded a temperature spike from 46°F to 78°F. The abrupt plunge and the rising temperature strongly suggested that something had attacked the large shark — but what?

Initially, experts thought that the shark may have been eaten by an even bigger shark, which is pretty creepy already. However, an even more terrifying potential reason eventually emerged: The shark may have been the victim of an orca. Apparently, the killer whales occasionally like to attack great whites. There’s even a documented incident of two orcas attacking a great white and eating its liver, possibly with fava beans and a nice chianti. There’s no consensus on just how common these supposedly rare attacks are, but great whites are certainly aware of them. They appear to be so terrified of orcas that when a pod of killer whales visits a great white’s hunting grounds for just a few hours, the sharks may flee in abject terror and avoid the area for up to a year. Yeah, the ocean is so scary that even great white sharks refuse to go to the rougher neighborhoods.

9. The milky sea effect

It’s one thing to encounter terrifying creatures at sea, and completely another when the sea itself starts acting strange. We’re not talking about huge waves or other weather phenomena, either — we’re talking about a phenomenon where a giant part of the ocean suddenly lights up in an eerie glow. It’s called the milky sea effect, and the areas it affects are so vast that you can sometimes even see them from space In 2005, the phenomenon was captured in photos by the Naval Research Laboratory, and that particular instance spanned a whopping 5,780 square miles — roughly the size of Connecticut.

Oh, and here’s the creepy thing: We have absolutely no idea what’s causing the milky sea effect, how its instances form and what’s the source of the illumination. Right now, the best scientists can do is hazard a guess about huge colonies of bioluminescent bacteria.

8. Devil’s Sea

The Bermuda Triangle may be the go-to area when it comes to strange maritime disappearances and legends of all sorts of paranormal shenanigans. However, the Devil’s Sea in Japan’s corner of the Pacific Ocean can certainly put up a fight. Reportedly, many ships have vanished there, including multiple large vessels in the 1950s. In fact, between 1950 and 1954 alone, no less than nine large freighters reportedly disappeared in the area, and none of them managed to send out a distress call. When the Japanese government got fed up with the situation, they sent a ship called Kaiyo-Maru to research the situation. Reportedly, it disappeared too.

Of course, it must be noted that not everyone attributes these disappearances to sea monsters and aliens, or even believes that there are disproportionate amounts of vanished ships at all. According to Skeptoid, the whole thing is a brainchild of paranormal researcher Ivan T. Sanderson, who invented the Devil’s Sea as part of his theory of “vile vortices,” a set of 10 Bermuda Triangle -like areas with otherworldly attributes. This would cast a number of legends around the area in a rather dubious light — although Skeptoid admits that the disappearance of the Kaiyo-Maru seems to be a legitimate event, so who knows?

7. The Yonaguni “monument”

What would you do if you unexpectedly found a sunken ruin from an ancient civilization? Such a thing happened to marine geologist Masaaki Kimura in 1986, at least if you ask Masaaki Kimura. He was diving off the coast of Japan’s Ryukyu islands when he came across a vast, mysterious rock formation that was so angular and complex that it looked a lot like a man-made structure. Kimura set out to research what became known as the Yonaguni monument, and says that it’s clearly man-made. He also says that there are carvings on some of the structures, and that the “monument” is actually a vast complex that features roads, castles, pyramids and even a stadium. This has led him to conclude that the Yonaguni monument is actually the remains of the Atlantis-like Lost Continent of Mu.

Other scientists disagree, and point out that the rock’s formations are actually perfectly normal for large masses of sandstone in tectonically active underwater areas. However, even if the majority of the structure may not have been built by human hands, pottery from 2500 BCE has been found in the area, so there’s a chance that humans lived in the area before it went underwater, and perhaps even altered the rock formations.

6. The Baltic Sea anomaly

In 2011, the Ocean X shipwreck hunting team led by Peter Lindberg captured a strange sonar image at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The vaguely Millennium Falcon-shaped object in the picture became known as the Baltic Sea Anomaly, and it soon started attracting all sorts of UFO-themed attention.

Unfortunately for the X-Files-minded, the Anomaly wasn’t a submerged portion of Area 51, or a sign of an ancient civilization. While many experts were initially puzzled by its true nature, even Lindberg himself didn’t truly think it was an alien spacecraft (since they could tell it wasn’t metallic). As such, the reason it caused a big stir was not a “Whoa, aliens” situation, but rather interest over the fact that the Anomaly was so difficult to identify. Well, difficult to people who aren’t geologists — after all, they’re quite certain that the Anomaly is merely a glacial deposit.

5. All sorts of unexplained sounds

The ocean can be a noisy place, and every so often, humanity encounters an underwater sound that’s unlike anything we’ve ever heard. Although the famous “Bloop” sound eventually turned out to be a natural phenomenon known as icequake, there are still plenty of aural underwater oddities to entice and creep out the enquiring mind.

The “Upsweep” is an odd, ongoing constellation of shortish, upsweeping sounds that originate from somewhere in Pacific, and seem to get louder during spring and autumn. No one knows what’s going on, but the prevailing theory is that it has something to do with volcanic activity. “Slow down” is a periodical, gradually slowing seven-minute sound that some people attribute to giant squids, and others insist is just the noise of an iceberg running aground. Then there are individual, unexplained noises such as “Julia” and “The Whistle” — and, of course, the most tragic sound of them all, “52 Hertz.”

52 Hertz is not as mysterious as it is sad, as the sound belongs to a lonesome whale that has a peculiar 52-hertz call that’s much higher than other whale calls, and due to this it’s likely that the animal has never found a mate. Scientists have dubbed it “the loneliest whale in the world,” and have tried to track its location for over two decades, presumably to give it a bro hug and tell it that there are other fish in the sea.

4. The submarine disappearances of 1968

Submarines are dangerous things, so it’s no surprise that every so often, there’s an accident. However, what if four submarines from different countries disappeared in mysterious circumstances within months of each other, and there’s not even a World War raging? This exact thing happened between January and May 1968. The first ship to go was the Israeli INS Dakar, which disappeared in January in the Mediterranean Sea, along with its 69-man crew. Two days after that, the French Minerve and its crew of 52 disappeared on the same region on a routine patrol mission under an experienced captain. After that, things took a turn towards the Cold War: The Soviet nuclear sub K-129 and its 98-man crew went permanently down in Pacific in March, and in May, the equally nuclear USS Scorpion went to the bottom of the North Atlantic sea.

While the sinkings (probably) weren’t the work of a frustrated sea monster who wanted the annoying humans from gentrifying the neighborhood, it doesn’t make the stories behind these four disasters any less interesting. INS Dakar’s wreckage was found in 1999, and while it purportedly just dove deeper than its hull could handle, the denials from the Israeli military and a 2005 interview of an Egyptian naval officer who claims to have sunk the Dakar make its final fate pretty good conspiracy theory material. The reason for Minerve’s loss remains a mystery, but its remains were found in 2019 after an extensive operation.

In 1974, the CIA managed to lift parts of the K-129 in the huge, secretive Project Azorian, which nevertheless leaked to the press within a year, giving birth to the phrase “we can neither confirm and deny” as the Agency was flailing to keep things secret as long as they could. USS Scorpion, on the other hand, remains at the bottom of the sea, its nuclear wreckage no doubt carefully monitored by all parties. We still don’t know whether it was destroyed by a hull breach, an explosion within the submarine, or a Soviet torpedo.

3. The sea serpent sighting of HMS Daedalus

In the “here there be dragons” age of maritime travel when monsters were very much considered an occupational hazard of sailing, one of the more interesting sightings of supposed giant sea serpents came from an account by Captain Peter M’Quhae of HMS Daedalus, a British vessel that purportedly encountered such a monster on August 6, 1848. In an official report to the Admiralty, the captain described a huge, serpentine creature with a large head and “at the very least” 60 feet of unseen body that it used to propel itself forward.

To this day, the story remains one of the more enticing accounts of monstrous sea creatures thanks to the general perceived trustworthiness of Royal Navy officers, and their unlikeliness to fabricate such sightings. Still, even at the time, some biologists pointed out that the good captain and his officers had probably just seen an elephant seal and gotten confused.

2. The vanishing island of Bermeja

Off the Yucatan peninsula, there used to be a tiny, uninhabited island called Bermeja. We say “used to,” because at some point, the island disappeared. For centuries, it used to feature on the area’s maps, but by the time the 18th Century rolled in, it slowly started to fade away from cartography, and its last confirmed appearance in a map was in 1921. Mexico has been quite keen to know what happened to their tiny island, and in 2009 alone there were three attempts to locate it with cutting edge technology, all to no avail.

There seems to be two main theories regarding Bermeja’s relatively sudden disappearance. One is that the low-lying island sank because of rising sea levels or an island-sinking natural disaster. The other is that, uh, the CIA blew up the island because the area contained oil and they wanted to improve the U.S. claim on it. However, there’s a third, arguably even stranger possibility: That Bermeja never existed. Early explorers sometimes drew maps with inaccuracies that only they knew about, so their competitors could not rely on them. Bermeja might be such an inaccuracy that at some point went viral among the cartographers, only to eventually fall into obscurity when everyone started making accurate maps. Mexico, however, claims to have information that Bermeja existed, though not in the location the maps show… so it appears the jury is still out on the “phantom island” and its true nature.

1. The immortal jellyfish

What’s the most mysterious creature of the sea? Most people would probably say it’s the giant squid, or one of the many cryptozoological monsters that supposedly roam the oceans. However, a tiny jellyfish known as Turritopsis dohrnii leaves all them in shame, for reasons best described by its nickname: The immortal jellyfish.

The immortal jellyfish is exactly what it says on the tin: It can live forever. T. dohrnii can alternate between polyp and medusa states, and whenever it is injured or comes to the apparent end of its natural life, it just turns its old and damaged cells back to young, virile ones and goes right on. It basically has the healing powers of Wolverine and can reverse-age like Benjamin Button, only at will.

This ability to basically reset itself and start with a full health bar whenever death comes knocking makes Turritopsis dohrnii one of the most incredible instances of marine life, and if science can ever learn to harness its powers… well, let’s just say we’d all save a lot on hospital bills.


Diving Deep Into Oceans –

Sea-ing WIF Mysteries