You may not be familiar with the history of common, mythical creatures, but I am. When I was desperately searching for any possible way to procrastinate my homework last night, I became an expert on the histories of supposedly fictitious beings. Through this piece, I would like to save you a couple of Google searches by briefly explaining the most interesting aspects of the histories of mermaids, vampires, and Bigfoot.
Assuming that mermaids do exist in our real world, I personally would like to imagine that they are friendly, kind, and beautiful creatures. However, this may not be the case according to the lengthy Wikipedia pages I just recently skimmed. Let’s start with the basics: mermaids are sea-dwelling beings that have human heads and torsos but fishlike tails instead of legs. According to European folklore, mermaids are divine, supernatural creatures who have long lifespans.
In addition, Japanese legends include many stories about the Japanese version of mermaids; there are few similarities to European folklore aside from their fish tails. One Japanese mermaid is called a Ningyo and can adapt to many different forms. A Ningyo is known to be fairly unattractive: she has the body of a fish, the head of either a human or an ape, and occasionally the beak of a bird. The only redeeming factor of a Ningyo’s appearance is that when she cries, her tears are pearls. Despite her largely unappealing image, though, the people of nineteenth-century Japan built her shrines. They wanted to gain a Ningyo’s favor so that in return, she would use her psychic abilities to tell them about upcoming harvests or potential plagues.
Shockingly, the history of vampires covers more than just Dracula and Twilight. Vampires’ most famous characteristic is their ability to bite a human, suck their blood, and turn them into a vampire. This technique would eventually create a type of domino effect resulting in all humans turning into vampires, since each vampire created would feel an urge to feed on another human and thus produce another vampire in turn. Lucky for us, people in the Middle Ages threw vampire-hunting parties, which consisted of burning, stabbing, and/or decapitating anyone suspected of being a vampire. Coincidentally, the symptoms of vampirism often paralleled with the symptoms of the Black Death, a plague which happened to be running rampant at the time.
Although we consider vampires to be fictional creatures, there has been a shocking amount of “real life” encounters with them throughout history. The most widely celebrated occurrence took place in 1892 when the the Brown family of New England suffered numerous deaths. Without a murderer to blame for these mysterious deaths, George Brown, the father, decided to further examine the corpses of his loved ones. When he got to his daughter Mercy’s dead body, his suspicions were raised because he noticed that she had not decomposed as much as the others had. Then, after further examination, he realized that there was still some blood in her heart! She must be a vampire, Brown thought. He burned her heart and liver and fed her ashes to another sick family member. Spoiler alert: the Brown family had actually just suffered from some unfortunate encounters with tuberculosis, so the family member who ate Mercy’s ashes passed away quickly after consuming them.
Bigfoot is a large, hairy, man-like creature that lives North America, potentially in Canada or the Pacific Northwest. According to Bigfoot’s Wikipedia page, he is “muscular [and] roughly [seven] feet tall.” He is known to be friendly but has only been spotted a few times by humans. Native American folklore includes more background for Bigfoot: he symbolizes larger-than-life, transcendental ideals. However, other groups have strongly warned their children to never utter his name in fear that he will come to take them away and eat them!
Nobody knows how many Bigfoots there are in the wild. Some Bigfoot enthusiasts have even created fake sightings and encounters with Bigfoot in hopes of gaining extra publicity. In reality, however, most footprints or photos that these fanatics bring to recognition usually turn out to be your average brown bears. If I’m being honest, I don’t understand why people want to think that Bigfoot is real when we already know that bears are real—they’re essentially the same thing. Those Bigfoot lovers probably think I’m crazy—but I think I’m actually okay with that.
Photo credits: Google Images