Mankind has long been fascinated with the world of magic and the unbelievable. Without the fantastic, we'd never have The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or David Bowie, and the world would be worse off for it. With it we're able to escape from the nearly unbearable weight of reality and the horrible truth of everyday life that is taxation, people with face tattoos, and working in a cubicle. Fantasy, so often maligned as kid's stuff, has become mainstream once more, as it always should have been if you look through the history of mankind. We have always been enamored with the amazing in the way that an online comedy writer is enamored with bosoms. God, they're just swell, aren't they?
Sadly, there are always those who prefer non-fiction to fiction, and maybe they like Canadian football better than real football just because their parents never held them and they only eat monochromatic foods. Those are the sorts of people who grow up and offer "scientific" explanations for the world of fantasy, trying to crush the dreams of the rest of us with their shitty reality and plausible ideas. How shitty and plausible do their explanations get? Oh man, I've got a whole article about it.
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According to me, a mermaid is a mythical lady-beast with the undercarriage of a trout and the rack of a gymnast who's pushing the envelope a little bit, but not so much that you wouldn't believe she could still do the balance beam stuff. So like a large B cup, but squooshed behind that seashell bra.
According to Wikipedia, these fishstresses are so old that they date back to at least 1000 B.C. That's a super old fish. The first mermaid was some Assyrian goddess who, after a little sexual chicanery with a mortal, flung herself into the sea. The sea was all "Damn, you hot" and decided to make half of her a fish but leave the rest so she'd still be sexy. And that's how you make a mermaid.
Since that first story, nearly every culture that managed to get near a body of water larger than a creek has come up with stories of mermaids. If every culture around the world has stories about mermaids, surely there must be something to them, right? No. No, you're wrong. God, what's it like being so wrong? In point of fact, there are no mermaids. They're manatees.
She squirts, fellas.
History.com says that even Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids, but in fairness, Columbus chose to sail a boat west with literally no idea where he was going or what he'd find, so his status as a savvy sea captain should have been suspect from the get-go. All that aside, it's a fairly popular theory that most mermaid sightings were just manatee sightings, and to that I ask one simple question: What kind of butt-fugly women did these sailors leave at home that they thought manatees were beautiful sirens from the sea? If you put Wilford Brimley and Bea Arthur in the teleporter pod from The Fly and then took the thing they became on the other side, rolled it up in a sleeping bag, smashed it in the face with a pan, and tossed it into the ocean, it would still be slightly more sexually appealing than a manatee.
Any sailor who thought a manatee was a beautiful fish-woman either was blinded by being too long at sea or was the sort of guy who, upon seeing Wesley Snipes in drag in To Wong Foo, would likely suffer a fatal testicle blowout as a result of all that sexy Snipesness.
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So once a month, when the moon is full, the cursed may find themselves overcome by their inner beast and become a werewolf -- a half-man, half-wolf who prowls the night. Only a silver bullet can kill the werewolf, and its bite can pass the curse on to you. Plus like a dozen other bullshit things, depending on what story you're getting your source material from. Did you see Hemlock Grove? You can become a werewolf by drinking from their paw prints. But then, damn, what happened to Shelley Godfrey at the end? Give me the inside scoop, Eli Roth, and I'll totally give you the inside scoop on what Adam Brown does for those endless hours in the office bathroom.
Like mermaids, there are stories from countless cultures throughout the ages about men who become beasts. Not always wolves, but the basic idea is the same. You can find stories from as far back as 400 B.C. detailing men who become wolves, and then somewhere in the Middle Ages they became super popular and vaguely sexual in nature when hairy man love was all the rage.
You'd think the idea of a man completely growing a full-body merkin and fangs before feasting on his neighbors would be a tough one to swallow and an even tougher one to explain away, but many scholars have tried to come up with potential explanations for "real" werewolves, which apparently plagued France in the 16th century, likely due to their delicious baguettes and saucy wenches. While the theory that people with Down's syndrome originated the myth was an option I almost went with for this article (for real, someone hatched that idea), another more awesome explanation has been offered up by science, and it's less in-your-face preposterous than assuming that the kid from Life Goes On was the wolfman -- ergot poisoning.
"Sandwich told me I need to get the evil out of you."
Ergot is a fungus that can grow in grains, particularly those from which you make bread. If you store your grains in damp conditions, the fungus has a chance to grow, you make a loaf of bread out of it, and bam, everyone is consuming the fungus. How does that make werewolves? Because ergot poisoning is a lot like taking LSD. So if everyone is eating the same shitty fungus sandwiches, you're all tripping balls. And if a whole town shared grain storage, that whole town is tripping balls. Symptoms can include paranoia, extreme terror, a lack of self-control, hallucinations, and other assorted terrible things. Still not sure it could make a werewolf seem real? In 1951, 135 people were hospitalized with ergot poisoning, and most of them were pretty confident they'd been attacked by tigers and snakes as a result. So all you need is one guy to think he's a werewolf and everyone else is probably going to agree right away. Then rip their clothes off, shit in the well, and climb a tree to spend the rest of the night shrieking obscenities at owls.
Now at this point you may be thinking, "Well shit, when you explain it that way, that's actually a really good explanation for werewolves." And on the surface I'd agree. Except that it so isn't. If everyone in the town was blitzed on wacky bagels, how come it wasn't a dragon attack? Or the Kardashians? Every werewolf story came from a town with shitty sandwiches? For like 2,000 years? That's exactly as plausible as it being a guy with Down's syndrome.