The 4 Worst 'Scientific' Explanations for Famous Monsters
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.
Mermaids Are Manatees
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.
Werewolves Are Caused by Ergot Poisoning
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.
Fairies Were Pygmies
Say you're a scholarly sort of fellow alive during a time when maybe science is only fumbling toward understanding, and every so often it fucks up horribly and things like sneezing into the chest cavity of a man undergoing surgery are still considered kosher. Science is a process, it evolves. What would you do when confronted with the idea of fairies?
We're quick to dismiss a lot of things out of habit in the modern world, but a scientist should always have an open mind. Plus, again, if you live in an age during which most medicine is just cocaine and flushing the toilet means throwing a bucket out the window, a lot of stuff seems entirely more plausible to you. So it's understandable that there could have been serious scientific research into the nature of fairies. After all, fairy mythology was and is a large part of European history. Look at Ireland: It's equal parts Catholicism, drunkenness, potato jokes, and leprechauns.
"I don't have a pot of gold, I'm an accountant. Please stop poking me."
Back in the late 1800s, a Scottish fellow named David MacRitchie hatched the theory that the fairies in British folklore probably traced their roots back to a race of people who lived alongside early Brits -- a pre-Celtic race of tiny people. Willow and his village, if you will. But you won't, because that's silly.
MacRitchie believed that a race of pygmies lived in the U.K. way back when, and there was a "folk memory" of their existence passed down and changed through stories over the generations that made them into the fairies they became. This entire theory hinges on the idea that you can have a race of midgets just living in your country and wipe them out completely without any evidence that they ever existed, anthropological, archaeological, or otherwise, beyond stories of tiny men cobbling your shoes at night and the script for the movie Legend.
MacRitchie tried really hard to make this theory work, going so far as to find support for an argument that any reference to giants in folklore was metaphorical and just meant giant in their tiny awfulness. Unfortunately, our knowledge that people who existed before us tended to always be people as far as archaeological evidence goes does poke some holes in the idea, along with the lack of any tiny man fossils that might suggest an entire tiny race ever existed there. But hey, just because you can't prove something ever existed doesn't mean it never existed, it just means you should maybe question why you think it existed based on a total lack of evidence beyond assorted fantastical stories that were not geographically limited to your corner of the world in any way whatsoever.
The Loch Ness Monster Is a Plesiosaur
Likely everyone who has heard of the Loch Ness Monster has also heard the most popular theory about what it could be among those who think it's a real thing -- a plesiosaur. What's a plesiosaur? It's like a dinosaur from the Jurassic period, meaning it would have died out over 65 million years ago, more or less, along with the rest of the beasts that existed at that time. Except for that one in Scotland.
Every picture and sighting of the Loch Ness Monster describes this big, long-necked, massive-bodied plesiosaur-like beast, so why not simply assume it's one of those things? Maybe in the depths of the loch a family of them somehow survived and thrived and avoided death and destruction for millions of years. And then it also forgot that fossil records show that plesiosaurs did not have flexible necks but rather really tightly connected neck vertebrae, so all those sightings of a long, curved neck like a snake or a swan were just tricks of the light or caused by Nessie after suffering severe whiplash. And films that show the beast paddling along just indicate that it also forgot about how a plesiosaur didn't swim with a paddling motion at all because its bones aren't connected that way and it would have been more like wings flapping. If you lived for 65 million years in a Scottish lake, maybe you'd forget how you were meant to swim, too. It's possible. And just because science at the time those images and films were made actually supported the curved, snake-like neck and paddling swimming motions and it wasn't until fossil reconstruction later on that it was proved that plesiosaurs didn't look or move like that doesn't necessarily indicate total, filthy fraud on the part of so-called witnesses at all. It just really suggests it.
It's not lying, it's just giving a hand job to the truth.
The biggest issue with Loch Ness, as opposed to other myths like fairies and werewolves, is that it's geographically constrained. Say you saw a werewolf in Romania and it's possible it ran away and now lives comfortably in the South of France. But a lake in Scotland is a lake in Scotland, and when you take a boat and do a complete sonar scan of the entire thing and find no giant, prehistoric beasts at all, it's not like you can just assume the monster packed its bags and headed to Vegas for a weekend. The stupid fish just doesn't exist. So even entertaining the idea that it was a plesiosaur isn't trying to use science to explain it anymore, it's following the trail of Reese's Pieces some bonehead with a camera and a model dinosaur left for you.
If there were dinosaurs in the lake, wouldn't you need a fairly decent breeding population for them to have lasted this long? Which is to say more than one? One dude can't hump himself for 65 million years. That's straight up crazy. Wouldn't dead ones wash up all the time? Wouldn't they have eaten the loch free of fish generations ago? Wouldn't this not fall apart under even the weakest of scrutiny?
To put it in very basic terms, there's no monster in the lake, there has just been a chain of liars. Not people making mistakes, not crazy people, just liars. Everyone who has ever claimed to see the Loch Ness Monster is a liar. So science doesn't even need to try to explain it with awkward stories of a kind of dinosaur that doesn't even fit the description once you actually know the science behind it. It's a lie.