|One of the fairy photos that fooled Arthur Conan Doyle|
I’ve been thinking a lot about legends lately. I’ll get to the primary reason why in a little while, but in a way, I guess, I’m always thinking about legends to one degree or another. They’re essential to the books I write if you think about it. But the question is…do I think about legends because I write books about them or do I write books about legends because I think about them? What is it about a really good legend that calls to us like the sirens of some ancient myth? What drives us to look into these things that so many people feel are merely stories without an ounce of truth?
Case in point, last week I attended the Florida Association of Medical Examiner’s Conference in Clearwater, Florida [for those who aren’t in the loop, I work as an investigator for a Medical Examiner’s Office for my “day job”]. While I was there, I had the opportunity to talk to an old friend of mine, Dr. Mike Warren, the forensic anthropologist guru at University of Florida. Mike and I have had an on-going discussion about the possibility of large hominids living in seclusion in the wooded and swampy areas of the United States, as well as other regions of the world (hominids commonly known as Bigfoot, the Swamp Ape, Yeti, Batutut, and others). He, of course, doesn’t believe in them and brings some pretty compelling arguments why they don’t exist. I, of course, do believe in them and offer my own compelling arguments. Of course, it’s much easier for me…I don’t have to prove they exist at all (I just have to show the POSSIBILITY that they might or could exist). He, on the other hand, has to prove that they do not…which is much more challenging.
But that’s not the point. During this discussion, Mike brought up a very good question…a question that I had to answer honestly. He asked me, “Do you really believe that these creatures exist or do you just really want them to exist?” I knew the answer immediately and answered him without hesitation or apology…There is no doubt that I want these things to exist. I’m not ashamed of this. I so want there to be creatures such as Sasquatch or Nessie or aliens or zombie spirits to exist in our world today! Why? Because a world without them would be so boring! I honestly feel bad for the skeptics out there and even more so for those who refuse to believe in anything that their closed minds can’t account for in clearly defined pigeon holes. How boring the world would be without the POSSIBILITY of some nefarious lychanthrope lurking somewhere in the shadows of a nearby wood? How dull and gray this world would be without the possibility that faeries and elves could never have existed in our world? How depressing that those flitting shadows darting across the room from your peripheral vision are simply tricks of light and shadow and not something trans-dimensional?
So am I saying that we should turn a blind eye to the truth and pretend these things exist when they really do not? Am I suggesting that we should unyielding hold onto legends that have been proven untrue? Absolutely not! I would never support anything that clings to a belief system of lies. However, I do hold unwaveringly to what Hamlet said to his old friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy.” This world…our universe…all of God’s glorious creation is huge. And the human existence accounts for a very very small percentage of it. How can we possibly know what lurks around the next corner of our experience? Who are we to say that we will not one day face down that bogeyman with red-rimmed eyes just because we haven’t done so yet?
This is the power of legend. It is the salt of human existence. Without legends of moons made of cheese, we might never have aspired to send men to it. Legends drive us. They compel us to move forward. They push us on when there is no hope left. Legends shape who we are as a culture. They guide our hands in exploration, research, and advancement. Legends are glorious things.
|The possible dwarf that built Uxmal|
And the beauty of it is…there is no shortage of them. Legends are all around us. Some are gleaming bright rock stars of fortean arcana….brazenly embedded in almost every tabloid newspaper, TV magazine show, and popular fiction. Bigfoot. Nessie. UFOs. These are such examples. Some legends are so regional and obscure than only a select handful are even aware of their existence. And still others are a little trickier to classify because they’ve changed and morphed through the ages. They’ve moved from hushed tales that our kind have believed for centuries into silly caricatures of themselves. There is no greater example of this than the fae…spirit folk that hug the green confines of our forests and imaginations. At one time, these creatures were believed almost universally by our ancestors in almost every culture on earth (including my own kin in the Appalachian mountains). Now, they have been reduced to the subject of dice-rolling fantasy games and popular fiction. But as I said before, almost every single culture on earth has these stories. For instance, take dwarves as an example. We all know the dwarf legend best from tales like Lord of the Rings (or even Snow White). But Tolkien borrowed his dwarves from the far older Norse and Celtic myths. Dwarves are known to be short. Bearded. Sturdy. They are industrious, even compulsive builders and craftsmen.
But here is the interesting thing. These characteristics appear to be almost universal all over the world. Not just in places where the Norse might have brought their legends. But in remote regions of the world as well. In China for example…they have legends of dwarves with almost exact characteristics. So do Native Americans. Even more bizarre, I was intrigued when I went to the great Meso-American pyramid Uxmal in the Yucatan my sophomore year of high school because I discovered that this awesome pyramid (the largest in this hemisphere), was said to have been built by a dwarf in a single night. Yep. That’s right. Legend has it that a dwarf entered a small village one night, took up his tools, and built the pyramid in one night. The Mayan people had no exposure to the Norse or Celtic people that we know of, yet their legends of the dwarves matched eerily. Is this coincidence? Could be. Is it a link to a common ancestry? Possibly. But isn’t it intriguing? Doesn’t it compel you to want to know more?
And there’s so much more to explore. There are pirate treasures. Lost mines. Lost cities. Ghosts. Shadow people. Witches. Living dinosaurs. UFOs. Imps. Undiscovered hominids all over the world. Sea and lake monsters. Mongolian death worms. Vortexes. Places of power (such as Bermuda Triangle). Wherever there are people, there are legends such as these. And I believe each of them have some basis in fact. Oh, don’t get me wrong…I’m not say they are all true. I’m not even saying the majority of them are. I’m saying that each of these stories…each of these legends…have some elemental seed that birthed them to life. Or more accurately, perhaps we just lack the means to understand some of these things with our modern technologies and sensibilities.
Case in point…hauntings. I’ve alluded to the fact in a previous post that I don’t believe the majority “hauntings” are anything of the kind. However, I believe wholeheartedly in the phenomenon. An external phenomenon too…not just some trick of the mind. However, my theory that explains a large number of “residual haunts” requires some major outside-the-box theoretical physics. The point is…we shouldn’t automatically discount a phenomenon because it just doesn’t “seem” scientific. Sometimes, the best way to see a picture is to turn it up on its side…then the image might become more clear. The same is true with legends.
|Faked photos are the bane of a legend tripper|
Which brings me to the crux of this entire post. Someone once asked me whether I was a ghost hunter or a cryptozoologist and I had trouble answering that. I’ve done both (though I’d honestly never claim to be either in the professional sense…more of a dabbler than anything else). But there was so much more to my interests than just ghosts or cryptids. There was just so many other things that I was interested in exploring as well. If only there was a term that I could apply to my own particular form of fortean exploration! And then I met cryptozoologist Robert Robinson who introduced me to a wonderful term that I have proudly adorned from that moment on. The term is “Legend Tripper”. Or someone who goes on trips looking for legends of all kinds. The most basic of legend trippers is the kid who is dared by his friends to spend the night in the Old Simpson place up on the hill…the place that everyone in town knows is haunted or lived in by a witch. Scooby Doo and the gang would be perfect examples of legend trippers and perhaps the very first fictional characters to legend trip would be Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. According to Wikipedia, a legend tripper is “an adolescent practice (containing elements of a rite of passage) in which a usually furtive nocturnal pilgrimage is made to a site which is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting.”
So, okay…maybe I’m a bit too old for this description, but the spirit of definition works so well with my own interests. The fact is, I’m fascinated with legends. I want to explore them. Research them. Discover those kernels of truth that each of them have. I want to understand them and see how they developed. I want to discover those that are real and expose that are fake. I simply want to know the Truth about them. Perhaps that’s why I’m such a huge fan of SyFy’s DESTINATION TRUTH. Why I’ve become friends with the crew from the show. Why it inspired my very own series of adventure novels. But it’s not enough. I want more. I have a passionate need to discover the ultimate legend. I’m not talking Atlantis here. I’m not talking aliens or Sasquatch or anything so big. Those have been explored all too well. They’re too well documented by both sides of the fence and therefore, boring. No, I’m looking for something else. Something new. Something local and regional to you…my readers, fans, and friends. And this is where I need your help.
|Inch tall mummy. Alien or Hoax?|
I’m working on a VERY special project. I can’t discuss it right now, but if it works out, it will be huge. I can only say that it will deal with this very topic. Legends and trying to discover the truth behind them. I want you to tell me about legends close to where you live…whether it is the furtive sightings of some possible iguanadon (such as Pinky of the St. Johns River, Florida) or a set of old pre-Revolutionary War ruins that echoes the screams of the long dead…I want to hear about it. I want to know about the legends that have helped to shape your community…those stories that were told to you by your grandpappy while sitting out on the front porch. I want to know about that place you and your high school friends snuck off to in the dead of night for a sneak peek at some strange cult practicing animal sacrifices or that stretch of highway where a lone hitchhiker can often materialize inside your vehicle as you drive by. Tell me your legends. Share your stories. Leave comments at the end of this blog for everyone to enjoy. We all love legends. We all find them fascinating…so tell the world the stories you know right here on this blog. And if they’re exceptionally intriguing, I’ll be using them for my special super-secret project (and I’ll be sure to let you know when I do).
So sit back, relax, and let’s talk about the legends we all know and love…