Myths, Legends and Monsters

Around the world, every country and culture has its own myths and legends. However, what’s more likely to cause a chill to go up the spine than the tales themselves are two odd facts. The first is many of these monsters outdate even written records. The second is that many cultures recount legends of the same monsters, despite not having an opportunity to share their stories with each other.

Before we give you sleepless nights, it’s important to point out that even if the monster fits one particular format, it does differ slightly between cultures. In fact, linguistics can serve as a useful analogy. For instance, people in the UK and the US speak the same language, but the dialects make this one language look very different depending on if it’s UK or US-centric.

And just like language, our myths and legends are constantly evolving to better reflect culture and society as it is now. For instance, lights in the sky and mysterious flying objects may well be identified as visiting aliens today. However, centuries ago people might have regarded this phenomenon as gods and angels.

Here we round up some of our favourite myths to have been recorded all across the world. We consider what may have prompted these widespread beliefs to span both geographic and cultural boundaries.


Vampires have become incredibly popular in the last decade, thanks to the success of romantic novels like Twilight and True Blood. However, the vampire legends they’re based on date back thousands of years and can be found worldwide.

The creatures were first seen as a demon or an evil spirit. In these post-Twilight times some now regard the vampire as a cursed, tortured and ridiculously-attractive soul. The most likely explanation for cultures all over the world having believed in vampire-like beings at some time is that you will have experienced death at some stage.

Simply put, the common thread tying all vampire legends together are the ideas of death, then rising from death and then feasting on human blood to stay alive again. However, the tragic origins of these tales are all that sexy. Centuries ago where hygiene was not too high on the agenda, disease was able to spread like wildfire, causing plagues that would spread throughout towns. As a result, almost everyone had to deal with seeing and disposing of corpses.

Unusual things happen during the decaying process. Blood appears around the mouth, the body bloats, the skin shrinks to give the illusion that the hair or nails have grown, and even peels off to reveal pristine skin below. Put all this together and add to that the fact a corpse may not have been disposed of quickly or adequately, so that people see it in this state, and it’s easy to understand why someone may think this unusually-healthy looking body appears to have been waking up and feeding on blood. Because dead bodies exist all over the world in every culture, so do vampire legends.


Giant apes are the most famous figures in the field of cryptozoology. This is because they could be the missing link between apes and modern humans. The Himalayan Yeti and the Bigfoot of North America are the two most well-known examples of this phenomenon.

Tales of giant apes have been told for thousands of years and by cultures across the planet. Settlements in the Himalayas once worshiped a wild man with characteristics similar to that of the Yeti. Also, the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest in the US told similar stories of huge, powerful apes.

Among the most commonly-cited evidence for the existence of these creatures are footprints left in the snow or dirt. Fossils, teeth and other physical evidence including hair and scalps have also been discovered and attributed to the legend. In addition, there are numerous people only too happy to share their stories of sightings. Even some well-known scientists, like the chimpanzee expert Dame Jane Goodall, have said they hope that such a thing exists.

There are numerous theories as to why stories about the Yeti and Bigfoot continue.  The continue even when no one has ever discovered the corpse of such an animal, or located solid scientific evidence to support its existence. Many of the sightings are put down to hoaxes. However, some believe they may be evidence of the continued existence of an animal once thought to be extinct. In fact, a type of giant ape did exist during the same time period as the earliest humans.


Another hairy creature to appear in myths and legends that date back centuries is the werewolf. Animals being depicted in human form is something that can be traced back to the time of Stone Age man. These stories originated across large parts of Europe. Shape-shifting tales were being told before the advent of Christianity. The legends really became cemented in the public consciousness in the Middle Ages.

Many have argued that the reason werewolves are associated with a full moon is simply because more crimes were witnessed on these nights. The sky is lighter therefore people may think more individuals indulge in criminal behaviour during these times. However, it’s just that more of them are spotted doing so.

One popular explanation for werewolves is that they are actually people suffering clinical lycanthropy. This is a psychiatric condition that causes the sufferer to believe they have the ability to transform into an animal.

A different theory to emerge is that of a combination of mass hysteria and hallucination caused by poisoning. Ergot, a type of fungus, is the most likely culprit, as it grows on rye grains and when consumed the alkaloids it produces cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. It has been suggested that in particular weather conditions, ergot tainted rye crops and the bread supply made from it. This led to whole towns suffering from poisoning. While one person may be so affected they hallucinate they are turning into an animal, others could experience feelings of extreme terror and mass hysteria in others suffering from the condition. The result is a town-wide conviction the community has been attacked by werewolves.

Part 2 coming soon!

As these examples show, there is often a scientific explanation for these legends being heard all over the world. To find out what could be behind the global popularity of other legends, check out tomorrow’s blog.