Yesterday, we reported on three of the most ubiquitous myths in the world, and the reason why these legends are so ingrained in the consciousness of cultures all over the planet. Today we are continuing the myth-busting by tackling three other famous types of monster. Ghosts Ghosts are perhaps the oldest example of paranormal phenomena, and tales of spirits have been recorded in every era, culture and language. In fact, people believed in ghosts before formal language even existed. Thousands of years before Christianity, people believed that when a person died their spirit, soul or shade left the body – although what happened after this differs according to the storyteller. Again, this is an unexplained phenomenon with little to no scientific proof supporting it, so why are stories of spirits told all around the world? It could be because they’re real. Or, the reason might be something as simple as breathing. Some anthropologists have speculated that people once thought a person’s breath being exhaled on a cold day was their soul trying to escape. The fact that when it is cold outside your breath is visible as a white, ghostly mist may have helped to cement this theory. The link between breath and the soul might even have influenced the Bible, as Adam does not come to life until God breathes into him. Often, spirits are said to remain trapped on Earth because they had a tragic death, or because they are set on seeking vengeance on those that have wronged them. In reality, it may just be that the person who did the wrong is unable to get over their memory of the deceased and the feeling of guilt it prompts, and these prominent thoughts could make them feel like the spirit of the deceased is haunting them. Lake monsters Wherever there is a deep lake, there are rumours of a legendary beast residing in it. From the US and Canada to Europe and Japan, there are stories all over the world of these huge monsters living virtually undetected in ancient lakes. Since people first took to the sea in boats to explore and trade, there have been tales of monsters living beneath the waves. It’s true, the Earth’s oceans continue to hold a wealth of secrets – the Colossal Squid was only discovered in 1925, and the Giant Squid was filmed alive for the first time as recently as 2007. So, it is not completely beyond the realms of plausibility for monsters to still lurk in the deep evading discovery. Among the most famous lake monsters are Champ in North America’s Lake Champlain, Issie of Japan’s Lake Ikeda and, of course, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Many of the descriptions are startlingly similar despite being so far removed from each other and suggest a large reptilian monster with a long neck, either a serpentine body or flippers, and similar in size to the aquatic dinosaur, the plesiosaur. While the Giant Squid proves that there is a good chance of sizeable creatures still lurking in our oceans’ depths, the chances of one staying hidden in a lake for millions of years is slim. One of the biggest problems with this theory is that it would be impossible for the lake to contain just one. Should these monsters be dinosaurs that escaped the extinction-level event that wiped out their peers, there would need to be a lot of them to keep the species going for all this time. Perhaps the best explanation for these stories existing all over the world is misidentification. The depths of these cold and murky lakes could hardly have been explored until the invention of sonar equipment, and prior to this any unusual wave and ripple patterns may have fooled people into thinking a large animal was moving under there. Smaller animals like carp, pike or otters could also create shapes and shadows wrongly identified as a monster. Aliens As the prominent sceptic and humanist Paul Kurtz once noted: “UFOlogy is the mythology of the space age. Rather than angels […] we now have […] extraterrestrials.” Indeed, Chariots of the Gods?, a 1968 book by Erich von Däniken, made exactly that claim – that ancient civilisations gained knowledge from alien visitors, who they treated and remembered as gods. Since the middle of the 20th century there has been a spike in UFO sightings, people spotting extraterrestrial beings and even witnesses claiming to have been abducted by these creatures. Arguably the two cases that kick-started the interest in men from space were Roswell in 1947 and the Hill Abduction of 1961. The Roswell incident began when strange pieces of debris were discovered on a homestead in New Mexico. Reports described the material as being part of a flying disc, which led to wild theories that the nearby Roswell air base was secretly storing alien craft. In fact, the most likely explanation is that it was a high altitude balloon. Less than 15 years later, Betty and Barney Hill were driving through New Hampshire when they observed a bright light in the sky that moved erratically and unlike any manmade aircraft of the time. The couple felt as though the craft was chasing them and soon were forced to stop, at which point Barney spotted figures stood in the UFO watching them. They suddenly heard a series of clicking noises and their minds dulled. When they came round they discovered they had driven for 35 miles but had no recollection of it. Both these cases were well publicised, particularly the Hill Abduction, which was the first widely-reported story of an encounter with aliens. So, it should be of little surprise that after this reports of unusual flying objects, strange figures and even abductions and experiments became more commonplace. Alien myths are the most recent of the legends to be included on our list, but they are still heard all over the world. From the many stories to originate from the US, to legends told among the indigenous population of Mali in Africa, these stories are just as ubiquitous as lake monsters, vampires and ghosts. However, sceptics note that descriptions of flying objects appear to evolve to reflect what is in the contemporary media. After the debris at Roswell was described as disc-shaped, many UFO reports described similar items, but in the 1990s sightings described triangle-shaped craft – similar to real life stealth bombers. Sceptics also note that sightings of aliens almost always describe a humanoid character, when the likelihood of an extraterrestrial having any recognisably-human features at all is so slim as to be nearly impossible. Meanwhile, evidence supposedly left by UFOs such as crop circles and cattle mutilation have been proven to have other causes. Finally, the Rare Earth Hypothesis set out by scientists Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee claim the conditions that enable our world to support life are so specific that it would be almost out of the question for them to be replicated. If this theory is to be believed, not only would aliens not look like us, but they might not exist at all. It should also be noted that humans are so keen to make contact with beings from other planets that our satellites beam greetings and information into space. When mankind so wants to be heard, it makes sense an alien would visit our planet and make its presence known. Sceptics believe that alien and UFO encounters through the ages can be attributed to everything from the misidentification of stars, planets, manmade aircraft and clouds, to hallucinations, mental illness and downright forgery. They point to the continued lack of undeniable scientific evidence, particularly in an age where so many people have cameras to capture sightings on. We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning more about some of the world’s most renowned mysteries. If nothing else, we hope we’ve saved you from any more sleepless nights spent worrying about aliens abducting you or ghosts haunting you. Why not share some of your local legends below?