Professor Roger Bowley unlocks his car from various distances, using waves from his key, brain and a big bottle of water.
By Tara MacIsaac
Here’s a look at what your dog’s breed may say about you. Researchers at Bath Spa University surveyed 1,000 dog owners, compiling data about the owners’ personality traits and their dogs’ breeds.
The researchers presented their findings to the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in 2012.
Stanley Coren, a psychologist and author of “Why We Love the dogs We Do,” also discussed the connection between owner personality traits and dog breeds, in an interview with Modern dog Magazine.
A visitor to the Coral Castle will see a stone fantasy garden with carved coral stones and blocks weighing several dozen tons each. The mystery of the garden is not in the blocks themselves but in how they were carved and put into place.
This feat of engineering was accomplished entirely by one man—Edward Leedskalnin—who carved, transported, and set all of the stone slabs and blocks by himself with no help or modern machinery. He used only hand tools he bought from a junkyard. Additionally, the blocks are cut and set with intricate precision, locked into place without mortar.
Leedskalnin, born in Latvia on Aug. 10, 1887, was a quiet, private man who was just over 5 feet tall, weighing just over 100 pounds. He somehow managed to carve and sculpt more than 1,100 tons of coral rock, transporting the rocks 10 miles and setting them into place using only a crude wooden tripod, a borrowed tractor, and a truck.
All of his work was done during the night between midnight and 6:00 a.m., according to the documentary Mystery at Coral Castle. Whenever someone would try to catch a peek at his work, he would stand upon his watchtower and announce: “As soon as you leave, I will continue my work.”
People could see the blocks being transported down the highway, but no one ever saw Leedskalnin move, lift, or set any of the blocks. The only witnesses are two children who supposedly saw Leedskalnin “float” the blocks into place like moving balloons. The mysterious man was also known for his extensive theories on magnetism.
The Coral Castle walls themselves weight 125 pounds per cubic foot, and each section is 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet thick, according to the Coral Castle Museum. Weighing approximately 30 tons, the greatest stone in the castle is twice as massive as any used in the pyramids, according to the documentary In Search of Coral Castle.
Another particular oddity of the castle includes a 9-ton swinging stone door that moves when just a little force is applied; a child could move it with ease. A raised obelisk weighing 28 tons is another curious feature, as well as a carved stone crescents sitting atop 20-foot high walls.
The story regarding the inspiration for the Coral Castle is that of a tragic romance. When Leedskalnin was still a young man, at the age of 26, he was engaged to a woman who left him the day before they were to be wed. Leedskalnin vowed to create the structure as a symbol for his love for her.
The stones were quarried near his original home in Florida City. After a developing subdivision threatened his privacy and the privacy of the Castle, he bought property in Homestead, Fla., just 25 miles from Miami, and moved all of his pieces over the course of three years.
Leedskalnin started the endeavor in approximately 1923 and finished around 1951. Through the ‘40s up until his death in December of 1951, he would charge 10 cents admission for visitors to his castle and garden.
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A flock of migrating starlings flies over the southern Israeli village of Tidhar, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. AP Photo/Oded Balilty
With the Chinese New Year quickly approaching—a time of family reunions, where people who live in the big cities travel back home—single 20- and 30-somethings across the country are cooking up ways to explain to their parents why they aren’t yet married.
But not the young 25-year-old who offered 1 million yuan for a girlfriend for a week. In an advertisement posted to the Chinese Internet app iweju (“mini-gathering” in English), he said he would pay just over $165,000 for a young Chinese woman who would accompany him for seven days over the Chinese New Year holiday; and he’d pick up the tab for the charter flight.
The phenomenon of renting a boyfriend or girlfriend is not entirely new to China. The griping of an older generation set upon matchmaking and ensuring that their children are married is a common complaint among young Chinese adults. A cottage industry in acquiring boyfriends and girlfriends to rent, to head off the parents nagging, thus sprang up.
But the offers were usually not as high-profile as this one. This Jan. 17 Internet post, which subsequently went viral, offered a huge reward, along with a series of strict and peculiar requirements: “The girl needs to be younger than 25, taller than 5’6”, weigh less than 110 pounds, look sweet, and have a Bachelor’s degree or a higher level of education. A PhD or a virgin will get an extra 10 percent reward!” the note said.
A fifth of the lump sum would be advanced on the first day, and the rest at the end, the note said. “Sign up and send me your contact information. Once you are approved, we’ll arrange an interview!”
The post was accompanied by pictures of a young Chinese man, with short hair, sitting at a desk over a large pile of 100-yuan bills. Photographs of the inside of a jet were also provided.
The ostentatiousness of the offer attracted 5,300 applications within days, but also a bout of unwanted media attention for the young man. The local newspaper Zhengzhou Evening News put the young man’s picture, with the pile of money, on its front page on Jan. 20.
That caused him to cancel the proposal because “too much pressure and trouble came to my life,” he wrote in an update to his post on iweju, the mobile application he originally used.
The renting of boyfriends or girlfriends became a theme in Chinese popular culture in the early 2000s, a product of the pressures parents put on the generation born in the 1980s—after the one-child policy came into effect.
These single children, having always been the focus of the family, have become the center of attention for the parents. Also, it was common for members of their parents’ generation to be married in their early 20s, or even late teens, but social mores have also changed.
“I am a single daughter. My dad and mom started looking for a boyfriend for me last year,” a 27-year-old female calling herself Luly told Guangdong News. “They forced me to go home and have blind dates with the boys they found. Otherwise, I’d need to find a boy by myself and show them over the New Year. They give me headache.”
The desire for grandchildren is another reason parents put their children under pressure. “She must get married and then have a child sooner or later. Why wait for so long?” Mrs. Wu said to China.com, an official news service. “The older you are, the harder to find a partner, and also harder to have a child.”
With the pressures from an older generation not looking to subside anytime soon, young adult Chinese Internet users have taken to openly posting Available or For Hire ads, so they can make a few dollars on the side.
Dr. Gary Greenberg is an expert at exploring the beauty of nature at the microscopic level. He started out as a photographer and filmmaker. His photos of pancreatic cancer cells were used as the planet Krypton in the first Superman movie.
He later earned a PhD in biomedical research. He has invented high-definition microscopes, and has used microscopes to capture stunning images of sand, wine, food, and other objects we encounter daily.
Here are some of his photos of sand at the microscopic level. You can see more of his sand images in his book “A Grain of Sand,” or on his website.
See more of Dr. Greenberg’s work on other subjects in the gallery on his website.
By Daniel He and Tara MacIsaac
If you ask an Icelander whether elves exist or not, chances are he or she will say it is quite possible.
Many polls over the years have shown the majority of Icelanders believe in elves to some degree. Late last year, a judge even halted the building of a road in Iceland because it may disturb elves living in the area.
Myth often has fact as its foundation.
In 2004, the fossils of small humanoid beings were found on the remote Indonesian island of Flores. The being, named Homo floresiensis but better known as the “hobbit,” stood about three feet tall. The journal Nature explains that bones from several individuals were uncovered, showing that it was a society of people this size and not an anomaly.
So are elves more like the tall, lithe, and strong Legolas of “Lord of the Rings,” or more like Santa’s helpers who look like small children? Here are some accounts of elf encounters.
Read more: 6 Credible Elf Incidents?
Madame de Florian was a French socialite and actress who fled to the south of France during World War II. She kept her apartment in Paris on the Right Bank near the Opéra Garnier, though, in case she wanted to return. However, she never went back to it after the war. Since 1942, the apartment has been sitting untouched, until recently when an auctioneer entered her apartment. What he found was a time capsule, full of treasures.
By Tara MacIsaac
Some events truly seem against all odds. Could these events really just be chance, or are they signs of a greater design? Here are some astounding personal accounts and some famous “coincidences.”
Some events truly seem against all odds. Could these events really just be chance, or are they signs of a greater design? Here are some astounding personal accounts and some famous “coincidences.”
The personal accounts were given by social media users on Quora and Reddit.
1. Of All the Payphones in France …
My wife and her brother were traveling through Europe in the spring of 1986. I was home working in California.
I knew their itinerary but did not know exactly where they were. [I] hadn’t talked to them in a couple of days. [I] got bored [and] called an overseas operator and got her to call a pay phone outside of Monet’s gardens in Giverny [, France].
After about 15 rings, someone finally picked up the phone. It was my wife. Needless to say, it blew both our minds.
2. A Mysterious Bond Between Families
About six years ago, my family traveled to San Diego. While we were there, we befriended a family made up of two little people and their teenage son, who was average-sized. We spent a few hours with them and parted ways.
Four years ago, my family traveled on an Alaskan cruise line. We had dinner on day three, and who’s sitting at the table next to us?
The family of little people [and their] teenage son.
We all laugh about it and spend the last two days of the cruise hanging out …
Last year, my family traveled to Australia. We were having a jolly time looking at all the things that could kill us. One day, we decide to go scuba-diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Who do you think was in our instruction group? The … family of little people [and their] teenage son.
By Kate Rinsema
Want to hear something magical?
Experimental director and playwright, Robert Wilson, caught a hauntingly beautiful piece of music one night, a recording of crickets.
That part is common enough, but then he stretched out the sound as much as one would have to stretch the life of a cricket to equal that of a human, and the result is truly wonderful.
And here is a perhaps truer version:
By Naveen Athrappully
Each person is endowed with a unique set of characteristics that define him or her, with fingerprints and eye scans being the most commonly used methods of biometric identification. Now scientists have come upon another way through which a person, including his ethnicity, can be classified. As every smile is precious, every mouth, it has been proven, is unique. The microbial cocktail that thrives in the mouth cavity is different for everyone.
This study, undertaken by the University of Ohio, has also concluded that each ethnicity has a different oral bacterial composition. Following the results of this study, oral treatment, which has until now been basically the same for everyone, could be more specialized in the future, thereby increasing its effectiveness.
The study of 100 people from four ethnicities—African American, Latino, Caucasian, and Chinese—found that approximately 400 unique bacterial species exist in the mouth, out of which only 2 percent were similar in everyone who participated. About 90 percent of the individuals had 8 percent shared between them. Bacteria were taken from tooth surfaces, saliva, and under the gums.
The press release by the university stated that researchers found that “each ethnic group in the study was represented by a ‘signature’ of shared microbial communities.”
“This is the first time it has been shown that ethnicity is a huge component in determining what you carry in your mouth. We know that our food and oral hygiene habits determine what bacteria can survive and thrive in our mouths, which is why your dentist stresses brushing and flossing. Can your genetic makeup play a similar role? The answer seems to be yes, it can,” says Purnima Kumar, associate professor of periodontology at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study, in the press release.
Furthermore, the researchers constructed an algorithm that predicted individual ethnicities, which was right 62 percent of the time. African Americans, however, were identified with 100 percent accuracy.
The findings shed light on why some ethnicities like African Americans and Latinos are more prone to gum disease.
“The most important point of this paper is discovering that ethnicity-specific oral microbial communities may predispose individuals to future disease,” Kumar said.
Only about 40 percent of the bacteria in the mouth has ever been identified and studied, mainly because they don’t grow well in laboratory conditions. The bacterial species were classified by sequencing their DNA.
“Nature appears to win over nurture in shaping these communities,” Kumar noted in the study.
The group had already recognized the adverse effects some substances like tobacco have on the oral cavity. Smoking disrupts the healthy microbial community, causing infections ranging from cavities to oral cancer. The study also suggests dispositions toward certain diseases among different ethnic groups.
The trillions of invisible bacteria that make our bodies their home have not yet been fully studied by scientists. These organisms affect our bodies in many significant ways, telling a lot about a person including their health, intake of fat, allergies, and reactions to certain external elements.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was supported by the Ohio State University College of Dentistry and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
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The TomTato from Thompson & Morgan combines a potato and tomato plant into one plant.
The specially grafted plant is “a horticultural breakthrough,” according to the company.
“The tomatoes are sugary yet tangy with a brix of 10.2, and below ground this plant produces delicious, versatile potatoes – ideal for boiling, mashing, roasting, baking or for making chips,” it says in a description on its YouTube video about the product.
Above the ground, up to 500 cherry tomatoes can be grown with the plant. In addition, white potatoes are grown underneath the plant.
“From one single plant you can now harvest tomatoes and potatoes,” says the company.
Tags: archaeology, Culture, funny things, Science, Society
By Venus Upadhayaya
A quaint village in central India has fueled some Facebook discussion on ancient foot prints and an engraved image of a mysterious flying object.
In Piska Nagri village, on the outskirts of Ranchi City in Jharkahnd State, geologist Nitish Priyadarshi has been studying large footprints that, according to local lore, may signify the presence of gods from the sky landing on site.
The footprints are on a rock and look like they were of those wearing wooden sandals commonly worn thousands of years ago in the region. One set of footprints measures 11 inches in length and 5 inches in width, and another set in the same area measures 10 inches by 4.5 inches. God-kings of Indian mythology Lord Rama and Lord Lakshmana are believed to have spent time in the area in search of Rama’s wife, Sita.
Priyadarshi said the imprints are on granite rock, and thus were likely carved there rather than imprinted on the hard substance. “It may have been made by the local people manually at that time in memory of the visitors,” he said.
What Priyadarshi finds interesting is the engraved image of a flying object next to the footprints.
“The footprints and the flying object are on the same piece of rock on each other’s side. Maybe they were engraved to show that the two king gods arrived at the place on a flying object,” Priyadarshi said.
The age of the footprints has still not been ascertained. “Seeing the weathering stage [foot prints found here are weathered] of the foot prints it can be said that the age of the foot prints may be thousands year old,” he said.
There have been many discoveries of ancient footprints around the world. Many of them are thousands of years old and are both natural (left by ancient inhabitants) and carved, denoting some meaning.
The Romans carved footprints before a journey as protective rites. Footprints were carved upon leaving for a journey and as thanksgiving for a safe return. In Ireland and northern Europe, rock footprints were closely associated with kingship or chieftainship.
Priyadarshi said: “We live in a highly advanced, technical world, but there are nevertheless a great many mysteries all around us. Ancient places and mysterious beings, sunken worlds and cultures, landscapes imbued with symbolism, unexplained apparitions, and unbelievable finds from ancient times—all of these remain mysteries for humankind, despite intense investigations.”
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Tags: Culture, funny things, Society
A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.
Tags: art, Culture, funny things, picture of the day
People are asking, prompted by a new special on Mermaids, whether mermaids exist or not.
A look over the years shows that many people around the world have sighted or even directly experienced mermaids. Here’s a timeline of some of the major sightings and experiences, including Christopher Columbus, John Smith, and William Shakespeare.
First Century AD: Pliny the Elder writes about Nereids, or women with rough, scaly bodies like fish. They are “sitting upon dolphins, or ketoi, or hippocamps,” in some cases, he writes in Natural History.
Pliny describes how the legatus of Gaul wrote to the late Emperor Augustus about “a considerable number of nereids” being “found dead upon the seashore.” Further, “I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state that they themselves once saw in the ocean of Gades a sea-man,” Pliny writes, according to a translation by the University of Chicago.
Fifth Century AD: In the book Physiologus, which is said to have been written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author, there is a portion dedicated to “The Nature of the Mermaid” that is translated by graduate student Mary Allyson Armistead as follows:
“In the sea there are many marvels.
The mermaid is like a maiden:
In breast and body she is thus joined:
From the navel downward she is not like a maid
But a fish very certainly with sprouted fins.
This marvel dwells in an unstable place where the water subsides.
She sinks ships and causes suffering,
She sings sweetly —this siren—and has many voices,
Many and resonant, but they are very dangerous.
Sailors forget their steering because of her singing;
They slumber and sleep and wake too late,
And the ships sink in a whirlpool and cannot surface anymore.
But wise and wary men and are able to return;
Often they escape with all the strength they have.
They have said of this siren, that she is so grotesque,
Half maid and half fish: something is meant by this.”
Sometime between 1040 and 1105: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, or Rashi, describes mermaids in the Talmud.
“There are fish in the sea with which half is in the form of man and half in the form of a fish, called sereine in Old French,” he wrote.
Also, not too long after, the Moshav Zekeinim, a commentary on the “Torah” by the medieval Tosafists, explains mermaids while calling them sirens, according to the book Sacred Monsters.
“This refers to the creature in the sea which is similar in part to a person, from the navel upwards, and it is similar to a woman in all aspects, in that it has breasts and long hair like that of a woman, and from the navel downwards it is a fish,” it is written in the commentary. “And it sings beautifully, with a pleasant voice.”
13th Century: Bartholomew Angelicus, in De Propietatibus Rerum, describes a mermaid, and tells of her stealing sailors from their ships.
Middle of 13th Century: Speculum Regale, or The King’s Mirror, is written in Old Norse, a translated version appearing several centuries later.
In the book there is a description of a creature found off the shores of Greenland.
“Like a woman as far down as her waist, long hands, and soft hair, the neck and head in all respects like those of a human being. The hands seem to be long, and the fingers not to be pointed, but united into a web like that on the feet of water birds. From the waist downwards this monster resembles a fish, with scales, tail, and fins. This shows itself, especially before heavy storms. The habit of this creature is to dive frequently and rise again to the surface with fishes in its hands. When sailors see it playing with the fish, or throwing them towards the ship, they fear that they are doomed to lose several of the crew ; but when it casts the fish from the vessel, then the sailors take it as a good omen that they will not suffer loss in the im-pending storm. This monster has a very horrible face, with broad brow and piercing eyes, a wide mouth and double chin.”
1389: The book Eastern Travels of John of Hesse is published, in which many perils during a voyage are relived. At one point the author writes: “We came to a stony mountain, where we heard syrens singing, mermaids who draw ships into danger by their songs. We saw there many horrible monsters and were in great fear.”
1403: A mermaid drifts inland through a broken dyke on the Dutch coast during the heavy storm. She was spied by some local women and their servants, “who at the first were afraid of her, but seeing her often, they resolved to take her, which they did, and bringing her home, she suffered herself to be clothed and fed with bread and milk and other meats, and would often strive to steal again into the sea, but being carefully watched, she could not.”
The mermaid later learned how to sew but never spoke. She died 15 years after she was discovered. John Swan, an English minister, describes the story in the 1635 book Speculum Mundi.
The book also includes the following describing mermaids:
“Transform’d to fish, for their bold surquedry :
But th’ upper half their hew retayned still,
And their sweet skill in wonted melody
Which ever after they abused to ill,*
T’ allure weake travellers whom gotten they did kill.”
1493: Christopher Columbus spots three mermaids rise high from the sea. Columbus wrote in his ship’s journal: “They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face.” He also noted that he had seen similar creatures off the coast of West Africa.
1560: According to Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould: “Near the island of Mandar, on the west of Ceylon, some fishermen entrapped in their net seven mermen and mermaids, of which several Jesuits, and Father Henriques, and Bosquez, physician to the Viceroy of Goa, were witnesses. The physician examined them with a great deal of care, and dissected them. He asserts that the internal and external structure resembled that of human beings.”
1590: William Shakespeare is believed to have written Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1590 and 1594. In it, he writes:
“I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back,
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song;
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid’s music.”
Soon after, he continues. “Come over here, Puck. You remember that time I was sitting on a rocky coast when I head a mermaid? She was riding on a dolphin’s back. Her singing was so sweet and pure that the rough sea grew calm and stars sot madly about the sky on hearing the sea-girls song.”
1608: Explorer Henry Hudson recounts an experience in the ship’s journal that happened on June 15, while sailing through the Bering Sea off the top of Norway.
“This morning one of our company, looking overboard, saw a mermaid, and calling up some of the company to see her, one more came up, and by that time she was come close to the ship’s side, looking earnestly on the men. A little while after a sea came and over- turned her. From the navel upward her back and breast were like a woman’s, as they say that saw her ; her body as big as one of ours ; her skin very white, and long hair hanging down behind, of colour black. In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel. Their names that saw her were Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayney.”
Later, in the mid 1800′s, in an analysis of the incident in The Romance of Natural History, naturalist Philip Henry Gosse says that the usual claim of sailors mistaking manatees for mermaids won’t work here.
“Whatever explanation may be attempted of this apparition, the ordi-nary resource of seal and walrus will not avail here. Seals and walruses must have been as familiar to these polar mariners as cows to a milkmaid. Unless the whole story was a con-cocted lie between the two men, reasonless and objectless, and the worthy old navigator doubtless knew the character of his men, they must have seen some form of being as yet unrecognized.”
1614: Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, sees a mermaid off the coast of Massachusetts.
He writes that “the upper part of her body perfectly resembled that of a woman, and she was swimming about with all possible grace near the shore.” It had “large eyes, rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well-formed ears, rather too long, and her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.”
1619: Two senators in Norway capture a merman, according to Adventures in Unhistory. The senators, Ulf Rosensparre and Christian Hollh, decided to release the merman back into the sea.
1739: The Gentleman’s Magazine describes in an issue an experience with a creature.
“Some fisherman near the City of Exeter drawing their nets ashore, a Creature leap’d out, and run away very swiftly, not being able to overtake it, they knock’d it down by throwing sticks after it,” the description reads, according to Adventures in Unhistory.
“At their coming up to it, it was dying, having groan’d like a human creature: Its feet were webb’d like a duck’s, it had eyes, nose, and mouth resembling those of a man, only the nose somewhat depress’d; a tail not unlike a salmon’s, turning up towards its back, and is four feet high.” It was publicly shown in the city.
1797: William Munro, a schoolteacher in Scotland, writes a letter to a Dr. Torrance in Glasgow, which is published in The Times of London on Sept. 8, 1809.
“About twelve years ago when I was Parochial Schoolmaster at Reay, in the course of my walking on the shore of Sandside Bay, being a fine warm day in summer, I was induced to extend my walk towards Sandside Head, when my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending into the sea, and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its shoulders, and of a light brown colour. The resemblance which the figure bore to its prototype in all its visible parts was so striking, that had not the rock on which it was sitting been dangerous for bathing, I would have been constrained to have regarded it as really an human form, and to an eye unaccustomed to the situation, it must have undoubtedly appeared as such. The head was covered with hair of the colour above mentioned and shaded on the crown, the forehead round, the face plump. The cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a natural form, resembling those of a man; the teeth I could not discover, as the mouth was shut; the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers of the size in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive. It remained on the rock three or four minutes after I observed it, and was exercised during that period in combing its hair, which was long and thick, and of which it appeared proud, and then dropped into the sea, which was level with the abdomen, from whence it did not reappear to me, I had a distinct view of its features, being at no great distance on an eminence above the rock on which it was sitting, and the sun brightly shining.”
“Immediately before its getting into its natural element it seemed to have observed me, as the eyes were directed towards the eminence on which I stood. It may be necessary to remark, that previous to the period I beheld the object, I had heard it frequently reported by several persons, and some of them person whose veracity I never heard disputed, that they had seen such a phenomenon as I have described, though then, like many others, I was not disposed to credit their testimony on this subject. I can say of a truth, that it was only by seeing the phenomenon, I was perfectly convinced of its existence.
If the above narrative can in any degree be subservient towards establishing the existence of a phenomenon hitherto almost incredible to naturalists, or to remove the scepticism of others, who are ready to dispute everything which they cannot fully comprehend, you are welcome to it from,
Your most obliged, and most humble servant,
1801: Dr. Chisolm recounts a visit four years prior to the island of Berbice in the Carribbean. The residents call mermaids mene mamma, or mother of waters. Governor Van Battenburgh gives the following description to Chisolm:
“The upper portion resembles the human figure, the head smaller in proportion, sometimes bare, but oftener covered with a copious quantity of long black hair. The shoulders are broad, and the breasts large and well formed. The lower portion resembles the tail-portion of a fish, is of immense dimension, the tail forked, and not unlike that of the dolphin, as it is usually represented. The colour of the skin is either black or tawny. The animal is held in veneration and dread by the Indians, who imagine that the killing it would be attended with the most calamitous consequences. It is from this circumstance that none of these animals have been shot, and, consequently, not examined but at, a distance. They have been generally observed in a sitting posture in the water, none of the lower extremity being discovered until they are disturbed; when, by plunging, the tail appears, and agitates the water to a considerable distance round. They have been always seen employed in smoothing their hair, or stroking their faces and breasts with their hands, or something resembling hands. In this posture, and thus employed, they have been frequently taken for Indian women bathing.”
1822: A young man, John McIsaac of Scotland, testifies under oath that he saw an animal that had a white upper half with the shape of the human body, while the other half was covered with scales and had a tail, according to a story in the London Mirror. The sighting took place in 1811. McIsaac describes the creature as having long, light brown hair, being between four and five feet long, and having fingers close together.
“It continued above water for a few minutes, and then disappeared,” according to the article. “The Minister of Campbeltown, and the Chamberlain of Mull, attest his examination, and declare that they know no reason why his veracity should be questioned.”
1830: Villagers at Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland saw a small woman on shore. They tried capturing it, but failed, so they pelted it with rocks. A few days later,its corpse washed ashore, according to Hidden Animals. They then examined it. “The upper part of the body was about the size of a well-developed child of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast. The hair was long, dark, and glossy, while the skin was white, soft, and tender. The lower part of the body was like a salmon, but without scales.” The creature was buried in a coffin later on.
1842: Phineas Barnum, of Barnum and Brothers fame, got connected with what was said to be a mermaid who had been caught near the Feejee Islands in the South Pacific. There is much debate whether the mermaid was a mermaid or something else.
On the supporting side, the New York Sun had a review which in part said: “We’ve seen it! What? Why that Mermaid! The mischief you have! Where? What is it? It’s twin sister to the deucedest looking thing imaginable—half fish, half flesh; and ‘taken by and large,’ the most odd of all oddities earth or sea has ever produced.”
In a portion of an autobiography written by Barnum, published by the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, Barnum says that he obtained the specimen from the estate of a dead sailor, who had purchased it from Japanese sailors.
Barnum recounts going to his naturalist to ascertain the “genuineness of the animal.” His naturalist tells him that he cannot conceive of how it was manufactured, “for he never knew a monkey with such peculiar teeth, arms, hands, etc., nor had he knowledge of a fish with such peculiar fins.”
Writes Barnum: “Then why do you suppose it is manufactured?” I inquired. “Because I don’t believe in mermaids,” replied the naturalist. “That is no reason at all,” said I, “and therefore I’ll believe in the mermaid, and hire it.” Barnum showed the animal in his museum in New York and got out of it quite a bit of money.
Others say that the whole thing was a hoax, and that it was created by Japanese artisans.
1857: The Shipping Gazette reported that Scottish seaman had spotted a creature off the coast of Britain.
“We distinctly saw an object about six yards distant from us in the shape of a woman, with full breast, dark complexion, comely face, and fine hair hanging in ringlets over the neck and shoulders. It was about the surface of the water to about the middle, gazing at us and shaking its head. The weather being fine, we had a full view of it and that for three or four minutes,” said John Williamson and John Cameron.
1947: A old fisherman in Scotland reported that he had seen a mermaid in the sea about twenty yards from the shore, sitting combing her hair on a floating herringbox used to preserve live lobsters, according to Sir Arthur Waugh in The Folklore of the Merfolk. “Unfortunately, as soon as she looked round, she realized that she had been seen, and plunged into the sea,” he writes. “But no questioning, says Mr Maclean, could shake the old fisher- man’s conviction: he was adamant that he had seen a mermaid. So one never knows!”
2008: A sighting of a mermaid happened in Suurbraak, a village in the Western Cape of South Africa, reported Aldo Pekeur, a correspondent for the New Zealand Herald. A resident of the village, Daniel Cupido, said he and his friends were next to the river around 11:30 p.m. when they heard something like someone “bashing on a wall.” Cupido went toward the sound, and found a figure “like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water”.
Cupido said he tried to help the woman but the woman made “the strangest sound,” which Dina, Cupido’s mother, said was so sorrowful “my heart could take it no more.” The creatures are described as Kaaiman, or half human and half fish creatures living in deep pools. Suurbraak tourism officer Maggy Jantjies said she knew the people who saw the Kaaiman well, and that they did not misuse alcohol.
2009: The reports from dozens of people of seeing mermaids spurred the town council in Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, to offer $1 million to anyone who can prove by photo or capture that mermaids do exist.
“Many people are telling us they are sure they’ve seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News. “People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks then disappears.”
2012: An official in Zimbabwe said that mermaids were hounding government workers off dam sites in several different areas. Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate committee in March that traditional chiefs were going to perform rituals to get rid off the mermaids believed to live in reservoirs in Gokwe and Mutare, where workers are afraid to go, according to Voice of America. Some workers reportedly went missing while others have refused to go back to install water pumps.
Traditional leader chief Edison Chihota of Mashonaland East told the media outlet that mermaids exist. “As a custodian of the traditional I have no doubt,” chief Chihota said. “For anyone to dispute this is also disputing him or herself.”
Daniel He contributed research to this article
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