7/20/2012 1:16 AM
When Animal Planet aired their faux documentary Mermaids: The Body Found, the internet lit up with rumors that the mythical sea creatures were, in fact, real. NOAA, with is the US government's national weather service, had to issue a statement on their website debunking the show, reading, in part " No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found."
The episode re-aired on the 17th, sending mermaids back into Google searches top trends. If you fell for the documentary hoax, you are hardly alone. Since the Renaissance era, tricksters, frauds, and those who just wanted to engage in a little wish-fulfillment have created fake mermaid tales. A few of the notable ones:
The Fiji Mermaid: This is possibly the best-known mermaid hoax. A mysterious Englishman calling himself "Dr. J. Griffith," arrived in New York bearing an unusual specimen: the preserved body of a real mermaid. The press was waiting for him, and he satisfied their curiosity. Circus showman PT Barnum visited editors of all of the area's leading papers, carrying a sad tale: Griffith had promised to sell Barnum his mermaid, but had reneged. Barnum had had woodcuts of a trio of topless, beautiful mermaids made for the advertisements, but they were now of no use to him. He generously offered the images to each of the editors, and all of the papers ran them. Soon after, Griffith gave into pressure to have a paid exhibition of the mermaid. People came in droves to see the creature. And, what they got instead was a disappointment. The "mermaid" was a dried monkey head and torso attached to the tail of a fish. And, it turns out that Griffith was a PT Barnum shill. Everyone had been duped.
Kiryat Yam, Israel: in 2009, residents began swearing that they'd seen a mermaid in the waters by the coastal town. She had the face and torso of an attractive young woman, and a tail like a fish. The tourism board has run with the story, drawing hopeful mermaid fans from all over the country. Kiryat Yam's city government has offered a $1 million bounty to anyone who can provide conclusive proof of the mermaid's existence. No one has yet claimed the reward.
Scotland, 1830: residents of a coastal town claimed that a boy there had killed a mermaid by hurling rocks at it. The mermaid was said to resemble a small child. Sadly, no body was available, as the residents claimed that they'd made a small coffin and buried it.
English Explorer John Smith: while exploring the Caribbean in 1614, Smith claimed that he saw a woman of surpassing beauty in the surf. He was quite taken with her hair, which was long and green as seaweed. His ardor cooled, however, when she flipped back under the water, revealing the tail of a fish.
Dozens more tales exist, going as far back as Greek and Roman myth. Why the fixation? The NOAA said it best when they concluded their mermaid report, "Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists."
Posted by Lara
7/20/2012 1:16 AM |