Sun, May 14, 2006 - Page 9 News List

The top 10 modern fairy tales

UFOs do not exist, an official report has concluded. But what about angels, the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman?

By Lucy Mangan

1 The Abominable Snowman

The Abominable Snowman -- or Yeti to give him his proper Tibetan, if less evocative, name -- is a huge, hairy ape-man hybrid beast who lives above the snowline in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal and Tibet. I do not lace my words with "allegedly," "perhaps" or "maybe," and that is because of the veritable Himalayan mountain of evidence that we have of his existence.

Perhaps you can deny pictures of the Yeti in ancient Bhutanese murals, reports of sightings by yak herders, pictures of giant footprints, a patch of human-like skin and mummified finger at 18,000ft found in 1950 and the testimony of the snowblind and hypothermic Captain d'Auvergne that he was saved from certain death by two 8ft-tall creatures somewhere between Bhutan and Sikkim. I, however, cannot. And they found a frozen hairy foot in Siberia three years ago. So there.

2 The Loch Ness Monster

The days of people being snatched up by alien spaceships may be over, but belief in the Loch Ness monster persists. The reason is simple: there's a famous picture showing the creature's long neck and little head poking out of the water.

Who cares that it has subsequently been revealed to be a hoax; people think it's real. The preferred explanation, these days, is that Nessie is a plesiosaur, a remnant of the Mesozoic era who has cleverly circumvented the need for a breeding colony -- which one might expect to have been discovered during the 80 years of exploratory expeditions -- and done away with the original plesiosaur's need to break the surface to breathe, which would have made Nessie sightings as common as Paris Hilton's.

Does Nessie speak to our psychic depths, to a collective hankering to be wild, mysterious and free, to a submerged longing for a connection to the primordial waters in which we all once swam? Or would we just all love to see a really, really, really big fish?

3 Hollow Earth

In 1692, Edmund Halley -- not yet of comet fame -- posited that inside the earth nested a series of spherical shells, like tubby Russian dolls, each with their own atmosphere, magnetic poles and rate of rotation. He did this in order to try to explain anomalous compass readings in the absence of alternative evidence, and he and later scientific followers gladly let it give way as evidence to the contrary became available.

Others, however, continue to prefer the notion that if you tap the home counties, you will hear a deep, reverberating echo and the squeals of rudely awoken interior inhabitants. In the 19th century, John Symmes popularized the belief in a hollow earth and other proponents' efforts resulted in the Great US Exploring Expedition of 1838-42, which did a lot in the way of mapping Oregon and furnishing the Smithsonian but failed to provide proof of a hollow world. Still, the belief has survived to the present day -- the Hollow Earth Society now claims 400 members in more than 30 countries -- and received a particular boost in the early 1980s from the masterful Jim Henson series Fraggle Rock, now available on DVD.

4 Crystals

To detail the health and spiritual benefits claimed for various crystals would take more time and mental space than anyone should have to give the concept that lumps of translucent rock can affect the human mind or body in any way other than if they are thrown fast and hard at the latter, a procedure I heartily recommend if anyone ever starts trying to convince you otherwise.

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