These 10 Truly Bizarre Beliefs From History Will Keep You Laughing All Night
These 10 Truly Bizarre Beliefs From History Will Keep You Laughing All Night

These 10 Truly Bizarre Beliefs From History Will Keep You Laughing All Night

Khalid Elhassan - March 2, 2018

These 10 Truly Bizarre Beliefs From History Will Keep You Laughing All Night
1995 crop circles in Hampshire, UK. Crop Circles Database

Space Aliens Were Sending Us Coded Messages by Flattening Our Crops

Starting in the 1970s, a belief began circulating in UFO circles, and from there to wide swathes of the general public, that aliens were trying to communicate with us via coded messages in our crops. It began in 1976, when wheat in a field in Wiltshire, England, was discovered flattened in circular patterns. Before long, mysterious circles of flattened crops, in increasingly elaborate patterns, began appearing in other fields throughout Britain.

Once the news spread, the phenomenon attracted self-declared experts, who offered a variety of supernatural and pseudo-scientific explanations for the mystery. Theories ranged from troubled ghosts and spirits to secret weapons testing, to Mother Earth expressing her distress at what humanity was doing to the planet. However, the most widely accepted explanation was that the circles were created by extraterrestrials, who were trying to communicate with us in some cryptic code.

The notion that ETs were behind the circles was buttressed by the fact that only a decade earlier, mysterious circles had appeared in Australian crops. At the time, the Australian circles were attributed by many to UFO landings. Stonehenge is not far from Wiltshire, where the first British crop circle appeared, and the area has plenty of ancient marker stones and burial mounds. New Age types had long claimed that a network of mysterious energy paths, known as “leys”, linked those landmarks throughout Britain.

The region was also a hotbed for UFO enthusiasts – England’s Roswell, if you would. So it was fitting that the first crop circles, or saucer nests, would appear there. Soon, theories combining the crop circles, Stonehenge, ancient Druids, and mystic energy paths, were combined into a complex explanation for the phenomenon. The circles themselves became magnets for New Age mystical tourism.

As it turned out, the crop circles were created by Doug Bower, an English prankster. One night in 1976, he was drinking with his friend Dave Chorley, when the duo started talking about ETs, UFOs, flying saucers and the mysterious Australian circles. As they got steadily drunker, Bower proposed: “Let’s go over there and make it look like a flying saucer has landed“. As they revealed to journalists in 1991, it had been quite simple. As they demonstrated before TV cameras, creating crop circles took just minutes, using nothing more than rope, a wooden plank, and a wire to help them walk in a straight line.

That was tough news for “cereologists” – crop circle “experts” who had made a living for years by writing and lecturing about the phenomenon. One cereologist was called in by a TV program to pass judgment on the crop circles created by Bowers and Chorley. He declared that the circles were authentic. Then the world got to see his reaction when the bottom fell out of his “expert” market, as it was revealed that it had been a hoax and prank all along. Bower and Chorley had created all crop circles until 1987, when other pranksters discovered how it was done, and joined in on the fun.

These 10 Truly Bizarre Beliefs From History Will Keep You Laughing All Night
Patagonian Giants. Fine Arts America

Giants Roamed South America

The Age of Exploration and Discovery was marked by many strange beliefs about the supposed wonders and marvels hidden in the newly discovered and unexplored (by Europeans) lands. One of the stranger beliefs was that parts of South America were populated by giants. It began with the expedition of explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1519.

En route, the expedition dropped anchor off Patagonia – a sparsely populated region in what is now Argentina. There, the crews reportedly came across a naked giant singing and dancing on the shore. Magellan directed a crewman to sing and dance in turn to demonstrate friendliness, and persuade the giant to come aboard ship. It worked, and a scribe who kept a diary that was later turned into a book account of the voyage wrote: “When he was before us, he began to marvel and to be afraid, and he raised one finger upward, believing that we came from heaven. And he was so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist“.

Magellan’s men made contact with the rest of his tribe and befriended them. The expedition stopped for a few weeks to rest and replenish their supplies, taking on fresh water and what fresh meat they could by joining the tribe in hunts. When they were finally ready to leave, Magellan wanted to take some Patagonians with him to display back in Spain. So he lured some aboard his ship with the offer of trinkets, got them drunk until they passed out, and chained them. When the Patagonians came to, Magellan’s ships were already underway, with Patagonia receding in the distance. Sadly, the kidnapped Patagonians did not survive the voyage. Nor, for that matter, did Magellan. However, the expedition members who completed the voyage returned to Spain with fantastic tales of a land inhabited by giants.

It was a tall tale that grew taller over the years. Later sailors described seeing Patagonians who stood 10 feet tall. Others came in contact with ones whose height was measured at 12 feet. Yet others encountered Patagonians who truly towered above normal people, measuring 15 feet in height. Reports of the South American giants would grip European imaginations for over 250 years.

The tall tales were first challenged by Sir Francis Drake, the British seaman and pirate, who encountered Patagonians during his own circumnavigation of the globe. As described by his nephew: “Magellan was not altogether deceived in naming these giants, for they generally differ from the common sort of man both in stature, bigness and strength of body, as also in the hideousness of their voices: but they are nothing so monstrous and giant-like as they were represented, there being some English men as tall as the highest we could see, but peradventure the Spaniards did not think that ever any English man would come hither to reprove them, and therefore might presume the more boldly to lie.

Nonetheless, the belief in Patagonian giants persisted, and as late as 1766, rumors circulated that a British Royal Navy ship had encountered a tribe of 9-foot tall natives. When the ship’s account of the voyage was finally published, however, it turned out that the natives had been recorded as standing 6 feet 6 inches tall. That was tall, especially so for that era. But certainly not giants. In reality, the Patagonians in question, the Tehuelche tribe, were taller than average, but that average was in the 6-foot range.

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Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Atlas Obscura – Romans Used to Ward Off Sickness with Flying Penis Amulets

ATI – Why the Ancient Romans Drew Penises on Everything

AV Club – Wikipedia Erected a Page to Explain Ancient Rome’s Fascination With the Phallus

BBC – El Dorado: The Truth Behind the Myth

Live Science – Walter Raleigh’s Bloody Quest For El Dorado

Healthy Best Glam – Gladiator Sweat and Other Surprising Aphrodisiacs of the Ancient World

History Collection – 17 Facts About Gladiators

Encyclopedia Britannica – Herodotus

Gizmodo – “Blowing Smoke Up Your Ass” Used to be Literal

Hayes, Joseph, Atlas Obscura – The Victorian Belief That a Train Ride Could Cause Instant Insanity

Haynes, Sterling MD, British Columbia Medical Journal, December 2012 – Special Feature: Tobacco Smoke Enemas

National Geographic – El Dorado

Live Science – The Crop Circle Mystery: A Closer Look

Wikipedia – Assassins

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