Why Are Rabbits—And Rabbits' Feet—Considered Good Luck Symbols?
If you go on Twitter during the first of the month, you may notice “rabbit rabbit” trending. That’s because of a superstition that if your first words that day are “rabbit rabbit,” you’ll have luck for the rest of the month. Alleged followers of this tradition have included ...read more
Meet Krampus, the Christmas Devil Who Punishes Naughty Children
Every year in early December, children in Austria get ready for St. Nicholas to visit them. If they’ve been good, he’ll reward them with presents and treats. But if they’ve been bad, they’ll get a lot more than a lump of coal—they’ll have to face Krampus. Who’s Krampus, you ask? ...read more
How the Bigfoot Legend Began
In 1958, journalist Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times highlighted a fun, if dubious, letter from a reader about loggers in northern California who’d discovered mysteriously large footprints. “Maybe we have a relative of the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas,” Genzoli ...read more
The werewolf is a mythological animal and the subject of many stories throughout the world—and more than a few nightmares. Werewolves are, according to some legends, people who morph into vicious, powerful wolves. Others are a mutant combination of human and wolf. But all are ...read more
Was there a real Mother Goose?
If you’ve ever visited the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts, you may have stumbled upon the tombstone of Mary Goose, a woman believed by some to be the infamous author of countless cherished nursery rhymes: Mother Goose. Visitors toss coins at her tombstone, ...read more
What was the sword of Damocles?
The famed “sword of Damocles” dates back to an ancient moral parable popularized by the Roman philosopher Cicero in his 45 B.C. book “Tusculan Disputations.” Cicero’s version of the tale centers on Dionysius II, a tyrannical king who once ruled over the Sicilian city of Syracuse ...read more
Was Paul Bunyan a real person?
As the legend goes, it took five huge storks to deliver the infant (already gigantic) Paul Bunyan to his parents in Bangor, Maine. When he grew older, one drag of the mighty lumberjack’s massive ax created the Grand Canyon, while the giant footprints of his trusty companion, Babe ...read more
What are the crystal skulls?
Beginning in the late 19th century, around a dozen carved skulls made of clear or milky white quartz—also known as rock crystal—made their way into private and public collections around the globe. Since then, the origins of these “crystal skulls” have been the subject of ongoing ...read more
Who was the Man in the Iron Mask?
During the reign of King Louis XIV, an enigmatic man spent several decades confined to the Bastille and other French prisons. No one knew his identity or why he was in jail. Even stranger, no one knew what he looked like—the prisoner was never seen without a black velvet mask ...read more
6 Famous Wild Children from History
1. John of Liège One of the earliest English-language accounts of a feral child concerns “John of Liège,” a boy who supposedly spent most of his youth in isolation in the Belgian wilderness. According to a 1644 account by Sir Kenelm Digby, John first fled to the woods at the age ...read more
The Last American Vampire
Edwin Brown was wasting away. For the better part of two years, he grew increasingly thin and weak. As tuberculosis ravaged the once-strapping young man in March 1892, Edwin struggled to breathe as he continually coughed up blood. He had sought a cure in the rarified air and ...read more
Who was Lady Godiva?
You might associate the name “Godiva” with a brand of Belgian chocolates, but it was first popularized as part of a 900-year-old English legend. The original Lady Godiva was an 11th century noblewoman married to Leofric, the powerful Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry. As the ...read more
6 Famous Places that Never Existed
1. The Kingdom of Prester John For more than 500 years, Europeans believed a Christian king ruled over a vast empire somewhere in the wilds of Africa, India or the Far East. The myth first gained popularity in 1165, after the Byzantine and Holy Roman emperors received a ...read more
6 Mythical Monsters
1. Kraken Maritime lore is filled with tales of vicious sea serpents and scaly-skinned fish men, but few creatures of the deep have struck fear into sailors’ hearts like the mighty kraken. Tracing its origins back to a giant fish from Norse mythology called the hafgufa, the ...read more
Who was Johnny Appleseed?
It may surprise you that one of the most notable entrepreneurs of the American frontier didn’t wear a jacket, tip his hat and shine his shoes, but rather dressed in a coffee sack, donned a tin hat and traveled barefoot. John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was a ...read more
The Dark Side of the Grimm Fairy Tales
Premarital sex In the original version of “Rapunzel,” published in 1812, a prince impregnates the title character after the two spend many days together living in “joy and pleasure.” “Hans Dumm,” meanwhile, is about a man who impregnates a princess simply by wishing it, and in ...read more
6 Historical Figures Who May or May Not Have Existed
1. King Arthur The protector of Camelot is one of history’s most well known monarchs, but many scholars believe his story to be a legend on par with the Sword in the Stone. The brave King Arthur is traditionally described as having repelled a Saxon attack on Britain in the 5th or ...read more
Was Dracula a real person?
Published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic novel “Dracula” launched an entire genre of literature and film about vampires, those sinister figures who use their supernatural powers to hunt humans and drink their blood. To create his immortal antihero, Count Dracula, Stoker certainly ...read more
The Real Robin Hood
The subject of ballads, books and films, Robin Hood has proven to be one of popular culture’s most enduring folk heroes. Over the course of 700 years, the outlaw from Nottinghamshire who robs from the rich to give to the poor has emerged as one of the most enduring folk heroes ...read more
Loch Ness Monster sighted for the first time, igniting the modern legend
The modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier relates an account of a local couple who claim to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a ...read more