It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Mar 10, 2012

Mermaids: Truth and Fiction

The skeleton of a creature half human and half fish, which scientists say is more than 4,000 years old, has been found on the coast of China. Its discovery, imbedded deep in a sandy shore, has revived the old question of whether mermaids have ever existed. This skeleton is accepted in some quarters as conclusive proof that there were such creatures, long famed in the lore of many lands.

The strange relic which has come to light after centuries had a head, shoulders and arms like those of a woman, as proved by the formation of the bones and skull. The lower half of the body became petrified, and in all respects was like the tail of a fish, with several fins. On the head and the upper portion of the body a shriveled skin was found, similar to that of an Egyptian mummy. If further proof were needed, it would seem to be supplied by a few strands of hair on the head. Dermatologists have decided that this was once flaxen and grew abundantly (“Mermaids Really Lived, Scientists Believe,” Fort Wayne [Indiana] Journal-Gazette, May 27, 1917).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Mermaids, sometimes also called sirens, are mythical creatures who supposedly live in the seas around the world. Their top half looks like a beautiful woman with long hair, and from the waist down, they have the body of a fish.

Sailors and fishermen have told stories of seeing mermaids for centuries; the first sightings were made in Assyria around 1000BC. The popular image of a mermaid is sitting on a rock, admiring her beauty in a mirror.

Some mermaids were benevolent creatures, granting wishes to sailors who helped them. But to many seafarers seeing a mermaid meant bad luck, an omen of a storm or shipwreck. There are also tales of the mermaids' enchanting song enticing sailors onto rocks where their ships were smashed to pieces.

“The upper portion of the creature was about the size of a well-fed child
 of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast.
The hair was long and glossy, while the skin was white, soft and tender.
 The lower part was like a salmon, but without scales” (The Carmina Gadelica).

“My attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an
unclothed human female sitting on a rock extending to the sea, apparently in the      
action of combing its hair. 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. I has a distinct view of the features, being at no great distance      
from an eminence above the rock on which it was sitting, and the sun brightly
shining” (William Munro, Schoolmaster circa 1785. The Times).

Classic Theories

Changes in temperature above the sea surface have been thought to cause distortions on sightings of porpoises or sea cows. The effect of warm air moving over cold air causes a refraction of the light rays and could explain some of the sightings, but the detail included in reports cannot be dismissed by the same effect. Geord Steller, in 1741, thought that mermaids were no more than sea-apes following the alleged discovery of such a creature in the Gulf of Alaska. Alister Hardy’s theory, that man evolved from aquatic apes rather than upright creatures, may connect with this idea yet insufficient evidence exists to substantiate this theory.

Fiji Mermaids

The Fiji mermaid came into Barnum's possession via his Boston counterpart Moses Kimball, who brought it down to Barnum in late spring of 1842. On June 18, Barnum and Kimball entered into a written agreement to exploit this "curiosity supposed to be a mermaid." Kimball would remain the creature's sole owner and Barnum would lease it for $12.50 a week. Barnum christened his artifact "The Feejee Mermaid". In Barnum's exhibit, the creature was allegedly caught in 1842 by a "Dr. J. Griffin." Griffin was actually Levi Lyman, one of Barnum's close associates.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Though many people believed Barnum's claim, the Fiji mermaid was actually the torso and head of a baby monkey sewn to the back half of a fish and covered in papier-mâché.

Japanese Mermaids

Two women, Mary King and Etsuko Shimabukuro traveled across Japan for Look In their travels they found a temple housing the remains of what is thought to be a real mummified mermaid. The corpse is kept in Karukayado Temple at Hashimoto City, Wakayama-ken. The mermaid was carried by a traveling entertainer named Chisato during the Heian Period (794-1185). The corpse is thought to be 1,400 years old. It is 65 centimeters long and weights 300 grams. The creature appears to have had fangs and the priest in charge of the temple believes that mermaids were prevalent off the shores of Japan until the 17th century.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

While it is considered the oldest existing false mermaid mummy, most specialists consider it to be carefully connected bodies of monkey and fish tail.

Indian Mermaids

Sometime in the beginning of 2005, the following email begins circulation, accompanied with very characteristic picture of mermaid found after the devastating tsunami.

This is the picture of a mermaid allegedly found at marina beach (CHENNAI) last Saturday. The body is preserved in the Egmore museum under tight Security. Mermaid is called as KADAL KANNI in Tamil which is an imaginary Creature described in stories, with the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish).

Unfortunately, the text proved to be false and the images fake. These images were in fact already circulating well before the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, and all three photos were previously alleged to have been shot in the Philippines. Here one of the pics.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Malaysian Mermaids

The following image is one of the set of pictures, which have been circulating via email, forums and blogs since 2006. They supposedly show a strange mermaid-like creature found washed ashore of one Malaysian island.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

In this case, the hoax originator is known. Artist Juan Cabana created this 5 foot long mermaid using a human skeleton and covering the entire corpse with real fish skin. The fins and teeth are also authentic and derived from fish. Mr. Cabana has sold this mermaid and other creations via eBay auctions under the name "SeaMystery". According to information previously available on the auction website, the winning bid for the mermaid was recorded at $1,550.00 US.

Juan Cabana admits that other people took his photos and used them to create stories of finding this mermaid in various locations around the world, including Malaysia.

Born Mermaids

Milagros Cerron is currently the only "mermaid" in the world. She has a rare syndrome called sirenomelia; at birth her legs were fused together from trunk to heels. For months doctors worked to expand tissue in her legs and abdomen to prepare for her leg-separation surgery. The prognosis was good — Mili had all the bones and structures of normal legs, and she might walk one day. However, her internal organs could not grow properly because of her deformity. With Mili having only one functioning kidney and the threat of infection constantly looming, time was running out.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Doctors suspect that the baby’s malformation was the result of a strange genetic disorder. However, superstitions abound, including the fear that her condition was caused by an evil spirit that inhabits a local lake.

Prior to the surgery, doctors inserted silicone tissue-expanders under Milagros' skin. The expanders were gradually filled with salt water, which over time caused her skin to balloon and grow. When Mili’s legs were separated during the operation, there was enough skin to wrap around each individual leg.

Manmade Mermaid

Nadya Vessey has done what I imagine many little girls only dream of; she’s become a real-life mermaid, thanks to the special effects team behind The Lord of the Rings. She was born with a congenital deformity that prevented her legs from ever developing properly. She lost her first leg just below the knee at the age of seven. By the time she had reached sixteen, both had been amputated.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The lifelong swimmer–now in her fifties–wrote the Oscar-winning Weta Workshop about making her a tail. To her surprise, they said yes! It took two years and nearly 800 hours to construct the tail as every aspect of it is custom made for Nadya’s body. Using 3D modeling technology, the spine and tail fin are made from poly carbonate. It needed a specific buoyancy that matched her proportions. The skin is neoprene with a Lycra sock that’s digitally printed with scales that actually sparkle. This level of detail is of no surprise if you’ve seen any of the LoTR movies.

Sources and Additional Information:

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...