If you've ever fallen down a Wikipedia clickhole while searching for creepy legends — ingesting page after page of ancient eeriness while hours slip away unnoticed — well, you've come to the right place. While many scary stories are nothing more than myth or folklore, there are some creepy legends that were proven true, thanks to the all-defining eye of science.
Throughout human history, science has been a useful tool for shedding light on previously misunderstood events and phenomena. Just because these myths from history are confirmed by science doesn't mean that they're any less shiver-inducing. On the contrary, many become eerier after one finds out that these hard-to-fathom stories are real.
With that in mind, let's explore these ancient myths based in fact, and celebrate the incredible, beautiful, and downright spooky world we live in.
What Caused A Mysterious Sign To Appear In The Sky?
In 1437, Koreans witnessed a massive fireball hover in the sky for some two weeks before abruptly vanishing. Obviously, the event caught the attention of the nation, and it has been widely documented in philosophical and spiritual writings of the time.
Many thought the bright light could only be some sort of celestial sign, some harbinger of other worlds. The real story wasn't discovered until recently, when scientists confirmed that what Koreans saw in 1437 were two stars causing a thermonuclear explosion. The result was a pair of red and white dwarf stars that burned brightly for 14 days.
The Earth Might Have Actually Flooded
Many of today's most recognizable myths involve a great flood. Two of the most well-known flood myths come from the story of Noah and his ark in the Book of Genesis, and the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Could a flood of such massive proportions have actually occurred? There's strong evidence that sometime around 5,000 BCE, a cataclysmic natural disaster flooded about 150,000 square kilometers of land, destroying everyone and everything in its path.
What proof is there of such a catastrophe occurring? 400 feet beneath the surface of the Black Sea, researchers discovered what appears to be a shoreline. Imagine the terror of being consumed by 400 feet of water. Oy.
Why Did The "Guest Star" Go Away?
No, not "guest star" like Elizabeth Taylor on General Hospital or Brad Pitt on Friends. This guest star is a celestial body that was once a visitor in our skies, or at least that's how the astronomers and observers of the day described it.
In 1006, a moving object that changed color could be seen in the sky for several months. The Persian scholar Ibn Sina took particular note of the phenomenon, and his guess as to what it was proved stunningly spot-on. While his contemporaries searched for supernatural or spiritual meaning in the "guest star" Sina saw a supernova ablaze with color. Incidentally, the sparks of that supernova can still be seen today.
Expressionism Wasn't A Thing In The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams
In Southern France, there is a prehistoric cave called the Chauvet-Pont D’Arc (often translated to the "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"). Here, some of our earliest ancestors lived in the period following the demise of the Neanderthals.
The cave's walls are covered with paintings done by its original inhabitants, mostly images of ancient animals and beasts such as cave lions, wooly rhinos, and giant deer. One portion, however, contains a hard-to-decipher rendering of something erupting into the sky. For some time, this image was thought to be an artistic interpretation, even though the rest of the cave's imagery is quite literal.
In 1994, researchers discovered the truth: it is a picture of a volcano erupting (probably in the Bas-Vivarais volcanic field which lies just 22 miles from the cave). This particular cave painting was then declared the oldest depiction of a volcano. So, that image of what looks like a celestial explosion or a ghostly mirage? It's a volcano. (Probably.)