Before cell phones and internet access, learning about the world around us took a lot of time. Along the way, there would be gaps in our knowledge—holes that human cultures tended to fill with folklore. And while the creatures they invented to fill those gaps were amazing, it’s how close they often got to reality that makes those stories truly frightening.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
the winter of eighteen. Twenty two captain Samuel Barrett Eads became a hero
he was sailing in the Southeast Pacific when he and his crew encountered a dutch ship that was in trouble. Eads managed to save every single one of the dutch soldiers and then headed for the city of Batavia, known today, as Jakarta, drop them off and see if a reward could can be collected. While he waited, he did some shopping now. Eads wasn't rich by any stretch of the imagination, but he owned a small portion of the ship. He sailed and, of course, he was expecting a handsome reward for his heroic efforts. With this in mind, he captain I open for something unusual in conversation worthy to take home and that's when he saw it.
It was a mummified mermaid. It was over two feet. Long had the curve tail one might find on a fish, but the upper body of something much more human in shape. It was brown from the preservation process wrinkled with age and entirely addictive, to look at and Captain Eads New instantly that he had to own,
In late January, at one thousand, eight hundred and twenty two heated something bold he's sold the ship. He did not fully owned and use the proceeds to buy the mermaid. Then he found transportation back to London and put the odd creature
display because just about everyone who saw it believed that it was real. Of course, there were those who could see through the hoax captain. Eads had been fooled by a clever craftsmen who had so the torso of ragged tang onto the lower half of a large salmon elements were added to the face and hands to give it a more human like appearance, but those with training and natural science and anatomy could spot the hidden clues.
gave it all away that didn't matter to most people, though the idea that mermaids could be real had been around for centuries. So when something is powerful, as a mummified specimen floated into their world, they were blind to its flaws and impossibility. They wanted to believe deep down inside the hybrids. Folklore actually existed
Today we know a lot more about our world than we used to, but if we were to go back in time and lived through a less learned age, we would be amazed at the stories that await us tales of Crete.
Is that sit at the very edge of our imagination, living things that defy logic and monsters that inspire wonder our high.
its want to believe, while our minds are ready to move on. Instead, what we tend to feel is a mixture of deep curiosity in primal fear and if the tales from the past are any indication, there's a good reason why I'm Erin Man- and this is lower,
When we talk about the natural world, the very first thing we need to do is gained some perspective. Today we live in a technologically rich society. We carry supercomputers in our pockets that are more powerful than the ones that sent the first humans to the moon. We can walk past an intriguing part of our neighbourhood, pull out our phones and look at a satellite map or do a search for more information. We're still hungry people
curious and drawn to unanswered questions, but rather than starving in a house with little food. We faced each day
and never ending, buffeted answers and information. Today, if you want to know something chances,
good. You can learn about it in an instant but hundreds of years ago. That was an impossibility, not that people didn't try them
two thousand years ago, a Roman named guy S, plenteous Secundus attempted together everything knowable into one place and he did an admirable job. Considering the world he lived in,
I was born into a wealthy roman family in the year twenty four a d and followed a path of privilege all the way to the top. He was well educated, well,
next it and when he entered the roman military he quickly rose to the second highest level possible. The equestrian order, once out of them
a terry. He served as a lawyer before being assessed.
Find various governorship around the empire and towards the end of his life. He had the privilege to serve as an adviser to to
for an emperors today we know him as plenty the elder, but in his day guy S was a success story. Looking back his biggest,
I was his thirty seven volume collection of knowledge called natural history. It was possibly the world's first encyclopedia gather,
Everything known about a whole array of subjects, from farming and botany to geography and anthropology, but the most influential contribution filling up volumes, seven through eleven, where his writings on zoology study of all living creatures
but here's the thing plenty, the elder, like everyone else in his society, lack the proper tools to dig deep and apply hard science to every creature. He wrote about the also lack the ability to travel and see each end
will he described so he relied heavily on others like Aristotle's, Historiae and Molly, and the writings of Eritrea, the niece and hypocrisy, and that meant his collection was less than perfect,
so well. His work on zoology included such amazing animals as Dragons Merman, and even something called a blame me. I a race of Harry,
human, like beans who literally had no head on their shoulders with eyes and mouth right in the middle of their chest. Plenty was thorough for sure
but now very discerning with his source material. But what his work did do was give birth is something a lot of people have heard of a type of book, known as a beast eerie. It took a while
for their availability to spread, but by the early middle ages, beastie areas were a common enough resource. They were at the basic level books about known animals, typically with colorful drawings, to help the reader visualize the specific details of each entry and over the centuries some additions became more popular than others
one of the most famous is the Aberdeen Beast eerie illumine.
did manuscript that dates back to the twelfth century. Aside from being a beautiful example of medieval artwork, and I mean that you should seriously do an internet search for sample pages. The Aberdeen beast theory is also a powerful example of just how popular these books really work. It's filled with images of all sorts of animals
along with rocks fish trees and even worms, and a lot of the entries in the manuscript include notes about the nature of the thing in question. Making it
valuable reference tool for of any body naturalist, but these beast theories did more than that. They inspired the popular culture of their day. England's
King John, who reigned from one thousand one hundred and seventy seven to one thousand two hundred and sixteen was said to have a cop.
of plenty, the elders, natural history and his personal collection and John signed in successor, King Henry, the third even used images from it to decorate one of the chambers at Westminster,
as their popularity spread. More and more writers got in on the tradition. The Norman poet Felipe through town wrote a book
scary about a generation after William, the conqueror invaded England and it became a gift for King Henry, the second wife.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Leonardo Da Vinci, made one. It seems if you were in Intel.
Joint person in the middle ages or the renaissance. Making your own beastie Airy was practically a right of passage and, let's be honest, colorful manuscripts filled with images of unbelievable creatures and animals that defied logic
and not be popular humans have this in a desire to look a curious things we ve also
he's been rubber, Nackerson straining
take a long hard look at things that sit outside our normal experience and the spread of Beastie Aires is proof of that, but those ancient books, a manuscripts, also teach us something else about ourselves. Human beings are creative creature
When faced with a mysterious gap in our knowledge were more likely to invent something to plug the whole than to leave the question unanswered and what we have come up with is equal parts entertaining and downright terrifying.
I mentioned earlier how the internet and the accessibility of powerful devices has given us an edge over our predecessors and in a lot of ways. That's true. Yes, we have access to a huge majority of our collective knowledge, but not all of it. If there are still things we don't know,
For example, scientists today believe that there are roughly eight point: seven million animal species on this planet, and yet eighty six percent of the ones that would live on land still haven't been discovered or studied, and its even worse, inside our oceans, where over ninety percent of life is still a mystery to us
We know a lot yes, but our world is massive and diverse. Now makes the learning process slow and tedious
Some animals are also a bit harder to track down there less abundance or more shy
so it's made studying them more of a challenge. A good example is the planet puss.
for a very long time, scientists thought the descriptions of it were nothing more than a hoax. I mean it was rumoured in
one thousand seven hundred and ninety nine to be a hybrid of a duck and a water rat part mammal and part bird with venomous spurs that could kill a dog and what we've learned more about them over the years the platypus is still in
of creature, a recent documentary and was able to get what he considered to be a gold mine of actual footage of the animal amounting to about thirty seconds and then only half a minute. A film is something too
celebrate. You know the animal is hard to study. Of course, while research
for new species, the ones we do know about our slowly dying off, which doesn't help some estimates placed the number of species
edge of extinction and around twenty thousand and more get added to that list. All the time
for the medieval writers of Beastie Aries. This would be their worst nightmare. All those creature
belong in their books, and yet they keep slipping away, but at the same time,.
not being able to see an animal, never really stopped those ancient writers from including it in their catalogue of life on earth
there are a lot of entries that would cause most people to scratch their heads because well, yes, we ve grown in our understanding
the world around us. These beastie airy serve as a time capsule of our gullibility. As far back as plenty the elders collection on natural history, we can see those less believable creatures pop up. He once wrote that thousands of sea nymphs known as near said washed up on the shores of what is modern day, France and that they looked just like
The needs of the land, except that they were covered in fish gales. He also wrote about that fiery bird of Legend, known as the Phoenix which was known to burst into flat
Things before re emerging from its own ashes and, of course, I've already,
in his fascination with Merman and Blemmyes. It seems that plenty, the elderly,
An obsession with gathering all known creatures, whether or not he had witnessed them with his own eyes,.
Other historians added their own contributions to those mystical lists as well, and if I ran through it for you now, it would sound like a recap of the Harry Potter series. Hippos and elephants shared the same space as Hippogriffs and Mandrake. There were dragons and
frightens, giants and see monsters. Honestly, it
time, seeing that if a young child could draw a picture of it, that was good enough to get it included. Of course, some creatures were more popular than others, man that popularity varied from culture to culture and you
up. One of the most talked about creatures of all was also one of the smallest, but don't let it size fool you, because there was nothing save about the basilisk
Our old friend plenty, the elder, wrote about it two thousand years ago, describing it as a serpent with legs that was no larger than a foot in length, but what it lacks.
in size in more than made up for with attitude and special features. A Basle. This was said to stand tall on its back legs and had a crown like plume on top of its head, and they were dangerous to. According to the stories, basilisk were so poisonous that even looking at them could get you killed. Other creatures avoided them like the plague and wherever they chose to make there,
asked the plant, life would die and whither away. One description. I read said that if a man on horseback stabbed basilisk with a spear, the poison was so powerful that it could climb up the spear, kill the man and then kill the horse as well. Of course, when something is that powerful and deadly it eventually becomes the centrepiece of tales of valor. It said that
exact or the great once kill the basilisk, and like many of the other legends about him, he did it in a way that prove not just his might, but also his intelligence. It said that he published his shield and
It was like a mirror and then approached the creature holding it outward when the boy
select sides own reflection. It fell victim to its poison, his gaze and instantly drop dead. We confine images of the Basle ask in just about every beast: the area in existence, most of which looked like a cross between a snake and rooster,
there's a statue of one in Vienna commemorating an eleventh century hunt, and there is even a church in Sweden, with a card relief showing Saint Michael Stabbing, one with a spear. So popular was this creature that people sold powders that they claim to be ground, basilisk, something the most people purchased for use in alchemy, but more than a few used as an antidote.
the poison everywhere, you look through the middle ages, and earlier the basilisk is waiting to rear its poisonous little head
you can see societies attraction to it in their folklore and superstition, a mixture of fear and fascination of wonder and discussed for centuries. It pop
up and stories whispered all around Europe like a well loved character in a popular book series, but if one account is any indication, it might not be a work of fiction. After all, the people of Warsaw had a problem on their hands. They were two decades into a new political structure, known ass, the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, and while it gave a lot of freedom to the wealthy and delete it left, the lower class in a Constance
fear and oppression. Life in the city was challenging for many people, but that was the new normal in one thousand five hundred and eighty seven, though something happened to put the people of Warsaw on edge, live,
back in the area around an old ruined building, had begun to turn up dead. Even a few.
Neighbouring residence had been found poisoned in their beds, washing over the community, with a wave of grief and loss, and in the midst of all that confusion and pain to of the neighborhood children disappeared. Well disappeared might not be the right word for it. Folks had seen the two young girls plain near, the rule,
They had watched them laugh and skip and revel in the freedom enjoy. That came with childhood, most likely muttering, quiet
there's that it would last as long as possible. The name
he knew what sort of hard life awaited. Thus girls, once they were old enough to work and carry their own weight. Their joy must have been better sweet.
And then someone watched them step inside the ruins. That was the first reason to worry folks avoided the ruins for a good reason. It was dark and dangerous,
and the seller beneath it had been a den for all sorts of animals, so whoever it was, the watch them disappear into the shadows, most likely headed over to warn the girls
France, when everyone arrived at the ruins to call them out, though they were no law,
or visible. While there was a good chance.
Had simply moved on to a new playground. Someone decided to peer inside the dark seller and there lay on the broken stone floor where the sleeping forms-
both girls, so one of the older women stepped inside to wake them a moment,
Later, though, she collapsed into a heat beside the girls. Sending
the growing crowd into a panic. They didn't know what was causing the people inside the seller to lose conscious
but they knew there was something dangerous about the dark space, so they sent for a fire hook, a long pole with a metal hook on the end and then reached in and pulled each body out into the light. All three of them were dead and not just dead. They were bloated and dark.
they ve been dead for days. Most frightening of all, though, was that their eyes seemed to be protruding from their sockets. No one could be sure, but it almost looked as if they'd been frightened to death wanting answers they sent for Bennydeck this,
kings very own physician. If anyone would have the skill to identify the danger, it would be him and sure enough
After taking a long look at the trio of bodies, he brought them a definitive answer. All of them had been killed by a basilisk.
In an instant the atmosphere around the old ruins changed. Newcomers came to watch, while leaders gathered to form a plan, something had to
done and just like the stories all of them had grown up with. It seemed that Basle, Le Conte, was in order, but the trouble was no one. One
to risk their lives by entering the seller, to kill it not even Benedict this.
We seem to know the most about the creature, but they had an idea. A group of leaders from the community quickly headed to the law
jail where two men awaited execution for various capital crimes. Each man
was given the same, offer come killed the basilisk and you will receive a full pardon and your freedom as a reward. It seem like an easy choice to inside jail. There was no chance of survival outside, though there was at least the possibility they might survive. It made sense to everyone. The first criminal decline, the offer, but the other one. A man named John Farrer, agreed to help. He was escorted from the jail to the old ruins where Benedict is awaited him with tools and instructions. The townsfolk had quickly gather dozens of small mirrors and sell them on to a pair of leather pants and a coat. I imagine John gave
old physician Nod sideways glance at the sheer ridiculous of it all, but at the same time he would have known the folklore just as well as everyone else Alexander. The great had defeated bacillus using a mirror like shield. So why would it not work for him with a crowd of over two thousand witnesses? Watching John began to carefully walk into the ruins where
he entered the seller had along rake in one hand and a torch in the other two light his way and as soon as he stepped into the darkness below he cried out that he could see it along serpent like tail with a head that resembled tat of a rooster right down to the crown like Plumage Benedict. This called out instructions to the man grab it with a
like. He told him and then carry it out here into the light. John shouted back that he understood and the entire crowd began to shift in rumble. If a basilisk was going to be dragged out of the ruins. No one wanted to be around to see it, so they all ran for cover and hid their eyes.
With John emerged, he held the writhing creature by the neck in one of his gloved hands. The daylight somehow made it weaker, and that gave Bennydeck this the courage to step closer and examined it. Looked exactly like the beast theories of old had taught him the body of a snake for long legs and ahead that looked very much like a rooster but sadly,
This is where the account of the Bass Le Conte ends, whoever had been recording the events had most likely. Then, in the crowd and John had begun to emerge from the seller, they had followed the crowd into hiding.
which leave the ending a bit of a mystery who killed the creature when all was said and done, and how did they do it? Knowing the risks, the old legends spoke of. What we do know is this: the Warsaw Basilisk Hunt of one thousand five hundred and eighty seven was the last time the creature was reported anywhere in Europe. Maybe it had been the last of its kind and it's death marked its extinction or perhaps the few that survived had a nap.
Were staying out of sight like the Platypus of Australia, either way, all that was left from that moment on were legends and stories like so many creatures that have once walk the earth, the basilisk if it was ever real to begin with, I slipped into the shadows of the past and it's never been seen again,
There really is something delightful about the beast theories of old, their colorful pages and evocative descriptions were beyond sensational
in a world without television, radio or easily accessible works of fiction. Those catalogues of natural history, where the closest most people could get to traveling the world. Of course, the things most authors chose to include in their beastie areas will probably never make the cuts in our modern times after all, headless tribesmen with eyes on their chests unicorns and see nymphs I'll feel more like characters in a fantasy novel than entries in a study on the world's flora, and
honor, and yet some of those expectations have been broken over the years. For centuries, sailors told stories about the crack and enormous sea creatures that could reach out and drag and entire ship underwater with its long tentacle.
Kingsbury of Norway recorded its description way back in one thousand one hundred and eighty, and for hundreds of years people claim to spot them in the waters of the ocean. Then it one thousand eight hundred and fifty three, the carcass of a giant squid washed up on a danish beach, giving the legend new life over the century and a half. Since then, scientists have determined that there is indeed a giant sea creature that fits the ancient
Christians give or take a few sinking, ships, of course, and while they ve been challenging to catch on film, we now know they exist and those
remains of old might have routes and actual animals as well many scientists and scholars
I believe that old reports of mermaids could very well be mistaken. Sightings of an aquatic mammal known as the manatee, as is so often the case. Our misunderstandings had given birth to frightening legends. Only to have science bring a bit of clarity to the tale, sometimes the monsters of the ancient world
turn out to be real and sometimes legends, inspire new discoveries in the part of the world that stretches from Mexico to South America.
Scientists have been familiar for over a century with a lizard from the Aguano family. It's not the largest reptile around, but it can grow to around two feet in length and it can run at amazing speed
some scientists refer to it as the Jesus Christ lizard because of its strange ability to run across the surface water, but its most common name is based on other features like its tendency to run on two legs and its serpent like body a body, that's topped with a head and plumes reminiscent of a crown or a rooster, which is why its name is both logical and a bit of a throwback. They call it the basilisk.
There's something enticing about the mysteries that fill the gaps in our knowledge of the world around us. Looking back at the beast
areas of the middle ages, its clear humans have had a lot of fun filling those holes, and the creativity of the past has continued to inspire stories. Today.
but there's one more creature. I want to tell you about stick around after this brief sponsor break to learn all about it. This episode was made possible by staff stock. Come if you're a small business owner you're busy enough as it is. You have time to deal with the hassle of going to the post office
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fallen in love, and it was something that would change their destiny forever. At least that's how the legend tells it. Long ago a young man lived on a small island surrounded by deep blue seas and in the process of honey
one day he encountered a beautiful young woman, but the hunter quickly learned that there was more to her than he could see with his eyes. The woman it turns out was a fairy
In fact, she was well known to the locals there, who referred to her as the dragon princess despite
differences him a normal human being and her a magical fairy. The two of them fell in love and were soon married, and that helps this tale become one of those happily ever after stories that we all
so much. The couple went on to have twins a boy and a girl and just like their parents. They were an odd pair. The boy was just like his fur
they're, a human with no magical powers of his own. While the girl took on after her mother and because of that, both parents decided that the children should be raised in separate places to help them fully become who they were meant to be
According to the legend, it was many years later when the sun was out hunting just ass. His father had taught him. He was creeping through the forest, his spear balanced in one hand when he spotted dear he quickly through the weapon
she found its target in a heartbeat later. The young man was carefully making his way over to collect his prize and that's when the dragon stepped out of the trees. It was enormous and frightening and it clearly wanted to take the dear that he had just killed. The young hunter spoke to it, begging it to leave his future meal alone, but the creature ignored him and proceeded to move towards the dear, so he lifted another spear and got ready to take aim at the dragon. Suddenly, a figure
stepped out of the shadows of the forest and stopped him. It was his mother, the fairy princess who he had not seen since his childhood ass. She approached him. She spoke a word of warning. Do not throw that spear. She told
But that is no ordinary dragon. That is your sister. Instead
She taught him to live in harmony with his sister and according to the legend, that fateful meeting set the destiny of their entire community on a new path. Even today, if you were to visit the place where they lived, the people, there would tell you that they are descended from dragons illustrating how that harmony has continued. And, of course, the story is just one of many tales about dragons the fill the pages of folk lore. In fact, most of us would be hard pressed to fight,
creature, mentioned more often than those magical beasts from the eleventh century, legend of King George and the dragon to the fantasy novels.
television shows of our modern world. They really do seem to be the king of monsters,
Dragons are also one of those nearly universal creatures. It seems just about every culture around the world.
had some version of them in their folklore. The ancient egyptian God of chaos was a represented as a giant syrup,
The Babylonians had their own God of CHAOS called TM out and in Akkadian without
gee there were not one but three dragons on display. Norse mythology features a giant serpent who gnaws at the roots of the world tree in
cranium folk lore. There is a dragon with three heads, while images of dragons can be found all over medieval heraldry and, of course, few cultures on earth hold as tightly to their dragon mythology as the Chinese
who have been decorating objects with images of the creature, at least as far back as the neolithic period, and we could speculate why I'm sure
doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how the accidental discovery of dinosaur bones might spark fear, and
under in the minds of humans thousands of years ago, the places where stories
dragons are most common are also places where such fossils have been uncovered, so it does make sense,
so in Europeans arrived on an island in the floor as see just south of Indonesia. They probably didn't think twice about the local stories about dragons. In fact, those tails were probably a bit old hat, as they say: dragons lived in caves, breathe fire were vicious killers and could fly when necessary. Nothing about all of that was new
what was new, though, where the things they saw their on an island surrounded by deep blue Sea, an island full of people who believe they were descended from dragons mind you. They discovered a creature that brought all of their legends to life. It lived in the caves along the shore.
it was an enormous killer and sometimes even followed its prey up into the trees. It takes all the boxes. These were three hundred pounds serpent, like monsters that could bring down a half ton water buffalo when they licked the air with their bright red tongue. It looked as if they were spitting fire and they even Doug into the graves of the dead. Looking for treasure, of course, that treasure was always food.
not gold, and there still there crawling across the sandy beaches of the island living in harm,
any more or less with the people who still call the place their home. They might not have wings or piles of golden treasure to curl up on, but they are the law.
just lizard on earth, measuring in at over ten feet in length and their deadly. Sometimes the tales of the past stay shrouded in Miss
Three then other times we manage to crack the riddle and shed new light on the shadows that once frightened us this living flesh and blood dragon seems to offer a fresh answer to an ancient question. However, in
cleats it might be, but at least we now know that there really is one place in the world where that old, cartographer warning is actually true here,
On Commodo Island at least there be dragons.
This episode of law was written and produced by me, Aaron Mahnke, with research
Michel mood and music by Chad, Lawson Lore, is much more than just upon cast theirs.
A series of able and bookstores an on line and two seasons of the television show on Amazon. Prime video check them both out. If you want more lore in your life, I also make two other pod casts Aaron main keys cabinet, the curiosities and unabashed gear, and
cute enjoy both each one explores other areas of our dark history, ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dies into a single topic. You can learn more about both of those shows
and everything else going on over in one central place, the world of lore dot com slash now, and you can
also follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, just search for lore podcast, all one word, and then click that follow button and when you do say hi, I like it when people say hi and as always, thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-12.