The following article reveals some of the most famous paranormal urban legend hoaxes debunked, yet many people continue to believe in such legends despite the available evidence.
Four Major Urban Legend Hoaxes Debunked
Throughout the history of the paranormal, four major stories stand out as examples of the sort of events that quickly spread through the news and before long become a deeply held set of beliefs. What sets these paranormal urban legends apart from most others is the fact that they've been debunked, yet few people know it.
The Legend of Bigfoot
Most people are at least somewhat aware of Bigfoot urban legends. Most researchers agree that the entire Bigfoot phenomenon really exploded in 1967 when Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin shot their famous film of the seven-foot-tall hairy creature strolling through the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The film led to a dramatic increase in the number of Bigfoot sightings that took place across the world. Twenty-five years later, in a 1992 interview, Bob Gimlin admitted that he could have been fooled. Several additional witnesses also came forward and admitted having knowledge of the hoax.
- In 1996, Harry Kemball, a director and screenwriter, issued a signed statement to researchers that he was present in the editing room when Roger Patterson and others were putting together the 16mm film of the man in a gorilla costume.
- In 1999, a man contacted lawyer Barry Woodard and wanted to retain legal rights to his story, but he was concerned about avoiding legal trouble for taking part in the hoax. The man admitted that he was the one who wore the fur suit in the 1967 film. The lawyer administered a polygraph exam on the man, that confirmed that he was telling the truth.
Are Crop Circles Still Unexplained?
One of the most pervasive urban legends in history includes crop circles. Stories of farmers waking to discover huge and elaborate patterns in their crops spread across the world like wildfire throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Entire communities of researchers flocked to remote farmland throughout England (where most of the phenomenon initially took place) in order to learn more. The true history of the crop circles only became clear in 1991 when Doug Bower and Dave Chorley of Southhamption, England, stepped forward and admitted that they were responsible for a large majority of crop circles over the previous fifteen years. The two men said that they developed the plot after discussing UFO reports and how gullible people seemed to be. In order to prove this, the two men used ropes, a board and a small sighting gauge to develop intricate patterns in the crop fields. Soon, others learned about these nighttime escapades and decided to follow suit. Today, artists from across the world compete to develop the most compelling designs. This growing underground community continues to create their art, and they observe the Aliens-make-crop-circle believers with amusement.
Healing Through Energy Fields
Urban legends abound about miraculous healings that take place due to the healing power of "touch therapy," also known as aura therapy, Reiki or Aurasomatherapy. These stories date all the way back to early Eastern religions. Countless New Age enthusiasts dedicate time and energy to the practice of this form of alternative therapy - even including nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners. Much like traditional "home remedies", belief in the effectiveness of the practices stem from the continued telling of urban legends from one generation to the next that appear to confirm its effectiveness.Ironically, this practice was thoroughly debunked by a nine-year-old girl named Emily Rosa in 1998. For her fourth grade science project, Emily tested 21 experienced "healing touch" experts who were blind-folded. She randomly (by flipping a coin) placed her hand just a few inches over one of the expert's hands. She asked them to select which of their hands could sense her energy field. The results were startling, but for many people not very surprising - the therapists' answers were correct only 44 percent of the time, even less than the accuracy one would expect from simple random guessing. The results were collected by adult researchers who were helping Rosa, and the report was eventually published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study concluded that "TT [therapeutic touch] claims are groundless and that further use of TT by health professionals is unjustified." Yet, urban legends of successful healings persist.
The Loch Ness Monster
Few people who have an interest in cryptozoology have not heard about the urban legend of the Loch Ness Monster. In 1933, Colonel Robert Wilson took a picture of something floating in the lake. Upon enlarging the photo, the object appeared to be some strange beast with a very long neck and head like a serpent. For many years, there were additional searches and sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, but the elusive creature remained a mystery. Many years later, in 1993, researchers David Martin and Alastair Boyd tracked down a 90-year-old man who admitted that 60 years earlier, he and his friend Duke Wetheral created a plastic and wood model and created fake footprints on the shore in order to embarrass The Daily Mail, a British newspaper. Even with this clear admission in hand, believers in the Loch Ness monster continue to search for the mythical beast.
This list of urban legend hoaxes debunked reveals a disturbing pattern - a lack of critical thinking when most people are faced with outrageous claims. This could stem from a normal human tendency to see patterns where none exists, or it could be that, in general, people believe in things that confirm their own prior beliefs, and whether or not there's evidence to the contrary is inconsequential. This is why hoaxes perform so well throughout the paranormal, and it's why solid and legitimate research of the various phenomena remains a rarity.