I’ve been interested in the paranormal and the uncanny since I was a little girl (I blame all those Usborne books) and even though I’ve got more cynical as I approach middle age, I remain generally open minded, because it turns out that often, phenomena and ideas dismissed as supernatural or irrational bollocks do turn out to be true. Here’s a few of them. Let me know in the comments if you can think of any other examples.
Over the years several creatures thought to be fictional have turned out to be real. Recently, research has shown that the Yeti is a kind of bear found in the Himalayas – something the natives have been saying all along. The Kraken myth is probably based on Giant or even Colossal Squid, and when the first stuffed duck-billed platypuses arrived in Europe they were widely denounced as a fraud. Given the history, it’s perhaps not surprising that people haven’t given up on Nessie yet!
Great Balls of Fire
For a long time, ball lightning was considered a Fortean phenomenon. Although still officially unexplained, it is now accepted as real and is being studied. Up until the 1960s, most scientists were dismissive of the many sightings recorded through history, though Nikolai Tesla had a go at generating it. As ball lightning provides an explanation for many other phenomena, it’s a genuine shame that science didn’t take it seriously sooner.
Crackpot Scientist Proved Right
Many scientists who considered the shapes of the continents had speculated that they may once have been joined. Building on their ideas, Alfred Wegener presented the theory in 1912, but as he was not a geologist and no-one could explain how it might happen, it remained on the fringe of science. It was not until the late 1960s that evidence began to be found and the theory evolved into plate tectonics, a vital part of modern science, as are many other things dismissed as improbable.
Rains and inexplicable plagues of animals, especially fish, have been a staple of legend and anecdote for a very long time. The phenomena was first considered scientifically by André-Marie Ampère, and although a definitive explanation is yet to be found, several plausible suggestions have been made.
Now Wash Your Hands
Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian doctor who worked at Vienna General Hospital. He noticed that the maternity wards staffed by doctors had three times the mortality of those staffed by midwives, and soon concluded it was because the doctors weren’t washing their hands after dissecting corpses. His idea was rejected by the establishment and he died in an asylum after being beaten. When Pasteur later proved the mechanism for the transmission of germs, he too initially faced opposition.