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Creating A Monster PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

japaneseghostI was at a meetup.com dinner recently with about a dozen people that I’d never met before. When we went around the table telling what we did for a living, my response garnered some attention.

“Are you a ghost hunter?”

“Er, well… no, not exactly.. you see…”

“I saw a ghost once.”

“That’s very interesting, but what I do at the JREF is…”

And so it went. This is not an unusual exchange, and I’m not annoyed in the least. Often, such awkward openings lead to something more interesting, and that was the case here.

An Asian man approached me and said something very interesting:

“Ghosts are cultural.”

Though his English was quite good, I didn’t understand what he meant.

“Do you mean ghosts only exist because they’re socially constructed?”

“In Japan, ghosts have no legs. In the US, they do.”

And at last, I understood. He wasn't about to discuss relativism with me; he was saying that ghosts had different characteristics in Japan, or rather, Japanese people see ghosts differently.

I was called away and didn’t get to have a very long discussion with him, but he set me to thinking about this. Sure enough, a quick bit of research showed that most ghosts in Japan are depicted without legs. Others had chains coming out of their chests.

And maybe this explains why Casper the Friendly Ghost seems to be able to shed his legs at will.

I also came across this article recently, about a man in Utah who searches for Bigfoot. Like ghosts, Bigfoot (or Bigfeet) are found in many cultures, though in varying forms such as the Abominable Snow Man, Nguoi Rung, or Yowie. The article itself was just the same old “there’s something out there, I just know it” type of filler, but it made me wonder… why do people see what they see?

And the answer, I’m pretty sure, is that “believing is seeing.” If you have an idea of something in your mind, you will unconsciously search for it, and random or unclear patterns will trigger recognition of this searched-for pattern.

Daniel Loxton pointed out in a Junior Skeptic some years back that we no longer see trolls or ogres in the forests. We simply don’t scan for those patterns anymore. These monsters of old have been supplanted by our new version, which in North America is Bigfoot.

So, what’s stopping us from creating new monsters? Why can’t we just invent something, plant the idea in people’s minds, and have people frantically dialing 911 to report our fictitious bogeyman in their back yards?

Nothing. In fact, people have.  You’ll be hard pressed to find stories of alien abduction before the 1961 case of Betty and Barney Hill. Now, they’re commonplace (not abductions mind you, reports of abductions). A new monster (or at least a new monster behavior) was created with the Hills.

So I wonder if we could create yet another new monster. It would have to lurk in dark, deserted places. It would have to be illusive, crafty and sly. And it should probably be scary.

The funny thing is… I can’t think of anything new. Every idea that pops into my head has been done already. Maybe you can help. Think of something that might be lurking near your home, making sure it fits all the criteria above, and post it in the comments. Who knows… maybe it will become something people believe in 20 years from now. And I'll bet when you come forward to admit it, you'll be dismissed.

 

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The Ssscary Ssssceptic
written by Here_to_learn, June 24, 2009
It lurks in dark places, and tries to get to you through modern communication channels - over the phone - via the television, or today mostly via the Internet.

It's not easy to identify, so you can never be sure that you see one, but if the Sceptic manages to touch you you face the greatest risk - you may loose your belief.
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written by Starthinker, June 24, 2009
I can't confirm this at the moment but I once read that ghosts weren't transparent until the invention of the camera. Before that they were depicted in fiction and paintings as solid. I think the first double exposure created the transparent ghost. The same with rods and VHS cameras. And Orbs. I think the next new thing is haunting AI's that roam the internet and chat with unsuspecting lonely people then vanish without a trace. "Did you see that chatter!! He didn't have an IP address!!!" (maybe only geeks will get that reference) Or an AI ghost that inserts itself into digital pics that are posted online. Start that rumor and people will start closely examining their online pics, which will feed itself due to pareidolia and then it would be firmly rooted in the psych of many. Especially with sites like Flikr and Face Book where digital pics live. That's my prediction/contribution anyway.
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New Scary Monster
written by Culmidon, June 24, 2009
This one fits all the listed criteria, "It would have to lurk in dark, deserted places. It would have to be illusive, crafty and sly. And it should probably be scary."

Two words: Dick Cheney smilies/shocked.gif
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@ Culmidon
written by Human Person Jr, June 24, 2009
Oh.

My.

Goodness.

DICK CHENEY!!! Illusive, crafty and sly. You, sir or madam, have made my day. I will chuckle big time, you will see, chuckle like Ned Flanders, oh yeah.

That's a knee-slapper!!!
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Aliens over the years
written by Griz, June 24, 2009
I remember seeing an article that had an illustration showing how the description of aliens in alien sighting changed over the years and it closely correlated to the aliens of popular fiction and film of the time. I believe the thing about ghost transparancy Starthinker posted. Randi's favorite, El Chupacabra, was first reported in 1955.

When discussing Bigfoot with people, I like to direct them to this web site:

http://www.bfro.net/GDB/

It shows that Bigfoot has been reported in every state in the union but one (see if you can guess which one before you look). I like to ask these people where they think the Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware Bigfeets live, and how in the hell they can believe in an animal this widely dispersed across the northern part of the continent in the US and Canada that religiously respects the Mexican border. I like to ask them if there are enough Bigfeets to maintain breeding populations and be present EVERYWHERE in the US how they have managed to hide from science this long. I can only think of two other such ubiquitous species, rats and coyotes, and they are certainly no mystery to zoology.

Bottom line, though. People like to believe in stuff like this and they don't want to think about it too hard because it ruins the fun.
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written by Arts Myth, June 24, 2009
Lurks in dark, deserted places, has to be illusive, crafty and sly, and scary.

A grue, obviously.
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Cultural Monster
written by Diverted Chrome, June 24, 2009
In traveling to other cultures, America is the only one (in my experience) where it's OK to point-blank ask somebody what they do "for a living". Not sure why we've adopted the practice but I've never liked it. You don't do it while in other countries because it's akin to asking "how much money do you have?" In some parts of Europe, for example, you would never ask, even if you were friends with a person, you'd wait until that info was offered, and it's not a basis for "knowing" who a person is. When people ask me what I "do", I've learned to say "about what?" It doesn't stop Cheney from attacking Rodan but it's a small protest against a cultural monster.
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A Recent Problem
written by Sadhatter, June 24, 2009
As an amateur writer, i am in the same situation. Trying to think of something scary, and that has not been thought up before, well it's damn near impossible.

And maybe that is the same problem that the crypto-woologists are having. I mean if they start busting out the Michael myers to bigfoot's Jason, then the fact that these are obviously just man made creations will become more and more obvious.

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Crafty and Sly...
written by Michael K Gray, June 24, 2009
It would have to lurk in dark, deserted places. It would have to be illusive, crafty and sly. And it should probably be scary.

Sylvia Browne!
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written by Skemono, June 24, 2009
How about Mabus as a cultural monster?

Not really scary or elusive, though.
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written by mjh937, June 24, 2009
Hey, I live in the Bigfootiest state. There have even been sixteen sightings in my county. I wonder why I have not seen one (okay, I do not wonder).

If there have been no sightings in Hawaii it makes me wonder where they go on vacation. Perhaps that explains the California and Florida sightings. Do Bigfeet like Disney Parks?
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written by Skeptigirl, June 24, 2009
The ghost of Neda. Sorry, that video will be haunting me for a while.
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written by MadScientist, June 24, 2009
Ah, so Casper is a dual citizen so he can shed his legs on demand? I need to look through all the episodes of the Funky Phantom to see if he can do the same; I suspect that the spirit of 1776 can also do as he pleases.
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written by The ghost of christmas past, June 24, 2009
I'm not really convinced that ghosts having legs or not is a cultural difference between Japan and the US; I have seen plenty of Japanese movies where the ghosts have legs, and plenty of cartoons, comics and games (Pac-man smilies/wink.gif ) from the US where they don't.
Ghosts in (life-action) movies and TV series tend to have legs because actors tend to have legs.
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written by BillyJoe, June 25, 2009
I haven't seen this done anywhere else, but it probably has been.

I once created a monster in a computer program. The monster merely disturbed the position of objects over which it passed. That is to say, the monster consisted of this disturbance and nothing more. In the program, this was achieved by moving every pixel (over which the "monster" passed) one pixel to the left. In real life this would be a 3D disturbance and, if it passed through you, your tissues would be slightly, but excruciatingly painfully, distracted. You would survive the encounter, because you would return to your original state after its passing, but the memory of it would haunt you for the rest of your life.

But, as I said, it's probably not original.

BJ
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written by Lee, June 25, 2009
So I wonder if we could create yet another new monster. It would have to lurk in dark, deserted places. It would have to be illusive, crafty and sly. And it should probably be scary.

Drop bears.
http://popeterry666.blogspot.com/2007/08/special-public-announcement-drop-bears.html
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@ Human Person Jr.
written by Culmidon, June 25, 2009
Thank you for your comment. I am (or at least I like to think I am) a "sir."
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A Revolution in B.S.
written by Sadhatter, June 25, 2009
We have all these monsters that prefer to be illusive and hide in the shadows away from people and not be seen.

What would be really scary is if one of these things had the Stones to simply walk around like it owned the place.

Think of a ghost as an example. Instead of wandering around going " boo" and clanking some chains around. The ghost walks into a bank, starts harming people, then walks down to the store and does it some more. This is scary, anything that will eff off at the slightest mention of the " power of christ" or some crystal shaking, well that is just lame.

Or if any of the cryptids did the same thing. The Lock Ness monster walking onto land taking out a few photographers Then wandering back in. I mean really what are we going to do? If it's smart enough to remain hidden for X number of decades, in a rather small and isolated area, it has tricks we havn't even heard of.

My point is twofold.

1) If monsters were real , why do they all seem to be rather harmless? Or at least seem to not want to be too obvious in their behavior. I mean when is the last time someone saw a lion go out of its way to attack someone, but care if anyone was watching?

2) How is it people who believe in them do not notice this obvious pattern?

Could you imagine getting drafted, going to war and you get there and there is no evidence of an enemy? Days go by and your not shot at, no one dies, and no one can give any accounts of the enemy that can be verified in any way?

But this hasn't been just going on for days, it has been going on for centuries with no enemy to be spotted. Either the cryptid hunters won long ago and all of the monsters are dead. Or there were never any there in the first place, either way we can all stop worrying about it.
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written by michaelD, June 25, 2009
How about this for a new monster? A small creature with the body and size of a human child but covered head to toe in thick, crusty red skin, possibly burnt, with pale clouded eyes. It is elusive and moves quickly in a hunched, scampering motion, and is rarely spotted during daylight hours. Witnesses who have approached the creature have reported to feel a buzzing in the back of their head and splitting headaches afterward (psychic powers mabye?)

People might interpret this creature to be an alien, cryptozoological beast, or even a satanic demon.
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Y'all got it all wrong!
written by Willy K, June 25, 2009
Oh come on now folks... don't you know that the "Bigfoots" of the world are simply visiting aliens? It's funny how some people deny their existence by saying silly things such as "breeding populations." You don't need a breeding population when you can take your faster-than-light flying saucer back to the home planet for a little nookie.

As for "ghosts," again just ignorance about the aliens superior technology, they appear to the simple minded that way because they are teleporting themselves to and from the flying saucer. Tsk, Tsk. smilies/wink.gif
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Hey I Know!
written by Bellyflop, June 25, 2009
Maybe, we can get a good looking "celebrity" to say that vaccinations caused her kid to get autism. I bet a bunch of stupid people will start believing it's real.
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legless
written by Six_eight_ten, June 25, 2009
I've been living in Japan for a few years now. Around Halloween, back when I was teaching English, I would usually talk about ghost stories with my adult classes. This is when I first came across the legless Japanese ghosts. One theory I've heard as to why Japanese ghosts don't have legs is that when people started illustrating old Japanese stories, they needed some way to differentiate the ghosts from ordinary people in the pictures. This was done by having the ghosts trail off and disappear below the waist. This then became the common image of what a ghost was supposed to look like. Stories influencing art, which then influence the stories. Not all that different in look, really, than Caspar, as mentioned in the article.

Several of my former students claim to have been possessed by ghosts. I found the stories of their experiences quite eerie at the time. It wasn't much later I came across an article on sleep paralysis (possibly on this site, I don't remember where I first heard of it), which fit their stories perfectly. I get the impression it's more prevalent here.
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written by roulette system, June 25, 2009
I've had sleep paralysis a couple of times. I woke up in the middle of the night but it wasn't a wide awake it was like a slanty eyed just enough to see kind of awake. Felt like I was glued to the bed and i could only move my eyes. Weird huh. I think it was just a state of mind where my mind was not in control so maybe something else decided to take control cause I made it or let it. What is this it I speak of? I don't know.

Best Roulette System

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@ Roulette System
written by BillyJoe, June 25, 2009
I've had sleep paralysis a couple of times...I think it was just a state of mind where my mind was not in control so maybe something else decided to take control cause I made it or let it.
Sleep paralysis is the result of your limbic system being aroused before your motor cortex. As a result you are aware, but you cannot move.
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written by kraut, June 25, 2009
As a student, I used to come home having a nap. At one point I had the feeling having woken up, and the room was occupied by shadowy figures. I strained to get up, but was completely unable to do so. This was almost an unbearable feeling. At one point I succeeded to wake up - and the "shadows" were gone.

At the time, the now familiar archetype of the "alien" was unknown, and as an atheist and student of natural sciences the thought of "demons" or "ghosts" never occurred to me - despite having been raised a nice catholic boy till I threw religion out of my life at 14.

I always attributed the phenomenon to the inability to wake up, and was quite pleased to find an explanation some ten or so years ago when in a show about alien abductions the term "sleep paralysis" was introduced, and the symptoms decribed fitted exactly my experiences.
I never had any similar experiences after leaving University...a students life can be so rough.
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written by dolandilae, June 25, 2009
For my money, your best bet to create your own episode of the show Monsterquest would be to go with a prehistoric, yet real beast. One that can really spark the imagination, and a bit of american patriotism. The American lion, large, probably stealthy, really existed, and could no doubt be easily faked into blurry photographs.. similiar to the way black house cats are depicted as black panthers crossing a suburban lawn in Ohio from time to time.

Speaking of monsterquest, when exactly did people start claiming they are living in the Land of the Lost, I just saw a very unrewarding episode (as if they make any other kind) in which some 'highly trained' monster trackers were searching for a bio-luminescent pterosaur. Honestly, these trackers should be given something productive to do while they are our exploring the wilderness, like maybe collect interesting plant and insect species.. atleast then they would have some valid contribution to scientific research.
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written by Alan3354, June 26, 2009
That's a picture of Barney Fife, post mortem.

Now we've all seen a ghost.
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Mishy
written by abkaiser, June 27, 2009
"Think of something that might be lurking near your home, making sure it fits all the criteria above, and post it in the comments."


Cool topic, particularly because I recently wrote an article where I created my very own monster! I hope that this will latch into our cultural consciousness and grow into its own legend. I'm sure there's no way it can fail.

Behold, the legend of "Mishy", where "The Loch Ness Monster versus the Lake Michigan Monster - A mythical battle":
http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/...al-battle/

Andy
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New Scary Monster
written by ghy213, June 29, 2009
I got a idea, how about a giant snake that parts carnivorous plant. It have leaves growing out of it body. It attack animals at night and stay still at day time. It would also live in dense forests and Bogs.
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written by pxatkins, June 29, 2009
How about a cyber-ghost that touches your hand as you manipulate your mouse. smilies/shocked.gif
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