The Past Unveiled: A New Perspective on Ancient Phenomena and Myths through Poor Sight 

Written by Dalma Roman

From ghost sightings to UFO encounters, mysterious phenomena have troubled humanity for centuries. But what if the key to unraveling these enigmas lies not in the paranormal but in the very physiology of our eyes? Bad eyesight blurs the edges of our surroundings and conceals minor details. These seemingly insignificant details, when pieced together, can embellish myths and legends passed down for generations. This brings forth the intriguing question of whether unexplained phenomena and myths can be explained by something as simple as bad eyesight. Since glasses didn’t become a mainstream product until the seventeenth century, misperceptions of the natural world may have contributed to the development of folktales. By examining historical records and analyzing contemporary scientific research on eyesight, questions about how poor vision may have contributed to shaping uncertainties about the past can finally be explained.  

Human history is filled with tales of wild, unexplained legends that make up stories passed down from generation to generation. From the historical Scottish tale of the Loch Ness Monster that brings thousands of tourists to the Scottish Highlands to the origin of a Scandinavian folktale of an enormous sea creature that swallowed ships whole, urban legends are engraved through historical records and accounts.   

The Loch Ness Monster 

Swimming in the glassy, dark waters of the Scottish Highlands lingers a mysterious green beast of immense size and power that blends seamlessly with the lake. The monster’s enigmatic proportions, from an elongated neck and flippers to a humped back and serpentine tail, resemble a dragon pictured in only the most gruesome fairy tales. Despite hundreds of years since its first sighting, this mysterious beast, coined “Nessie,” remains an enigma of Scottish history. Is this perplexing creature a figment created by the misperception of the naked eye, or does something truly linger below the seaweed and fish that coat the British seas? 

This urban legend of the Loch Ness monster originated almost 1400 years ago when accounts of a strange figure were recorded by an Irish saint known as St. Columba. Recordings from the Life of St. Columba narrated his encounter with the mythical beast when it tried to injure a swimmer. Thankfully, St. Columba intervened, causing the beast to retreat into the lake. However, modern accounts question whether Columba’s perception was clouded as a 2018 DNA survey of the lake revealed no large fish or reptiles. In fact, the survey showed that the Loch Ness monster might have been mistaken for the abundance of eels in the lake. 

Poor eyesight was a common factor that affected the lives of many in the past, as elusive migraines and the absence of glasses available to all often obscured one’s vision. This might have led to fragmented and inaccurate recollections of what happened. With this in mind, one must consider that multiple elements may have contributed to St. Columba’s sighting. Nessie could have been large waves, floating logs, or just a very, very large eel. Nonetheless, whether a monster dwells within these mystifying Scottish lakes, St. Columba’s distortion of the truth plays into the larger question of what other misconceptions in history may have been created by poor eyesight. 

The Kraken 

Slumbering in the depths of the Norwegian sea lies a legendary sea monster known for its gigantic tentacles, glimmering scales, and indescribable power. This haunting beauty is depicted as a monstrous hybrid that roams the North Atlantic Ocean, creating a sense of fear within sailors as it emerges only to drag ships and their crew deep within the ocean blue. Is this creature something sighted by drunken sailors, or does a mysterious entity truly abide within the abyss? 

This Nordic folklore was first mentioned in the thirteenth century when an anonymous author composed a text for the future king of Norway, Magnús Hákonarson, known as Konungs skuggsjá. This account describes the Kraken as a creature mistakable for an island with a width of half a mile. Even Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, included it in his first edition of Systema Naturae, classifying it as a cephalopod. Nonetheless, contemporary research has proved that the tale of the Kraken might have simply been a large squid known as the Architeuthis dux. 

Accumulating evidence suggests that the Kraken is simply a mythological tale created by Norwegian sailors who might have had too much to drink while out at sea. Moreover, these drunk sailors with poor eyesight may have mistaken large seaweed, schools of fish, or even giant squid for the legendary monster. Their overindulgence could have led to the creation of this sea monster as a way to explain the mysterious and dangerous happenings at sea. By examining the historical context behind these strange phenomena, it seems plausible that visual impairment may have played a profound role in the creation of these generational folktales. 

For centuries, poor eyesight has dulled the perception of countless individuals. Numerous medical conditions, from Charles Bonnet Syndrome to dementia and even simple migraines, can cause an individual to have hallucinations and misinterpret reality. Without the rise of modern medicine until centuries after local legends and folk stories grew in popularity, one cannot prove that what an individual saw one gloomy evening or at sea was a reality or an illusion of fiction. Contemporary scientific research on the impact of eyesight has not only opened a window into the marvels of the optical system but shed light on another crucial question: Can bad eyesight be the answer to the unexplained phenomena that have captivated the minds of many for generations? 

The reality is we might never know. Whether the Loch Ness Monster resides in the tranquil water of the Scottish Highlands or if the legendary Kraken lurks in the ocean’s depths ultimately remains a mystery. Nonetheless, regardless of how these legends came to be, our eyesight has impacted history and stories for centuries. So as strange as it may seem, one can be grateful for the imperfections of bad eyesight that have allowed legends and folk stories to become a culture of their own.  


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