Archive for category Myths and Legends

On Cheese, Sleep and Nightmares

Unlike Mike, who spends his days in a dinosaur and doctor who lined back bedroom surrounded by overly-sociable cats and DVDs of 90s kids TV, I work in an office for a living. Which means, office conversations, where office topics come up. So it means I know rather too much about Heat Magazine, Glee, Tinnie Tempah and films like ‘The Hangover’ and ‘The Hangover 2: Hangoverer’. And it also means when a standard nugget of urban myth or popular received wisdom comes up, people look in my way to dispute it.

Sometimes, that’s not too difficult – it turns out the world is in fact facing genuine climate change, and the US government were not involved in 9/11, and that dog’s CAN look up.

Still, there was one that caught me out for a little while, when a colleague of mine casually mentioned avoiding cheese before bed, so as to avoid getting nightmares. This is something that’s a real piece of received wisdom here in the UK – I’m not sure of it elsewhere in the world – but it’s something most people would have heard of. It’s the kind of thing your mum says to you, like the thing about not feeling the benefit of your coat if you wear it indoors. It’s also the kinda thing Mythbusters would look at, although it would represent a bit of a low-fi myth to bust, a bit like proving that once you pop you can actually stop if you like.

Now, I was fairly certain that it would be unlikely, as I couldn’t imagine a mechanism, but that doesn’t mean as such that it’s untrue, and I’m often wrong – probably more often than not. No, wait, that’s not right. See, I’m at it again. So I thought I’d check it out. First stop, Google, which picked up a few Daily Mail articles and the BBC Focus Magazine, the latter of which suggested:

“Any heavy meal before bed can make you spend more time in REM sleep and therefore dream more. But there is no evidence to suggest that cheese is particularly effective at causing dreams, good or bad.”

This seemed decent information, but a little obvious. How would a folk myth arise when the answer was so simple? I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d look into it a little more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Of Men and Pterosaurs

So there I was, roaming ‘teh interwebs’ one last time before entering an extended Christmas weekend and going off radar, when I came across a link tweeted by a fellow Skeptic. It referred to something called ‘Project Pterosaur’. Interesting, I thought. I wonder what that’s about? So in the interest of simple human curiosity I clicked on the link.

Oh, and what glories did I behold! This site is the most fantastically bonkers and bewildering woo-stew I have ever seen. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, vacate the Earth or simply join in the fun these people seem to be having.

The main site is something called, and it is an ‘educational resource’ for Creation Science. These kinds of sites are everywhere, the most well-known being They’re all attempts to push very skewed versions of reality onto the public under the pretense that science is some kind of ungodly blight that hides the ‘truth’. This site is no exception. The link above takes you to a particular article on the site, detailing the aforementioned Project Pterosaur.

So, what is this project? I’ll let Dr Richard Paley, the leader of the project explain it in his own words:

“The goal of Project Pterosaur is to mount an expedition to locate and bring back to the United States living specimens of pterosaurs or their fertile eggs, which will be displayed in a Pterosaur Rookery that will be the center piece of the planned Fellowship Creation Science Museum and Research Institute (FCSMRI). Furthermore, the rookery facility will establish a breeding colony of pterosaurs in order to produce specimens that could then be put on display by other regional institutions or church groups.”

Yes, you read that right. Project Pterosaur is an expedition to kidnap living pterosaurs – a clade of creatures the fossil record implies hasn’t existed since the cretaceous period – and put them in a special zoo. Presumably with a big sign saying: “Nur nur! Silly Evolutionists!” Read the rest of this entry »

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West Country Jesus

Before we start, let’s read a poem:

And did those feet in ancient time/Walk upon England’s mountains green:/And was the holy lamb of God,/On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine,/Shine forth upon our clouded hills?/And was Jerusalem builded here,/Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:/Bring me my arrows of desire:/Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!/Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,/Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:/Till we have built Jerusalem,/In England’s green and pleasant land.

If I learnt one thing from typing that, it is that WordPress isn’t really designed for making poetry look good. That knowledge is completely irrelevant to this post. Nevertheless, I’m going to let it hang there…

Most people will have heard that poem in some form. It was originally penned by William Blake in about 1804, though didn’t become widely known until during the First World War, when it was put to music as a hymn by Sir Hubert Parry. The original poem was reputedly inspired by a peculiar piece of British folklore in which Jesus, that well-known protagonist of ‘The Bible – Part Two’, came to England with his rich uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who was looking for tin (?). Supposedly, Jesus built a chapel while he was here, visited places in the West Country such as the Roseland peninsula and Glastonbury, and got into a fight in a pub. That last one isn’t true. Read the rest of this entry »