The Existence of Mermaids/Merfolk

by Carissa Zurbrugg

The existence of merfolk (mermaids and mermen) has been a fascination and a topic of question for people for thousands of years now. This belief consists of the idea that there were aquatic humanoids, residing in the depths of the sea that were some sort of half fish, half human hybrid. Information on merfolk appears in Japanese legend, Greek mythology, ancient folklore, and through tales of medieval sailors who clam to have encountered “sea maidens.” This belief was most popular during medieval times, but is even popular to this day, as Animal Planet’s “Mermaids: The Body Found” series, which aired in the 2000’s, was the most popular show in Animal Planet history. It is important and extraordinary because even though there is no real evidence for it, the idea of these fish people has still inexplicably attended to the minds of almost all sea-faring people for thousands of years.

Evidence (which lots of people claim to be false evidence) for mermaids was presented in Animal Planet’s series. It claimed that mermaids were real, and scientists from the NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) were hiding their secrets of mermaids from the world. Although Animal Planet did include a disclaimer saying “This two hour special is science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory.” The documentary series also presented a clip of a supposed mermaid washed up on the coast of Israel in 2009. Other evidence of the existence of mermaids is only spoken through word of mouth from sailors and sea-faring people who have claimed to have interacted with merfolk; this was mostly during medieval times when their existence was essentially assumed, just as much as the existence of other sea creatures was assumed. Stories say they were associated with misfortune and death, trying to lure sailors off their course. Japanese legends have their own embodiment of merfolk called “kappa” which were water spirits that appeared less human than other depicted merfolk, but interacted with people and challenged them to games, in which the consequence for losing was death. Modern evidence against mermaids claim that the human-sized ocean animals that are described in folklore are simply sea animals such as manatees. A statement from the NOAA simply says that no real evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.

Those who believe in merfolk could possibly be mistaken or interpreting their anecdotal evidence wrong, as a source says that the supposed “half fish-half human” being that sailors claim to have seen at sea could have been a different sea creature, since only a small part of the creature was seen along with the contributions of low light at sunset and the distances from which they were seen. It is basically saying that being able to identify these creatures at all would be very hard. This is why people who claim to have seen mermaids could possibly be mistaken.

The belief of mermaids mostly comes from the sea-faring people’s community. Social influences that help them to sustain this belief are eye witness sightings and stories passed among them of sightings and interactions with mermaids.

Psychological explanations for the belief system of mermaids is that there is no physical evidence for or against mermaids; no one can yet prove that they did exist, yet people who have spent lots of time at sea claim to have seen and interacted with these aquatic phenomenons. They have somehow been a topic of interest among people for thousands of years now, and will continue to be an extraordinary belief of the sea-faring community until they are proven fact or fiction.




3. the_lasting_damage_of_fake_documentaries_like_mermaids_the_body_found.html

37 thoughts on “The Existence of Mermaids/Merfolk

  1. As you stated, I believe that sailors may have just seen a fin or silhouette that looked familiar to them and drew conclusions. Also, this may be a stretch; but being out at sea so long is it possible these sailors could have been hallucinating, drunk, or both? There also could be a possibility of mutant creatures or creatures that are rarely seen. A spotting would spark interest but the validity of the spotting could never be confirmed.

    • hey ! that is a good thought, honestly it could be that since they are out in the sea for long periods of time having no contact with other humans, their minds are playing tricks on them and they are seeing hallucinations and imagining things that they have probably heard about or listened to people talk about etc. Great point!

  2. I think its very interesting how fairy-tales and folklore contribute to the belief that mermaids are real. I think its also helpful to point out the modern fads and social-media surrounding mermaid inspired entities. I also like how in the end you talked about retreating to the supernatural and mermaids being unflasifiable to explain psychological they are an extraordinary belief.

  3. I think this topic is extremely interesting and one that I have not thought or learned a lot about. It does not shock me that people believe in mermaids or find this believable. I think this relates to UFO sightings and there are probably similar phenomena at play, such as flaws in visual perception.

    • I agree that it relates to the belief in aliens! in my opinion, I think that so many people are supporters of the two theories because they want to believe it. Growing up, a lot of people are told stories about mermaids and aliens and when there is even slight “evidence” that either exists, they jump on it and say that it has to be true even when the evidence they state is not even close to being proven.

    • That makes a lot of sense. Although this is one of my personal favorite extraordinary beliefs, I do understand how this could have just been a flaw in perception. It makes sense, especially for sailors who claimed to have seen them at night. But with the ones who claim to have talked to them, you have to wonder about their soundness of mind!

  4. Carissa, I thought the most interesting part about your post would be the comment about the Japanese legends and how they have their own version of merfolk, “Kappa”. I find it intriguing that they called it water spirits and the interactions that they claimed to have had. Were the water spirits visible?

    • Yes they were visible! I believe they were described as some sort of moving black figure in the water. I thought that was really interesting too! It makes me wonder, if merfolk or fish people are really just fantasy, how did they exist in various cultures as the same type of thing?!

  5. I think this is a particularly interesting topic because of how popular mermaids are to our youth in current culture. Also, there is really no negative connotation that go along with believing in mermaids or mermen for children. I think this is because we want to believe in them and we want our youth to be able to fantasize and dream about possibilities which helps our development. One question I have is, is there any harm in believing in mermaids? Or is it harmless?

    • I can’t imagine there’s any harm in believing in mermaids. I think they’re fun creatures to fantasize about and especially interesting for kids to believe in as their imagination runs wild. One negative thing about believing in mermaids that I thought about is maybe people going to extreme lengths to try and prove their existence, like exploring dangerous parts of the ocean and risking their lives diving into underwater caves and such in search for mermaids. However, I haven’t heard of any stories of people risking their lives to prove the existence of mermaids, but who knows! People can be surprising.

    • Charlie, I don’t believe there is harm in believing in mermaids, unless one feared them so intensely that it kept them away from the water. Because, as you said, it is interesting that they never were displayed with a negative connotation in children’s tales, but folklore say they were actually pretty evil.

    • What’s not to say that mermaids existed a long time ago, but have since died out and no fossils were discovered? If you have a lot of people around the same time describing the same thing, is it still a fictional creature or not?

  6. I think this is a very interesting topic! I especially think this because in my culture, there are alot of people who swear up and down that they have seen mermaids with their own two eyes and that they have majestic powers and abilities that regular humans do not posses. Perhaps the sailors along with the people from my culture are seeing things they want to see , or are maybe hallucinating, The mind is a very powerful tool that can often trick us in many ways.

  7. I find it interesting that all of these different cultures came to believe in a similar figure a half human half fish hybrid. I’d be interested to see what the reason for this is. I also found it puzzling that animal planet would show a “documentary” of this type. Most people don’t pay any mind to the fact that something is based on science fiction they will just take it as fact. Overall I really enjoyed this post thank you!

  8. Hi Carissa,
    One thing I find really interesting is how people would fake evidence for mermaids. recently I was watching an episode of David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities about the platypus, and I learned that for a time people viewed the mermaid and the platypus in basically the same way (many believed in them and many did not). Non-believers argued that the bodies of 2 different species had been sewn together. It was so interesting to me to realize how difficult it might be to evaluate the evidence for both species at the time, because in many ways they probably did seem equally plausible!

  9. Outside of fictional movies like Aquamarine and TV shows like H2O, I had no real knowledge or exposure to history or mythology about merfolk existence, so I found your blog post really informative! Although I would love to continue my childhood belief that mermaids exist in the depths of the ocean, the lack of real evidence for the creatures has me thinking otherwise. Mermaid conspiracies remind me of Bigfoot, especially because all the evidence that supports the existence of these two beings are anecdotal and based on eyewitness sightings. Until documented proof of mermaid existence arises, the lure and mysticism of merfolk remains only fictional.

    • Hi Julia,
      I also didn’t realize so many people actually believe in mermaids. But while I was reading this post I remembered seeing an article about mermaids being discovered in a magazine when I was about 9. I totally thought it was real, and my dad had to explain to me that that magazine just made up stories and photoshopped pictures. But I wonder how long I would have believed in the existence of mermaids if my belief had been reinforced instead of questioned!

  10. I think it is really interesting how cultural influence can make stories and folklore last through time. Even to this day there is still a fascination with whether or not mermaids exist. With so much technology and the advancements we have made with submarines I feel as if we would have found them by now or remnants of mermaids.

  11. I really like how you draw from a cultural perspective to explain why myths like this are still relevant. I thought that the special Animal Planet aired is interesting because Animal Planet is typically seen as a credible source for information, and even a science fiction show can feed into people’s perspective of something. I’d be very interested to watch that episode!

  12. I actually watched the mermaid special that Animal Planet aired when I was younger. Up until that point, I never believed that mermaids existed. As embarrassing as it is to admit, after watching that show I began to question whether or not they were real. The show presented a lot of “scientific” information that had me considering their existence. They basically claimed that mermaids had evolved from another species which went along with what I had learned in school about evolution. Because of this, I thought the information they presented could be accurate. After considering it all, I had decided that what the show was presenting as fact was not actually scientific, and the disclaimer being pointed out was the icing on the cake. I was also surprised that Animal Planet would air a show such as this because they are a network based on education, but then again, they were able to grab a lot of viewer’s attentions.

  13. This was a great choice of topic to speak on for the blog. I imagine that the stories of merfolk started at as sailing became more popular and boats began to cross oceans. Sailors saw all kinds of things that I’m sure had never been seen before and one of the explanations was a mermaid. I think now that maybe less people believe in mermaids than in the past, but they are certainly very present in our culture. I know I’ve seen at least three movies about mermaids.

    • I love the current media pieces on mermaids. I just think they’re fun to watch. But thanks, it’s one of my favorite topics! That’s part of the reason I believe that maybe these people weren’t all the way mislead…sailors saw plenty of things at sea, more than we ever will.

  14. After the popular movie Aquamarine, I SWORE I was mermaid that jus hadn’t come of age yet. I think even more fascinating than the people who believe in the existence of mermaids are the people who claim to be them. I saw a documentary on people who are convinced that they were mere people, which is above and beyond any kind of extraordinary belief I heard of.

  15. I also did a blog post on the existence of mermaids! I found it really interesting to read about all the theories and “evidence” that people have come up with. I didn’t know that the Japanese have their own version of mermaids I also thought that was interesting. It’s cool that so many different cultures and civilizations in history all had a version of some humanoid sea creature or have stories of people seeing them at sea. One reason I’ve heard of for so many “sightings” is that sailors since they were mainly men would be out at sea for so long with no women around that they would start to imagine seeing sea creatures that were beautiful women.

  16. Mermaids… the one creature that has been looming in people’s curiosity for a while. Although I do not believe in mermaids, I enjoy this topic because the evidence that is not there. It really leaves the doors open for any type of curiosity to creep in. People like to have answers to things, so if there is no evidence, they are left to fill in the blanks themselves. Although it seems far fetched, there is technically no evidence that the do not exist!

    • I enjoy this topic a lot! As for me, I’m not sure if I believe in them or not. There is no hard evidence for them…but like you said, there is also technically no evidence that they do not exist. I think I would only like to believe that they exist because I like them and the idea of them is endlessly interesting to me.

  17. I actually watched the Animal Planet series on mermaids and found it to be interesting to watch and it did seem somewhat convincing so I’m not surprised that a lot of people believed mermaids could be real after watching it. Despite some of the “evidence” shown in the Animal Planet series I think it’s very likely that people, specifically sailors, that claim to have seen mermaids were probably just mistaken and actually just saw a large fish.

  18. I find the topic of mermaid interesting because around many countries, they have their own versions of mermaid. Also, many of them share the traits of half-human, half-fish and represent sad souls after death and are believed by sea faring people. Besides the reason you mention about why people, especially sea-faring people believe in mermaids due to visual illusion under dark light (eg. UFO), I think another reason is that sea faring people comfort themselves by believing that their past relatives and friends who die in the seas transfer into mermaids and can still interact with them. That is also the same reason of why people pay spiritual medium to talk to their dead relatives and friends.

  19. I thought this was a really interesting topic to write about. I remember seeing the Animal Planet series years ago. I wonder how much social psychology plays a role in the belief of mermaids. Perhaps some people are primed towards interpreting something this way through “documentaries” such as these, as well as the general folklore surrounding them that most people are generally acquainted with. This could easily result in somebody having truly believed that they saw a mermaid for themselves, when it was actually a glimpse of another animal entirely.

  20. This is a very interesting topic that I think has been overlooked since it is mainly only seen in fictional mediums. This belief was most prevalent centuries ago when sailors would come back from long voyages with claims of seeing merpeople. I think that this belief has long since been debunked, but I would be curious to get opinions from current day mermaid-believers.

  21. That is a very strange extraordinary belief. I do understand why it could have carried itself over for the past several decades with other strange species of animal wandering about in other people’s beliefs like big foot or the Loch Ness Monster. I remember there even being a large TV event back in the day where they had a supposed real corpse of a merperson. This kind of makes me want to find it out.

  22. I really enjoyed learning a little bit more about where this belief comes from. As a young girl, I was exposed to mermaids through Disney movies and other cartoons. Like most children, as I grew up I grew out of this belief. I think that people often try to claim there is so much of the ocean we haven’t explored that we can’t totally rule it out but without solid proof, mermaids are still just an unsupported idea.

  23. I honestly believe in mermaids/mermen. Though scientist can argue that there are no way such creatures can survive at deep deaths science is proven wrong all the time and than corrected. Recently found was an organism that can survive with little or lack of oxygen which before was deemed impossible. Thus opening up new ideas and views on life outside of earth. Mer-people are known from many different cultures, from cultures that did not even interact or know the other existed. Now tell me how is that possible. Yes the sailors could have been hallucinating thinking they saw a mermaid and in fact it was a manatee. But even mermaids were spotted in areas where that creature did not inhabit. The ocean is far to big and deep that we simply don’t know whats out there. Last off that docudrama on national geographic could have been real but then in the wake of fear was then covered up.

  24. Want to Join the family of real mermaid, You can actually become a real mermaid instead of buying or wearing of artificial mermaid tale. You can get a spell or wear a ring that can turn you into a mermaid at anytime you want to. contact email: joinmermaidfamily @ gmail . com You can explain to us how you want it, our child Melissa is a real mermaid and we have a huge family of real mermaid.

Comments are closed.