Friday, 3 August 2012 9:31 AM
From Nessie in Scotland to the yeti of Tibet, myths and legends abound all over the world - and the US is no different. With this in mind, there can be few more compelling adventure tours than taking a trip across the States to get to the bottom of some of its legends.
Here are just a couple of the myths you can learn about while visiting the country they originated from - and perhaps even discover whether they are actually myths at all!
There are legends of ape-like creatures that have yet to be documented all over the world, from Orang Pendek in Sumatra to the yeti in the Himalayas, and one of the most famous is that of the sasquatch - or Bigfoot, as it's also known.
While scientists have largely dismissed reports of these creatures as either misidentification on the part of the witness or hoaxes, there are many who believe the stories. Perhaps this is because there was a time, many thousands of years ago, when homo sapiens were not the only species of human to roam the Earth. More is being learnt about now extinct species like the Neanderthals and Denisovans all the time, so some argue that there could be another species of man that has survived into the modern age.
Sightings of Bigfoot are mainly recorded in the Pacific Northwest, where lush green forests and wide expanses of parkland would allow the creatures to go largely unnoticed. The most common witness description is of a large ape-like animal that is covered in dark hair but walks on two feet taking long strides, like a human.
The most common so-called evidence of these creatures is all the footprints that have been found across the forests of the region, most of which look like a human's but much larger. In addition, there have been fur samples collected and some claim to have located abandoned nesting sites. Theories include the possibility that Bigfoot is a surviving Gigantopithecus - an extinct ape species that stood almost 10 ft tall. A more unusual suggestion is that the animal is actually extraterrestrial or even inter-dimensional.
By visiting some of the national parks in the Pacific Northwest, like Mount St Helens and the Olympic Peninsular, you can make up your own mind about the creature's existence. Key things to watch out for include a strong unpleasant smell, which many people claim Bigfoot has, and large footprints in the soil. However, even if you don't spot anything, you're guaranteed an enjoyable few days of exploring one of the most naturally-beautiful areas of North America.
The US has long had a love affair with aliens, as evidenced in movies ranging from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For many years now, there have been tales of unidentified flying objects racing across the skies above America, and of extraterrestrial beings visiting the planet - sometimes for sinister means.
Wherever you go in the States, you will hear a tale about aliens associated with somewhere nearby. Among the most famous is that of the Hill abduction in 1961. Betty and Barney Hill were travelling back to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and were in Lancaster when they noticed a strange moving light in the sky. In order to examine it closer, the couple parked the car and watched it through binoculars.
Suddenly, the previously erratic movement of the light changed and it appeared to race towards the Hills, who headed down a narrow stretch of road through the mountains. Eventually, the huge rotating object descended and blocked their path, so Barney Hill got out of the car and observed the craft again through binoculars, claiming to see humanoid creatures at the window.
Racing back to the car, they attempted to escape but the object moved overhead and the sound of beeping and buzzing filled the air. The next thing the Hills knew, their car was 35 miles further south along the road, yet they had little recollection of driving this distance. Their clothes were damaged, there were marks on the car and their watches had stopped.
At the time, this was the most widely-publicised story of an alien abduction - which is what the Hills believe happened during the time they can't account for - but there are many other legends you can learn about on your travels around the States. For instance, Washington is the location of the famous 1952 sighting of several mysterious lights in the sky, while the Roswell incident of 1947 - when a spacecraft was reported to have crashed near a military base - is perhaps the most famous alien case of all time.
Other legends you can uncover during your travels around America include that of Champ, the monster said to inhabit Lake Champlain, while travelling north will allow you to delve into Canada's Oak Island mystery, and heading south to Peru affords you the opportunity to check out the Nazca Lines.