We humans are quite a proud bunch, aren’t we? We like to think that we’ve seen it all, done it all, researched it all, understand it all. Considering the technology-tastic and advanced era we’re living in, that’s not really surprising.
I mean, we’ve got pretty well the entire sum of human knowledge and experience on our wrists now, with smartwatches. Even more than that, McDonald’s are starting to roll out a delivery service all over the world! What a darn time to be alive.
It’s important not to get complacent, though. There’s always more to learn. Sometimes, it’s a little intimidating just how little we know about this planet we call home.
Granted, there aren’t any vague ‘here there be monsters’ labels on the maps any more, but there are mysteries in the depths of the oceans and the furthest reaches of the rainforest still waiting to be discovered. So many of them.
In that regard, the internet’s a bit of a double-edged sword. When it comes to sharing knowledge, there’s no greater resource, but the same’s true when it comes to spreading hoaxes, lies and Photoshop mock-ups.
Have you ever been to the beautiful Fairy Pools of Scotland? Or the stunning Moon and Star Islands? Or even the real-life Dracula’s Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s iconic novel? Well, no, no you haven’t, because they aren’t actually real. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
25 Atlantis: Sorry, Aquaman Fans
Ah, yes. I’m going to kick this party off the right way, with one of the most iconic fictional places in history.
It was Plato who first wrote of Atlantis, in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias. He described a powerful civilisation that lived on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, which sank beneath the waves after being beset by natural disasters.
These writings, while allegorical, have been taken literally by some for centuries. Many potential real-world locations for Atlantis have been suggested and searched, fruitlessly. That’s not to say it’s impossible (I don’t want anyone coming along, discovering Jason Momoa’s secret underwater kingdom and proving me wrong, man would my face be red), but the scholarly consensus is that it’s a myth.
24 The Loch Ness Monster’s Lair, Scotland: Nessie’s Not Home At The Moment, Can I Take A Message?
As we’ll see, there are many other mysteries that far, far predate the advent of the internet. We’ve been spreading fantastic stories and ridiculousness just fine without the web, thanks very much. What the internet has done, though, is enable us to spread it further and wider, infinitely faster than before.
The famous ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’ of 1934 served as the piece of ‘evidence’ that brought the Loch Ness Monster to worldwide attention. It was later revealed to be a hoax, but the home and hiding places of the creature are still debated furiously across the web. Curious visitors to the Scottish Highlands take boat tours on the lake, just in case.
23 The Fairy Pools, Scotland: Just A Fairy Tale
Now, yes, the Fairy Pools of the Island of Skye in Scotland definitely do exist. They’re found in Glen Brittle, a beautiful natural phenomenon consisting of a series of teeny waterfall springs. They’re known for their clear, aqua blue waters. Not by the internet, though.
In 2015, online snarksters started to distribute an image, supposedly of the Fairy Pools. It showed bright purple trees around the water, attracting attention around the world.
There were only two issues with this image. Firstly, the colour was clearly Photoshopped. Secondly, the photograph wasn’t of the Fairy Pools in the first place, but of the Shotover River in New Zealand.
22 Aztlán, The Americas: Was It Or Wasn’t It?
Over the course of this rundown, we’re going to be taking a look at several places of more… dubious origin. Conspiracy theorists may find some of these choices totally controversial, but with the lack of evidence, it’s somewhat safe to say that these places don’t/didn’t truly exist. In a literal sense, at least.
Another such place would be Aztlán. As reported by The Daily Meal, This was the place that Nahuatl dictates was the home base of the Aztecs (as they came to be known). Researchers have suggested various possible locations for Aztlán, including “the Pacific coast state of Nayarit… as well as the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Michoacán — and even as far north as the Southwestern United States!”
I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I’d call convincing.
21 El Dorado: The Golden City
You know what we humans can be like. We go where the money is, where the generous bonus scheme and ample chances for promotion are. After all, we regular mortals have to be that way, just to be able to afford luxuries like… food and electricity. We’re not darn Kardashians, you know.
It’s little wonder, then, that the legend of El Dorado, a city of gold, has endured for centuries. As The BBC reports, it was a story told by the Spanish conquistadors, who travelled the reaches of South America in search of its riches:
“But it was all wishful thinking. The "golden one" was actually not a place but a person.”
The report goes on to explain that the rulers of Muisca society had great wealth, which they believed to hold great spiritual power and would offer to their deities. As for a city with streets pathed in gold? I’m afraid not.
20 Castle Island: Looks Impossible? That’s Because It Is
Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know much about architecture. Building planning. The laws of darn logic and physics as we know them. I’m a complete amateur with those sorts of things. One thing I can tell you, though, is that there’s no darn way this could be possible.
I’m getting definite Bespin vibes (Star Wars’ famous Cloud City) from this image. It’d be one heckola of a tourist attraction, but it’s just an illusion. As Smarter Travel explains, it’s a photographic mashup of Lichtenstein Castle in Germany and Khao Phing Kan Island in Thailand. Phew.
19 Camelot, United Kingdom: Are You Home, Merlin?
Ah, yes. Camelot, the supposed home of King Arthur and his heroic Knights of the Round Table. As with the legend of Atlantis, this fanciful tale has grown and been embellished over the years, to the point that it’s tough to separate any possible truth from all the heroic deeds and dragon-slayings.
These locations include Caerleon in Wales, Cadbury Castle in Somerset, England and Winchester in Hampshire (also England). The issue is, we can’t even settle on the truth of who Arthur really was, let alone the mystical location where he supposedly held court.
18 The Bermuda Triangle, North Atlantic Ocean: How far Can We Stretch The Truth?
When it comes to the Bermuda Triangle, we’re in a bit of a grey area here. On the one hand, yes, the dreaded triangle is a vague area between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. It is there. It makes this rundown because it only unofficially exists. You won’t see it marked on any maps.
It’s difficult to pin down the exact area the Bermuda Triangle covers. Accounts vary on that. On top of which, The US Department of Defense explains,
“The U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area.”
With these factors in mind, it’s clear to see how many accidents and incidents could be blamed on the mysterious influence of the Bermuda Triangle, even if they happened outside of its vaguely accepted area. The Triangle’s fame is largely based on embellishment and sensationalism. The internet’s played a part in that, of course.
17 Moon and Star Island, Hawaii: A Beautiful Half-Truth
Those bright purple trees at the Fairy Pools may have been more of an obvious hoax, but this? This, I can completely appreciate. The interesting thing about the Moon and Star islands is, they’re not actually a tissue of lies.
That’s right, they’re only half a tissue of lies. The crescent-shaped moon island is real. It’s found at Molokini Crater in Hawaii, and it’s just beyond stunning.
To the image, internet jokesters added a star-shaped island. With that, one of the most desirable bucket list locations that never existed was born.
On the plus side, Molokini Crater will not disappoint.
16 Australia, Apparently: Because Australia Is A Lie
For so many non-natives around the world, Australia is the pinnacle of exotic and interesting. As a pale and rain-sodden Englishman, I find it difficult to comprehend this super-hot land, full of the most brilliantly unusual animals, customs and slang I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning about.
What with that, and the country’s remote nature, a theory has been spread around the web that Australia doesn’t really exist. According to The Guardian, this theory started gaining traction in early 2017, and has never really gone away.
“The signs were there the whole time: in what country is the only thing more poisonous than the snakes the spiders? How did we ever believe that kangaroos were a thing?”
15 Finland: Because Finland Doesn’t Exist Either, Apparently
So, there we go. My apologies, Australian readers. I didn’t mean to give you such an abrupt existential crisis. I’m sure you were perfectly happy, going about your everyday routines and generally believing that you actually exist.
That’s how it is here in the Matrix, though: the simulation is totally convincing. If it makes you feel any better, it isn’t only Australia that doesn’t exist.
Finland doesn’t, either. As reported by Vice, a Redditor named Raregans “learned his doctrine from his parents. They taught him a convoluted explanation that involves Japanese fishing routes, Nokia phones, and the Trans-Siberian Railway, which, in the end, proves that Finland doesn't exist. In its place exists nothing but the cold and lonely ocean.”
My apologies to you too, Finland.
14 Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania: There Are Count-less Possibilities For The Inspiration For His Home
Ever since Bela Lugosi hammed it up as Count Dracula way back in the 1930s, this charismatic villain has been a popular culture mainstay. The movie was preceded by plays (and, of course, Bram Stoker’s original 1897 novel), but Lugosi’s take on the Count is the way we still tend to see him today.
But what of his castle? Historic Mysteries reports that the real-world inspiration for Stoker’s castle cannot be pinned down. Was it Bran Castle in Transylvania, as is widely claimed? Perhaps so, but Scotland’s Slain’s Castle is a lesser-known yet likely candidate. Stoker is known to have visited the area and written of the castle in his diary, in the years prior to Dracula being published.
13 The House On Princeport Road, England: Now *That’s* A Mystery
Ooh, I like that. The House on Princeport Road is a perfect title for a low budget thriller. Or a creative writing student’s impress-the-teacher homework assignment.
Let’s not get off topic, though. Here’s the mystery: Princeport Road is an entirely normal neighbourhood in England, but for one thing: one of the houses there is completely obscured by Google Street View. It’s just blurred out of existence, like an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. Love Exploring reports,
“The occupier herself saw no reason that the property should be hidden and Google have made no comment. Some speculate that residents were simply too close to the window when Google's car came round to take photos, and the house needed to be obscured for privacy reasons. It remains a mystery.”
For all Google-y intents and purposes, it’s not there.
12 North Oaks, United States: No Street View Please, We’re From Minnesota
While we’re on the subject of Google Street View, let’s cross over to the United States and take a look at another unusual case.
The small town of North Oaks, in Minnesota, did not take kindly to the advent of Google Street View. You’re not going to be viewing our darn street, internet strangers, the residents said (well, that’s surely the gist of it). And that’s the way it was.
True enough, you can find the town itself on Google Maps, but “All Street View data was removed at the request of local residents, who begrudged images of their hometown being available to strangers on the internet.”
It’s a little unnerving to zoom in to take a look at a place, only to find that it… isn’t there.
11 Temple of Lysistrata, Greece: Too Beautiful To Be True
Well, maybe that’s a little unfair. After all, as anyone who’s had the great pleasure of traveling to Greece will know, beautiful temples are par for the course there. Athens’s Acropolis is a treasure trove of ancient wonders, including the iconic Parthenon.
The same’s true of Rome, of course, whose equally famous Pantheon was the subject of another slice of photographic trickery. A photograph of the Temple of Lysistrata is actually a combination of the Pantheon and Portugal’s Benagil Cave.
There is no such temple, as Smarter Travel reports. There was no need for the hoax, either, as both of these are wonders of the human and natural worlds respectively.
10 The Hotelicopter Hotel, United States: Luxurious Lies
Of all the sources of snark on the internet, you wouldn’t expect a hotel search engine to mess with you. That’s probably one of the few sorts of sites you’d think would even be safe on April Fool’s day. Not so on April Fool’s 2008, though.
On that day, the Hotelicopter search engine (previously known as VibeAgent) announced that the world’s first ever luxury hotel/helicopter was entering service. Its maiden voyage was to be in early April 2009, apparently.
Sadly, inevitably, Hotelicopter soon proved to be a prank. Which is a real shame, because I think they just may have been onto something with this.
9 The Central Park Airport, United States: Environmentally Unfriendly
If you live in a big city, you’ll understand how vital it is to enjoy a little greenery. To get away from the concrete jungle and appreciate the magnificent parks near you. As a Londoner, I’ve always known this, and always made time to do so.
If you live in New York City, Central Park would probably be your go-to in that regard. You may be surprised to learn, then, that a big faceless corporation wants to flatten it and build an airport there!
Granted, the Manhattan Airport Foundation don’t actually want to do this, and it’s all hoax, but holy heckola did this joking proposal attract some ire in 2009.
8 The Spaghetti Trees Of Switzerland: It Doesn’t Grow On Trees, You Know
That was my parents’ go-to answer whenever I’d ask for something as a child. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. Being a smartypants and pointing out that notes are made of paper, which are literally trees, did not wash with ma and pa, let me tell you.
Do you know what else doesn’t grow on trees? Spaghetti, that’s what. Nevertheless, the BBC pulled a fantastic April Fools hoax on viewers back in 1957, claiming that it did.
The brief segment centred around a family in Ticino, Switzerland, showing them harvesting their spaghetti tree. Pasta was a bit of an unknown commodity in Britain back then, so this joke went fantastically well. CNN has dubbed it “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.”
7 The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine: There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills!
We’ve already been down this road before, with the legend of El Dorado. The bottom line is, legends of gold in mysterious, dangerous places are not the greatest of ideas. Many lives have been lost over the years, in search of the supposed treasure of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.
It’s believed to be located somewhere in the Superstition Mountains (that’s appropriate), near Phoenix, Arizona. Direct Expose explains that the Spanish discovered the region two centuries ago, and rumours of a great mine of gold continue to this day. Whether there’s any great bounty waiting somewhere in the mountains, nobody can say for sure. All that is for certain is that hundreds of people have lost their lives, searching in vain.
6 The Treasure Of Oak Island, Canada: Not *That* Treasure Island
There’s something about wealth and the pursuit of it, isn’t there? It just gets to us all. Whether you’re a big, greedy conglomerate sucking the planet’s resources dry or one harmless little person on the beach with a metal detector, you’re part of it. you’re drawn to it. Dollar, dollar bills, y’all, as Wyclef Jean once said.
This is how these dangerous legends come about. According to Popular Science, Nova Scotia’s Oak Island could be home to some very special treasure, including the jewels of Marie Antoinette (a lady in waiting fled with them on her mistress’s orders, supposedly, and found her way there).
There’s no proof that the island’s famed Money Pit actually contains anything valuable (it could be a natural formation), but treasure hunters continue to try their luck.
5 Brasil Island: So Brazil’s In The U.K Now?
Now, I’m no geography whizz (I know I’ve done this whole shtick already with the architecture thing, but stick with me here), but I like to think that I’ve mastered the basics. Where’s Brazil, you ask? It’s in South America. The largest country on the continent, in fact.
Brasil Island, meanwhile, is not a real place at all. National Geographic reports that it was erroneously added to a 1633 map of the British Isles, for reasons that are still completely unclear. It lays in the Atlantic to the west of Ireland, except, in the real world, it totally doesn’t. What’s that about?
4 California Island, United States: Hey, Remember That Time California Became An Island?
Now, as we know, the States of the U.S can totally be islands if they want to. It’s not like there’s any kind of clause to forbid it. If there is, it’s probably about darn time that somebody lets Hawaii know so they can stop moonlighting.
California, I think we can all agree, is not an island. It’s firmly anchored to its neighbors, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. Curiously, though, early mapmakers didn’t seem to get this memo. As National Geographic reports, California was drawn as an island on maps for centuries. Luckily, they eventually caught on, but there it was regardless.
3 Sandy Island, South Pacific: The Phantom Island
So, yes. It must have been a bit of a facepalm moment, the day that cartographers actually realised that California was attached to the rest of the U.S. That’s the key, though. We acknowledge our mistakes, we learn from them, and we don’t make any more shonky maps.
Another case in point would be Sandy Island, supposedly northwest of New Caledonia. This island doesn’t actually exist, but has managed to make itself pretty darn famous regardless. This entirely fictitious island appeared on maps and “even showed up as a black polygon on Google Earth,” and nobody knew it wasn’t real until scientists sailed there are noticed that… it wasn’t there.
2 St Etienne’s Abandoned Church, France: This Isn’t (Wave Of Hand) The Church You’re Looking For
France, too, is a country with a long, proud history, and all of the priceless sights to prove it. The trouble is, it’s easy for the casual observer to mistake one for the other.
France is dominated by stunning architecture, sporting some of the finest buildings in the world. The iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, for instance, is one of the country’s most-visited attractions, and rightly so.
There’s some confusion about Saint-Etienne-le-Vieux in Caen, though. A well-known image purports to be of that church, but is instead a cunning manipulation of five different images of a different church (as Reddit explains).
1 The Shangri-La: Not As Super-Swanky As You Thought
What image does the name Shangri-La conjure for you? Probably somewhere perfect, luxurious and perfectly luxurious. For me, it’s a hotel experience that I couldn’t possibly afford, but for many of us, it’s so much more than that.
The name appeared in James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon, published in 1933. He spoke of a utopian community in the Kunlun Mountains of Asia, and many today associate the name with some sort of Himalayan paradise.
The reality isn’t so glamorous, as Stuff reports: “The Chinese city of Zhongdian, in the Yunnan province, was officially renamed Shangri-La in 2001 as a way to attract more tourists who come to seek the utopian settlement written about by James Hilton in his 1933 novel The Lost Paradise. That land, though apparently inspired by National Geographic stories of Tibetan China, never really existed.”
Resources: ThoughtCo., Smarter Travel, Lonely Planet, The Daily Meal, Love Exploring, Historic UK, Don’t Take Pictures, CNN, Stuff.