I have a theory that tall tales usually have their seed in actual events or experiences. That's why I tend to take the Bible seriously to the extent that I believe rather than being just a collection of BS, it is a religious history. I believe Jesus of Nazareth actually existed and that the nation of Israel had what at least they considered was a miraculous beginning. Why should we find that amazing when many do the same with America's founding? That isn't to say I believe things happened exactly as described. But I believe they started innocently enough with actual events.
The brain being the interesting organ it is, it is often overlooked that vision happens there and not in the eyes as "common sense" might suggest. Our brains filter the images received, interprets them, fills in blanks, and then creates narratives for these images. Memories are sometimes notoriously flawed for that reason. What we originally saw is distorted by the artistry of our minds.
It seems to be the case that the more emotionally charged an event is for us, the more our brains work at rendering what we have seen into something meaningful. For example, I have on more than several occasions "remembered" a certain scene from a movie viewed long ago, referring back to it often in my thoughts down through many years, only to see the movie much later and have occasion to see just how much my mind had distorted what I thought I had seen.
Our brains accomplish this for us in the here and now as well, using our conception of reality to "see" the things we are looking at. That is why people who believe in ghosts see them and those of us who don't don't. That is why stains and random elemental formations on inanimate objects can be viewed as Jesus or Jesus' mother, Mary, by those who are greatly influenced by those characters and those who aren't may scarcely notice them.
I'm saying that our brains not only see things, but interprets them for us as well. And often we aren't aware of this. Most often, I believe.
An interesting case is this story I read about and even saw on the news this weekend.
A father and his seven-year-old son stumbled upon a four foot jellyfish. The father says about his son:
He thought it was an alien. It really did look that way. It was just so weird.
No doubt. I saw the video and was creeped out a bit myself.
To a child's mind, filled with the graphic imagery of video games, comic books, and computer generated special affects in the popular movies of today, and having not lived long enough to get a grasp on how the universe really works, a space alien might have been a reasonable interpretation.
The father, however, was a little more skeptical and went home to do an internet search. He became convinced that what he and his son actually stumbled upon was a lion's mane jellyfish.
Now we can imagine had the boy made that discovery alone and spent the rest of his life telling about the space alien he once saw.
Hey, that reminds me. Does anyone remember the Mr. McBeevee episode of The Andy Griffith show?
Opie, out by himself, encounters a lineman and befriends him. However, his description of his friend causes Barney and Andy to have their doubts about McBeevee's existence and Opie's truthfulness, or rather his ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. And who wouldn't be incredulous given Opie's description of his friend: He walks the treetops, has 12 extra hands, and blows smoke out his ears.
But it all turns out to have a reasonable, down-to-earth explanation. A lineman climbs trees, the extra hands are his tools dangling from his tool belt, and the smoke from the ears is only a smoker's trick to entertain children. Opie's friend isn't imaginary after all. Only poorly understood and described.
Just as the jellyfish might have been. So too the miracles of the Bible. No doubt the legends of elves, werewolves, vampires, bigfoots, dragons, and so forth have roots in reality but became distorted. And miracles do still happen to those who believe in them.