Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Faerie? : A small data-set indicating the possibility that folkloric entities or something very much like them could be real, Part Four.

Part four of our tour: more encounters from the pre- and post-1900 era. Still mainly to view the landscape and not try for many soft conclusions yet [a time which possibly might NEVER come, but some pattern seems vaguely arising to me]. Let's see what we can see today.

Let's begin with a case which everyone in the business is familiar with, but since it is in my files and we're not selecting for anything but that, [and not every blog reader is well-read in Wee Folk literature], here it is: 1). Mid-19th century, Isle of Man: A member of the house of parliament [TC Kermode] gave his story personally to our great foundational scholar, WY Evans-Wentz. He and another young man were walking along their country road, going to a party. his buddy told him to look across the brook that they were paralleling if he wanted to see the fairies. There in a flat area between two hills was "a supernatural circle of light". This light was almost like a stage into which traipsed couples and threesomes of Little People [apparently circa 2-3' tall] who lined up and began marching ["trooping?"] within the circle. Kermode wanted to get closer, but his friend simply wanted to get to the party [fairies were "old hat" to him, I suppose]. Kermode stopped to watch for a while but his impatient friend rapped on the roadside wall with his walking stick and shouted out. The light vanished with the fairy procession.

2). 1757, Wales: a well-known cleric, when a young child, was playing in a field with several other children. There at football-field distance away, were several dwarf/gnome-sized creatures, apparently in couples, all dressed in red and flourishing white kerchiefs. One of the males spotted the children and rushed at them, nearly catching them. The child described the gnome as having an "ancient, swarthy, and grim complexion". The other gnomes were shouting at the chaser the whole time in a language which none of the children could understand. Dr. Edward Williams, the cleric, summarized his encounter in a charming way: "I am forced to class it among my unknowables". One suspects that we will have to do the same as to this whole menagerie of beings.

3). Mid-19th century, UK: The famous historian, Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, had an experience when he was very young in which he saw "legions of dwarves" two feet tall keeping pace beside the carriage in which he was riding and trying to climb up on the horses, laughing all the way. His parents saw nothing at all.

4). Mid-19th century, Yorkshire: If that youth experience might be waved off as some oddity of the very young, S B-G's wife had an encounter when she was 15. She was walking down a lane when she came across "a little green man, perfectly made, who looked at her with beady black eyes". [I am almost certain that the phrase "little green man" refers to him being dressed in green in such stories]. This frightened her badly and she ran home.

5). Late-19th century, UK. And S B-G had a further encounter in his family. One of his sons was fetching peas in their garden when he came across a member of the Good People wearing a green jacket, brown knee britches, and a red cap [just about our ideal garden gnome]. He had a weathered old face, gray beard and stark black eyes. His stare unnerved the son and he ran inside. Doubtless, Sabine Baring-Gould had little reason to disbelieve him.

4). Probably late 1800s, Wicklow Mountains, Ireland: This one will stretch you on how far you want to go. A farmer and his wife worked their farm just after their marriage and along came a winter's snow season. The man saw a Wee Folk outside and "brought him in and sat him on the dresser". [peculiar to say the least, but I'm not of the times....] . The farmer was telling this story to some folklore luminaries visiting him [including Lady Gregory and William Butler Yeats]. He said that the being stayed with them for about a week. His wife promptly interrupted him to remind him that it was two to three weeks. [!!!].

The being was described as 15" high and very friendly. He was dressed almost entirely in red: cap to checked coat to skirt to stockings. The being had to be fed by spoon by the farmer himself. His meals consisted of bread in milk, it seems. His appearance was young and fresh at first, but rapidly he began to appear old and wrinkled [yep, I remember the Changeling legends]. He was no secret locally, and tipsy knuckleheads from the town pub would come over and they would laugh at him there on his dresser.

One day the farmer saw another like being outside. That being was dressed in a grayish theme and looked more feminine. When the farmer remarked upon this to his wife, the Little Man who had never spoken, cried out: "That's Geoffrey-a-Wee that's coming for me!!". At that, he leapt down from his dresser and bounded out the door. If this story is true [two interviewed witnesses and several well-known interviewers], then just about anything goes as far as the typical historic folkloric fairy stories go. Encounters passing in the lane are one thing; stay-around family house gnomes are another. And the changeling-similar thing.... it is almost a line-in-the -sand over which the mind resists crossing.

5). Well, we might as well follow that with another "heavyweight" case, which could be the "poster child" for Jacques Vallee's Passport to Magonia. Late 1800s, Portmeirion, Wales. Many of you will have heard this one, also. A young woman and the household servant, a brute of a man nicknamed Dafydd Fawr [which I believe means something like Strong David], were walking back to their home. She wanted to get there before night and hurried on, as he walked a slower pace with a big parcel of meat that he was carrying from the neighbors. She got to the house promptly, but Dafydd did not arrive until three hours later. What happened?

Dafydd said that shortly after she left he observed a meteor flash through the air, and soon after that a hoop of fire descend. Standing on the bottom on the fire hoop were two small beings, each grasping the side of the hoop as if balancing themselves and one another with their other arm. As the hoop touched the Earth, they jumped off and began to draw a circle on the ground [It is not said how this was done, but the circle seems to have been a place of light.] The hoop of fire apparently left back up into the sky at this point.

The well-dressed Little Folk watched as a large number of diminutive men and women appeared out of nowhere and began dancing round and round the circle to beautiful music. By this time Dafydd was totally entranced and the three hours flew by in what seemed to him to be minutes. Then the "meteor" again flashed, and shortly the Hoop descended. It touched the Earth near the circle of light and dancing, the original pair jumped onto it, and rose away. At this the circle of light and the dancing fairies vanished, leaving Dafydd alone in night's darkness. Well ... wow I guess is all you can say. Where does that lead us? The simple mental state would be to forget it and lead a quieter life, but is that "honest"?

6). 1850, Martindale, Sandwick Rigg, UK: A short yet high strangeness incident. A man was walking the country road at night heading for his home. The moonlight gave him plenty of light to see up ahead a troop of Little Folk engaging in their reveries. The witness referred to them as "Dobbies" [so Harry Potter fans can take heart]. He was not put off by this and kept walking closer. Whether it was due to them spotting his approach or not, the dobbies began to climb up a ladder and disappeared into the sky. You can almost feel your cranium begin to pop after these last few incidents.

Well, no relief for the open-minded weary yet. Here we go into Ron Quinn's tales of upper NY state. I don't know Ron Quinn personally, so I'm going a bit on faith here. He seems to have had his own Little People encounter in 1942 as a kid of ten growing up in New York, and vacationing upstate at the time. ( We'll call his experience case#7, upstate NY, for this post.) His critter was roughly like the picture that he drew for his book cover above, but not colored so brightly. The gnomish or leprechaunish being was a foot tall, and balancing on his window ledge tapping it with his walking stick. He had a crumpled dark hat but his clothes were generally gray. He had a broad friendly smile. His shirt's sleeves fell loosely and he had a wide belt and boots. Quinn opened the window in order to try to touch him, but he jumped down and bounded away with great leaps. No doubt this inspired a lifetime of interest in things like bigfoot, ghosts, UFOs, and, of course, Little People.

In 1989 this incident was reported in town newspapers across upper NY state with the inclusion of Quinn's address for anyone to comment upon the tale and tell him about their own story. He said that he received "dozens" of such encounter claims, of which about thirty were selected for this book. I've picked seven of them that I like for different reasons. And there is a non-Quinn throw-in which seemed proper to place alongside.

8). 1976, Mongaup Valley, NY: A mother was just in the process of leaving for a special family get-together, but the young son of one of the woman refused to get in his mother's car. He would run towards the woods saying that he wanted to stay and play with his friend "the little man". Absolutely refusing to budge on this, the child talked his mother into going into the woods to meet him. Relenting, she did. When they reached a clearing, there stood a 2 1/2 foot tall gnomish creature, who was she said the ugliest individual she'd ever seen. She and her son left the scene, and reaching their car, drove out rapidly to meet the rest of the family. Upon arriving at the meeting place, she jumped out and excitedly told everyone what had happened. No one believed her, despite the young son backing up her story. [as an aside, the woman thought that the gnome may have been trying to warn her of something. On driving back to her home, she wrecked her car just near the woods where she'd had the encounter, hospitalizing herself. Take that for what it's worth].

9). 1976, near Liberty, NY: A man was out on a bird-watching trip. While walking a woody path, he heard voices up ahead. They sounded as if they were arguing but in a language he couldn't understand. He saw that they were two little men about two feet tall, and dressed in dark green. Each had a beard and a wrinkled cap. One was really yelling at the other vociferously and pointing into the hilly woods. Shortly a third man similarly sized and dressed emerged and they all began arguing and pushing each other about "like the three stooges". Then they walked into the woods and all he could hear were their voices trailing away.

10). mid-1940s, Catskill Mountains, NY: This story's only witness is so young that perhaps it shouldn't be included, but it could be that this is just why it should. Regardless it is entirely too charming to resist. There was a family gathering at a relative's home in the woods of the Catskills. The adults were mainly inside while the children were playing outdoors. While the others did whatever they were doing, Jill, a little girl of 5, became fascinated with the flutterbyes and no one noticed her chasing after them into the woods. Ultimately, the adults checked back in to find that she was lost. Many people searched many hours in vain and dusk was coming, bringing a great deal of despair with it. Then, suddenly, a be-smudged Jill came running happily out of the woods unharmed. What had happened?

Once Jill had followed the flutterbyes for awhile, she lost them and realized that she was lost herself. She tried to find her way back to her aunt's house, but only got deeper into the forest. She thought she heard someone calling for her, but it was too far away, and she couldn't get a direction on it. Finally she came into a small clearing. Feeling very tired, she took a candy bar from her pocket, sat on an old dead tree and ate a little. She felt lonely and started to cry.

She looked up and saw standing at the edge of her clearing two small living "dolls" with silvery hair to their shoulders. They were dressed in shiny green clothes and had caps. She offered them some of her candy bar, but they didn't respond. Beginning to cry then she asked them if they knew the way to her aunt's house. They nodded and motioned for her to follow. As dusk came on and the forest darkened, the little "dolls" became accompanied by small balls of blinking colored light, which illuminated the way. They all seemed to be going faster and faster as they went, and Jill was surprised at how fast she was moving [she said : like a sped up movie]. The "dolls" then abruptly stopped and pointed to the aunt's house. Jill happily turned to thank them, but they were gone. And she ran to embrace her parents.

There is something about that narrative that is just so "right" that if it's not true we should find a way to make it true. Yes, I know that it doesn't work that way. Tinkerbell-Talk: wishing makes it so.

11). 1929, Lackawack, NY: Nothing can follow little Jill's story, but this is close. A man was walking the mile or so from his friend's house on a dirt road running through the woods. There was an unusual Silence to everything, an uncannyness which made the woods seem to be closing in around him. There was a weird light off the road, pulsing on the ground among the trees. Too curious to just walk on, he carefully left the road and negotiated the tangle of plants between him and the light. On the ground was a dome of light four feet in diameter and a foot and a half high. It was yellow-green. He wondered if it could be some weird fungus effect, and went closer, reaching below the illumination to feel the ground. Nothing unusual.

The dome suddenly brightened greatly, scaring him into cover. Within the area of the dome, two beings slowly materialized. They were one foot high. They stepped out, looking like "classic" Little People of the folktales. They stared in his direction, unnerved him and he stumbled backwards with a crash. Quickly the Little Folk jumped back into the glow-dome and everything vanished. The witness was left trying to relax and collect himself. Upon examining the spot the next day, nothing was disturbed at the spot of the glow.

12). 2003, Richmond Park, Kingston-upon-Thames, UK: This isn't a Ron Quinn case, but this is where it fits. Two persons were strolling in the park in the evening when a flexible Orb of light began "pouring" itself over a wall. As it hit the ground, it bounced a little ways away, encountering a tree, against which it seemed to "rub" up and down. Disengaging itself again, it bounced in front of a moving auto, finally disappearing off the road. As it disappeared, a figure the size of a small boy manifested, but with an abnormally large head. Then came a flash of light and everything vanished. Lightforms accompanying "portals" between the worlds??

13). 1977, Catskill Mountains, NY: a different way of "crossing"? A hiker/hunter had spent many hours in these woods; he knew them well...he thought. About one hundred yards into the forest that summer's day, things began to get strange. For a few seconds, while passing a large rock formation, he felt a tingling go through his whole body. Soon after he began noticing that the environment had changed. The previously overcast sky was now sunny clear. It seemed to be tinged with green rather than just blue. The country was now more open than it should have been, certain plants grew which shouldn't have been there, large granite outcroppings that were not part of his hiking areas. There was a narrow canyon cutting into those cliffs.

Convinced that he had somehow gotten completely lost, he trudged up the canyon. Then he heard pretty music ahead. Peeking around, he saw four little men sitting on boulders by a waterfall, playing flutes. Another one gathered water from the fall. Our hiker had a camera [which almost never happens] and remembered to use it [which is one in a million]. The water-gatherer returned, the little folk got up, and moved off further up the canyon. Our hiker retreated the way he came with his pictures. Wandering about for around a hour, he suddenly spotted his car. Another tingling then hit him, and turning, the strange environment was gone. The tint of the sky was back to normal, and overcast again. His watch said that thirty minutes had passed, but he felt that it was at least three hours [before getting too excited, note that this is the OPPOSITE of "missing time" folks]. Back home, no one believed a bit of his story. The film came back all pictures perfect, except of course for the ones taken in the "other reality canyon". They were all dusty smudges tinted in a light green.

OK, people, you've just gone further than "Out Proctor" with that one.

But since we're there, let's go again. #14). mid-1950s, Neversink Reservoir, WA: a hiker was walking the shore of the reservoir when he saw a bridge which he hadn't noticed before. It seemed to extend out into a large fogbank from the shore. More than mystified, the witness saw that the bridge was made of something like brass, with handrails and designs upon it which looked like some strange form of writing. He walked across into and out of the fogbank to discover a small island there [which absolutely should not have been]. This island was completely surrounded by the mist. Unfamiliar plants and animals populated the place. Thirty yards further along the shore were three small men. They were three foot tall, bearded, with long hair flowing down their backs and white robes. The central figure carried an object, but the witness wasn't close enough to see what it was. The group then walked away into the trees. Our witness, deciding that he'd risked enough, found the bridge again and moved swiftly across. Once on the shore again, the bridge and the mist slowly faded away. The little island, however, remained, as did a "new" mountain which had somehow manifested between two prominent peaks. Then that mountain and the island disappeared leaving the witness with the world that he understood. [Quinn then briefly mentions another case which is quite like this one but from another area. His language here is unclear and I don't follow precisely which incident happened at Neversink, and which happened at "Lake Washington". Suffice it to say, the second case involved a hiker, a bridge into a mist, a small island, and strange animals and one solitary old man inhabiting the place. In both cases neighbors stated that they'd seen unusual mists with something inside them the mornings of the events.]

One last case from this 100 which doesn't easily fit elsewhere, but definitely deserves mention: #15, sometime during the 20th century, Provo River valley, UT. Two Ute native Americans were fishing on the river. They came across several human-like beings occupying rocks along the shore. They were small children sized, about three foot tall or less. They were drying out their long black hair and making noises like cries of "walla-la-loo-lo". The fishers tried to get closer, but were spotted and the beings dove beneath the water. The water began to rise suddenly and the witnesses became alarmed and panicked and ran.

These beings are said to be well-known among the Utes and are called "pawapicts" and also, in English, "water babies". There are also related traditions to this sort of creature involving beautiful women who lure men into the water to their deaths, Celtic "siren" style.

The final incident above was the only Native American encounter in that 100 cases, but serves to remind us that such encounters abound in those traditions. Also some of the motifs, once you strip off some of the imagery, are surprisingly similar to Celtic world beliefs. The general theme of the trickster is one prominent one.

Now, an indefensible thought: Native American spirituality sees the world as created by a supreme figure [a Creative God, if you will] named as Manitou. Manitou is, among other things, the Bringer and the Guardian of Life. There is a lesser known, or believed?, or spoken about, concept called "manitoug". A "manitoug" is a spirit entity which represents some portion of Nature --- a forest, a mountain range, a species. A manitoug is a "living" entity of the Spirit World, but one which might interact with our material world and ourselves. It is a manitoug, to some persons' way of seeing it, that one "meets" in vision quests, when Bear or Raven or the Spirit of an Ecosystem shows up to give council and warning.

I mention the manitoug because such entities would be folkloric beings of the Spirit or paranormal realm. And if such existed at a grand scale, might not others exist "all the way down"? A manitoug of a "fairy glen" for instance...of an oaken woods...of a rhododendron bush? It is an indefensible thought, but .....

Another: the fairies seem often to hang onto the old megalithic sites. Who knows why? But someone else did too--- the druids. It makes no difference at all whether pre-Christian druids originally made these structures. It is pretty obvious that they used some of them. Why? Simply because they are "awesome"? Because they have an uncanny "air" about them? Or because "somebody else" was there? Or, are all three of those the same thing?

And, of course, most mundanely of all this astoundingly non-mundane stuff: what does all this mean for the "muddied middle" of the pile of ET-Air Force-style UFOs and the pile of the magical glen dancing world of brightly clothed Faerie? The illustration above is for a recent case taken place near a Native American settlement in northern Quebec. ET? or Faerie? Let it be a non-humble man who thinks he clearly can decide.


  1. Again, terrific stuff. The current crop gets a lot closer to the centuries-old tradition than do the Tinkerbell-like characters of the earlier posting.

    In Hidden Realms (2010) -- I am presuming you got the copy sent you last year on publication -- I examine a number of alleged firsthand encounters with fairyfolk, from medieval times to the 1990s (the latter focused on British journalist Myra Doorly's especially intriguing experiences). The business of the changed sky in the fairy realm is a very old conceit, noted as early as the 13th Century in the grand ballad (#37 in Prof. Child's collection) "True Thomas the Rhymer," about the supposedly real-life experience of a historical figure, Thomas Rymour de Erceldoun (1226-ca. 1290s). The ballad is an oddly vivid account -- and an accurate one, however one defines that adjective in this context; let's just say accurate to the tradition -- of what the experience of faery, along with the transition into the otherworld, was like to those who believed it had happened to them.

    My book contains a number of cases which don't overlap with yours. I like in particular a story told to Lady Gregory, the celebrated literary figure and Anglo-Irish folklore collector, by a peasant woman who claimed repeated visits to Elfland. Her description of the entrance to the otherworld fills me with wonder, both for its strangeness and for its odd domesticity: "In the woods beyond the tree at Raheen I used often to see like a door open at night, and the lights shining through it, just as it might shine through the house door, with the candle and the fire inside, if it would be left open."

  2. I'm pretty sure that the second one hundred will have some "novel" wrinkles in them, but will probably settle down into some vague patterns. Somewhere in my pile of these things are another glob of incidents from a "dedicated site" for fairy encounters so maybe more Tinkerbells will show up there. I may not turn those pages over until the third 100 though so it may be awhile.

    By the way: yep, I got the book last year---thanks, as usual. I suppose now I'll have to send you a gratis copy of the big UFO government response book when we finally get it ready for Patrick :-).

  3. I'm happy to see you're still knocking boots with the world Prof, (for that matter I'm happy to see I'm still knocking boots with the world!).

    To go by the tone of this piece you still haven't had that definitive experience you so richly deserve, which'll show you how so many of your 'wild' speculations're anything but.

    (I haven't stopped petitioning the high-ups on your behalf - assuming they're actually what they seem to be).

    As far as I'm concerned you're still on a promise, (though as a great proponent of the Law of Reverse Effect I wonder if such promises - even though they shouldn't be broken - can be counterproductive).


    Jill at no. 10: based on personal experience almost certainly true; I'm surprised there aren't far more reports of temporal acceleration/time stretching. I suggest many people's terror at seeing, say, mice and spiders suddenly move at lightning pace is due to an unconscious recognition they've switched into a different temporal mode in which to them they seem to be effortlessly strolling while everything else seems to've slowed almost to a dead stop. (Think of Blake's "eternity in an hour").

    No. 4: note he seems to remain almost statue like on the dresser most of the time and think of the Hindu tradition of feeding manikins of their gods spoons of milk, (not to mention Lot turning to salt).

    I suggest this's related to other 'inanimate object' fixations such as rubbish hoarding or the less recognized equivalent: the miserly hoarding of gold, (its unrecognised modern equivalent being the super rich feeling compelled to turn their billions into trillions into squazillions, etc., etc., if necessary by fraud).

  4. As usual, I have no idea what to say. I'll leave it with just the thought that I believe that the Big Guy Upstairs and I have a deal: He feeds me a little tid-bit of very interesting information or even insight once in a while, but no "proof" --- THAT is "my job" as a statement of my faith in Him and the rest of the "spiritual menagerie" that He has created. Free Will, Soul, Good vs Bad choice, Afterlife, Love, --- all of that lies just on the "other side of the mirror", as far as "proof" is concerned, and that's "fair". It's not a lot to ask that I earn my way along an upward path, freely, without being pulled along by the undeniable. [I am not saying that I do a very good job of this living-right thing, just that it is a fair and, to me, completely understandable way to create the good universe.]