Episode 24: Wretched Rider in the Thorn

🎃 Welcome to a special Halloween episode of, The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast.

This tremendous Otherworldly experience took place in the county of Somerset (UK), in around 2003. The south west of England has a long and rich history of fairy folklore, but this is a particularly unsettling face-to-face encounter with a fascinating creature, astride a ghostly horse. 

The episode kicks off with a UFO experience and goes on to cover occult practices, ghost experiences and some gorily-detailed folklore. This episode isn’t for the feint-hearted – you have been warned! 👻

If like me, you’re right at home with all things wyrd, you’ll enjoy the bonus chat available on Patreon. Our guest shares a spectacularly creepy ouija board experience, some spooky ritual happenings and his friend’s ghost or possibly time slip incident along with folklore from his local area.

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Warning: These are not fairytales. The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast is designed for listeners 16 years and older.This episode is particularly unsettling and is unsuitable for children or anyone who might be sensitive to creepy content. Trigger warnings: discussion around occult practices, gory details featuring blood (folklore), ghosts.


Fairy Riders

Danse de Lune

Fairies on horseback feature from time to time in British folklore, particularly in South West, England. In William Crossing’s, Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies (1890) farmer’s horses regularly found to be exhausted come the dawn, were said to have “been ridden hard during the night” by the pixies. Though it was also said such rumours were put about by smugglers who had used the horses to run contraband in from the coast overnight.

The following nineteenth century account mentioned in, The Old Red Sandstone (Miller, 1859) has a similar feel to our guest’s encounter, especially the initial description of the creatures themselves, “….the riders stunted, misgrown, ugly creatures”.

It appears to have taken place at Black Isle, between Ross and Cromarty near Inverness, Scotland. Interestingly, there’s still a place nearby named ‘Fairy Glen’. Thank you to Dr Simon Young for sharing this story in a most timely manner this very week!

On a Sabbath morning, nearly sixty years ago, the inmates of this little hamlet had all gone to church, all except a herd-boy and a little girl, his sister, who were lounging beside one of the cottages; when, just as the shadow of the garden dial had fallen on the line of noon, they saw a long cavalcade ascending out of the ravine through the wooded hollow. It winded among the knolls and bushes, and, turning round the northern gable of the cottage beside which the sole spectators of the scene were stationed, began to ascend the eminence towards the south. The horses were shaggy diminutive things, speckled dun and gray; the riders stunted, misgrown, ugly creatures, attired in antique jerkins of plaid, long gray cloaks, and little red caps, from under which their wild, uncombed locks shot out over their cheeks and foreheads. The boy and his sister stood gazing in utter dismay and astonishment, as rider after rider, each one more uncouth and dwarfish than the one that had preceded it, passed the cottage and disappeared among the brushwood, which at that period covered the hill, until at length the entire rout, except the last rider, who lingered a few yards behind the others, had gone by. “What are ye, little mannie? And where are ye going?” inquired the boy, his curiousity getting the better of his fears and his prudence. “Not of the race of Adam,” said the creature, turning for a moment in his saddle; “the People of Peace shall never more be seen in Scotland.”

Miller, H. (1859) The Old Red Sandstone (Boston: Gould and Lincoln)

Similar sounding fairy beings

The following two modern encounters were collected as part of Dr Simon Young’s Fairy Census and possess similar descriptions to the creature seen by our guest:

Comus Arthur Rackham

§343) US (North Carolina). Female; 2010s; 31-40
‘I was on a rock in the river reading while my husband fished on up river. I was across from a park, people walking with kids and dogs. There were two young boys walking on the trail with their dad. They began moving down towards the water, when it started coming up the river moving through the water towards them. It was pale-skinned water-logged looking with black hair and sharp serrated teeth showing in a smile. It paid me no attention, but was focused on the boys. They were pointing at it with sticks and could absolutely see it. The dad finally ushered them away from the edge of river seemingly unaware of it being feet from his kids. It watched them move up the trail away with a creepy look on its face and then moved on up river out of sight. Did not look friendly to me.’

Young, S. (2018) The Fairy Investigation Society’s Census (2014-2017)
Louis Rhead Illustrations. Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Stories and Tales of Elves, Goblins and Fairies.

§12) England (Cambridgeshire). Male; 21-30; 2010s; ‘It was a very brief encounter late one evening. My partner and I had been watching television, and had since switched the TV off and [we] were talking for some time. At one point I glanced towards the area where the television is only fleetingly as one would do while not paying any particular attention, and caught a glimpse of a small gnome-like man. Immediately I looked again but the entity had gone. From the brief glimpse I had I could see it was almost a cross between the classical description of brownies and a gnome. It can’t have been more than six inches tall judging by the furniture I glimpsed it on. It had a scruffy dark brown or black beard which seemed to be spiky and covered most of its face. No brightly coloured clothes that I remember, they were all brown/dark. It was hard to make out details. I do recall it had a pointed hat or head which was also dark in colour. There were a number of rocks that we had collected on our travels on the furniture it had been sighted on, perhaps it was drawn to them in some way. It left a feeling of being watched, but wasn’t malevolent. It’s just a shame the sighting was so fleeting. It does feel like I’ve glimpsed something that didn’t want to be seen.’

Young, S. (2018) The Fairy Investigation Society’s Census (2014-2017)

Episode Discussion References

Lights in the Sky documentary (2020) Dir. Krista Alexander

Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld (2003) Patrick Harpur

West Country Witches (2010) Michael Howard

Wild Marjoram Tea (2021) Sylvia Littlegood-Briggs

Book of Ceremonial Magic (2007, first published 1911) Arthur Edward Waite

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Podcast intro music: Transmutate by Snowflake (c) copyright 2020 Licensed. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Modern Fairy Sightings Green Man Artwork: Peter Hall Studios
Main Image: Edmund Joseph Sullivan (1907) Once more he began his impious praises of Gabriella's beauty (an homage to Albrecht Dürer's, The Knight, Death and the Devil).