In this episode we hear from a guest who shares his childhood experience of meeting a fairy. The encounter took place in his bedroom one morning while he was reading alone. He finds it hard to access a clear memory of the entire event but the parts he does remember are of great significance to him. In this case, our guest regrets how the experience was borne out and this has formed the basis of a decision to try and reconnect with the being. We discuss this sense of regret and how the memories began to piece together for him later, to become more meaningful in adulthood.
Warning: These are not fairytales and the content is unsuitable for children. Some episodes may contain details which some may find unsettling or frightening. The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast is designed for listeners 16 years and older.
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Fairies in Childhood
Many people report having memories of seeing fairies in childhood. Often they say that they’re not sure whether they imagined it, though some are absolutely certain of what they saw.
There are lots of excellent accounts in Marjorie T. Johnson’s, Seeing Fairies, which I find a very useful source of modern sightings. During the 1950s, Marjorie reached out to members of the general public for their accounts of fairy sightings via various publications, including the BBC magazine of the time The Listener. This particular account is so similar to our guest’s experience. It’s from a teacher, Mrs Enid H. Paul.
This is a perfectly accurate account of what happened on the only occasion I ever saw a fairy. I do not often speak of it for fear of ridicule. It was in 1930, when I was nine years old. I had just gone up to bed, but had not yet lain down. I sat with my knees drawn up and my chin resting on them, looking towards my open bedroom door, when a small man appeared in the doorway. He was dressed in dark green, with a brown buckled belt, and short brown boots. His trousers were the breeches type, buttoned down the sides. I was filled with terror and dived under the bedclothes, hardly believing my eyes. After several minutes I plucked up courage and looked out. He then stood at the foot of my bed with arms akimbo leaning on the bedrail. More scared than ever, I plunged under the bedclothes again and stayed there for a long, long time. When I finally looked out he had disappeared, and I never saw him again. I have often wished that ‘d had the courage to speak to him. The incident had, however, no significance for me then, or since, so far as I know. (pp. 169, Marjorie T. Johnson, Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times.)
Here’s a really lovely account from the Fairy Investigation Society’s Fairy Census 2014-2017.
§13) England (Cheshire) 1970s. I was in my bedroom one evening. I noticed a twinkling light in my window. I watched the light fly down towards my neck region. As the light came closer I noticed it had a human face and a dark outfit. It was around two-inches tall. I asked who are you and it replied that it was a fairy. It was flying in a side-to-side motion as it spoke. I heard a noise and put the covers over the fairy and my head. The space I had made was then illuminated. The fairy said that all will be ok and talked to me. But I don’t remember any of the conversation. I pulled back the covers and the fairy kept on talking and flying towards the window. All the time reassuring me everything would be ok. I had to ask what it was because I didn’t know what a fairy was. I then fell asleep.’ (Young, 2018, pp 32)
Fairies in Houses
There are many reports of fairies in houses in both collected folklore and more modern accounts of fairy encounters. They’re often called Brownies, Hobgoblins or even Boggarts if they become malevolent! Here’s an excerpt from Katharine Briggs’ The Fairies in Tradition and Literature about a helpful ‘Silkie’ at Lemington Hall, near Newcastle in the late 19th, early 20th century. The ‘Silkie’, which was described as being a “one of the white ladies…halfway between ghosts and fairies”, later turned into a troublesome ‘boggart’ under new ownership of the house.
A lady who now lives in Oxfordshire was brought up at Lemington Hall, five miles from Newcastle, and as a girl Marjorie Sowerby, as she then was, used often to visit the last remaining Hoyles of Denton, two old ladies who were quite willing to speak to intimate friends about Silkie’s kindness to them. The house was too big for them, and they really did not know how they would manage without her. She used to clean out the hearth and lay fires, and there was something too about bunches of flowers left on the staircase,. In 1902 or so, Marjorie Sowerby left the neighbourhood, and did not make any long stay in it until the Second World War. By that time the old ladies were long dead, and the house was occupied by another old acquaintance of hers. The was not the kind of person to get on with fairies and there was no talk of Silkie’s kindness now; in fact, the new tenant was so much disturbed by banging and noises and poltergeist jokes that he was finally obliged to leave the house. The Brownie had turned into a Boggart, as has often happened before. (Briggs, 2002, pp. 33)
Here’s another great description of a fairy encounter inside a house from the Fairy Investigation Society’s Fairy Census 2014-2017. It happens in a very matter of fact way in modern times, like the encounter in this podcast episode:
§370) US (Tennessee) 2000s. ‘Once when I was about seventeen years old, I was crossing the hall from my bedroom to the bathroom, and just as I was crossing the threshold I saw something out of the corner of my eye down near the floor up against the outer-facing door-frame of the bathroom in the hallway. I immediately stepped backward into the hall to do a double-take. What I had seen appeared to be a very small older man, maybe a foot high. He had nutmeg colored skin, very squat body shape, his clothes were non-descript but in shades of deep browns and mossy greens. He had a hat of some sort on, I believe. But he had his head tilted back as he was peering up at me, just watching. Never said a word or even moved. Just stood there. When I had stepped back into the hall for the double-take, he was gone. This was the impression I had gotten of him in the brief moment it took me to cross the threshold into the bathroom from the hallway and I seemed to only glimpse him just as I was stepping into the bathroom, not while approaching. This happened during the day, mid-day, though I don’t recall exactly what time. The hallway was only lit by the large window in my bedroom behind me as well as, the smaller window in the bathroom in front of me, and whatever natural light was coming in from the dining room French doors at the end of the hall to the right of me. Not terribly dark, but not well-lit. This was the first and only time I’d seen this figure or anything else like it. I did not feel scared, just surprised, curious, and a bit bewildered. I initially did question what I had seen and if it had been real, but it’s now been roughly fifteen years since I saw it and it’s never left my mind and I still remember the incident very clearly, though his image, unfortunately, seems to be fading in my memory. But I believe that what I saw was very real, especially because that memory has never left me. My mother claims she has seen him once, too, in that same house but couldn’t remember how or when. Seems to have been around the same period of time. While our house was in a suburban area, we lived next to a large field that has a lot of trees around it and very nearby to a running creek which empties into a lake. I periodically would also see small balls of glowing golden or white light fly past me in my bedroom out of the corners of my eyes and once heard what sounded like a woman sighing once or twice just outside of my one-story bedroom window. At that time I was in my later teens and very much interested in Faery lore, though I had grown up always having an interest in Fairy Tales and had been reading them since I was a small child. I was also getting my feet wet in my growing interest in Paganism, though I did not, yet, practice. I don’t know if the creature I saw was a gnome or house brownie, or what. But I do believe he was of Faery and that he meant no harm.’ (Young, 2018, pp. 290)
Another account of a troublesome brownie appears in the same edition of Briggs. It comes from an encounter collected by Colin Parsons in his Encounters with the Unknown (1990, pp. 69-71) and takes place some time in the 1980s. A couple had moved into a house whose previous occupants had informed them was also home to a helpful brownies who aided with work in the garden and inside the house. Upon moving in they found:
Dishes would be washed while they were out at work, the washing-machine would be operated and the clothes transferred to the tumble-drier. At first Jenny Bolton was convinced that she must be doing these things herself and forgetting them, and she visited her doctor. He found her perfectly well and prescribed a course of mild tranquillisers. The odd events continued, however, and now began to involve Peter Bolton. He would find the garden shed tidied or his clothes put in the wash or hung up in the wardrobes. (Bord, 1997, pp. 17)
After one incident concerning a misplaced item, Jenny became irritated with her helpers. From this point on, they were on the receiving end of some serious mischief and disturbance. “Soap powder had been tipped all over the vegetables, taps had been turned on and plugs put in, furniture had been knocked over and jam rubbed into her Persian carpet.” The couple felt they had no choice but to move from their home.
Bord, J. (1997) Real Encounters with Little People. London: Michael O’Mara Books, pp. 17
Briggs, K.M. (2002) The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, 2nd Ed. London: Routledge, pp. 33
Johnson, Marjorie T. (2014) Young, S. (Eds) Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times. San Antonio: Anomalist Books, pp. 169
Parson, C. (1990) Encounters with the Unknown. London: Robert Hale Ltd.
Young, S. (ed) (2018) The Fairy Census 2014-2017. Accessed online at: http://www.fairyist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-Fairy-Census-2014-2017-1.pdf on 14/03/2021