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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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).

Episode 7: Twilight Zone

In Episode 7 of The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast our guest describes a series of events which took place in an ancient wooded area in the north of the Netherlands. They include a group of child-sized fairies and two dimensional beings who appear and disappear, apparitions at the roadside and what sound like time slip incidents.

In this episode, the encounters are particularly unnerving and it is not recommended for anyone who may be upset by creepy content.

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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Witte Wieven

Witte Wieven (Image: Isabella’s Art)

Dutch folktales feature these ‘white women’ as translated, or ‘wise women’ in meaning, who appear in the mist and resemble white, ghost-like witches. One of their habits was said to be kidnapping young mothers to (presumably breast)feed their dogs. It’s interesting that our guest was alone in the car with her young son when she saw the apparition.

Once captured, it was said that women must stay with the Witte Wieven for seven years, this time period is well known in fairy folklore. Some tales involve women being taken away for a period of time (sometimes to wet nurse fairy babies) and then returned.

Here’s a great blog post about these figures . Thanks to Isabella’s Art for the image – chosen by our guest as most representative of what she saw.

No Birdsong / Birds suddenly going quiet

The silence in the forest that our guest described evokes a very eerie atmosphere. The lack of birds and birdsong felt noticeable to her as soon as she arrived in the area. It was something which immediately unsettled her.

This is an aspect of supernatural experience that I’ve heard first hand from many informants. One person described to me, a pixy-led encounter: Walking in a fairly busy natural reserve one weekend, she told me that she and her friend left the path to inspect an unusual flower when complete silence fell upon them. Suddenly, there was no birdsong to be heard and the sound of children and families which previously filled the air, had disappeared. It was at this point they realised they could no longer find their way back to the path. A frightening experience ensued which they eventually escaped from, only to find that they’d lost an hour or two of time. They both felt unable to speak of the event for many years afterwards.

Here are some other examples of unsettling silence from The Fairy Investigation Society’s, ‘Fairy Census’ 2014-2017.

§162) Isle of Man
‘It was on a track near ***, to *** mountain, the walk with a friend stopped under woodland path blocked with a pool, a fairy ring stood next to it! The area was quiet. No birdsong and had a long reputation of strangeness!

§217) US (Arkansas)
When I looked up to see what had the dog so worked up, I saw a woman. She was wearing a long, white dress and was walking toward us but there was no noise of crunching leaves or anything. It was completely silent and still. The birds and wind didn’t even make a sound.

§272) US (Illinois)
The temperature suddenly dropped, and everything I’d been hearing in the summer woods – tree frogs, birds, crickets, the hum of bees, the faraway yipping of coyotes, the hooting of owls – suddenly went silent.

§483) New Zealand (Gisborne)
Next minute this sparkle of glistening light with blue edges flew from the tree directly at me and then turned and flew over the vineyard zig zagging and doing twirls. The air went quiet and very still. And the birds flew off and didn’t cause anymore annoyance.” [The birds had previously been eating the interviewee’s vines].

Skinwalker Ranch

Skinwalker Ranch is a well publicised centre of paranormal activity in Utah, United States. A series of reports which began in the mid 1990s, included a large unidentified beast with red glowing eyes that was not repelled by bullets, huge invisible objects emitting magnetic forces and cases of missing and multiple incidents of cattle mutilation, which had been a particular problem since the 1970s. Numerous, sightings of strange lights and reports of UFOs had also troubled the area. No definitive scientific proof was ever established but the Ranch still garners a great deal of interest from the UFO community.


Time-slips are a reported phenomenon where people will suddenly find their surroundings change and they appear to be experiencing another era of history.

Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain

The Moberly-Jourdain Incident is a well known time-slip claim made by two women after a trip to the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in 1901. They had lost their path somewhat when they both experienced a feeling of dreariness and oppression and from that point encountered people wearing odd costume dress. Ushered by palace gardeners they stepped into another area of the grounds. At this point Jourdain described seeing a cottage which looked more like a tableau than a real scene, Moberly, who did not see the cottage also remarked that the atmosphere changed:

“Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees.

There are a number of further, more recent cases of time slips in Bold St, Liverpool, England as told in this great Mysterious Universe article. Interestingly, in almost all cases at Bold St, people report going back to the 1950s or 1960s.


Castle, Terry (1995), The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny, Oxford University Press, pp. 194

Isabella’s Art (2010) ‘Witte Wieven: A Dutch Folktale’, in Down on Penny’s Farm accessed online at: http://isabellasart.blogspot.com/2010/10/witte-wieven-dutch-folktale.html

Swancer, B. (2019) ‘Mysterious Time Slips on a Liverpool Street’, Mysterious Universe accessed online at https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2019/11/mysterious-time-slips-on-a-liverpool-street/

Young, S. (ed) (2018) The Fairy Census 2014 – 2017 accessed online at The Fairy Investigation Society