Any experience of, or encounter with, faerie-type entities will be anecdotal. This holds true for folkloric testimonies and modern reports. The faeries cannot be recorded via modern technology or quantitative methodology. They defy any reductionist, scientific analysis and remain a phenomenon that is wholly reliant on the perception of the observer. This creates a problem for any attempt to assess their metaphysical reality – the phenomenon is predicated entirely upon subjective experience. This should not, objectively, create a problem, as human existence is made up exclusively of subjective experiences, which may be questioned for a variety of reasons, but will most often be accepted as real. When it comes to apparently supernatural events, however, subjectivity has a bright light shone upon it, and the reductionist worldview will tend to create a series of objections to the validity of the experience. These experiences happen, almost exclusively, spontaneously, and the testimonies are then reliant upon the word of the experiencing client; the testimonies are heuristic and liable to a range of issues in memory, morality, honesty, and previous cultural worldviews. But with a large dataset stretching back over centuries (perhaps even millennia), and a continuing sample of experience reports, the anecdotes of interactions with non-human intelligent entities such as the faeries begin to take the form of a quantitative (rather than qualitative) collection. They may not be recordable, but they can be recorded, and their validation, through sheer quantity and the quality of testimony, may suggest the authenticity of the phenomenon. This phenomenon is open to a myriad of interpretations, but it is, in some metaphysical form, real, simply because it has found so many subjective attributes. There are perhaps millions of testimonies of people who have experienced faerie-type entities through history to the present day. Even though the data is entirely made up of subjective reports, it cannot be dismissed due to it not being able to be subjected to the standardised scientific method of proof by repeated experimentation. The faeries have a distinct place in many cultures around the world – they are an elusive but persistent phenomenon. This persistence suggests reality; at least a reality within human consciousness.
The frequently misquoted aphorism of the late political scientist Raymond Wolfinger is that the plural of anecdote is not data. Unfortunately, for those wanting to use the quote to dismiss anecdotal accounts simply because they are not testable quanta, the actual quote is the plural of anecdote ‘is’ data. Wolfinger’s principle becomes increasingly complex when anecdotal encounters are experienced at the same time by more than one person. Experiences of faerie encounters become much more difficult to explain away as hallucinations or as a vagary of perception or memory when there is a plurality of perception, and these examples make a small, but distinct, dataset to suggest the existence of a particular type of non-human intelligent entity, which seems to frequently interact with humanity in a variety of ways.
Multiple Perceptions of Non-Human Intelligent Entities from the Folkloric Record
Although they are in the minority, the folkloric record contains many examples of faerie-type entities experienced by multiple witnesses. As is always the case with folklore, the testimonies are often overlain with moral attributes and the need to tell a story over the top of any genuine experience. And it is also true that most folkloric faerie encounters are from the perspective of an individual. But there are enough multiple witness anecdotes to suggest the people recounting the testimonies accepted the idea that the faeries were real entities, interacting with humans, and which could be experienced contemporaneously by different people.
Perhaps the first account on record of multiple witnesses to a faerie encounter comes from the 12th century in the story of the Green Children of Woolpit (Suffolk), chronicled by Ralph de Coggeshall and William de Newburgh. This is an extremely odd encounter tale (unlike any other in medieval chronicles) and it could be argued it is not a faerie experience at all. But it remains an anomalous tale with the ring of authenticity. It certainly remains within the remit of folkloric faerie encounters. The two green-coloured children emerged from caves near the village, speaking no English, and proceeded to become a part of the community. There are diverse interpretations of the story, but both chroniclers placed the events firmly within the remit of faerie folklore. The folkorist EW Baughman suggests the story is the only example in English folklore of the motif: Inhabitants of lower world visit mortals, and continue to live with them.
In 1452, thirty-four French villagers were questioned by an ecclesiastical commission about a ‘faerie tree’ (arbor fatalism, gallide des fees) in Domrémy, as part of the process of overturning Joan of Arc’s conviction at the hands of the English/Burgundian Gestapo twenty years earlier. In the face of her inquisitors, Joan herself had offset her own belief in the faeries by apportioning it to her godmother, who had apparently seen the faeries gathering at the tree. And, even though the villagers were under no threat from the commission (quite the opposite in fact), none of the thirty-four interviewees would admit to a belief of the faeries, or that they had ever seen them at the tree. Instead, they informed the commissioners that “they had heard that in the old days faeries were said to have been seen there.” As the villagers would have been well aware of the Inquisition’s requirement for questioning of anyone who confessed to a belief in faeries, this was probably understandable. But the fact that there was a ‘faerie tree’ to begin with, suggests that there was an ingrained belief in the faeries and their penchant for gathering at a certain tree, amongst the rural 15th-century French peasantry in Domrémy. Later questioning of the villagers infers they often gathered at the tree in groups to interact with the fees, and that they were all experiencing the same phenomenon.
But it is not until the 18th and 19th centuries that we get more straight anecdotal accounts of multiple-witness faerie encounters. One fascinating encounter took place in 1757, recorded by the prominent Methodist Edward Williams (1750-1813), recalling an incident from childhood. Simon Young describes the rather frightening experience:
It was summer 1757, and about midday. At Lanelwyd House to the south of Bodfari (Wales) four children decided to play outside, as the adults prepared for lunch. The children came from two families. There was Barbara Jones (15) and her sister Ann Jones (11); Edward Williams (7) and his sister, Jane (10). The children climbed over a stile into a nearby field, Cae Caled, and set to their games when one of them noticed a group of small humans dancing about seventy yards away. At this point things began to get very strange, very quickly. The figures were ‘little bigger than we, but of a dwarfish appearance’. They wore red and had red head scarfs polka dotted with yellow. They carried handkerchiefs in their hands as they danced. This seems to have been some kind of frenetic pair dancing: our narrator compared it to Morris Dancing or May Dancing. The figures were dancing so quickly that the children had difficulty in working out how many dancers they were: there was ‘something uncommonly wild in their motions’. The children settled on about sixteen. There seems to have been no music. In fact, no noise of any kind is recorded. At this point one of the dancers broke away from the group and moved towards the children. ‘He came towards us in a slow-running pace, but with long steps for a little one.’ The children ran for the stile as quickly as they could. Edward Williams, as he sprinted off, ‘screamed exceedingly’. Tiny Edward, who recorded the episode, remembered, as an adult, the exact order in which the girls went over the stile: he arrived at the stile last as he was the slowest runner and had to wait. First went Barbara, then Ann, then Edward’s sister, then just as the ‘elf’ was arriving, Edward himself was hauled over by Jane. The dancer apparently said nothing – the silence in the account adds to the terror, at least for me – but he tried to grab Edward then leant over the stile towards the children. He had a ‘swarthy, and grim complexion’ and his skin was ‘copper-coloured’. He ‘looked old rather than young’. Williams described him as a ‘warlike Lilliputian’. The children ‘with palpitating hearts and loud cries’ ran towards Lanelwyd House. The men had already sat down to dinner and rushed out as they heard the tumult. But though the dancers had been just 150 yards from the front door they had all disappeared.
Other multiple-witness accounts from the 19th century range from incidents overlain with a folkloric tenor through to straight-up experience reports from apparently reliable witnesses. One example of the former was collected by the folklorist James Bowker and published in Goblin Tales of Lancashire in 1883. In the story Adam and Robin are walking past Langton church on a moonlit night when they hear the bells peal twenty-six times; the age of Robin. As they approach the avenue of trees leading to the church they see a small, dark figure step out of the churchyard “chanting some mysterious words in a low musical voice as he walked.” They ducked back into the trees and witnessed a faerie funeral procession singing a requiem:
… Adam and Robin saw a marvellous cavalcade pass through the gateway. A number of figures, closely resembling the one to which their attention had first been drawn, walked two by two, and behind them others with their caps in their hands, bore a little black coffin, the lid of which was drawn down so as to leave a portion of the contents uncovered. Behind these again others, walking in pairs, completed the procession. All were singing in inexpressibly mournful tones, pausing at regular intervals to allow the voice of the one in advance to be heard, as it chanted the refrain of the song, and when the last couple had passed into the avenue, the gates closed as noiselessly as they had opened. As the bearers of the burden marched past the two watchers, Adam bent down, and, by the help of a stray gleam of moonlight, saw that there was a little corpse in the coffin. ‘Robin, mi lad,’ said he, in a trembling voice and with a scared look, ‘it’s the picture o’ thee as they have in the coffin!’
Robin reaches out to touch the lead faerie. The procession immediately vanishes, and the two men run back home ashen-faced. Sure enough, one month later, Robin falls from a hay-rick and is fatally wounded. This sounds like a typical morality tale overlaying a potentially real faerie experience witnessed by two people. More prosaic, and more convincing as a straight anecdote, is the testimony (detailed by Janet Bord from an account recorded by Jonathan Ceredig Davies in Folklore of West and Mid-Wales (1911)) from 1862 of two friends, David Evans and Evan Lewis, who stopped on a hillside road in Cwmdwr (Carmarthenshire, Wales) and watched with amazement as about fifty ‘small people’ made their way up the hillside to its top 400 yards away:
The first of those who were climbing up along the winding footpath had reached a small level spot on the top of the hill. The others quickly followed him, and each one in coming to the top gave a jump to dance, and they formed a circle. After dancing for a short time, one of the dancers turned into the middle of the circle, followed by the others, one by one till they appeared like a gimblet screw. Then they disappeared into the ground. After a while one of them reappeared again, and looked about him in every direction as a rat, and the others followed him and did the same. Then they danced fo some time as before, and vanished into the ground as they had done the first time.
This mostly conforms to the common motif of faeries dancing in a circle (Aarne-Thompson Motif Index F. 261.1). Graham Hancock has utilised this folkloric example in his 2005 book Supernatural (republished this year as Visionary: The Mysterious Origins of Human Consciousness) to suggest the faeries can behave with a hive-mind, when forming these dancing circles, to achieve their purpose, even if we do not know what that purpose is. But perhaps a more important element of the anecdote is that both friends confirmed they witnessed the same event and appear to have been reliable testators.
About fifty years later, WY Evans-Wentz collected a story from County Donegal, Ireland, where one Neil Colton described an incident, which had happened during his childhood, also in the mid 19th century:
One day, just before sunset in midsummer, and I a boy then, my brother and cousin and myself were gathering bilberries (whortleberries) up by the rocks at the back of here, when all at once we heard music. We hurried round the rocks, and there we were within a few hundred feet of six or eight of the gentle folk, and they dancing. When they saw us, a little woman dressed all in red came running out from them towards us, and she struck my cousin across the face with what seemed to be a green rush. We ran for home as hard as we could, and when my cousin reached the house she fell dead. Father saddled a horse and went for Father Ryan. When Father Ryan arrived, he put a stole about his neck and began praying over my cousin and reading psalms and striking her with the stole; and in that way brought her back. He said if she had not caught hold of my brother, she would have been taken for ever.
While, once again, there is a tenor of Christian morality infused into the anecdote, the testator was deemed by Evans-Wentz (consistently a good judge of character) to have been relating an honest depiction of something that happened in the past. If the eye-witness account is given credit at face-value, the three children were all evidently experiencing the same entities at the same time. The frightening nature of the encounter, and its aftermath, may also have hardwired it into Colton’s memory in a way that a lesser, more amorphous encounter would not, thereby rendering it a relatively reliable folkloric testimony.
A final example, from the early 20th century, is perhaps the ultimate multiple-witness encounter, where tens of thousands of people observed the same phenomenon. It could be argued that this does not belong in the folkloric record, and is instead a modern Fortean phenomenon. But it does provide a segue between a traditional method of collecting anecdotal data and more modern journalistic forms of reporting potentially supernatural events. David Halpin describes the event at Fatima, Portugal in 1916/17:
In early spring 1916 three local shepherd children, Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto reported that they were visited by an angel on several occasions. These visits later became known as and attributed to the Roman Catholic title – Our Lady of Fatima, or the Virgin Mary. As word of this spread, thousands of people flocked to the area to visit the children and the location of the event. It was said the visitor had promised a miracle for October 13 the following year. During the Miracle of the Sun event on October 13, 1917, over 80,000 people witnessed an event at Fatima where a bright disc-like object spun through the sky and swooped over the crowds below. The disc radiated coloured lights and is said to have emitted heat before returning to the clouds.
The encounter was appropriated by the Church as a manifestation of the Virgin Mary, but the children’s experiences with non-human intelligent entities leading up to the main event on 13 October suggests they were in contact with something that would fit well within a general framework of faerie encounters, however they were interpreted by the children and those reporting (and appropriating) the series of events. While it may be a stretch to include the encounters and events at Fatima as a multiple-observer faerie experience, it may be legitimate to suggest that the concept of what faeries are should be extended to include a range of anomalous phenomena. This comes into focus when we begin to investigate multiple-witness experiences from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Multiple Perceptions of Non-Human Intelligent Entities in the Modern Period
The well-known story of the Cottingley faeries involved sixteen-year-old Elsie Wright and her nine-year-old cousin Frances Griffiths, who, in July 1917 (a few months before the Fatima incident), claimed to have taken photographs of faeries near a brook in Elsie’s garden. The photographs were proven to have been faked by the girls, but later in life they both insisted they did encounter faeries together, and that the photographs were simply representative of their real experiences. Interestingly, when the Theosophist, and proclaimed clairvoyant, Geoffrey Hodson visited Elsie’s home in 1921, he reported that both he and the two girls observed a range of faerie-type entities in the garden, described by him as gnomes, fairies, elves, nymphs, and goblins. All three, he reported, encountered the beings together as a multiple-witness observation. Later, when the photographs were shown to be fakes, Hodson was criticised for encouraging the girls, but he insisted that what they saw during his stay was a true clairvoyant interaction with the faeries residing in the garden, and that he and the girls were observing the same phenomenon.
Another multiple-observer account, also involving children, took place in Liverpool in 1964. This was a very peculiar incident, which lasted several days and became known as The Liverpool Leprechaun Scare. It is particularly interesting as it involved a potential UFO sighting that became enmeshed in the anecdotal testimonies. Nigel Watson outlines the events in detail in an edition of Magonia Magazine in 1985. Dozens of children described seeing and chasing leprechauns in Jubilee Park to the east of the city. Watson records that: “According to the Liverpool Daily Post dated 2nd July 1964, the leprechauns were first seen on the night of Tuesday 30th June. Nobody knew how the rumour started, but one nine-year-old boy told the Post reporter, Don McKinley that ‘last night I saw little men in white hats throwing stones and mud at each other on the bowling green.'” Numerous testimonies accorded that there were ‘little green men in white hats throwing stones and tiny clods of earth at one another.’
Two weeks later the leprechauns appear to have moved north of the city to Kirkby, which is where UFOs enter the story, as described in the newspaper The Kirkby Reporter:
Flying saucers and leprechauns came to Kirkby last week – at least according to local children. What the connection was the children were not quite sure, but scores of excited youngsters invaded the Reporter offices on Friday, eager to tell they had seen both these things. A “strange object in the sky”, which changed the colour of its lights from red to silver, and was moving slowly at first, then very fast, was their description of the flying saucer. The ‘flying saucer’ faction vied with the ‘leprechaun’ group for colourful descriptions. About eight inches high, with red and green tunics, and knee-breeches, thus the ‘little people were described. And, of course, they spoke with a strong Irish brogue. The origin of the wee folk remains a mystery, but so convinced were the children that hundreds of them plagued the vicar of Kirkby (Rev. J. Lawton) by invading St Chad’s churchyard in search of the little people. At times the numbers were such that the police had to chase the children away.
There do not seem to be any adult testimonies of observing the leprechauns, but several people did report seeing strange, fast-moving lights in the sky at the time. This correlation between UFOs and faeries was first made explicit five years later by Jacques Vallée in his book Passport to Magonia, and so it is interesting that, whatever really happened in Liverpool in 1964, we have an instance of dual UFO/faerie phenomena, experienced by multiple observers several years before any considered connection was made between them.
More traditionally folkloric in tone, but just as strange is the incident of the Wollaton gnomes, which happened at Wollaton Park in Nottingham on 23 September 1979, and again involves children interacting with non-human intelligent entities. It includes various traditional folkloric faerie motifs, but is overlain with some strange and anomalous features, which give it an edge of authenticity, especially as it was reported by a group of seven children between 8-10 years, who stuck rigorously to their story even when separated and questioned by their headmaster. The consistency of their testimonies is particularly impressive, despite some of the aberrant qualities of the account. Their testimonies were recorded on tape by the headmaster a few days after the event, and the transcriptions can be found here, recorded for posterity by Simon Young.
The incident happened during the early evening, at twilight. The children were playing close to a fenced-off marshy area of the park with ponds. Without warning, there appeared about thirty small cars, each containing two gnome-like creatures, that is, with ‘bobbled nightcaps’, beards, wrinkly skin, and dressed in coloured jerkins. One of the older children described them as: ‘about half the size of me and they had long white beards with red at the bottom and they had little white and red cars and they were chasing us.’ The cars were silent and seemed able to defy the laws of physics by floating over logs on the ground. Although the gnomic cars chased the children they were consistently described as being friendly and the whole encounter seemed like a game with the gnomes laughing, although when the two youngest children fell over in the marsh they became frightened. One of the only discrepancies in the testimonies is that five of the children said the gnomes were, apart from laughing, consistently silent throughout, whereas two children described them as talking in some type of foreign language. The cars were described as having triangular lights and some sort of button instead of a steering wheel. After about fifteen minutes, soon after the two youngsters fell in the marsh, the children ran off and the gnomes disappeared back into the trees.
Both the Liverpool and Wollaton incidents might be construed as examples of mass formation psychosis among children. A kernel of an idea, involving varying types of faerie entities, may have generated a collective belief in their reality, shared by groups of children with impressionable minds. But even if there is some veracity in this concept, the testimonies (especially from Wollaton) contain phenomenological details that remain difficult to reconcile when witnessed by multiple observers, even if they were children. And (as with the Cottingley faeries) the trope of children simply having consciousnesses more open than adults to anomalous events and experiences may be an equally valid explanation. And the fact that both incidents were reported straight after the alleged encounters (as opposed to events remembered and recounted in adulthood) is an important component of the testimonies. However, there are also many examples in the modern period of multiple-witness faerie encounters among adults.
Some of these faerie encounters appear to have happened to people with avowed clairvoyant abilities. Many of the anecdotes reported by Marjorie Johnson in her book Seeing Fairies, for example, included those from her Theosophist correspondents, who may have been predisposed to believe in the existence of non-human intelligent entities. The reports were mostly from the mid 20th century. A report from Mrs Strick, for instance, recounted a walk in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, with her thirteen-year-old niece. She describes how they both saw faerie-type entities riding atop tiny horses in a waterfall. The small humanoids: “… waved their arms above their heads as though encouraging one another in the wild game they appeared to be playing. Then they were gone, and one had time to breathe, but only for a few moments. They appeared again and again at the top of the fall, repeated the same actions, and so it went on for, perhaps, half an hour.” She describes the profound emotional effect the experience had on them both. Johnson also recounts the extraordinary testimony of Mr F McGreal, who described an experience with his late father in County Mayo, Ireland the 1930s. They were travelling across marshy ground after leaving a cart track, but they both knew the area well and were confident of traversing the marsh to reach their home in about half an hour. But suddenly the boggy landscape became more solid:
It was very strange, and my father and I tried to get back to the cart track, but we couldn’t see any familiar landmarks… We carried on walking, but we hadn’t a clue where we were going. Father put his fingers to his mouth and gave a sharp blast like a whistle. Immediately, little brick and slate houses sprang up in all directions. Little people came out holding storm lamps and running around. I cannot recall the dress they wore, but they were approximately two feet six inches in height, and there seemed to be eight or twelve little people to each house… We would change our direction to one of the houses, but when we thought we were almost upon it, it would disappear and spring up elsewhere. This went on for some time, and I began to get afraid, but father said they were only having fun and they would not let any harm come to us.
Mr McGreal then includes the common folkloric tropes of his father turning his coat inside out and throwing it on the ground to disperse the faeries, and that the event had taken up hours of time, bringing them home late into the night. These tropes may have been layered over the experience, but the testator swore to the truth of the anecdote, which had been the same for both father and son.
As in Marjorie Johnson’s collection of faerie encounters, the more recent testimonies gathered in the Fairy Investigation Society’s survey between 2014-17 (mostly from experiences in the late 20th century through to the 2010s) by Simon Young only contain a minority of multiple-witness accounts, although there are forty out of just over 500 reports, which represents a significant dataset. Unlike in Seeing Fairies, the survey tends to include experiences from a wide range of people, who were simply responding (anonymously) to questions in the survey, and most did not suggest any clairvoyant or psychic abilities. Report #160 comes from the Isle of Man in the 1970s. The respondent is a male, then in his thirties who was travelling in a taxi across The Fairy Bridge over the Santon Burn, where it is a custom among the Manx people to greet the faeries with a wave as the bridge is crossed. The experience was shared with the taxi driver, and it is an interesting example of possible psychological suggestion, where the cogitation of faeries may have conjured up an actual encounter:
I was in a taxi driving from a farm back to my hotel in Castletown. The driver told me of the story of the Fairy Bridge and gave the greeting as we crossed it. A few minutes later I saw in the headlights and several feet ahead of the car three strange forms going across the road. They were not humanoid in shape but looked as though they were flat rather than 3D and had a jagged outline about eight inches or so high. Strangely they appeared in the headlights to be bright pink! The driver saw this too but couldn’t explain it. They were six to eight inches tall and maybe five inches broad but like a flat sheet of fluorescent pink card with jagged edges. However they moved in a procession of three from the left to the right of the country road. The comments made earlier by the driver suggested fairies but it could have been something else. This memory has lasted clearly for many years. By nature I am sceptical and I have always tried to examine things with a view to finding an explanation. I never have been able to find one for this.
Report #240, from the 2010s, describes the experience of a man in his forties with his girlfriend in a forest area in California. They had both taken a small dose of Psilocybin mushrooms, which, depending on your point of view, may either render the experience an hallucination, or mark it out as an experience facilitated by an altered state of consciousness (the fact they both saw the same being suggests the latter, as discussed below). He describes an interaction with a strange humanoid entity: “naked except for a pair of leather Celtic or pagan shorts (or maybe more like a loincloth?), like you’d see at the Renaissance Faire, and a leather vest (of similar style) that was fully open.” He had pointed ears and exuded a “glamour and repulsiveness” that marked him out as otherworldly to the respondents. Both the man and his girlfriend communicated with the entity before he “skipped away” in an unusual and prehensile way.
Report #57 describes the experience of a man in his fifties, who was walking with a friend and his dog through a woodland clearing near Chilworth in Hampshire, England in 2007. They both saw a tree: “rushing across the fields towards us, and as it crossed the path before us into the next field, I could see there was a friendly, smiling face in the bark. We both had the same experience and described it to each other in the same way. It was about ten feet tall. The dog stopped to look up at it too.” Interestingly, he also described a profound silence before the experience, a loss of a sense of time and a prickling sensation during the experience, which he felt was a display put on especially for him and his friend (and perhaps the dog).
There is also a multiple-witness report from Wollaton Park (#104C), which happened during midsummer, in the same year (1979) as the gnome incident described above. A 50-year-old male (so at the time, a few years older than the children who encountered the gnomes) recounts being with a friend in the park by a dried-out canal, at about nine in the evening:
I looked across the other side of the canal and directly opposite us was a small shiny white humanoid creature about eighteen inches high. You couldn’t see its face because it was too bright and shiny, glowing white like a light bulb but shaped like a small person. I just felt it was looking at us and standing still. my friend was really scared. He had really short hair but I can remember what bit of hair he had was sticking up on his head. I wasn’t so scared and climbed into the dried up canal with the intention of climbing up the other side to get a better look, and my friend followed. The creature then bolted into a small wooded area then out onto the big field. We chased it but it bolted too fast so we just stood there and watched it get further across the field until it disappeared out of sight. It never bothered me but it really affected my friend. He was scared of dolls and ventriloquist dummies, action man toys, anything like that afterwards. He often discussed it with me for years after and told me he could never watch a Chucky movie because dolls terrify him.
Finally, there are several modern multiple-witness accounts of faerie-type entities contained in the excellent series The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast produced by the folklorist Jo Hickey-Hall. In episode six an Eastern European female psychologist describes how she and her sister encountered a small (c.50cm tall), white, humanoid in her house during one afternoon in 2020. She describes it as having no face, with a lean shape. It quickly passed through a corridor and past a half-open door. Intriguingly, although the encounter lasted only seconds, she felt as if it had lasted longer the entity would have manifested into something more solid. The two sisters corroborated each other’s story. In episode four a male (from an undisclosed UK location) describes seeing lights in the woods during a winter walk with a friend. When they drew closer they saw a person-sized Ent-like, spindly creature (perhaps a similar entity to the encounter in the Fairy Investigation Society’s survey described above) carrying a light and running through the woods. The friend took fright, but the testator continued to watch, and has drawn an image of the entity, which is reproduced in the show notes for the episode. And in episode eleven two females, on the way to a midsummer Wiccan ritual in a parkland near London, encountered what sounds like a classic small gnome-like entity (although the testator described it as a pixie) with pointed hat and beard. They both agreed on what they’d witnessed, but, interestingly, they took the experience in a very matter-of-fact way and simply carried on to their destination. All of these multiple-witness accounts were visual only, with no audial or tactile elements.
The Importance of Multiple-Witness Faerie Encounters
Evidently, there is a difference between folkloric multiple-witness encounters and modern experiences. The former have usually been overlain with the need to tell a story, and often with moral attributes. This does not mean they can be discounted as anecdotal data, but they are, by their nature, more dense and hidden beneath their motifs. Even the modern encounters rest beneath the vagaries of memory recall and are reliant upon the honesty of the testators. But once a large number of experiences are compiled over a long time period the plural of anecdote does become data. This also holds true for encounters from individual testators, but when more than one person observes the same phenomenon there is an increased veracity to the experience, as explanations reliant on individual hallucinations are mostly taken out of the equation. While multiple-witness encounters are in the minority of faerie experiences, they still represent a large dataset, of which, only a small number have been referenced here.
If two or more people have witnessed faerie-type entities at the same moment, then, providing the testimonies are honest, it would suggest that something real is interacting with the consciousnesses of the observers. This might be a good time to reintroduce David Luke’s three-part interpretation (based on Peter Meyer’s original eight-points) for metaphysical entity contact. He used it to assess a study into the otherworldly beings (many of which had faerie-attributes) encountered by people who had altered their states of consciousness with DMT, but it is also a valid tool to evaluate what may be happening to anyone who reports a numinous experience that includes interaction with non-ordinary entities such as the faeries:
- They are hallucinations. The entities are subjective hallucinations. Such a position is favoured by those taking a purely (materialist-reductionist) neuropsychological approach to the phenomena.
- They are psychological/ transpersonal manifestations. The communicating entities appear alien but are actually unfamiliar aspects of ourselves, be they our reptilian brain or our cells, molecules or sub-atomic particles.
- The entities exist in otherworlds and can interact with our physical reality. A numinous experience provides access to a true alternate dimension inhabited by independently existing intelligent entities in a stand-alone reality, which exists co-laterally with ours, and may interact with our world when certain conditions are met. The identity of the entities remains speculative.
With multiple-witness encounters, number one can be discarded. The theory of ‘mass/multiple hallucinations’ of the same phenomenon is derelict. There is no scientific basis for the idea that multiple people could individually generate the same visual imagery and auditory information. Number two is more tenable, especially if we accept that two or more people could plug into a collective unconscious at the same moment. A collective un/consciousness might allow multiple observations of the same phenomenon mediated through a transpersonal experience, where a cloud of consciousness is able to manifest any phenomenon to multiple observers. But number three would appear to answer many of the questions raised by multiple-witness encounters. If faerie entities are able to present themselves to two or more people at the same moment, it suggests they are indeed existing in a stand-alone reality, and are able to interact with humans (and perhaps animals) in our physical reality whenever certain conditions are met. These conditions may involve an altered state of consciousness, as many of the examples above suggest, but, as Luke points out, the identity of the entities remains speculative.
Multiple-witness encounters with faeries are an important part of the dataset of non-human intelligent entity experiences. While, as with all such esoteric subject matter, they need to be subjected to scrutiny and analysis, they also provide us with deep insights into what the faerie phenomenon might mean and how we may be able to get under the skin of the complexities of something that has been integrated with humanity for a very long time. The plural of anecdote is indeed data, especially when the anecdotes and data involve more than one observer.
* Thanks to Jo Hickey-Hall and David Halpin for advice and their expertise in the production of this article.
The cover image is Dancing Faeries By Johan August Malmstrom (1866).
Dead but Dreaming the novel is available now