Amongst the many alleged monsters, creatures, phantoms, beasts, and assorted entities within the world of the weird are often those that stand out as being particularly bizarre. These are the creatures that seem to occupy their own realm of high strangeness, lying out on the dark fringes of the unexplained in a territory inhabited by things that that defy easy classification. Surely to be counted among the denizens of this domain are the various creatures allegedly encountered all over the world that can only really be described as being actual beings from fairy tales, as if they have stepped off the page and into the real world. How can his be? Are fairy tales based on these real entities? Are they the product of fanciful imaginations? I do not intend to get too far into the how or why of such things here, but what I am going to do is present to you some damn strange cases of seemingly fairy tale beasts and beings that have wandered in from the furthest reaches of the fringes of the universe of the strange.
One of the most prolific and widely reported types of fairy tale creature encounters concerns gnomes and other assorted little people, and there is actually a surprisingly large number of such sightings from all over the world. In many of these cases, the term “gnome” isn’t even a nickname just given to some unidentified small humanoid, but rather denotes a literal gnome straight out of a fairy tale, complete with caps, boots, and gnomish clothes. One bizarre report comes from a witness who had just moved to Puerto Rico with his mother when he was 17 years old. He claimed that one day he had gone to take a shower and suddenly heard the family dog frantically barking at something outside. It seemed that the dog was quite worked up and upset over something, so the witness got out of the shower to go take a look out the window, where he saw something far weirder than what he had perhaps been expecting.
There in the yard lurking behind a tree was what the witness described as a diminutive man dressed completely in white, and complete with a white cone-shaped hat and white, pointed shoes. The odd little man apparently stared at the witness for a moment and proceeded to vanish into thin air. A few days later, the strange creature appeared again, this time outside of the witness’s window. The strange tiny man then smiled and disappeared again until a few days later, when he appeared yet again. This time the witness claims to have tried to communicate with it, asking it what it’s name was, to which it surprisingly replied that its name was "Sebastian Polizar." Things had gotten so incredibly odd that the witness, who had to this point not mentioned it to anyone else, told his mother, who perhaps not surprisingly didn’t believe him. The witness then called out to the gnome by name and it apparently appeared out of nowhere right there in front of them to cause the mother to scream out in shock. This gnome reportedly would continue to make regular appearances around the house and in the yard until the family had had enough and moved out.
Another case of a family that was plagued by an apparent gnome has a decidedly ominous overtone. The story starts with a woman known only as Tammy, who moved with her three children to a rural farmhouse near the town of Porterville, California, just off the Tule River, in around 2004. Things got odd almost immediately, as Tammy claimed that she often felt the heavy sense of being watched, at times almost feeling the gravity of eyes upon her, but there was never any one around during these episodes. It did not take long for her to realize that this phenomenon happened most often and most intensely when she was near the barn, which sat in a secluded corner of the rather large, 100-acre property.
Indeed, in the coming days the barn took on quite a sinister air, seeming to emanate a cold chill and spooking the many animals the family owned, including dogs, a cat, chickens, turkeys, and even a duck. Although they tended to wander all over the property, none of these animals would go anywhere near the barn, as if repelled by some unseen force lodged within. Indeed, she observed that none of the neighbors animals, strays, or wildlife would go go near the spooky old barn either. Whenever any animals passed the barn they would give it a wide berth, and on many occasions would act strangely in its presence, staring at it as if something were there staring back. The dogs would sometimes go nuts around the barn, barking and yipping excitedly even though no one was there. Sometimes there could be heard strange noises coming from within the barn which sounded like grunts, growls, and squeals. To add a layer to the thickening air of foreboding, Tammy claimed that she began to notice several of her animals had begun to go missing, gone without a trace, and it was immediately suspected that that menacing barn had had something to do with it.
Tammy chalked it all up to nerves and perhaps rats or wildlife nesting in the barn, and explained the missing animals away as having just run off or even being killed by coyotes, but one frightening encounter would convince her that it was something more than that. One evening Tammy returned from town with her son and parked the car, but as she exited the vehicle and went to get some groceries out of the trunk she claims that she saw fleeting movement in the periphery of her vision. When she looked up there was nothing there, and she went back to unloading the groceries but almost immediately there was another movement, this time punctuated by an insidious laugh. She would later say:
This time I heard a very freaky, very evil-sounding chuckle. I looked in the direction of the sound and there standing about 50 yards from my son and I was what I can only describe as a gnome.
Standing there around 50 yards away was what she described as a humanoid creature about 3 feet tall, which sported a beard and was wearing baggy black pants, a gold-colored shirt, and a red pointy cap. For a moment it just stood there staring at her and her son with deep-set, dead black eyes, as if studying them, but then things took a turn for the sinister. Tammy would say:
That thing grinned at us and the creepy grin spread from ear to ear and its teeth were a gross brown and pointed or jagged. It had a bulbous nose and large, deep-set eyes, though I really couldn’t tell the color of them. I never got a closer look at it and don’t know if it was wearing shoes or not because at that moment I dropped my groceries grabbed my son and ran for the house.
As soon as Tammy and her son had entered the house and slammed the door behind them, she began frantically telling her daughters what had happened between deep gasps. Somewhere outside the strange little man was still cackling, and there was a movement by the window. The terrified family looked out to see what it was, and as they approached the window they could see the top of the red, pointed cap loom into view, which was especially odd considering this particular window was located around 8 feet over the ground. Tammy closed the blinds, moved her children well away from the window, and waited there breathlessly until the thing finally went away. This would be the only direct sighting of the evil gnome, but Tammy would occasionally hear that same ominous chuckling issuing forth from the shunned barn. She would later say:
After that night whenever the dogs barked or howled we were pretty sure we knew what they were barking at. We were also pretty sure of where our missing poultry had gone. From time to time we would hear a weird creepy chuckle and other noises coming from that old barn.
Interestingly, this is not the end of the story. Tammy and her family would eventually move away and a new family would move into the house in 2010. This new family too immediately noticed that there was something weird going on with that decrepit old barn. One evening in the early morning hours the couple woke to the sound of a “raspy, gurgling singing,” which chilled them to the bone. When they looked out the window they could see standing by a small pond on the property a creature standing around 3 feet in height and wearing maroon pants and a baggy yellow shirt with a brown vest and a dark waistcoat. The thing was described as having a bushy grey beard and wearing a tall, pointed reddish hat. The eyes of the being were said to be small and black, and its teeth were discolored, jagged and sharp, to the point of looking almost broken. The creature seemed to know it was being watched, and apparently stared right back at them before snatching one of the expensive koi fish they had stocked the pond with and jamming it into its mouth with glee. The husband allegedly shouted at it to go away and it actually apparently gave him the finger before running off while laughing. When the area was examined later a set of footprints were found that were about the size of a child’s.
Whatever this thing was apparently really liked that pond, because it would purportedly be seen there numerous times, always in the early morning hours at around 3 AM and often eating the fish within. It also rather amusingly seemed to like playing with the garden gnome decorations that had been set up there. Fed up with this strange intruder, the husband then apparently took away the lawn ornaments and fish, which caused the gnome to one night thrown a tantrum, stomping about and shouting out in some garbled, bizarre language. The thing would skirt around the house banging on the walls and testing the locked doors at night before the family had had enough and moved away. The interesting thing about this case is that at the time this family had had no idea that the previous family had experienced similar bizarre incidents.
Tales like this go farther back in time, and one early account of an apparent gnome comes from the rural town of Farmersville, Texas, in the United States, in 1913. The witness, a man by the name of Silbie Latham, claimed that while he and his two brothers were out toiling away on their cotton farm one day their dogs began to bark and snarl off in the distance. The brothers thought nothing of it at first, but the barking and growling became steadily more intense and chaotic until they decided that it was probably best to see what was disturbing the animals so much. When the oldest of the brothers, Clyde, went to have a look he shouted to the others that he could see that the dogs were upset by a “little man.” When the others ran to go see what he meant they were purportedly met with the sight of a diminutive humanoid around 18 inches tall and a dark green in color and wearing a large, pointed hat, and the thing was just standing there with its arms at its sides. Silbie would describe the scene thus:
He didn't seem to have any shoes, but I don't really remember his feet. His arms were hanging down just beside him, like they was growed down the side of him. He had on a kind of hat that reminded me of a Mexican hat. It was a little round hat that looked like it was built onto him. He didn't have on any clothes. Everything looked like a rubber suit including the hat. He just stood still. I guess he was just scared to death... Right after we got there, the dogs jumped him.
Apparently, the dogs ravaged the little creature, tearing it apart, although of course the body has become lost to the mists of time, as is often the case in these accounts. Another early report from 1919 was told by a witness named Harry Anderson, who claimed that one night when he was 13 years old he had seen a procession of around 20 tiny men marching along in the moonlight. The strange little people were described as having pale white skin and wearing leather knees pants and suspenders. The odd little humanoids were walking along in a single file line and allegedly chattering with each other in some unintelligible language. Although Harry was terrified, the creatures marched right on by him and didn’t even seem to notice that he was there at all.
Starting from 1952, when he was just a child, the household of Dan Bortko, of Wyandotte County, Kansas, would be haunted by a gnome for years. The family had moved to a two-story home on a rural farm property in Liberty, Mo. complete with a barn, and from a very young age Bortko claims he frequently saw a small humanoid about 3 feet tall and fully decked out in German lederhosen and with a smoking pipe, lurking about their house, often appearing in his room at night. The creature would often stand there looking at him before smiling or winking and disappearing through the closet. Bortko also said that he would often look outside his window at night to see “little people” congregating out around the barn. He once drew a picture of the one he had seen up close, and it was so frightening to his little brother that he would cry whenever he saw it. Bortko would say of his first encounter with the creature:
I had just awakened form a nap and was rubbing my eyes and saw what you would call a troll. I’ll call him a troll because that’s what he reminded me of. It was an old man with a long beard, large nose, about three feet tall standing at the foot of my bed. And I was astounded.
There was another case in the early 1960s from a witness known as Jerry, who claimed that he saw a “gnome” or “troll” at his home in in Orange, N.J. Jerry claimed that one day he had gone outside into the backyard and seen a “a small gnome-like man with a long beard” standing by the steps leading up to the porch. According to the witness the little man “had funny clothes on and a pointed hat and all.” Years later this strange creature would make another appearance at the home, when Jerry’s 5-year-old nephew woke from a nap crying to run downstairs and claim that he had been woken by a small man with a flowing white beard who had been staring at him as he slept.
America is not the only place where such encounters have allegedly occurred, and one place that seems to have been plagued by gnomes in recent years is the country of Argentina, where they are called duendes and have a heavy presence in the folklore of the region. In 2008, the Argentine town of General Guemes, in the province of Salta, Argentina, was stalked by a strange miniature humanoid that allegedly wore a tall, pointed hat and moved about in an odd, sideways gait. Many of the locals reported seeing the thing lurking about at night and in the early morning hours, to the point that residents were in rather a state of panic, and indeed the police chief of the town, Police Commisionaire Jose Luis Nunez, claimed that he himself had seen such a creature when he was a child.
Out of all of the reports, perhaps the most dramatic was that of a man who claimed to have even captured the being on film. A young man named Jose Alverez reported to the Argentine newspaper El Tribuno that he and his friends had encountered the little beast one night while out chatting about a fishing trip they had just been on. The video shows the men standing around talking before they sight a strange, pointy capped humanoid move across the street in a sideways manner before the scene devolves into cries of panic and terror. You can see the footage here. Alvarez would say of the incident:
We were chatting about our last fishing trip. It was one in the morning. I began to film a bit with my mobile phone while the others were chatting and joking. Suddenly we heard something — a weird noise as if someone was throwing stones. We looked to one side and saw that the grass was moving. To begin with we thought it was a dog but when we saw this gnome-like figure begin to emerge we were really afraid….This is no joke. We are still afraid to go out — just like everyone else in the neighborhood now. One of my friends was so scared after seeing that thing that we had to take him to the hospital.
In 2011, another town in Argentina by the name of Santiago del Estero experienced a series of rather violent incidents involving a tiny, imp-like creature described as having large pointed ears and wearing an oversized hat. Witnesses said that it was often seen to move about in an awkward, side-ways gait, very much like the creature described from Guemes. This “gnome” was reported by numerous citizens to stalk people at night and in the pre-dawn hours, and to rush in to savagely punch them, knock them off their bikes, or chase them down the street, to the point that police were issuing warnings for people not to wander alone at night. Indeed, there were even several sightings of the bizarre entity made by startled police officers as well. A priest, Father Juan Cruz Fariña of the San Miguel Arcangel church, believed that the creature could be “a product of magic,” and suggested that an exorcism might solve the problem.
Perhaps related somewhat to these gnome sightings are similar accounts of smallish humanoid beings that are often described as “elves.” The country of Iceland in particular, which has ancient folklore steeped in tales of elves, seems to have a rather intense concentration of such encounters. Indeed, the majority of Icelanders firmly believe that elves are very real, and such accounts aren’t really seen as particularly unusual here. So strong is this belief that in early 2012, the MP for the Independence Party Árni Johnsen had a 30 ton boulder moved from Sandskeið, in southwest Iceland, to his home Höfðaból to protect it from being destroyed by the widening of the south Iceland Ring Road, because it was believed to be the home of three generations of elves that were credited with saving his life in a car crash in 2010. According to Johnsen, the accident caused his SUV to flip along and land next to the boulder, which had been situated along the highway. Although the vehicle had been totalled, Johnsen himself was completely unharmed, and he suspected that this good fortune had had something to do with the massive boulder his overturned car had come to a rest beside, a notion that was confirmed by an “elf specialist”- a real occupation in Iceland- Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, who was amazed to see so many elves inhabiting this one boulder.
Claims of elves inhabiting natural features of the landscape are not uncommon at all in Iceland, and the creatures are said to actually be quite fiercely protective of their territory, as can be seen in the 1970s, when efforts to remove a massive boulder during construction efforts on a road in Kópavogur met with failure due to numerous unexplained equipment malfunctions and illnesses amongst the workers, which locals attributed to the elves known to live within it. There were so many freak breakdowns and malfunctions experienced by the construction crews, in fact, that it was eventually decided to leave the boulder where it was, no matter how inconvenient it would prove to be.
In 1996, when bulldozers were attempting to level a hill, also in Kópavogur, in order to make way for the construction of a graveyard strange things began to occur as well. According to a bulldozer operator at the time, Hjortur Hjartarson, during the operation two bulldozers continually malfunctioned, even though there was no discernible reason and inspections turned up no problems with the machines. In addition to these equipment breakdowns, news crews who arrived at the scene claimed that their cameras would mysteriously cease functioning when trained on the hill, even though they worked as expected anywhere else. The stubborn problems dogged the construction team so relentlessly that specialists were brought in to try and communicate with the elves, after which the machinery started working normally again and the bulldozers would allegedly have no further mishaps. Similarly, in 2013 various equipment failures created hurdles for the building of a road from the Álftanes peninsula to Garðabær, a suburb of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. There was also a mining operation in 2011 that was scrapped due to a never-ending series of strange malfunctions and mishaps.
While the traditions of real elf sightings and encounters may be particularly strong in Iceland, it is certainly not the only place in the world with such stories. One account with a sinister feel to it allegedly happened in the United States in 1967, when the witness, known only as Tyler, claims to have had a rather harrowing encounter with elves of a seemingly evil nature. According to Tyler, he and his two sisters lived in a farmhouse and would often climb out their bedroom window to go ride the horses in the early morning as their parents slept. One morning, Tyer’s older sister Clarice was climbing out the window as usual when she suddenly stopped short and let out a scream before scrambling back into the room. When she got over her initial shock and panic she told her brother that she had seen four little men standing around in the bushes outside, which she described as “demon elves” from their disconcerting demeanor and appearance. Tyler thought it was all a joke, and went outside to the bushes, where he saw nothing.
That would be the end of it until years later when they were all talking and the subject came up. Clarice, who had thought she was the only one who had seen the creatures, was surprised to learn at this time that her younger sister Cristi had also seen them that very same morning. In Cristi’s case, the elves had woken her up by scratching on her window as they cackled maniacally and called out her name. They would torment her for some time like this before slinking off. She had not thought anyone would believe her and had kept the story to herself, just as Clarice had, so they were both quite surprised when they learned that they had both seen the creatures that day.
In October of 2003, a woman known only as K.T. claims that she had her own encounter with an elf at her home in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Apparently she had been out on her patio with her toddler son, who suddenly turned to her and asked why a little man was sitting on the stone wall in their yard. K.T. looked to where her son was pointing, and although she could see no tiny person she did notice that the area seemed to have a “shimmery” quality to it. A few months later in January, 2004, K.T. was out in the yard with her husband when it began to snow. Thinking it to be a rather beautiful sight, K.T. went off for a short stroll while the husband watched their son. As she walked along through the woods she says that she had the sensation again of that “shimmery” look to everything around her, and that was when she rounded a bend to come face to face with a short, odd little man standing by a tree which she described as a “stereotypical elf.” The weird creature allegedly had a long, “funny shaped” nose, pointy ears, long thin fingers, and lavender skin, and was dressed in red clothes and a long, pointed hat. The witness let out a startled cry, after which the elf vanished right before her eyes.
Another account from 2004 supposedly took place in Pymatuning Park, Pennsylvania. The witness claims that he had been having a picnic there with his family when he went off to take a hike through the trees. As he walked along he said he could hear the sound of music coming from somewhere in the forest, and he went about trying to follow it to its source, which turned out to be a clearing some distance ahead. In this clearing he claims he came across what looked like a little boy of around 7 years of age, but with pointed ears and unnaturally dark greens eyes. He was sitting on a tree stump and in his hands he held a wooden recorder, which is what had been issuing forth the haunting music.
When the witness approached, the strange “boy” smiled and asked him if he would like to try playing, with a voice described as sounding like a bell. The witness said he had to get back to his family and the boy said that maybe they could play together some other time before getting up to walk off into the forest. The witness claims he went back to the spot several times over the years but never saw the odd, pointy eared boy again, although he claims that one time he left a piece of apple pie near the stump and when he returned later it had been replaced by a curious smooth stone.
There have been supposed elf encounters reported from places as far away as South Africa as well. In 1986, the witness, known as Paul, was in Durban, South Africa at the Mangrove Swamps Nature Reserve, where he was hiking with five of his friends at around 6PM along the swamp’s main trail. They eventually came to a clearing that seemed to be lit up with numerous tiny flickering lights, as well as the rather unsettling sight of numerous little people around 3 feet in height sitting around on stone formations that seemed almost like an amphitheater of some sort. Paul would say of the surreal encounter:
We looked around and witnessed little people sitting on the illuminated rock formations and others who were interacting with each other. The light and forms we saw were of an ethereal light clearly less dense then light we are familiar with. I estimated there to be between 20 to 30 of these little people. We were shocked and frightened by this phenomenon we experienced. We turned and ran as fast as we could toward our vehicle. On arriving, we tried to make sense of what we witnessed. We returned to the spot and saw nothing but bush. No lights, no little people, no rock formation, just bush.
As if gnomes and elves aren’t already quite strange enough, there have even been reports of actual leprechauns. One of the weirdest of these occurred in the last place one might expect for a leprechaun sighting. In 2006 a large crowd converged to amass on Le Cren Street in Mobile, Alabama. When a NBC affiliated news station WPMI arrived to see what all the commotion was about they were told that a leprechaun had been spotted up in a tree, which had slowly materialized there out of nowhere and was hiding within the branches. One witness even produced a sketch of the alleged creature. Although the video of the scene, complete with commentaries by people who had seen the creature, went viral on YouTube at the time, many thought it was all a St. Patrick’s Day hoax. However, numerous witnesses were adamant that they had actually seen what has become known as the “Alabama Leprechaun,” with some swearing that they continued to sight the strange creature in the area afterwards. Considering the parodies made of the incident and all of the fun poked at the story it is nearly impossible to tell if there is anything more to this than a big joke, but it is a truly weird tale all the same. The news video perhaps not surprisingly does not take any of it seriously at all, and is just about as weird and amusing as the story of a leprechaun in Mobile Alabama itself. You can see it here.
It is hard to even know where to begin when trying to understand such fantastical cases as these. When one gets over the fact that there are actual accounts of alleged gnomes, elves, and others from lore in the real world we are left with numerous questions. What are these things and where do they come from? Are they flesh and blood or are they tenuous, spectral phantoms of some sort? How can fairy tale creatures possibly be real and where do they fit into our reality? Is it possibly that the power of these ancient tales has permeated our conciousness to the point that they are projected onto reality through sheer force of the mind? Are they even real in any sense at all, or are they the product of hoaxes, exaggeration, and tall tales? There is probably no one, clear answer to any of these questions, and these cases remain just peeks into the world of the truly bizarre, where we can see through the window between things that are and things that seemingly can not be. Or can they?