Since time unremembered there have been tales from all over the world of various magical little people. Gnomes, imps, faeries, trolls, goblins, whatever you want to call them they are there, etched into the pages of lore and fairy tales. Yet, what if these creatures are not merely the denizens of myth and legend, and what if they are somehow real? Even more spookily, what if some of them are not so benevolent? There are many reports of encounters with such sinister little people, and here are some of the more frightening.

Probably one of the more notorious cases of some sort of imp or demonic gnome attack alleged occurred in the town of Porterville, California, where a woman known only as Tammy, moved with her three children to a rural farmhouse just off the Tule River in 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 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 even 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.

This is not the even 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.

What was this creature and where did it come from? Was it an actual gnome from fairy tale legends or was it something more demonic in nature? Another fairly well-known case is that of the experiences of Chris Fleming, who is host of TV's Dead Famous and Psychic Kids, and who has allegedly been plagued by some sort of demonic imps since his childhood. It apparently all started in the 1970s when Fleming was just a young child. At the time, he was living at Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and he claims that his house was rather intensely haunted, not only by ghosts, but also what he calls “little demons,” which he describes as being around 3 feet tall and rather reptilian in appearance, sort of like Gremlins, and which he says would “peer out of the walls, walk out of, into, or fly out of closets and dark corners of the house.” He has said of the profound fear they instilled in him thus:

I became so terrified as a child that I slept with the lights on, slept with my back to the wall each night, and had by me a glow in the dark plastic toy sword my mom got me to help me feel safe at night. I even ended up placing a last rites cross, with candles and Holy Water beside my bed each night.

The manifestation of these diminutive creatures slowed down in later years and stopped all together, that is until decades later, when they purportedly began to appear to him again as an adult. In an interview with Dave Schrader on Darkness Radio, he related one particularly harrowing encounter from 2009, when one of the things appeared and he decided to actually try and catch it. According to Fleming, he chased it into a closet, but once there it simply vanished into thin air. He also described how he came to classify the little monsters as “imps,” recalling a spirit box session in which he called out to ask what kind of spirits were haunting his home and they replied, “Just imps.”

Fleming has gone on to give lectures on his experiences and he theorizes that they are actually lower level demons that he believes have the grim work of breaking a family’s will so that more powerful demons can enter and cause mayhem. He has even theorized that other similar creatures and little people across the world are also these devils in different guises, merely taking different forms and having different names across cultures, with jinn, faeries, and gnomes all basically devils that have been terrorizing humans over the millennia. On a last note, Fleming has warned people not to try and investigate or communicate with such creatures, as they are apparently very dangerous and have the ability to spread “like a virus.”

A similar account of one of these mysterious and malicious "imps" was reported on the site Your Ghost Stories, and allegedly happened back in 1975, when the witness was just a child. He claims that at the time of the incident his family had just returned from a road trip to Fresno, California, and were on their way to their home in Salt Lake City, Utah. They had decided to try and take a shortcut, but ended up getting lost out in the desolate desert wastelands of Nevada. As they drove about the back roads out there in the middle of nowhere they apparently came to a tiny little town squatting out there in this moonscape of a place, where they stopped for the night.

That night, the witness says he went to sleep on his stomach as usual, with his arm hanging down off of the bed. In the middle of the night, his sleep was broken by the sensation of someone yanking and pulling at his arm. In his groggy sleepiness he at first thought it was his family’s dog, even though they had not brought the dog on the trip with them. Nevertheless, the witness was tired and drifted back to sleep before being woken yet again by a harder, almost painful tug on his arm. This time he emerged from his daze and was wide awake, looking about the darkened room to see nothing. At that moment, the witness claims his arm was yanked so hard that he was pulled clear off the bed. In a panic he looked up to see that his aggressor was some sort of vaguely humanoid shaped green, glowing mist. He explains what happened next thus:

Well my mom jumped out of bed and ran up behind this thing and screamed, 'No!' Then she smacked it with her hand which made contact with the thing and you could hear a loud smacking sound. Once this thing was hit, it let go of my arm and let out a high pitched scream like I have never heard before. It started whirling around like a funnel then disappeared into the drain that was located in the center of the room. My dad had slept through most of this and hadn't woken up until he heard the thing scream. I ended up sleeping between my parents this rest of the night with no further incidents.


Years later, I was telling this story to someone who had a great deal of experience with the paranormal and supernatural. What he told me was this: the thing I had encountered was an imp. An imp is a low level demon that feeds upon the souls of young children. They also have the ability to take shape or form and usually appear as children to other children. He also told me that folklore and mythology has some root in fact and that many of the old fables are still true today as they were hundreds of years ago. He also told me that I was very lucky. Many a missing child have ended up in the hands of these demons and have never been found.

It is interesting that many such reports do indeed seem to revolve around children, with one wondering if maybe the Porterville account also had something to do with the creature being drawn to the three young children in the family, and one other such account supposedly happened in the United Kingdom, when the witness was just an 8-year-old kid. She claims that she had gone to bed one night, but was kept from sleep by a series of taps on her window. Curious, she made her way towards the noise and peered out into the night to see a bizarre enity lurking just beyond the glass, which she would describe thus:

This 'thing' was sat on my windowsill on the outside, humanoid, about the same size as a 4-year-old child but it's body was almost skeletal, it was so thin, it made the things head look slightly too big for its body. It had no hair whatsoever, but large black-red eyes and a mouth full of lots of sharp little teeth almost like a cats. I hid under the covers very scared and didn't get any sleep that night at all.

The next day she says she told her mother but she wouldn’t believe the outlandish story. However, the witness was convinced of what she had seen, and three scratch marks on the glass assured her that it had all been very real. Bizarrely, at school she drew a picture of the creature she had seen in art class, and was shocked to find out that another child had independently drawn a picture of the exact same entity. When she asked the girl what it was, she told of her own experience and it was a perfect match, including the same description of the thing and three scratch marks on the window. Most unsettling of all was what happened many years later, which she explains thus:

I was 22 years old at the time living in a bedsit on the 3rd floor of this building, I had a boyfriend called martin who would come to stay at mine or I would stay at his from time to time. One day we woke up at mine switched on the TV made us coffee when out the blue martin asked me "Do you have an Imp following you?" I replied with something such as "been reading too many fairy stories have we?" Martin then explained what he had seen outside my window, he was woken up by the 3 taps on the window and had seen this 'thing' the descriptions matched up to what I had seen all those years ago. When I took a closer look at the window there were 3 scratches on the outside of the window...

Of course not all reports of trickster imps and gnomes revolve around children, and there is a long tradition of tales involving a type of trickster demon gnome called the Tommyknockers, which have long been said to terrorize miners. These gnomish creatures, typically described as only around 2 or 3 feet tall, are said to lurk within mine shafts, and are so named because legend has it that they will knock on the walls of a mine in a specific pattern before triggering a cave in. They were also said to cause all manner of mischief, such as stealing food or tools, pushing or pinching from the dark, or calling people’s names to draw them deeper down into the darkness, but it was the knocking that miners most feared, and they would often leave out food in a Tommyknocker infested cave in order to appease them. The origins of these beings ranges from that they are the ghost of dead miners to inhuman demonic spirits, but whatever they are it was believed that to hear those knocks meant certain doom, and that the deeper one was to go into the earth the better their chances of encountering the fiends.

While this must sound like it must all certainly be mere myth and legend, there are many real reports of encountering the Tommyknockers, and they have long been blamed for mysteriously missing miners. These reports and tales are not only from the days of superstitious miners trying to explain the myriad dangers of their profession, either, and there are more modern reports of the dreaded Tommyknockers as well. One allegedly occurred in 2016, when a 38-year-old paranormal investigator named Xavier Hunter and his friend Kaytie ventured out to a mine located 25 miles outside Las Vegas, Nevada, which was said by locals to be haunted by Tommyknockers.


Almost immediately after penetrating into the mine, Hunter claims that he and his partner were assailed by the smell of rotting meat, and as they continued down into the bowels of the earth they began to hear grunts and growls. They would also make the rather odd and unsettling discovery of women’s clothing discarded deep in the mine. It was all disturbing enough to cause them to hesitate going any further, but they would go from hesitation to full on panic when Hunter allegedly saw a dark shape lurking in the shadows near Kaytie. This was enough to spook them into a full retreat, and Hunter claims that the entity exuded a profound aura of evil that actually made him physically ill. The whole bizarre excursion was captured on camera, and while reviewing the footage they found that at one point the entity can actually be seen as what appears to be a miniature hooded figure standing just a few feet tall. Hunter would explain:

The figure appeared to be hooded, it was completely black. We didn't immediately see it. We saw it after we began to review the video. The odd thing is that around the same time the figure appeared I began to feel sick and nauseous, I threw up and felt extremely dizzy. We did not record that moment because Kaytie was trying to help me figure out what was happening. I was shocked, especially after feeling sick right after capturing the figure on tape. I have no idea what it could be. I suppose that a possible explanation could be that it was our own shadow? But why would I feel sick right after it appeared? The presence we both felt in there felt malevolent.

Another expedition to a supposedly Tommyknocker haunted cave was carried out by the crew of the Travel Channel TV show Ghost Adventures, led by host Zak Bagans. Their destination was the Pheonix Gold Mine, located in Idaho Springs, Colorado. Opened in 1871, the mine supposedly has a long history of paranormal phenomena that is often blamed on the Tommyknockers, and there is also a legend of a black magician in the area, as well as an unsolved double murder at the mine, making it seem as good a place for a haunting as any.

The team would certainly not be disappointed, as their investigation produced numerous instances of strange phenomena. Right off the bat one of the crew claims she saw something move in the dark and heard someone calling her name from one of the tunnels, which was confirmed by two other witnesses who also heard it. Indeed, throughout the excursion there were heard various anomalous noises such as footsteps, knocks, and banging sounds, and voices are also captured on EVP saying “Get out” or mumbling other things incomprehensively. These are not even the spookiest of the phenomena they encounter, and throughout the episode there are almost nonstop instances of weirdness.

At one point Zak is using a Kinect cam and claims that he can see a tiny figure of some sort standing in the mine, which appears shortly after hearing a series of mysterious knocks, and after which there is a sudden temperature drop that the entire crew can feel. On another occasion their thermal imaging equipment picks up a bright unidentified heat signature that Zak speculates is possibly a miner’s headlamp, and around this time they pick up strange interference on their equipment. This same interference is heard on another occasion, and this time two of the tripod legs on one of the cameras are found to be inexplicably bent out of shape shortly after. There were also anomalous lights seen over a spirit box, and on another occasion during the investigation one of the crew members is startled by what he says is something pulling on his pants, among other weirdness. It is all very spooky and entertaining, but does little to provide any evidence for Tommyknockers or ghosts in the mine, although Zak comes away convinced they are there.

Although it is unclear just what exactly the Tommyknockers are supposed to be, with their impish ways, typically small stature, and propensity for sowing fear in their victims, they certainly seem to be at least a subspecies of the various malevolent imps, gnomes, and other supernatural little people that seem to pop up to terrorize people from time to time. Indeed, we are really left to wonder what any of these malicious entities are really supposed to be. Are they figments of the imagination and mere denizens of folklore and fairy tales? Are they ghosts, demons, something from some other dimension or ghoulish goblin universe, or something else altogether? Where do they come from and why do they go about instilling fear, harassing and attacking people? We don’t know and perhaps it is even something we are not meant to know, these beings part of the machinations of a secret, inscrutable universe that we may be unable to comprehend.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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