Throughout European legend and folklore can be found the pervasive presence of the tiny, evil little creatures commonly referred to as imps. The word comes from the Old English noun impa, meaning basically the young shoot of a tree or plant, and they are particularly prevalent in Germanic myths and legends. Although the creatures have countless descriptions and appear in numerous forms, there are some basic similarities. They are almost always portrayed as diminutive, small in stature, with ugly, rough features, and they are known as being mischievous, prankish, incorrigible, and uncontrollable. Many of the traditions depict them as rather evil and malicious, and indeed over the centuries they became more and more associated with the Devil and depicted as being demons and familiars of witches, warlocks, and even servants of Satan himself. While this must all sound like pure fantastic folklore very much in the vein of fairies, gnomes, and goblins, just as with those others there have been many purported sightings of what seem to be real imps, or at least something very much like these legends describes. These surprising reports involve some sort of gnome-like creatures with a decidedly demonic feel to them, and a malevolent air of menace surrounding them, and they come in from a variety of far-flung areas.
One such account comes to us from the site TrueGhostTales, from a witness named Joshua, who says that he had been just 12 years old at the time of his strange experience. It all started shortly after they had moved into a new home in Benicia, California, and although he had felt a bad energy emanating from the home from the very beginning, things would get truly bizarre when his mother one day heard a loud banging noise from the bathroom, even though no one else had been home at the time, and when she had gone to investigate she had found that everything from the counter and medicine cabinet had been thrown into a pile in the middle of the floor. This unexplained incident was followed shortly after by his terrified sister reporting that she had seen small glowing red eyes peering out from their darkened closet at night. The witness says that although he had not seen the red eyes himself, his sister had been so upset about it that he had believed her, and he would then in the coming days see for himself that indeed there was something very odd lurking in the home, which would become a regular visitor. He says of his first encounters with the thing:
My sister and I were ready to go to bed, my sister said she saw two red eyes inside the closet. I didn’t see them, but from how scared she was I believed her. We shared a room, and we had bunk-beds. My mom comforted her until she fell asleep. I slept short after. I awoke later that night from a small continuous noise coming from the foot of my bed (I had the top bunk). When I looked at my feet, I could see this dark, black figured shape jumping up and down at the foot of my bed. Every time that it jumped up, it would leer at me with these little red eyes. The eyes seemed to sink into his face until the red would just disappear. I couldn’t see much detail to his facial features, but I did realize that he was wearing a brim hat, like Charlie Chaplin. I started to scream, and within a couple of seconds my mom came in the room. But before she was able to turn the light on, I saw the little man (about three feet tall) hurry and run to the corner of the room and disappear into the darkness just before my mom turned on the light. This was not the first of many experiences we had.
A few days later, I woke up in the middle of the night. I still had that experience fresh on my mind, so I very carefully peaked my head over the railing of my top bunk, and looked around the room. When I saw the little man! This time he was just being very still and quiet, and he was just standing at the foot of my sisters bed, watching her (Our bunks were in the shape of an L, so I could see the lower half of my sisters bed). He then noticed me and looked at me. I yelled, and again, just one second before my mom got into the room, he would again run to the corner of the room, and disappear into the shadow. Every time he would run to the corner, he would stop for half a second facing the wall, and disappear.
Joshua claims that he saw this strange little demonic man over the next few nights as well, finally working up the courage to tell his mother what was happening. Rather than laugh it all off as the ramblings of a child’s imagination, she seemed to think that something was genuinely terrifying them, although she never let on that she had seen it herself. It would not be until years later that she would tell of her own experience with the entity, of which the witness says:
So what she did next, she did not tell us, until years later when we were grown up. If she told us at that time, it would have made us even more frightened because we would have known that it was not our imaginations. She told us that she stayed up one night with all the lights off. She was sitting in a chair in her bedroom, looking down the hallway to the entry way to our bedroom. What she saw next startled her. She said that after about a half hour after she turned the lights out she saw a little man who came into the hallway from the bathroom. He started to walk into our room when he must have sensed something. My mom said he stopped, and slowly turned around and looked at her with those sunken in little red eyes. She said he then turned back around and went into our room. She hurried up, and ran into our room and turned on light on. But he had vanished.
We lived in that house for about another year. We continued to have strange things happen. It didn’t let up until my mom and dad decided to move. Personally, I believe to this day, that the little man had to of been some sort of demon, not a human spirit. One thing that I never liked about it, was the fact that countless times, I would look around in the middle of the night, and every time he would be still, just watching us, either from the foot of my sisters bed, or he would be standing in the corners watching us. I never liked that, because you just never knew how long he could have been watching you as you slept.
A similar report comes from a witness on Your Ghost Stories, who had her own encounter in England with a very aggressive and genuinely evil little imp of some sort. She says that whatever it was had been quite bold, appearing in the middle of the day to harass her and her boyfriend, before becoming a constant presence that haunted and menaced them at all hours. The witness says of the ordeal :
I had a black shapeless entity peek at me from behind the TV one morning last May. It was black, and had tiny pinprick white eyes, extremely bright but the smile was 'ear to ear' and red... It rushed at me too, seemed to like chasing me at first, my boyfriend was in the house at the time, and this was during the day, while bright sunlight was streaming in through the window. I was terrified and actually climbed up my boyfriend (poor guy) to stop it touching my feet, which it seemed to find funny...
When it was moving across the floor it would either be a solid black shape, half human height, or a spinning 'moth'? Which would continually spiral towards the floor. I have no idea what it was, we tried burning sage around the house, it seemed to back off quite a lot but after that a smaller black thing (no face) would sometimes peer at my boyfriend when he was asleep, and wait on the stairs.
Tried the sage, I also screamed at it to f*** off during the day while two people were there, (looked crazy ha-ha). It was actually very active during the morning/afternoon. After shouting at it for a very long time it did leave through the bathroom wall (temporarily). I actually got so desperate I smashed an ornament in its direction to try and frighten it. To be (mostly) rid of him, I had to keep standing up to it; it took a very long time, visualisations of white light enclosing the house, pushing it out... Was very hard mentally to move it at all, seemed very ‘heavy'. We think it moved to the next house, we are in a terrace and the attic has missing bricks in the wall to the adjoining house, I'm worried, but also extremely fascinated by it and wonder if it might return.
No word on if it ever did return or not, and it is a truly frightening and harrowing account, to say the least. From the same area of the world is a report of some sort of demonic imp at Crawfordsburn Country Park, in Ireland. The witness says she was out walking her dog, Missy, by the waterfall on an otherwise tranquil and calm evening. As they walked along the dog became very agitated for some unknown reason, and the witness explains:
Missy ran ahead and i walked quickly to catch up. I noticed she had stopped and had started growling so i started walking even quicker. As i got level with her i noticed what can only be explained as a gnome standing about 10 feet away from Missy. It was about 3 feet tall and at first i thought it was a child in fancy dress but then i noticed its teeth were pointed and a horrible brown colour and It had a bulbous nose and large, deep-set eyes. I got Missy on the lead and watched in amazement as the gnome began to laugh, this wasn’t a regular laugh but a deep cackle. I was terrified and frozen to the spot and watched as the gnome walked into some bushes by the waterfall and disappeared. I quickly ran off back to the car.
What was this thing? Was it some evil spirit or fairy? A demon? Something else? In some accounts it seems like these creatures are indeed very literal demons from Hell, true imps in every sense. One commenter on Exemplore explains of being haunted by tiny creatures that he believes are actual Biblical demons that can be fought off with the power of God. The witness says:
I see faces in figures in clouds, trees, bushes, on the grass and pretty much everywhere else I look. Until the Lord saved my life, these things had overtaken every aspect of my life, I had taken thousands of photos and videos of them, they would appear in my yard and trees as little gnomes, animal-like figures, full on demons, and all kinds of things that are freakier than anything I have ever seen in a horror movie. I've had dark clouds moving around my house and some insane visions that would take too long to type on here. My wife and son would see some of them, but not anywhere near the ballpark of what I see. No, I do not have schizophrenia or any other mental diseases. We tried every new age thing to rid our property of these beings, but it only got worse. One day I stayed home alone and prayed for hours trying to figure out why I was seeing these things. The Lord finally let me know in my soul that this was a product of all the sin I had allowed into my life and He was allowing me to see this in order to call me to Him. I was truly humbled and repented of my sins and I told Christ that I would rather die than to continue in a lifestyle that allowed this into my home and around my family. God saved me that day. I coughed out what I can only describe as evil energy out of my body 6-7 times. I was exhausted and felt truly forgiven and free for the first time in my life. The things is God still allows me to see things, they are just no longer in control of my life. I have learned many things from this, what feels like a curse, but I believe is a gift from God. I am now walking in the truth of God. No one could ever convince me that a battle of good vs. evil is not going on around us all the time. Most people just cannot see it.
Other unsettling reports seem to describe these things as a dark force that seems bent on luring children away to their dooms, and indeed in some folklore imps were known to do just this. One witness on Reddit weaves a rather unsettling tale of some sort of gnome that seems as if it was perhaps trying to trick his sister into wandering off with it. The witness says:
As a young child, my sister was visited by a spirit that appeared as a gnome-type creature (small, grey beard and pointed hat). He always appeared at dusk and tried to get her to follow him into the woods. My sister barely remembers the episodes, but I remember her telling me about them and even remember once keeping her from following him into the woods. My mom remembers once when we were swimming in a neighbor's pool and she came to bring us home for dinner- after being home for about 5 minutes, my mom realized my sister was gone. Instinctively, she ran back to the swimming pool and found her in the pool, alone (she was 3 and could barely swim). We think this also has something to do with that entity, as she could not have walked that far in that amount of time by herself. Has anyone ever heard of an entity that tries to lure children away? At that time, we lived In an area of Western MA known for paranormal activity and there was a well known case of demonic possession nearby.
So, are these real reports of encounters with the demonic imps of folklore, or are they something else entirely? There is little to differentiate them from the numerous other accounts of sightings of gnomes, fairies, and other seemingly fairy tale creatures, but here we have something that seems especially evil and malicious in nature. What are these entities and what do they want? Are they real spirits, demons, interdimensional phenomena, or simply tall tales? No matter what the answer is, these are truly odd reports that mesh in with the long running myths and legends or demonic imps and gnomes, and serve as something to ponder at the very least.