Surely one of the most bizarre and inexplicable types of phenomena in the world of the paranormal and Forteana is that of the many reports of encounters with what can only be described as gnomes. These are not merely "gnomish" in stature or tiny entities, but actually appear as actual gnomes like something out of a fairy tale, complete with little pointed hats, bright clothing, and bushy beards. Just as outlandish as the appearance of such entities to begin with is the fact that the behavior of these creature ranges across the board, and among the many, many reports of these little people there seem to be certain categories that these gnome cases fall into, ranging from friendly, to indifferent, to hostile.
One of these is that of the little people appearing to be friendly and almost playful, as if they want to somehow make contact and play with us for reasons unknown. One such encounter is given on the site True Ghost Tales, from a witness who says she had just moved from Indiana with her husband and three children to South Texas when the phenomena first started, where they lived in a spacious house in a rural area along a dirt road and surrounded by expansive fields. The first time they saw these gnomes was as they were taking a walk along the dirt road and running around playing. As they did so something strange would happen indeed. The witness says:
We began laughing and chasing one another as moms do but about two miles down the road my oldest son Austin let out this scream that made me immediately turn to see what was wrong. That is when I saw them. My son was pointing down the road a bit and there on the side of the road was four little people.
Now when I say little people I do not mean short I mean about a foot tall and they were all wearing pointy little white hats and white clothes. Two of them were splashing arm in arm in the rain puddles that had collected on the side of the road and one of them appeared to be filling up a bucket with the same water. The last one was the smallest and walked with a bit of a limp and I noticed a fifth one that was much taller than all the rest and wore all black and had a shorter black hat on as well. I could tell right away that the one in black was obviously some type of authority or leader and I watched as he picked the smallest one up and placed him on his shoulders.
Now all this time we are standing there watching them they seemed completely unaware of us. We just stood there frozen and not believing what we were seeing. Then out of nowhere the leader, or one in black, seemed to notice us and he turned to the others obviously telling them it was time to go because they stopped what they were doing right away and followed the biggest one into the tall grass. We walked up to the place where they had been after waiting awhile to be sure they were not coming back and there were a bunch of tiny bare foot prints left behind in the mud along with weird writing that looked a lot like hieroglyphics. We looked around the area and I gotta tell ya there was no place around there they could of gone without us seeing them or them having to cross the road to the other side where the woods are.
Although on this occasion these “gnomes” seemed to be a bit shy about being seen, this would apparently change, as they would soon appear again and seemed to want to communicate or play with the witness. The witness says that later that very same evening she went outside to have a smoke, and out of the surrounding gloom these little people materialized again, looking upon her with what she took to be great curiosity. The witness describes this odd encounter:
I went out for a smoke and I couldn’t believe it there they were again just at the edge of my property staring at me with such curiosity that for some reason made me not feel afraid of them. They began to copy or mimic my movements and when I put my hands on my hips they did so to. I finally sat down on my mothers old wheel chair and noticed how curious they seemed about the chair. I went inside after awhile and in the morning when I went back out there were lots of tiny muddy foot prints all over the concrete patio leading up to the old wheel chair and all over the chair itself. I had to laugh it just seemed so surreal to of really seen them and now this. Since then I have seen the tiny people numerous times and each time they seem to be observing me. I have never gotten any bad feelings or ill intentions from them so I’m not scared of them anymore but I gotta say this is the weirdest thing I have ever heard of.
Very weird, indeed. Who or what were these diminutive people? What did they want from this witness? Were they just playing, trying somehow to communicate in their own way, or what? In another account from the book Mysterious Disappearances: And Other Strange Tales, by Ron Quinn, there is the account of a couple called “Rick and Joyce,” who apparently owned a remote mountain cabin getaway where they would spend their weekends. One day they were out tending their garden when a small stone landed at their feet, seeming to come out of nowhere. Puzzled, they looked around and at first suspected that perhaps a squirrel had dropped the stone from a tree, but there was nothing there. As they looked, another stone fell, lightly lobbed from the branches and obviously not meant to harm. Another stone followed, bouncing against the porch and tumbling down the steps.
The baffled couple looked up into the trees once again, staring through the branches, and this time they claim that they saw the face of a little man peering out from the leaves at them, wearing a bright pointy hat and sporting a full beard. The little man was only of about a foot in height, and seemed to smile at them before jumping down from the tree onto the roof of the cabin and disappearing into the brush. The couple tried to coax the strange little man back out, but he was gone, and they would not make another sighting. Again we are faced with the question of what this entity, creature, whatever you want to call it, wanted. What was the meaning of those tossed rocks? Why did it smile at them? Was it trying to play with them? Was this a gesture of aggression? We will never know.
Another report along these lines came to me from a reader, who says this happened shortly after moving to a rural town in California. One evening, she says she woke to a light tapping on her window, which was odd as it was the middle of the night and they had no children or neighbors, and making it even more bizarre was that she was on the second floor of the home. She went to the window, but no one was there, and there was really no where anyone could have gone to hide so quickly. She left the curtains open and settled back into bed with that tapping still on her mind, when it started again. This time she did see someone, or at least something, and she tells me:
There in the window was the face of a tiny little man, just peering in at me. He had a little beard, pure white, and had a green, pointed little hat sitting askew on his head. I would guess that he would have only been around 2 feet in height, which was baffling to me as I was on the second floor of the house. I just sat there totally astonished. The little man tapped on the window again and smiled, and I didn’t get an evil or sinister feeling from him. He seemed almost like he wanted to play. Then he waved and seemed to step away from the window, although I don’t know how because there was nothing but a sheer drop to the ground. I was so curious that I went to look outside again and this time he was gone and did not come back.
In some cases, these gnomes seem to actually let themselves inside. In a report from Reddit by user Flyingjam53, the commenter says his friend and his sister had a rather odd encounter with one of these beings. He explains the surreal encounter:
When he was about 9 years old he woke up in the middle of the night. He and his sister were sharing a bedroom then. When he woke up he saw some odd-looking dwarf thing that was sitting on the end side of his sister's bed while she was asleep. He couldn't see it's face well, since it was turned at a way that he could only see its back and a bit of its side. According to him, it was doing something with its hands, like it was crafting/carving a stick or something like that. It wore a checkered yellow shirt and had a backpack on its back. Its hair was scruffy and dark. When my friend saw it, he got scared and tried to wake his sister up, but she was still sleeping and the dwarf continued doing whatever it was doing. Then he yelled for his mom and as she was coming, turning on the light in the other room, the dwarf stood up and walked towards the door, which was closed, and it just disappeared, like it turned to mist and went through the door, before his mother came in the room.
Was this gnome playing, trying to communicate, or just up to some mischief? Who knows? From Your Ghost Stories we have a report of a playful gnome from the country of Mexico, where gnomes are often called the Duendes. Poster “Jeya” gives the account of her grandmother’s experiences with a very active and seemingly playful gnome, of which she says:
She said she was just sitting in her house one day (for those of you not familiar with a mexican house, usually the house has a type of court or patio right in the middle where it is open so there is sun and the sky coming in) and she had her eyes closed, just relaxing, when she felt a tug on her pants on one of her legs. She ignored it and kept her eyes close. Again she felt a tug on her pants and she thought it was like a cat or something and when she opened her eyes her shoe on one of her feet were gone. Later that day she found the shoe down where the animals were, by this big door she has leading to a big yard and the town river.
Well this happened again the next day and she said she was determined to catch that cat, only this time after the second tug she opened her eyes and said "I got you!" and to her surprise it was a tiny little man almost like a fairy only without any wings or anything. He was running with her shoe! But then he dropped it. She would also tell me that sometimes when they would eat or have dinner they would sometimes leave tortillas on the table in a cloth and later they wouldn't be there any more. One time one of my aunts saw one and ran out of the house across the street to the neighbors house.
While these encounters seem harmless enough, other reports seem to have a more sinister or threatening feel to them. Indeed, in many gnome encounters the creatures are described as being rather malevolent and instilling a potent fear in those who see them. One such account can be seen from Reddit user Bec_1990, who lives in Australia. She said her encounter happened one day as she was out sitting on a park bench watching her daughter play, when she caught some movement out of the corner of her eye.
Something darted behind a tree trunk. I kept watching, thinking maybe it was a wallaby or something. Boy was I wrong. I looked back at my daughter and then absent mindedly looked around again at the tree trunk. And there was a gnome. Thats the only way I can describe it. It was a type of tiny person. Maybe 30cm tall. What is the most unbelievable is that it really was like a garden gnome. Red hat and rosy cheeks. I remember it had darkly colored lips. It was looking at me with what I can only describe as a "malevolent" look. It looked evil. I saw it for about 5 - 10 seconds before something caused me to quickly look back at my daughter. And when I looked back - the "gnome" was gone. I immediately took my daughter home.
I suffered terrible anxiety and nightmares after. I had this fear that the gnome hitched a ride with us home. And that it was constantly watching me from around corners, and moving items around the house. Definitely one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in my life. I don't know if my mind created the image of the gnome or what... but what I felt was not friendly.
The interesting part of this report is the pure, overwhelming irrational fear the sighting invoked in her. Is this some fear being exuded by the entity itself, merely a fear of the unknown, or some innate physical reaction or revulsion to seeing something we on an instinctual level know does not belong in our world? Whatever it is, this is a common feature of many gnome encounters, and a similar story comes from another Reddit user who gives the following report:
I was about 7 or 8 and every morning when I would wake up I would go into my grandmas room and lay in bed with her until she got up. One morning I go in and get in the blankets and lay down with her I look over and next to the dresser in front of the closet are 2 6-8inch little men. I just stared at them frozen because I was terrified. I finally closed my eyes hard and hoped they would go away. I opened them up and they were gone. I’ve always wondered if what I saw was real but I can picture it so vividly like I can even remember what they were wearing. One had a red shirt and one had an orange shirt. To this day (I’m 30 now) though I am terrified of garden gnomes like panicky, sweaty palms, racing heart kind of scared. Any idea of what they could have been or if I have a good reason to be afraid of them?
Again there is that sense of foreboding and dread, a fear that seems to lodge itself into the witnesses’ minds and which they themselves often cannot explain. In another Reddit account there is a report by user “ashehole64,” who also gained a lifelong fear of gnomes from his own encounter when he was very young. He says:
I was 6 and out back of my grandfathers house (in the woods) and I had a small dog named Nova. well I was an outdoor child and hated playing inside so I took my dog and went for a walk in the woods. my grandfather has a shed right at the tree line so I always made sure I stayed close enough that I could see it. This time I decided to play to the right of the shed, maybe 10 feet away. My dog started growling over that way at a hole under it. (we assumed a groundhog lived there) So I ignored him and kept playing. Then I heard a shuffling sound and looked over and I swear to god I saw two little short dudes with what looked like pointy hats on, I don't remember the color of their clothes but they were bright and very noticeable against the light blue shed. They stared at me and stopped moving when I looked at them, then I grabbed Nova and ran back to the house and never saw them again. But ever since I've had a ridiculous irrational fear of gnomes. It's so bad that I wouldn't go in my friends house when I picked him up the one time, I literally waited outside in the car because I saw his mom had gnomes out front. lol it sounds silly but I'm scared to death of them!
In Ron Quinn’s book Mysterious Disappearances: And Other Strange Tales there is a report from a witness called “George,” who was one day hiking up in the Catskills Mountains of upstate New York when he had his brush with the weird. He claims that at around noon he stopped to have something to eat, sitting down under some trees to do so. As he sat enjoying the peace and quite he suddenly heard what sounded like voices, and shortly after that there appeared four little men described as being only 18 inches in height, wearing gray ragged clothing and pointed wide-brimmed hats. Three of the little men had full beards, while one of them was clean-shaven, and they were chattering away with each other in some unknown language that George could not understand. For a moment, the gnomes did not seem to be aware that they were being watched at all, but then they looked in George’s direction and as they did so he says that he was paralyzed with an inexplicable, overwhelming terror, a sensation he describes as “like frozen stuck in time.” He remained in this state of petrified fear until the little men passed, after which he returned back to normal and was able to move again. It is curious that, as with other similar accounts, the gnomes almost seemed to have used this fear as a defensive tactic, and that they are the origin of it.
In many instances this fear is totally unfounded, just a sort of general feeling of dread that seems to repel the witness and lodge itself into them without any outward sign of hostility from the gnomes themselves, yet on other occasions the gnomes seem to physically menace the witness. One such account, also from Mysterious Disappearances: And Other Strange Tales, allegedly happened in Canada in 2004 to a witness called Kirk W. He claims that as he and his wife were driving back from visiting family along a wooded road there appeared two frantic women who flagged them down. Thinking that there had been an accident, Kirk pulled over and the two women excitedly began to spin a wild tale indeed.
They claimed that they had been driving along the road when 6 or 7 tiny little men with little floppy hats, beards, and “shaggy clothing” had come cavorting out of the forest and caused them to slam on their brakes. Three of the little men came charging towards the car almost as if in a sort of challenge, and another had jumped onto the hood of the vehicle and jumped up and down on it while scowling at the terrified occupants. This went on for about 2 minutes before the little men either calmed down or got bored, and they all filed away into the wilderness. Kirk says that he then went to go investigate the scene of the supposed encounter, and while he did not see any gnomes himself he did see some inexplicable movement in the brush.
From the same book is the tale of a man named Pat O’ Leary, and is an older report supposedly from the year 1884. Pat apparently saw a little man standing just 15 inches high standing along a rural road and decided to chase him. The gnome was described as being remarkably quick and agile for his size, but somehow he managed to keep up with it. He purportedly chased it into a clearing but it had vanished. As Pat looked around for it he was suddenly pelted in the forehead by a ball of mud, which would later prove to have left an inexplicable mole behind. Whatever this thing was, it did apparently did not appreciate being chased.
In still other reports these gnomes seem to be completely oblivious to us, or even surprised that we can see them or scared of us, and it all leaves us wondering just what is going on here, and whether these entities are benevolent, indifferent, or malicious. Indeed, what is the nature of these creatures and how can such things exist or be a part of the world we know in the first place? Do they even exist outside of the realm of imagination and fairy tales at all? Considering the sheer absurdity of the idea of minuscule bearded little men in pointed hats, if they are real, one explanation could be that these are visitors from some other reality or parallel universe, either intentionally or accidentally falling through some thin spot between our realms. This would explain their pure otherworldliness and inscrutable behavior. Another is that these are some sort of spiritual or interdimensional tricksters, merely taking the form of gnomes based on our mental image of them. It still does little to explain their motives, or why such encounters can be either playful or sinister, and whatever is going on here or whether they are real or not, gnome encounters are just about some of the strangest paranormal phenomena there are.