There is perhaps no more famous a figure from Irish lore than the fairy-tale creature known as the leprechaun. They are typically depicted as diminutive little people, a type of fairy entity, with beards and dressed in coats and hats, and in most lore they are considered to be mischievous pranksters, although also very good at cobbling shoes and making handicrafts. The popular notion in the mainstream is of them having a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and by most every account of them one would think that these beings must be purely confined to the realms of myth and folklore, but according to some strange reports they have stepped right out of the world of fantasy and into reality.
There is actually a surprisingly large number of such outlandish, unlikely cases. One of these weird stories was related by Reddit user “helpful person1,” who says he was told this report by a professional looking Irish man who he had struck up a conversation with. The topic turned to folklore and the poster says:
Having been long fascinated with Irish folklore (and being a strong believer in the good folk), I couldn’t resist asking him if he believed in the fae. When I asked this, his friendly eyes became serious, and a bit nostalgic. He said ” I do, and my father saw a leprechaun once. Clear as day, he saw it.” The story went something like this… (I will try to type it in this man’s beautiful and lyrical Irish way of speaking so you can hear him say it)
My old man was very kind, but stoic. He didn’t tell this to many people, and when I asked him about it he would hush me unless we were alone, or with family. They knew as well. Anyway, it happened in his hometown, a rural village that must’ve had a population of about 100 people at the time. As a kid, he’d walk home alone from the local national school to the family’s house that was outside of town. One day, he was walkin’ along and just before his house he saw a wee fella sittin’ on the side of the road. The lad was tiny (*he gestured to a length of about two feet*), and he was wearin’ tweed, a vest and all, a hat, you know. Red hair. And he was sittin’ down makin’ leather shoes. Just like ya hear leprechauns do. Anyway, my dad couldn’t believe it. He blinked, looked around, but the lad was still there. Just workin’ away on his shoes. So my dad started walkin’ up to him, and when he got to about three metres away, he couldn’t get any closer. It was like my dad hit a force field or somethin’ around the leprechaun. Mind ya, the wee fella hadn’t looked up this whole time. My dad sprinted to his front door, screamin’ for his sister all the way to come look. He and my aunt (who was just a kid at the time) ran back outside to see, but the leprechaun was gone. Just had disappeared like nothin’.
Is this just a tall tale or something more? A very strange story that appeared in various news sources at the time comes from 1964, in the city Liverpool, England, at a place called Jubilee Park. Here there are expanses of green parkland, peaceful meadows, and golf courses, and it was here in that year people began reporting that they had seen leprechauns lurking about, especially in an area called the Bowling Greens. The otherworldly tiny beings were described as being anywhere from just a few inches tall to several feet, and had the traditional appearance of being bearded little men with bushy eyebrows and dressed in white hats with green coats, and some of the reports even said that the men themselves had green skin. The creatures were mostly called “leprechauns” by the witnesses, and the media picked the term up. One witness at the time would say:
I was one of the school children that saw those leprechauns I attended Brae Street School and we all saw them popping in and out of a window overlooking the school yard, there were about 4 of them all tiny dressed like a school book idea of a typical gnome and they sat swinging their legs on the window ledge getting in and out. What they were I don’t know I only know what they looked like. I’d love to know the truth!!! I certainly [remember leprechauns], and I actually saw a few of them on Kensington Fields, close to the library, but my parents and other adults tried to convince me that I’d been seeing things. This would be one afternoon in early July 1964, around 4.30pm, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was 10 at the time and on my way to play football with my mates and saw these little (I’d say just a few inches tall) men dressed in red and black, standing in the grass, looking at me. I’m sure one of them had some type of hat on. I panicked and ran all the way home. My mum said there had been reports of leprechauns and little men on Jubilee Drive and Edge Lane the day before. That same evening crowds turned up on Jubilee Drive, and I remember a girl with a jam jar that she was going to put the leprechauns in!
When the reports such as this became publicized they generated a lot of interest, and crowds of people, especially children, began to gather at the Bowling Green in the hopes of seeing them. The crowd of curiosity seekers grew so large that police had to go in and clear everyone out, but the reports continued on. In that same year there was a woman living nearby who would claim to have seen three little men wearing green, who were all sitting on a wall and lobbing stones at her barking dog, and another who saw one climbing a tree. Adding to the weirdness of it all was that there were also several UFO sightings in the area during that same year, although what connection these have to the leprechaun flap is unknown. It is also not known why they were called leprechauns other than their appearance, although there is a large population of the descendants of Irish immigrants in the area.
The report of the beings throwing things is interesting, because some of the other reports from the area at the time described the “leprechauns” as often tossing sods of earth or rocks at each other or dumfounded witnesses, and not only does this fit in well with their traditional sense of mischief, but there are other accounts that feature this propensity for throwing things. 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, which they called a “leprechaun,” 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.
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 leprechaun standing just 15 inches high standing along a rural road and decided to chase him. The gnome-like being 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.
It is curious just how many reports of supposed leprechauns happen outside of Ireland or even the British Isles, yet they are still described as leprechauns. One Reddit poster called “ExistentialDread14” claims that she knows of two people who have had leprechauns encounters in western Pennsylvania, in the United States. The first tale she says comes from a police officer she calls “Mike,” and who worked for her ex-boyfriend’s father, the Chief of Police. On this day Mike was out on patrol driving down a road that on either side was a field of tall, dead brown grass when a series of very bizarre events would play out. She says:
All of the sudden, Mike saw what he thought was an animal coming out of the grass on the left side. He said he saw the next sequence of events in slow motion. He tried to slow his cruiser down. He saw that it was not an animal, but indeed a small, bald, dirty man dressed in ragged clothes approximately two feet tall running out from the grass. He slammed on the brakes. The cruiser did not stop fast enough and he hit the small man with the front of the car. The man flew up in the air. Mike jumped out and ran to the front. He said he looked right down at the small man, who he then noticed had reddish brown hair. The little man began a screaming, evil laugh and hopped up, running into the grass on the right side of the road. Mike ran after him but all he heard was the sound of his evil mocking laugh.
When Mike got back to the station, he was visibly shaken. My ex’s father said he was pale white and could barely choke out the story. When he finished telling them what happened, everyone except my ex’s dad began howling with laughter. The other cops teased him relentlessly about the leprechaun story. Since it was about three weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, one of the cops went to the dollar store and bought a leprechaun hat. He left it on Mike’s doorstep with a note stuck in the brim saying “I’M COMING FOR YA MIKEY”. The next morning Mike came in crying and told my ex’s father he was quitting the police. My ex’s father believed Mike and said he could tell he was extremely sincere in his belief that he’d hit a leprechaun. He told the other cops to leave him alone about it and Mike worked with him for years to come. I first heard this story from my ex’s father. I could tell he really believed Mike had seen what he’d seen. Later that year, Mike was over at my ex’s house. I asked Mike about the story. He grew pale and quiet, and he told me exactly the same story my ex’s father had told me earlier. He insists and has always insisted that he hit a leprechaun with his car that day.
The poster’s second account supposedly comes from her childhood best friend “Susan,” who lived in a rural farmhouse that was purportedly haunted. She says that Susan would often tell her about strange things that happened in that old house or on the property, and one of these stories was even stranger than most. She explains:
One morning she came into school and told me in a whisper that she had seen a leprechaun in the hallway of her room the night before. I could tell it scared her. I asked her if she’d ever seen it before, and she said she had. She said she’d heard rustling noises out in the hallway, and gotten out of her bed to peek around the corner. In the corner of the hall she saw a small man approximately two feet tall in dirty clothes with red hair. She froze with fear, then she said the man disappeared. She said she’d seen him before out of the corner of her eye moving in the hallway, at all hours of the day. I remember her clear as day saying to me that it did NOT look like the leprechaun on the Lucky Charms box.
Being an amateur paranormal investigator even at nine, I asked her to draw me a picture. I still have the picture somewhere at my parents. She drew a small man with red hair standing in her hallway. She believed she saw the leprechaun one more time then she told me she never saw it again. It should be noted too that Susan was not asleep or in her bed the times she thought she saw the leprechaun. She would see it out in the hallway or out of the corner or her eye while she was upstairs. I believe too she only saw it over a six-month period. A lot of strange things happened at her house and I know she believed what she saw, and wasn’t just “making up stories.
The poster sums it all up by giving her own theory that what these two people saw were probably a type of impish entity called “Tommyknockers,” which are very similar to leprechauns in some ways. She says of this hypothesis:
Now that I’m older and do paranormal investigation myself, I believe that what Mike and Susan both saw are what are called Tommy Knockers. Tommy Knockers are leprechaun-like creatures believed by immigrant coal miners to live in the mines and move tools and such things. This being western Pennsylvania, each location where the leprechaun was seen was above or near a coal mine. They are often described as dirty, scraggly, sharp featured looking little men with reddish hair. I cannot express how sincere both of them were to me when telling me their stories. I personally know two people who claim to have seen a leprechaun, and are very sincere in their beliefs of having seen a leprechaun; also, the stories are very believable. I personally believe they’ve seen Tommy Knockers, which is sort of the “USA” version of a leprechaun.
It seems that sometimes these supposed leprechauns, gnomes, Tommyknockers, whatever they are, can go beyond mere mischief and rock-throwing to be very sinister indeed, even physically menacing the witness. One such account 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 Reddit user “snickerscowboy” we have a rather menacing encounter with a leprechaun that he believes may be somehow tied to his dead step father, who was of Irish ancestry. He says that the two of them had never gotten along, and that he was often very disrespectful when talking about him after his death, which is perhaps the reason for his ensuing bizarre experience with a leprechaun. He explains of all of this.
Bit of a back story first, my step father was originally from southern Ireland, County Mayo to be exact. He came to the UK in the 70s, met my mother when I was 2 and married her. They went on to have 3 more children. I never got along with him and was treated pretty unfairly by him growing up. Lots of people apart from me also thought he was an asshole for various things and his behavior. My siblings though understandably adored him. He died last September and left me out his final will quite intentionally. A few weeks back I was talking to my wife and I was telling her things he had done, to me when growing up and how I really felt about him. It’s my way of closure, I guess. I wasn’t very respectful and I don’t believe respect is given just cause your dead, its earned whilst alive. One particular night around 3am, after I’d been quite vocal for most of the evening, I was lying next to my wife and if it was a dream then it was clearest one I’ve ever had. The previously dark room lightened considerably, bed room door flew open and a Male figure leapt about 6 feet from the door on top of me.
This figure was quite small and felt almost weightless. He was dressed in really old-fashioned black clothes, like a funeral bearer from a Sherlock Holmes story. A twisted angry face, but most prominent was bright orange curly hair and side burns. He said some words I couldn’t actually hear, I’m also hearing impaired though, but saw his mouth moving. The he lifted a short black twisted stick high into the air, thin on the bottom, heavy on top. He brought it down but before it actually hit me, I opened my eyes wider and he vanished. I lay there fully awake for a good while truly wondering if it actually happened. I wasn’t really scared but very wary and there was no sign or evidence when i got up to check for signs. My wife had slept through whole thing.
These cases and others like them are certainly on the fringe, and leave us to wonder just what to make of them. If there is anything to this at all, then what could we possibly be dealing with here? Are these some type of fairy folk, interdimensional phenomena, or something else? Or are these just legends and lore that have managed to spill out into the real world through tall tales and exaggeration? Are they myth or reality? Whatever the case may be, such reports still make the rounds out there, and serve to add layers to the world of the weird.