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The Little People

September 3, 2011

Picture the scene. A family on holiday in the highlands of Scotland. They have had their dinner in their creaky but comfortable hotel and are now out enjoying the evening air. The aprés dinner stroll on holiday has an air of self-satisfaction to it, unsurpassed by all other activities*. The family are content. They have walked a circuit round the village and are now returning along a road that slopes downwards towards the peripheral houses. To the left of them, the hill slopes upwards into a thick blanket of bracken, moss and heather. To their right, a thick pine forest runs down towards the loch, a hundred yards below.

The sun is low in the sky. The light is a heady mix of peaches and cream and the road is honeycomb orange. The pines cast a shadow down the middle of the road. Unselfconsciously the family walks abreast of the road, confident that they will hear any vehicle behind them, or see anything before them. They chat. Distracted. Happy.

Then up ahead, not far ahead, only five or six yards away, a black cat has walked out into the road and seeing the approaching family, has returned back to the safety and anonymity of the forest. It was a short stroll for the cat, only a matter of seconds. But the family saw it. And the sight of it silenced them.

Because the cat walked on its hind legs. And, it wasn’t a cat.

It couldn’t be. It was a… Well, it couldn’t be. The way it walked. The rhythm of its gait, the way its head was bowed, the curve of its back, and its two arms held out in front of it like, like… It was the same size as a black cat, and the same shade: featureless, an animated silhouette. But it wasn’t a cat. It was a little person. 

And the family saw this. Certainly, they reacted as if something had happened, because the talking stopped. Like a switch tripped, the sighting had banished the atmosphere of human discourse and a strange silence descended. A conspiracy of silence. The family just continued back to the hotel without saying a word. As if they had just been threatened by a murderer, or struck by blow to the head. The sighting was never discussed amongst them then, or to this day**.

Only I’ve decided to share this experience now. It was my family and I would have been about 9 or 10 years old at the time.

I’ve had quite a few incredible experiences, which naturally, I’d rather not discuss. I rarely share my own experiences for fear of not being taken seriously. After all, we talk about a witness being credible, so how can a credible witness witness the incredible?  They can’t. Experiences outside the norm are stigmatizing. Normality asserts itself through intimidation and ridicule. Paranormal Investigators are usually motivated by proving the existance of the paranormal, by presenting credible witnesses, credible testimony and credible evidence. Their case isn’t helped by the ridiculous and the incredible.

And ‘The Little People‘ out of all paranormal phenomena are quite patently the most ridiculous and the least credible.. But, wouldn’t you know, I have seen ‘a little person‘. This makes me sound like a right nutter, and once you combine that with my ‘I saw the Loch Ness Monster***‘ anecdote, then I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to stop reading now (and forever more). I’m just as sceptical as you are. I find it just as incredible as you do. It’s just that, I’m the person who has had this experience and it’s incumbent on me to rationalise it.

So, who might the ‘Little People’ be? Well, I am now well aware of the folklore, both traditional and modern, regarding the ‘little people’, but I’m going to skip all that. I can do no better than recommend ‘The Fairy Faith‘ by Evans-Wentz, or the work of Katharine Mary Briggs. For myself, I assert no concrete reality to the little people – or indeed, demand that any paranormal experience be accepted as ‘real’. I am happy to accept that my experiences were some kind of extra-subjective experience, not para-normal, but something between real and unreal****.

I think that if it is possible for people to dream of fantastic lands like Atlantis or Hy-Brasil, then so too can the land dream of people. Except the land dreams of people as people should be: discreet, timeless and sparkling with wisdom.

I apologise if this makes me sound as if I’m advocating a conscious universe, a neo-platonic animistic dreamworld, a holographic infoverse, but I am. And if that makes me sound as if I’m away with the fairies, then maybe I am.

Maybe I am.



*Yes, there may be those who swear by their swinging parties in the lofty penthouses of London, but the crunch of gravel beneath my feet in a country lane is my idea of a peak experience.  You will note that I particularly enjoy twilight strolls.

**This kind of instantaneous amnesia, or lack of proper conscious reaction to anomalous experience, is well-known to students of Forteana. Indeed, the Fortean Times has regular rounds of correspondence on the subject, with some pretty fascinating examples. Especially when one person in a group shares an observation/experience with others, but then finds themselves in the alarming and unique situation of being the sole person to remember it! The likeliest explanation is that our brains do not cope well with novel or exotic experiences, and as such, bizarre experiences are easily barred by over-zealous concierges of our consciousness*****. My own Mother has heard her own ‘concierge‘ speak. She once witnessed a curious hissing sphere of ball lightning floating from one end of her bedroom to the other. She was initially alarmed, then she heard a voice say ‘this is not for you‘ (or words to that effect), which relaxed her and she swiftly fell asleep. The curious footnote to this yarn is that she never mentioned it to my father, as she just assumed it was yet another one of her David Lynch style visions. Yet 20 years later, she found out that my Dad had seen the whole thing (but heard no reassuring voice. It’s just my Mum that has Psychic Satnav). There could be another 20 pages of blog on the subject of my Mystic Mum, but I want to spare you that. I’ve had 40 years of “I knew that plane was going to crash, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah“. Her uncritical acceptance is one of the reasons that I need to investigate the paranormal. I may have bizarre experiences, and have spent my life surrounded by bizarre experiences, but that’s no excuse for sloppy thinking. Or accepting uncritically crazy nonsense******.

***This is another blog entry for another day, but yes – I have seen the Loch Ness Monster. It’s a long story, but I wasn’t really expecting to see Nessie, as I was in the neighbourhood to see a phantom battle instead. But hey ho: phantom battle nil, loch monster one. Recently, I was visiting Loch Morar, with the express intention of seeing ‘Morag‘. Yes, yes, it’s corny but it’s true. Loch Ness has Nessie, Loch Morar had Morag, and even Loch Sheil has …Deborah. Only kidding. Sheila, of course. Anyway, when on a holiday up north recently, my good lady & I didn’t see Morag the monster of Loch Morar, but – true to form – experienced something else…  Which in itself is corny and unbelievable. It’s almost as if ‘The Cosmic Trickster‘ is on my case… “Heh heh, here comes Innes Smith… What is he expecting this time!? X? Let’s give him Y!” 

****As a terribly serious paranormal investigator that adheres to (and salutes!) the ‘scientific method’, I’m increasingly becoming used to the idea that Ontology is just a big distraction. The obsession of whether something is objectively real or not, may actually be counterproductive to helping people cope with their experience, and be a hurdle towards understanding something central to paranormal phenomena: its innately marginal and undefinable state. The paranormal, after all, rarely submits itself to scientific scrutiny anyway… I probably could end up happily investigating the paranormal with a “who cares if it’s real” attitude – which sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it? Yes. Yes it does. But maybe that’s the way for me to go? Like a poet tracking down rogue troubling metaphors. A subjective detective. A Magistrate of The Maybe. A Narrator drafted in to proof read reality and provide convincing copy to cradle rattled readers!  ahem To sum up: I think real progress can only be made in psychical research/parapsychology when we learn to grasp that reality might be more complicated than simply dividing everything into ‘real’ and ‘unreal’. The evidence simply doesn’t support the notion that the paranormal is just ‘rarely occuring natural phenomena’. It’s far weirder than that… It irritates me when spiritualists or mystics say ‘the paranormal is not paranormal, it’s just normal’ Something that exists for one person, but not for another, is not ‘real’. Something that exists temporarily is not real. We could end up down a quantum cul-de-sac debating this point, and then get lost in another ontological debate, blathering on about ‘what is reality?’;  so I’ll stop before it gets incredible.

*****The other possibility is that the stunned witness had an entirely psychological experience. It’s all in their head: maybe the experience or the remembering of it. All hallucinatory. I am not adverse to this interpretation of my own experience or experiences. After all, I do not dogmatically insist that ‘just because I’ve experienced it, it definitely happened!’ My brain has been marinaded in agnosticism for so long, that I’m at ease with doubt.. Besides, as I said above – I think that reality is not just black and white, but shades of grey too.

******This is a nod to Bobby Henderson’s satirical religion, ‘The Flying Spaghetti Monster’, which is part of his  attack on ‘crazy nonsense’. Indeed, the purpose of the Pastafarian Movement is to be ‘anti-crazy nonsense’.  The often sheer mind-boggling weirdness of paranormal phenomena is one reason why ‘Athiests/Advocates of Scientism’ are so hostile to it: like Newton, they like reality neat and tidy.  One eminent sceptic, Martin Gardiner, so beloved of Athiests everywhere, was actually a Christian. His belief in God was rarely discussed at CSICOP Conferences.  He was  hostile to the existence of Psi and the Paranormal because of the moral implications of psychic interference and the chaos and anarchy that would follow in Psi’s weird wake. What if we could all influence the roll of a die? Or want a good person to die, or a bad person to live? Psychic anarchy!  Clearly, Gardiner’s God was the God of clean white, unfussy Lutheran Churches. A distant God, who wished to limit his intercession for fear of clutter. Often the paranormal is very crazy and very nonsensical. The paranormal’s incredibility and nonsense keeps the credible and sensible person at bay…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Allan permalink
    September 4, 2011 3:41 pm

    You will never get Sinclair to admit to seeing the little person, even if he remembers. And Pog will have been young enough for people to dismiss his memory.

  2. September 4, 2011 11:24 pm

    The drawing is misleading. I actually noticed ‘it’ far closer; maybe no more than 3 metres away walking back towards the edge of the trees. When I realised what it was, I immediately looked away thinking ‘oh, I don’t want to see that’. Total denial. A sort of acute psychological embarrassment. Immediately blanked it out. But I also remember no-one talking. Like we all saw it, but didn’t like to admit it.

    It’s funny because I hesitated so much before I published this blog entry, because it’s so ridiculous. But maybe that’s one tangible aspect of crawling over the 40 year mark: I care less about what other people think.

    Maybe I’ll turn this blog into a Jerry Springer Paranormal Confessional?

  3. September 4, 2011 11:32 pm

    Oh,and it wasn’t The Highlands, it was actually Argyll – and the road was near Tighnabruaich.

  4. Graham permalink
    September 21, 2011 9:36 pm

    If you’re going to see the little people, then ten years old at twilight is exactly the right time to have seen them, I’d say.

  5. Joss permalink
    October 6, 2011 4:21 pm

    ****! Your damn box has deleted me for the third time.
    Let me take you up on the ontological misgivings in your quadruply starred footnote (and my quadruply starred headnote):

    I tend to agree. Scientific method is quite good at working with physical processes, applied science/technology, and to some degree, molecular medicine. But it has very little – if anything – to say about human experience. Every time some superior twerp with a university ‘chair’ explains slowly to the rest of us that near death experiences are JUST a bunch of neurons firing synchronistically due to lack of oxygen and that God is JUST a delusion that can be induced with a magnetic field, I wanna shake their silly little minds out of their brainpans. Poke their anterior sulcuses. What they don’t seem to realise is that discovering a possible physical process underlying these phenomena doesn’t explain them away – it just suggests what the underlying physiology might be that lets us experience them. It has nothing to say about how such experiences might fit into and inform (or transform) modes of human culture. Because they have somehow forgotten that we exist whether we like it or not in a fascinating, overlapping, unimaginably complex and rich four dimensional liquid network of cultural and anthropological constructions. Hah!

    So you stick with your never-to-be-mentioned Wee Man, and let him keep on existing in a simultaneously superimposed series of possible physiological, psychological, chronological and dimensional explanations. Isn’t it wonderful to have a few experiences that can’t be explained?

    As for a knowing universe, its determination to let us have only so much information about it per explanatory paradigm (e.g. being able to know either the precise location or the spin axis of any given particle, but not both at the same time when using quantum theory) smells suspiciously, rattishly like knowingness to me.

    And speaking of smells, I am here because listening to a BBC telling of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth earlier, with its frequent references to the fishy reek of the town and the Innmouth ‘look’ did put me in mind of you. So here I am/was (please collapse wave function as you see fit).


  6. October 11, 2011 2:50 pm

    Ah bless Joss!
    It’s good to have you back! What about your own site? Did it collapse? Has it been relegated to an alternative dimension?
    I fortunately made the grand migration across to WordPress, and I’m glad I did. All your filthy chatter is preserved for ..well, for as long as a server in Idaho isn’t blown up by the next Unabomber.
    If your old site is gone, then *sigh*, Do you have an alternative cyber bolt-hole?

    As for the subject in hand, well, yes. There is a tiresome tautological argument that gets us nowhere when we discuss such matters with ‘reductionists’. Not that I’m anti-science, or hostile to the current paradigm, or to scientists who are frustrated with the paranormal – I am too – I’m just too tired to argue with people about what is real, and what isn’t.

    Anyway, welcome back!
    Ciao for now,
    Innes / C

  7. October 12, 2011 9:55 pm

    I enjoyed your sighting and your thoughts very much. There’s so much speculations around the legends and lore of the little people. Modern sightings of them keep them so intriguing to me.
    I admire you and applaud you for sharing your story and your deep thoughts and speculations.
    I hope you don’t mind but I’ve made a blog post with a link to your story. I hope you’ll visit sometime and let me know if you approve of it or not.
    Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts.

  8. October 14, 2011 5:47 pm

    I don’t mind at all.
    I have visited your site and I enjoy it: a veritable hub of all things fay.
    I wonder though: why are you so interested in the subject?

    I’ve another modern fairie tale, though, not my own experience. It’s one I heard from a man living in the Highlands, an Englishman who had just moved to a Highland Village with his two young daughters.
    He had spent his first 2 weeks moving in before properly going into the village to meet his neighbours (his house is an impressive Victorian Villa on the very outskirts of the village).
    It was when he was speaking with the locals that they mentioned that there was a ‘still inhabited’ fairy mound in his garden. He was amused at this…but also thoughtful, because during the first week his two daughters were playing in the garden. They ran into the house shouting ‘Daddy, Daddy! We saw little brown people coming out of the hill! They ran round the trees, then went back in again’…

    He assumed that they were just little girls making up stories and forgot about it.
    But now….?

    What do you think?

    This happened about 30 years ago. I spoke with the Father. I’d love to hear it from the (now grown up) girls..

    Also, the mound itself is pretty impressive. It’s a rather bizarre incongruous mound at the side of the drive up to the house. It’s about 4 metres high and 12 metres diameter. I assume that it is the remains of a vitrified fort or some kind of other ancient earthworks…

    • October 17, 2011 8:34 am

      Thanks for sharing the fairy mound story with me. It does give one cause for pause as to the little girls possibly not making up seeing the little people. Like you, I’d love to hear what the girls would say about it now. It’s a tough call on if was real or just good fun, but identifying a fairy mound in his garden certainly gives an interesting twist to speculate further on. I’ve never seen a fairy mound, or if I have, I didn’t know it. I’m guessing you’re right about it possibly being an ancient earthwork or fort of some sort. I think it’d be real tempting to dig around in it to see.

      I’ll give you the short version of my interest in nature folks:
      Like you, I have a personal interest in it, but it’s not something that I thought about over the decades… until I learned about the discovery of H. floresiensis fossils. Then I watched the movie ‘Willow’, it was a fiction movie, but peeked my curiosity about the possibilities of how little people may interact with big people in real life other than elusively.
      I began searching the internet for modern sightings of fae and nature folks. I also bought books on real or realistic sightings or info. My blog is more less my library of reference and my thoughts and speculations (along with a rant or too 😉 )

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your nice thoughts about it.

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