by Dan Green
Back in 1989 I was visited at my home by university lecturer and journalist Joe Cooper from Leeds. We had exchanged a number of correspondences having been mutually introduced to one another by author Colin Wilson. Joe was a fervent believer in fairies and once shared with me an enlarged area from a convincing black and white picture he had been sent, showing what looked like an elf. Joe arrived with a lingering dilemma asking my wife and I for advice. He was the person who was told in private in 1982 by cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright that their concept shattering Cottingley Fairies photos taken in 1917 had been faked by them both. The cousins wrote to The Times newspaper in London the following year openly explaining their deception.
Pic 1: The case of the Cottingley fairies
It had taken Joe many years and visits to the cousins to try and extract any potential confession which only came after they had fallen out with each other. His dilemma was this – his long term research and painstaking manuscript for a book ‘The case of the Cottingley fairies’ was with his publisher and about to be published but since the girls had finally announced the controversy as a hoax, should he ‘look the other way’ and still have his book published as it supported the claims of the girls having really seen fairies nearby the stream at the Cottingley beck. A compromise was finally reached. Four of the five pictures, that had claimed to be of real fairies, were faked by the girls using hat pins and cut outs, but the fifth one they said was genuine. They had faked the first four out of frustration at not being able to capture real fairies they saw, on film.
Pic 2; The faked photos – sold at auction in 2018 for $25,000
In 1983 under close analysis, the final photo was also declared fake, announced as nothing more than an unintended double exposure of one of the cut outs. The revelation given to Joe had caused him a mental breakdown his wife revealed in 2017, and he had left home. After declaration of the fifth photo also being sham, thus ended the last chance for a case of the Cottingley fairies, that had fooled the world for 65 years. When something like this happens, people tend to declare that all encounters with fairies cannot be sincere and that everyone should have known better from the beginning, but this may not be so. Acknowledging that since the advent of Photoshop and other advanced technologies it is now easier than ever to fake fairy photography, and so photos as evidence may well also be a thing of the past. Fuelled by the Cottingley episode I did my own research, quickly learning that people have claimed to have seen fairies for centuries and all over the world, allowing for adaptation to one’s own culture, the earliest recorded mention of them coming from 1000Bc in Homer’s The iliad.
Pic 3; Wollaton Park Gnomes, local newspaper report
In September 1979 a much publicised fairy encounter was reported when a group of six children aged from 8-10 visiting Wollaton Park in Nottinghamshire witnessed at dusk approximately 60 little men wearing blue tops and yellow tights with jester type bobbly hats, wrinkled faces and long white beards, driving around in small motorcars. Apparently the park has had a long history of fairies being spotted there and a sighting was as recent as 2016. The collective accounts of the children, interviewed separately, showed a solid consistency and with no signs of a collective hoax. With a growing interest in such reports, three years later I contacted the Scottish charitable Trust the Findhorn Foundation after learning that since the previous decade they had been working in co-creation with the intelligence of nature, and in particular the elemental kingdom that includes nature spirits. I had bought a cassette tape of theirs narrated by a retired Scottish scientist Robert Ogilvie Crombie. Robert had been innocently sitting in Edinburgh’s splendid Botanical Gardens when suddenly the nature god Pan appeared to him along with a retinue of attendant fairies. He thought he had gone mad but this was the start of an ongoing adventure for him whereby he received instruction from Pan’s elemental kingdom. Robert met with the figure again on the island of Iona, where there has always been talk of the fairies being active in certain parts of the island.
Pic 4: Robert Ogilvie Crombie
It’s tempting to suggest that Mr Crombie HAD gone mad, but there’s no evidence nor do I think that was ever the case. Somehow he had found himself attuned to an incoming information accompanied by visual and audio stimulation, perhaps this had arrived by way of his own subconscious. Had somebody stood alongside him when he witnessed these manifestations it’s unlikely that they too would have seen them, and this is not an uncommon phenomenon. I recently contacted Findhorn to ask if they still work with the fairies and their Enquiries Office told me; ‘We do still open to connect with the subtle beings and to co-create with them in our daily activities and especially when gardening. As you may well be aware of, these beings have their life and move in a different dimension than our physical reality, so to see them with physical eyes is a privilege and a blessing.’ No change there then!
Pic 5; The nature god Pan
With all this fairy activity apparently about, I thought it high time that I try to involve myself. Nearby where I lived in the North East of England in the town of South Shields was a field in a naturally wooded area, a part of the town’s Marine and Technical College where I’d play football frequently during my teens. Although I am not psychic I was drawn to a particular part of the area and after some research located from old maps, found that it had once been called ‘Fair field’. I wondered if this might have been a corruption from ‘Fairy field’ and so decided to carry out an experiment. Having read many accounts of how one might stand a chance to interact with the fairy realm, I dotted actual stone garden gnomes around about inside the small wood and, with my preferred understanding that consciousness is everywhere, simply asked aloud that if this was where fairies did reside then would they allow themselves to be photographed. I took a number of exposures with this thought and request in mind.
Pic 6; Seeing Fairies by Marjorie T. Johnson
The result was quite intriguing, for when I studied the prints I could clearly see subtle images of almost, but not quite, transparent figures of what we portray as elves and gnomes, staring at the camera and some even appearing to be studying the stone garden gnomes! On no occasion were any winged. The next bit is equally interesting for when I showed the photos to a small number of people some could see exactly what I did and others struggled to even make out any figures. Deeply disappointed by this but equally intrigued, I reminded myself that I knew a little bit about the condition where the brain ensures we will see what we expect to see and nothing else, and so a fairy ‘believer’ would easily pick out the figures whilst sceptics would see nothing. It’s a case of not only is seeing believing, but we also see what we believe. Psychologists have this covered with their Pareidolia, the tendency to interpret vague stimulus as something known to the observer, and whilst this is most likely an acceptable explanation in most instances and it is absolutely true that the brain will instantly search out and present us with meaningful patterns, I think it unfair to dismiss the possibility that some people might actually see what they are seeing rather than an illusion suggested to them.
Pic 7; Sithean Mor, the fairy hill of Iona
With this is mind (possibly a pun there!) I decided I needed some independent help and so I contacted The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP, which had just been founded the previous year) with my experiments, who put me in touch with their photographic expert and co-founder Dr Vernon Harrison, former President of the Royal Photographic Society. He was keen to look at my photos – I’d returned and taken more with the same results – and declared the negatives genuine with no trickery involved. I send him photocopies of the pictures circling the ‘entities’ as he would go on to call them, and he agreed he could see what I was on about. His first bit of advice was to tell me to rotate the photos 360 degrees and if the entity dissolved then it had no substance, but if it remained that would be another matter.
Vernon was quite happy to involve himself in the affair and wrote a fair, balanced report for the ASSAP saying that he though it merited further investigation. He suggested he came to South Shields and to the ‘fairy field’ to take photos there for himself using his own equipment, and that he would continue taking more photos about one minute apart. If entities showed up on the first batch of photos and then appeared to move about and retain their identity on the ones taken minutes apart, there would be no getting away from it – we’d be capturing real fairies on film! Further disappointment wasn’t far away though – the ASSAP ignored his request for funding and as a consequence he never made the trip. This both frustrated and puzzled him as it was the first time he had ever been refused their usual assistance in an investigation. Perhaps like most scientists when asked about UFO’s, they didn’t think there can possibly be a case to answer to – fairies aren’t real – and therefore preferred to save their money and return us to the conventional, orthodox way of thinking that they only belong to the realm of imagination.
Pic 8; Trow Rocks, South Shields.
Regarding my photos, which I wish I still had now but lost years ago, I reminded myself of the American Ted Serios who during the 1960’s allegedly could imprint psychic images onto photographic film by his own thoughts. Had I somehow and unwittingly done the same? Was the Unconscious Mind at work? I had one further experience with a fairy flavour and it was about a year afterwards when I was treading warily on the slippy coastal rocks of the South Shields sea side. From a short distance away I suddenly heard the weirdest ‘music’ I have ever come across, if indeed it was even music. It emanated from behind a big rock not too far away in front of me. My initial thoughts were that somebody must be sitting behind it trying to tune into a radio station. It lasted for only about ten seconds but when I looked behind the rock there was nobody there. I next thought that perhaps some mixture of music had drifted over from the distant fair and amusement park, carried by the wind, but there was no evidence of any other sounds coming from any other direction. In those days I wasn’t aware of what we call a common auditory hallucination. I have since learned that this ‘fairy music’ can emanate from rocks and has been heard by people in similar situations.
Pic 9; Real encounters with the Little People – Janet Bord
It was no surprise when I afterwards learned that this tranquil, natural part of the coast I had frequented often and alone – called Trow Rocks – had its own legend of fairies inhabiting it. An account of ‘The Legend of the Fairies Kettle’, an 1897 manuscript, had been kept in a safe in the church of St Hilda’s in the town, and I acquired their copy. Encounters with the fairy folk are legion and from all manner of sources. A typical example was recounted in an online forum in 2006 when a lady hanging out her washing in a small field filled with tall grass and weeds saw the grass rustling. Thinking it was a cat or dog walking through, she was amazed to see at about 10’ away a 2.5’ tall gnome walk out from the clearing. Both were shocked to see each other and stood staring for about a minute and a half before he dematerialised. I find this a significant aspect of encounters and it has been noted before, when the fairy figure appears unsettled that a human can see them.
Pic 10; What would YOU think if you saw a gnome?
For those eager to read more about seeing fairies, I recommend the 2014 book of the same title by Marjorie T. Johnson, thousands of fairy folk in over 400 reports from around the world, and ‘Fairies – Real encounters with the Little People’ by Janet Bord (1997). The following day after my wife was born, her mother, who had no psychic ability, saw small fairy figures jumping over each other and rolling about in an apparent game, on her bedroom window ledge. Some might say she may still have been suffering trauma from giving child birth and therefore susceptible to hallucination. But why fairies of all things? How can the brain make this scenario up?
So what is going on here? In a recent article for World Mysteries ‘In through the Out Door,’ I attempted to explain how it is possible for people to suddenly ‘trip out’ and experience a hallucination, owing to the small content in our brain of the hallucinogenic chemical DMT which can be triggered into action by numerous causes. I also raised the point that currently, neurologists still don’t really understand enough about what hallucinations are, although they are quick to point out that they are something we see that has no reality. I might want to argue that if we see something it must have some form of reality otherwise how else can see it!
Pic 11; A thought image created by Ted Serios
And now for the overall world mystery concerning people who see what we call fairies. It has been observed for some time now by researchers that there appears to be an as of yet undiscovered or understood mysterious agency, paranormal pattern, and changing paradigm which first started with seeing angels, then moving away and onto seeing fairies and morphing yet again to see what we nowadays refer to as aliens. Can the experience be evolving – a distinct change, an evolution? The fairy sightings are the central pivot of this swing. Is it possible, asks fairy historian Dr Simon Young, that the fairy phenomenon changes with the centuries? It’s hard to pronounce ‘fairies’ without including and sounding ‘varies’, and with the meaning of the word being ‘to undergo or cause to undergo change, alteration or modification in appearance, character, form, attribute; to be subject to change’ then maybe these mysterious apparitions now ought to be called the Varies instead! Simon, co-author of ‘Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies’ with Ceri Houlbrook, spent four years studying the results of his 1,062 strong online poll, discovering that 44% said they had seen an actual fairy, 1 in 5 see them regularly, and 4% didn’t believe what they’d seen – compare this with the statistic that 1 in 20 of the general public will experience at least one natural hallucination in their lifetime, and a survey suggesting 2% of modern adults are born capable of a spontaneous deep state hallucination.
Pic 12; Fairy sightings Map of Britain and Ireland compiled by Simon Young
The problem I have with the conclusion of all these experiences being nothing more than a meaningless hallucination or ‘brain fiction’, is this; If a person visibly encounters a traditional fairy figure say, perhaps in Ireland where the fairy lore has always had some form of belief, and another individual espies a fairy somewhere in Russia, and yet another individual is met by a fairy in Australia (all perhaps slightly in line with their own cultural background), then it is quite acceptable to say that for whatever reason they have had a brief hallucination, maybe caused by a sudden chemical imbalance and intervention by DMT. But, one would think, an unexpected and sudden hallucination would be exclusive to the individual person experiencing it. Again, why fairies?
So how come people right across the world are seeing hallucinations of the same presentation – small figures in their own colourful costumes, and with the same features down to the minutest detail? Wouldn’t one expect to have their own personalised, individual experience unlike that of any one else, something completely random? There are only two possibilities. One, that we have an unknown area of our brain that contains these figures that we can project outside of ourselves in an instant for some periods of time before cessation, or there really is a ‘Fairyland’ where their occupants can, under circumstances we do not have knowledge of, manifest themselves and appear briefly into our world? If there is any other explanation, I should like to hear of it.
Such is the conundrum presently beyond our knowledge to explain, whereby interestingly unusual events are having to do with an unpremeditated state of consciousness and the mystery that is the human brain.
Copyright 2019 by Dan Green
For Dan’s investigations into other areas of intrigue; www.dangreencodex.co.uk