I am particularly interested in modern fairy sightings, as I have mentioned in the article ‘Fairies At The Bottom of the Garden’. In that piece, which I drew from Janet Bord’s excellent book on Fairies (Michael O’Mara, 1997), I refer to a modern fairy encounter which was told to me personally. I said I’d go into details but have only just remembered to do so!
After I gave a presentation on Welsh fairylore some years ago I was approached by a lady who told me that one of her neighbours, a respectable and earnestly unimaginative ex-bank manager, had had a very weird experience in his younger days. I asked her to encourage the chap to write to me. He was too embarrassed to do so, but he did allow my contact to write down his story again and send it to me herself – without revealing his identity. This she did.
My correspondent explained that one day in 1961, her neighbour was walking his dog down a country lane called Coed Esgob (Bishop’s Wood), near St Asaph in North Wales. He had walked his dog here very many times before. Halfway along the path there is an old way-sign, now a featureless metal post (in the middle of the picture above). The man paused here and tapped his walking stick against the post several times to knock off some mud.
As if summoned by the tapping, a horrible little man suddenly appeared. He was only three foot tall, was dressed all in green and had an ugly brown face. He glared malevolently at the astonished man, who felt rooted to the spot. His dog growled and raised its hackles at the glowering goblin – who vanished as suddenly as he had come.
As far as is known there are no particular fairy traditions attached to this location, although the whole of North Wales is rich in fairylore. The witness felt a threatening, malevolent atmosphere emanating from the little man. It’s interesting that his dog was not only aware of it, too, but also reacted in fear and anger to the presence. This would seem to rule out an hallucination.
Does the goblin always come when summoned by a tapping on the post? I had my opportunity when I photographed the site in 2004, in preparation for my book Wales of the Unexpected (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2005) and gingerly gave it a go. But, alas, no materialisation.