Fairies, Folklore and Forteana
SIMON YOUNG FILES A NEW REPORT FROM THE INTERFACE OF STRANGE PHENOMENA AND FOLK BELIEF
SEEING THINGS I spent a very pleasant afternoon, this week, going through Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos’s Catalogue of 200 Type-I UFO Events in Spain and Portugal (1976). I was, as it happens, in search of fairy-like entities – the overlap between fairies and aliens always proves fascinating. But I also came across a phenomenon that I have found in many lists of anomalous events: drivers and guards over-represented as witnesses of the ‘impossible’. How often have we read about a driver suddenly glimpsing a ghost, or a fairy, or an ABC or a headless alien, crossing the road, walking by the side of the road, or standing in an adjacent field? But there are also many cases where sentries or guards have claimed to have encountered supernatural entities. Nineteenth-century notices of sentries seeing ghosts are particularly common: I have a list... Ballester Olmos has, meanwhile, a couple of cases with military sentries, and one with a poor man guarding a melon field, all of whom came face-to-face with otherworldly beings. The melon guard was condemned to watching 50 men dressed in blue walk into a hole in the ground near Seville!
Of course, there may be more practical reasons why people in cars see ‘things’: certainly, I see more wildlife in cars than I do on foot – cars have the potential to come and go very quickly and might surprise ‘visitors’. Likewise, sentries are around at night when other people are not, and that is when they tend to have their who-goes-there experiences. The other possibility, though, is that drivers and guards fall into a kind of sleepy concentration for their important but boring responsibilities. ‘Highway hypnosis’ is an established phenomenon. Is it possible that drivers or sentries can enter a trance state compatible with visions? Do their brains throw images into the world as a projector splashes light onto the wall? Possibly. But, then, why don’t other people prone to trances have these experiences: for example, video-game players or painters or musicians? Possibly because this group’s trance is focused on an object in their hands or in front of their eyes, and their muscles are twitching. The driver or sentry has to concentrate, but also interact with the wider world around him, getting ready for any shock stimuli: the consequence of not doing so is possible death for the driver, sentry and others. Another relevant group here would be longdistance walkers or runners. But do they ‘see things’? One famous example is Pheidippides meeting the god Pan on his epic journey to Sparta before the battle of Marathon. Here’s betting that there are other experiences out there waiting to be collated… I’ve never met a ghost while out walking, but, 20 miles in, the mind enters, in my experience, a curious state. Simon Young writes on folklore and history and runs www.fairyist.com
HOWOFTEN HAVEWE READ ABOUTADRIVER SUDDENLY GLIMPSINGA GHOST, ORA FAIRY, ANABC OR ANALIEN?