December 14, 2010

A Little Green Man for Christmas



Here's a weird story I first read in Joseph Citro's great book of folklore, Passing Strange.

The place: the woods of Derry, NH, a small town near the Massachusetts border.

The time: December 15, 1956. Fifty four years ago!

A local man was out in the woods, cutting down Christmas trees. He was alone, and as we all know when you're in the woods by yourself things can get spooky. Usually there's no reason to be afraid, but in this case there was.

As the man looked up from a tree he had cut he saw something strange. Really strange.

Standing near him was a little green humanoid. It was about two feet tall, with a big head and large floppy dog-like ears. It had two slits for a nose, and like a reptile it's eyes were covered with protective membranes. It was naked, and had stumpy arms and legs and toeless feet.

The man watched the creature for about twenty minutes, and then tried to capture it. The little green man became terrified and started screeching so loudly and hideously that its would-be captor ran off. I don't know if he took his trees with him, but I kind of doubt it.

Since this encounter took place around Christmas time I'd like to think the creature was an elf, or maybe the Grinch's baby.

We'll never really know what it was, but Derry historian Richard Holmes has traced this story back to its original source, some letters between Derry resident Alfred Horne and UFO researcher Walter Webb. Horne was the man who actually encountered the little green man, and since he wrote to a UFO researcher I guess he thought it was an extraterrestrial of some kind.

This story reminded me of two other stories. First, Derry is the home of Tsieneto, the fairy that allegedly helped Hannah Duston in her escape. I've never read a description of Tsienneto, but maybe she had green skin and snake's eyes.

Second, twenty minutes seems like a long time to watch a scary little humanoid in the woods, but a woman in Winhall, Vermont who encountered another small (but hairy) humanoid said she stared at him for forty minutes. It was almost as if she were in a trance.

The lesson I take away from this story? Buy your tree from a tree farm!

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