Do you believe in fairies?
In some ways that's an odd question to ask in the 21st century. Even though many Americans believe in strange phenomena like UFOs, Bigfoot and ghosts, I think for most people fairies are a little anachronistic, like a relic from children's books written in Victorian England.
But not everyone feels that way. Last week a reader sent me a photo she had taken in October near a creek in Lincoln, New Hampshire. She was visiting from a southern state and staying at the Mountain Club, and the creek ran through the resort's property. In the photo there is a small blue and white object among the tree branches. It looks like it has wings...
The reader asked me if I thought it was a fairy.
She hadn't seen the fairy (if that's what it was) when she first took the photo, but it was pointed out to her when she was showing the photo to a friend who was familiar with the area. "Don't you see the fairy in the lower right hand corner?" her friend asked.
The friend went on to explain that she had seen a fairy in the area herself, and that the creek was the type of place fairies liked.
The reader also showed the photo to her husband, who was a little skeptical. He said, "Maybe it's just a plastic bag caught in a tree.."
For myself, I'm undecided. Last week when I first zoomed into the photo the blue object sort of looked like something stuck in the tree. But just now, when I zoomed in further, the blue object looked like it might be holding onto the tree, and it also looked like it had a face...
Perhaps it was just a case of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where humans see faces and living beings in inanimate objects. Or perhaps there really was a visitor from the faerie realm hovering near a creek in the White Mountains.
Certainly, the American Indians who lived here for thousands of years believed there were small magical beings who lived in the forests, under the hills, and in the lakes and streams. The early English settlers also believed in fairies, although they didn't see many of them here. But even contemporary New Englanders have sometimes seen strange little beings, like the Dover Demon or the weird little green man found in a New Hampshire forest in the 1950s.
Which brings me back to my original question: do you believe in fairies? The Fairy Investigation Society wants to know.
The Fairy Investigation Society (FIS) was founded in 1927 by a British man named Quentin Crauford. Attracting mostly Theosophists who believed that fairies were elemental beings, the Society continued sporadically through the 20th century until finally disappearing in the 1990s.
In 2013 the Society was re-booted by Simon Young, an English historian living in Italy. While membership in the original Society was limited to people who believed in fairies, the current society is open to "all those who have an interest in fairylore, be they believers or ultra skeptics." I'm proud to be a member myself!
One of the first goals of the Fairy Investigation Society is to conduct a census of fairy sightings and beliefs. Do you believe in fairies? Have you or a friend seen one? Please tell the FIS. Complete the online survey and help the FIS understand more about fairies and fairy beliefs in the modern world.
The FIS is hoping to get thousands of submissions to the survey. I'm hoping some of those submissions will be from right here in New England!