December 13, 2018

A Christmas Elf (or Alien?) Sighting in the New Hampshire Woods

Well, it's the Christmas season, which is one of the few times in the year when we are allowed to believe in all sorts of strange things. Flying reindeer? Check. Large man with a sack who sneaks into your house at night but doesn't steal things? Check.

Christmas elves? Check. Lots of people (mostly children) believe that Santa Claus is helped in his yearly labors by a gaggle of elves who live at the North Pole. This is mostly taken on faith, since I don't think there have been many Christmas elf sightings reported around the world. However, one may have been seen in the wintry woods of Derry, New Hampshire on December 15, 1956.

That was the day that Alfred Horne was out alone in the forest, chopping down Christmas trees for the impending Yuletide holiday. As you all know, weird things can happen when you're out in the woods by yourself in any season, but late fall and early winter are prime times for weirdness. The days are short, the sun is low in the sky, and those entities that like the darkness are more likely to make an appearance.

After a while Horne he realized that he was not alone. There was someone (or perhaps something?) standing nearby watching him as he worked. The entity was about two feet high. It had a large head with big floppy ears. In place of a nose it just had two nostril slits, and its eyes were covered with nictitating membranes like a snake's. To make things even stranger, the entity was bright green, stark naked, and had stumpy arms and toeless feet.

Photo from Tumblr (and ultimately Henrik Vind).
Horne watched the entity for twenty minutes. In turn, the entity watched Horne. Finally, Horne decided to capture it. He realized that no one would believe him unless he had the little green humanoid as proof. But as he tried to grab the entity it emitted loud, blood-curdling shrieks. Horne fled from the woods in panic, leaving the little green man behind.

What exactly was this entity? Because it was seen ten days before Christmas, and Horne was out chopping down Christmas trees, I like to think it was a renegade Christmas elf. Perhaps it had wandered down from the North Pole and got lost in the New Hampshire woods, as so many hikers still do.

Alfred Horne seemed to think the creature was an extraterrestrial of some kind. After fleeing the woods that December day Horne didn't tell anyone about the creature until six years later, when he wrote several letters to the astronomer and UFO investigator Walter Webb. The story has appeared in several publications and books since then, including Joseph Citro's Passing Strange, which is where I first read it. 

I still think the little green man could have been an elf, though. For one thing, the line between extraterrestrials and fairy-folk is blurry (at least in my opinion). They both tend to be small, they both often have disproportionately large heads, and they both like to abduct people. But more importantly, Derry, New Hampshire has a tradition of fairy folklore. The town was settled by Scotch-Irish immigrants and they seem to have brought their fairy lore to America with them. Written legends about a "Derry Fairy" date back to the early 20th century. Descriptions of the fairy are vague - in some stories she is a beautiful lake-dwelling fairy queen named Tsienneto, but in other stories a wizened, wrinkled wood nymph appears. So perhaps Horne's little green man was actually a little green woman?

I don't think the strange little entity has been seen again since that day in 1956, but maybe if you stay awake on Christmas Eve this year you might find out Santa's little helpers have eyes like snakes and green skin. Make sure to leave out extra milk and cookies just in case. 


Sue Bursztynski said...

If this was one of Santa’s Elves, he really needs reporting to the union! Stark naked? Wandering around the icy winter woods alone? Definitely not what an employer should allow. :)

Peter Muise said...

Ha! Good point Sue! Maybe the elf was on strike?