Sometimes people write to me about strange experiences they've had. Just a few weeks ago, a woman I'll call Mary sent me an email about a weird encounter she had while walking a dog.
Mary lives in Norwell, and was taking care of a friend's large Labrador retriever while the friend was traveling. The dog would wake Mary up every morning between 4 and 5 am to take it for a walk. Mary would usually bring the dog to a small nearby watershed - a patch of woods and swamp - for its morning perambulation.
Mary and the dog went on these early morning walks for a few weeks without anything strange happening, but that changed on March 1. It was pitch black, and as they walked on a road near the watershed the dog stopped in its tracks and let out a low growl. Had it seen a raccoon, or maybe a coyote? Feeling nervous about being alone in the dark with a wild animal nearby, Mary looked around to see what startled the dog. It was not a raccoon, or a coyote. It was something much stranger.
Crouched near the woods was a small humanoid creature. It was covered in what looked like matted, black fur. Mary thought the creature stared at her with glowing green eyes, but isn't sure if she just imagined this detail. Whatever the creature was, it was something she had never seen before. She and the dog ran home.
A few days later the dog went home to its owner, and Mary thought that was the end of her strange experience. But on the night of March 13, Mary heard some unusual sounds coming from outside her house. It sounded as though something were quietly but insistently tapping on the side of her house, or possibly on the window. At first Mary thought maybe her daughter had locked herself out of the house, but that was not the case - she was safely inside. Nervously, Mary's thoughts then turned to the small humanoid she had seen near the woods. Was it outside her house, tapping on the walls and windows?
The next day she talked with some people at work about what had been happening, and one of them suggested she had encountered a pukwudgie. Pukwudgie is a one name for the small, hairy, magical humanoids that are said to live in the woods in New England. Basically, they are a type of fairy. Not a pretty, tutu-wearing fairy like Tinkerbell, but a scragglier, rough-around-the-edges fairy. They're the type of fairy you'd expect to see in the woods around here, which are rough, rocky, and filled with poison ivy.
Pukwudgie is something of a modern term, at least in New England. The Native Americans in New England had other names for these beings, like makiawisug, mekumwasuck, or mikumweswack. Pukwudgie was originally a word used by the Ojibwa Indians of the Midwest to describe the small magical beings they encountered, but it has since became a popular word in New England, and particularly in Massachusetts. (You can read more about the history of the term pukwudgie here.)
Pukwudgies are believed to be mischievous at best, and malevolent at worst. Traditionally, the local Native Americans believed that the little people would help humans if treated with respect. That is not the case with pukwudgies, who supposedly like to shoot people with darts, lure them off cliffs, and in general lurk around and frighten anyone who encounters them. If I can speculate, perhaps this change in behavior is because most New Englanders don't know how to treat them with the respect they deserve?
Mary's encounter is similar to several other well-known pukwudgie encounters. For example, in 1990 a Raynham, Massachusetts man named Bill Russo was walking his dog late at night near some woods when he saw a small hairy humanoid creature, which tried to lure him into the woods. He declined the offer. And Christopher Balzano describes a very similar situation in his 2007 book Dark Woods: Cults, Crime and the Paranormal in the Freetown State Forest. A woman named Joan was walking her dog in the Freetown State Forest when she noticed someone watching her. It was a small, grey-skinned humanoid with hairy arms and a hairy head, and it stared at her with deep green eyes. After encountering the pukwudgie in the woods, Joan noticed the pukwudgie lurking around her house several times. Apparently it had followed her home. Creepy!
After I got the email from Mary, I asked Balzano if he had any advice for people who encounter pukwudgies, particularly if the pukwudgie seems to be lurking around their house. He said the best thing to do is just ignore them. Eventually, they'll go away and the strange phenomena will stop. That sounds like good advice to me. I think that the more attention you give to weird phenomena, the more of it you'll notice. You can just get sucked down the rabbit hole!
In a subsequent email, Mary told he that she had some lucky things happen to her on the day she encountered the creature in the woods. So maybe seeing it had been a fortuitous event, even if it was spooky? In the end, the situation was oddly ambiguous, much like the pukwudgies themselves.