A 'lost' fairy sighting

Lincolnshire for the main part as a county is a little light on fairy lore. In the most important works on folklore in the region Gutch & Peacock's Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Lincolnshire, and Ethel Rudkin's Lincolnshire Folklore, the number of pages given to fairy belief and sightings are slim in contrast to other subjects covered. So it's frustrating when we come across a particularly well recorded verified sighting, and we can't locate where it took place!

The Fairy Investigation Society (FIS) was a part folklore collecting, part "magical" organisation. The society was founded in Britain in 1927 by Capt. Sir Quentin C.A. Craufurd, & the artist Bernard Sleigh. It initially attracted both spiritualists & academically directed researchers. This early form of the Society saw them undertaking seances & using Victorian spirit-room techniques like automatic writing to contact fairies. This element of the group had mostly disbanded in the years leading up to & just after WWII. Leaving members with more studious outlook. 

In 1950, Society founder Sir Quentin Craufurd made a certain Marjorie T Johnson secretary of the Society and she would in effect run the FIS for much of the next 15 years. An energetic and fastidious collector she kept up hundreds of correspondences with interested parties across the UK. And in this role, it was in 1955 Marjorie received a letter from a certain Verdoye MA, FRGS. Verdoye said he was a teacher in a Lincolnshire school who had recently heard of some fairy sightings in a nearby wood.

He went on to describe how one of his pupils had been on a family pic-nic in a nearby woodland. 

" Feeling bored at sitting, they rose and walked about together until, they found themselves in a clearing, and there they all saw some green shapes dancing in a circle, hand-in-hand. As far as L Verdoye's pupil could estimate, they were not more than nine or nine-and-a-half-inches [23-24cm] high. No expression or features could be seen on them but all had pointed green hats, long legs and arms, 'and there was,' recounted the boy, 'a sort of 'king' in the centre of the ring, with a light in his hand.' While the family stood petrified with fright, the ring of shapes opened and the 'king' went out and sat under a large dock-leaf. He curled his legs up like a human being and fanned himself with a little leaf. Mr X, the boy's father, could stand it no longer. He moved forward, and the figures all ran with incredible swiftness over towards a bank and vanished. The family searched frantically for some time then, but nothing remained. "

Inspired, the schoolteacher, who described himself as a botanist, wrote that he chose to spend two nights in the woods and & discovered leaves laid in a curiously ordered fashion in some holes under trees. He visited the wood again in June 1956 and saw, on that occasion, that twigs had been tidied up, again in an unaccountably ordered fashion.

Of course it would be incredibly interesting to know where in 1950s Lincolnshire this event took place. But the location is NEVER named, which is a practice that Marjorie Johnson often followed in order, as she saw it, to protect fairy life from inquisitive outsiders. In the correspondence between Marjorie Johnson & Verdoye, one of the few clues we have is that it was next to a coniferous wood run, in 1955, by the Forestry Commission, and further more in one of his letters, Verdoye also wrote about 

"mounds that an Elizabethan manuscript said are the fairies 'closed houses'"

An odd turn of phrase, which might be recognisable if anyone know the source document. Can anyone with knowledge of Lincolnshire's woods care to offer any suggestions as to a location?

Worryingly the teachers' name Verdoye, doesn't turn up any leads in records, so might be a pseudonym to protect a professional worried about espousing fairy beliefs and keeping their job!

As an aside, there IS a small wood named "Fairy Wood" on the road between Bag Enderby & Harrington in East Lindsey. But in private ownership and with no associated conifer woods, this seems to make it unlikely the location of our 1955 sighting.

But if anyone DOES know the reason for the name of this wood, please do say!

Sources and credit: The above could not have been written without first learning about this sighting in Simon Young's excellent article about the Fairy Investigation society in Fortean Times magazine.

Link to the online version: https://subscribe.forteantimes.com/blog/the-fairy-investigation-society 


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