Tuesday, March 12, 2019

American Fairies and the Men in Black

Numerous fairies crossed over the Atlantic, but in America were were far quicker to forget fairy lore with a few notable exceptions (such as Marblehead, Mass and Newfoundland Canada). What is responsible for this sudden amnesia regarding fairy beliefs and ideas? Although there are many psychological and sociological reasons which could be mentioned, for fantasy writers there can be only one explanation. America is home to The Men in Black.

These men dressed in black show up repeatedly in connection with fairies in Debuque Ohio, in the 1880s. About the time that fairies had been fleeing Europe (Denmark, Ireland, England, Scotland, Russia, and more) because of trouble with humans in Europe. Within America the fairies would need human witches in order to survive, so gathering these witches would have been the first task of "The Men in Black"

 The following quote is from the "Plain Dealer." 

"Mrs. Hayes followed the girl upstairs, and there, to her amazement, she saw two queer-looking beings resembling men dressed in antiquated black costumes, and with them the girl left the house. Mrs. Hayes followed them to the door and watched them go up the street, when, after going half a block, all three suddenly disappeared in the air, since which nothing has ever been heard of the missing girl"


The following story is a quote from a paper in Iowa.

"Three days Miss Kittie staid away from the fairies. On the third day she told her married sister that she had to go again, that the fairies could do without her no longer. The sister followed her upstairs, and according to a Dubuque dispatch, “saw two queer looking beings, resembling men, dressed in antiquated black, and with them the girl left the house.” She saw them go up the street. “After they had gone half a block all three suddenly disappeared in the air. Since which nothing has been heard of the missing girl.” There the story ends, so far as the outside world is given to know."

Wearing "antiquated" clothing is common for fairies and the witches who work with them, for the fairies don't like change, to the point that new ideas, tastes, and smells can actually cause them to flee. Witches and fairies both wore pointy hats hundreds of years after these had gone out of style. 

These men wearing black, however, are simply taking humans with them, which the fairies need to survive. It's not until the 1940s that they start trying to cover up their activities. Harold Dahl spotted some round objects flying in the sky, the next day a man in a black suit took him to a dinner and warned him not to speak of the event.

Perhaps more than change, fairies hate it more when people talk about them. One women in Wales who was friends with the fairies mentioned as much, and within a night the fairies had kidnapped her child. Such prohibitions against speaking about the fairies, however, don't seem to have affected the older tales of encounters with them, just ones starting later. Why?

There are a lot of sociological explanations for this, but we will again focus on the mythological one. The one that would be useful to fantasy writers.

As I've mentioned repeatedly if you follow my blog or read my books, humans have natural magical powers, such that when fairies go to war with each other, if one side has a human on it, that side will win. Humans have the power of iron, the evil eye, symbols, and more which can all break fairy magic. A child who stares at 3 fairies in one story stops them from being able to fly, a blacksmith putting a knife in a fairy door stops hundreds of fairies from being able to close it, and an army of peasants in Ireland very nearly slaughter the fairy king and his court with some salt. 

The fairies have magic, but so too do the humans. Magic that the fairies must fear, magic that drove many of the fairies from Europe. In lore pixies fled Cornwall, sidhe fled Ireland, Rusalka fled Russia, trolls fled Norway, Trold fled Denmark, all because of the humans. So these fairies that fled their homeland because of humanity likely wanted to be more secretive within their new home. 

Enter those wearing antiquated black clothes. Fairies who use people's belief in aliens to help cover up their activities. 

You can read the full Newspaper articles from Ohio and Iowa below:

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 29 March 1886: p. 2
 Andy Crowe is a well-known and prosperous farmer, living in Center township, Dubuque county. Some years ago he had a daughter, the sole remaining member of his family living at home. The girl, just approaching womanhood, was afflicted with a strange malady that baffled the skill of physicians. He finally concluded to take the girl to Father Bernard of the New Melleray monastery, who, on account of his well-known piety and self-abnegation, had established quite a reputation far and wide as a restorer to health of persons afflicted with physical or mental diseases. The good father prayed over the girl and prescribed medicines for her cure. On her way home from the monastery the girl told her father that all that was done for her by Father Bernard would not help her in the least and that she would go away in a year from that time to live with the fairies. Her father paid no attention to what the girl said; in fact, he forgot all about it until just a year from that night he woke up in the morning and found his daughter gone. A candle was burning in her room, and all her clothes were left behind except one calico dress. On reporting her disappearance and what the girl had told him, the neighbors became very suspicious, and charged the old man with making away with her. The neighboring creek was dragged for her body, and the woods and fields subjected to a close search, but no trace of the missing girl was found. In just a year from her disappearance she returned home and related a wonderful tale regarding her absence. She said she had been off with the fairies, with whom she had lived in the most splendid style. They had everything that heart could desire, and spent most of their time in traveling incog. over the country. She had traveled with them and rode in the cars, invisible to mortal eyes. They heard of the suspicions attaching to her father on account of her disappearance, and, at their command, she had returned home to clear up the old gentleman. A grand feast was held in honor of her return, which was attended by all the neighbors, to whom she related her wonderful experience. Two days later she came to Dubuque to visit her sister, who is married to a man named James Hayes, a teamster, residing on Thirteenth street. On the third day after coming to Dubuque she came down stairs and informed Mrs. Hayes that she had to go, that two of the fairies had come for her and that they were now upstairs waiting for her. Mrs. Hayes followed the girl upstairs, and there, to her amazement, she saw two queer-looking beings resembling men dressed in antiquated black costumes, and with them the girl left the house. Mrs. Hayes followed them to the door and watched them go up the street, when, after going half a block, all three suddenly disappeared in the air, since which nothing has ever been heard of the missing girl. Such is the story that has been repeatedly told by Andy Crowe, always with tearful eyes and impassioned voice, and most of his neighbors, many of whom are well posted in the legendary tales regarding the fairies in Ireland, implicitly believe the same. 

The Des Moines [IA] Register 28 March 1886: p. 4
It is fairies that Dubuque has got. It doesn’t know exactly what they are, but it has them. Like all other fairies, these fairies are very queer. A year ago they took Miss Kittie Crowe, the pretty daughter of Mr. Andy Crowe, made her invisible, and carried her away with them. She has just returned. She would not have returned at all, she said, only because of her mysterious disappearance the neighbors of her father, with the usual kindness of neighbors, began to account for her strange disappearance by saying he had murdered her. The fairies had heard of this, and so sent Miss Kittie back to save the old gentlemen from the present terrors of neighborhood gossip, and the possible terrors of Judge Lynch. Very fittingly a grand feast was spread in honor of Miss Kittie’s return. All the neighbors came in, just as they always do in the stories about fairies, to welcome Miss Kittie, and to hear her tell of the wonders of her year’s experience in Fairyland. According to her report they don’t do at all in Fairyland as we have thought. They don’t live in the cups of flowers, dance on the sunbeams, play hide and seek in the meshes of milady’s hair, nor sip the honey of the sunshine, nor dance in the coliseum of the lily by moonlight, nor do any of the elfish and gnomish things that all good fairies are popularly supposed to do. Instead, Miss Kittie says, that in her year with them they spent the time traveling incog. over the country, riding in railway cars, invisible to mortal eyes. If this is true, it be very disenchanting, and fairies are no better off than we poor mortals. But Miss Kittie doubtless told the truth. For Dubuque people always do, except when they are talking of Des Moines.
Three days Miss Kittie staid away from the fairies. On the third day she told her married sister that she had to go again, that the fairies could do without her no longer. The sister followed her upstairs, and according to a Dubuque dispatch, “saw two queer looking beings, resembling men, dressed in antiquated black, and with them the girl left the house.” She saw them go up the street. “After they had gone half a block all three suddenly disappeared in the air. Since which nothing has been heard of the missing girl.” There the story ends, so far as the outside world is given to know.
None of us can compete with these things. We hasten on behalf of Des Moines to throw up the sponge and say at once that we will not even try to compete with Dubuque in this respect. Who would have thought it of Dubuque—the practical, so worldly, and with not a poet to its name since McCreery left it.
Since it has gone at things in this way we warn all the cities competing with it for the Soldiers’ Home to look out for it. For if it has all the fairies with it, who can be against it? It has been invincible heretofore. What will it not be now?

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