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  • Fairy Investigation Society November 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    ***This post is dedicated to Invisible***

    Beachcombing has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about Wikipedia. But every so often there are pages there that are the closest we come to ‘real knowledge’. Take the Fairy Investigation Society that Beach has been looking into for the last couple of days – since, in fact, a revelatory email from Invisible. This organisation would be a key body for the study of modern fairy belief: and the Wikipedia entry is the best thing on the web. There follows a shorn down version of said entry with some important questions and jigsaws pieces, still to be put in place, rounded off with an honest to God cash offer, one that – cross, heart and hope to die – doesn’t turn into autumn leaves at dawn.

    The Fairy Investigation Society was founded in Britain in 1927 by a Sir Quentin Craufurd, MBE, to collect information on fairy sightings. In 1983, a headquarters for the society was located in Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland. During its prime, the society organized meetings, lectures, and discussions for collecting evidence of fairy life. With the outbreak of WW2, however, members were dispersed and the society’s records were largely lost or destroyed during the conflict. The society then became inactive for a while. In 1955, with a new and energetic secretary, the society was revived and began to issue a regular newsletter. The newsletter had a listing of reports from members or other individuals. The society also sent out brochures to recruit new members. During the late 1950s, there were at least fifty members, including famous people such as author Alasdair Alpin MacGregor, Ithell Colquhoun, Leslie Alan Shepard, Hugh Dowding, Walter Starkie (of gypsy lore fame), and animator Walt Disney. As the society grew and became more well-known, newspaper articles ridiculing the sightings and study of fairies appeared. They claimed fairies were only a superstition of past centuries. The society once again became inactive. As late as 1990, a society of the same name is rumored to be active.

    The Wikipedia author – essentially the Duchess of Bathwick – seems a careful cove and has referenced several of these points. But there is much that is unclear (presumably through lacunae in the Duchess’ sources) and we offer the following in an attempt to fill out the account.

    1) Chronology: There seem to be three stages in the organisation’s history. The first in 1927 after its foundation when Quentin Craufurd (who?) founded the FIS, which presumably was attached in some way to the theosophy movement. The second, the Celebrity Phase, after the Second World War, when it attracted a series of very well known members. And the third the Shadow Period when it may or may not have existed in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s. As to the FIS’s death we’ve found one reference to the FIS in an Encyclopedia of Organisations from 1971: ‘Persons who sincerely hold the fairy faith. Society is located in Britain [not Ireland?] with members in various countries. Publishes occasional Newsletter describing recent fairy sightings. Address mail c/o Encyclopedia of Associations.’ The Fairy Investigation Society appears in Lewis Spence’s Encylopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology which seems to date to 1978 (though the Google entry is inexact) and that describes how the society ‘used to publish an occasional Newsletter but this has been suspended in recent years’.  The organisation also appears in a round up of a newsletter in 1981 so it was presumably still going then. James Mackillop in his Dictionary of Celtic Mythology claims that as late as 1991 the FSI had an office in Dublin (202).

    2) Members: it would be fun to discover if Dowding (a member of the Ghost Club) and Walt Disney really belonged. But, in the meantime, here are a few other names that Beach has dug up: Dr Victor Purcell, ‘a lecturer on Far Eastern affairs at Cambridge’;. Leslie Shepard ‘former president of the now defunct Fairy Investigation Society’.[2003], lived in Black Rock; and in 1996 Karl Shuker references one Marjorie Johnson, ‘a former secretary of the Fairy Investigation Society based in Nottingham’. Is it possible that at the end there were several FSIs? Also, again, who the hell was Quentin Craufurd MBE? [Dec 2011, on the basis of a 1964 text from Invisible below we can add this. ‘Lady Molesworth was the President’. ‘The honorary secretary of the Faery Investigation Society was herself a trance medium by the name of Mrs. Claire Cantlon.’  ‘Late Capt. Quentin C. A. Crauford, R.N., a man of considerable scientific acumen combined with a mystic disposition’.

    3) Low Profile: The members of the FSI were delicate orchids rather than hardy dandelions, dying out in inhospitable environments; and let’s face it fairies were never going to prosper in the Cold War. Lewis Spence, in the vox partly quoted above, describes how ‘although reports of unidentified flying objects received tolerant public  notice, reports of fairy sightings encouraged press ridicule. The society is at present quiescent, but is planning to reorganise on a basis which will protect members from undesirable notice.’ Then a British politico, David Boyle, describes – his piece is well worth reading – trying to get in touch with the FSI in Dublin ‘some years ago [2008]’;  ‘I wrote to their last known address outside Dublin… and had a strange letter back.  It was from a man claiming that he knew the society’s secretary, but he said he didn’t want to talk to anybody.  Not only the fairies had disappeared, but the fairy researchers seem to have fled as well.’ If you read the entry from the Encylopedia of Associations above there is much the same tone: membership c/o encyclopedia! The only address we’ve been able to find is ‘Mr. Leslie Shepard, 1 Lakelands Close, Stillorgan, Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland’. Beach is tempted to write even now…

    4) Documentation: According to Wikipedia the theosophic FIS lost its records in the war (which sounds rather formulaic and, if there was a widely dispersed newsletter, unlikely). The second phase also had a newsletter. And the third phase: well, who knows what went on in the shadows? Beachcombing is dedicating unhealthy amount of times at the moment to the study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century fairies. He would love to get his hands on any of this documentation, if it should exist, with suitable remuneration and the promise that he will put it up online. The first phase newsletters would be particularly interesting, but even fairy tat from the 1980s is potentially exciting. Photocopies would do.

    The period of say 1920-2000 is a fairy desert for Britain when fairies were very much in the past for folklorists, any accounts  then are precious bits of lost history: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Beachcombing also might say in passing that though he could never join – he lacks, to his great regret, a ‘sincere fairy faith’ – there might be enough enthusiasm out there for a new FIS. With this he’d like to point interested readers towards a fairy dell on the net which is well worth a visit for the curious. A hundred years after Barrie did his best to kill fairies, there are still squeaks and chords of fiddles from the Middle Kingdom. Why are fairies no longer frightening though?



    14 Nov 2011: Invisible has gone above and beyond: ‘Quentin Craufurd may well be: ‘Captain Sir Quentin Charles Alexander Craufurd of Kilbirnie, 6th Bt. was born on 11 February 1875. He married Anne Blackwell, daughter of Thomas Blackwell, on 1 October 1899. He died on 8 May 1957 at age 82, without issue. [Charles Mosley, editor, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003)] He  was the son of Sir Charles William Frederick Craufurd, 4th Bt. and Hon. Isolda Caroline Vereker.[Charles Mosley, Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition] He was invested as a Fellow, Royal Society of Arts (F.R.S.A.). He gained the rank of Captain in the service of the Royal Navy. He was registered as a Associate Member, Institution of Electrical Engineers (A.M.I.E.E.). He was invested as a Fellow, Institute of Physics (F.Inst.P.). He succeeded to the title of 6th Baronet Craufurd, of Kilbirney, Ayrshire [G.B., 1781] on 6 January 1956. From Organized Obsessions: 1001 Offbeat Associations, Fan Clubs, and Microsocieties You Can Join (1991): ‘Fairy Investigations Society (FIS) 1 Lakelands Close, Stillorgan, Dublin, Ireland. Ah, the wee little people are making their visits again, you say? Time to contact the FIS. Members are persons who sincerely hold the fairy faith (the Society is appropriately located in Ireland, where those with the faith ounumber without). Reports of fairy sightings are welcomed by the society’s Fairy Investigation Bureau (FIB) and for eventual publication. Anonymity of contributors is respected. Founded in 1927. Contact Mr. Leslie Shepard, Executive Officer.’ The Fairy Investigation Society has a Facebook page [though this seems a cut and past of the Wikipedia page]. For Leslie Shepard’s publications.  I regret that I don’t have Lord Dowding’s Lychgate or Many Mansions (although I read them a long time ago) and it apparently is not available online.  The books are primarily books on spiritualism and life after death. I don’t recall anything about fairies. Dowding did write though the preface to a book entitled a True Fairy Tale. Someone wrote a play about the Society.’  Invisible also puts us onto the annual Fairy and Human Relations Congress. Then just for good measure a fake fairy discovered in Derbyshire. Thanks Invisible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There was an FIB too!

    18 Nov 2011: Some fabulous stuff on the FIS. First up is Louise Yeoman: ‘A few years ago I made a radio programme on Arthur Conan Doyle and Spiritualism, where I was delighted by the way the 20th century spiritualists saw the discovery of speech radio as proof that it was quite plausible that you could hear the voices of the dead. It’s quite commonplace to me that my programmes are full of dead people whose voices I’ve snaffled from the archives but in the 1920s it was a novelty and people were excited by the idea that radio might put us in touch with the dead. Your fairy investigator is one such enthusiast – you want to search for him as QCA Craufurd. You may already have them, but I’ve bunged you some links underneath. Some stuff on the forteana blog.  And he also took out a bunch of patents on communicating with submarines! and meditated on communications with animals  Then look at the The Electrical journal: Volume 108:   ‘Craufurd, Quentin Chas. Alex, Done, John Paul Cusson, and Summers, Reginald, carrying on business of manufacture and sale of wireless sets …Physical Society. — Imperial College of Science, Imperial Institute Road, South Kensington.’ Theo, meanwhile, is sceptical about the Lewis Spence record. ‘You write: The Fairy Investigation Society appears in Lewis Spence’s Encylopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology which seems to date to 1978… I have the first edition of Spence’s Encyclopedia, dated 1920. In there there’s an entry on Fairies, but, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there’s no entry on the Fairy Investigation Society. Leslie Shepard’s Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology was published by Gale in 1978 with a 2nd edition in 1979 in two volumes. On page 430 of volume I is an entry on Fairies, but again, nothing on the FIS.’ Beach does not have these books to hand but by good fortune it seems that google books  carry the relevant pages. Does this mean then that Spence himself did not write the record in question? Then Michael S from The Big Study writes in:  Nandor Fodor mentions the FIS in Between Two Worlds. He includes at least two stories/encounters from it which seem to me to have a chance to be veridical. I can’t say more without memory-glitch pollution as I am out of town and the bulk of my library is elsewhere.  For what it is worth, I have been accumulating some of these tales for a small number of years [outside of the compilations of WY Evans-Wentz, MacManus, Sikes, Bord etc] and found at least claims to be ongoing. I have a few hundreds of these things, some from the files of UFOlogy, when the reports sound more like the paranormal than the technological.  A slim non-scholarly publication by Ron Quinn called Little People [largely tales called in to a radio station when he was giving a talk on such matters in upper New York] might be of small additional interest. I, reading UFO reports, came across some small percentage of encounters wherein the main characters seem more like folkloric entities than ET Aliens. And my intuition, unlike Vallee’s, is that there are two separate “piles” of case types. You have doubtless read Moyra Doorly’s account from Arran’. Thanks Michael, Louise and Theo for adding some more crumbs of proof to the pile!

    21 Nov 2011: Amanda writes in with some important links for modern FSI equivalents in the UK and the Republic.  Fairyland Trust,  Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, 3 Wishes Fairy Festival, National Leprechaun Museum. She also points readers in the way of  The Travellers Guide to Fairy Sites by Janet Bord which has not only folklore but recent sightings as well.  Janet Bord also wrote Fairies Real Encounters with Little People (1997) which I have a copy of as well.  It has a chapter on 20th century reports in the UK plus others world wide. I come originally from Kent which has no fairy folklore as far as I’ve been able to find out.  Sussex next door however seems to have quite a lot of fairy sightings and lore. Then  Jan writes in from the Fairycongress in the States: ‘The annual Fairy & Human Relations Congress has been held (on the earthly realm) since 2001. Everything that we have published is on the website www.fairycongress.com. “Forty Years with the Fairies” vol.1 of Daphne Charters’ Collected Fairy Manuscripts” was published in 2008, and is available at www.rjstewart.net/other-authors.htm‘ Thanks Jan and Thanks Amanda!!

    3 Dec 2011: Beachcombing must, as so often, thank Invisible for tracking down this precious text. From Between Two Worlds, Nandor Fodor, (West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Company, 1964) [third printing 1965] pp. 171-174, the chapter: Fairies Should Be Seen But Not Heard Of. He has taken the liberty of putting in bold the passages relevant to the FIS – was it actually called then, in an earlier phase, the Faery Investigation Society? Had Arthur Conan Doyle heeded the advice that fairies should be seen but not spoken of, he would have saved his reputation from the reflection that the fantastic story of the Cottingley fairies cast upon it. In folklore or in romantic stories fairies cut wonderful figures and the Fairy Godmother-whether considered a Jungian archetype or not-is beloved by all of us, but try to prove that fairies really exist and millions of people will shake their heads in compassion. The author of Sherlock Holmes did make such a try in the Christmas number of the Strand Magazine, of London, in 1920 and in a subsequent book, The Coming o f the Fairies, in 1922. He boldly stated that the series of incidents set forth in his book ‘either represent the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public or else they constitute an event in human history which may in the future appear to have been epoch making in its character’. A heroic declaration, indeed! The background was furnished by two children, 10-year-old Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith, 16, in a small village called Cottingley in the summer of 1917. The two girls consistently claimed that they were seeing fairies and gnomes in the woods. Borrowing their father’s camera they took two snapshots in the woods, allegedly for the first time in their life, and got some astonishing photographic support of their stories. The first photograph showed Frances with a group of four fairies dancing in the air before her. The next showed Elsie, seated on the grass, with a quaint gnome dancing beside her. The fairies appear to be a compound of the human and of the butterfly, while the gnome looks more like a moth. Under magnifying glass, the hands of the fairies seem to be fin-like and the beard of the gnome is an insect-like appendage. The publication of these photographs created a sensation, promptly followed by the accusation that they were faked. However, expert examination could discover no positive evidence of tampering with negative. When Edward L. Gardner, of the Theosophic Society of London (who first called Conan Doyle’s attention to the story), presented the girls with a good camera, some more pictures were obtained of leaping, flying fairies and a fairy bower. The latter–something between a cocoon and an open lightly suspended amid the grass with several fairy forms about-was declared to be beyond the possibility of faking. But attempts to secure more photographs at a subsequent period resulted in failure. Elsie Wright passed the pubertal age and with that, it was said, she lost the power that may have helped the fairies to ‘materialize’ in her presence. Conan Doyle thought that the fairies represent a separate line of evolution and noted that children often claim to see them; which was factually established by Dr. Evans-Wentz in Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, in 1912, 10 years before Conan Doyle’s book, by a record of 102 first-hand cases in which living individuals claimed to have seen these legendary creatures. I can subscribe to fairy visions both from my analytic and my parapsychological experience. One of my patients from Boise, Idaho, stated in all earnestness that she had seen fairies in her childhood. They were tiny people, up her extended palm, dressed like human creatures. She took them for and used to tell them all she learned in school that day. Nothing could persuade her in later life that the experience was not real. In England I used to have a friend who organized a Faery Investigation Society. He was the late Capt. Quentin C. A. Crauford, R.N., a man of considerable scientific acumen combined with a mystic disposition. Lady Molesworth was the President, and the program of the society was to accumulate knowledge and to classify the various orders of nature spirits. According to Crauford, research of this kind was much like making friends with the wild creature: the woods. A spiritualistic touch could be added here from a statement of ‘Feda’, the child control (infantile regression?) of Mrs. Osborn Leonard, a trance medium: Yes, they do exist. They are the nature spirits and there are many classes of fairies. Clairvoyance is needed to see them. They belong to another vibration. They don’t have quite the same soul as we do. But they have spirits. All forms of life are used again. Nature spirits don’t die like us. Some are created out of earth or fire or friction. They are all activity and movement. The honorary secretary of the Faery Investigation Society was herself a trance medium by the name of Mrs. Claire Cantlon. I have interviewed her in my journalistic days for the Sunday Despatch and she picked for me out of the amazing letters that the society had received this priceless statement: I was staying at an old house in Gloucester, and the garden at the back ended in the forest of Birdlip Beeches which covers part of the Cotswold Hills. It was before the days of the “shingle,” and I had washed my hair and was drying it in the sunshine in the forest, out of sight of the house. Suddenly, I felt something tugging at my hair and I turned to look. A most extraordinary sight met my eyes. He was about nine inches high, and the most dreadfully ugly, dreadfully misshapen, most wrinkled and tiniest mannikin I have ever seen. He was the color of dead aspen leaves, sort of yellow brown-with a high, squeaky voice. He was caught in the strands of my hair. He was struggling to escape, and he grumbled and complained all the time, telling me I had no right to be there, troubling honest folk, and that I might have strangled him with my hair. Finally, he freed himself and disappeared. I mentioned my experience afterwards to a professor of Bristol University. He was not surprised and told me that Birdlip Beeches was one of the few places left where there were fairies, and no one could go there because of it. I enjoyed the story and was even more delighted when Mrs. Cantlon added: I need not go to strangers for testimony. My house and garden in Putney are overrun by fairies and gnomes. The other day, Robin, my boy of ten, ran to me in great fright. He thought there was a pig in the room. It was a fat gnome, sitting on the chair, looking very cross and grunting. A few days after I heard the noise myself. It was a blend between the growling of a dog and grunting of a pig. I thought it was the dog going at the cat. Last week I saw the gnome. Just as I was putting out the light, I noticed a queer shape trying to climb up the blind cord and fall with a fearful flop. He glared at me, for I had an impulse to laugh, and vanished. June, my 11-year-old daughter, who is very psychic, saw some little time ago a gnome in a circle of light, sitting on the knob of a bedpost and hammering at a ring. He wore a cloak and had a long, white beard. Needless to say, I was fascinated by this extraordinary story. I thought of Andrew Lang who considered fairy belief ‘a complex matter from which tradition, with its memory of earth-dwellers, is not wholly absent,’ though he was more inclined to consider the survival of fairy belief to ‘old imaginings of a world not yet dispeopled of its dreams’. So let us have more of these dreams. Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten, musician, singer, elocutionist, later a well known inspirational speaker and medium, quotes in her Nineteenth Century Miracles  (New York, 1884) a compatriot of mine, Mr. Kalozdy, a Hungarian author on mineralogy and teacher in the Hungarian School of Mines. He was a kind of folklorist and had collected many narratives of knockings in Hungarian and Bohemian mines. He and his pupils often heard these knockings. The miners take them for signals of the kobolds, a warning not to work in a certain direction. The materialized appearance of these kobolds was seen by Mme. Kalozdy, an authoress, in the hut of a peasant called Michael Engelbrecht. Lights the size of a cheese plate suddenly emerged; surrounding each one was the dim outline of small human figures, black and grotesque, flitting about in a wavering dance and then vanishing one by one. Such visits were announced to Engelbrecht by knockings in the mine. A pretty story, with the suggestion of a psychic element. Going back farther into the past, we come across increasingly great wonders. The great authority on fairies was Robert Kirk, M.A., whose MSS, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, is dated 1692. In a 1933 edition we read of women who had been taken away to nurse fairy children. The prize story, however, is that of a midwife from Sweden. Her husband, Peter Rahm, a Swedish clergyman, made a legal declaration on April 12, 1671 that a little man, swarthy of face and clad in grey, begged for help for his wife in labor. Peter Rahm recognized him as a troll, blessed his wife and begged her in God’s name to go with the stranger. ‘She seemed to be borne along by the wind. After her task was accomplished … she was borne home in the same manner as she had gone.’ This story takes us back right into the mediaeval lore of fairies that were said to be responsible for teleporting people, kidnapping them and holding them prisoners in a fairy mound and permitting them, finally, to escape after a supernatural lapse of time. Hartland [1 From The Science of Fairy Tales, by Edwin Sidney Hartland, London, 1891, p. 39] suspects that the idea of the supernatural lapse of time in Fairy Land was invented by the Catholic Church to frighten people from unhallowed contacts. I have written a chapter, Kidnapped by Fairies, in my book, Mind Over Space. In it I developed a totally different idea. It is based on the symbolism of the Fairy Mound or Fairy Ring. I consider it an excellent representation of the pregnant uterus. He who is teleported by the diminutive creatures living in the underground kingdom, is reduced to their size, which is anywhere within the size of the fetus. The enduring feasting, dancing and merry-making in which he joins is also descriptive of the life of the unborn, for whom everything is provided bountifully and without effort on its part. Time does not exist in the womb. It is a postnatal concept. The unborn, at the very best, could feel the rate of its own growth as a form of biological time. Hence, the supernatural lapse of time in Fairy Land is a fetal characteristic, and the motive for fairy fantasies is a psychological one: projection of strength unto the weak (the Little People) whom, in our inadequacy, we wish to dominate, and use thereafter as substitutes for the fulfilment of unattainable dreams of power. Thanks Invisible!!!!!