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  • William Allen White’s Brush With the Elm Fairies July 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    william allen white

    In 1972 Fate Magazine published a fascinating article by Glenn Clairmonte (1972) examining a fairy encounter of William Allen White. For those who have never heard the name WAW (obit 1944) was a self proclaimed champion of Middle America against Conservatism. His politics don’t concern us here rather what is interesting is the fact that at 23, in 1891, WAW had an encounter with some very strange beings. The passage in question comes from WAW’s autobiography (published in 1946). Regrettably Glenn Clairmonte, who was writing the article, paraphrased. Beach hopes that someone could send him the relevant pages and they can be put up for all to enjoy: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    In 1891 when he was still under 30 he was about to start what seemed a glamorous career as a Kansas City newspaper reporter. He spent his last evening at home in El Dorado, Kansas, saying farewell to all his lifelong friends. He then went to bed while the August harvest moon was still high in the sky and fell into a deep sleep. By the time the moon had travelled to where its beams were creeping through his window  and across his face he awoke and decided it probably was two or three hours before sunrise. He was about to turn his face away from the moonlight and go back to sleep when he heard the soft sound of rhythmic music. He leaned up on an elbow and looked out of the south window toward a huge elm tree, beneath which he only recently had mowed the blue grass. To his immense surprise, he saw beneath that elm tree a variety of little people, three or four inches tall, gaily dancing together while humming the music. Naturally he thought this was very unusual, to say the least, for there seemed no possible reason for such an occasion to be taking place in his family’s yard. But the lucidity of the scene was too much for him to deny. He turned away and looked again. He did all he could to assure himself that he was mistaken. He even rose and walked across the room to look out another window but even from there he could see those dainty grayish little figures moving to the tune that flowed around them…. He executed some vigorous calisthenics to discharge any dreamlike mood but when he looked again he could still see those gentle activities beneath the elm tree. Then as he watched them for at least five more minutes they began to fade, finally leaving only the blue grass for him to stare at.

    Beach has poor eyesight but he is not sure that many people could spot three-inch Lilliputians at what must have been at least fifty feet away (for WAW to see it from bed).

    28 July 2015: Graeme sends in the text. I’ve typed it up but also include the scanned pages. Thanks Graeme!!

    One other thing i remember – a strange thing and quite mad. The August harvest moon, under which a few night before I had come home feeling most poetical from my day’s fishing with my visiting editors, was still shining high in the sky when I walked home another night,… not unconscious of the night splendor. I turned in and slept deeply. The I remember waking up, when moon’s beams were slanting and the dawn must have been but two or three hours away. Now this is sure: I did wake up. Something – it seemed to me the sound of distant music – came to my ear. The head of my bed was near a south window and I looked out. And I will swear across the years during which I have held the picture, that there under a tree – a spreading elm tree – I saw the Little People, the fairies. I was not dreaming; at least I did not think so then and I cannot think so now. They were making a curious buzzing noise, white little people, or gray, three or four inches high. And I got up out of bed and went to another window and still saw them. Then I lay on my belly on my bed and kicked my heels and put my chin in my hands, to be sure I was not sleeping, and still I saw them.

    For a long time, maybe five minutes, they were buzzing about, busy at something, I could not make out what. Then I turned away a moment, maybe to roll over on my side or to get upon my knees, and they began to fade away; an instant later they were gone. And there I was like a fool, gawking at the bluegrass under the elm. I got up and sat in a chair. I was deeply upset, bemused, troubled. I thought: ‘Maybe I’m going crazy!’ I knew well enough of course even then that what I saw I did not see, but when you are cold sober and have the conviction spread over you that you are made, you are bothered – and I have been bothered ever since. It is not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Many years later I heard of transparent fish – with other eyes, other creatures see other things; with other ears they hear much that escapes our human ears. Perhaps in our very presence are other beings like the transparent fish, which we may not feel with our bodies attuned to rather insentient nerves. Heaven knows! For an hour I thought I was crazy. And when I recall that hour and am so sure that I was awake, I think maybe I am still crazy.download



    28 August 2015: Ruththeunstoppablycurious writes about another elm tree: Had to laugh after reading this, and felt a great deal of nostalgia. The house I grew up in, Oklahoma City, had a huge old Elm tree in the front yard, one of many on the streets in our area of town. (Elms are extremely common in Oklahoma and Kansas, they like the climate of hot summers and cold winters and were native or planted there.) The tree in out yard was at fifty or sixty years old. My grandfather had gone to the grade school across the street when the area our house was built in was mostly field and he remembered seeing the tree as a young sapling at the time. That tree always had a “spooky” special feel to me, I loved it dearly and spent many hours in the yard or on the porch it shaded. My brother could climb the tree, but said he hated it because it felt dark and scary to him. He did fall out of it several times! I heard recently that it had been cut down by the current house owners and was truly sad, another piece of my childhood gone, but the tree was probably close to a hundred years old now.’ This spooky theme comes up time and time again.