For the most part, the legends about fairies, gnomes, and elves that more recent generations grew up with paint these creatures as being mischievous, friendly and almost cuddly creatures. Other more “mature” stories describe them as regal beings with ethereal qualities. However, I believe the true nature of these creatures is far from the quirky pixies or majestic, tall elves of pop culture. I confess that I don’t actually know what I saw, but I kind of convinced myself that it’s pretty damn close to what I would expect a gnome to look like in real life if it were stripped of its anthropomorphic qualities and only left with a very organic, animal-like appearance.
My first experience with what I believe was some sort of a gnome-like being was in early 2013. I was staying at a cabin deep in the woods of upstate New York in early autumn with some friends. We were all around 13-16 at the time and were no longer impressed or influenced by childhood stories of magical beings. Nevertheless, what I saw that early evening I could only describe as what I would assume a gnome would be if it were stripped of its magical facade.
As I was helping my friend’s sister wash the dishes after dinner, I happened to look out of the window, which was directly in front of the sink. It was quick, and maybe it was just my imagination playing tricks on me, but I could swear that after looking up and into the nearby tree line I could make out two small, beady objects shining a greenish-yellow light through some bushes. The first thing that came to mind was a raccoon or an opossum because of the height and positioning of the eyes, though I felt like there was something “wrong” about that assumption. Something about the way the two objects shifted and blinked just seemed off. It was a chilling sight. I stopped what I was doing, and still holding on to a damp plate, I reached over to the light switch which controlled the back porch's lights. I flipped the stitch, which bathed the porch and a portion of the woods in a warm glow.
In a split second the body which harbored the two glowing eyes was revealed before it scurried out of sight. The revelation startled me and caused me to drop the plate, which shattered and cut my knee. The thing was just so fast that I hardly had time to process what I saw. The bloody knee also did little to help my mind compose itself. The little I did make out was enough to give me shivers later as I discreetly described the event to my friend as we were settling in to sleep that night. I told him about the pale, greenish skin which apparently draped over the creature’s distorted frame, which had several distinct jagged arches along its back and shoulders as it crouched between the bushes. Skinny, disproportionately long arms could be made out, though they almost seamlessly blended into the surrounding branches. Its face was by far the most disturbing and noticeable quality. The small, bald head had long wisps of whisker-like hairs protruding from just below its eyes, which were small and deeply sunken into bony sockets. The mouth, small and lipless was slightly open as if it were intrigued. I didn’t see much more in terms of details about the light was still insufficient and it was some distance away. My friend and I just shook it off as some mangy, deformed woodland creature. That was a much more comforting thought at the time.
The second time I saw something which looked like the cabin’s “gnome” was just a few months ago. It was around 10:40 PM and I was in a bus downtown, returning home from a trip, when I looked out the window, as I often do in bus rides, and noticed something disturbingly familiar hiding behind some trash cans. This time, though, there was a streetlight directly above it, which completely illuminated its ugly, small body as it violently tore into a discarded burger. It was like a small, emaciated rabbit or kangaroo, with an arched, almost hunched back and long, bent back legs. There was no visible tail, and its upper back and shoulders were distinctly bulbous, with a small head and an ugly humanoid face. Its long, stick-like arms ended in bony, sharp fingers. The scene was very reminiscent of a sewer rat eating trash in the way it crouched and twitched. Its face had a much more menacing and aggressive quality to it compared to the one I saw in 2013, and it had an overall “sickly” look to it.
Needless to say, I was deeply disturbed and I’m still not entirely sure what exactly that and the other creature were. But if I had to guess, I’d say the Old-World legends of “hidden folk” have a much less magical esthetic than Disney or Hollywood would have us believe.