I’ve been doing research reading on fairies the last couple of weeks for the current WIP. I admit that watching Hellier Season 2 (now available, along with season 1, for free on YouTube and has inspired me even more, although this post is only tangentially about Hellier. What I say below, certainly, can’t be applied to the Hellier experience, but I can’t help seeing parallels between Faery and aliens. I am far from the first to see these parallels. My first exposure to this idea was in Passport to Magonia by Jacques Vallee back in the 70s. Hellier moves in the same dreamlike terrain, weaving through the twilight world of UFO contactees, abductees, and experiencers, as well as many other strange and wonderful things.

In folklore, things with the fairies (a term you can take throughout this post to apply equally to aliens, goblins, and trickster characters of your choice) can be both true and untrue simultaneously. They can be the human dead, and not the human dead; of this world and not; sinister and friendly. The bodies of humans can remain where they are—in trance or dreams or a death-like state—and their souls can still be off traveling with the fae.

Which, if you think about it, adds a whole ‘nother dimension to the true/not true stories of alien contactees: both the current crop of “alien abductees,”* I believe, and the old-fashioned contactee stories of people like Woodrow Derenberger (he of Mothman/Indrid Cold fame) and George Adamski (who claimed to have flown to the Moon and other planets with Nordic aliens). When you combine that true/untrue with the notion held in folklore that fairies often favor humans who transgress human laws and play fast and loose with human truth, it brings even deeper dimension to these accounts.

However, there are two things that the fairies of folklore will not tolerate: people who lie to them, and those who tell too many of their secrets. So a mortal may find great favor with them—may even, one supposes fly with them to Lanulos or the Moon or be shown great secrets and marvels—but the second they transgress those fairy rules, they will be punished. Perhaps the golden medals they received will turn to cheap tin knock-offs; perhaps their lives will become a horrorshow of hounding by the press or (maybe even worse) true believers; perhaps every transgression or tall tale or prejudice or human fallacy will be laid bare before the public and ridiculed. Whom the fairies elevate, they can also cast down without mercy.

*ETA: I didn’t mean to imply that people reporting alien abductions are either fakers or liars. There seems to be something genuine going on there, and sincere belief on the part of most of the experiencers, but at this point it’s difficult to know precisely what’s going on except to say it’s tricksterish in nature.

  1. Let me Thread you a story…(1-24)
  2. Rikiki Rocks, just outside town in the Rokoko Valley, is a special place.
  3. The stones there have all kinds of fantastical shapes. There’s Old Man Mammoth, a massive piece of elephantine-shaped granite.
  4. And Donut Rock, a modern name for a big circular thing with a hole in the middle. Local tradition says if a woman wishes to conceive,
  5. she should pass through the hole in that rock under the light of the full moon. That’s why it’s also known as Mother Rock.
  6. There’s many another fanciful shape with fanciful traditions, and I could spend days describing them all. Maybe I will someday.
  7. But one thing to know about Rikiki Rocks is that sometime in the way back when somebody carved pictographs on ‘em.
  8. These pictures show warriors, hunters, shamans, prey animals and such like. Some have red ochre added to the grooves.
  9. Folks do say as how these rocks are sacred to the local Kintache Indians. Yaku Ravenwing, the Kintache story shaman, agrees.
  10. Yaku’s legal name is Arturo, but nobody ever calls him that. Yaku means “blue tongue” in Kintache and he really can talk a blue streak.
  11. One time when he was storytelling at a Kintache powwow, some folks swore they saw blue flames sprouting from his mouth.
  12. Like any good narrator, Yaku swears his stories are mostly true so when he says Rikiki Rocks are not to be messed with, people listen.
  13. No one in Portalville would ever desecrate them, but we do get the occasional drive-by tourist that can’t help themselves.
  14. Yaku tells about two such good ol’ boys driving through from Talladega on their way to California.
  15. They took a rest break at Daisy Mae’s Snack-a-Round out on Route 40. She had a picture of Rikiki Rocks behind the bar.
  16. These boys asked about ‘em and Daisy Mae all innocently said how proud people were of ’em in these parts.
  17. Well, you know, the devil is in some folks, and that ain’t no lie, no matter what else may be a story, no matter what else you believe.
  18. These boys got a notion to go out to those rocks and add their names to ‘em. Stopped by Pedergreen’s Hardware for spray paint & chisels.
  19. Way Yaku tells it, when they got to the rocks weren’t another human around ‘cept the hunters, shamans & warriors on the pictographs.
  20. Guess they didn’t notice the sasquatch taking a rest beside The Bigtoes, some Rikikis shaped like 5 giant toes sticking out of the sand.
  21. Sasquatch don’t usually get involved in human affairs, but those rocks is sacred to them, too. Yaku says Sasquatch took care of things.
  22. Sheriff Limonada found the boys’ car abandoned near the Rikikis but didn’t never find a trace of them boys.
  23. So I asked Yaku how he knew the sasquatch took care of them boys if nobody else was around?
  24. He just grinned his big ol’ grin. “Sasquatch told me, of course.” Weren’t but a trace of blue flame & smoke on his lips when he said it.


This tale can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.


  1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-11)
  2. A big orange blob parked itself in the town square. Just appeared overnight and plugged up the fountain something fierce.
  3. Trapper Bruce poked it with a stick & it blatted something that sounded like “Sad!” then barfed chicken fat out of one of its orifices.
  4. Sheriff Limonada suggested taking a flamethrower to it, but nobody had one of those, so a mob with torches formed up.
  5. I don’t really hold with mobs carrying torches myself as many an innocent creature has been declared a monster by them.
  6. But this blob gave off a foul odor of corruption & kept getting bigger, spreading all over the fountain and the park benches around it.
  7. It exploded soon as the first torch hit it. Guess it wasn’t much more than a giant gasbag filled with grease. Burned real good.
  8. The fountain ain’t never going to be the same, though. The nymphs who frequented it have been debauched & are quite traumatized.
  9. They had to go to Aunt Cozy’s Soothin’ Shack for some deep soothin’. Don’t know if they’ll ever return to the fountain.
  10. Only one happy about the situation was Natty Knowles who owns Spic n’ Span Like It Never Happened Cleaning Service.
  11. One of his biggest jobs in recent memory. I hope we’re all done with explosive orange blobs.

These tales can also be found on Twitter: @downportalville


Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah by Colm A. Kelleher and George Knapp

I’m not placing this book with the few UFO books in my possession, nor with the books on the occult or science. Not even with the books on folklore, although it contains all those elements. I am firmly placing this with my growing collection of books on the trickster—although I suppose it would fit in just as well with my collection on Faery. Although the authors mention the Native American myth of the skinwalker (or shapeshifting witch) in the title that’s just a convenient moniker taken from the Ute Indians of Utah who live near that “remote ranch” in an attempt to put a name on the phenomena occurring there.

In the religion and cultural lore of Southwestern tribes, there are witches known as skinwalkers who can alter their shapes at will to assume the characteristics of certain animals. Most of the world’s cultures have their own shapeshifter legends….In the American Southwest, the Navajo, Hopi, Utes, and other tribes each have their own version of the skinwalker story, but basically they boil down to the same thing—a malevolent witch capable of being transformed into a wolf, coyote, bear, bird, or any other animal. The witch might wear the hide or skin of the animal identity it wants to assume, and when the transformation is complete, the human witch inherits the speed, strength, or cunning of the animal whose shape it has taken. The Navajo skinwalkers use mind control to make their victims do things to hurt themselves and even end their lives…

Given the nature of the phenomena reported at that remote ranch, the idea of mind control seems a kind of refrain in the book. Fully half the book details the wealth of high strangeness that takes place, first to the Gorman family, then to the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) researchers. The area had been known to the Utes and Navajos for generations as a wrong place, an abode of skinwalkers, and simultaneously a sacred place, where this world and the otherworld intersect. The white family who bought the ranch came from out of state and didn’t know the ranch’s bad reputation. They just knew they were getting it cheap and that finally they had a shot at making their cattle-ranching dreams come true. Unfortunately, the dream turned into a nightmare, replete with strange lights in the sky and buzzing “craft,” incursions of sasquatch (which the local Utes think are sometimes Bigfoot and sometimes skinwalkers posing as Bigfoot) and other weird and impossible animals. The Gormans were further plagued by cattle mutilations, poltergeists, and sabotage—a veritable state of siege. After three years of that and more, dreams shattered, the Gormans sold the ranch to NIDS so the scientists could do a thorough investigation. The scientists themselves soon came to feel as if they were the ones being investigated, toyed with, and made to confront the limits of science.

As I said, fully half the book recounts the frustrating experiences of the Gormans and the researchers on the ranch. Interesting at first, this section got repetitive. I enjoyed the drama of the first section, where the Gormans were faced with the onslaught of high strangeness, and I enjoyed the final section wherein the authors engage in philosophical and scientific discussions about what might be causing all this. Theories abound, but hard science does not.

If there is an intended message or lesson in all of this, what could it possibly be? Needless to say, everyone who played a part in the investigations has logged many a sleepless night while pondering this central question, without arriving at a satisfactory answer.

Whatever was happening at this ranch (and is still reportedly happening) seems to have more in common with quantum physics than Newtonian, giving an uncomfortable glimpse into the very strange universe we inhabit, one that changes shape depending on who is observing it. Not only is it stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.


Whether you’re looking to find Bigfoot or find a cure for what ails ye, believe in flying saucers and the hollow earth theory, or just feel called to go spiritually journeying in a place where the “veil between this world/dimension and the next is thinner” there’s a destination in California that will fit the bill: a currently inactive volcano called Mt. Shasta. That it’s in California may not surprise some—Cali is the state of oddball seekers, after all—but the fact that the legends stretch back to the earliest settlers and further back into Indian lore may surprise some.

The New Agey stuff, of course, has been grafted onto the place wholesale, but Shasta has always been a place of legend. The mountain is sacred to many Indian tribes in the area: the Wintu, who believe they emerged from a sacred spring on the mountain; the Achumawi; the Atsugewi; the Modoc. The Shasta Indian tribe believe it to be the center of the universe and home to their creator god, Chareya, often called Old Man Above or Great Man in English. While he was creating the world, he made himself a gigantic tipi out of ice and snow. He lived there for thousands of years and the Indians knew he was in residence because they could see the smoke of his fire coming out of the tipi’s top. However, when white folks showed up in the area, Old Man Above decided it was time to go and the smoke wasn’t seen on the mountain after that.

Perhaps that’s why there are people who to this day believe Shasta is hollow inside, a interdimensional passageway, the place where the last of the Lemurians live in a crystal city called Telos, home of the ascended masters, a covert UFO base, a…well, you get the picture. UFO sightings are quite frequent in the area, even without the lenticular clouds that frequent the mountaintop. And it’s said to be a Bigfoot hotspot, as a recent Finding Bigfoot episode claimed. Many spiritual seekers there report “telepathic communication” with Bigfoot when they pop in and out of the fifth dimension…and saucer occupants, and Lemurians, and…again, you get the picture.


I do not laugh at the belief systems of others. I may not take them on as my own, but I figure that as long as they’re harmless and make these people happy, why not? And the beliefs clinging to the mountain are mostly that—peaceful and transcendental. Well, if you discount that one Guy who started a cult in the 1930s. His wife and son wound up swindling people out of a lot of money and getting busted by the Feds. The Guy himself did not go to prison—he was dead when the swindling occurred—so his name remains “pure” and the cult lives on in a Visitor’s Center in the town of Shasta.

But hey, Mt. Shasta is not to blame for the darkness at the heart of some humans, and most activity there is pretty positive. One might even come to believe that Mt. Shasta could purify even the darkest of hearts.

At his first sight of Mt. Shasta in 1874, John Muir is reported to have said, “I was fifty miles away, afoot, alone and weary, yet all of my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since.”

And therein may lay the essence of the Mt. Shasta experience. More than anything, what fascinates people about the mountain is the gosh-awful grandeur of the place. It inspires awe, and so people pour that awe into a multiplicity of belief systems. The place may very well be a vortex to some otherworldly place, or it may just be a vortex of amazing beauty.

As Steven Jackson put it, writing for NPR, when he hiked there: “I don’t have a spiritual epiphany. But the air feels cold and sharp. The old-growth cedars are covered in brilliant green moss and shape-shifting clouds whip across the sky impossibly fast. In short, it is literally awesome. And regardless of what one believes about the mountain, it’s easy to see why it has so many legends to its name.”


The Sidehill Gouger by Jayoen at Deviant Art

My uncle and my older cousin called it the sidehill toggler, an infamous creature from Utah legend. It was fearsome, they said, hanging out in the high mountains, and if you encountered one you had no chance of outrunning it because it was fearsome fast. And carnivorous. Well, there was maybe one way to evade it: run in the opposite direction from the way it faced. It might be a little tricky to get by it to run in the opposite direction, but if you went downhill or uphill a bit, you could generally squeak by. See, the sidehill toggler could only run one way on a mountainside and it could only run round and round the same pathway because it had a regular sized leg on one side and a very, very short leg on the other. Which was why it was so impossibly speedy on mountain slopes…in one direction.

Even though I was little, something in the glint in my uncle’s eyes and the way my cousin bit her lower lip made me skeptical. I was made even more skeptical when I asked what it looked like. They hemmed and hawed, but eventually agreed it was a giant flightless bird, bigger than an ostrich—like maybe a cousin of an ostrich or something, only this bird had a gigantic curved and sharp beak that could tear a person limb from limb.

My mom liked nature shows and watched them all the time, I said. I thought for sure something as terrible and strange as this bird would have popped up on one. But no, my uncle said, the government didn’t like people talking about it because it could cause a panic or something and so the sidehill toggler was confined to the remotest mountains in special nature preserves where no one was allowed to go. Lumberjacks were the only ones who ever saw them, and brought the tales home to tell around firesides.

Mom got back from the store at this point and told my uncle and my cousin to stop filling my head with trash. They laughed a lot at that point.

“I knew you were lying,” I told them.

“Not lying,” my Uncle Rupert said. “Storytelling.”

“Well, Francie was lying,” I said. She blushed.

But it turns out that the sidehill toggler is a real thing. Okay, not a real real thing, but not just a story my uncle and cousin made up. It’s a folklore thing. A tall tale thing. One of the things that lumberjacks really did like to tell stories about around firesides. The most common name for this creature is the sidehill gouger, but it has dozens of names, including the rickaboo racker, the sidehill winder, the gyascutus, the sidehill badger, the rackabore, and so on and so on. My uncle and my cousin may have made up the part about it being a giant bird because I haven’t found any other accounts of it looking like that. Although storytellers do disagree about its appearance, sidehill gougers are often described as badger-like, or deer-like (only with sharp teeth and carnivorous tendencies). Apparently, it’s not just Americans who encounter these extraordinary creatures: the French have one called a dahut, and the Scots have a sidehill haggis. Which calls up pictures of a giant stuffed carnivorous sheep’s bladder with legs. But maybe that’s just me.

Folklorist Carol Rose in Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth says of the Guyascutus and its ilk that they are part of:

the folklore of lumberjacks and forest workers (and later fraudsters) during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota in the United States….The creature belongs to a group of monsters affectionately known as the Fearsome Critters, whose exaggerated proportions and activities not only explained the weird noises of the lonely landscape but also provided some amusement at camps.

I hear they have mosquitoes the size of cows out in Wisconsin and Minnesota, too. Or maybe there’s just so many of them in the summertime it feels like you’ve been bitten by a blood-sucking cow or two. Pretty fearsome either way.