1937 (pre): Gnome Caught Accidentally by Young Woman
Sometime between 1929 and 1937, Hungarian parapsychologist Nandor Fodor was visiting and interviewing Claire Cantlon, then secretary of the "Fairy Investigation Society" in England, when she showed him a letter the Society had received. The letter was written by a young woman who explained that she had been staying at an old house in Gloucester, England, that had a garden that attached to the forest of Birdlip Beeches, which covered part of the local Cotswald Hills. The young lady had washed her hair, and had walked out to the forest, out of sight of the house, to let the sunshine dry her hair while she sat and enjoyed the scenery. Suddenly, she felt something tugging in her hair; and when she turned to look, she discovered the oddest thing.
Tangled in her hair was a little man -- no taller than nine inches -- dreadfully ugly, misshapen, and wrinkled. He skin was a yellow-brown color that reminded the woman of dead aspen leaves. He had a high, squeaky voice, and complained at her as he struggled to get himself free of her hair; he told her she "had no right to be there, troubling honest folk," and that her hair might have strangled him. The moment he freed himself, he disappeared.
In talking later to a professor from Bristol University, the young woman found that he wasn't surprised. The professor told her that Birdlip Beeches was known to still have fairies, and that no one could go there because of it.
A Little Distance
Though we are told by Fodor that the tale was collected by the Fairy Investigation Society sometime previous to 1937 -- and yes, the Fairy Investigation Society really did exist -- the earliest the story was put into print was in Fodor's own book Between Two Worlds, published in 1964. This is largely because the FIS never published their early research, much of which was lost during World War II; so we now have only Fodor's word that the story is true and that he saw the letter between 1929 and 1937.