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1973, April 30: Mary Treadgold’s Little Man

In the September 1975 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, a letter was published that had been sent by children's book author Mary Treadgold regarding a very odd thing she had seen.

        On April 30th, 1973, Treadgold was riding on a bus on the Isle of Mull off the coast of Scotland when the bus pulled over for a moment to let an oncoming car drive by. As the bus was paused, Treadgold looked out the window across an expanse of peat. She noticed a clump of tallish heather, and then realized that in front of this bush was a young man with his foot on a shovel, stopped in the action of digging as if "frozen like a bird or squirrel on the approach of something alien"... and this young man was apparently only around 18 inches tall.

        Treadgold described the little man as having a "thin, keen face" that she would recognize again if she saw it, tight, curly brown hair, and was wearing a bright blue 'bib-and-braces' (pants with a back and torso cover that buckles over the shoulders), and a "very white" shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Next to him was what she took to be a sack, also tiny. The little man was not a child, dwarf, or midget, nor was it an ornament of some sort... it was distinctly a well grown young man, proportionately correct and clearly living and alert, but only 18 inches tall. For about four seconds, Treadgold stared at this odd figure; then the bus started to move on and she looked away, then tried to look back to confirm what she had seen... but the bus had moved on and passed the spot by the time she could turn back, and due to a rheumatic shoulder, she couldn't turn fast enough to catch a glimpse before the spot was well and truly out of sight.

        Treadgold said nothing to her traveling companion, because it was such an odd occurrence; but she made careful note of the details as soon as possible, so that she would not change it in her memory later. Treadgold had traveled to Mull many times before, and had never seen anything like this; she was also surprised that she saw it on the side of the island that was "more civilized," which implies she felt she saw a fairy, as fairies are generally believed to avoid areas of heavy human habitation. Once she returned home, inquiries to a friend in the Highlands told Treadgold that such small people had been seen by other on Mull before, and that they were generally pale skinned (which Treadgold did not notice of the little man she saw) and very bright (which did match what she recalled of the sighting).

        Treadgold speculated that it may have been a mirage, yet didn't know why a mirage would either diminish the size of an object, nor show her someone working in short sleeves on what was a bitterly cold day on Mull (West Scotland was having "an intense snow blizzard" at the time of the sighting).

Other Theories

A few months later a second letter concerning Treadgold's sighting was published in the Journal, this one from a man named Brian Nisbet. Nisbet had been in contact with Treadgold and had come to the conclusion that her 'fairy sighting' was actually a hypnagogic illusion -- a brief vision that can occur just before a person falls asleep. Which is an interesting idea, but misses the point of one of the other bits of information that Nisbet got while in correspondence with Treadgold.

        Apparently, Treadgold had been told by a member of the Society for Psychical Research who was living on Mull -- Mr. George Sassoon -- that the men in the town of Glenforsa on Mull often wore blue 'bib-and-braces' with white shirts, as Treadgold reported seeing the little man wear. Treadgold had no recollection of ever seeing men dressed this way and, in fact, had not been on the Isle of Mull during the summer since at least the end of WWII, summer being the likely time to see the men with rolled up sleeves. Nisbet speculated that she had in fact seen men dressed this way previously and simply forgotten until her vision brought it back up.

        On the other hand, it also needs to be noted that fairies have often traditionally been described as wearing clothes that are roughly equivalent to middle-class clothing for the cultures they are associated with.