By: Brent Swancer ……
Throughout history and across cultural boundaries there have long been tales of gnomes, elves, fairies, and assorted other magical little people. Such tales take many different forms and permeate the lore of numerous far-flung lands, so widespread that they almost seem to represent some subconscious bond between all living humans. Yet far from merely bedtime stories and pure legend, there have been many reports of real encounters with such entities, and the ones that perhaps stick out the most are those accounts in which these creatures have proven to be hostile and malevolent. One such case was allegedly experienced by several witnesses in the U.S. state of California, where two families in a small town seem to have been terrorized and practically held under siege by a mysterious gnome-like entity.
The story starts with a woman known only as Tammy, who moved with her three children to a rural farmhouse near the town of Porterville, California, in the San Joaquin Valley just off the Tule River, in around 2004. Things got weird almost immediately, as Tammy claimed that she often felt the heavy sense of being watched, at times almost feeling the gravity of eyes upon her, but there was never any one around during these episodes. It did not take long for her to realize that this phenomenon happened most often and most intensely when she was near the barn, which sat in a secluded corner of the rather large, 100-acre property. Indeed, in the coming days the barn took on quite a sinister air, seeming to emanate a cold chill, a thick sense of dread, and having the habit of spooking the many animals the family owned, including dogs, a cat, chickens, turkeys, and even a duck.
Although they tended to wander all over the property, none of these animals would go anywhere near the barn, as if repelled by some unseen force lodged within. Indeed, Tammy observed that none of the neighbors animals, strays, or wildlife would go near the spooky old barn either. Whenever any animals passed the barn they would give it a wide berth, and on many occasions would act strangely in its presence, staring at it as if something were there staring back. The dogs would sometimes go nuts around the barn, barking and yipping excitedly even though no one was there. Sometimes there could be heard strange noises coming from within the barn, which sounded like grunts, growls, and squeals. To add a layer to the thickening air of foreboding, Tammy claimed that she began to notice several of her animals had begun to go missing, gone without a trace, and it was immediately suspected that that menacing barn had had something to do with it.
Tammy chalked it all up to nerves and perhaps rats or wildlife nesting in the barn, and explained the missing animals away as having just run off or even being killed by coyotes, but one frightening encounter would convince her that it was something more than that. One evening Tammy returned from town with her son and parked the car, but as she exited the vehicle and went to get some groceries out of the trunk she claims that she saw fleeting movement in the periphery of her vision. When she looked up there was nothing there, and she went back to unloading the groceries but almost immediately there was another movement, this time punctuated by an insidious laugh. Standing there around 50 yards away was what she described as a humanoid creature about 3 feet tall, which sported a beard and was wearing baggy black pants, a gold-colored shirt, and a red pointy cap. For a moment it just stood there staring at her and her son with deep-set, dead black eyes, as if studying them, but then things took a turn for the sinister. Tammy would say:
“This time I heard a very freaky, very evil-sounding chuckle. I looked in the direction of the sound and standing there about 50 yards from my son and I was what I can only describe as a gnome. That thing grinned at us and the creepy grin spread from ear to ear and its teeth were a gross brown and pointed or jagged. It had a bulbous nose and large, deep-set eyes, though I really couldn’t tell the color of them. I never got a closer look at it and don’t know if it was wearing shoes or not because at that moment I dropped my groceries grabbed my son and ran for the house.”
As soon as Tammy and her son had entered the house and slammed the door shut behind them, she began frantically telling her daughters about what had happened between deep gasps. Somewhere outside the strange little man was still cackling, and there was a movement by the window. The terrified family looked out to see what it was, and as they approached the window they could see the top of the red, pointed cap loom into view, which was especially odd considering this particular window was located around 8 feet over the ground. Tammy closed the blinds, moved her children well away from the window, and waited there breathlessly until the thing finally went away. This would be the only direct sighting of the evil gnome, but Tammy would occasionally hear that same ominous chuckling issuing forth from the shunned barn. She would later say:
“After that night whenever the dogs barked or howled we were pretty sure we knew what they were barking at. We were also pretty sure of where our missing poultry had gone. From time to time we would hear a weird creepy chuckle and other noises coming from that old barn.
Tammy and her family would eventually move away, but interestingly this is not the end of the story. A curious thing about this case is that at the time this family had had no idea that the previous family had experienced similar bizarre incidents, and she would later learn that there had been others in the same area who had had encounters with the same sort of creature. In the meantime, she would continue to experience strange phenomena regarding the gnome even after moving. She would elaborate on all of this in a comment on the site Weird Fresno, in which she says:
“I called it a gnome as that is what it resembles to me I did move but only about half a mile down the road and still with the Tule River running behind us , I did not know when I moved here that some of my neighbors had had experiences with a creepy gnome way before I told my story. They were run out of the river by the thing twice at two different locations. Well, for the past several months we have started having the same experiences we did at the other place. We have heard the creepy cackly laugh and heard something running around the house, One night as I was lying on the couch I heard something running very fast across my front deck it hit the gate so hard that it flew end over end. The thing running was too heavy to be a cat but too fast to be a human. Another night I was lying on the couch and noticed something moving out the corner of my eye on the deck. The mini blinds were down but not shut and I saw that creepy gnome or red hat standing next to a shelf on my deck where I kept my yard ornaments, fairies and things like that, which have gone missing. I closed the slats on the mini blind with my hand but the curtain was pulled away from the slider and I did not see it but I knew that it was looking at me through the open curtain . I tried to lie really still and when my grandson came in I told him what happened and he pulled the curtain closed. He looked around outside but only found some small foot prints on a white shelf that is in our storage shed. So, the thing is still here and terrorizing me and my neighbors.”
A new family would move into Tammy’s previous house in 2010, and adding to the whole bizarre story is that in 2011 author and paranormal investigator Jason Offutt got into contact with one of the new owners of the house, a Charlie Thomas, who also had her own strange story to tell, claiming that her and her family were also being terrorized by a gnome-like creature. She claimed that the family had been taunted by eerie singing or chanting coming from outside of their windows at night, and they too immediately noticed that there was something weird going on with that decrepit old barn. It would only escalate from there. One evening in the early morning hours the couple woke to the sound of a “raspy, gurgling singing,” which chilled them to the bone. When they looked out the window they could see standing by a small pond on the property a creature standing around 3 feet in height and wearing maroon pants and a baggy yellow shirt with a brown vest and a dark waistcoat. The thing was described as having a bushy grey beard and wearing a tall, pointed reddish hat. The eyes of the being were said to be small and black, and its teeth were discolored, jagged and sharp, to the point of looking almost broken. The creature seemed to know it was being watched, and apparently stared right back at them before snatching one of the expensive koi fish they had stocked the pond with and jamming it into its mouth with glee. The husband allegedly shouted at it to go away and it actually apparently gave him the finger before running off while laughing. When the area was examined later a set of footprints were found that were about the size of a child’s. Charlie Thomas would say of all of this encounter:
“It was without a doubt the most hideous sound I have ever heard. It freaked us out. Standing by my pond holding one of my garden gnomes was what I can only describe as something out of a Grimm’s fairy tale. The thing that was standing in our yard was hideous and grotesque. It stood illumined under the motion detector light. It was less than 3 feet tall, had a long gray beard, wore maroon pants, a baggy yellow shirt, brown vest and a dark waistcoat. I couldn’t tell if it was wearing shoes or not, but it was wearing a reddish brown pointed hat. The thing that made this creature really hideous was its eyes and teeth. It looked like it was grinning and its teeth were jagged and pointed. The eyes were little, beady, dark and mean. That thing, gnome, troll, whatever it was, knew we were looking at it, and it reached into the pond and grabbed a koi. Right there in front of us, it dropped it in its mouth and swallowed it. We had noticed that every time we put fish in the pond they disappeared, and we thought it was cats or raccoons eating them. After seeing that, I think that creepy little creature was the guilty party.”
This thing was apparently really liked that pond, because it would purportedly be seen there numerous times, always in the early morning hours at around 3 a.m. and often eating the fish within. It also rather amusingly seemed to like playing with the garden gnome decorations that had been set up there, sometimes even vandalizing them. Fed up with this strange intruder, the husband then apparently took away the lawn ornaments and fish, which caused the gnome to one night thrown a tantrum, stomping about and shouting out in some garbled, bizarre language. The thing would skirt around the house banging on the walls and testing the locked doors at night, almost always at 3 a.m. Thomas would say:
“One night after we had removed the fairies and gnomes and fish from the yard, the creature showed up at the usual time, 3 a.m. When it showed up and found that the yard ornaments were gone and the fish were gone, it went crazy. It was yelling and screaming something that we couldn’t understand – but we did understand that this thing was pissed and wanted us to know it. We had put a doggy door in the back door and it was big enough for our dogs to go through and it would be big enough for that creature to go through as well. I took off running down to the kitchen, and as I got there, the dogs had started barking like crazy at the doggy door. If that creature can half run/half fly around the house, it was probably capable of flying up to the windows. A fear hit me than like nothing I had ever felt, and I ran back up to the twins’ bedroom where they were both sound asleep in their cribs. The last we heard of that creature was a very loud screeching, cackling sound. It was under one of the living room windows, and when my husband went to check it out, he saw the top of that creature’s hat under the window. Right then we decided that we were out of there. We couldn’t stay there with that creature.”
The Thomases would then move away, perhaps a wise decision, and that was that. The fact that two separate families who didn’t know each other have reported the same thing seems to give this case a bit of weight, but it still does nothing to explain what the offending creature could possibly be. Is this some sort of magical creature from a realm beyond our normal perceptions? Is it some sort of inter dimensional interloper passing through some veil between our two realities? Does it have any connection to the various legends and tales of little people throughout the world? Or was it just the product of overactive imaginations or even a hoax? Whatever the thing was, whether it was ever real or not, it was weird and pissed off whatever it was.