About Dartmoor’s scary faeries, pixies, spooks and spirits

When Martin K. Ettington wrote a book about the Tuatha Da Danann, Druids and Leprechaun elves of Ireland he made an exciting discovery. He found legends about Little People popping up all over the world. Lucy, the 3.2 million-year old fossil skeleton of a human ancestor, was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia. She’s an extinct member of the human lineage, as are H. Neanderthalensis, H. erectus, H. habilis, and several species of Australopithecus.

When a race of people who were only around three feet tall was uncovered in Indonesia, called Flores Man by scientists, the discovery struck a chord. Maybe the legendary ‘little people’ weren’t supernatural beings after all. Perhaps they were our ancient ancestors. Martin Ettington isn’t the only person to believe that our small hominin ancestors could sit at the heart of humanity’s countless ‘little people’ legends. So do we have some kind of super-deep ancestral memory that takes us back to the long-gone days when humans weren’t the only hominins to roam the earth? It’s an interesting thought.

We’re based near Dartmoor in Devon, a magical place that has more than its fair share of stories about little people, faeries, elves, the devil, spirits, ghouls and more. Here are just some of them.

Dartmoor’s pixies, faeries, spirits and spooks

According to one 1865 book, Popular Romances, the Pixies of Dartmoor look a lot like bundles of rags. They like to sit under large oak trees, a favourite haunt for pixies, and some people on the moor believe they’re the souls of un-baptised children. Pixies or Piskies feature in many Dartmoor legends. Small, earthy creatures, they live in the moor’s caves, holes, and rock formations. Usually friendly and helpful, they often provide guidance. But treat them badly and they can mess with your life. If they’re feeling naughty they might force you to dance with them until they’re exhausted and terrified, just for fun, or force you to remain single for the rest of your life.

In 1853 a woman was travelling across the moor with her three children. When she discovered one of her children was missing, she was terrified. Then two tiny people dressed in rags, holding little lights, turned up and pointed her towards a tree before disappearing into thin air. Her missing child was under the tree.

Sheepstor Piskies Cave has been named Pixies Cave, Piskies Cave, and Piskies Hole. Many of the moor’s cairns and burial mounds are known as fairy haunts. Crazywell Pool is deep, dark and very spooky, and some say it’s bottomless. Look into it on Midsummer’s Eve and you might see the sad face of the next person in the parish to die.

Many remote and secluded places on the moor have long-held pixie connections. There’s a colony of faeries at Pixie Rocks near Challacombe and a pixie-haunted hut high up on Gidleigh Commons, a place that no horse will cross. In the village of Chagford some say they hear pixies up on the moor on quiet nights. South Down Bridge near Tavistock was built by a fairy queen, and the cave and waterfall at Chudleigh Rock is a favourite. Pixies built King Castle too, the ancient earthwork near Simonsbath. They love to dance around the moor’s stone circles, including the circle up on Huccaby Moor, and they’ve been seen dancing at Bellever Tor.

Look out for Cutty Dyer, an evil sprite who lives at King’s Bridge in Ashburton. If you cross the bridge drunk he might throw you in the river, slit your throat, and even drink your blood. Head for the old Roman hill fort at Hunters Tor during a full moon to see the ghosts of Roman legionnaires, and maybe even spot the spirits of a Tudor hunting party.

Watch out for the bridge on the B3212 between Postbridge and Two Bridges, another spot where malevolent haunting are common. Fingers crossed you won’t see the infamous pair of hairy hands on your steering wheel, trying to force you off the road. The area has always been spooky, avoided after dark for centuries before the modern road was built.

Dartmoor girl Kitty Jay became pregnant out of wedlock to a local boy, but he didn’t want to stand by her. She killed herself and was buried at the crossroads, as suicides always were back then. The grave is still there and fresh flowers appear there every morning – but nobody knows who leaves the flowers and why. Is it the faeries?

If you ever visit our neck of the woods, enjoy an adventure on Dartmoor. The ancient rocks, the sighing of the wind or the roaring of a gale, the tinkling of water tumbling down from the tors, it’s very beautiful – but you might also sense something watching you, and it could be the little people. We sell some awesomely pretty fairy dresses and skirts, perfect for celebrating the nation’s fairy legends, if indeed they are legends. Who knows...

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