In his 1866 work Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts, folklorist Patrick Kennedy tells the story of “Jemmy Doyle in the Fairy Palace”:
My father was once coming down Scollagh Gap on a dark night, and all at once he saw, right before him, the lights coming from ever so many windows of a castle, and heard the shouts and laughing of people within. The door was wide open, and in he walked; and there on the spot where he had often drunk a tumbler of bad beer, he found himself in a big hall, and saw the king and queen of the fairies sitting at the head of a long table, and hundreds of people, all grandly dressed, eating and drinking. The clothes they had on them were of an old fashion, and there were harpers and pipers by themselves up in a gallery, and playing the most delightful old Irish airs. There was nothing to be seen but rich silk dresses, and pearls, and diamonds on the gentlemen and ladies and rich hangings on the walls, and lamps blazing.
The queen, as soon as she saw my father, cried out, "Welcome, Mr. Doyle; make room there for Mr. Doyle, and let him have the best at the table. Hand Mr. Doyle a tumbler of punch, that will be strong and sweet. Sit down, Mr. Doyle, and make yourself welcome." So he sat down, and took the tumbler, and just as he was going to taste it, his eye fell on the man next him, and he was an old neighbour that was dead twenty years. Says the old neighbour, "For your life, don't touch bit nor sup." The smell was very nice, but he was frightened by what the dead neighbour said, and he began to notice how ghastly some of the fine people looked when they thought he was not minding them.
So his health was drunk, and he was pressed by the queen to fall to, but he had the sense to take the neighbour's advice, and only spilled the drink down between his coat and waistcoat.
At last the queen called for a song, and one of the guests sang a very indecent one in Irish. He often repeated a verse of it for us, but we didn't know the sense. At last he got sleepy, and recollected nothing more only the rubbing of his legs against the bushes in the knoc (field of gorse) above our place in Cromogue; and we found him asleep next morning in the haggard, with a scent of punch from his mouth. He told us that we would get his knee-buckles on the path at the upper end of the knoc, and there, sure enough, they were found. Heaven be his bed!
There is a peculiar relationship between the alcohol and the paranormal. It is not at all uncommon to have an eyewitness sighting written off as the fantasy of an overindulgent drinker—aware of this, witnesses scramble to defend themselves. “I know what I saw, I don’t drink,” says the person who saw bigfoot. “The witness is a sober individual, and has never used drugs or alcohol,” writes the MUFON investigator.
Nevermind the fact that alcohol’s powers as a hallucinogen are, with the exception of dubious folklore surrounding absinthe, virtually nonexistent. True, the recovering alcoholic may see pink elephants during his withdrawals as a result of alcoholic hallucinosis, but how many eyewitnesses to the paranormal are alcoholics?
Still, with so much excitement these days over entheogens, I find it quite surprising that no one has examined alcohol’s role in anomalous encounters, because there is something deeper taking place, at least thematically, between the unexplained and the devil’s brew. In Other Tongues, Other Flesh, George Hunt Williamson wrote of an alleged fellow alien contactee:
Scientists from Washington, D. C. looked over the site shortly after the landing took place. The story was on radio, but minus the details, of course. Whether the object was barrel-shaped or not is not known, but it left a square impression on the ground! This same man claims he was taken to another world later in this craft, and his wife says he disappeared for a short while recently. He is a heavy drinker and, therefore, an excellent subject for Orion control. Maybe he did go to another planet--but which one?
This line of thought—alcohol making one susceptible to being manipulated—finds parallels in a new work as level-headed as Hunt’s was fantastic. The latest in David Paulides’ "Missing 411" series bears the subtitle A Sobering Coincidence, a witty allusion to the latest trend the author has noted. From Paulides’ website:
The author continues with his profile points involving the disappearances and applies them to a series of incidents involving young men and women, mostly college age. Many of the victims vanished within the confines of their college or university town. These individuals were brilliant scholars, athletes and stellar people in their community. They disappear under unusual circumstances and are often found in areas that were previously searched. Medical examiners in these cases often cannot determine the cause of death. Many times the victim was recovered in water, yet autopsies show the body was not in the water the entire time the victim was missing. The majority of the families in these cases believe their loved ones were abducted and held, then later dumped in the water. These allegations are generally ignored by authorities until pressured by facts presented through secondary autopsies that families requested and paid for.
… absent the description is the tendency for these young people to often (though not always) be heavily intoxicated, at least when blood is taken post mortem. In many instances, the victims are seen at parties and bars just prior to disappearing. Paulides makes a good case that this isn’t just rowdy kids getting into trouble—often, victims suspected of drowning to death will show limited decomposition in spite of supposedly being in water for days on end.
I’ve never spoken with Paulides, but I wonder how aware he is of the ancient connections between alcohol and faerie lore. I wrote about this at some length in A Trojan Feast:
It is no secret that intoxication is central to faerie phenomenon. The Good Folk seem to love preying upon people with a few drinks in their system: cultures around the world describe the ghost lights, will-o’-the-wisp, ignus fatuus (foolish fire), jack-o’-lanterns, and hobby lanterns that lead astray the unwary, particularly those returning home from drinking. Becoming “fairy struck”—the sudden sense of paralysis so common to faerie encounters—was also a euphemism for someone who had partaken too freely of their libations…
The reason why faeries seem to relish harassing drunkards is up for debate. Does the alcohol actually make it easier to contact the faeries, stripping away some of the psychological barriers we erect during our alert, conscious state? Or does their love of the bottle keep a drinker’s testimony safe from serious scrutiny?
Gut-check: it’s probably not faeries who are responsible for the disappearances Paulides is investigating. Still, there are strong parallels between those in his research and those taken by faeries—both vanish in boulder fields and forests, the few who return lack clear memories, etc.—and disappearing drinkers are consistent with the lore as well.
Now more than ever, I find myself wondering if there isn’t some sort of thematic connection between the drinkers being led astray in medieval folklore and the young folks in Paulides’ research.