As we slouch through the dog days toward a merciful autumn, we’re graced with yet another entry in David Paulides’ Missing 411 series, this time subtitled Hunters. Anyone unfamiliar with Paulides should certainly avail themselves of his research, because it’s not only well-done, but chilling to boot.
I’ve mentioned numerous times before how Paulides’ research has become something of a paranormal Rorschach test: depending upon your interests, you’ll see what you want to see. Those with an interest in Sasquatch will contend that ape-men are snatching innocent hikers from National Parks. UFO aficionados will seize upon these cases as evidence of alien abduction. Conspiracy theorists will claim the government is harvesting brilliant minds to lead us through a worldwide cataclysm.
All of this, of course, ignores the absolute weirdness that surrounds the Missing 411 disappearances. There are plenty of strange commonalities to these cases (some listed below) that defy any of these traditional explanations. Nothing in Forteana seems to fit all the puzzle pieces.
Except, of course, faeries.
As noted numerous times on this blog and in my work, the fae folk are generally not pleasant, sweet, wish-granting godmothers. Usually they were quite nasty and, among other fiendish pastimes, delighted in abducting people, often from forests (consider the fact that the etymology of the word panic refers directly to the god Pan—a satyr, one of the fae folk—who instilled fear with strange noises from the woodlands).
In a spectacular example of possibly invalidating the objectivity of my view—being a faerie aficionado, of course I see their hand in this—consider how well the fae folk model fits the criteria for the disappearances outlined in the Missing 411 series:
Boulder fields and bodies of water. Quite a few people in Paulides' research disappear near boulder fields and bodies of water. While it is true that both Sasquatch and UFOs are commonly sighted near water, boulder fields fail to show up as often. In folklore, on the otherhand, bodies of water are home to water elementals, while boulder fields are regarded as faerie domains the world over.
Storms. Being nature spirits, faeries were naturally ascribed control over the elements, including storms and the weather. In the Missing 411 cases, Search & Rescue teams are frequently foiled by poor weather and sudden snow and rain. Certainly such abilities fall outside the scope of proponents that Sasquatch is a flesh-and-blood ape. While some will be quick to point out that the U.S. government can influence the weather—and, by extension, any sufficiently advanced non-human intelligence could as well—it seems like a grossly inefficient way to impede S&R progress, and I am not comfortable admitting that the precedent for such accuracy exists.
Animal fear. Just as in the Missing 411 cases, UFO and (especially) Sasquatch literature is replete with animals, particularly dogs, refusing to venture into the woods. Trained bloodhounds, for example, will simply lay down at the forest's edge and refuse to venture any further. This behavior is not only reflected in faerie lore of yore, but also in modern cases, such as the man whose dog was rooted to the spot after spying a pukwudgie in Raynham, Massachusetts.
Disembodied sounds. In some cases from the Missing 411 books, S&R teams will hear a disembodied voice, presumably the victim, coming from the wilderness. This phenomenon calls to mind not only the Oliver Lerch disappearance (likely a hoax), but also fae folk encounters, of which disembodied voices and music are a staple. As noted above, the Greek god Pan was often blamed with anomalous sounds coming from the woods. (As a humorous sidebar, take a listen to this Sasquatch Chronicles episode, which interviews hunters who hear childlike laughter in the woods... of course it couldn't be a faerie, that would be silly—it must be a Sasquatch!)
Modern folk heroes. One of Paulides' more recent entries, Missing 411: A Sobering Coincidence, covers scholar-athletes who become intoxicated and are found dead in nearby bodies of water. This has a two-fold dimension when interpreted through the faerie lense: not only do the fae folk enjoy picking on drunkards, like Jemmy Doyle, but there are plenty of Fairytales where the protagonist is a warrior (in the 21st century our tribes are sports teams, their athletes our warriors). Some may rightly counter that the toxicology reports of these young men often have modern medicinal sedatives in their bodies—but the fae phenomenon has always acted within the constraints of its cultural context. If faeries of 1250 A.D. pushed wine and ale upon their captors, perhaps they would behave similarly with GHB.
Plucked into the air. Many advocates of the UFO solution point to the fact that Paulides’ son mentioned (and I paraphrase): “It’s almost as if something plucked these people up into the air, like a claw machine.” True, one of the victims—Todd Geib—placed a cell phone call that sounded as though he was rushing through the air. But I will see your UFO theory and counter with a quote from Evans-Wentz’s The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, which describes the Tylwyth Teg of the Isle of Anglesey: “As aerial beings the Tylwyth Teg could fly and move about in the air at will.”
Berry picking. Many of the victims in Paulides’ work disappear while out berry picking. This detail seems innocuous enough at first, but I have had many people see parallels to this and the cases I mention in A Trojan Feast. If forests are the faeries’ domain, and berries are in the forest, then that makes berries faerie food; and, if those who eat faerie food are trapped with the faeries forever then... well, you do the math.
There are several other criteria I've failed to mention, but these examples should be clear how parsimonious the fae folk solution is in expalning the Missing 411 cases. Factor in a handful of entities seen in some of the cases which sound strikingly like faeries, and the case is strengthened. Just because the Missing 411 cases have the "mouth feel" of fae activity does not mean that other theories are incorrect. This would certainly hold true if, as I suspect, both UFO and Sasquatch lore are attempts to describe the same phenomenon our ancestors attributed to faeries. What needs to be evaluated, really, is the paradigm in which Paulides' cases are presented: few to any materialist interpretations will yield a satisfactory answer. It is only by examining folklore that we will gain any deeper insight. One final, extremely compelling detail: consider this excerpt from Katharine Luomala's
"Phantom Marchers in the Hawaiian Islands," an article which appeared in the Fall 1983 edition of Pacific Studies:
The limpet picker related his story this way: One night when I was fishing for ulua [crevally, Carangidae] Mahu-kona side, I was sitting listening to the waves crash on the rocks. I was with Keoki. We started talking story after sliding fresh puhi [eels] down the line. It was about ten o’clock. Suddenly I heard the sound of a conch shell blowing in the distance. Keoki heard it too. I thought it was the wind. Then a little while later we heard it again. This time it was a little louder. It was spooky because we didn’t see anything, Then we heard it again. We looked toward Ka-wai-hae side and then we saw it. It looked like a procession. At first we saw a line of torches in the distance. The procession was moving along the coastline. The conch shell blew again. I took out my knife and Keoki got the rifle. We went seaward and laid down on the lava rock. We knew about night marchers [Hawaiian faeries, otherwise known as the menehune - ed.] from other fishermen. We knew you aren’t supposed to look upon the marchers and to lay on the ground face down. We did this. The marchers passed about fifty yards in front of us on the sand path. As they passed we could hear the sound of a drum pounding beat by beat. We didn’t look up until they were farther down the coast. All we could see now was the line of torches, and all we could hear was the far away sound of the conch shell. We didn’t know if they were going to come back that night, but we didn’t want to stick around and see. We got our sleeping bags and made it to the car and went to Spencer Park to spend the rest of the night. In the morning we went back and picked up our rigs and equipment we left behind.
Later, Luomala describes this behavior as part of a larger set of Hawaiian beliefs regarding the procession of royalty:
A herald often accompanied a dignitary in order to command people to get off the road and, if the principal marcher was of very high rank, to prostate themselves (kapu moe), or, if of lower rank, to squat down (kapu noho). The herald might also require the onlooker to close his eyes or to remove all or part of his clothing....
Although many victims detailed in Paulides' research disappear without a trace, occasionally their bodies are found. Quite often, the corpses are face down in the dirt, their clothes neatly folded and placed beside them.