I am an author and paranormal enthusiast who has published numerous books and articles on the subject of true unexplained phenomena.
We are all familiar with the traditional leprechaun; those green-suited, pipe smoking figures who spend their lives daring anyone to get too close to their money pots. What most of us don't realize is that these legendary characters have allegedly been sighted on more than one occasion in the flesh.
One of the first documented cases of an alleged brush with leprechauns took place in 1938 when a schoolboy named John Keeley came forward with a story that would generate headlines.
Keeley claimed that he had been waylaid by a man much smaller than any he had ever before seen one day while walking near a crossroads in County Limerick. Though the man's appearance had caught him off guard, the boy recalled that the stranger had not been the least bit threatening.
After conversing with Keeley for a short time, the man had vanished. Although he had no doubts about what he had seen and heard, the boy told only his closest friends of the curious interaction.
The following day, he encountered two other little men in the same area. Again, they seemed more interested in learning about him that causing him harm. It seemed that, as far as they were concerned, he was the anomaly. What they didn't know, but would soon learn, was that Keeley's friends had followed him to the mountain.
Upon laying eyes on the incredible looking figures, the tagalongs had given chase. In a panic, the tiny forms had made a mad dash for the forest, crossing a muddy area along the way that threatened to swallow them up.
With the group in hot pursuit, the men trudged through the mire until finally reaching a clearing. Their would-be tormentors would later relate that the pair had emerged from the muck as clean as when they went in. This stands to reason since it is believed that leprechauns wear clothing that doesn't wear out and can never be soiled.
Fortunately, the wily leprechauns, if that's what they were, managed to escape into the woods. Frightened, but otherwise unscathed, from that day on they gave townspeople a wide berth. They had learned the hard way that trusting one's enemy seldom ends well.
After word got out that several people had seen the little men, reporters hungry for a scoop descended upon the village. It is because of their efforts that the sightings gained national attention.
In 1959, a farmer in County Carlow claimed that he had been bulldozing a bush on his property when a man standing no more that three feet tall had leapt out from underneath the piece of machinery. As the man sat taking in the unbelievable scene, the figure ran across the field in a flash, hurtling the fence that divided his property from that of his neighbor with ease. Three other men working the land that day also witnessed the surreal scene.
In 1989, tavern owner P.J. O'Hare was toiling away in his garden one day when he heard a scream emanating from the nearby Mourne Mountain Range. Concerned that someone was in trouble, he dropped what he was doing and ran to offer assistance.
Upon reaching the general area from which the scream had come, O'Hare found a collection of charred bones, a green suit with matching hat and four gold coins lying atop a patch of scorched earth. Every single item was miniature in size.
Knowing immediately that he had stumbled upon something incredible, O'Hare carefully scooped up the treasures and carried them back to his home. Forgetting all about the scream that had drawn him to the site in the first place, he decided to keep the unusual, if macabre, items for himself.
After obtaining a case in which to display them, O'Hare placed the bones and suit in his establishment for the world to see. Those who viewed the skeletal remains couldn't deny that they resembled a tiny human form.
Reasoning that if one such being existed, there were bound to be others, searchers set out to find a living specimen. After weeks of looking in every conceivable place and finding nothing, the quest was abandoned. Written off by naysayers as a hoax, the entire incident was soon forgotten.
The pub's owner has since passed away, but his mysterious find remains on exhibit. The coins are a different story. Even though he had kept a close watch on his prized possessions, the pieces of gold came up missing. Although he didn't want to believe that one of his customers would do such a thing, O'Hare concluded that they had been stolen. As it turned out, he may have been partially right.
Fun and Games
In 2002, Kevin McCoillte found what many believe to be the pilfered coins lying on a stone wall near the site in which they were originally discovered. After taking them into his possession, he says that a line of communication was opened up between him and a fellow standing two or three feet tall who identified himself as a leprechaun elder.
The man told him that a colony of two hundred and thirty-six of his kind inhabited the region. At first, believing that his imagination had shifted into overdrive, McCoillte kept the encounter to himself. In time, he would come to face a different reality.
The deciding factor for McCoillte came one afternoon when he observed three tiny figures watching him from atop a rock as he was walking his dog. While in their presence, he asserted that neither he nor the animal could move or react in any way. As soon as the wee men climbed down and disappeared underneath the stone, the trance was broken and everything returned to normal.
Dismissing the entire incident as some sort of hallucination, McCoillte continued on his way. He estimated that he and his faithful companion had been out on their daily jaunt for about an hour and a half, which was their usual. It was only after returning home and receiving a tongue lashing from his wife that he learned that they had been missing for over seven hours.
McCoillte could not account for the glitch in time and had no recollections of what occurred while he and his pet were, for all intents and purposes, lost to the world. What he did know was that, from that day forward, he believed wholeheartedly that the beings they encountered were leprechauns who had cast a spell on them. What they had to gain from such an action and what occurred while he and his dog were in limbo is something that haunts him to this day.
The stories of leprechauns on Carlingford Mountain became so widespread that in 2009 the European Habitats Directive declared the two hundred and thirty-six woodland residents a protected species. They justified this by saying that, although they couldn't prove the existence of these mythical beings, they couldn't disprove it either. In their view, if erring on the side of caution meant shielding an as yet undetermined species from harm then so be it.
Leprechauns, like most other communities, have their bad apples. The undesirables in this case are of an ilk known as clurichauns. These red-nosed menaces, unlike their shy cousins, have hair trigger tempers that flare at the slightest provocation.
Known as destroyers of good, they are said to possess the ability to lay curses on those who draw their ire. Once their wrath has been unleashed, there is no turning back. For those who cross a clurichaun, financial ruin, ill-health and even death soon follow. To anger them is to face their unyielding wrath.
Along with a penchant for wreaking havoc, these devilish creatures also perform parlor tricks such as spoiling fresh cream with a wave of their hand. Their reputation so proceeds them that many a family has been forced to secure their cellar, especially if its used to store liquor, in order to stave off a visit from these notorious ruffians.
Run-of-the-mill leprechauns, unlike their evil counterparts, are hard workers who take their lot in life seriously. Tasked with protecting the community pot of gold, it is their sworn duty to keep the treasure out of the hands of those who would use it for personal gain.
While on the job, a leprechaun is said to keep two purses on his person. One holds a silver shilling that, once spent, magically finds its way back into the sack. The other contains a gold coin that the leprechaun uses to bribe his way out of sticky situations, such as being found out by a mortal.
When confronted by someone meaning to steal his gold or do him harm, the holder of the coin gifts it to the interloper. While the person admires his or her shiny windfall, the leprechaun beats a hasty retreat. Once he reaches safety, the coin turns to ashes. As it turns out, the piece of gold is only good when held by its rightful owner.
Sometimes, as was evident in the Keeley case, leprechauns inexplicably take a liking to someone normally viewed as a threat. Perhaps the group that the boy encountered were simply a gentle breed or maybe they sensed his innate goodness. Whatever the reason, they treated him well and he returned the favor, at least for a time.
In the end, no one knows for certain if the leprechaun legend has its roots in real events or is complete folly. Researchers who have studied the phenomena, which has been around since the 8th century, have theorized that they might be distant relatives of African pygmies.
These proto-pygmies, or 'original dwarfs,' are thought to be hominids who share almost identical characteristics; i.e., height, facial features and even style of dress. Presumed to be of unusually high intelligence, they have managed for centuries to outsmart those who would treat them as something to be poked and prodded for the sake of science.
Whatever they are, these mystical beings aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Whether they are simply figments of wild imaginations or living, breathing entities who have not only survived through the ages, but flourished, leprechauns are magic personified. Just ask anyone lucky, or unlucky, enough to have crossed their path.
·Your Irish Culture
·The Irish Post