The 2014-2017 Fairy Census

Apparently some paperwork infiltrates the paranormal world as well as, cue the Fairy Census. The research presented in 160,000+ words in this report is courtesy of This is an on-going questionnaire about those who "see fairies, when and why." Surprisingly, the goal of the census is not to prove fairies exist. In fact, the researcher, Simon Young, wants to get a better understanding of who sees fairies and under what circumstances these sightings and experiences happen. 


While this may seem a little strange, the questionnaire and the study itself will actually be published in association with Simon Young and Ceri Houlbrook (ed), Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies, 500 AD to the Present (Gibson Square 2017), a collection of fairylore essays by
folklorists and historians.

Here is the information gathered from each experience:

  • Gender
  • The time it took place
  • Age of the respondent when the experience took place
  • Location (in particular...near water, on a country road,  building, etc)
  • Company (alone or with others)
  • Time of day of the experience
  • Duration of the experience
  • Mood of the fairy (friendly, angry, etc)
  • Frequent with which the respondent has supernatural expereince 
  • Any special state reported before the expereince (did you just wake up? were you picking blackberries? etc)
  • Any special phenomena connected to the experience (loss of sense of time, profound silence, etc)

After these base questions, several more follow including:

  • ‘If you heard fairy music or sounds how would you describe these?’
  • ‘Do you know if the place of the experience had a reputation for fairies?’ ‘And if
  • so did you know this prior to your experience?’
  • ‘Why do you think your experience was a fairy experience, as opposed to a ghost or an alien or an angel or some other type of anomalous experience?’
  • ‘What in your opinion are fairies?’
  • ‘Do you have any other comments or thoughts?’ 

It is also important to note that not all contributions were published - including "joke" replies, ones with not information, etc. Young also notes that "I am convinced of the sincerity of the vast, vast majority of respondents. Whether you believe in fairies or not these people clearly had extraordinary experiences, experiences that sometimes changed their lives. In four or five cases I suspect that the respondent made up the account for fun, or found themselves bored late at night on the internet with a whisky. After reading hundreds of accounts you get a feel for patterns within impossible experiences and these suspect accounts don’t conform. I have included the 15 suspect accounts, anyway, because I can hardly edit out experiences that smell rotten, to my subjective and possibly flawed judgment. But, reader, beware!"

One thing that I, and Young, found quite interesting was fairy sightings were sometimes seen as glowing orbs of light. We know that orbs are a bit infamous in the AL world...but could fairies be behind these interesting glimpses in our photos?

Here are some of the sightings that specifically references this phenomena. All page numbers are those noted at the top page of each entry:

  • "At first I thought they were lightning bugs, but the lights weren’t the same as what I remembered from when I was a child. The lights seemed to flutter around and around. Not really landing." - pg 24


  • "I was sitting in my living room one night and I saw a little ball of light whizz past the window. Then there were several other little orbs of glowing light. They were around the size of tennis balls, and on closer inspection you could see the outline of spindly little bodies glowing." - pg 67


  • "I suddenly had this strong urge to play with my camera by the window. It was dark outside and I pressed halfway down on my camera and through the viewfinder, there were about three large blue orbs right by the window pane, as if they were looking in on us from the outside!" - pg 112


  • "When I heard my mom and one of our friends talking excitedly. They kept pointing at something up on the dirt road. I looked up. What they were seeing were lights, like glowing orbs the size of a fist. I remember thinking they were fireflies at first, but they were way too big and they didn’t blink on and off." - pg 221

Another intriguing thing the author notes is the focus of fairy stories from the English-speaking world. Is this because this is where fairies live? Was it because the fairy census was not accessible enough to non-English speakers? What do you think?


The above image is an illustration by E. Stuart Hardy for "The Book of Gnomes" Fred. E. Weatherly, 1895. It is liscensed under Public Domain.