In the Southeastern corner of Massachusetts lies Bristol County, an area known locally as the most haunted place in New England. The energy that sleeps there has been rumored to cause haunted schools, ghostly armies and unexplained suicides and murders. Forested areas of the county have long been known to contain a litany of unexplained animals, from Bigfoot and thunderbirds to large snakes and odd bear-like monsters. For the past forty years cults have flocked there, and their activities, often criminal, have filled the blotters of local law enforcement. Of all the unknown horrors that live in Bristol County, the most feared is not a animal or a ghost or the members of Satanic cults that walk the forests, but a demon only two feet high, and if the history of the area represents the history of our America society, these Pukwudgies are the gatekeepers of our darker side.
The Pukwudgies have haunted the forests of Massachusetts since before the first European Settlers ever thought about setting out for a new land. For centuries they tormented the local Native Americans and crept their way into their creation myths and oral history. They could easily be passed of as legend, and in fact, their physical description is much like mythological creatures from other cultures in other times. The difference is these demons jumped from the page and evolved as the people around them changed, changing from reluctant helpers to evil tormentors. The difference is these demons are still seen by people today.
Most cultures’ mythology has some reference to small monsters that have a strained relationship with humans. In many ways it makes sense. While large monsters have their place in our fears, diminutive creatures find their way into the shadows of our rooms and under our beds. Their names and nature change, but there are always common threads that link them together. Some are called monsters and roam the land looking for human food and kidnapping anyone they can find. Other are called demons, foul spirits that feed of the negative and expose the sins of man. When referring to one, its classification gets blurred and these two words become interchangeable, perhaps showing us how closely associated these monsters are with evil.
Veterans returning home after World War II talked of gremlins tearing apart their planes or getting into jeep engines and causing havoc. The Hindus speak of the Rakshasas or the “Night Wander” who eats human skin and jumps into the dead to possess them. Africans tell stories about the Eloko who lure people with beautiful music only to devour them after they have been bewitched with an ever expanding jaw.
Although passed off as works of fiction and imagination, trolls and dwarfs have existed in people’s fears for centuries. They have become lovable and noble now, but the original stories recorded of these monsters are anything but fairy tales with happy endings. Trolls were notorious for ambushing travelers and destroying whole families on a whim. While some are described as giants with humps and one eye, many older cultures, especially in Scandinavia, described the being as the size of a plump child.
Dwarfs have always been small and their manners much better, but the end result seems to be the same. Like the troll, they are known as metal and stone workers, but unlike their flesh-eating counterparts, dwarves seem to avoid human contact. While they would prefer to be left alone, if impeded upon their work, they become like caged dogs. One variation of the dwarf is the Tommy-Knocker who lives in mine shafts and is sometimes said to be the ghost of miners who have perished in the line of duty and are doomed to work for eternity. They are known to cause cave-ins and fires in the shafts.
Perhaps the most famous of the small nightmare are seen by the Irish. Fairies patrol the roads in Ireland causing problems for any traveler who strays from the path. They live in hills or mounds and dance around fires. If a human comes across their mound or sees their dancing, they are caught and held captive. Even the beloved leprechaun was once a malicious spirit before he was Americanized and transformed into the gold keeper he is today.
Exposure to nature seems to feed these tales, and the more a society depends on the earth for its needs, and the closer the relationship a people have with the natural world around them, the more these stories pop up. In this country, the people the first settlers found had a close, if not friendly, view of small dangers around them. The Cherokee have a mirror image demon known as the Yunwi Djunsti, or little people, that look and talk like Cherokee but are only a few feet high and have long hair that touches the ground. Although most people cannot see them, they are known to throw objects, trip up hunters and abduct people who wander off. In Canada they are known as Mennegishi and look much like the classic alien grey.