Pukwudgies – one of those words that freak out my spellcheck and also sound suspiciously like a type of candy. I had never heard of them until the Astonishing Legends podcast included them in one of their episodes.
The Algonquin Indian tribe believes them to be a North American version of a gnome or fairy. Their name literally means ‘person of the wilderness’ and they are usually considered to be spirits of the forest. In some traditions, they have a sweet smell and are associated with flowers. Pukwudgies have magical powers that vary from tribe to tribe but may include the ability to turn invisible, confuse people or make them forget things, shapeshift into cougars or other dangerous animals, or bring harm to people by staring at them.
Pukwudgies have been seen as far north as New England and as far south as Kentucky. They even have been mentioned in famous literature. The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth, published in 1855, mentions them:
“Far and wide among
Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;
No man dared to strive with Kwasind,
No man could compete with Kwasind.
But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,
They the envious Little People,
They the fairies and the pygmies,
Plotted and conspired against him.”
As a matter of fact, these little creatures are so numerous in some places in Massachusetts, that the local police have put up Pukwudgie Crossing signs to warn motorists. The New Bedford Guide website reports on the placement of these signs. “The Freetown Police Department has ordered the placement of a crossing warning sign to call attention and alert motorists to unexpected entries onto the roadway that may call for a reduction of speed or immediate action in the interest of traffic safety (Under the guidelines of Section 2C.37p of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).
The location of this crossing warning sign is on Slab Bridge Road, approximately 500 yards northwest of the entrance to the Freetown State Forest Headquarters. However, these crossing conflicts may occur randomly over a larger segment of the roadway and all along the property of the Freetown State Forest.
Animals on the road are a major cause of crashes in this area of Freetown and are becoming more frequent. As a result, crashes can result in significant property damage or serious injury to drivers and passengers. In the past, the installation of “DEER” crossing signs was the most widely used measure to reduce animal-vehicle collisions. However, we feel that the installation of just another “DEER” crossing warning sign would only contribute to the overuse of these signs and lead to a general disregard by the motoring public. Plus it does not identify the real problem at hand…. The Pukwudgie.
It has been widely reported that the Freetown State Forest is the home of these mythical creatures known as the Pukwudgies. The danger the Pukwudgies present to the motoring public is that they can appear and disappear at will by using its magical powers. They are also known to shoot poison arrows near and across the roadway in violation of MGL Chapter 131 Section 58. It is believed that Pukwudgies also have the following traits and abilities: They are masters at remaining undetected in the forests, they can transform into a walking porcupine, they can create fire at will (don’t worry, the Freetown Fire Department and State Forest Fire Control have countermeasures in place), and they control the spirits of their deceased victims (unfortunately, we have no countermeasures for this).
Lastly, so the crossing warning sign does not lose its effectiveness, we have contacted local experts to certify the continued use of this sign and when it should be removed. As of right now, the sign will be posted during the mating season of the Pukwudgie, where they are most likely to be crossing the roadway in search of a mate. This year, it is believed that the season begins and ends on “April Fools’ Day”.”
It seems that folks at the New Bedford Guide don’t take these little people very seriously. But David Weatherly a researcher of paranormal phenomena for most of his life has recorded anecdotes from eyewitnesses who have encountered these little creatures. In a recent interview with Astonishing Legends podcast, both the hosts and Weatherly spoke about encounters with the creature. Scott Philbrook (one of the hosts) mentioned that he has a friend who had an encounter with a Pukwudgie. She told him that the Pukwudgie tried to tempt her off the path into the woods, but she managed to get her act together and not follow it.
Then they shared three encounters from Weatherly’s recent book, Strange Intruders.
The first encounter: “In June 1927, while hiking along Indiana’s White River, 10-year-old Paul Startzman found an abandoned gravel pit and there met a two-foot-tall man wearing a light blue robe. “We stood about 10 yards apart and looked at each other. He had thick dark blonde hair and his face was rounded, pinkish in color like it was sunburned. After a moment, the tiny barefoot figure turned and fled into the woods.” Startzman claimed he later had another meeting with the little man in the same area.
He had a friend with him during the second encounter and he reported the small man followed behind them for some time before vanishing among the trees. Startzman also talked to reporters about his encounter. It was noted that the boy’s mother was full-blooded Native American, perhaps indicating a connection to the little people through heritage.”
The second encounter: “We were out at Assawompset Lake. It was late spring and the weather was nice. We got there late in the day and we were waiting for the sun to go down. For years, we had heard stories of strange lights that would appear and move around. We wanted to get a glimpse of them. My girlfriend was with me and so was her cousin, a guy named Chad. Chad claimed that he had seen the lights before when he was young. I wasn’t sure if I believed they were real or not.
Once the sun started going down, we got anxious, wondering if we would see something when it was finally dark. There was still plenty of light out. We probably had another half an hour or more before it would get dark enough for lights to show up. I was getting nervous though. I kept feeling like something was watching us. I sat down. Then I got back up and paced around. My girlfriend was getting irritated with me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. I couldn’t get comfortable. Maybe another 10 minutes had passed. I was walking around. We were in a little clear area.
I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. That made me really nervous. Then I saw it again. This time I really saw it. It was some kind of little man. He was about three feet tall. I only really saw him from the waist up because he was looking out from around a tree. It really freaked me out. The little man had wild hair that went in every direction. He had a big nose, large ears, and a big mouth. He looked like he was really pissed off. Maybe because I had seen him.
I couldn’t help myself. I let out a scream. I know it wasn’t very manly, but it just happened. It seemed to anger the little man even more because he really scowled at me then. I turned and I ran. I passed my girlfriend and her cousin yelling that I was out of there. I kept going until I reached my car. I didn’t know if they were following me or not, but either way, I was leaving. I got in the car and started the engine. They were both jumping in the car as I put it into gear to leave. It turned out that seeing me so freaked out had scared them too.
Later, I told them what had happened. Chad said that I had seen a Pukwudgie and that I would have a whole bunch of bad luck. Maybe it’s true. It wasn’t long after that, that I split with my girlfriend, and then I had to move because my apartment building got sold. I’m not going back to that pond. I have no desire to ever see one of those evil little men again.”
The third encounter: “Paranormal investigator, Fiona Broome, and three others were at Vale End Cemetery in Wilton, New Hampshire conducting an investigation in the late 90s. On this particular occasion, the only notable activity was a high level of EMF or electromagnetic field readings near the Blue Lady’s grave. Just as darkness began to fall, the group decided to end their investigation. Broome headed for the Blue Lady’s headstone for one last round of photos. That’s when she spotted what she referred to as a little Grover guy. Recounting the incident on her website, Hollow Hill, she says, “I’ve spotted what I’ve since called a little Grover guy, about two or three feet from me.
He was short, between two and three feet tall. He looked like he was covered with fur and disproportionately skinny like Grover, the popular puppet character from Sesame Street.” Broome notes the figure was a vivid shade of red. The ghost hunter was surprised, but not bothered by the creature. She continued walking towards her destination. Right after the sighting, however, Broome encountered an invisible force she believed was something profoundly evil. Beyond this, she suddenly realized there were dozens of small fur-covered creatures in the cemetery.
Determined to capture evidence of the creatures, Broome raised her camera and started snapping pictures. Her camera seemed to reveal more of the creatures. “As I raised my camera and looked through the viewfinder, the red Grover guy seemed to multiply. When my camera clicked, I saw three of them clearly outlined by the flash.” Satisfied she had caught the beings on film, she suddenly had the strong impression she was in danger. She moved quickly to her car and left the area along with the other ghost hunters.
Later, when the film was developed, Broome discovered all of the shots she had taken were completely black with the exception of a single shot. In it, there was a red shape, the same vivid color as the creature she had seen. Demonologist John Zaffis later correlated the strange image captured by the camera to a sign of demonic manifestation. Despite having hundreds of ghost hunts under her belt, Fiona was genuinely frightened by her encountering in Vale End and says in fact, it was the only time she’s ever been frightened on an investigation.
Never one to believe in demonic forces prior to the experience, Broome now considers the possibility of such evil entities.”
Paranormal Encounters, a team of paranormal investigators from Australia actually journeyed to Freetown, Massachusetts to research the unique cryptid. This is from their website, “Pukwudgies are described as two to three feet tall and resemble a troll in appearance. One interesting plot twist to the lore is that Pukwudgies did not start out as malevolent beings. At first, their role was beneficial and helpful to the Indians. But at some point, the Pukwudgies became jealous of another magical creature – Maushop, his wife, Quant, and the favor the Wampanoag showed them. Soon the little helpers became a dangerous nuisance, burning homes, kidnapping, and killing Native Americans. The legend goes on to reveal that Native Americans asked Quant for assistance with the Pukwudgies. She then told Maushop of the troubles, and he helped by shaking and scattering the little meanies all over New England. Some perished as a result, but the ones that survived returned to seek revenge. With an escalated voracity, the Pukwudgies attacked Native American villages.
Once again natives went to Quant for help, and again she spoke to her husband. This time Mashaup, being lazy, sent his three sons to deal with the situation. But the Pukwudgies were ready; they lured the three warriors into the tall grass and shot them dead with poisoned arrows. Maushop and his wife Quant, in a rage, went about destroying every Pukwudgie they could find. Unfortunately for us, the legend states that some escaped and they are rumored to inhabit the woods of New England.
In the last twenty years alone, there have been numerous claimed sightings of Pukwudgies. The physical descriptions from each witness bear striking similarities. Three of these sightings were reported to happen in the Bridgewater State Forest. And the last, and most recent was in a cemetery in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, during our visit to the Bridgewater Triangle, we were unable to establish whether or not Pukwudgies are mean, misunderstood, or even exist. Our visit to the state park lasted for several hours in one of the areas where a Pukwudgie was reportedly sighted. We even wandered around the woods along many of the marked trails. However, nothing out of the ordinary ever materialized.”
Maybe that was actually a bit of good luck for them. It doesn’t sound like Pukwudgies are creatures you’d like to meet when you’re alone in the woods.
I think I liked them better when I thought they were a kind of candy.