I am quite fond of Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog. You just never know what the individual who writes this blog will dig out of some obscure archive or newspaper clipping. In the link above, Beachcombing discusses at length one of the unsavory denizens of the Otherworld.
While “demons” seem to be a very popular explanation for aggressive hauntings and other hostile paranormal events, this story takes us back to a time, not too long ago, when the people of the British Isles recognized that they co-habited the land with a number of unseen races. Such was the respect and/or fear that the people held these other races in that they would not even utter their names for fear of drawing unwanted attention. To them, “The Gentry”, “The Good People”, “Them Ones” and other such races were as real as their neighbors down the lane and were not to be trifled with.
The explanation of the origins of the faerie, as we now make bold to call them, were varied. W Y Evans-Wentz, in his masterful work The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries outlines a number of different origin theories and I direct the reader to that excellent book if you are interested. In the end, though, Evans-Wentz decided that the faerie did indeed exist and that they were residents of the Celtic Otherworld who still seemed to have the power to cross into our world from time to time. The faerie races, as outlined in the aforementioned book and in Katherine Briggs’ An Encyclopedia of Fairies were multitudinous and many of the faerie held no love for humans. As we see in Beachcombing’s story above, one of those races was the boggarts, a faerie that often made itself appear as a black dog (not to be confused with the phantom black dogs of British lore) that led travelers astray or, in this case, barred their way.
The boggart did not simply lead travelers off the path though. Most often, the sojourner found him or herself in mortal peril since the boggart would often lead the victim into swamps and marshes where it would be quite easy for a mis-step to end the journey in a boggy death by drowning. Why the boggart, in the instance cited above, prevented the walker from taking his usual route is anyone’s guess. This might not have been a boggart but instead a true Black Dog, an Otherworld species associated with death but also known to protect travelers on occasion. It might also be that this was a boggart, that the route diversion was intended to get the traveler into a fix and that the boggart’s plan simply did not pan out that night. Or, perhaps, Beachcombing is correct and the witness simply had one pint too many and suffered a temporal lobe disturbance :-).
My point is simply this. These days when you hear the word Faerie or Fairy, the first image that enters most people’s mind is Tinker Bell. Human beings have a tendency to disempower that which they fear (look at what we have done to the mighty angels, as another example). Our wishing that the faerie were powerless little pixies with magic dust and a star-tipped wand does not make it so, however. While “them ones” have retreated from this plane in the face of modern technology, they still have the power to walk this world and even cause physical effects. While it is possible to have good relations with some of these beings, it bears repeating that some of them have been identified throughout time as inimical to the human race. The boggart and his ilk are certainly on the list of beings that I would classify as Intruders.