Author’s note: A June 2009 “From The Shadows” installment told the tale of “Tammy” whose family was terrorized by an evil, little gnome-like man on their property near the Tule River in Porterville, Calif. Her case is not as isolated as we may hope.
Dan Bortko’s family moved from Wyandotte County, Kan., to Liberty, Mo., in 1948 when he was about nine months old. His family didn’t know it, but something already lived in the house on High Street.
The house, a stucco bungalow built atop a hill in the 1920s, wasn’t the only structure on that site.
“There was a spring in the basement,” Bortko said. “The site of the spring was the site of a large farm from the 1860s through 1914. Our property was the part of a farmyard at some time.”
A barn still sat outside the two-bedroom house when the Bortkos moved there. In that house in 1952, Bortko saw something that has haunted in his mind since.
“I’ll call him a troll because that’s what he reminded me of,” Bortko said.
Regardless of the name – troll, gnome, dwarf, goblin – these diminutive, human-like earth creatures have littered cultural mythology across the globe. And they are known to approach, and sometimes abduct, children.
Bortko, 4, napped in the same room as his two younger brothers, both in cribs, when something roused him from sleep. As his eyes slid open, he realized he and his baby brothers weren’t alone.
“I had just awakened form a nap and was rubbing my eyes and saw what you would call a troll,” Bortko said. “It was an old man with a long beard, large nose, about three feet tall standing at the foot of my bed. And I was astounded.”
The little old man wore German lederhosen and held a smoking pipe in his hand. As the little old man stood looking at Bortko, he smiled through his beard, winked and disappeared through the closet door.
“The only thing I could mutter was ‘goss,’” Bortko said. “My mother came in and opened the closet door and on the top shelf was a toy rubber goose.”
Bortko knows he didn’t say “goose,” the word “goss” had something to do with his troll.
Although Bortko doesn’t think he saw the little man again, later in life his mother told him he often talked about someone no one else could see.
“As a child my mother said I had an imaginary friend and I called it by its name,” he said. “My mother said it sounded like a science fiction movie name.”
During this time Bortko remembers looking out his bedroom window at night and seeing people near the old barn in the backyard – little people.
“That’s what scared me,” he said. “There were fairy tales pictures on my wall. There was a man on the mountain smoking a pipe. And this reminded me of him.”
As a child, Bortko, now an artist with a master’s degree in photography from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, once tried to capture his little man on paper.
“I remember doing a drawing of a picture of a man’s face with large dark eyes,” he said. “And my brother Bill started crying. Every time he saw it he was out of his wits.”
Maybe Bortko wasn’t the only person in his house who saw the “troll.” He certainly wasn’t the only person of that era who saw it.
David Schwab, 52, grew up in Orange, N.J., and is familiar with tales of a similar entity. His friend Jerry saw one of these “trolls” in the early 1960s.
“I remember Jerry always talking about some kind of troll/elf/leprechaun-type critter with a rather long beard being on his steps,” Schwab said.
Schwab met with Jerry in December 2009 before his friend moved to the Philippines and asked him about the story.
“He said that when he was a kid, he was in his backyard and was startled by a small gnome-like man with a long beard, standing by his back porch,” Schwab said. “He said he had funny clothes on and a pointed hat and all.”
The entity, about two or three feet tall, just stood at the steps, staring at him. This wasn’t the last time the gnome made an appearance at Jerry’s house.
When Jerry was in his 20s, his five-year-old nephew took a nap in a converted bedroom his family called the ‘shower room’ because it had once been a bathroom, a showerhead still jutted from the wall.
“His nephew started crying and ran downstairs,” Schwab said. “He said that he was woken by a small man with a long white beard that stood and looked at him. Now that's weird.”
Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.