Fairy Food For Thought

By Tobias Wayland

Joe Simonton broke one of the cardinal rules of dealing with fairies: he not only accepted food from these strange beings, but he ate it; a decision he would live to regret, but perhaps not for the traditional reasons. Had he known what the result of this event would be, that late morning on his chicken farm in Eagle River, Wisconsin, I’m sure he would have simply locked his door, drawn the shades, and been done with the whole ordeal. The following is Simonton’s story, according to an excerpt from Jacque Vallee’s Passport to Magonia,

The time was approximately 11:00 A.M. on April 18, 1961, when Joe Simonton was attracted outside by a peculiar noise similar to "knobby tires on a wet pavement." Stepping into his yard, he faced a silvery saucer-shaped object "brighter than chrome," which appeared to be hovering close to the ground without actually touching it. The object was about twelve feet high and thirty feet in diameter. A hatch opened about five feet from the ground, and Simonton saw three men inside the machine. One of them was dressed in a black two-piece suit. The occupants were about five feet in height. Smooth shaven, they appeared to "resemble Italians." They had dark hair and skin and wore outfits with turtleneck tops and knit helmets.

One of the men held up a jug apparently made of the same material as the saucer. His motions to Joe Simonton seemed to indicate that he needed water. Simonton took the jug, went inside the house, and filled it. As he returned, he saw that one of the men inside the saucer was "frying food on a flameless grill of some sort." The interior of the ship was black, "the color of wrought iron." Simonton, who could see several instrument panels, heard a slow whining sound, similar to the hum of a generator. When he made a motion indicating he was interested in the food that was being prepared, one of the men, who was also dressed in black but with a narrow red trim along the trousers, handed him three cookies, about three inches in diameter and perforated with small holes.

The whole affair had lasted about five minutes. Finally, the man closest to the witness attached a kind of belt to a hook in his clothing and closed the hatch in such a way that Simonton could scarcely detect its outline. Then the object rose about twenty feet from the ground before taking off straight south, causing a blast of air that bowed some nearby pine trees.

This odd encounter has been catalogued alongside many other “high strangeness” cases in the annals of ufology; although, upon careful reflection, incidents such as Simonton’s have much more in common with the fey interactions of our ancestors than what one would expect from interstellar visitors.

Our ancestors told stories of strange sounds or music being heard before encountering the fey in one of their hill fortresses or out in procession, similar to Simonton's "knobby tires on a wet pavement." If one had business outside after dark, or in the wilderness, or gods forbid both, one must be wary of such bizarre happenings. This is not the only way to encounter the good folk, though. Many other tales exist of fairy interactions that take place in farmsteads and cottages. Farms not too different than Simonton’s, I imagine. In contrast to many of those stories, Simonton’s encounter doesn’t seem to have much in common with helpful house-dwelling fairies, such as brownies and hobgoblins, so much as a chance encounter with the fair folk.

There is a tale, popular in fairy lore, of a helpful ploughman who, upon finding a broken fairy spade on Wick Moor, mended the fey implement and was rewarded by the grateful good folk with a gift of fairy-made cakes. These thankful offerings of food are not uncommon in folklore, and certainly the narrative of Simonton’s experience mirrors that of the fairy stories. Simonton’s offering of water to his unexpected guests is certainly well-received, and he is similarly rewarded with a gift of food; in this case, the traditional fairy cakes. Unlike their folkloric counterparts, however, Simonton’s cakes were delivered to a lab where they could be studied. The fairy food was brought to the Food and Drug Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as part of an investigation by the Air Force’s Project Bluebook. According to the lab’s examination,

The cake was composed of hydrogenated fat, starch, buckwheat hulls, soya bean hulls, wheat bran. Bacteria and radiation readings were normal for this material. Chemical, infra-red and other destructive type tests were run on the material. The Food and Drug Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare concluded that the material was an ordinary pancake of terrestrial origin.

So, it was concluded that there wasn’t anything necessarily out of the ordinary about Simonton’s cakes—other than the method with which they were supposedly delivered. It is worth mentioning, though, that in fairy lore it is not unusual—in fact, it is most common—for one to receive a gift of “normal” food in return for aiding the fey. In traditional folklore, these thankful gifts are much better received than the cursed and glamoured food one might be offered in a fairy hill or celebration. Unlike the latter, a well-earned gift from the good folk doesn’t come with any negative metaphysical repercussions, and this held true with Simonton, whose curse came not from any fairy spell, but from the banality of his peer’s beliefs.

In accepting this gift, Joe Simonton had cursed himself; not by the magic of the fey, but with the ridicule brought by exposing such a story to a materialist paradigm. By all accounts, Simonton was a well-regarded and upstanding member of his community prior to the event, and certainly not a man taken to flights of fancy. However, weeks after the event, in an interview with a United Press International reporter, he declared that “if it happened again, I don’t think I’d tell anybody about it.” The Air Force had decided that Simonton had fallen victim to a “waking dream,” and despite his insistence on the veracity of his claims, he was not taken seriously by many who heard his tale. The effect that this dismissiveness has on witnesses of the impossible is often emotionally devastating, and quite understandably discourages many people from ever coming forward.

I, for one, am thankful for the Joe Simontons of the world. Without people like him, and their strange stories of the impossible, our knowledge of the bizarre circumstances of our shared world would be much less complete. Only when the brave few are willing to come forward in the cold, harsh light of the modern age are we able to even begin to examine a breadth of phenomena that has been with us since the advent of human culture. Transactions between humanity and such strange species as previously described did not start with the UFO age, and forcing experiences such as Simonton’s into as inadequate a category as that of UFO contactee is harmful in its reductionism. That these stories continue a tradition of interaction with some unknowable intelligence is no coincidence, and the truth of it may be the key to truly understanding certain mythologies shared across all cultures. But left unexamined, we will never know.