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Observations placeholder

Keightley, Thomas - The Elle woman



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


Elle folk or Elle people were air spirits – sylphs.

What is a little sad is that she is being blamed for the gases generated by boggy land – probably methane as a major gas, but there may be others.  The effects may also relate to bacterial processes - the processes that help in the decomposition of vegetation in boggy or marshy lands.  It is also clear from the descriptions of folk tales that occasionally the association of mosquitoes with sickness had not been made and much sickness is attributed to the marsh gases and elle folk as opposed to the bites of the insects.

From this we might conclude that on breathing the marsh gas the person has hallucinated and thereby seen spirits and had auditory hallucinations, or they have afterward suffered from malaria and hallucinated


A description of the experience

Thomas Keightley from his World Guide

The Elle-woman is young and of a fair and attractive countenance, but behind she is hollow like a dough trough. 

Young men should be especially on their guard against her, for it is very difficult to resist her, and she, moreover, has a stringed instrument which, when she plays on it, quite ravishes their hearts. 

The man may be often seen near the Elle moors bathing himself in the sunbeams, but if anyone comes too near him, he opens his mouth wide and breathes upon them and his breath produces sickness and pestilence.  But the women are most frequently to be seen by moon shine, then they dance their rounds in the high grass so lightly and so gracefully, that they seldom meet a denial when they offer their hand to a rash young man.

It is also necessary to watch cattle that they may not graze in any place where the Elle people have been, for if any animal come to a place where the Elle people have spit, or done what is worse, it is attacked by some grievous disease which can only be cured by giving it to eat a handful of St John's wort

The source of the experience

Keightley, Thomas

Concepts, symbols and science items


Spirit being


Hollow men

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Inhaling volatiles and gases