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Unexplained Mysteries - Myhtical creature GREMLIN
Gremlin is an English folkloric creature, commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft. Although their origin is found in myths among airmen, claiming that the gremlins were responsible for sabotaging aircraft, John W. Hazen states that "some people" derive the name from the Old English word gremian, "to vex". Since World War II, different fantastical creatures have been referred to as gremlins, bearing varying degrees of resemblance to the originals.
The term "gremlin" was derived from the Old English word greme, which means to vex and annoy, commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft. The word "gremlin" originated in Royal Air Force (RAF) aviators' slang in Malta, the Middle East and India, with the earliest recorded printed use being in a poem published in the journal Aeroplane, in Malta on April 10, 1929. The concept of gremlins responsible for sabotaging aircraft was popularised during World War II among airmen of the UK's RAF, in particular the men of the high-altitude Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) of RAF Benson, RAF Wick and RAF St Eval. The creatures were responsible for otherwise inexplicable accidents which sometimes occurred during their flights. Gremlins were also thought at one point to have enemy sympathies, but investigations revealed that enemy planes had similar and equally inexplicable mechanical problems. And that is certainly what the gremlins did to the pilots and their aircraft in World War II (1939–45) when the pesky entities were routinely blamed for engine troubles, electronic failures, and any other thing that might go wrong with an airplane.
An early reference to the Gremlin is in an article by Hubert Griffith in the servicemen's fortnightly Royal Air Force Journal dated April 18, 1942 although that article states the stories had been in existence for several years, and there are later recollections of it having been told by Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots as early as 1940. Later sources have sometimes claimed that the concept goes back to World War I, but there is no print evidence of this. Dave Stern, an aerospace, aviation, and history writer, says that the legend began in 1923 when a British navy pilot crashed into the sea. Once he was rescued, he blamed the accident on some little people who had jumped out of a beer bottle and had tormented him all night. It was these wee troublemakers who had followed him into the airplane, entered into the engine, messed with the flight controls, and caused him to crash. Not long after this reported gremlin attack, some pilots and mechanics stationed at an overseas RAF aerodrome complained of being bothered by the annoying entities, and by 1925, British pilots were cussing the little monsters and blaming gremlins for almost anything that might possibly go wrong with their aircraft.
According to airmen who swore that they had survived close encounters with the mischief makers, the gremlins dressed in red or green double-breasted frock coats, old-fashioned tricorn hats with a feather (or sometimes stocking caps with tassels at high altitudes), tights, and pointed footwear. Some of the gremlins loved to suck the high octane gas out of the tanks; others messed with the landing gears; and still others specialized in jamming the radio frequencies. Just as the pilots and mechanics were learning to respect the gremlin crowd, it wasn’t long before they also began to be annoyed by the gremlins’ girlfriends, the finellas, nicknamed the widgets.
When the U.S. Army Air Force pilots were stationed in Great Britain after the United States entered World War II in December 1941, they found the gremlins waiting for them. The men may have scoffed at their allies at first, but they were soon suffering unexplained attacks on their instrument panels, their bombing sights, and the de-icer mechanisms. The Yanks found that they had also fallen victims to the annoying antics of the gremlins. Although the most intense activity of the gremlin throng occurred during World War II, one stills hears on occasion a pilot cussing a mechanical failure in his aircraft as having been caused by a gremlin attack.
A subspecies of goblin which evolved early in the 20th century, probably during the First World War; certainly their existence was acknowledged (with dismay) by members of the RAF during the 1920s. They are reported to be anything from six inches to two feet in height, greenish or grey, sometimes with horns or hairy ears, and wearing a wide variety of colourful and eccentric clothing. Their original speciality was causing otherwise inexplicable malfunctions in the engines, electrical circuits, and other operational parts of aircraft, drinking up petrol, and tampering with landing strips on airfields. They have since diversified, and apply their expertise to virtually any type of machinery, the more complex the better; one group has become skilled in producing misprints. They often laugh uproariously at the success of their activities, a trait which may indicate kinship to Puck and Robin Goodfellow.
Accounts of the appearance and behaviour of gremlins circulated orally among British airmen stationed in Malta, the Middle East, and India during the 1920s and 1930s; the first printed record seems to be a poem in the journal Aeroplane on 10 April 1929. They were much discussed, both orally and in print, in the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War. Interest in them spread to the civilian press (e.g. Punch (11 Nov. 1942), Spectator (1 Jan. 1943), several issues of N&Q, 1943), and reached America (New York Times Magazine (11 Apr. 1943), Time (28 Sept. 1943)). In recent years, they have become the subject of cinematic investigation by Joe Danke which revealed hitherto unknown aspects of their biology, metabolism, and personalities (Gremlins, 1984, and Gremlins II, 1990).
The origin of the word ‘gremlin’ itself is obscure. RAF tradition links it with Fremlins beer, though opinions differ as to whether this is because the first gremlin seen was a goblin swimming in a tankard of Fremlins, or because it appeared to a group of officers who were drinking Fremlins and reading Grimm's Fairy Tales simultaneously.
When speaking or writing about gremlins, it is essential to present the information with as much ingenious detail as possible, and to preserve an attitude of total conviction.