I did not remember the story of the “green children” of Banjos, Spain until I read about them in Jacques Bergier’s Extraterrestrial Visitations, but a quick Google search finds that these mysterious beings are apparently a mainstay of the alternative history and mystery-mongering genres. They appear in The Big Book of Mysteries by Lionel and Patricia Fanthope (2010), Charles Berlitz’s World of the Incredible but True (1992), Colin Wilson’s Enigmas and Mysteries (1976), and John Macklin’s Strange Destinies (1965). The story concerns the appearance of two children, green in color, who were found near the village of Banjos in Catalonia in 1887 speaking a strange tongue and refusing to eat anything but beans.
They also appear in Karl Shuker’s The Unexplained (1996), a book I read when I was fifteen, so I must have read the story and promptly cared nothing for it, probably because Shuker provides a correct (though incomplete) solution to the mystery—one we will get to anon.
“There is only one, well established case of a green child,” Bergier wrote, referring to the 1887 incident. This, though, is not even close to true. Rather than belabor the point, here’s the reason it isn’t true. It’s a point-for-point duplicate of a medieval legend of the Green Children of Woolpit recorded by Ralph of Coggeshall and William of Newburgh:
The Banjos story appears first in Macklin’s Strange Destinies, but not only is it inspired by the Woolpit story, it is a very close paraphrase of Thomas Keightley’s version from The Fairy Mythology (1850), with the geographic details changed. For example, Keightley writes that “when some beans just cut, with their stalks, were brought into the house, they [the children] made signs, with great avidity, that they should be given to them.” Macklin writes that “beans cut or torn from stalks were brought into the house, and they [the children] fell on them with great avidity.” Garth Haslam discussed this on an older version of his Anomaly Info site, preserved here.
The long and short of it is that the evidence shows that Macklin fabricated the 1887 encounter from a medieval fairy story, and later authors simply repeated him point for point without bothering to check the source. (It is possible that Macklin merely copied from another hoaxer, but no earlier version of the Banjos story has emerged.) Ridiculously, when some alternative writers discovered the earlier medieval version, they then concluded that the Macklin account must be true because the aliens were repeatedly testing humanity! Suffice it to say that there are no records of any children being found in Catalonia in 1887, or for the existence of Banjos at all.
It does, however, make me wonder what Jacques Bergier thought "well established" means.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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