Erwin Saunders: Pixie Hunter

(This article first published in the Fortean Times No 395, dated August 2020)

Has a genially bumbling “ethereologist” captured conclusive evidence of England’s faery folk in a series of quietly-uploaded Youtube videos? Or is the whole thing merely a delightfully eccentric waltz up the woodland path? Bob Fischer loses himself in the gently beguiling world of Erwin Saunders…

Erwin For Twitter

It’s a beautiful, sun-dappled day and, in a thicket of dense woodland, an extravagantly bearded man in a camouflage hat is nervously explaining his 25-year hobby of tracking and cataloguing “wilderness folk” – in particular the “Morsu Pixies”. This – apparently – is Erwin Saunders and, over the course of seventeen Youtube videos uploaded between September 2017 and July 2019, he has created a beautifully immersive world of rustic strangeness and eccentricity. Or, indeed, proved conclusively the existence of mercurial faery folk in remote areas of English woodland. Consult your own sense of credulity and delete as applicable.

The Morsu, he explains in this opening video, are about ten inches high, with grey-ish skin. Pottering around a woodland cave entrance, he finds a tiny, discarded “hooker stick” used by the little folk (as he never calls them) to collect berries and mushrooms; this latter delicacy not only providing food for our native pixies but also the basis for their ointments and medicines. Erwin, who has a likeably hesitant and bumbling manner, becomes out of breath and loses his hat. He namechecks “Tom, the chap who’s helping me upload all of this”, and Tom remains a perpetually referenced but always unseen presence throughout all seventeen short films. We don’t, at any point in this opening video, see an actual pixie. That happens in the next instalment.

I was first alerted to Erwin’s work by Jim Jupp, co-founder of the Ghost Box record label, whose releases form a pivotal part of the Haunted Generation oeuvre). Jim had stumbled across Erwin’s Youtube channel while randomly searching for “fairy sightings” as part of his research for a future music video. “Have you come across this before?” he asked me. “Surely Fortean Times folk would know about this? I’m sure he must be a professional actor, and this is a between-jobs project…” To my shame, Erwin’s adventures were entirely new to me, but I quickly became entranced by the gloriously low-octane nature of his quest.

In the second video, accurately entitled ‘First Sighting of a Pixie’ and uploaded on 30th September 2017, we get a fleeting money shot. Making a popping noise with his tongue to imitate the sound of drums (“they’ll be curious”), Erwin is rewarded with the presence of a “scout” pixie who appears on the ridge of a towering rock formation, peering nervously down at our host and his camera. The creature is indeed a small, grey humanoid figure exhibiting skittish, meerkat-like movements. If – as we should probably assume – it’s CGI, then it’s very convincing. Erwin is predictably excited, and leaves bait around the site to encourage further sightings. These include cabbage and courgette seeds from his local garden centre, and – hilariously – Flying Saucer sweets. “They go mad for the sherbert,” he deadpans.

None of these strange vignettes are presented with tongue remotely lodged in cheek. There are no in-jokes, no winks to camera, no intimation that Erwin and his pixies are not real in any way. In fact, at no point does Erwin even suggest that he considers his hobby to be at all unusual. The videos are presented entirely matter-of-fact, as though the existence of pixies has become an accepted part of everyday British life, and he approaches his subject as though he were gently staking out a badger set for Springwatch. The only hint that he might be somewhat bashful about this curious quest comes in the very final video, in which an unseen female walker stumbles upon Erwin and is heard posing the immortal question: “Why are you filming yourself shooting leaves?”

Erwin, who has been idly pinging toy Nerf gun pellets into the undergrowth, looks flustered. “It’s a wildlife thing,” he stammers. “Just for fun, really.” Which is as fair a summation of the whole 22-month escapade as any other.

In the intervening videos, we follow Erwin on… well, not so much a roller-coaster ride of faery investigation, more a gentle merry-go-round. In the third and fourth instalments, there are further fleeting pixie sightings. Hilariously, Erwin’s sandwich is stolen, and we see it being dragged into a small cave by one of the bolder Morsu. “They’re complete kleptomaniacs,” he sighs, before revealing further tantalising details of pixie culture. They make hats and jewellery from bird skulls and claws, use slug skins for carrying water, and the “Morsu” monicker is one that Erwin has coined himself, from the Latin “Magnum Morsu” – which he roughly translates as “large teeth”. In the fifth video, ‘Morsu Pixie Temple’, we are shown an exquisitely-carved mini-ziggurat in the woods, and in the eighth instalment Erwin finds tiny but elaborate walkways strung between the trees.

We have to wait until the twelfth video, ‘Searching for Wiltons Pixies’, for our clearest sighting of the faery folk at work. In a “flashback” sequence from what purports to be an older VHS recording, we see one rather cheeky-faced imp sporting a tiny backpack of collected pebbles that he lobs – not entirely successfully – to his comrade on an adjacent boulder, while a third member of the tribe lurks on the ground to collect the fallen detritus. And in the penultimate video, ‘A New Faery Species’, events take a unusually unsettling turn. Erwin ventures into a dark, forbidding cave entrance, and is startled by what he calls a “wyrm”, a large, four-legged, lizard-like creature crawling rapidly towards him. He is clearly scared, and so are we: it’s the one fleeting occasion on which the films become genuinely disquieting.

So the great mystery (aside from the actual nature of the faery folk captured on film, obviously): who is Erwin? If we assume that he’s a fictional character, then the acting is of an incredibly high standard. He blusters, stammers, gets excited and frustrated, and – despite plenty of lengthy one-take monologues to camera – never once breaks character. With his features largely hidden behind a mass of luxuriant silver hair and beard, usually accompanied by a hat and spectacles, he ostensibly appears to be a man in his fifties… but the occasional close-up sometimes betrays a younger-looking complexion. At the end of the opening film, another VHS recording supposedly dating from 2009 is incorporated into the footage, showing a leaner-looking Erwin with a darker, shorter beard.

Erwin For Blog 2

The relationship with “Tom” seems pivotal, too. Spoken of in the fifth video as a “young film-maker”, Tom exerts a sometimes fractious influence on his older colleague, and Erwin occasionally speaks wearily of his accomplice’s desire for more ambitious shots and – indeed – internet recognition. “Like and subscribe,” Erwin reluctantly urges viewers at the end of later films, with the disclaimer that this swerve towards the corporate is entirely Tom’s idea, and that it makes him distinctly uncomfortable. Nevertheless, Tom’s input has a noticeable effect on the evolution of the films. While the earlier videos are charmingly clunky, with rough edits and distorted sound, later instalments have a glossy, professional sheen: there are expertly-framed linking shots of the woodland flora, and the surprise addition of wistful instrumental music. They’re like Detectorists with a soupçon of Country File. And added pixies.

The locations are never identified. The earliest films are shot in woodland with some very distinctive rock formations, and a handful of friends have – without prompting – suggested they resemble the features of Alderley Edge in Cheshire. A landscape that, appropriately, plays host to the magical folkloric escapades of Alan Garner’s books, with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen in particular featuring small, grey, goblin-like creatures emerging into the woods from an underground cave system. Curious. The first nine videos, all seemingly shot in the same area of woodland, were uploaded between 29th September and 17th October 2017 and culminate in Erwin standing beside a duckpond in an idyllic village location, explaining that he “won’t be around for a couple of days or so” because he’s visiting London to discuss tactics with Tom.

Erwin For Blog 3

A six-month gap ensues. The next video dates from 9th April 2018, with Erwin in what initially appears to be a different woodland location. He suggests that illness, disillusionment with his lack of Youtube views, and a “squabble” with Tom are the reasons for the hiatus. It’s another month before the next update on the 14th May 2018, and then another ten-month gap until the final run of six films, all uploaded between 25th March and 10th July 2019. In the very last instalment, Erwin seems troubled, distracted and dispirited. Alarmingly, he frantically crops his beard on camera, roughly removing huge chunks of facial hair while claiming to have been shot in the neck by a poisoned pixie arrow with hallucinogenic properties. And ultimately, following the aforementioned Nerf Gun encounter, he professes to be “bored”, and wanders into the woods. And that, so far, is that.

The entire escapade is shrouded in enigma. Jim Jupp suggests Erwin’s films might form part of a viral publicity campaign for a forthcoming film or TV series, which seems entirely plausible. Personally, I like to think they’re merely the product of at least one restlessly creative mind simply deciding to have some fun on Youtube. Meanwhile, comments left on the videos suggest that a section of Erwin’s fanbase buy wholesale into the quest, and have enjoyed their own experiences with the faery folk. “When I was a child I remember making a fairy house,” remarks one viewer, beneath the second of Erwin’s films. “One day I caught one in it. It was transparent and sliver [sic] and when it saw me it looked at me and then flew away. Sometimes I think I just made it up but then I watch these type of videos and rethink.” Others are keen to share tales of similar encounters.

Pixies For Blog

One potential clue: Jim points me to a thread on the Rogue Nation internet forum, where one contributor points out that Maggie Shayne’s fantasy novel Miranda’s Viking features a fictional character called Professor Erwin Saunders, and another called Jeff Morsi. But aside from this discussion, the original Youtube videos and the odd stray Facebook post, Google brings up precisely nothing about “our” Erwin and his quest. I’ve shared the videos on social media, and asked friends from both the folkloric and artistic communities if they recognise him, but received a succession of virtual blank stares. Amid, it has to be said, a welter of praise for his work. My rogue theory is that “young film-maker” Tom is actually the real identity of Erwin, thus providing the ultimate “hidden in plain sight” in-joke, but my evidence for this is nothing more than the cynical hunch of a world-weary old soak.

The most exciting possibility, of course, is that Erwin and his pixies are entirely real. I’d certainly be delighted to hear any evidence from anyone subscribing to any of the above theories. Or, indeed, from Erwin himself. In the meantime, search for “Erwin Saunders” on Youtube and immerse yourself in the slowly-unfolding strangeness of this gentle genius at work.

The seventeen Erwin Saunders videos are here (in reverse order):

A follow-up Fortean Times Erwin feature with an exclusive interview (of sorts) is here:

And the new Fortean Times (Issue 396) is now available, and looks like this:


33 thoughts on “Erwin Saunders: Pixie Hunter

  1. Becky Nelson November 30, 2020 / 1:42 pm

    Erwin Saunders is I suspect ,Paul Smith of Busty Kelp,a company well versed in CGI. Despite,a more down to earth explanation, the videos are so charming and quietly entertaining that they are well worth watching and I hope more will be created.


    • Bob Fischer November 30, 2020 / 2:23 pm

      Ha, cheers Becky – you’re not the first person to suggest that, but I’m not sure I want to know! I’m too in love with Erwin… 🙂


      • shatnersrug December 31, 2020 / 11:10 am

        You should hide this message and let the mystery continue. I really hoped for a minute a new mystery had been created in the internet age, but I only got to the bottom and there was the answer.


        • Bob Fischer December 31, 2020 / 12:29 pm

          Does it help if I say other people have contacted me and suggested completely different names? It’s still a mystery as far as I’m concerned, I’ve honestly no idea who’s behind it for certain! And I genuinely don’t think I want to know. Like you, I like the enigma.


          • Shanti July 18, 2021 / 3:37 pm

            He is selling his art and merch now. If it is Michael Paul Smith that is messed up.


    • Dace February 18, 2021 / 4:25 am

      I’m enjoying the videos a great deal. I wish we could contact him, and ask him for an email contact. To suggest leaving thr we, material scraps, leather scraps and other items for the pixies, then see later if the pixies take them .


    • Matthias Gebhardt May 14, 2022 / 3:18 pm

      Banksy could create something like that. !? It’s sweet


  2. Miss Louise Hudson December 8, 2020 / 1:02 pm

    I adore Erwin and his videos, what an lovely eccentric man, i would love to sit down with him for a cuppa coffee and chat


    • Bob Fischer December 8, 2020 / 1:08 pm

      Me too! I just hope he’s OK, and that the pixies haven’t taken him away…


      • Emily Garcia December 31, 2020 / 5:05 am

        Same I really hope hes ok. I’ve been trying to do research on pixies and there are similar folktale about how Erwin was acting in the last video he posted. I’m going to continue looking into it.


  3. Louise jankowski December 13, 2020 / 3:50 pm

    I’ve recently found these videos, and spent my day off watching them all. No matter if real or CGI, they really were entertaining. He was funny without even realising it, and that’s hard to pull off. I really hope we get some more from him in the future. I love the fact its bringing so many questions and the mystery of the videos and Erwin himself make it even more magical 🙂 great article


  4. Anonymous December 26, 2020 / 4:49 am

    I’m a writer and so impressed with the “what if?” that I began changing a story I was writing to include the Morsu. I wish I could have a real conversation with Erwin. I have so many questions and I was impressed with the temple. Dolly Ogawa-Amsk


  5. Emily January 1, 2021 / 8:17 pm

    Hi Erwin,
    Enjoy your videos. I like the rawness of them. Most would doubt and even dismiss the reality of pixies and fae. I have always believed always will. Do appreciate you creating a U Tube channel to share with us. Don’t stop for it is a true heart felt passion you carry. Always Emily


  6. james fear February 1, 2021 / 2:37 pm

    Fake or fact it simply does not matter he is an absolute delight, never boring or over the top excited, never patronising always even humoured and engaging, real or not I want it to be real, more, more, more.


  7. Sophia Noohra February 11, 2021 / 9:28 am


  8. chris February 13, 2021 / 9:40 pm

    Being from the Caribbean pixies and fairies are not part of our folklore but I stumbled onto his videos and like many had to watch them all. What a story teller he is reminds me of a British children’s book my mother had and read to me at night. I was still a babe in crib but do remember the cover, a little boy sitting in a moonlit window gazing at a magnificent Moonlight. Its that type of magic that Erwin paints in my youthful mind. I hope he continues, I haven’t felt like a wonderous child for a very long time.


  9. Jackie Mcfarlane February 15, 2021 / 3:21 pm

    I loved watching Edwin with the Pixies , I was convinced they was real , But if they wasn’t, I still loved watching his Video’s , Edwin Saunders , If you are reading these messages , Please carry on the video’s lots of people live them 🙏🙏🙏🙏


    • Jackie Mcfarlane February 15, 2021 / 3:25 pm

      sorry my phone is spelling wrong , Had to spell is name wrong of all things 🙈 Erwin Saunders plz carry on your amazing work 🙏🙏🙏


  10. Nancy Monahan February 27, 2021 / 2:14 pm

    Thank you, Erwin. Your videos started me on the Cryptic adventure. Mostly enjoy bigfoot but all the channels suggest that there is other life forces working with them ie pixies, orbs, and fairies.👍😀


  11. Anonymous March 23, 2021 / 5:28 pm

    I really hope the latest upload of the picture Isn’t supposed to represent Erwyns gravestone, that would be so sad


    • Barbara Scheck June 7, 2021 / 1:04 am

      He has returned recently with a new video in which he says the gravestone was meant to be a Milestone. So glad he is back!


  12. SB April 10, 2021 / 5:39 pm

    You are nay sayers, quite quickly there to trash anything you don’t understand. You are typical of the brainwashed in our society, you believe what the media say. The governments of this world are not God/Universe, they have controlled us for thousands of year, and the majority go, bah bah bah bah bah; consequently anything beyond the ‘norm’ has been ridiculed…the world is on a path to see all that is truth, and hopefully, I will still be here to witness its rebirth, the contractions have begun!


    • Gypsy May 25, 2021 / 8:01 am

      So mote it be!


  13. Michel Thorpe May 24, 2021 / 8:27 pm

    My husband and I have stumbled across Edwin and the pixie folks and we are hooked!!! I believe as does my hubbies and I don’t want to know if it materialise that it’s fake… we don’t wish to know…. what we wouldn’t give to meet up with Edwin and experience pixies along side him….. that would be a dream come true.. keep posting on you tube please… we’ve subscribed and are following you.. fairies 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️ and pixies are real…. just wonderful…


  14. Michel Thorpe May 24, 2021 / 8:28 pm

    My husband and I have stumbled across Erwin and the pixie folks and we are hooked!!! I believe as does my hubbies and I don’t want to know if it materialise that it’s fake… we don’t wish to know…. what we wouldn’t give to meet up with Edwin and experience pixies along side him….. that would be a dream come true.. keep posting on you tube please… we’ve subscribed and are following you.. fairies 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️ and pixies are real…. just wonderful…


  15. Louise jankowski May 24, 2021 / 8:54 pm

    New uploads, and we meet the “tom” who is spoken of often 🙂


  16. Carlos Diaz May 27, 2021 / 7:29 am

    VERY convincing!!!… I’ve watched all the videos from Brisbane, Australia. If the pixies are CGI… boy, what a job!… These people could also make aliens or whatever they want.
    Also, the “acting” would be so convincing that deserves an Oscar or Golden Globe straight away. Strange that nobody suggested on comments to leave an infrared camera with sensors as the creatures seem to have BIG eyes and prone to go in the darkness. Either way, real or not, that deserves a mini-series, not just 1 movie.


  17. C McKee July 23, 2021 / 4:26 am

    Well he’s gone from a few hundred to a few thousand subs then to a hundred thousand and now over 200k and I really wish him the best.
    I don’t think he’s acting, I think that’s his genuine character, at least I hope it is because he reminds me of Tolkien and also that Womble who was always muttering to himself, he so loveable.
    It matters not to me if the pixies are real or not, his videos are a gorgeous distraction from the craziness of modern life, especially the last year or so but I do think Erwin actually believes in Pixies.
    I did see a video from a German guy who said Erwin was a CGI guy who worked in the industry years ago, showed the pixies were CGI but STILL advised everyone to watch Erwin’s Videos and keep subscribing to him as he wasn’t doing any harm, wasn’t scamming anyone, just giving a lot of enjoyment and helping us adults reconnect with our inner child.
    Rambles in the brambles with Erwin is a relaxing, almost meditation video, love them.


  18. Patt October 17, 2021 / 8:53 pm

    How interesting & sweet & magic


  19. Annette Ferronyalka (pearly) February 3, 2022 / 6:29 pm

    Was the dragon made by Tom?


  20. Jean-Marc Fourcault April 4, 2022 / 1:05 pm

    J’ai un très bon ami dont le papa m’avait expliqué avec beaucoup de sérieux, qu’il voyait des lutins ; lui même était très connaisseurs de tout ce qui touche au monde celte et ses folklores . Mais le sérieux de ses observations de petits être m’a toujours fortement intrigué .
    Il ne faut pas oublier qu’en Islande ces êtres de la nature sont pris au sérieux dans le cadre de travaux d’infrastructures , comme des routes et dont le tracé prend en compte cela .
    Alors une question se pose : ne sommes nous pas aveugle , de part notre formatage mentale à ne plus voir une réalité au-delà de nos regard et de nos conscience bien altéré par le matérialisme ?


  21. Martin April 8, 2022 / 2:58 pm

    I’m not sure if Erwin Saunders films are real, but my book is “A Faerie Truth Forever” describes 18 of the 72 species of faerie, the book is on Amazon, it took 10 years to complete, Martin in Canada


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