Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Elves in the Building

...and they're up to no good

By Walter Jowers

MARCH 20, 2000:  I see a lot of wacky things in my little home-inspection business. I know I've seen at least a hundred electrical switches that control nothing. You can flip 'em up and down all day, and nothing happens. I've seen a basement bathroom so complicated and contrary that the owners left a page of how-to-use-the-bathroom instructions taped to the medicine cabinet mirror.

I've seen a foundation slab that the builder swore would float when it rained, thereby ensuring that water wouldn't run into the house.

After all these years, I finally got a clue as to what causes stuff like this to happen. It's elves. Dig this: In Iceland--a pretty darn civilized country with a 100-percent literacy rate and some pretty slick building practices--more than half of the 273,000 inhabitants believe their island home is crawling with little bitty elves, or "hidden people." These hidden types, who include fairies, gnomes, lovelings, and huldufolk, routinely mess with the houses. "It's not unusual for builders to consult with experts in the (elf) field before committing to a project and modifying the plans if elves or other beings are detected in an area," according the March issue of the Journal of Light Construction.

One Icelandic elf expert, schoolteacher Magnus Skarphednisson, said that harming the elves could cause problems ranging from cost overruns to fatal accidents.

When I read this, my first thought was, How do the Icelandic experts go about scanning for elves? Could a boy train an elf-sniffing beagle? How about a gas detector tuned to sniff out elf farts? Would one of those termite-fart detectors do the job? Do the hidden people leave droppings where they hang out, the way possums, termites, and incontinent cats do? Could I see these elves with a magnifying glass? Should I be checking the soles of my shoes for elf parts?

Apparently, house-wrecking elves can grow pretty big. "Hidden folk have provided a wonderful excuse for clumsy workers," said Arni Bjornsson, of the National Museum of Iceland. "I didn't wreck that bulldozer, boss, an elf did it!" Clearly, it would take one big-ass elf to reach all the levers and pedals on a bulldozer, and still see over the dashboard.

As much as I hate to admit it, one of my competitors is way ahead of me on elf analysis. In each of his reports, he includes a little note that says he checked the roof and chimney, and he affirms that the roof will hold Santa and his ride, and the chimney will accommodate the Big Elf Himself.

Now, I'm all for injecting a little humor into the business day, but writing Santa Claus tales into a home inspection report is so unbelievably lame, I get embarrassed for the guy every time I think about it.

Still, I think there's something to this elf stuff. For instance, our tape measures go missing all the time. One second, a customer is asking to borrow our tape measure, and promising to give it right back. Next second, the tape measure is gone for good. Surely the customers aren't walking off with them. It's got to be the huldufolk.

Just last week, the sellers told our customer that the house's heat-and-air system was 6 months old. Well, the serial number said it was 7 years old. I figure it took three or four of those whopping-big bulldozer-class elves to steal that nearly new unit and stick an old one in its place.

About once a week, we'll visit a house where the owners swear they just paid somebody to clean out the furnace. When we check inside the furnace, though, we find a wheelbarrowful of rust, dirt, bug carcasses, and matches. Had to be the dang gnomes.

Just about every day, we'll go to a house where the owner swears to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that the dog in the backyard is tame and sweet and wouldn't hurt anybody. "Just call him by his name," they tell us. "Call him Buster. He won't bother you." Then we go out the back door, and Buster is foaming at the mouth. Surely, a bunch of lovelings crawled into Buster's ear and energized some taser barbs on his eardrum.

The lovelings fully possessed my neighbor Paul's chocolate lab, Apollo.

Apollo went so psychotic that not even a four-level shock collar would slow him down. Apollo would take off down the street, Paul would press the level four shock button--enough to spark up every nerve in that dog--but only one eyelid would twitch. The dog never broke stride.

If you ask me, this is proof that the elves have gotten ahold of some technology. You just can't defeat that much dog-shocking power without a sophisticated grid of tiny cables and capacitors.

If you see any of the little people around your house, try rounding 'em up with a saucerful of beer. If you catch some, call me. I want to interrogate 'em.

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