Collection: Aviation Gremlins

"…just sit back with a big smile and blame it on a Gremlin..."

Aviation Gremlins are most quickly defined as “Mythical Pixies, upon whom military pilots are said to blame all their troubles and sometimes their good luck.” – Reference to these mischievous Gremlins first began with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in the early 1920s (during WWI) but by the 1940's (WWII) stories of these gremlins had migrated to the United States... The 'Scientific study' of gremlins became known as "Gremlinology" - (a profession that has gone largely understudied and largely fallen to the wayside. [Likely due to the ending of the world war, coupled with the gremlins' introduction into mainstream pop culture.]) Today, Gremlins appear widely in horror & pop-culture, but they are usually reduced to only a short footnote in most of the modern bestiaries which I've read don’t go very deep. The folklore & history behind them is rarely mentioned or ever elaborated on...

The earliest 'bestiary' on the topic of "American Gremlinology" was in fact "Gremlin Americanus' A scrapbook collection of Gremlins by Eric Sloane." [Dec 1942] - Sloane is most famously known as a landscape painter and as TV's first meteorologist, before a folklorist. - The first edition copies of 'Gremlin Americanus' were printed at the end of December 1942. - [A few British 'bestiary-like'  books on the topic from the time, include "Ssh! Gremlins!" [HW, January 1942] 'Gremlins whos who?' [Bill Akrill, 1943] & "Gremlins on the Job" [Judy Varga, 1943] - [i'll probably come back and add to this list if I discover more.] - (it should also be said that various newspapers, newsletters, as well as LIFE magazine, had already been spreading the general 'lore' of gremlins well before any of the above mentioned..) Another thing worth noting; is it seems that Sloanes (& HW's) books were published a full year before Roald Dahl & Disney completed "The Gremlins" [in Early 1943.] Dahls story largely popularized the creatures: "A memo from Chester Feitel to Roy and Walt Disney after his first meeting with Roald confirmed that they were not original to Dahl. - ‘The gremlin characters are not creatures of his imagination,’ Feitel reported. ‘They are “well known” by the entire RAF and as far as I can determine, no individual can claim credit."  [-Smithsonian.] - Sloane's work preceded Roald Dahl's more famous book by nearly a full year and obliquely referred to gremlin stories having been around since World War I, which likely helped fuel Walt Disney's copyright concerns that scuttled an animated movie based on Dahl's story." (the movie ultimately went unfinished.') — I digress. it’s difficult to say who was “first” (it's largely up to debate & speculation) thus the concept of 'gremlins' definitively belongs to the pilots & the public domain. [On that note, Gremlins (in this context) should not be overly confused with the reptilian-'Mogwai' from the 1984 film]

In his book, Sloane illustrated and described twenty different folkloric "Gremlins & Fifinilla" that plagued American aircraft during the war. - It's a bestiary which was written very close in tone to Cox's "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods [1910]" complete with faux Latin names & silly creature descriptions. - [As such I've decided to label these gremlins as 'honorary critters', though undoubtedly, they are representative to a class of fae all onto their own.] – What makes this book unique from them is that many of these are based on actual pilots' experiences, friends & famous people Sloane either knew or worked with personally or wrote to as evidenced by the correspondence & quotes listed at the bottom of each biography.] - 'Gremlin Americanus' seems to focus on American Gremlins & the 'folklore' passed between American aviators and pilots at the time...

During the war, Gremlins were important for team morale, it was far better to "pass the buck" of a workplace accident, mistake or an otherwise unexplained or strange mishap onto a "Gremlin", rather than blame your friends, leaders or team mechanic (or yourself!) especially when something went inexplicably wrong with the machinery or if lives where at stake. As the author puts it "The best safeguard against the jitters and the most effective sedative for "war nerves" is a sense of humour, things seldom run smoothly during times of war and someone to "take it out on" is a friend indeed. Such friends of the American Air Force are the Gremlins, Pixies of the Air..."

Gremlins were often painted on the 'noses' of fighter planes as decorative luck charms, some pilots even brought handmade 'gremlin dolls' aboard with them for luck.  Various types of gremlins with specific names and appearances existed across different military & aviation factions around the world. by 1942 gremlins had spread to the newspapers, appearing widely in newspaper ads for various products (usually car repair.) soon gremlins would evolve to infect all machines, not just planes, but motorbikes, automobiles & sewing machines, and affecting any and all other niche machines & professions, you name it, there was probably a gremlin for it. - (Soon papers also criticized the phenomenon as a form of "escapism.")

--All of that said, here are a few things to keep in mind about gremlins:

"Gremlins are boisterous, loud and infernally mischievous, they love to play pranks and are quick to punish scoffers and nonbelievers. Although gremlins can be mischievous and give pilots a great deal of trouble, they have never been known to cause a fatal accident and can readily be blamed for any untoward incidents or "bone-head play", qualities that endear them to all flyers. There are no "good gremlins" or "bad gremlins" – they're all just hell raisers..." 

Female gremlins, (which are often said to be more dangerous than the males.) were often classified as "Fifinella" - The children are best known as "Widgets" - [young lady gremlins were often referred to as "Flibbertigibbets"] - Gremlins are said to be diaphanous, "made of air particulates" are 'without blood' & they where said to re-produce like jellyfish, (by division.) - None of them bear names like you or I do, according to Sloane, most gremlins are satisfied to go by they/them. (Plural. papers often referred to them as "them gremlins") - [Sloane decided to categorize them by class or genus, (so I will too.)] - "Only people with a sense of humour can see gremlins, those in Axis forces have no sense of humour" (In other words, those allied with the Nazis cannot see Gremlins.) 

British Gremlins (according to 'Gremlin Americanus') where said to choose to dress quite poshly, often wearing a monocle, ruffled collar and a top hat. - Their pranks are performed more subtly and done in the best form. - Most have a light 'blue-grey' skin tone. - (Though Fifinella are often said to be able to change their colours on a whim.) - The earliest British Gremlin have horns and often had the R.A.F insignia painted on their wings: British gremlins where also more often categorized MK.I-IV.] 

..Meanwhile their Yankee cousins wear whatever they like, from Zootsuits to Sweaters and Slacks. [Uniquely, Sloane's gremlins were often depicted with insect-like antennas over horns.] - All gremlins wear white gloves (so that they leave no trace or fingerprints behind.) they have vacuum-suction cupped feet. (which allows them to walk on the outside of soaring planes easily. (American Gremlins were sometimes said to have used chewing gum or tobacco instead.) - Otherwise, clothing is more often than not, entirely optional. -

The following are self-produced Art Stickers, Gremlins as described by the pilots & newspapers of old, re-illustrated & re-imagined by folklorist & designer, @samkalensky (Yo thats me!) for the modern day & times with much respect to the original authors & vets. 🫡 - (For the most part beyond this introduction, I've decided to mostly ignore the ''popular modern gremlins lore'' (such as Dahl, Disney and Columbus) and do independent research of my own, looking through newspapers and other archives for records of Gremlins from 'before' these more popular creations.) - For the sake of a simple "Gremlin" category, Towards the bottom, This section will also contain a few other Gremlins which where not included in "Gremlin Americanus" those that I've either come across and taken a liking to during in my research... Such as the Canadian "Dingbelle." Australian, "Foo Fighters." & other types of 'Non-Aviation Gremlins' from the time too (such as "Radio Grohms", "Dentagouls" & "Pffinitiee') - I've also classified various creatures from the wars that are 'gremlin adjacent' or are pixie-adjacent in nature below. - [each sticker's biography will say where each is from in more detail!] - if there are any inaccuracies, typos or misspellings? it is most certainly the fault of a gremlin!! -  [For those curious, my Grandmother was a Troubleshooter and a Plane-spotter for the C.R.A.F & my uncle Al, invented Honeycomb Alluminum! - According to my father they'd both have been well acquainted with these gremlins!]

• Categories •

Cryptids DracontologyUfology. •Gremlinology • Taxidermy. • Critters

11 products
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    Dingbelle - [Aviation Gremlin]
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    Strato-Gremlins - [Gremlin]
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    Fuel Drinking Gremlins - [Gremlin]
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    Tailor Gremlins - [Gremlin]
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    Windsucking Gremlin - [Gremlin]
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    Ararie - [Fearsome Critter]
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    Kicklesnifter - [Fearsome Critter]
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    Trapspringer - [Fearsome Critter]
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    Bait-Robbers - [Fearsome Critters]
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    Laundry Gnomes - [Fearsome Critter/Fae]
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    Ukobach - [Demon]
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