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April 2, 2024 9 mins

Two tales that are hard to believe, mostly because they really shouldn't have happened. Enjoy the tour!

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to Aaron Manke's Cabinet of Curiosities, a production of
iHeartRadio and Grimm and Mild. Our world is full of
the unexplainable, and if history is an open book, all
of these amazing tales right there on display, just waiting
for us to explore. Welcome to the Cabinet of Curiosities.

When we think of an investigator, we picture someone in
a dark suit and sunglasses with a badge on their
hip right. They talk fast and ask a lot of
questions in search of the truth. Well, one British organization
in the early twentieth century did ask a lot of questions,
but whether it had found out the truth or not
is still up for debate. It was formed in the
nineteen twenties when author Bernard's Slay published his novel The

Gates of the Horn. The actual title a lot longer
than that, but it's not the part that caught people's eyes.
It was the subject matter inside it. Within the pages
of Slay's book were ten short stories, each one the
written testimony of a member of a clandestine organization known
as the Fairy Investigation Society. Slay had written the stories
as though they'd been real reports from people who'd come

into contact with fairies. And they aren't whimsical childlike Tales
of Wonder either. They dealt with death and loss, as
well as themes of a sexual nature, and they were
apparently so convincing readers started to believe that the society
was real. Pretty soon life began to imitate art. A
man named Quinton Crawford, who'd served in the British Navy,
had fallen down the rabbit hole of spiritualism and paranormal science,

popular topics at the time. In nineteen twenty seven, he'd
been tinkering with a wireless radio that he designed when
he started hearing music. He described it as the sound
of harps and bells. Believing that he had found a
special frequency known only to fairies, Crawford started talking to
the voices on the other end of the signa, and
they started talking back. This event is considered by many

to have inspired his belief in fairies. Soon after, he
was gifted a copy of Slay's novel, a book that
would change the direction of his life forever. Taken with
the idea of the Fairy Investigation Society, he immediately met
with the author to discuss starting up a real version
of the organization, and so in nineteen twenty seven, the
Fairy Investigation Society or FIS was formed. Its purpose was twofold. First,

they wanted to catalog personal accounts about fairy encounters from
people all over the world. They collected letters, magazine articles,
and even stories told by them word of mouth. And secondly,
they hope to unite humanity with nature and reach a
higher plane of existence. Now, despite the fantastic topic, FIS
meetings were pretty standard, almost like any other meeting you

might find in a corporate boardroom, just you know, with
more fairies. The chairman of the group would give an
opening statements, wherein he would discuss current fairy evidence meant
for further examination. The members would then raise a toast
to the fairies before handling the day to day administrative
work like financial records and other reports. The FIS was
quite active during the late twenties and throughout the thirties. Unfortunately,

Slay retired early to rural Gloucestershire. Crawford was left in
charge and he took his role very seriously. Among his
many jobs, he worked on the FIS newsletter, which reached
out to fairy curious people like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
and he also talked to fairies. He had been in
touch with beans called marsh fairies since his early experiments
with the radio. He'd ask them questions and report the

answers back to other FIS members. According to Crawford, the
fairies used ancient Saxon words for Society members to interpret.
He would also challenge them to phase through walls or
tell him where ancient relics were buried. Of course, some
members were skeptical. They would sit in on these sessions
to see if their leader was just leading them on,
but the truth is unknown. The society disbanded just before

the start of World War Two, and many of the
group's records were lost during the war. It wasn't until
nineteen forty nine when the Fairy Investigation Society started up again.
Quentin Crawford, along with a secretary named Marjorie Johnson, got
the ball rolling. Johnson helped recruit new members as well
by publishing newsletters and other literature. For the next ten years,

the Fairy Investigation Society counted among its ranks the likes
of Scottish poet Naomi Mitchison and even Walt Disney himself. Sadly,
over time, membership dwindled, and the society eventually faded away
in the nineteen nineties. Did people just come to the
conclusion that fairies weren't real? Maybe, but the actual reason
is probably a lot simpler. The magic was finally gone.

An airport is a transitional space. It's one big waiting
room where couples going on an exotic vacation sit side
by side with refugees returning home. It's a site of
reunions as well as separations, and one of the few
places you can get a beer in the morning and
a coffee at night. Thankfully, most of us only see
the inside of a terminal for a few hours, which

is what Meron Karreimi Nassiri assumed when he arrived at
the Charles de Gaul airports in Paris. But Miran had
stumbled into a web of bureaucratic red tape that would
make Franz Kafka jealous. Miran, who liked to be called Alfred,
arrived in nineteen eighty eight. His departure was delayed for
eighteen years. Details on Alfred's life are a bit tricky

to confirm, mostly because Alfred himself had a habit of
reporting one thing as the truth and then later claiming
that it was a lie. But we're pretty sure that
Alfred was born in Iran in nineteen forty five, the
son of a wealthy doctor. His family sent him away
to England for school, and he ended up at the
University of Bradford in the nineteen seventies, studying Yugoslavia. It
wasn't until he tried to go home to Iran in

nineteen seventy seven that his trouble truly began. When Alfred
landed in Tehran, he was immediately seized by airport authorities
and detained. You see, as a student in England, he
had once joined a protest against Iran's shah An offense
that carried prison time back in his home country. With
his parents' help, Alfred was freed from prison, but was
exiled from Iran. He bounced around from country to country

until Belgium finally granted him political asylum in nineteen eighty six.
For Alfred, though, the worst and the weirdest was yet
to come. In nineteen eighty eight, he decided to return
to England, flying out of Paris, but Somewhere during the journey,
his passport was stolen. Unable to enter England without papers,
he was shunted back to Charles de Gaul Airport, where

Alfred found himself in a catch twenty two. Without his papers,
he couldn't prove who he was in the eyes of
the French authorities. That meant that he was traveling illegally.
Alfred could get copies of his papers, proving that he
was a political refugee by going to the Belgian embassy,
but if he left the safety of the airport, he
would be arrested and jailed by the French police. Faced

with this impossible bureaucratic quagmire, Alfred decided to make a
home for himself in Charles Dagall Terminal one. He stayed
there for the next eighteen years. Alfred became something of
a celebrity around the airport. He set up shop on
a red bench situated between a pizzeria and a store
that sold electronics. He christened himself Sir Alfred, refusing to
go by his old name and claiming that he had

cut all ties with Iran. As Alfred's case wound its
way slowly through the international courts, he carved out a
life for himself in Terminal one. He subsisted on airline
meal vouchers and toiletries that kind flight attendants gave him.
He spent his time reading books discarded by travelers and
writing in his diary. He noted down every small thing
that happened to him in an exhaustive journal that eventually

filled several fileboxes. He started each morning with a wash
in the airport bathrooms and a meticulous shave with an
electric razor a passer by had given him. Over the years,
Alfred got used to his little life in the airport.
He struck up friendships with the airport's staff who worked
in the stores around him. The ebbs and flows of
passengers arriving and departing became the rhythm of his life,

which is why it came as a shock when, in
nineteen ninety nine he was finally granted permission to leave
after eleven years of waiting in captivity. Suddenly having freedom
felt jarring. Alfred was used to this small, enclosed bubble.
The world outside was large and frightening. So much had
changed since he had entered the airport, which explained why,

after gaining his freedom, Alfred decided to stay. He continued
to live in Terminal one until two thousand and six,
when health issues forced him to go to a nearby hospital.
He bounced around between medical facilities and homeless shelters, never
wanting to stay far from his beloved airport, and just
a few months before Alfred passed away in twenty twenty two,
he moved back into Charles de Gaul, taking up residence

on his old red bench. The storefronts and the people
had changed, but Alfred remained the same. Meran Karimi Nasiri,
or Sir Alfred as he preferred, may have had the
world's longest layover. He spent most of his life in
limbo waiting to arrive or to depart, But for Alfred,
it was never about the start of his journey or
the end. For him, the airport itself and the life

he made there was his true final destination. I hope
you've enjoyed today's guided tour of the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, or learn more about
the show by visiting Curiosities podcast dot com. The show
was created by me Aaron Mankey in partnership with how

Stuff Works. I make another award winning show called Lore
which is a podcast, book series, and television show and
you can learn all about it over at the Worldoflore
dot com. And until next time, stay curious.

Aaron Mahnke's Cabinet of Curiosities News

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