They're hidden among staircases and curbs in the Mansion Hill neighborhood of Newport, Ky.: fairy doors, the size of your hand or smaller. Children knock on them, but story has it, the winged creatures only come out at night.
"When you're looking for the fairy doors, you gotta look at the houses, like at the steps, see? Or look in the front where the landscaping is and see if you see one," Jen Scheper explains to her granddaughters. And then—
"What's that!? Oh, my gosh!"
She finds the first one of the day, a little green door on a step. The girls say, with certainty, green doors are where Tinker Bell lives.
For roughly the next 90 minutes, five-year-old Alexis and three-year-old Riley walk through the neighborhood with their grandma, grandpa Bill, and dad Jeff Scheper. They easily find almost 100 doors. There's some shoving as the sisters push each other out of the way to get a better look. Some doors are subtly hidden on tree trunks or curbs, but some humans host fairy villages with teapot homes and small unicorns in the fairy yards. The girls aren't supposed to touch them, but the villages are a little too much for them to resist.
'They're Very Transient'
Not far from where the Scheper family is looking for doors, Newport High School teacher Angela Kennedy says she has one of the original fairy doors in the neighborhood. She says it was already in a front yard stump when she moved into the house about a year and a half ago.
"We have different fairies and gnomes and I've heard that they're very transient," she said. "So they move in and out, depending on what time of year it is. And right now we have a gnome family living there. ... So just different things and you never know who's going to move in."
Kennedy helps the stump's residents keep their home decked out for the holidays: hearts in February, a pot of gold in March, and now some Easter eggs on the fairy lawn. She doesn't have young children and her granddaughter is still a baby. But she keeps up with the decorations.
"People want to find things to bring them joy," she said. "And this is just such a whimsical, fun activity and gets people outside and looking at these things and I'm constantly noticing new ones. And you always wonder, I wonder how long that's been there? How many times have I walked by and not noticed it?"
When Did Fairies First Arrive In Newport?
Not a lot is known about how the doors came to be, but a very secretive woman says she's the first fairy who moved into the neighborhood.
"So my name is Fan Newport. And I am the fairy who has really helped other fairies relocate to Newport, from other locations," she says in a high-pitched voice.
Really. She says she's a fairy.
"We created the East Row Fairy Relocation Service and Realtor Group and I moved into the neighborhood in 2016 by the East Row pool club," Fan said. "And so, as the first resident, I came in and really just kind of tested the waters to see if it was going to be a safe neighborhood to live in."
Within about a year, Fan decided it was safe enough to invite her family and friends to move to Newport.
"The small humans would come by and look into the fairy door window to see if they could see me inside my fairy house and we enjoyed watching the small humans come by so much and get such enjoyment out of it that we knew that Newport would be a safe place to move other fairies."
Fan says the other fairies work at some of the nearby businesses, like a yoga studio and some shops along Monmouth Street. Fairy culture, she says, is not too different from human culture. For instance, at a popular bar in the neighborhood, Jerry's Jug House, the fairies have their own little drinking hole.
"We made a Fairy's Jug House," Fan said, complete with a little beer stein on the door.
Admittedly, this tale of the Newport fairies is pretty outlandish. Winged creatures that only come out at night? Real fairy villages in people's yards? But whether you believe Fan Newport or not, there's one thing nobody can deny:
The doors make people really, really happy.
Currently, the doors are in the Mansion Hill neighborhood mostly north of 11th street. But there's word they're organically spreading to other parts of the city. People request them on the Newport Fairy Doors Facebook page but they also can put up doors of their own to entice a fairy family to move in.
Other cities have fairies, too. Fan says she knows there's a fairy community in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, and she helped design a door for a relative living in Washington, D.C.
Click the photo above to see more photos of Newport's fairy doors.