Fairies frequent Grace Wyszynski's West Akron, Ohio, backyard. She knows, because she sees the fairy dust they leave behind.

Grace, who is 51/2, even has a place for them to find shelter: an outdoor dollhouse decorated with furniture fashioned from natural elements.

The way-station was created by Grace's parents, Sara and Robert Wyszynski. And if the grown-ups helped the magic along a bit, well, the fairies don't seem to mind.

To attract such ethereal visitors to a garden, yard or other place in nature, a fairy-house builder can go any number of ways: dollhouses like Grace's; whimsical garden ornaments, or simple shelters made from pebbles, pieces of bark, acorns, or other elements gathered from the earth.

Some people consider the houses just fanciful accents. Others see them as gateways to another realm, real or imagined.

Author Tracy Kane first encountered fairy houses on an island in Maine, where building them is a local tradition. That experience was the impetus for her "Fairy Houses" series of children's books and videos. (For more information, go to

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The stories seem to inspire others to create their own fairy houses, she says.

Kane sees the houses as an antidote to indoor temptations like computers and video games - a way to get children outdoors, where they can explore the natural world and nourish their imaginations.

What's more, she says, they don't have to cost a dime.

Interest in fairy houses is spreading, and not just among children, Kane says, noting that a recent fairy-house tour in Portsmouth, N.H., attracted 3,600 visitors and raised $28,000 for charity. At the end of the tour, she adds, about 350 families took advantage of the opportunity to build their own fairy houses.

Sara Wyszynski says Grace often rushes to her dollhouse after school to check whether anything has been moved or the fairies have left fairy dust, which adults know as glitter. Occasionally, she discovers books or other small gifts left there for her or her brother, Luke, 2.

The cedar fairy house, built by Grace's dad and decorated by her mom, is mounted on a tree stump and adorned with a stone chimney and path, slate windowsills, and furniture crafted from branches that fell in an October windstorm.

The front wall is removable, so Grace and her two fairy dolls can play there.

The house doesn't fit the strictest rules of fairy-house making, since not all of the materials were gathered from nature. But so far, that hasn't seemed to deter the fanciful figures it's meant to entice.

"We have lots of ... visitors, the ones that we don't see," Sara Wyszynski says with a smile.

Those kinds of unseen creatures often guide Oregon artist John Crawford in the creation of the fairy houses he and his wife, Bridget Wolfe, sell via their business, Fairy Woodland (

).

Crawford says that he and Wolfe have a fairy area in their garden, and that they've long made it a practice to venture out during each full moon to "feed the fairies and have a little chat with them."

On one of those visits, he says, "They said, 'We'd really like to have a house.' "

So Crawford complied.

He fashioned a house from twigs and stones and placed it next to a pond. A friend saw it and wanted one, too, and soon he was constructing fairy houses that have found their way around the country and to other parts of the world.

Crawford builds the houses from materials he gathers in areas where he senses the energy of nature. Each wall is fashioned atop a single bed of sand that has been collected from sacred and special places around the world.

The wall materials are cast in cold-processed porcelain, and the walls and other elements joined with glue - no nails, because fairies don't like iron, Crawford explains.

Once it's finished, Wolfe lets each house suggest its own story, which she writes and encloses with the house for its new owner. That story is meant to jump-start the owner's imagination, to help him or her rediscover the imagination, fantasy and openness to possibility that most of us leave behind in childhood.

Crawford says he and Wolfe often hear from customers who claim all kinds of inexplicable happenings with their fairy houses, like seeing lights around them, finding a door open after they'd left it closed, or witnessing animals interacting with them in strange ways.

"Obviously it's not our job to say, 'Oh, come on. Be real,' " he says.

Granted, not everyone who buys their fairy houses feels that metaphysical connection. Sometimes, though, they're surprised.

"They don't expect anything to happen, so anything that does happen is mind-blowing to them," Crawford says.

Kane says she experiences a sort of magic with fairy houses, too, but in a less supernatural way.

"I think it's that magic when you're feeling really good in nature," she says. Like a fragrance: You can't see it, but you know it's there.

A fairy house can be as elaborate as a fairy mansion or as simple as a shelter in a tree cavity. But when you're building one, author Kane says, you should know the fairies' guidelines:

Fairy houses should look so natural that they're almost hidden. A location close to the ground is best.

Use only natural materials, such as dry grasses, leaves, sticks, pebbles and pinecones.

Don't use or disturb any materials that are still living or growing in nature, especially flowers, ferns, mosses and lichens.