Two Young Girls Fool the World with Fairy Photographs
Approx. reading time 5 minutes
How the Cottingley Fairies Became World Famous
The Cottingley Fairy photos is the story of two young girls who hoaxed the world for decades with alleged photographic proof of fairies.
In July of 1917, one week before the end of World War I, two young girls, Elsie Wright and her cousin Frances Griffiths, were highly frustrated. The reason being was that their parents didn’t believe their story of seeing real fairies in a nearby glen. The girls were determined to get photographic proof.
Elsie and Frances set out with an old Brownie camera which belonged to one of the parents. What the two girls came back with, astonished everyone.
The photographs went public in mid-1919 after Elsie’s mother, Polly Wright, attended a meeting of the Theosophical Society. The lecture was on “fairy life,“ and Polly showed two of the fairy photographs taken by her daughter and niece to the speaker. Impressed by them, she had photographs displayed at the society’s annual conference. A few months later, the photos came to the attention of leading members of the society,
Eventually, the press became involved and published the photo images. Amazingly, the photos became an instant worldwide sensation.
Cottingley Fairy Photo
The Cottingley Fairy Photographs Make Worldwide News
The Cottingley Fairies appear in a sequence of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. The two young cousins lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England.
In 1917, when the photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 9. The pictures came to the attention of writer, *Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle who used them to illustrate an article on fairies he wrote for The Strand Magazine.
Doyle, a spiritualist, was enthusiastic about the photographs and interpreted them as being absolute proof of supernatural beings. However, the public’s reaction was mixed. Surprisingly, some believed the images to be genuine while others believed they were fake.
How the Two Girls Pulled Off the Hoax
Frances and Elsie explained that they had taken colored cut-outs from a fairy-doll book and attached them to stakes. They proceeded to photograph these cut-outs posed in various places. They presented the photos to their parents as definite proof that fairies exist.
After 1921, public interest in the Cottingley Fairies waned. Elsie and Frances eventually married went on to live mundane lives.
In 1966, a reporter from the Daily Express newspaper traced Elsie. She admitted in an interview that the alleged real fairies she had first seen in the glen might have been “figments of my imagination.”
In late 1981, Frances and Elsie, finally admitted that the pictures were faked. Frances told one writer: “My heart always sinks when I look at them. When I think of how they’ve gone all around the world–I don’t see how people could believe they’re real fairies. I could see the backs of them and the hat pins when the photo was being taken.”
Arthur Conan Doyle and Spiritualism
Conan Doyle Meets Houdini
*Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini Part Ways
After viewing the photos, Doyle was convinced the pictures taken by the old Brownie Camera were of real fairies. Sadly, Doyle’s insistence that the photos were real caused an irrevocable rift in their friendship. Intriguingly, after this, Houdini went on to devote much of his time to exposing Mediums as fakes.
Fairies were a popular subject in Edwardian times and the photographs taken by the girls seemed to prove to many that fairies actually existed. Times were scary with World War I going on, and it seemed that something of this nature was much needed to lift spirits. Yet, as modern people look at the images, to the sophisticated eye it’s evident that these photos are laughable and definitely nothing more than 2-dimensional cut-outs.
PS. A little secret. You can catch a glimpse of a very young Mel Gibson at the end of the movie.