I can remember coming across the photographs from the Cottingley fairy incident in a school library publication when I was about 10 – at the time, they completely blew me away!
In this article we will be taking a look at the story behind the famous paranormal images Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright gave to the world…only to take them back again in the 80’s…
Frances and Elsie
Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright were relatives that ended up living in the same house in mid 1917. The two young ladies got on like a house on fire, and spent every waking hour together.
Most days they could be found messing about at the stream that ran through the bottom of the Cottingley property.
When the adults would ask what they were doing down there – they would simply reply that they were playing with the fairies!
Before long the two girls got sick of the adults laughing at their fairy claims, and borrowed a family camera to take down to the stream to prove their existence.
The girls returned about an hour later and handed the camera to Elsie’s father, Arthur, who set off to his amateur darkroom to develop the photographic plate.
At first Arthur was shocked by what he saw – images of the girls playing around the stream with fairies dancing by them…but then he passed it off as a clever teenage joke!
Several months later the girls returned to Arthur with a picture of Elsie holding out a hand to a gnome…
Enough was enough – he banned the girls from using his camera again!
Are These REAL Fairies?
A few years later, Elsie’s mother was attending a lecture on fairies at the Bradford Theosophical Society. Because of the lecture subject – she decided to take the fairy photos along.
Things seemed to snowball a little bit from here – the public got hold of these images pretty quickly!
Most people decided that these images were clever forgeries, so Edward Gardner, head of the national Theosophical Society, stepped in to find out if they were indeed tampered with.
The experts he contacted concluded the images were real and genuine, with no apparent tampering.
In 1920, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and Edward Gardner decided to ask the two young ladies if they could maybe capture some more images of these wonderful creatures.
They handed the girls a brand new camera, and Gardner waited for them as they went down to the stream – apparently the fairies would not appear if Frances and Elsie brought visitors with them!
They returned about an hour later with several new shots of the fairies. Gardner contacted Doyle immediately and Doyle was over the moon – a famous spiritualist, Doyle had been waiting for years to get his hands on some sort of confirmation of the paranormal.
The photo’s appeared in the December 1920 issue of The Strand Magazine, to mixed reactions, and Doyle started receiving reports from all over the world…involving incidents with fairies.
With these reports, he eventually created a book in 1922 titled The coming of the Fairies – resulting in many questioning his credibility and integrity.
The Fake Fairies
The girls managed to keep the act up until old age – in 1983 the two cousins admitted to faking the photographs.
The fairies were actually cut out female figures from a book titled Princess Mary’s Gift Book. They then suspended these figures on hatpins for the photos.
Once the photos had been taken, the two girls threw the paper fairy constructions into the stream, so all the evidence was washed away!
Frances passed away in 1986, followed by Elsie in 1988.
It’s worth noting that both girls were still convinced that ‘real’ fairies lived at the end of their garden…even though the photographs they produced were fake…
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the Cottingley fairy incident, please leave them in the comment section below.