The famous Cottingley fairies
Capturing the very thoughts and hearts of many, two girls living in a suburban village located in West Yorkshire, England have since kept our imaginations alive, with a series of alleged fairy sightings. This took place, back in the year 1917. The girls became great friends, aside from being cousins, while living in a suburban village located near the City of Bradford. The small village, known as Cottingley would later become famous for it’s fairies.
Both of these young girls, ended up taking a number of photographs, which entranced the very imaginations of the general public everywhere. Spiritualists and theosophical societies alike, were equally captivated over these five different photographs.
From what is known, these photographs were taken at the end of their garden. Elsie Wright (age 16) and Francis Griffiths (age 9), were acknowledged for their incredible photographic evidence, proving that fairies were actually real.
One day, Elsie asked her father if she could borrow his Midg quarter-plate camera. He agreed. Both Elsie and Francis went outside and snapped a number of photographs. The photos didn’t become public, until Elsie took them to her mother. Elsie’s mother, took the photos to a Theosophical Society talk on fairies.
A man named Edward Gardner, recognised the potential of the photographs. He later sent both the prints and the original plate-glass negatives, to photography expert Harold Snelling. Snelling was blown away by these photographs, proclaiming them to be authentic. Gardner went on to produce new negatives as he could sell them at his lectures around the United Kingdom. The five different photographs, quickly spread across the country by the year 1919.
Afterward, the photos would go on to catch the attention of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle is best known for his detective fiction, featuring the character Sherlock Holmes. He later assisted in bringing the photos to the world stage, as these photos quickly appeared in different newspapers and magazines thereafter.
The mystery of the Cottingley fairies endured for over 60 years, until finally, in 1983, the two cousins admitted that the photographs had been faked using cut-out illustrations from a book. Both Elsie and Francis continued to believe and say…that they had seen fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Both girls continued to say, that they really had seen fairies. The final photograph remains the most mysterious one, as both girls could never agree whether or not it was real. Elsie said it was while Francis said it wasn’t. Fairies continue to capture our imagination, making us wonder what is real or not. They have since become a part of different children’s stories and folklore.
“Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright created one of the biggest hoaxes in British history,” said Dr. Richard Sugg of Durham University. “It’s up there with the faking of the Piltdown Man.”
“The girls started by challenging themselves in order to fool their immediate circle. They ended up attempting to hoodwink the world.”