The Case of the Cottingley Fairies and the Fairy Tales:

Bronze Faiory Girl SculptureFairies will always mesmerize us. Many of us purchase statues of fairies to place in the garden because we believe they will attract the fairies to visit us. The interest in fairies has caused many people to learn more about them and some people have claimed to have taken pictures of them. An interesting case is The Cottingley Fairies which took the world by storm in 1920 when two cousins, Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, claimed to have been visited by fairies.

The two girls claimed that the fairies visited them while they were playing in the garden of Elsie’s Cottingley village home. During this time, the two girls took several pictures of themselves posing with the fairies which were later examined by photographic expert Harold Snelling and found to be genuine proof that fairies exist. Snelling concluded that the photos were "genuine unfaked photographs of single exposure, open-air work, show movement in all the fairy figures, and there is no trace whatever of studio work involving card or paper models.” The excitement of finding such proof soon sparked enormous interest as well among the spiritualists who were eager to assert that fairies were real.

The pictures shown by the girls, one of which included a gnome, soon attracted the interest of noted Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle was a believer in spiritualism and believed the pictures were proof that angels were real. He convinced the girls to take more pictures in August 1920 which then appeared together with his writing in the December 1920 issue of The Strand Magazine. In the magazine, Doyle argued his case that the pictures were genuine proof that supernatural beings exist and called for the authenticity of the pictures. However, all this would come to an end many years later in the late 1970s when the photos were later found to be fraudulent.

Many skeptics over time have debunked the story of the girls’ claims to have spokenSummer Rose Fairy Bronze Sculpture with Base to fairies. They noticed many problems with the pictures and realized that the fairies looked like bits of paper and that one of the fairies seemed to wear a dress in the latest French fashion. However, it was only in 1978 when the pictures would be challenged when it was found that the fairies in the pictures were very similar to fairies drawn in a children’s book published in 1915 called Princess Mary’s Gift Book.

In 1981, Elsie Wright confessed to a reporter for The Unexplained magazine that the fairies were really paper cutouts and that she had drawn the fairies based on the fairies shown in the Princess Mary’s Gift Book. She said the paper cutouts of the fairies were held in place with hatpins as the pictures were taken. In a photo showing Elsie and the gnome, skeptics have claimed that they could see the tip of the hatpin in the middle of the gnome.

Although they have been proven to be a hoax, the Cottingley fairy photos have inspired many other hoaxes as well about the proof of fairies. Perhaps, people are truly intrigued to know the fairy world. However, the interest in fairies will always remain though as more books continue to be written on them and peoples’ interest continue to grow with the availability of pictures and images which continue to claim their existence