creatures captured on film in the early days of photography.
In 1917 Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two young girls
living in Cottingley a small town in Yorkshire, England, produced
images that were to become iconic in the world of paranormal
investigation. The images of Fairies dancing in front of the
girls and interacting with them would cause debate that still
continues today almost one hundred years after the photos
The Story behind the Cottingley Fairy Photographs.
The story begins with Frances and
Elsie being teased at school for telling tales of fairies
in the woods, indignant at their schoolmates ridicule the
girls set off to prove that fairies did indeed live in the
nearby woods. Borrowing her fathers camera Elsie set off with
Frances. An hour later the girls returned with gleeful smiles
of triumph. When Elsie's father developed the photographing
plates, he was upset and demanded to know why they had placed
paper cut outs of fairies in the photographs. Elsie of course
denied this and when the second photograph was taken showing
a Gnome, Arthur Wright banned Elsie and Frances from borrowing
the camera again. Mr. Wright was convinced the photographs
were faked, but Elsie's mother considered them to be real
images of the Cottingley Fairies.
The story would have ended there but Arthur Wright attended
a lecture on local folklore and he was overheard discussing
the photographs. Their existence came to the attention of
Mr. Edward Garner, a leading Theosophist (believer in the
mystical) and he asked to see the images. The photographs
were then examined by several experts on photography and even
representatives of Kodak.
The culmination of all this attention led these pioneers of
paranormal investigation to interview the Wright family in
Concerned with what they saw in the photographs Elsie Wrights
parents had taken it upon themselves to try and find proof
that the images were faked so as to avoid the unwanted attention
"Real Fairy Photographs" would bring them. In those
days photographic negatives were made on glass plates and
these bulky and expensive plates were all accounted for which
means that if the images were faked there were no images made
that "went wrong". The other interesting thing is
that no "cut out" images of fairies were found by
the parents, in fact they went so far as to say neither girl
had the artistic ability to draw such things.
All these things came out during the interview with the family.
The experts were keen to investigate the matter as much as
possible before they published their conclusions. Not only
did they rely on the fact that the parents of the girls couldn't
show the photographs as being faked they also had a report
from the Kodak Photographic Company which stated:-
1. The negatives
are single exposure.
2. The plates
show no sign of being faked work, but that cannot be taken
as conclusive evidence of genuineness.
were not willing to give any certificate concerning them
because photography lent itself to a multitude of processes,
and some clever operator might have made them artificially.
4. The studio
chief added that he thought the photographs might have been
made by using the glen features and the girl as a background;
then enlarging prints from these and painting in the figures;
then taking half-plate and finally quarter-plate snaps,
suitably lighted. All this, he agreed, would be clever work
and take time.
5. A remark
made by one was that 'after all, as fairies couldn't be
true, the photographs must have been faked somehow.'
With the backing of Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle an article was published in the the Strand Magazine
in 1920 it was entitled "An Epoch Making Event - Fairies
Photographed". The magazine sold out and thrust the images
firmly into the public domain and a nearly a hundred years
Here we present the images themselves and
we have had two of them colorized so that the fairies are
discernible from the background noise:
In the years that followed the publication
of the photographs the two girls remained adamant that they
were genuine. However they were both being hounded by the
press for interviews and constantly asked questions about
the photographs. This took its toll on Elsie especially and
she eventually emigrated to America where she met and married
her husband Frank Hill. Both Frances and Elsie wanted to get
on with their lives and forget all about the Fairy photographs.
They remained silent on the subject until 1983.
17 February 1983 was the day Elsie revealed
that the photographs were indeed faked. She claimed in a letter
that the two girls had drawn the fairies on paper and cut
them out. They then fixed the paper on hat pins and pushed
them into the ground.
Frances Griffiths said in a television interview in 1986 that
there were fairies in Cottingley. She later admitted that
some of the photographs were faked but maintained that at
least one of them was real. Frances died in 1986 and Elsie
died in 1988. What they left behind has been the subject of
speculation for years and although the majority of people
believe the photographs were hoaxes some people still think
they are real.
Our Thoughts on the Photographs.
Having examined all of the photographs
ourselves, we have to point out certain anomalies which seem
to prove that they were fakes:
All the Fairies are two dimensional, even a skilled artist
would find it difficult to produce a drawing that has definite
three dimensional qualities. Also the fairies appear to be
illustrated rather than realistic.
There are no shadows cast by the fairies that correspond with
the natural light in the photographs.
of Fairies and the Importance of the Photographs.
The fact that these images were not real
does not prove that there were fairies in Cottingley. Quite
a few local people do claim there to be such creatures living
there. There has been many other reports of Fairy-Folk, and
even other photographs made throughout the world.
The importance of these images is in the
way they sparked the public imagination and drove the scientific
community of the time to investigate apparent paranormal phenomena.
From these early days of paranormal investigation we still
maintain the same stringent belief that there are strange
unexplainable things happening to us and we need to look at
them to properly understand the world we live in.
If Elsie and Frances didn't give us photographic proof of
Fairies then they gave us reason to question everything we
see whether it be grainy black and white images are even full
color news reports. Their place in the history of paranormal
investigation is assured.
HOLMES AND THE COTTINGLEY FAIRIES CONNECTION..
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), creator of the fictional
detective Sherlock Holmes was a firm believer in the existence
of the Cottingley fairies. He even published a book "The
Coming of the Fairies" which tells the true story
of the two girls who produced the photographs. Perhaps
having such an eminent figure placing his faith in the
images persuaded Frances and Elsie not to reveal the truth.