Cottingley Fairies




The Cottingley Fairies appear in five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England.  In 1917 Frances Griffiths was staying with her aunt in the village of Cottingley in West Yorkshire.  Her cousin Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10.  The two girls often played together beside the stream at the bottom of the garden. When Elsie‚Äôs mother complained about their wet feet and clothes, Frances and Elsie said they only went to see the fairies.  To prove it, Elsie borrowed her father's camera and returned 30 minutes later.

Elsie's father, Arthur, was a keen amateur photographer, and had set up his own darkroom. The picture he developed showed Frances behind a bush in the foreground, on which four fairies appeared to be dancing.  Later the girls borrowed his camera again and this time returned with a photograph of Elsie sitting on the lawn holding out her hand to a 1-foot-tall gnome.

The photographs became public in mid-1919, after Elsie's mother attended a meeting of the Theosophical Society in Bradford.  The lecture was on "Fairy Life" and at the end of the meeting she showed the fairy photographs to the speaker.  As a result, the photographs were displayed at the Society's annual conference in Harrogate, where they came to the attention of a leading member of the Society, Edward Gardner.

Gardner sent the prints and the original glass-plate negatives to a photography expert, who said they were genuine photographs.  Gardner used the prints in the illustrated lectures he gave around the UK.  The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a keen spiritualist, also used the photographs to illustrate an article on fairies in the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle, a spiritualist, interpreted the photographs as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena.

Gardner and Conan Doyle sought a second expert opinion from the photographic company Kodak. Several of the company's technicians examined the enhanced prints, and agreed the pictures showed no signs of being faked. 

In July 1920 Conan Doyle sent Gardner to meet the Wright family with two Cameo cameras and 24 secretly marked photographic plates. Frances was invited to stay with the Wright family during the school summer holiday so that she and Elsie could take more pictures of the fairies. The girls took several photographs, two of which appeared to show fairies. The first shows Frances in profile and with a leaping winged fairy close by her nose. The second shows a fairy hovering or tiptoeing on a branch offering Elsie a posy of Harebells. Two days later the girls took the last picture, showing fairies waking in the sun.






Glastonbury Mysteries