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THE COTTINGLEY FAIRIES: ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS HOAXES IN HISTORY? THE REAL THING? OR BOTH?

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 1:05 AM

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THE COTTINGLEY FAIRIES: ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS HOAXES IN HISTORY? THE REAL THING? OR BOTH?



First Posted August 31, 2008; Updated July 2012


Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill


Excerpts from the "Cottingley Fairies" http/www.cottingley.net/fairies.shtml



Around Bingley there used to be, and possibly there still is, a strong belief in the existence of fairies. In Gilstead Crags there was an opening in the rocks known as "Fairies Hole", and it was said that the tiny creatures used to trip and dance and play their merry antics in the bright moonlight. Anyone who intruded at such a time, it was said would lose their sight. At Harden, in a secluded part of Deep Cliff, it is said that the fairies could sometimes be heard clanging musical tongs and what looked like tiny white garments hung out on the trees could be seen on bright nights.


FOREWORD


The tales of the Cottingley Fairies have been well noted for over 80 years by people of all ages and all walks of life. Movies have recaptured the magical stories but the truth has been somewhat distorted and "adaptations" of the events have been released in line with true Big Screen tradition. What you are about to read is an extensive account of the case with dates, quotes and facts so that it can be used as a resource as well as being a good bedtime story.


OVERVIEW


In July 1917, two young girls claimed to have taken photographs of real life fairies at the bottom of their garden, an area known as the "beck". When the genius behind the Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, presented the pictures to the public as evidence of the existence of fairies, the tale of the two little girls in Cottingley was immortalized.


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This is where the story began...


Elsie and Frances would spend many hours playing in the attic bedroom and on one particular occasion traced images of fairies from Princess Mary's Gift Book which they later photographed using Arthur Wright's Midg ¼ plate camera. The Beck which provided the mystical backdrop to the fairy photos stands only a few yards away beyond the 70ft back garden.


However, Elsie Wright is not the only famous inhabitant of the terrace. Artist Jimmy Hardaker, herbalist Jimmy Dobson and now Emmerdale's vet (Paddy Kirk) Dominic Brunt have made it their home in the quiet Cottingley Village.


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This is Cottingley Beck as it is today. The waterfall which enchanted the girls still runs at the bottom of the garden but is now overlooked by modern housing. When seeing the beck for the first time it is easy to understand why the girls spent so many hours playing there. The magical sound of the waterfall provides an ambience which draws you away from the daily chores of city life and you can't help but wonder if there was any truth in the tales. Unfortunately the beck has been affected by time and part of the stream has been fenced off. A recent ruling declared that the site was too dangerous for public access after years of tours and visitors. Please bear in mind that the land is on private property.

 

Like a pebble dropped into the middle of a pond, the Cottingley tale traveled across the globe and onto the lips of millions. Every few years, the story is resurrected and once again enchants a generation.


"When our fairies are admitted, other psychic phenomena will find a more ready acceptance " - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

"...as a medical man, I believe that the inculcation of such absurd ideas into the minds of children will result in later life in manifestations and nervous disorder and mental disturbances" ~ Major John Hall-Edwards

Despite the confession in her twilight years, Frances Griffiths added another twist to the story when she insisted that although the photos were faked, she really did see fairies and played with them at the Beck.


Indeed, even today, many people believe in fairies and refute the evidence held against the photos which were later admitted to have been fabricated by the girls themselves.


Please enjoy the story of The Cottingley Fairies...


THE FAMILIES


THE WRIGHT FAMILY


Arthur Wright


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Stunned at how such a brilliant mind like Doyle's could be fooled "by our Elsie, and her at the bottom of the class!" He always believed that the photos were fake and asked the girls why there was paper in the first photo. After the appearance of fairies on the second photo he stopped the girls from using the camera again, especially when they refused to admit they were playing a joke. Till his passing in 1926, he was fearful that the whole family were to be exposed as frauds. He prevented Elsie from taking money for the photos but a war bond of £100 was given to her by Doyle.


Polly Wright


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She had spiritual beliefs and followed Theosophy after purportedly experiencing astral projection and past life recollection. However, she refused to believe the girls were telling the truth until one evening at the Bradford Theosophical Society the topic of fairies brought about her disclosure of the pictures.


Elsie Wright, 16 years old


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A keen artist who had been attending Bradford Art College since she was 13 also found work in a photographic lab and a greeting card factory during the war. In the darkroom her job was to create composite photos of fallen soldiers with pictures of loved ones and during this time she had the opportunity to work with plate cameras.


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Later emigrated to America to escape the media attention but was dismayed to find that even in Maine, the tales of the Cottingley fairies were well known. After marrying an engineer, Elsie emigrated again, this time to India where she was an army driver during the war. She returned to England after the 1947 declaration of independence and soon the media tracked her down and her privacy was lost again.


THE GRIFFITHS FAMILY


Sergeant Major Edwin Griffiths


Stationed in South Africa during the war, he remained at his post after his wife and daughter temporarily moved to Cottingley. In 1918 he arrived back in England and the reunited family moved from Cottingley to Scarborough, North Yorkshire.


Annie Griffiths (nee Wright)


Enjoyed a high life in South Africa with servants and lavish trips.


Frances Griffiths, 10 years old


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Arrived from South Africa with her mother to live with her cousin in Cottingley. Her photograph with the dancing fairies has been described as the most reproduced photo in history and is instantly recognized by people across the world.


Throughout her life she toyed with the media, not letting out the truth until she was an elderly lady. However, although she admitted to have faked the pictures, she adamantly declared that she did see fairies and she did play with them at the Beck.


THE INVESTIGATORS


Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan

 

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Born in 1859 at Picardy Place in Edinburgh, Doyle began his professional career as a doctor in Southsea, Hampshire. He was the man behind who created the Sherlock Holmes character and his most criticized work was the case of the Cottingley fairies. As a deep spiritualist and follower of Theosophy, Doyle saw the photographs as evidence of the existence of fairies. He died aged 71 still believing in fairies. The true confessions were not to be heard for another half a century.


Edward Lewis Gardner


A speaker on Theosophy and an ardent fairy seeker (author of Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs), Gardner traveled to Cottingley several times during the investigation after becoming one of the first "men of society" to investigate the tale. After the death of Conan Doyle, further investigations into the photographs were barred by Gardner and later by his son who inherited the Cottingley material. However, in later years, access was formerly granted and once again public interest was roused.


Harold Snelling


Snelling was an expert on photographic retouching and it was said that "what Snelling doesn't know about faked photography isn't worth knowing." As a fellow spiritualist, he and Gardner were to form the basis of the investigations after they reprinted and retouched the original negatives to produce sharper images. When Kodak was asked to verify the authenticity of the pictures it was the sharpened reprints that were sent to the labs. In actual fact, his work during the case was the most significant of any member of the investigative team. The retouching of the prints removed a number of shadows and lines which would later be rediscovered in the original pictures and show how the "fairies" were two-dimensional cutouts.


Geoffrey Hodson


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A former British Army Officer on the Western Front during the First World War, Geoffrey Hodson pursued a life of spiritualism, clairvoyance, yoga and healing. A respected expert in his field, he was around 31 years old when he was drawn to Cottingley by the tales of fairies and sprites. With his apparent strength in clairvoyance and deep spiritual beliefs, Hodson was sent to Cottingley to confirm that indeed the girls were in the company of fairies. If anyone could see the fairies, it would be Hodson. Amused by his gullible attitude, the girls admittedly wove an often ridiculous web of tales around him and exaggerated their sightings. To their astonishment, their childish pranks were well received by the clairvoyant who claimed to see what they saw and more. In 1983, when he was 96 and living in New Zealand, he heard the true confessions and thus became the only surviving member of Gardner's team to know the truth.


IN THE BEGINNING...


It was July 1917 and Frances knew she was in trouble for coming home wet after slipping on rocks and falling into the water. She scrambled up the side of the bank with her cousin Elsie, crept into the house and sure enough as soon as her mother, Annie, saw her she was scolded. In an attempt to explain why her dress was soaked, Frances said that she had fallen into the stream after playing with the fairies at the beck. On hearing this wild excuse her mother sent her up to the attic bedroom she shared with Elsie. Frances was upset by this and in an attempt to cheer up her cousin, Elsie suggested they take a picture of the fairies and persuaded her father to lend them his Midg quarter plate camera. Thinking that this would put an end to the ludicrous story, Arthur Wright agreed. Arthur loaded up a glass plate into the camera, set the speed to 1/50s and gave it to Elsie. The pair trundled off down to the beck again, this time camera in hand with a view to catch their spritely friends on film.


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The Midg was made by W. Butcher & Sons of London 1902-1920 with Rapid Rectiliner lens, rotating apertures, mirror finders and room for 12 plates (31/4" x 4"). The plates where held in place by metal sheaths in a spring loaded rack and when the shutter was released a lever mechanism would lay the exposed plate face down in the light proof chamber at the bottom of the camera. It was said that Arthur Wright set the camera at 1/50s at f/11 and provided one glass plate for the first and most famous image.

 

When the case book opened again in 1971 when Lynn Lewis from the Nationwide television programme reported on a study of the photographs by Kodak photography experts. They concluded that the pictures could not have been taken by a Midg camera set at 1/50s. They seemed to have been created by someone with "a feel and composition" for photography.


As the prints were not the originals but "cleaned up" copies retouched by Harold Snelling for sale at 1s 6d (small prints) and 2s 6d (large prints). It stands to reason then, that the findings should highlight anomalies between that which should have been produced by the Midg and that which was actually being examined.


The camera was eventually sold at Sotherbys to S.J.Robinson in 1972 and now rests in the Kodak Gallery at the National Photography Museum in Bradford.

 

A while later, the girls returned home and Arthur took the plate out to expose in his under-the-stairs darkroom. As the image slowly appeared through the solution, Arthur wondered what the strange outlines could be. He asked Elsie why there were "bits of paper" in the picture and whether it was a discarded sandwich wrapping. Elsie said it was the fairies that they played with by the waterfall but her father promptly dismissed the odd reply. He was aware of his daughter's artistic ability (she attended Bradford Art College from the age of 13) and knew she had been drawing fairies for some time. Annie and Polly trusted their children who were honest and forthright but even with a great interest in spiritualism (eventually Theosophy) they cast aside the tale and the matter was considered closed. Little more was spoken of the images.


The immortal image of Frances and the Dancing Fairies was born.



THE FIRST IMAGES


FRANCES AND THE DANCING FAIRIES


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Here is the first picture to be taken by the girls at Cottingley Beck and shows Frances gazing innocently into the camera as a troop of fairies dances on the branches in the foreground.


The leading photography experts of the day examined the photo and declared them to be genuine and void of trickery but Kodak laboratories were more cautious with their findings.


The photo had been received in its original form in a letter to Edward L Gardner along with the second photo in the series. However, as the images were much faded and ill defined, Gardner tasked Harold Snelling to produce some fine reprints which were made in numbers and sold in the tide of public interest.


"Then I told them to make new negatives (from the positives of the originals) and do the very best with them short of altering anything mechanically. The result was that they turned out two first class negatives which … are the same in every respect as the originals except that they are sharp cut and clear and far finer for printing purposes…"


Edward L Gardner in a letter to Fred Barlow, a photographic genius, in 1920. Gardner was refering to the time when he asked Harold Snelling to "clean up" the images.


"This original negative is asserted by expert photographers to bear not the slightest trace of combination work, retouching, or anything whatever to mark it as other than a perfectly straight single-exposure photograph, taken in the open air under natural conditions."


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

The photograph, while curious in content, was soon forgotten until the appearance of a second spritely figure in August, just one month later.


ELSIE AND THE GNOME FAIRY


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A month after the events, the second picture in the series was taken by Frances. Here Elsie is pictured by the oaks beyond the banks of the beck with a small gnome like figure.

 

The appearance of another strange figure on the Midg plates somewhat annoyed Elsie's father. He knew the girls were playing a joke, but when he questioned them they adamantly denied any trickery and insisted that these were the fairy folk with whom they were playing. As a result, Arthur Wright told the girls they could no longer use his camera. Despite their most rigorous attempts to find evidence of the prank, perhaps drawings or cutouts, nothing was found. Nothing in the dustbins, nothing by the beck, nothing up the embankment, nothing at all. Confused, the parents gave up the search and the fairy talk soon died away.


THE RESURGENCE OF THEOSOPHY, SPIRITUALISM AND OTHER BELIEFS


Polly and Annie Wright were less skeptical of the photographs. Although they were initially dismissive, they became more receptive of the idea of real life fairies whilst attending a number of spiritual meetings in Bradford. At the time of the War, people were faced with the possibility that their loved ones may not come home. Casualties were mounting and comfort was found in religion, prayer and other beliefs. Believing in spirits and the afterlife gave many people hope that they may one day be reunited and Theosophy went some way in providing this hope. Conan Doyle himself had been a long time spiritualist and respected speaker in Theosophy and went on a world wide crusade for Spiritualism between 1920 and 1930. He lost his own son just before the Armistice and later his brother Brigadier-General Innes Doyle from post-war pneumonia.


THE FIRST LETTER


The following year, on November 19, 1918, Francis wrote a letter to a friend, Johanna Parvin, of Woodstock, Cape Town which brought the fairies to light once more albeit in brief passing. The letter read:


Dear Joe [Johanna],

 

I hope you are quite well. I wrote a letter before, only I lost it or it got mislaid. Do you play with Elsie and Nora Biddles? I am learning French, Geometry, Cookery and Algebra at school now. Dad came home from France the other week after being there ten months, and we all think the war will be over in a few days. We are going to get our flags to hang upstairs in our bedroom. I am sending two photos, both of me, one of me in a bathing costume in our back yard, Uncle Arthur took that, while the other is me with some fairies up the beck, Elsie took that one. Rosebud is as fat as ever and I have made her some new clothes. How are Teddy and dolly?

 

On the back of the fairy photo, she wrote:


Elsie and I are very friendly with the beck Fairies. It is funny I never used to see them in Africa. It must be too hot for them there.

 

In the months following this letter, Francis was reunited with her father when he returned from his post in South Africa and the family left Cottingley in 1918 and moved to Scarborough.


Four years later on November 25, 1922, the letter was rediscovered and later published in the Cape Town Argus in an article called "Cape Town Link In World Controversy" once more re-igniting public curiosity.


"... isn't this the best kind of evidence possible that, two years before Conan Doyle ever started this controversy, Frances Griffiths believed implicitly in the existence of fairies: so implicitly indeed as to discuss them with no more surprise or emphasis than she discusses her dad, her dolls, and the war?" ~ South African Cape Town Argus

 

INTEREST GATHERS PACE


Polly Wright attended a Theosophical Society meeting in Bradford in 1919 and it was here where the infamous pictures were to gather interest. The topic of discussion was "fairy life" and during the meeting she was overheard talking about the children's photos. The lecturer asked to see them and was astounded. In the Autumn months the 2 photos were presented at the Theosophical Society in Harrogate where a captivated audience believed that evidence of countless tales of fairy sightings had finally been presented. Skeptics gathered with plenty of mockery—how could so many people be fooled by such obvious photographic trickery?


Interest was to gather pace in May when a letter was sent to leading Theosophist Edward L Gardner with 2 small prints asking for his opinion. Intrigued, he requested that the original plates be sent to him and on receipt asked Harold Snelling, a friend and photographic expert, to prepare new prints from the original negatives.


In a letter to another photographic genius, Fred Barlow, Gardner recounts:


"Then I told them to make new negatives (from the positives of the originals) and do the very best with them short of altering anything mechanically. The result was that they turned out two first class negatives which are the same in every respect as the originals except that they are sharp cut and clear and far finer for printing purposes."

 

As a leading expert in the debunking of faked photographs, Snelling's opinion was seen to be unquestionable so when he passed his approval that the pictures were indeed genuine, Gardner was convinced.


"This plate is a single exposure... These dancing figures are not made of paper nor of any fabric; they are not painted on a photographed background—but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during exposure..." ~ Harold Snelling

 

Note: After Snelling made up the clearer prints, these were to be the basis of the investigations and not the original photographs.


Snelling sent the prints to Kodak for analysis and they came to the following conclusion:


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.


3. Kodak was 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, as we were thanking them and bidding good-bye, was that "after all, as fairies couldn't be true, the photographs must have been faked somehow".


from Pictures of Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs, by Edward L. Gardner


Despite the findings, Gardner remained convinced that they were genuine fairies that had been spoken of in hundreds of tales and sightings throughout history. This was proof. They did exist. Others needed to see.


TRIPS TO COTTINGLEY


In the summer of 1920, Gardner went to Cottingley to interview the girls and speak to their families. He returned to London, content that they were all honest and respectable people and recommended to Doyle that more photos were required if the truth was to be confirmed. Edward Gardner went back to Cottingley with 2 Cameo quarter plate folding cameras, a tripod and 24 secretly marked plates and asked the girls to photograph the fairies again.


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The Cameo Quarter Plate was made by W Butcher & Sons, London 1915 - 1920. It had a rising front and pneumatic shutter release cylinder but was prone to distorted and out of focus images due to the unbraced lens board. As the name suggests, the lens assembly could be folded back into the main structure via collapsing leather bellows thus providing a neat and compact unit.


Like the Arthur Wright's Midg Quarter Plate camera which was used for the first 2 photographs, the Cameo captured images on glass plates. Two dozen plates were secretly marked and carefully boxed by Gardner and his team before travelling to Cottingley.

 

Polly Wright wrote to Frances, who was now 13, describing how Gardner wanted to invite her to take more pictures of the fairies during the school holidays. In the reply, she accepted and traveled from Scarborough by train for a two week stay.


At the same time, Gardner caught the train from London to Bradford and arrived at Cottingley Bar by tram.


"I went off, too, to Cottingley again, taking the two cameras and plates from London, and met the family and explained to the two girls the simple working of the cameras, giving one each to keep. The cameras were loaded, and my final advice was that they need go up to the glen only on fine days as they had been accustomed to do before and '"tice" the fairies, as they called their way of attracting them, and see what they could get. I suggested only the most obvious and easy precautions about lighting and distance, for I knew it was essential they should feel free and unhampered and have no burden of responsibility. If nothing came of it all, I told them, they were not to mind a bit." ~ Fairies: A Book Of Real Fairies by Edward L. Gardner

 

Gardner left the photographic equipment with the girls and returned to London praying for sunshine so the fairies would come out. Rain fell for a fortnight. Then on 19 August 1920, Polly Wright wrote a letter to Gardner saying modestly:


"The morning was dull and misty so they did not take any photos until after dinner when the mist had cleared away and it was sunny. I went to my sister's for tea and left them to it. When I got back they had only managed two with fairies, I was disappointed."

 

"P.S. She did not take one flying after all."

 

Arthur Wright packed the plates in cotton wool and returned them to Edward Gardner in London still confused as to the fuss of the whole matter. They were fakes after all, right? Although Frances won a scholarship to go to grammar school, Elsie left school at the age of 13. How could such an intelligent man be fooled "by our Elsie, and her at the bottom of the class!"


At the same time, Gardner sent an urgent telegram to Doyle with the news that the girls had managed to take another 3 photographs. They were later posted to him in Melbourne, Australia where he was holding lectures on spiritualism but such was his excitement that he even excused the apparent tip of a hatpin in the mid section of one the fairies as being its navel. His reply included:


"My heart was gladdened when out here in far Australia I had your note and the three wonderful pictures which are confirmatory of our published results. When our fairies are admitted other psychic phenomena will find a more ready acceptance... we have had continued messages at seances for some time that a visible sign was coming through..."

 

"breaking down materialism and leading human thought to a broader and more spiritual level."

 

"matter as we have known it is not really the limit of our universe."

 

It must be noted that Doyle himself was a strong believer in the spiritual and the afterlife and had been a keen speaker on the subject for many years. As mentioned earlier, Theosophy gained support during the War and Doyle's own son, Kingsley was killed in 1916 shortly before the Armistice in the Battle of the Somme.


FRANCES AND THE LEAPING FAIRY


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A slightly out of focus Frances is pictured with a fairy in flight. This image was particularly criticised for the contemporary hairstyle of the mystical creature which was in fact a cutout drawing fixed to a branch by a hatpin.


It was this picture that prompted Doyle to comment on the apparent top of a hatpin in the mid section of the fairy as being its naval.

 

FAIRY OFFERING A POSY TO ELSIE


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A 19 year old Elsie gazes at a fairy who is offering a bunch of flowers. Critics pointed out that the fairy looked remarkably fashionable with its bobbed hairstyle and sheer dress.

 

THE FAIRY SUNBATH


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The fifth picture in the series, the Fairy Sunbath, was created with a simple frame and knicker elastic construction pushed into the long grass. With a pull of the elastic, the fairies would fall backwards from their slots in the frame, thus providing a sense of "fading" when the camera caught the motion. The picture was successful albeit for a double exposure showing one of the fairies twice! However, Conan still wrote:


"Seated on the upper left hand edge with wing well displayed is an undraped fairy apparently considering whether it is time to get up. An earlier riser of more mature age is seen on the right possessing abundant hair and wonderful wings. Her slightly denser body can be glimpsed within her fairy dress."

 

WHAT WILL THE PUBLIC SAY?


At the end of November, The Strand magazine published their 1920 Christmas Edition and to their amazement, the article on the fairies stirs up so much interest that every copy is sold within days. Doyle is praised by many quarters but many more ridicule him and question his sanity.


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The Strand magazine was founded by George Newnes and costing only sixpence, it was half the price of other British monthlys but full of pictures. The first edition, dated January 1891, was on the shelves by Christmas 1890 and sold out a total of 300,000 copies after popular demand ordered two further reprints of 100,000. By the turn of the century half a million copies were being sold a month. The editor, H Greenhough Smith, secured regular contributions from the world's greatest writers including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Rudyard Kipling and Voltaire (translated text) and boasted readership from Queen Victoria, Cardinal Manning and Winston Churchill. In fact, it was on the Strand platform where Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were showcased to a worldwide audience. A family oriented publication, the Strand offered fact, fiction and serial stories with photographs and illustrations in a fresh look previously unknown to the British public. Sixty years later, the impact of the War spelt disaster for the magazine. Smaller editions, falling demand and spiraling costs led to the end of the Strand in March 1950. In December 1998, the Strand magazine was resurrected.

 

Over the next few months the story is still the talk of the town...


"On the evidence I have no hesitation in saying that these photographs could have been ..faked'. I criticise the attitude of those who declared there is something supernatural in the circumstances attending to the taking of these pictures because, as a medical man, I believe that the inculcation of such absurd ideas into the minds of children will result in later life in manifestations and nervous disorder and mental disturbances…" ~ Major John Hall Edwards (1858-1926), the British pioneer of X-ray treatment

 

"The day we kill our Santa Claus with our statistics we shall have plunged a glorious world into deepest darkness". The Day's Thought underneath was a Welsh proverb: "Tis true as the fairy tales told in books." ~ 27 November 1920, South Wales Argus

 

"For the true explanation of these fairy photographs what is wanted is not a knowledge of occult phenomena but a knowledge of children." ~ 5 January 1921, Truth

 

"It seems at this point that we must either believe in the almost incredible mystery of the fairy or in the almost incredible wonders of faked photographs." ~ 29 January 1921, City News

 

Following The Strand's publication, Gardner holds an audience at the Theosophist Hall in Brompton Road, London and reveals slides of the 5 fairy photographs, and as expected, the crowd of spiritualists cheer and delight at the "proof" of the existence of fairies. By now the public demanded more and more from the investigators, and Doyle duly complied. He published the last 3 photographs in The Strand and waited for the response. Not all the comments were kind and the most repeated view was that the fairies had very fashionable hairstyles... a view originally given by Kodak laboratories in 1920 after they inspected the first 2 pictures.


Just as they did after the Christmas edition, prominent figures spoke out in public about the images.


"How wonderful that to these dear children such a wonderful gift has been vouchsafed." ~ Margaret McMillan, education and social reformer

 

"Look at Alice's face. Look at Iris's face. There is an extraordinary thing called TRUTH which has 10 million faces and forms—it is God's currency and the cleverest coiner or forger can't imitate it." ~ Henry de Vere Stacpoole, novelist who referred to the girls by the aliases that Conan Doyle had penned for anonymity

 

"When one considers that these are the first photographs which these children ever took in their lives it is impossible to conceive that they are capable of technical manipulation which would deceive experts." ~ Conan Doyle, Yorkshire Weekly Post

 

BELIEVER 'TILL THE END...


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In an attempt to uncover further "proof", Gardner sends Geoffrey Hodson back to Cottingley in 1921. Armed with cameras and a host of "psychic" tools, Hodson claims to see many more fairies and spirits but unfortunately cannot produce a single picture. In fact, years afterwards, Elsie and Francis openly admit that they had a lot of fun duping Hodson throughout his stay and were mystified when he claimed to "see" whatever the girls told him.


Unmoved by public discontent and humiliation, Doyle published The Coming of the Fairies in 1922. This book was not solely based on events in Cottingley but was a collection of fairy stories and sightings all over the world.


His reputation as the brilliant mind behind the legendary Sherlock Holmes was severely damaged and people began to see him as the old man who was duped by 2 schoolgirls. But to him, Theosophy and its beliefs were real and it was the majority who were wrong.


On July 8, 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies still believing in fairies and the afterlife, and his funeral at The Albert Hall in London is attended by 8,000 mourners.


Chronicles & Stories of Bingley and District by Harry Speight - 1904

 

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