The truth about the Cottingley photographs

Posted by Bluebell Woods on

Most of my brothers and sisters are notoriously shy. It's not easy to capture a fairy on camera but over the years many humans have tried and there are some rare moments where fairies have been snapped. It's not surprising that you always want to take our picture. My kind are so pretty.

The Cottingley fairy photographs

Frances Griffiths, aged 10 in one of the most famous fairy photographs

Some of the most famous examples of fairy photographs are the 'Cottingley photographs' taken a hundred years ago by two little girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, in Cottingley, England. Elsie and Frances were obsessed with my kind and wanted to show the world that we existed. They produced two photographs that stunned the human society of the time, although Elsie's own father who had lent them the camera was sceptical. And rightly so, as the two girls admitted in 1983, these were indeed faked photographs using nothing more than paper cut-outs.

Now, it's hard to believe with today's typical scepticism but back then, human beings still had faith in magic and spirits. We fairies kept mostly to ourselves and like others in the magic world we hid from the limelight but people didn't have trouble believing. You might look at these lovely photographs and wonder how on earth they fooled anybody, but this was before the days of trick photography, before magazines began to manipulate images, before faked pictures became so normal that no one could believe any image any longer.

photography competiton

The photographs may not look very convincing now but at the time they fooled many bright adults including none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the human who created Sherlock Holmes. Mr Doyle was a firm believer in my kind but unfortunately in this case he saw what he wanted to see. He published them in The Strand magazine, bringing them to the attention of many more people, and sent someone to visit the young Cottingley girls to ask for more.

The pictures even came to the attention of the Fairy Queen, who was quite upset that these fairies living in Cottingley had allowed themselves to be photographed so openly without permission from her. She sent a few scouts to the house near Bradford to investigate. One of these scouts was my very own great-grandmother who told me the story.

She said that when she found the two girls, now a little older, they were taking new photographs in the same way as before, which confused my great-grandmother no end. These photographs were later published, again being used as proof of the existence of my kind. But not before, my great-grandmother startled the two girls and asked them what they were doing. Funnily enough, they had never seen a real fairy before and had by this time even stopped believing themselves.

Fairy photograph

The irony is that not many people today believe that the girls from Cottingley ever met a real fairy. Even though Frances admitted that she had faked the first four photographs, she always championed fairies and said how lovely we were, and I can say that she definitely met one.

If you ever meet me, I can honestly say I wouldn't mind having my photograph taken, but unfortunately for you, no one will ever believe you. There are so many faked photographs around and it is hard to tell the real ones apart. Take a look at these modern images and see if you can spot the genuine snaps from the digitally doctored pics. 

Fairy home in the woods

Troll in the tree trunk

Troll under the bridge

Tree house fairies

Pixi hiding under a picnic basket

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