Fairies at the bottom of the garden – The Cottingley Fairy photos
I remember when I was a child, my father telling me of a couple of young girls that had real fairies at the bottom of their garden. My father explained to me that these two girls had even taken photos of them.
- Experts had began to study the photos
- Elsie borrowed her fathers camera to capture the fairies
- Are they real or fake?
- Images from Princess Mary's Gift Book
Experts had began to study the photos
Well, of course I was intrigued by this tale and was enthralled when I saw the 1920’s photos in a magazine. They were very exciting photographs and I would stare and study the beautiful fairies in these photos for hours.
When I heard that photographic experts were unsure whether the images were fake or not, I remember feeling a little disheartened. As a young girl myself, I wanted the fairies to be real and refused to believe that they could be fake. These beautiful photos had captured world attention and there was an awful of time and effort going into the research and study of these pictures. They really were excellent and if they were to be found as fake, then these very young girls had produced them exceptionally well.
Elsie borrowed her fathers camera to capture the fairies
The two girls in question were cousins Frances Griffith, 10 and Elsie Wright, 13 the photographs were allegedly taken while playing in Elsie’s garden. She lived the village of Cottingley. Elsie borrowed her father’s camera explaining that they had been playing with fairies in the garden. Of course her father believed it was just child’s play and agreed to let Elsie use the camera. However, when the photo’s were developed and an image of Frances and a fairy could be seen he filed it away believing it to be nothing more that a prank. A few weeks later the girls took another photograph and when this one was developed it showed an image of Elsie with a gnome, still her father treated it as a joke and filed it away with the first photo.
Are they real or fake?
It was not until 1919 when Elsie’s mother was looking at the photos and was intrigued by them that things really began to take off. Elsie’s mother was a very strong believer in the supernatural and took the photos to a spiritualist speaker, who in turn showed them to Edward Gardner who was a researcher into the paranormal; he showed them to photographer Harold Snelling. Mr. Snelling studied the pictures fully with his expert eye and eventually declared them as GENUINE photographs which had been taken with “single exposure, open-air work, and show movement in all the fairy figures, and there is no trace whatever of studio work involving card or paper models, dark backgrounds, painted figures, etc." These were his words……well, it was no wonder that the world became so excited by all of this.
It was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries) who was absolutely convinced the photos were genuine. He was a believer in spiritualism and believed that this proved the existence of supernatural fairy beings. He asked the girls if they would be able to take more photos of the fairies.
This they agreed to do and in 1920 the arguments across the world began; were these real or were they fake? There some experts said that they could see little errors that proved they were fake but others denied this and went on to prove otherwise. These arguments went on for years until 1978, when a gentleman by the name of James Randi declared just how similar these fairies were to images in a children’s book called Princess Mary’s Gift Book. This was published just before the girls took the photos.
Images from Princess Mary's Gift Book
It was not until 1981 that Elsie finally admitted that he picture were fakes. She explained to Journalist Joe Cooper who was interviewing them for an article that was to be published in The Unexplained, that the fairies were paper cutouts. Elsie had indeed used Princess Mary’s Gift book for ideas and sketched the pictures herself. She made the sketched into cardboard cutouts and would keep them in place by using hatpins. Elsie died in 1988.
Frances however, admitted that 4 of the 5 photos were fake. But right up until her deathbed in 1986 she believed and stated that the final photo was real.
These are the sketches taken from the Princess Mary's Gift Book Looking at these, it is easy to see where the girls wonderful ideas came from