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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Cottingley Fairies

Photographs of fairies which were claimed to have been taken by two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in July, 1917, in Cottingley, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. The pictures became world-famous after Arthur Conan-Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, vouched for their authenticity.

The pictures were taken with a Midg camera. Elsie’s mother brought the pictures to a meeting of the Theosophical Society (TS), which attracted the attention of E. L. Gardner. Conan-Doyle wrote an article about the fairies in the Strand Magazine, and later wrote a book entitled The Coming of the Fairies. The authenticity of the photos remained a controversy for many decades.

In 1983, Frances Griffiths, by then 76 years old, admitted in an article in the Times of London that the first four pictures were faked. Elsie Wright Hill confirmed the hoax in another article that appeared later.

Joe Cooper, in his book The Case of the Cottingley Fairies (London: Simon & Schuster, Ltd., 1997) details the case and tells, on the basis of their confession when they were elderly women, how and why the two girls had faked the photographs.

It may be noted however that the well-known clairvoyant Geoffrey Hodson, in his book Fairies at Work and at Play, confirmed the existence of the Cottingley fairies through personal investigation at the site in 1921. In the 1990s, Mel Gibson produced a film on the Cottingley fairies entitled A Fairy Story.

V.H.C.

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