The Cottingley Glen Fairy photos
of 1917 - 1920
In 1917, around the
end of the first World War, two young girls in West Yorkshire,
England, took 2 very controversial photographs. Photographs of
themselves, posing with fairies.
The two girls were
Elsie Wright, then 16 years old, and her young cousin Frances
Griffiths, then 10 years old. Frances had just come to England
from South Africa with her mother and they were staying with Elsie's
Elsie and Frances liked to go and play down at the creek behind
the house, even though their parents had forbid it. When questioned
by their parents as to why they kept playing at the creek they
replied that they went there to see the fairies. Understandably
the parents were surprised with their answer and were disbelieving
initially, so the girls borrowed Elsie's father's camera and took
it down to the creek. This produced the first of the photographs,
clearly depicting Frances with 5 small fairies dancing in front
1. F r a n c e s a
n d t h e F a i r i e s
The girls were very
excited when they got back to the house with the camera and asked
Elsie's father to develop the film straight away. The resulting
photograph (pictured above) surprised everyone! Elsie's father
however was not entirely convinced.
So a month later the girls took another photo, this time of Elsie
with a small gnome.
2. E l s i e
a n d t h e G n o m e
The photos didn't
cause much of a stir until 2 years later when Elsie's mother decided
to show them to a Theosophist ( a teacher of Theosophy; philosophy
that informs of the possibility of nature spirits.) From that
time on the photos were the centre of debate among the whole country.
With the recent horrors of the war still fresh on everyones minds,
these photos gave the weary population something sweet and innocent
to believe in again, and the photos became big news.
The photos were sent away to a professional who would be able
to tell if they had been faked, but he stated that they indeed
real and that the negatives had not been tampered with as far
as he could tell. It was after this that the photos were to come
to the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the
Sherlock Holmes books. He was intrigued by the photos and asked
a friend, William Gardner, to go and meet with the girls. Upon
meeting the girls he declared that he believed they were telling
the truth. Conan Doyle, being very open minded about supernatural
or fantastic things like fairies, included the photographs in
a magazine article he was writing, which was to recieve much criticism.
In 1920 the girls were asked to take some more photos and after
a few weeks came up with 3 more photos, makinga total of 5.
r a n c e s a n d t h e
l e a p i n g F a i r y
a i r y O f f e r i n g
P o s y o f H a r e - B e l l s
t o E l s i e
a i r i e s a n d t h e i r
S u n - B a t h
though this is a lovely story, I'm sorry to say that the girls,
as elderly women, did finally admit that the photos were faked.
The fairies were in fact cut outs from a picture book from 1910,
and the cut outs were held in place with hairpins.
I knew they were fakes, as I'm sure you did too. But there was
still something nice about the fact that for so long it was a
mystery to people and no doubt it still brought hope to some people,
and sure did make for a nice story. I wish that it had stayed
Made into a Movie!
story of Elsie and Frances and their fairy photographs
was made into a beautiful movie in 1997 titled "Fairy
Tale - A True Story".
I have the DVD and I watch it often while I'm drawing!
More available from Amazon