The Cottingley Glen Fairy photos 1917 by Elsie Wright and Frances

One of the most famous hoaxes in the history of paranormal photography, the “Cottingley Fairies” appeared in a series of photographs taken by Elsie Wright (1901-1988) and Frances Griffith (1907-1986) beginning in 1917.

Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith were cousins. At the time of the first photos, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. Elsie worked in a photo laboratory and borrowed her father’s camera to take the photos. After developing the photos, images of fairies were clearly visible. Elsie’s father was unconvinced and declared them fake, but her mother (Polly Wright) accepted them as genuine.

Interest in the Cottingley Fairies gradually declined after 1921. Both girls married and lived abroad for a time after they grew up, yet the photographs continued to hold the public imagination; in 1966 a reporter from the Daily Express newspaper traced Elsie, who had by then returned to the UK. Elsie left open the possibility that she believed she had photographed her thoughts, and the media once again became interested in the story.

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.

In the early 1980s Elsie and Frances admitted that the photographs were faked using cardboard cutouts of fairies copied from a popular children’s book of the time, but Frances maintained that the fifth and final photograph was genuine. The photographs and two of the cameras used are on display in the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Even 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. 

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