if you think the invention of the internet has made people believe anything, you are dead wrong

when photographs were invented, people assumed anything in a photograph had to be real. so in 1917 some little girls drew pictures of fairies, cut them out, and took pictures of them in various positions. people bought it. sir arthur conan doyle even endorsed it in a scholarly article.

convincing as fuck, right???


(for you history nerds, this is known as the “cottingley fairies” hoax)


The Cottingley Fairies.

In 1920 a series of photos of fairies captured the attention of the world. The photos had been taken by two young girls, the cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, while playing in the garden of Elsie’s Cottingley village home. Photographic experts examined the pictures and declared them genuine. Spiritualists promoted them as proof of the existence of supernatural creatures, and despite criticism by skeptics, the pictures became among the most widely recognized photos in the world. It was only decades later, in the late 1970s, that the photos were definitively debunked.

Shown above are the five Cottingley fairy photos, in the order in which they were taken. 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.


In 1917, Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright took a series of photographs that clearly depicted them playing with a group of fairies. The girls, when showing their parents, insisted the photos were real. Their mother took the photos to a photographer, who declared the photos were genuine. The photos quickly picked up steam and even managed to convince Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of their authenticity. The girls maintained their stories until the 1980s, when Elsie finally admitted to the fairies being paper cut-outs made from sketches based on fairies from the book Princess Mary’s Gift Book. Hats off to these girls for pulling one over on Doyle himself!


The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, England. In 1917, when the first two photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. The pictures came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used them to illustrate an article on fairies he had been commissioned to write for the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine.

Interest in the Cottingley Fairies gradually declined after 1921. 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 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 continued to claim that the fifth and final photograph was genuine.

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One of the five Cottingley Fairy photos that Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two little girls with big imaginations, created in the Summer of 1917. People, including apparently Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were fooled for many years until Frances finally admitted in 1983 that four of the images were faked.  However, she insisted that this photo, referred to as “the grassy cocoon”, was real.  Click through for the full article.

Cottingley Fairies, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith, 1917

The Cottingley Fairies was an elaborate hoax concocted by two British girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith, that involved a series of five photographs showing the girls next to supposed fairies. When the photographs were first developed, many were convinced that these photographs were proof of fairies. It wasn’t until 1983 that the girls admitted that the photos were fakes and the fairies were created using cardboards. While these images of fairies may seem like a trivial inclusion, the iconic photos confounded people for decades, raising significant debate and outlining the significance and potential hazards of the ability to manipulate images. x

The Cottingley Fairies is a name give to a series of photographs taken by nine-year-old Frances Griffiths and her cousin, Elsie Wright, in 1917. The girls photographed “faires” in the garden. The faires were actually well-made cardboard cutouts, but the Victorian audience were fairly convinced: It was one of the most elaborate hoaxes of the time and hundreds flocked to the garden to see the famous Cottingley Fairies.


Fairy Forts, Dens, & Glens: When Places are Preserved by Mythical Belief

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies. While his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes would have debunked the 1917 Cottingley Fairy photographs in short order, Doyle championed the authenticity of the images of two young girls with the tiny flying beings. He, like thousands of others, wanted to believe that modern technology could prove that the magical folklore that was so much a part of his culture heritage was real.

Of course, the Cottingley Fairy photographs were not real, but the genuine belief in fairies and other magical creatures that they tapped into still permeates northern Europe.

While the believed appearance of fairies has evolved over the centuries, lately it’s been somewhat settled that they are creatures of magic, appearing young and attractive with gossamer wings. It should be noted that in this belief, fairies are a fully separate species from humans and exist primarily in a different dimension, though that dimension is close enough that the thin veil between worlds can occasionally reveal them to human eyes. There is also a consensus that humans should not anger fairies, since everything from flood, pestilence, disappointing rugby seasons, and the recent bankruptcy of a billionaire have been blamed upon them.

In an effort to avoid the wrath of the fairies, communities of the British Isles and Ireland have protected the fairy “homes,” and as a result have preserved sites of great beauty from development and destruction, which is a kind of magic in itself. Conversely, more than a few lovely spots have become damaged and even threatened with destruction by enthusiastic fairy hunters. 

Keep reading about how fairies preserved some of the most beautiful places on earth, on Atlas Obscura!