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The Cottingley Fairies

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In 1917, sixteen-year-old Elsie Wright (1901-1988) and her nine-year-old cousin Frances Griffiths (1908-1986), who was visiting from South Africa, claimed to have seen fairies at Cottingley Beck, a stream at the bottom of Elsie's garden, near Bradford, Yorkshire, England. They subsequently took two photographs using a camera belonging to Elsie's father which showed images of the fairies.

In 1919, these photographs came to the attention of leading theosophist Edward Gardner, and the following year they were shown to the author and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In August 1920, three further photographs of the fairies were taken by Elsie and Frances, using a camera and photographic plates provided by Gardner. After examination by experts, Gardner and Doyle came to accept the photographs as authentic.

In December 1920, The Strand magazine published an article by Conan Doyle including the two 1917 photographs and, in 1921, a second article which included the 1920 photographs. These articles formed the basis for Conan Doyle's 1922 book The Coming of the Fairies.

More than 60 years later, in 1983, the two cousins admitted that the photographs had been faked by copying illustrations from Princess Mary's Gift Book, a popular children's volume published in 1914 to support the War effort. The two girls had made cardboard cutouts of the fairies, which they supported with hatpins. However, both women asserted that they had seen fairies in the beck. Frances also maintained that the final photograph was genuine, although Elsie said that it was faked.

In 1997, two feature films based on the events at Cottingley were released: Fairytale: A True Story, and Photographing Fairies.

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