ON THIS DATE in 1917, sixteen-year-old Elsie Wright photographed her nine-year-old cousin Frances Griffith posing with what appeared to be four tiny fairies. This is the first of five photographs that spread the fame of the Cottingley (England) fairies, one of the most famous and long-running photographic hoaxes. In reality, the “fairies” were created from paper cutouts.
It’s ironic that the man who created fiction’s most analytical detective would fall for this flimsy fraud. Sherlock Holmes author A. Conan Doyle saw one of the pictures in 1920 and wrote a magazine article that vouched for the existence of these supernatural beings, which became known as the Cottingley fairies. Not until 1982 did Griffiths and Wright confess that the fairies were a fraud.