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Were The Cottingley Fairies Real or Fake?

Updated on April 30, 2015
The Cottingley Fairies
The Cottingley Fairies

What's The TRUE Story Behind The Cottingley Fairies?

In 1917 in Cottingley, Yorkshire, England, a pair of young ladies named Elsie Wright (16) and Frances Griffiths (10) believed that there were fairies in their garden and took photos of them to prove the existence of the fairies to their families. The photos were accepted within the family as proof and were never intended to go any farther than that. However, by 1920, they had left the family circle and become a world story. Some people felt that the photos proved the existence of fairies.

The story faded away in the early 1920s and both girls went on to live normal lives. However, in 1966 a news reporter spoke with Elsie and renewed interest in the story. In the 1980s, the women admitted to using cardboard cutouts taken from a children's picture book, Claude Arthur Shepperson's Princess Mary's Gift Book, to fake the fairies. Francis, who rarely spoke of their ruse because she was ashamed of it, did, however, maintain until her death, that the fifth photo was of a genuine fairy. Both women maintained that they had seen REAL fairies in the garden.

On this page, with the assistance of videos from the Antiques Roadshow and James Randi, learn a bit more about the Cottingley fairies and pause for a moment to think about whether or not you believe in fairies...

Do You Believe In Fairies?

The Cottingley Fairies Antique Roadshow Video April 2009 - The photos and the camera that took the famous pictures of the fairies.

"I'm often asked what was my favourite Roadshow moment and I think the Cottingley fairies has to be it. It was so unexpected and so exciting, one of those moments that still sends shivers down my spine. During the filming I felt that I might not get through the item, such was its impact on me." ~ Paul Atterbury, Antiques Roadshow Highlights

In the 1920s, it was often believed that cameras did not and could not lie...

The Fifth Cottingley Fairies Picture - This is the picture which Frances Griffiths claimed was REAL.


James Randi and the Cottingley Fairies Video - Mr. Randi presents proof in this short video that the photographs were faked.

The Case of The Cottingley Fairies

The Case of The Cottingley Fairies
The Case of The Cottingley Fairies

More Books

The Cottingley Fairies story has inspired a number of books, some of which are easier than others to find. You might look for the following titles:

  • Reflections on the Cottingley Fairies: Frances Griffiths - in Her Own Words: With Additional Material by Her Daughter Christine.
  • Fairies - A Book of Real Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs and Their Sequel by Edward L. Gardner.
  • Three articles on Doyle and the Cottingley Fairies Unknown Binding by Robert Sheaffer
  • The Case of the Cottingly Fairies. Were there really fairies at Cottingley? Over seventy years ago, two girls living in this suburb of Bradford 'saw' and photographed fairies. Their story captured the imagination of British society and has been an enigma until now. Click here to order your copy of The Case of the Cottingley Fairies from Amazon.

Cottingley Fairies Photographic Poster Print
Cottingley Fairies Photographic Poster Print

Fairy Tale - A True Story (1997) - The movie based quite loosely on the Cottingley fairy controversy.

How about you? Do you believe in fairies? Do you think any of the Cottingley fairies were real?

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    • Rock Artist profile image

      Rock Artist 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I love faeries and when I first read about the Cottingley fairies I thought it was a true story until I saw that the girls confessed. Where can I see the fifth picture that is supposedly genuine according to Frances Griffiths?

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      I still don't know if the Cottingley fairies were real, but I came back to Bless this lens!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      This is a fascinating story about the Cottingley fairies. Fairies have been a part of myth and legend for so long, one wonders if there isn't a grain of truth to them.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 years ago from Canada

      @anonymous: Thank you for the recommendation, I'll look into both the book and the movie.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      You've got to read the novel, "Photographing Fairies" by Steve Szilagyi. It's the basis for the movie "Photographing Fairies" starring Ben Kingsley, and it's brilliant! You can find it on Amazon.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

      I'm glad the girls confessed ... I can't imagine a true fairy looking like a paper cutout.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      What fun to see all of this again. :) I must say I don't think the photos were real. Whether fairies exist ... well I doubt that too. :) I think I'm getting old and cynical. Next thing I'll be claiming there's no Santa. Really a great lens. I enjoyed it very much.

    • profile image

      Joan4 7 years ago

      I have lived long enough to learn never to doubt this kind of story. Why not fairies? Our granddaughter has been fascinated with fairies since she was a toddler. Has she really seen them? I don't know. But she does build "fairy houses" in the yard from time to time. I have to admit I had not heard of the Cottingley fairies. I totally enjoyed the story and the videos. Thank you!