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The Day A. Conan Doyle Affirmed the Existence of Fairies


That day Conan Doyle assured that the fairy photographs taken by two girls in Cottingley, England, were absolutely real.

Although it seems hard to believe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mastermind behind the most famous and rational detective ever, had an extraordinary fascination for the spiritist world. One of his most famous ventures into this realm was when, after the death of his brother, Doyle decided to take the case of a series of curious photographs of fairies as if he was trying to personify his legendary character Sherlock Holmes.

Said photographs were taken by Elsie Wright, then 16 years old, and Frances Griffiths, who was 9––two cousins that lived in Cottingley, England. In 1920, Doyle published his investigation in the popular British magazine Strand, where he detailed the reasons for believing in the authenticity of these enigmatic photographs that showed, with impeccable definition, a group of fairies playing in the forest. The title read: “Fairies photographed, an event that defines an era, described by A. Conan Doyle”.

In a strange combination of hope and reason (although the latter sounds odd), The Coming of the Fairies magnificently exemplifies how one can shape reality in accordance to what one really wants to believe in the moment, no matter how far-fetched this is.


Black and white photo of a woman looking at fairies

Mary Losure, author of The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie ad Frances Fool the World, carried out her own investigation on this event and enlists the series of mistakes that Doyle made while studying the case, same that led him to assert the images were real.


Young girl looking at fairy

His first mistake, she says, was ruling out the possibility that the images could have been altered —he thought two young girls from the countryside could not have such craftiness. The second was not going to Cottingley himself, and instead sending Edward Gardner, an impetuous believer in fairies and elves, whose report stated that the girls did in fact see and talk to fairies and therefore the photographs must be real.
Doyle was very lucky and died with the firm believe that the Cottingley fairies were real. The girls, however, not long after his death, confessed that the fairies were mere cut outs from other illustrations. More than a mistake, perhaps, this case seems to prove that Conan Doyle was larger than himself and included otherness in his daily reality. About this he wrote:

There is nothing scientifically impossible, so far as I can see, in some people seeing things that are invisible to others. Victorian science would have left the world hard and clean and bare, like a landscape in the moon. One or two consequences are obvious. The experiences of children will be taken more seriously. Cameras will be forthcoming. Other well- authenticated cases will come along. These little folk who appear to be our neighbors, with only some small difference of vibration to separate us, will become familiar.


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