The Cottingley Fairies
Cottingley Fairies 1

Real Names


First Appearance


Created by

Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths



The second of the five photographs, showing Elsie with a winged gnome.

The Cottingley Fairies originated in five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins living in Cottingley, England. In 1917, when the first two photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 9. 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. A spiritualist, Conan Doyle was enthusiastic about the photographs, and interpreted them as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena, while public reaction was mixed.


Frances and the Leaping Fairy, the third photograph

Both girls married and lived in the US for a time, yet the photographs continued to hold the public imagination and, in 1966, a reporter from the Daily Express traced Elsie, who, by then, had returned to the UK. She left open the possibility that she had photographed her thoughts, and interest in the story grew once again.


The fourth photograph, Fairy Offering Posy of Harebells to Elsie.

In the early 1980s, Elsie and Frances admitted the first four photographs were faked, using cardboard cutouts copied from a children's book of the time, with Frances maintaining the fifth and final photograph was genuine.

The original photographs and two of the cameras used are now on display in the National Media Museum in Bradford.


Fairies and Their Sun-Bath, the fifth and last photograph of the Cottingley Fairies.

See Also

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