Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the photographic fairy hoax that fooled the world.
So the story goes that in the quaint Yorkshire village of Cottingley, on two occasions in the summer of 1917, a young girl named Elsie Wright borrowed her father’s camera and gamboled down to the garden stream that flowed behind her family home to take photographs with her cousin, Frances Griffiths. They returned with a series of photographs they claimed proved the existence of fairies and gnomes. The Cottingley Fairies became a worldwide phenomenon and remained a mystery until 1976 when Frances and Elsie all but admitted that the photographs were a hoax.
Why would two young girls make up a story about fairies living in the garden behind their house? Because that is what children do. Why would these photographs become one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century, fooling adults that should have known better? Adults including the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed the story so adamantly that he penned pieces for magazines, and even wrote a book titled The Coming of the Fairies, documenting the full chronology of events? That is what I hoped to find out when I delved into the Sorbet Magazine archives in search of contemporary accounts.
Imagine my excitement as I stumbled upon a letter – hidden deep within Sorbet’s vast underground vaults – written by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. The letter is written in response to the scathing review of Conan Doyle’s aforementioned book, which features in Sorbet’s Winter 1922 edition. It is reprinted here, for the first time, unredacted and unedited.
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