However, of all the objections, which he considered in Our African Winter p. Elsie Wright finally confessed the hoax in , although her cousin Frances maintained to her death that the fifth and final photograph showed genuine fairies. Frontispiece This book contains reproductions of the famous Cottingley photographs, and gives the whole of the evidence in connection with them. The diligent reader is in almost as good a position as I am to form a judgment upon the authenticity of the pictures.
This narrative is not a special plea for that authenticity, but is simply a collection of facts the inferences from which may be accepted or rejected as the reader may think fit. I would warn the critic, however, not to be led away by the sophistry that because some professional trickster, apt at the game of deception, can produce a somewhat similar effect, therefore the originals were produced in the same way. There are few realities which cannot be imitated, and the ancient argument that because conjurers on their own prepared plates or stages can produce certain results, therefore similar results obtained by untrained people under natural conditions are also false, is surely discounted by the intelligent public.
I would add that this whole subject of the objective existence of a subhuman form of life has nothing to do with the larger and far more vital question of spiritualism. I should be sorry if my arguments in favour of the latter should be in any way weakened by my exposition of this very strange episode, which has really no bearing upon the continued existence of the individual.
The series of incidents set forth in this little volume represent either the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public, or else they constitute an event in human history which may in the future appear to have been epoch-making in its character.
It is hard for the mind to grasp what the ultimate results may be if we have actually proved the existence upon the surface of this planet of a population which may be as numerous as the human race, which pursues its own strange life in its own strange way, and which is only separated from ourselves by some difference of vibrations.
We see objects within the limits which make up our colour spectrum, with infinite vibrations, unused by us, on either side of them. If we could conceive a race of beings which were constructed in material which threw out shorter or longer vibrations, they would be invisible unless we could tune ourselves up or tone them down. It is exactly that power of tuning up and adapting itself to other vibrations which constitutes a clairvoyant, and there is nothing scientifically impossible, so far as I can see, in some people seeing that which is invisible to others.
If the objects are indeed there, and if the inventive power of the human brain is turned upon the problem, it is likely that some sort of psychic spectacles, inconceivable to us at the moment, will be invented, and that we shall all be able to adapt ourselves to the new conditions. If high-tension electricity can be converted by a mechanical contrivance into a lower tension, keyed to other uses, then it is hard to see why something analogous might not occur with the vibrations of ether and the waves of light.
This, however, is mere speculation and leads me to the fact that early in May I heard, in conversation with my friend Mr. Gow, the Editor of Light, that alleged photographs of fairies had been taken. He had not actually seen them, but he referred me to Miss Scatcherd, a lady for whose knowledge and judgment I had considerable respect. I got into touch with her and found that she also had not seen the photographs, but she had a friend, Miss Gardner, who had actually done so. On May 13 Miss Scatcherd wrote to me saying that she was getting on the trail, and including an extract from a letter of Miss Gardner, which ran as follows.
I am quoting actual documents in this early stage, for I think there are many who would like a complete inside view of all that led up to so remarkable an episode. Alluding to her brother Mr. I am so very thankful that I happened to be in Willesden when his bereavement took place, for it was so wonderful to watch him, and to see how marvellously his faith and beliefs upheld and comforted him. He will probably devote more and more of his time and strength to going about the country lecturing, etc. He believes in fairies, pixies, goblins, etc.
He has got into touch with a family in Bradford where the little girl, Elsie, and her cousin, Frances, constantly go into woods and play with the fairies. The father and mother are sceptical and have no sympathy with their nonsense, as they call it, but an aunt, whom Edward has interviewed, is quite sympathetic with the girls. Some little time ago, Elsie said she wanted to photograph them, and begged her father to lend his camera.
For long he refused, but at last she managed to get the loan of it and one plate. Off she and Frances went into the woods near a water-fall. Frances "ticed' them, as they call it, and Elsie stood ready with the camera. Soon the three fairies appeared, and one pixie dancing in Frances' aura. Elsie snapped and hoped for the best. It was a long time before the father would develop the photo, but at last he did, and to his utter amazement the four sweet little figures came out beautifully I. He pronounced it absolutely genuine and a perfectly remarkable photograph.
Edward has it enlarged and hanging in his hall. He is very interested in it and as soon as possible he is going to Bradford to see the children. What do you think of this? Edward says the fairies are on the same line of evolution as the winged insects, etc. I fear I cannot follow all his reasonings, but I knew you would be keenly interested. I wish you could see that photo and another one of the girls playing with the quaintest goblin imaginable! This letter filled me with hopes, and I renewed my pursuit of the photographs. I learned that they were two in number and that they had been sent for inspection to Miss Blomfield, a friend of the family.
This letter enclosed the two very remarkable photographs which are reproduced in this volume, that which depicted the dancing goblin, and the other of wood elves in a ring. An explanatory note setting forth the main points of each is appended to the reproductions. I was naturally delighted at the wonderful pictures, and wrote back thanking Miss Blomfield for her courtesy, and suggesting that an inquiry should be set on foot which would satisfy me as to the genuine nature of the photographs.
If this were clearly established I hoped that I might be privileged to help Mr. Gardner in giving publicity to the discovery. At about the same time I received a letter from another lady who had some knowledge of the matter. I was now in a stronger position, since I had actually seen the photographs and learned that Mr. Gardner was a solid person with a reputation for sanity and character. I therefore wrote to him stating the links by which I had reached him, and saying how interested I was in the whole matter, and how essential it seemed that the facts should be given to the public, so that free' investigation might be possible before it was too late.
This letter led to my going to London and seeing Mr.
Gardner, whom I found to be quiet, well-balanced, and reserved — not in the least of a wild or visionary type. He showed me beautiful enlargements of these two wonderful pictures, and he gave me much information which is embodied in my subsequent account.
Neither he nor I had actually seen the girls, and it was arranged that he should handle the personal side of the matter, while I should examine the results and throw them into literary shape. It was arranged between us that he should visit the village as soon as convenient, and make the acquaintance of everyone concerned. In the meantime, I showed the positives, and sometimes the negatives, to several friends whose opinion upon psychic matters I respected. Of these Sir Oliver Lodge holds a premier place.
I can still see his astonished and interested face as he gazed at the pictures, which I placed before him in the hall of the Athenaeum Club. With his usual caution he refused to accept them at their face value, and suggested the theory that the Californian Classical dancers had been taken and their picture superimposed upon a rural British background. I argued that we had certainly traced the pictures to two children of the artisan class, and that such photographic tricks would be entirely beyond them, but I failed to convince him, nor am I sure that even now he is whole-hearted in the matter.
My most earnest critics came from among the spiritualists, to whom a new order of being as remote from spirits as they are from human beings was an unfamiliar idea, and who feared, not unnaturally, that their intrusion would complicate that spiritual controversy which is vital to so many of us. One of these was a gentleman whom I will call Mr. Lancaster, who, by a not unusual paradox, combined considerable psychic powers, including both clairvoyance and clairaudience, with great proficiency in the practice of his very prosaic profession.
He had claimed that he had frequently seen these little people with his own eyes, and I, therefore, attached importance to his opinion. This gentleman had a spirit guide I have no objection to the smile of the sceptic , and to him he referred the question. The answer showed both the strength and the weakness of such psychic inquiries.
He is not a Spiritualist, but would laugh very much if anyone was taken in by it. He does not live near where we were, and the place is all different, i. Apparently he was not English. I should think it was either Denmark or Los Angeles by the description, which I give you for what it is worth. And yet with the speed with which it was taken the waterfall in the background is blurred sufficiently to justify a one second's exposure at least.
What a doubting Thomas! I was told the other day that, in the unlikely event of my ever reaching heaven, I should a Insist on starting a card file index of the angels, and b Starting a rifle range to guard against the possibility of invasion from Hell. This being my unfortunate reputation at the hands of the people who claim to know me must discount my criticisms as carping — to a certain extent, at all events. These psychic impressions and messages are often as from one who sees in a glass darkly and contain a curious mixture of truth and error.
Upon my submitting this message to Mr. Gardner he was able to assure me that the description was, on the whole, a very accurate one of Mr. Snelling and his surroundings, the gentleman who had actually handled the negatives, subjected them to various tests and made enlarged positives. It was, therefore, this intermediate incident, and not the original inception of the affair, which had impressed itself upon Mr. Lancaster's guide.
All this is, of course, quite non-evidential to the ordinary reader, but I am laying all the documents upon the table. After receiving this message and getting possession of the negatives I took them myself to the Kodak Company's Offices in Kingsway, where I saw Mr. West and another expert of the Company. They examined the plates carefully, and neither of them could find any evidence of superposition, or other trick. On the other hand, they were of opinion that if they set to work with all their knowledge and resources they could produce such pictures by natural means, and therefore they would not undertake to say that these were preternatural.
This, of course, was quite reasonable if the pictures are judged only as technical productions, but it rather savours of the old discredited anti-spiritualistic argument that because a trained conjurer can produce certain effects under his own conditions, therefore some woman or child who gets similar effects must get them by conjuring. It was clear that at the last it was the character and surroundings of the children upon which the inquiry must turn, rather than upon the photos themselves.
It was evident, however, that we must get into more personal touch, and with this object Mr. Gardner went North and interviewed the whole family, making a thorough investigation of the circumstances at the spot. The result of his journey is given in the article which I published in the Strand Magazine, which covers all the ground.
I trust that the reader will agree that up to this point we had not proceeded with any undue rashness or credulity, and that we had taken all common-sense steps to test the case, and had no alternative, if we were unprejudiced seekers for truth, but to go ahead with it, and place our results before the public, so that others might discover the fallacy which we had failed to find. I must apologize if some of the ground in the Strand article which follows has already been covered in this introductory chapter.
Should the incidents here narrated, and the photographs attached, hold their own against the criticism which they will excite, it is no exaggeration to say that they will mark an epoch in human thought. I put them and all the evidence before the public for examination and judgment. If I am myself asked whether I consider the case to be absolutely and finally proved, I should answer that in order to remove the last faint shadow of doubt I should wish to see the result repeated before a disinterested witness.
At the same time, I recognize the difficulty of such a request, since rare results must be obtained when and how they can. But short of final and absolute proof, I consider, after carefully going into every possible source of error, that a strong prima-facie case has been built up. The cry of "fake" is sure to be raised, and will make some impression upon those who have not had the opportunity of knowing the people concerned, or the place.
On the photographic side every objection has been considered and adequately met. The pictures stand or fall together. Both are false, or both are true. All the circumstances point to the latter alternative, and yet in a matter involving so tremendous a new departure one needs overpowering evidence before one can say that there is no conceivable loophole for error. It was about the month of May in this year that I received the information from Miss Felicia Scatcherd, so well known in several departments of human thought, to the effect that two photographs of fairies had been taken in the North of England under circumstances which seemed to put fraud out of the question.
The statement would have appealed to me at any time, but I happened at the moment to be collecting material for an article on fairies, now completed, and I had accumulated a surprising number of cases of people who claimed to be able to see these little creatures. The rumour of the photographs interested me deeply, therefore, and following the matter up from one lady informant to another, I came at last upon Mr. Edward L.
Gardner, who has been ever since my most efficient collaborator, to whom all credit is due. Gardner, it may be remarked, is a member of the Executive Committee of the Theosophical Society, and a well-known lecturer upon occult subjects. He had not himself at that time mastered the whole case, but all he had he placed freely at my disposal. I had already seen prints of the photographs, but I was relieved to find that he had the actual negatives, and that it was from them, and not from the prints, that two expert photographers, especially Mr.
Snelling of 26 The Bridge, Wealdstone, Harrow, had already formed their conclusions in favour of the genuineness of the pictures. Gardner tells his own story presently, so I will simply say that at that period he had got into direct and friendly touch with the Carpenter family. We are compelled to use a pseudonym and to withhold the exact address, for it is clear that their lives would be much interrupted by correspondence and callers if their identity were too clearly indicated.
At the same time there would be, no doubt, no objection to any small committee of inquiry verifying the facts for themselves if this anonymity were respected. For the present, however, we shall simply call them the Carpenter family in the village of Dalesby, West Riding. Some three years before, according to our information, the daughter and the niece of Mr. Carpenter, the former being sixteen and the other ten years of age, had taken the two photographs — the one in summer, the other in early autumn.
The father was quite agnostic in the matter, but as his daughter claimed that she and her cousin when they were together continually saw fairies in the wood and had come to be on familiar and friendly terms with them, he entrusted her with one plate in his camera. The result was the picture of the dancing elves, which considerably amazed the father when he developed the film that evening. The little girl looking across at her playmate, to intimate that the time had come to press the button, is Alice, the niece, while the older girl, who was taken some months later with the quaint gnome, is Iris, the daughter.
The father holds a position of trust in connection with some local factory, and the family are well known and respected. That they are cultivated is shown by the fact that Mr. Gardner's advances towards them were made more easy because Mrs. Carpenter was a reader of theosophical teachings and had gained spiritual good from them.
A correspondence had arisen and all their letters were frank and honest, professing some amazement at the stir which the affair seemed likely to produce. Thus the matter stood after my meeting with Mr. Gardner, but it was clear that this was not enough. We must get closer to the facts. The negatives were taken round to Kodak, Ltd. An amateur photographer of experience refused to accept them on the ground of the elaborate and Parisian coiffure of the little ladies.
Another photographic company, which it would be cruel to name, declared that the background consisted of theatrical properties, and that therefore the picture was a worthless fake. I leaned heavily upon Mr. Snelling's whole-hearted endorsement, quoted later in this article, and also consoled myself by the broad view that if the local conditions were as reported, which we proposed to test, then it was surely impossible that a little village with an amateur photographer could have the plant and the skill to turn out a fake which could not be detected by the best experts in London.
The matter being in this state, Mr. Gardner volunteered to go up at once and report — an expedition which I should have wished to share had it not been for the pressure of work before my approaching departure for Australia. I may add as a footnote to Mr. Gardner's report that the girl informed him in conversation that she had no power of any sort over the actions of the fairies, and that the way to " 'tice them," as she called it, was to sit passively with her mind quietly turned in that direction then, when faint stirrings or movements in the distance heralded their presence, to beckon towards them and show that they were welcome.
It was Iris who pointed out the pipes of the gnome, which we had both taken as being the markings of the moth-like under-wing. She added that if there was not too much rustling in the wood it was possible to hear the very faint and high sound of the pipes. To the objections of photographers that the fairy figures show quite different shadows to those of the human our answer is that ectoplasm, as the etheric protoplasm has been named, has a faint luminosity of its own, which would largely modify shadows.
To the very clear and, as I think, entirely convincing report of Mr. Gardner's, let me add the exact words which Mr. Snelling, the expert photographer, allows us to use. Snelling has shown great strength of mind, and rendered signal service to psychic study, by taking a strong line, and putting his professional reputation as an expert upon the scales. He has had a varied connection of over thirty years with the Autotype Company and Illingworth's large photographic factory, and has himself turned out some beautiful work of every kind of natural and artificial studio studies.
He laughs at the idea that any expert in England could deceive him with a faked photograph. In my opinion, they are both straight untouched pictures. A second independent opinion is equally clear as to the genuine character of the photographs, founded upon a large experience of practical photography. There is our case, fortified by pictures of the places which the unhappy critic has declared to be theatrical properties.
How well we know that type of critic in all our psychic work, though it is not always possible to at once show his absurdity to other people. I will now make a few comments upon the two pictures, which I have studied long and earnestly with a high-power lens. One fact of interest is this presence of a double pipe — the very sort which the ancients associated with fauns and naiads — in each picture.
The Coming of the Fairies is a book written by Arthur Conan Doyle is something supernatural in the circumstances attending the taking of. Be the first to ask a question about The Coming of the Fairies into " Spiritualism" and wrote a book defending the girls and the existence of supernatural folk.
But if pipes, why not everything else? Does it not suggest a complete range of utensils and instruments for their own life? Their clothing is substantial enough. It seems to me that with fuller knowledge and with fresh means of vision these people are destined to become just as solid and real as the Eskimos, There is an ornamental rim to the pipe of the elves which shows that the graces of art are not unknown among them.
And what joy is in the complete abandon of their little graceful figures as they let themselves go in the dance I They may have their shadows and trials as we have, but at least there is a great gladness manifest in this demonstration of their life. A second general observation is that the elves are a compound of the human and the butterfly, while the gnome has more of the moth. This may be merely the result of under-exposure of the negative and dullness of the weather.
Perhaps the little gnome is really of the same tribe, but represents an elderly male, while the elves are romping young women. Most observers of fairy life have reported, however, that there are separate species, varying very much in size, appearance, and locality — the wood fairy, the water fairy, the fairy of the plains, etc. Can these be thought-forms? The fact that they are so like our conventional idea of fairies is in favour of the idea. But if they move rapidly, have musical instruments, and so forth, then it is impossible to talk of "thought-forms," a term which suggests something vague and intangible.
In a sense we are all thought-forms, since we can only be perceived through the senses, but these little figures would seem to have an objective reality, as we have ourselves, even if their vibrations should prove to be such that it takes either psychic power or a sensitive plate to record them. If they are conventional it may be that fairies have really been seen in every generation, and so some correct description of them has been retained.
There is one point of Mr. Gardner's investigation which should be mentioned. It had come to our knowledge that Iris could draw, and had actually at one time done some designs for a jeweller. This naturally demanded caution, though the girl's own frank nature is, I understand, a sufficient guarantee for those who know her.
Gardner, however, tested her powers of drawing, and found that, while she could do landscapes cleverly, the fairy figures which she had attempted in imitation of those she had seen were entirely uninspired, and bore no possible resemblance to those in the photograph.
Another point which may be commended to the careful critic with a strong lens is that the apparent pencilled face at the side of the figure on the right is really only the edge of her hair, and not, as might appear, a drawn profile. I must confess that after months of thought I am unable to get the true bearings of this event. 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 neighbours, with only some small difference of vibration to separate us, will become familiar.
Conan Doyle includes his own magazine article and copies of the correspondence between himself and Edward Gardner, the man who carried out the investigation. The next letters from Mr. Under the old beeches in the wood, Cottingley, August 12, These psychic impressions and messages are often as from one who sees in a glass darkly and contain a curious mixture of truth and error. An exactly similar account comes from Ireland, though the little folk seem to have imbibed the spirit of the island to the extent of being more mercurial and irascible. Some little time ago, Elsie said she wanted to photograph them, and begged her father to lend his camera.
The thought of them, even when unseen, will add a charm to every brook and valley and give romantic interest to every country walk. The recognition of their existence will jolt the material twentieth-century mind out of its heavy ruts in the mud, and will make it admit that there is a glamour and a mystery to life. Having discovered this, the world will not find it so difficult to accept that spiritual message supported by physical facts which has already been so convincingly put before it.
All this I see, but there may be much more. When Columbus knelt in prayer upon the edge of America, what prophetic eye saw all that a new continent might do to affect the destinies of the world? We also seem to be on the edge of a new continent, separated not by oceans but by subtle and surmountable psychic conditions. I look at the prospect with awe.
May those little creatures suffer from the contact and some Las Casas bewail their ruin If so, it would be an evil day when the world defined their existence. But there is a guiding hand in the affairs of man, and we can but trust and follow. Though I was out of England at the time, I was able, even in Australia, to realise that the appearance of the first photographs in the Strand Magazine had caused very great interest. The press comments were as a rule cautious but not unsympathetic. The old cry of "Fake! Some of the Yorkshire papers had made elaborate inquiries, and I am told that photographers for a considerable radius from the house were cross-questioned to find if they were accomplices.
Truth, which is obsessed by the idea that the whole spiritualistic movement and everything connected with it is one huge, senseless conspiracy to deceive, concocted by knaves and accepted by fools, had the usual contemptuous and contemptible articles, which ended by a prayer to Elsie that she should finish her fun and let the public know how it really was done. The best of the critical attacks was in the Westminster Gazette, who sent a special commissioner to unravel the mystery, and published the result on January 12, The publication of photographs of fairies — or, to be more explicit, one photograph of fairies and another of a gnome — playing round children has aroused considerable interest, not only in Yorkshire, where the beings are said to exist, but throughout the country.
The story, mysterious as it was when first told, became even more enigmatical by reason of the fact that Sir A. Conan Doyle made use of fictitious names in his narrative in the Strand Magazine in order, as he says, to prevent the lives of the people concerned being interrupted by callers and correspondence. That he has failed to do. I am afraid Sir Conan does not know Yorkshire people, particularly those of the dales, because any attempt to hide identity immediately arouses their suspicions, if it does not go so far as to condemn the writer for his lack of frankness.
It is not surprising, therefore, that his story is accepted with reserve. Each person to whom I spoke of the subject during my brief sojourn in Yorkshire dismissed the matter curtly as being untrue. It has been the principal topic of conversation for weeks, mainly because identity had been discovered. My mission to Yorkshire was to secure evidence, if possible, which would prove or disprove the claim that fairies existed. I frankly confess that I failed. The particular fairyland is a picturesque little spot off the beaten track, two or three miles from Bingley.
Here is a small village called Cottingley, almost hidden in a break in the upland, through which tumbles a tiny stream, known as Cottingley Beck, on its way to the Aire, less than a mile away. The "heroine" of Sir Conan Doyle's story is Miss Elsie Wright, Note: From this time onwards the real name Wright is used instead of Carpenter as in the original article — the family having withdrawn their objection who resides with her parents at 31 Lynwood Terrace.
The little stream runs past the back of the house, and the photographs were taken not more than a hundred yards away. When Miss Wright made the acquaintance of the fairies she was accompanied by her cousin, Frances Griffiths, who resides at Dean Road, Scarborough. One photograph, taken by Miss Wright in the summer of , when she was sixteen, shows her cousin, then a child of ten, with a group of four fairies dancing in the air before her, and in the other, taken some months afterwards, Elsie, seated on the grass, has a quaint gnome dancing beside her.
There are certain facts which stand out clearly and which none of the evidence I was able to obtain could shake. First I interviewed Mrs. Wright, who, without hesitation, narrated the whole of the circumstances without adding any comment. The girls, she said, would spend the whole of the day in the narrow valley, even taking their lunch with them, though they were within a stone's throw of the house.
Elsie was not robust, and did not work during the summer months, so that she could derive as much benefit as possible from playing in the open.
She had often talked about seeing the fairies, but her parents considered it was nothing more than childish fancy, and let it pass. Wright came into possession of a small camera in , and one Saturday afternoon yielded to the persistent entreaties of his daughter and allowed her to take it out. He placed one plate in position, and explained to her how to take a "snap.
Wright to develop the plate. While this was being done Elsie noticed that the fairies were beginning to show, and exclaimed in an excited tone to her cousin, "Oh, Frances, the fairies are on the plate! They evidently attracted little notice until one was shown to some of the delegates at a Theosophical Congress in Harrogate last summer. Wright certainly gave me the impression that she had no desire to keep anything back, and answered my questions quite frankly. She told me that Elsie had always been a truthful girl, and there were neighbours who accepted the story of the fairies simply on the strength of their knowledge of her.
I asked about Elsie's career, and her mother said that after she left school she worked a few months for a photographer in Manningham Lane, Bradford, but did not care for running errands most of the day. The only other work she did there was " spotting. From there she went to a jeweller's shop, but her stay there was not prolonged. For many months immediately prior to taking the first photograph she was at home and did not associate with anyone who possessed a camera.
At that time her father knew little of photography, " only what he had picked up by dodging about with the camera," as he put it, and any suggestion that he had faked the plate must be dismissed. When he came home from the neighbouring mill, and was told the nature of my errand, he said he was " fed up " with the whole business, and had nothing else to tell. However, he detailed the story I had already heard from his wife, agreeing in every particular, and Elsie's account, given to me in Bradford, added nothing.
Thus I had the information from the three members of the family at different times, and without variation. The parents confessed they had some difficulty in accepting the photographs as genuine and even questioned the girls as to how they faked them. The children persisted in their story, and denied any act of dishonesty. Then they " let it go at that. I ascertained that Elsie was described by her late schoolmaster as being " dreamy," and her mother said that anything imaginative appealed to her. As to whether she could have drawn the fairies when she was sixteen I am doubtful.
Lately she has taken up water-colour drawing, and her work, which I carefully examined, does not reveal that ability in a marked degree, though she possesses a remarkable knowledge of colour for an untrained artist. Sir A. Conan Doyle says that at first he was not convinced that the fairies were not thought-forms conjured up by the imagination or expectation of the seers.
Gardner, a member of the Executive Committee of the Theosophical Society, who made an investigation on the spot and also interviewed all the members of the family, records his opinion that the photographs are genuine. She was working in an upper room, and at first refused to see me, sending a message to the effect that she did not desire to be interviewed. A second request was successful, and she appeared at a small counter at the entrance to the works.
She is a tall, slim girl, with a wealth of auburn hair, through which a narrow gold band, circling her head, was entwined. Like her parents, she just said she had nothing to say about the photographs, and, singularly enough, used the same expression as her father and mother — " I am 'fed up' with the thing. She gradually became communicative, and told me how she came to take the first photograph.
Miss Wright hesitated, and laughingly answered, "I can't say. Two or three questions went unanswered, and my suggestion that they must have "simply vanished into the air" drew the monosyllabic reply, "Yes. When she had been with her cousin she had often seen them before.
They were only kiddies when they first saw them, she remarked, and did not tell anybody. The first occasion on which fairies were seen, it transpired, was in In reply to further questions, Miss Wright said she had seen them since, and had photographed them, and the plates were in the possession of Mr. Even after several prints of the first lot of fairies had been given to friends, she did not inform anybody that she had seen them again. The fact that nobody else in the village had seen them gave her no surprise. She firmly believed that she and her cousin were the only persons who had been so fortunate, and was equally convinced that nobody else would be.
Further questions put with the object of eliciting a reason for that statement were only answered with smiles and a final significant remark, "You don't understand. Miss Wright still believes in the existence of the fairies, and is looking forward to seeing them again in the coming summer. The strangest part of the girl's story was her statement that in their more recent appearances the fairies were more " transparent " than in and , when they were " rather hard.
Then she added the qualification, " You see, we were young then. The hitherto obscure village promises to be the scene of many pilgrimages during the coming summer. The general tone of this article makes it clear that the Commissioner would very naturally have been well pleased to effect a coup by showing up the whole concern. He was, however, a fair-minded and intelligent man, and has easily exchanged the role of Counsel for the Prosecution to that of a tolerant judge.
It will be observed that he brought out no new fact which had not already appeared in my article, save the interesting point that this was absolutely the first photograph which the children had ever taken in their lives. Is it conceivable that under such circumstances they could have produced a picture which was fraudulent and yet defied the examination of so many experts? Granting the honesty of the father, which no one has ever impugned, Elsie could only have done it by cut-out images, which must have been of exquisite beauty, of many different models, fashioned and kept without the knowledge of her parents, and capable of giving the impression of motion when carefully examined by an expert.
Surely this is a large order! In the Westminster article it is clear that the writer has not had much acquaintance with psychic research. His surprise that a young girl should not know whence appearances come or whither they go, when they are psychic forms materializing in her own peculiar aura, does not seem reasonable. It is a familiar fact also that psychic phenomena are always more active in warm sunny weather than in damp or cold. Finally, the girl's remark that the shapes were getting more diaphanous was a very suggestive one, for it is with childhood that certain forms of mediumship are associated, and there is always the tendency that, as the child becomes the woman, and as the mind becomes more sophisticated and commonplace, the phase will pass.
The refining process can be observed in the second series of pictures, especially in the little figure which is holding out the flower.
We fear that it has now completed itself, and that we shall have no more demonstrations of fairy life from this particular source. How can you be sure that yours are not so also? It is a repetition of the stale and rotten argument by which the world has been befooled so long, that because a conjurer under his own conditions can imitate certain effects, therefore the effects themselves never existed.
It must be admitted that some of these attempts were very well done, though none of them passed the scrutiny of Mr. Gardner or myself. The best of them was by a lady photographer connected with the Bradford Institute, Miss Ina Inman, whose production was so good that it caused us for some weeks to regard it with an open mind. There was also a weird but effective arrangement by Judge Docker, of Australia. In the case of Miss Inman's elves, clever as they were, there was nothing of the natural grace and freedom of movement which characterize the wonderful Cottingley fairy group.
Among the more remarkable comments in the press was one from Mr. George A. Wade in the London Evening News of December 8, The question has been raised by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and there have been submitted photographs which purport to be those of actual 'little people. Halliwell Sutcliffe, the well-known novelist, who lives in that district, he told me, to my intense surprise, that he personally knew a schoolmaster not far from his home who had again and again insisted that he had seen, talked with, and had played with real fairies in some meadows not far away!
The novelist mentioned this to me as an actual curious fact, for which he, himself, had no explanation. But he said that the man was one whose education, personality, and character made him worthy of credence — a man not likely to harbour a delusion or to wish to deceive others. William Riley, the author of Windyridge, Netherleigh, and Jerry and Ben, a writer who knows the Yorkshire moors and dales intimately, Mr.
Riley asserted that though he had never seen actual fairies there, yet he knew several trust-worthy moorland people whose belief in them was unshakable and who persisted against all contradiction that they themselves had many times seen pixies at certain favoured spots in Upper Airedale and Wharfedale.
She imagined that she must be dreaming, or under some hallucination, so she pinched herself and rubbed her eyes to make sure that she was really awake. Convinced of this, she looked again, and still unmistakably saw the 'little people. Without a doubt she was convinced of the truth of her statement. My own mind is open, but it is difficult to believe that so many persons, unknown to one another, should have conspired to state what is false. It is a remarkable coincidence, if nothing more, that the girls in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's account, the school-master mentioned by Mr.
Sutcliffe, the young woman who came from Skipton, and the lady who wrote to the Yorkshire newspaper should all put the spot where the fairies are to be seen almost within a mile or two of one another. The most severe attack upon the fairy pictures seems to have been that of Major Hall-Edwards, the famous authority upon radium, in the Birmingham Weekly Post. Anyone who has studied the extraordinary effects which have from time to time been obtained by cinema operators must be aware that it is possible, given time and opportunity, to produce by means of faked photographs almost anything that can be imagined.
In addition to this she has access to some of the most beautiful dales and valleys, where the imagination of a young person is easily quickened. The child does not look at the fairies, but is posing for the photograph in the ordinary way. The reason given for her apparent disinterestedness in the frolicsome elves is that she is used to the fairies, and was merely interested in the camera.
This would then be rephotographed, and, if well done, no photographer could swear that the second negative was not the original one. It is easy to add the transparent wings of large flies and so arrange them that portions of the photograph can be viewed through the wings and thus obtain a very realistic effect. An explanation of this has been given by the photographer herself, who has told us that the movements of the fairies are exceedingly slow and might be compared to the retarded-movement films shown in the cinemas.
This proves that the young lady possesses a very considerable knowledge of photography. On the evidence I have no hesitation in saying that these photographs could have been ' faked. Surely young children can be brought up to appreciate the beauties of Nature without their imagination being filled with exaggerated, if picturesque, nonsense and misplaced sentiment.
Conan Doyle is asserted to have taken it 'for granted that these photographs are real and genuine. The negatives and contact prints were submitted to the most searching tests known to photographic science by experts, many of whom were frankly sceptical. They emerged as being unquestionably single-exposure plates and, further, as bearing no evidence whatever in themselves of any trace of the innumerable faking devices known.
This did not clear them entirely, for, as I have always remarked in my description of the investigation, it is held possible by employing highly artistic and skilled processes to produce similar negatives. Personally, I should very much like to see this attempted seriously. The few that have been done, though very much better than the crude examples Major Hall-Edwards submits, break down hopelessly on simple analysis. It was this that occupied us so strenuously, for we fully realized the imperative need of overwhelmingly satisfying proof of personal integrity before accepting the photographs as genuine.
This was carried through, and its thoroughness may be estimated by the fact that, notwithstanding the searching nature of the investigation that has followed the publication of the village, names, etc. I need hardly point out that the strength of the case lies in its amazing simplicity and the integrity of the family concerned. It is on the photographic plus the personal evidence that the case stands. Seriously to suggest that a visit to a cinema show and the use of an apt illustration implies 'a very considerable knowledge of photography' is on a par with the supposition that to be employed as an errand girl and help in a shop indicates a high degree of skill in that profession!
We are not quite so credulous as that, nor were we able to believe that two children, alone and unaided, could produce in half an hour a faked photograph of the type of 'Alice and the Fairies. In addition to this criticism by Major Hall-Edwards there came an attack in John o'London from the distinguished writer Mr. Maurice Hewlett, who raises some objections which were answered in Mr.
Gardner's subsequent reply. Conan Doyle has reached at present is one of belief in the genuineness of what one may call the Carpenter photographs, which showed the other day to the readers of the Strand Magazine two ordinary girls in familiar intercourse with winged beings, as near as I can judge, about eighteen inches high. That is really all Sir Arthur has to tell us. He believes the photographs to be genuine. The rest follows. But why does he believe it? Because the young ladies tell him that they are genuine.
However, he sends in his place a friend, Mr. Gardner, also of hospitable mind, with settled opinions upon theosophy and kindred subjects, but deficient, it would seem, in logical faculty. Gardner has himself photographed in the place where the young ladies photographed each other, or thereabouts. No winged beings circled about him, and one wonders why Mr. Gardner a was photographed, b reproduced the photograph in the Strand Magazine. The shepherds told their parish priest that the Virgin Mary had indeed appeared to them on a moonlit night, had accepted of a bowl of milk from them, had then picked a peach from one of the trees and eaten it.
The priest visited the spot in their company, and in due course picked up a peach-stone. That settled it. Obviously the Madonna had been really there, for here was the peach-stone to prove it. Gardner had himself photographed on a particular spot in order to prove the genuineness of former photographs taken there. Which is the harder of belief, the faking of a photograph or the objective existence of winged beings eighteen inches high?
If such beings exist, if they are occasionally visible, and if a camera is capable of revealing to all the world what is hidden from most people in it, we are not yet able to say that the Carpenter photographs are photographs of such beings. For we, observe, have not seen such beings.
And rightly so, because in the instant of being photographed it was not in motion. So infinitely rapid is the action of light on the plate that it is possible to isolate a fraction of time in a rapid flight and to record it. Directly you combine a series of photographs in sequence, and set them moving, you have a semblance of motion exactly like that which you have in a picture. That is certain. They are in the approved pictorial, or plastic, convention of dancing. They are not well rendered by any means. They are stiff compared with, let us say, the whirling gnomes on the outside wrapper of Punch.
They have very little of the wild, irresponsible vagary of a butterfly. But they are an attempt to render an aerial dance — pretty enough in a small way. I regard it as a certainty, as the other plainly is. If the dancing figures had been dancing beings, really there, the child in the photograph would have been looking at them, not at the camera. I know children. Meantime I suggest to him that epochs are born, not made.
Maurice Hewlett's somewhat playful criticism of the genuineness of the photographs of fairies appearing in the Strand Magazine Christmas number had been more clearly defined. The only serious point raised is the difference between photographic and pictorial representation of motion — Mr. Hewlett maintaining that the latter is in evidence in the photographs. Photographic experts had stated that though the two negatives revealed no trace of any faking process such as double exposure, painted figures on enlargements rephotographed, set-up models in card or other material , still it could not be held to be impossible to obtain the same class of result by very clever studio work.
Also, certain points that needed elucidation were the haze above and at the side of the child's head, and the blurred appearance of the waterfall as compared with the clarity of the figures, etc. An inspection of the spots and photographs of their surroundings was surely the only way to clear up some of these. As a matter of fact, the waterfall proved to be about twenty feet behind the child, and hence out of focus, and some large rocks at the same distance in the rear, at the side of the fall, were found to be the cause of the haziness.
The separate photographs, of which only one is published of each place, confirm entirely the genuineness of the sites — not the genuineness of the fairies. Hewlett makes the astonishing statement that at the instant of being photographed it is not in motion Mr. I wonder when it is, and what would happen if a camera was exposed then Of course the moving object is in motion during exposure, no matter whether the time be a fiftieth or a millionth part of a second, though Mr.
Hewlett is by no means the only one to fall into this error. And each of the fairy figures in the negative discloses signs of movement. This was one of the first points determined. But if we are here dealing with fairies whose bodies must be presumed to be of a purely ethereal and plastic nature, and not with skeleton-framed mammals at all, is it such a very illogical mind that accepts the exquisite grace therein found as a natural quality that is never absent?
In view of the overwhelming evidence of genuineness now in hand this seems to be the truth. For her, cameras were much more novel than fairies, and never before had she seen one used so close to her, Strange to us as it may seem, at the moment it interested her the most. Apropos, would a faker, clever enough to produce such a photograph, commit the elementary blunder of not posing his subject? Among other interesting and weighty opinions, which were in general agreement with our contentions, was one by Mr.
Staddon of Goodmayes, a gentleman who had made a particular hobby of fakes in photography. His report is too long and too technical for inclusion, but, under the ,various headings of composition, dress, development, density, lighting, poise, texture, plate, atmosphere, focus, halation, he goes very completely into the evidence, coming to the final conclusion that when tried by all these tests the chances are not less than 80 per cent.
It may be added that in the course of exhibiting these photographs in the interests of the Theosophical bodies with which Mr. Gardner is connected , it has sometimes occurred that the plates have been enormously magnified upon the screen. In one instance, at Wakefield, the powerful lantern used threw an exceptionally large picture on a huge sheet. The operator, a very intelligent man who had taken a sceptical attitude, was entirely converted to the truth of the photographs, for, as he pointed out, such an enlargement would show the least trace of a scissors irregularity or of any artificial detail, and would make it absurd to suppose that a dummy figure could remain undetected.
The lines were always beautifully fine and unbroken. When Mr. Gardner was in Yorkshire in July, he left a good camera with Elsie, for he learned that her cousin Frances was about to visit her again and that there would be a chance of more photographs. One of our difficulties has been that the associated aura of the two girls is needful.
This joining of auras to produce a stronger effect than either can get singly is common enough in psychic matters. We wished to make full use of the combined power of the girls in August.
My last words to Mr. Gardner, therefore, before starting for Australia were that I should open no letter more eagerly than that which would tell me the result of our new venture. In my heart I hardly expected success, for three years had passed, and I was well aware that the processes of puberty are often fatal to psychic power. I was surprised, therefore, as well as delighted, when I had his letter at Melbourne, informing me of complete success and enclosing three more wonderful prints, all taken in the fairy glen.
Any doubts which had remained in my mind as to honesty were completely overcome, for it was clear that these pictures, specially the one of the fairies in the bush, were altogether beyond the possibility of fake. Even now, however, having a wide experience of transference of pictures in psychic photography and the effect of thought upon ectoplasmic images, I feel that there is a possible alternative explanation in this direction, and I have never quite lost sight of the fact that it is a curious coincidence that so unique an event should have happened in a family some members of which were already inclined to occult study, and might be imagined to have formed thought-pictures of occult appearances.
Such suppositions, though not to be entirely dismissed, are, as it seems to me, far-fetched and remote. The next letters from Mr. Gardner told me that in September, immediately after this second series was taken, he had gone north again, and came away more convinced than ever of the honesty of the whole Wright family and of the genuine nature of the photographs. There the matter stands, and nothing has occurred from that time onwards to shake the validity of the photographs.
We were naturally desirous of obtaining more, and in August the girls were brought together once again, and the very best photographic equipment, including a stereoscopic camera and a cinema camera, were placed at their disposal. The Fates, however, were most unkind, and a combination of circumstances stood in the way of success.
There was only a fortnight during which Frances could be at Cottingley, and it was a fortnight of almost incessant rain, the long drought breaking at the end of July in Yorkshire. In addition, a small seam of coal had been found in the Fairy Glen, and it had been greatly polluted by human magnetism. These conditions might perhaps have been overcome, but the chief impediment of all was the change in the girls, the one through womanhood and the other through board-school education.
There was one development, however, which is worth recording. Although they were unable to materialize the images to such an extent as to catch them upon a plate, the girls had not lost their clairvoyant powers, and were able, as of old, to see the sprites and elves which still abounded in the glen. The sceptic will naturally say that we have only their own word for that, but this is not so.
Gardner had a friend, whom I will call Mr. Sergeant, who held a commission in the Tank Corps in the war, and is an honourable gentleman with neither the will to deceive nor any conceivable object in doing so. This gentleman has tong had the enviable gift of clairvoyance in a very high degree, and it occurred to Mr.
Gardner that we might use him as a check upon the statements of the girls. With great good humour, he sacrificed a week of his scanty holiday — for he is a hard-worked man — in this curious manner. But the results seem to have amply repaid him. I have before me his reports, which are in the form of notes made as he actually watched the phenomena recorded.
The weather was, as stated, bad on the whole, though clearing occasionally. Seated with the girls, he saw all that they saw, and more, for his powers proved to be considerably greater. Having distinguished a psychic object, he would point in the direction and ask them for a description, which he always obtained correctly within the limit of their powers. He even wrote a book about it! The Coming of the Fairies It wasn't until the 's that the girls, then elderly, confessed the photographs had been faked and the pixies were actually cardboard cutouts of copied fairy illustrations from a popular children's book.
By the time the creator of Sherlock Holmes got involved, the girls were too embarrassed to admit it was just a bit of fun, although both claimed they actually DID see fairies out in the woods. If you'd like to hear and watch! We may not believe in ghosts, but we believe in your story! Sherlock, Fairies, and Ghost Writers.