Photographing the Fairies
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Photographing the Fairies is an article published in The Sketch on 13 september 1922.
All really nice people believe in fairies — at least, they say they do, even though they have never seen one. Shakespeare's evidence is good enough for them. But there are a favoured few who have actually seen the little people with their own eyes; and two years ago — to be exact, in the 1920 Christmas Number of the Strand Magazine — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published photographs of fairies taken by two girls in a Yorkshire dale. He has now expanded his article into a book, called "The Coming of the Fairies" (Hodder and Stoughton), containing fuller details, an account of various criticisms, a second series of photographs, observations of a clairvoyant in the glen where they were taken, independent testimony to the existence of fairies, particulars of subsequent appearances, and an exposition of the theosophical view of fairies.
We reproduce four of the photographs on another page of this number, so that our readers can form an opinion as to their authenticity. Expert photographers to whom they were submitted were not unanimous; some accepted them as genuine, others suspected them as "fakes." Sir Arthur frankly quotes the adverse views not only of photographers, but of general critics, such as Major Hall-Edwards, an authority on radium, and Mr. Maurice Hewlett, who concludes with the remark; "Knowing that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has legs, I decide that the Miss Carpenters have pulled one of them."
This book is either a revelation or a "scream," according as one is a believer or an infidel; but in either case it is worth reading.
The costume of the miniature fairies is after the best traditions of Drury Lane, and some of them recall the Butterfly scene in "Sally." None of the Yorkshire fairies is reported to have said anything, and what is the good of a fairy that does not talk? Most children, meeting a fairy, would look for a magic wand. The Cottingley girls, we fear, missed an opportunity they should have had a pumpkin ready to be changed into a golden coach.
ELSIE AND GNOME.
Photograph taken by Frances. Fairly bright day in September 1917. The "Midg" camera. Distance, 8 ft. Time, 1-50th sec. The original negative has been tested, enlarged, and analysed in the same exhaustive manner as A. This plate was badly under-exposed. Elsie was playing with the gnome, and beckoning it to come on to her knee. The gnome leapt up just as Frances, who had the camera, snapped the shutter. He is described as wearing black tights, a reddish-brown jersey, and a pointed bright-red cap. The wings are more moth-like than the fairies', and of a soft, downy, neutral tint. The music of the pipes held in his left hand can just be heard as a tiny tinkle sometimes, if all is still. No weight is perceptible — though, when on the bare hand, a fairy feels like a "little breath".
FRANCES AND THE LEAPING FAIRY.
Photograph taken by Elsie in August 1920. "Cameo" camera. Distance 3 ft. Time, 1-50th sec. This negative and the two following (D and E), have been as strictly examined as the earlier ones, and similarly disclose no trace of being other than perfectly genuine photographs. Also they proved to have been taken from the packet given them, each plate having been privately marked unknown to the girls. The fairy is leaping up from the leaves below, and hovering for a moment — it had done so three or four times. Rising a little higher than before. Frances thought it would touch her face, and involuntarily tossed her head back. The fairy is apparently in a close-fitting costume of faint lavender colour.
FAIRY OFFERING POSY OF HARE-BELLS TO ELSIE.
The fairy is standing almost still, poised on bush leaves. The wings are shot with yellow, and upper part of dress is very pale pink.
FAIRIES AND THEIR SUN-BATH.
This is especially remarkable, as not only would it be exceedingly difficult to produce such a negative by faked work — impossible, in the opinion of some experts — but it contains a feature that was quite unknown to the girls. The sheath or cocoon appearing in the midst of the grass had never been seen by them before, and they had no idea what it was. Fairy lovers and observers, of the New Forest, describe it as a magnetic bath, woven very quickly by the fairies, and used after dull weather. The sun's rays through the sheath appear to magnetise the interior, and thus provide bath that restores vitality and vigour.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN FAIRIES? IF SO, WHY NOT SNAP-SHOT THEM?
An extremely interesting book, "The Coming of the Fairies," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has just appeared. In it he attempts to prove the authenticity of fairy photography. The work is published by Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton, to whose courtesy we are indebted lot the above reproductions of fairy photography.