Doyle on Fairies

March 15th, 2007

Three photographs of the The Cottingley Fairies, as described in Arthur Conan Doyle‘s The Coming of Fairies (1922), recently reissued by Bison Books. These photographs were taken by two girls (10 and 16 years old) in 1917, and subsequently defended by several as proof of fairies—including Doyle, who was evidently influenced by his interest in the Spiritualism and Theosophy movements.

“The recognition of their existence will jolt the material twentieth-century out of its heavy ruts in the mud, and will make it admit that there is a glamour and a mystery to life” (p58).

Elsie and the gnome

“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” (p53).

Frances and the fairies

Doyle quotes C. W. Leadbeater: elemental fairies (being one type of fairy) “are the thought-forms of the Great Beings, our angels, who are in charge of the evolution of the vegetable kingdom. When one of these Great Ones has a new idea connected with one of the kinds of plants or flowers which are under his charge, he often creates a thought-form for the special purpose of carrying out that idea. It usually takes the form either of an etheric model of the flower itself or of a little creature which hangs round the plant or the flower all through the time that the buds are forming, and gradually builds them into the shape and colour of which the angel has thought. But as soon as the plant has fully grown, or the flower has opened, its work is over and its power is exhausted, and, as I have said, it just simply dissolves, because the will to do that piece of work was the only soul that it had” (p187/8).

Fairy offering posy of hare-bells to Elsie

Finally, in a 1981 interview (some 60 years later), the girls (then women) admitted they fabricated the fairies by tracing pictures from Princess Mary’s Gift Book (1914).

9 Responses to “Doyle on Fairies”

  1. Besant and Leadbeater's Thought-Forms « Unurthed Says:

    […] 14th, 2007 Speaking of thought-forms, here are three illustrations of such from Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater’s Thought-Forms […]

  2. Besant and Leadbeater’s Thought-Forms « Unurthed Says:

    […] Speaking of thought-forms, here are three illustrations of such from Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater’s 1901 Thought-Forms (Quest book edition). […]

  3. Silvia Draconeavia Says:

    What you say may be true but wasn’t there also a fourh picture that was not released to the public because the image of the fairie was too blury, they had only said that the other three were fake but not the fourth.

  4. Clemino Airiatimas Says:

    I agree with Silvia. After all if there was not at least one that was real among their photographs then why did they stick to their story for so long. So unless you can give some proof that the fourth photo was a fake as well then you might want to check your facts and change your story.

  5. yvonne Says:

    how wonderful. I would love to publish something similar on my website as we often speak of such things.

    yvonne northrop

  6. Silflay Flavia Says:

    I agree with Silva and Clemino. You need to show more than 1 side of this story. You are stating facts that were “found out” by people who did not want to believe in the possibility of the exhistance of fairies. no one has yet been able to fully prove or disprove the exhistance of fairies.

  7. Jordan Says:

    If the fairy was too blurry then how can you know that it was a fake or if it was real? Mabey you need to get more evidence on if the fairies are real or not.

  8. DP Says:

    Sadly both cousins admitted the faking of the photos back in 1983 after the pictures were examined in detail by a photography expert.

  9. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Remarkable Man Behind Sherlock Holmes – BBC Shop Blog Says:

    […] After photos apparently showed two young Yorkshire girls with fairies, Doyle made the photos famous, proclaiming them to be proof of ectoplasmic “thought-forms” emerging from the girls’ […]

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