What I'm Reading: Fake Fairies

Updated: May 2, 2020

Imagine a time when the internet didn't exist to debunk superstitious thought. A time when unicorns, fairies, and the like, roamed our backyards---frolicking in our fountains and basking in the soft, late afternoon light after a hard day of super-magical pursuits. A time when the human race was so dumb that we allowed ourselves to be duped by a pair of prepubescent cousins.

That's right, I'm talking of the Great Fairy Con of 1917 which swept the globe with greater virulence than the Spanish Flu would just one year later. 1917 was a simpler time when all it took to fool the world was a camera, a darkroom, a children book (with fairies), a pair of scissors and absolutely no morals. In the case of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, they had all the ingredients so, one fine day, they went into the forest.

Armed with their illustrations and a quarter-plate camera, they propped up the "fairies," posed, and snapped a few pictures. After they'd gotten their fill, they savagely drowned the fairies in a nearby stream, showing once again, not only a complete lack of morals but also a complete disregard for life---albeit supernatural.

After they developed the images, their heinous lie began. A lie so convincing that it was believed by some of the world's greatest leaders of thought at the time---even one of my favorite authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fell prey. Some were so convinced, they defended the girls in the face of naysayers. Novelist Henry de Vere Stacpool (Blue Lagoon) offered the following statement:

Look at [Frances’] face. Look at [Elsie’s] face. There is an extraordinary thing called Truth which has 10 million faces and forms—it is God’s currency and the cleverest coiner or forger can’t imitate it.

Henry, you gullible clown. Get your head out of the clouds you hopeless romantic and spiritualist.

The girls went on to live the rest of their lives out defending the veracity of their blatant lie. It wasn't until they were in their 80s that they divulged the truth---it was all a lie. Watch as an elderly girls explain how it was "just a bit of fun":

But wait---like a good infomercial, there is always more. According to Frances, one of the images, which was taken by accident, and showed the same fairies from other images, was real. Hmmm. We can only assume she's spending her afterlife meticulously photoshopping lies amongst histories greatest charlatans and cheats.

All critiques of their integrity aside, the composition, exposure, and sheer imagination inherent to each image is outstanding.

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