"Elementary my dear Watson." Sherlock Holmes – one of the greatest fictional detectives that ever wore tweed and smoked a Meerschaum Mahogany Calabash pipe, spoke these words. Sherlock was a skeptic, show me kind of guy, who put deductive reasoning on the map.
Fairies???? Are you kidding me??? Sherlock Holmes would no more believe in fairies than he would the Easter Bunny. But his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the wee folk, as well as spiritualism and the occult. And to be fair to Sir Arthur, so did many of his peers. This was Edwardian England after all, and Modern Spiritualism had taken a foothold in all levels of society, including the heady circles that Sir Arthur travelled in.
He became a famous spokesperson for Spiritualism with the Cottingley Fairy incident. The controversy started in 1917 when Elsie Wright, age 16, and her cousin Frances Griffith, age 10, took photographs of what appeared to be fairies in a Yorkshire garden. The girls were said to be novice photographers, with no knowledge of trick photography.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chose to be a believer, and even wrote a book entitled The Coming of Fairies that supported the genuineness of the Cottingley Fairy photos. Although many thought he was nuts, he defended the reality of fairies with great fervor. He chose to overlook the facts that the only other “witness” to the alleged fairy sightings was of questionable character; Elsie did have experience in the art of photography having worked in a photographer’s studio; and the fairy evidence itself looked suspiciously like paper cut-out drawings.
In 1982, Elsie and Frances, now elderly women, finally admitted to faking the photos. Sir Arthur was long gone, having passed away in 1930. But super sleuth Sherlock would have chastised Sir Arthur for disregarding the facts, and definitely would have challenged the authenticity of the girls’ claim.
Was Doyle a dupe for believing in the invisible worlds of spiritualism and fairies? One thing is clear…in regards to “the unkown” the creator of the pragmatic detective actually had more Watson in him than Sherlock. If you want to learn more about the Cottingley Fairies, check out the film, Fairytale: A True Story, and the book, The Case of the Cottingley Fairies,written by Joe Cooper.