Cottingley Fairies
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The Investigators

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in 1859 at Picardy Place in Edinburgh, Doyle began his professional career as a doctor in Southsea, Hampshire. He was the man behind who created the Sherlock Holmes character and his most criticised work was the case of the Cottingley fairies. As a deep spiritualist and follower of Theosophy, Doyle saw the photographs as evidence of the existence of fairies. Alas, he died aged 71 still believing in fairies.

The true confessions were not to be heard for another half a century.

Edward Lewis Gardner

A speaker on Theosophy and an ardent fairy seeker (author of "Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs"), Gardner travelled to Cottingley several times during the investigation after becoming one of the first "men of society" to investigate the tale.

After the death of Conan Doyle, further investigations into the photographs were barred by Gardner and later by his son who inherited the Cottingley material. However, in later years, access was formerly granted and once again public interest was roused.

Harold Snelling

Snelling was an expert on photographic retouching and it was said that "what Snelling doesn't know about faked photography isn't worth knowing." As a fellow spiritualist, he and Gardner were to form the basis of the investigations after they reprinted and retouched the original negatives to produce sharper images. When Kodak were asked to verify the authenticity of the pictures it was the sharpened reprints that were sent to the labs.

In actual fact, his work during the case was the most significant of any member of the investigative team. The retouching of the prints removed a number of shadows and lines which would later be rediscovered in the original pictures and show how the "fairies" were two dimensional cutouts.

Geoffrey Hodson

A former British Army Officer on the Western Front during the First World War, Geoffrey Hodson pursued a life of spiritualism, clairvoyancy, yoga and healing. A respected expert in his field, he was around 31 years old when he was drawn to Cottingley by the tales of fairies and sprites.

With his apparent strength in clairvoyancy and deep spiritual beliefs, Hodson was sent to Cottingley to confirm that indeed the girls were in the company of fairies. If anyone could see the fairies, it would be Hodson. Amused by his gullible attitude, the girls admittedly wove an often ridiculuous web of tales around him and exaggerated their sightings. To their astonishment, their childish pranks were well received by the clairvoyant who claimed to see what they saw and more.

In 1983, when he was 96 and living in New Zealand, he heard the true confessions and thus became the only surviving member of Gardner's team to know the truth.

The Families

In The Beginning