Though I was out of England at the time, I was able, even in Australia, to realize that the appearance of the first photographs in the Strand Magazine had caused very great interest. The press comments were as a rule cautious but not unsympathetic. The old cry of “Fake! “ was less conspicuous than I had expected, but for some years the press has been slowly widening its views upon psychic matters, and is not so inclined as of old to attribute every new manifestation to fraud. Some of the Yorkshire papers had made elaborate inquiries, and I am told that photographers for a considerable radius from the house were cross-questioned to find if they were accomplices. Truth, which is obsessed by the idea that the whole spiritualistic movement and everything connected with it is one huge, senseless conspiracy to deceive, concocted by knaves and accepted by fools, had the usual contemptuous and contemptible articles, which ended by a prayer to, Elsie that she should finish her fun and let the public know how it really was done. The best of the critical attacks was in the Westminster Gazette, who sent a special commissioner to unravel the mystery, and published the result on January 12, 1921. By kind permission I reproduce the article:
DO FAIRIES EXIST?
INVESTIGATION IN A YORKSHIRE VALLEY
STORY OF THE GIRL WHO TOOK THE SNAPSHOT
The publication of photographs of fairies — or, to be more explicit, one photograph of fairies and another of a gnome — playing round children has aroused considerable interest, not only in Yorkshire, where the beings are said to exist, but throughout the country.
The story, mysterious as it was when first told, became even more enigmatical by reason of the fact that Sir A. Conan Doyle made use of fictitious names in his narrative in the Strand Magazine in order, as he says, to prevent the lives of the people concerned being interrupted by callers and correspondence. That he has failed to do. I am afraid Sir Conan does not know Yorkshire people, particularly those of the dales, because any attempt to hide identity immediately arouses their suspicions, if it does not go so far as to condemn the writer for his lack of frankness.
It is not surprising, therefore, that his story is accepted with reserve. Each person to whom I spoke of the subject during my brief sojourn in Yorkshire dismissed the matter curtly as being untrue. It has been the principal topic of conversation for weeks, mainly because identity had been discovered.
My mission to Yorkshire was to secure evidence, if possible, which would prove or disprove the claim that fairies existed. I frankly confess that I failed.
The particular fairyland is a picturesque little spot off the beaten track, two or three miles from Bingley. Here is a small village called Cottingley, almost hidden in a break in the upland, through which tumbles a tiny stream, known as Cottingley Beck, on its way to the Aire, less than a mile away. The “heroine” of Sir Conan Doyle’s story is Miss Elsie Wright*, who resides with her parents at 31 Lynwood Terrace. The little stream runs past the back of the house, and the photographs were taken not more than a hundred yards away. When Miss Wright made the acquaintance of the fairies she was accompanied by her cousin, Frances Griffiths, who resides at Dean Road, Scarborough.
* From this time onwards the real name Wright is used instead of Carpenter as in the original article — the family having withdrawn their objection.
One photograph, taken by Miss Wright in the summer of 1917, when she was sixteen, shows her cousin, then a child of ten, with a group of four fairies dancing in the air before her, and in the other, taken some months afterwards, Elsie, seated on the grass, has a quaint gnome dancing beside her.
There are certain facts which stand out clearly and which none of the evidence I was able to obtain could shake. No other people have seen the fairies, though everybody in the little village knew of their alleged existence; when Elsie took the photograph she was unacquainted with the use of a camera, and succeeded at the first attempt; the girls did not invite a third person to see the wonderful visitors, and no attempt was made to make the discovery public.
First I interviewed Mrs. Wright, who, without hesitation, narrated the whole of the circumstances without adding any comment. The girls, she said, would spend the whole of the day in the narrow valley, even taking their lunch with them, though they were within a stone’s throw of the house. Elsie was not robust, and did not work during the summer months, so that she could derive as much benefit as possible from playing in the open. She had often talked about seeing the fairies, but her parents considered it was nothing more than childish fancy, and let it pass. Mr. Wright came into possession of a small camera in 1917, and one Saturday afternoon yielded to the persistent entreaties of his daughter and allowed her to take it out. He placed one plate in position, and explained to her how to take a “snap.” The children went away in high glee and returned in less than an hour, requesting Mr. Wright to develop the plate. While this was being done Elsie noticed that the fairies were beginning to show, and exclaimed in an excited tone to her cousin, “Oh, Frances, the fairies are on the plate!” The second photograph was equally successful, and a few prints from each plate were given to friends as curiosities about a year ago. They evidently attracted little notice until one was shown to some of the delegates at a Theosophical Congress in Harrogate last summer.
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.
Mrs. Wright certainly gave me the impression that she had no desire to keep anything back, and answered my questions quite frankly. She told me that Elsie had always been a truthful girl, and there were neighbours who accepted the story of the fairies simply on the strength of their knowledge of her. I asked about Elsie’s career, and her mother said that after she left school she worked a few months for a photographer in Manningham Lane, Bradford, but did not care for running errands most of the day. The only other work she did there was “spotting.” Neither occupation was likely to teach a fourteen-year-old girl how to “fake” a plate. From there she went to a jeweller’s shop, but her stay there was not prolonged. For many months immediately prior to taking the first photograph she was at home and did not associate with anyone who possessed a camera.
At that time her father knew little of photography, “only what he had picked up by dodging about with the camera,” as he put it, and any suggestion that he had faked the plate must be dismissed.
When he came home from the neighbouring mill, and was told the nature of my errand, he said he was “fed up” with the whole business, and had nothing else to tell. However, he detailed the story I had already heard from his wife, agreeing in every particular, and Elsie’s account, given to me in Bradford, added nothing. Thus I had the information from the three members of the family at different times, and without variation. The parents confessed they had some difficulty in accepting the photographs as genuine and even questioned the girls as to how they faked them. The children persisted in their story, and denied any act of dishonesty. Then they “let it go at that.” Even now their belief in the existence of the fairies is merely an acceptance of the statements of their daughter and her cousin.
I ascertained that Elsie was described by her late schoolmaster as being “dreamy,” and her mother said that anything imaginative appealed to her. As to whether she could have drawn the fairies when she was sixteen I am doubtful. Lately she has taken up water-colour drawing, and her work, which I carefully examined, does not reveal that ability in a marked degree, though she possesses a remarkable knowledge of colour for an untrained artist.
Sir A. Conan Doyle says that at first he was not convinced that the fairies were not thought-forms conjured up by the imagination or expectation of the seers. Mr. E. L. Gardner, a member of the Executive Committee of the Theosophical Society, who made an investigation on the spot and also interviewed all the members of the family, records his opinion that the photographs are genuine.
Later in the day I went to Bradford, and at Sharpe’s Christmas Card Manufactory saw Miss Wright. She was working in an upper room, and at first refused to see me, sending a message to the effect that she did not desire to be interviewed. A second request was successful, and she appeared at a small counter at the entrance to the works.
She is a tall, slim girl, with a wealth of auburn hair, through which a narrow gold band, circling her head, was entwined.
Like her parents, she just said she had nothing to say about the photographs, and, singularly enough, used the same expression as her father and mother —“I am ‘fed up’ with the thing.”
She gradually became communicative, and told me how she came to take the first photograph.
Asked where the fairies came from, she replied that she did not know.
“Did you see them come?” I asked; and on receiving an affirmative reply, suggested that she must have noticed where they came from.
Miss Wright hesitated, and laughingly answered, “I can’t say.” She was equally at a loss to explain where they went after dancing near her, and was embarrassed when I pressed for a fuller explanation. Two or three questions went unanswered, and my suggestion that they must have “simply vanished into the air” drew the monosyllabic reply, “Yes.” They did not speak to her, she said, nor did she speak to them.
When she had been with her cousin she had often seen them before. They were only kiddies when they first saw them, she remarked, and did not tell anybody.
“But,” I went on, “it is natural to expect that a child, seeing fairies for the first time, would tell its mother.” Her answer was to repeat that she did not tell anybody. The first occasion on which fairies were seen, it transpired, was in 1915.
In reply to further questions, Miss Wright said she had seen them since, and had photographed them, and the plates were in the possession of Mr. Gardner. Even after several prints of the first lot of fairies had been given to friends, she did not inform anybody that she had seen them again. The fact that nobody else in the village had seen them gave her no surprise. She firmly believed that she and her cousin were the only persons who had been so fortunate, and was equally convinced that nobody else would be. “If anybody else were there,” she said, “the fairies would not come out.”
Further questions put with the object of eliciting a reason for that statement were only answered with smiles and a final significant remark, “You don’t understand.”
Miss Wright still believes in the existence of the fairies, and is looking forward to seeing them again in the coming summer.
The fairies of Cottingley, as they appeared to the two girls, are fine-weather elves, as Miss Wright said they appeared only when it was bright and sunny; never when the weather was dull or wet.
The strangest part of the girl’s story was her statement that in their more recent appearances the fairies were more “transparent” than in 1916 and 1917, when they were “rather hard.” Then she added the qualification, “You see, we were young then.” This she did not amplify, though pressed to do so.
The hitherto obscure village promises to be the scene of many pilgrimages during the coming summer. There is an old saying in Yorkshire: “Ah’ll believe what Ah see,” which is still maintained as a valuable maxim.
The general tone of this article makes it clear that the Commissioner would very naturally have been well pleased to effect a coup by showing up the whole concern. He was, however, a fair-minded and intelligent man, and has easily exchanged the rôle of Counsel for the Prosecution to that of a tolerant judge. It will be observed that he brought out no new fact which had not already appeared in my article, save the interesting point that this was absolutely the first photograph which the children had ever taken in their lives. Is it conceivable that under such circumstances they could have produced a picture which was fraudulent and yet defied the examination of so many experts? Granting the honesty of the father, which no one has ever impugned, Elsie could only have done it by cut-out images, which must have been of exquisite beauty, of many different models, fashioned and kept without the knowledge of her parents, and capable of giving the impression of motion when carefully examined by an expert. Surely this is a large order!
In the Westminster article it is clear that the writer has not had much acquaintance with psychic research. His surprise that a young girl should not know whence appearances come or whither they go, when they are psychic forms materializing in her own peculiar aura, does not seem reasonable. It is a familiar fact also that psychic phenomena are always more active in warm sunny weather than in damp or cold. Finally, the girl’s remark that the shapes were getting more diaphanous was a very suggestive one, for it is with childhood that certain forms of mediumship are associated, and there is always the tendency that, as the child becomes the woman, and as the mind becomes more sophisticated and commonplace, the phase will pass. The refining process can be observed in the second series of pictures, especially in the little figure which is holding out the flower. We fear that it has now completed itself, and that we shall have no more demonstrations of fairy life from this particular source.
One line of attack upon the genuine character of the photographs was the production of a fake, and the argument: “There, you see how good that is, and yet it is an admitted fake. How can you be sure that yours are not so also?” The fallacy of this reasoning lay in the fact that these imitations were done by skilled performers, while the originals were by untrained children. It is a repetition of the stale and rotten argument by which the world has been befooled so long, that because a conjurer under his own conditions can imitate certain effects, therefore the effects themselves never existed.
It must be admitted that some of these attempts were very well done, though none of them passed the scrutiny of Mr. Gardner or myself. The best of them was by a lady photographer connected with the Bradford Institute, Miss Ina Inman, whose production was so good that it caused us for some weeks to regard it with an open mind. There was also a weird but effective arrangement by Judge Docker, of Australia. In the case of Miss Inman’s elves, clever as they were, there was nothing of the natural grace and freedom of movement which characterize the wonderful Cottingley fairy group.
Among the more remarkable comments in the press was one from Mr. George A. Wade in the London Evening News of December 8, 1920. It told of a curious sequence of events in Yorkshire, and ran as follows:
Are there real fairies in the land today? The question has been raised by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and there have been submitted photographs which purport to be those of actual ‘little people.’
“Experiences which have come within my own knowledge may help to throw a little light on this question as to whether there are real fairies, actual elves and gnomes, yet to be met with in the dales of Yorkshire, where the photographs are asserted to have been taken.
“Whilst spending a day last year with my friend, Mr. Halliwell Sutcliffe, the well-known novelist, who lives in that district, he told me, to my intense surprise, that he personally knew a schoolmaster not far from his home who had again and again insisted that he had seen, talked with, and had played with real fairies in some meadows not far away! The novelist mentioned this to me as an actual curious fact, for which he, himself, had no explanation. But he said that the man was one whose education, personality, and character made him worthy of credence — a man not likely to harbour a delusion or to wish to deceive others.
“Whilst in the same district I was informed by a man whom I knew to be thoroughly reliable that a young lady living in Skipton had mentioned to him more than once that she often went up to ——— (a spot in the dales the name of which he gave) to ‘play and dance with the fairies!’ When he expressed astonishment at the statement she repeated it, and averred that it was really true!
“In chatting about the matter with my friend, Mr. William Riley, the author of Windyridge, Netherleigh, and Jerry and Ben, a writer who knows the Yorkshire moors and dales intimately, Mr. Riley asserted that though he had never seen actual fairies there, yet he knew several trustworthy moorland people whose belief in them was unshakable and who persisted against all contradiction that they themselves had many times seen pixies at certain favoured spots in Upper Airedale and Wharfedale.
“When some time later an article of mine anent these things was published in a Yorkshire newspaper, there came a letter from a lady at a distance who stated that the account confirmed a strange experience which she had when on holiday in the same dale up above Skipton.
“She stated that one evening, when walking alone on the higher portion of a slope of the hills, to her intense astonishment she saw in a meadow close below her fairies and sprites playing and dancing in large numbers. She imagined that she must be dreaming, or under some hallucination, so she pinched herself and rubbed her eyes to make sure that she was really awake. Convinced of this, she looked again, and still unmistakably saw the ‘little people.’ She gave a full account of how they played, of the long time she watched them, and how at length they vanished. Without a doubt she was convinced of the truth of her statement.
“What can we make of it all? My own mind is open, but it is difficult to believe that so many persons, unknown to one another, should have conspired to state what is false. It is a remarkable coincidence, if nothing more, that the girls in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s account, the schoolmaster mentioned by Mr. Sutcliffe, the young woman who came from Skipton, and the lady who wrote to the Yorkshire newspaper should all put the spot where the fairies are to be seen almost within a mile or two of one another.
“Are there real fairies to be met with there?”
The most severe attack upon the fairy pictures seems to have been that of Major Hall-Edwards, the famous authority upon radium, in the Birmingham Weekly Post. He said:
“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes it for granted that these photographs are real photographs of fairies, notwithstanding the fact that no evidence has so far been put forward to show exactly how they were produced. Anyone who has studied the extraordinary effects which have from time to time been obtained by cinema operators must be aware that it is possible, given time and opportunity, to produce by means of faked photographs almost anything that can be imagined.
“It is well to point out that the elder of the two girls has been described by her mother as a most imaginative child, who has been in the habit of drawing fairies for years, and who for a time was apprenticed to a firm of photographers. In addition to this she has access to some of the most beautiful dales and valleys, where the imagination of a young person is easily quickened.
“One of the pictures represents the younger child leaning on her elbow upon a bank, while a number of fairies are shown dancing around her. The child does not look at the fairies, but is posing for the photograph in the ordinary way. The reason given for her apparent disinterestedness in the frolicsome elves is that she is used to the fairies, and was merely interested in the camera.
“The picture in question could be ‘faked’ in two ways. Either the little figures of the fairies were stuck upon a cardboard, cut out and placed close to the sitter, when, of course, she would not be able to see them, and the whole photograph produced on a marked plate; or the original photograph, without ‘fairies,’ may have had stuck on it the figures of fairies cut from some publication. This would then be rephotographed, and, if well done, no photographer could swear that the second negative was not the original one.
“Major Hall-Edwards went on to remark that great weight had been placed upon the fact that the fairies in the photograph had transparent wings, but that a tricky photographer could very easily reproduce such an effect.
“‘It is quite possible,’ he observed, ‘to cut off the transparent wings of insects and paste them on a picture of fairies. It is easy to add the transparent wings of large flies and so arrange them that portions of the photograph can be viewed through the wings and thus obtain a very realistic effect.’
“It has been pointed out that although the ‘fairies’ are represented as if they were dancing — in fact they are definitely stated to be dancing — there is no evidence of movement in the photographs. An explanation of this has been given by the photographer herself, who has told us that the movements of the fairies are exceedingly slow and might be compared to the retarded-movement films shown in the cinemas. This proves that the young lady possesses a very considerable knowledge of photography.
“Millions of photographs have been taken by operators of different ages — children and grown-ups — of country scenes and places which, we have been taught, are the habitats of nymphs and elves; yet until the arrival upon the scene of these two wonderful children the image of a fairy has never been produced on a photographic plate. On the evidence I have no hesitation in saying that these photographs could have been ‘faked.’ I criticize the attitude of those who declared there is something supernatural in the circumstances attending the taking of these pictures because, as a medical man, I believe that the inculcation of such absurd ideas into the minds of children will result in later life in manifestations of nervous disorder and mental disturbances. Surely young children can be brought up to appreciate the beauties of Nature without their imagination being filled with exaggerated, if picturesque, nonsense and misplaced sentiment.”
The fairy is standing almost still, poised on the bush leaves. The wings are shot with yellow, and upper part of dress is very pale pink.
This contains a feature that was quite unknown to the girls. The sheath or cocoon appearing in the midst of the grasses had never been seen by them before, and they had no idea of what it was. Fairy lovers and observers describe it as a magnetic bath, woven very quickly by the fairies, and used after dull weather and in the autumn especially.
To this Mr. Gardner answered:
“Major Hall-Edwards says ‘no evidence has been put forward to show how they were produced.’ The least a would-be critic should do is surely to read the report of the case. Sir A. Conan Doyle is asserted to have taken it ‘for granted that these photographs are real and genuine.’ It would be difficult to misrepresent the case more completely. The negatives and contact prints were submitted to the most searching tests known to photographic science by experts, many of whom were frankly sceptical. They emerged as being unquestionably single-exposure plates and, further, as bearing no evidence whatever in themselves of any trace of the innumerable faking devices known. This did not clear them entirely, for, as I have always remarked in my description of the investigation, it is held possible by employing highly artistic and skilled processes to produce similar negatives. Personally, should very much like to see this attempted seriously. The few that have been done, though very much better than the crude examples Major Hall-Edwards submits, break down hopelessly on simple analysis.
“The case resolved itself at an early stage into the examination of the personal element and the motive for faked work. It was this that occupied us so strenuously, for we fully realized the imperative need of overwhelmingly satisfying proof of personal integrity before accepting the photographs as genuine. This was carried through, and its thoroughness may be estimated by the fact that, notwithstanding the searching nature of the investigation that has followed the publication of the village, names, etc., nothing even modifies my first report. I need hardly point out that the strength of the case lies in its amazing simplicity and the integrity of the family concerned. It is on the photographic plus the personal evidence that the case stands.
“Into part of the criticism advanced by Major Hall-Edwards it will be kinder, perhaps, not to enter. Seriously to suggest that a visit to a cinema show and the use of an apt illustration implies ‘a very considerable knowledge of photography’ is on a par with the supposition that to be employed as an errand girl and help in a shop indicates a high degree of skill in that profession! We are not quite so credulous as that, nor were we able to believe that two children, alone and unaided, could produce in half an hour a faked photograph of the type of ‘Alice and the Fairies.’”
In addition to this criticism by Major Hall-Edwards there came an attack in John o’ London from the distinguished writer Mr. Maurice Hewlett, who raises some objections which were answered in Mr. Gardner’s subsequent reply. Mr. Hewlett’s contention was as follows:
“The stage which Sir A. Conan Doyle has reached at present is one of belief in the genuineness of what one may call the Carpenter photographs, which showed the other day to the readers of the Strand Magazine two ordinary girls in familiar intercourse with winged beings, as near as can judge, about eighteen inches high. If he believes in the photographs two inferences can be made, so to speak, to stand up: one, that he must believe also in the existence of the beings; two, that a mechanical operation, where human agency has done nothing but prepare a plate, focus an object, press a button, and print a picture, has rendered visible something which is not otherwise visible to the common naked eye. That is really all Sir Arthur has to tell us. He believes the photographs to be genuine. The rest follows. But why does he believe it? Because the young ladies tell him that they are genuine. Alas!
“Sir Arthur cannot, he tells us, go into Yorkshire himself to cross-examine the young ladies, even if he wishes to cross-examine them, which does not appear. However, he sends in his place a friend, Mr. E. L. Gardner, also of hospitable mind, with settled opinions upon theosophy and kindred subjects, but deficient, it would seem, in logical faculty. Mr. Gardner has himself photographed in the place where the young ladies photographed each other, or thereabouts. No winged beings circled about him, and one wonders why Mr. Gardner (a) was photographed, (b) reproduced the photograph in the Strand Magazine.
“The only answer I can find is suggested to me by the appearance of the Virgin and Child to certain shepherds in a peach-orchard at Verona. The shepherds told their parish priest that the Virgin Mary had indeed appeared to them on a moonlit night, had accepted a bowl of milk from them, had then picked a peach from one of the trees and eaten it. The priest visited the spot in their company, and in due course picked up a peach-stone. That settled it. Obviously the Madonna had been really there, for here was the peach-stone to prove it.
“I am driven to the conclusion that Mr. Gardner had himself photographed on a particular spot in order to prove the genuineness of former photographs taken there. The argument would run: The photographs were taken on a certain spot; but I have been myself photographed on that spot; therefore the photographs were genuine. There is a fallacy lurking, but it is a hospitable fallacy; and luckily it doesn’t very much matter.
“The line to take about a question of the sort is undoubtedly that of least resistance. Which is the harder of belief, the faking of a photograph or the objective existence of winged beings eighteen inches high? Undoubtedly, to a plain man, the latter; but assume the former. If such beings exist, if they are occasionally visible, and if a camera is capable of revealing to all the world what is hidden from most people in it, we are not yet able to say that the Carpenter photographs are photographs of such beings. For we, observe, have not seen such beings. True: but we have all seen photographs of beings in rapid motion-horses racing, greyhounds coursing a hare, men running over a field, and so on. We have seen pictures of these things, and we have seen photographs of them; and the odd thing is that never, never by any chance does the photograph of a running object in the least resemble a picture of it.
“The horse, dog, or main, in fact, in the photograph does not look to be in motion at all. And rightly so, because in the instant of being photographed it was not in motion. So infinitely rapid is the action of light on the plate that it is possible to isolate a fraction of time in a rapid flight and to record it. Directly you combine a series of photographs in sequence, and set them moving, you have a semblance of motion exactly like that which you have in a picture.
“Now, the beings circling round a girl’s head and shoulders in the Carpenter photograph are in picture flight, and not in photographic flight. That is certain. They are in the approved pictorial, or plastic, convention of dancing. They are not well rendered by any means. They are stiff compared with, let us say, the whirling gnomes on the outside wrapper of Punch. They have very little of the wild, irresponsible vagary of a butterfly. But they are an attempt to render an aerial dance — pretty enough in a small way. The photographs are too small to enable me to decide whether they are painted on cardboard or modelled in the round; but the figures are not moving.
“One other point, which may be called a small one — but in a matter of the sort no point is a small one. I regard it as a certainty, as the other plainly is. If the dancing figures had been dancing beings, really there, the child in the photograph would have been looking at them, not at the camera. I know children.
“And knowing children, and knowing that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has legs, I decide that the Miss Carpenters have pulled one of them. Meantime I suggest to him that epochs are born, not made.”
To which Mr. Gardner replied in the following issue:
“I could have wished that Mr. Maurice Hewlett’s somewhat playful criticism of the genuineness of the photographs of fairies appearing in the Strand Magazine Christmas number had been more clearly defined. The only serious point raised is the difference between photographic and pictorial representation of motion — Mr. Hewlett maintaining that the latter is in evidence in the photographs.
“With regard to the separate photographs of the sites, surely the reason for their inclusion is obvious. Photographic experts had stated that though the two negatives revealed no trace of any faking process (such as double exposure, painted figures on enlargements rephotographed, set-up models in card or other material), still it could not be held to be impossible to obtain the same class of result by very clever studio work. Also, certain points that needed elucidation were the haze above and at the side of the child’s head, and the blurred appearance of the waterfall as compared with the clarity of the figures, etc. An inspection of the spots and photographs of their surroundings was surely the only way to clear up some of these. As a matter of fact, the waterfall proved to be about twenty feet behind the child, and hence out of focus, and some large rocks at the same distance in the rear, at the side of the fall, were found to be the cause of the haziness. The separate photographs, of which only one is published of each place, confirm entirely the genuineness of the sites — not the genuineness of the fairies.
“In commenting on the photography of a moving object, Mr. Hewlett makes the astonishing statement that at the instant of being photographed it is not in motion (Mr. H.‘s italics). I wonder when it is, and what would happen if a camera was exposed then! Of course the moving object is in motion during exposure, no matter whether the time be a fiftieth or a millionth part of a second, though Mr. Hewlett is by no means the only one to fall into this error. And each of the fairy figures in the negative discloses signs of movement. This was one of the first points determined.
“I admit at once, of course, that this does not meet the criticism that the fairies display much more grace in action than is to be found in the ordinary snapshot of a moving horse or man. But if we are here dealing with fairies whose bodies must be presumed to be of a purely ethereal and plastic nature, and not with skeleton-framed mammals at all, is it such a very illogical mind that accepts the exquisite grace therein found as a natural quality that is never absent? In view of the overwhelming evidence of genuineness now in hand this seems to be the truth.
“With regard to the last query raised — the child looking at the camera instead of at the fairies — Alice was entirely unsophisticated respecting the proper photographic attitude. For her, cameras were much more novel than fairies, and never before had she seen one used so close to her. Strange to us as it may seem, at the moment it interested her the most. Apropos, would a faker, clever enough to produce such a photograph, commit the elementary blunder of not posing his subject?”
Among other interesting and weighty opinions, which were in general agreement with our contentions, was one by Mr. H. A. Staddon of Goodmayes, a gentleman who had made a particular hobby of fakes in photography. His report is too long and too technical for inclusion, but, under the various headings of composition, dress, development, density, lighting, poise, texture, plate, atmosphere, focus, halation, he goes very completely into the evidence, coming to the final conclusion that when tried by all these tests the chances are not less than 80 per cent. in favour of authenticity.
It may be added that in the course of exhibiting these photographs (in the interests of the Theosophical bodies with which Mr. Gardner is connected), it has sometimes occurred that the plates have been enormously magnified upon the screen. In one instance, at Wakefield, the powerful lantern used threw an exceptionally large picture on a huge sheet. The operator, a very intelligent man who had taken a sceptical attitude, was entirely converted to the truth of the photographs, for, as he pointed out, such an enlargement would show the least trace of a scissors irregularity or of any artificial detail, and would make it absurd to suppose that a dummy figure could remain undetected. The lines were always beautifully fine and unbroken.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54