Cottingley Fairies
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What Will The Public Say?

At the end of November, The Strand magazine published their 1920 Christmas Edition and to their amazement, the article on the fairies stirs up so much interest that every copy is sold within days. Doyle is praised by many quarters but many more ridicule him and question his sanity.


Strand Magazine


The Strand magazine was first published at Christmas 1890.


The Strand magazine was founded by George Newnes and costing only sixpence, it was half the price of other British monthly but full of pictures.

The first edition, dated January 1891, was on the shelves by Christmas 1890 and sold out a total of 300,000 copies after popular demand ordered two further reprints of 100,000. By the turn of the century half a million copies were being sold a month.

The editor, H Greenhough Smith, secured regular contributions from the world's greatest writers including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Rudyard Kipling and Voltaire (translated text) and boasted readership from Queen Victoria, Cardinal Manning and Winston Churchill. In fact, it was on the Strand platform where Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were showcased to a worldwide audience.

A family oriented publication, the Strand offered fact, fiction and serial stories with photographs and illustrations in a fresh look previously unknown to the British public.

Sixty years later, the impact of the War spelt disaster for the magazine. Smaller editions, falling demand and spiraling costs led to the end of the Strand in March 1950.

In December 1998, the Strand magazine was resurrected.



Over the next few months the story is still the talk of the town...

"On the evidence I have no hesitation in saying that these photographs could have been `faked'. I criticise the attitude of those who declared there is something supernatural in the circumstances attending to 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 and nervous disorder and mental disturbances…"
Major John Hall Edwards (1858-1926), the British pioneer of X-ray treatment

"The day we kill our Santa Claus with our statistics we shall have plunged a glorious world into deepest darkness". The Day's Thought underneath was a Welsh proverb: "Tis true as the fairy tales told in books."
27 November 1920, South Wales Argus

"For the true explanation of these fairy photographs what is wanted is not a knowledge of occult phenomena but a knowledge of children."
5 January 1921, Truth

"It seems at this point that we must either believe in the almost incredible mystery of the fairy or in the almost incredible wonders of faked photographs."
29 January 1921, City News

Following The Strand's publication, Gardner holds an audience at the Theosophist Hall in Brompton Road, London and reveals slides of the 5 fairy photographs and as expected, the crowd of spiritualists cheer and delight at the "proof" of the existence of fairies.

By now the public demanded more and more from the investigators and Doyle duly complied. He published the last 3 photographs in The Strand and waited for the response. Not all the comments were kind and the most repeated view was that the fairies had very fashionable hairstyles... a view originally given by Kodak laboratories in 1920 after they inspected the first 2 pictures.

Just as they did after the Christmas edition, prominent figures spoke out in public about the images.

"How wonderful that to these dear children such a wonderful gift has been vouchsafed."
Margaret McMillan, education and social reformer

"Look at Alice's face. Look at Iris'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 de Vere Stacpoole, novelist who referred to the girls by the aliases that Conan Doyle had penned for anonimity

"when one considers that these are the first photographs which these children ever took in their lives it is impossible to conceive that they are capable of technical manipulation which would deceive experts."
Conan Doyle, Yorkshire Weekly Post


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