In truth, the photographs were the work of Frances Griffiths and her cousin, Elsie Wright, and the fairies were cut-out figures secured in the ground with hat pins.
The ‘Cottingley Fairies’ were the subject of much bizarre public discussion and even when what was in fact the head of a hatpin being used in one figure’s stomach to keep it standing was pointed out, Conan Doyle concluded that it was in fact the figure’s navel – sparking a discussion on methods of birth in the fairy kingdom!
Rather than damage the public reputations of those who professed to believe their photographs genuine, the girls kept quiet about their true origins and their own involvement until the 1980s.
In a Dominic Winter (24% buyer’s premium) sale of October 4 the photograph of Frances with the fairies dancing before her was sold at £15,000, while another of Elsie with a dancing gnome made £5400. In the printed captions on the mounts, Frances is called Alice by Conan Doyle (who wished to conceal the girls’ true identities) and Elsie becomes Iris.