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The Cottingley Incident: Debunking Faeries Essay

2487 words - 10 pages

Faeries have played a significant role in the folklore of cultures for centuries. Pagans, who have been around since the classical world, often viewed and worshiped faeries similarly to nymphs and tree spirits. Christianity tended to view faeries as a form of “demoted angels” who were stuck somewhere between heaven and hell when God ordered the closing of Heaven’s gates. Most often associated with spirits of nature, faeries are known by many names: banshees, sprites, brownies, nymphs and tree spirits. They are most often described as small human like creatures, similar to elves, and often possessing some form of magical abilities. Faeries has been a point of contention for hundreds of years and attempts to prove their existence has been met with varying degrees of success. The goal of this paper is to debunk one of the most well known and most publicized alleged faerie sightings,The Cottingley Incident, using the skeptic heuristics and concepts of logic we learned in Critical Thinking this semester.
In 1917, two cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, told their parents that they saw faeries. The girls claimed the faeries lived in the beck behind their home in England, and the two would play with the creatures there. Frances wasn’t supposed to be playing in the beck, so when she fell and got her clothes wet, she was scolded. When her mother asked her why she kept returning to the beck, she answered saying she wanted to play with the faeries there. When the adults didn’t believe them, the girls decided to obtain proof. Elsie had borrowed her father's camera, a Midg quarter-plate, and they went out for about half an hour. Mr. Wright developed the plate later in the afternoon and on it was a photograph of Frances with some faerie figures.
In August 1917 Frances took a photograph of Elsie with a gnome that was under-exposed and unclear. The plate was again developed by Elsie's father, Arthur, who suspected that the girls had been playing tricks and refused to lend his camera to them anymore. Both Arthur and his wife, Polly, searched the girls' bedroom and waste-paper basket for any scraps of pictures or cut-outs, and also went down to the beck in search of evidence of fakery. They found nothing, and the girls stuck to their story.
In the summer of 1919 Polly Wright went to a meeting at the Theosophical Society in Bradford. The lecture that night was on `faerie life', and Polly mentioned to the person sitting next to her that faerie prints had been taken by her daughter and niece. The result of this conversation was that two `rough prints' (as they were later called) came to the notice of Theosophists at the Harrogate conference in the autumn, and thence to a leading Theosophist, Edward Gardner, by early 1920. Gardner's immediate impulse after seeing the faerie pictures was to clarify the prints. The positive pictures were then turned back into negatives. Photographic experts examined the negative and the print but could find no trace of...

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