The Cottingley Fairies were the invention of Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two young cousins living in Cottingley, near Bradford, England.
The children took a total of five photographs between 1918 and 1921 of what appeared to be fairies dancing. The photos showed the fairies as small humans with 1920s style haircuts, dressed in filmy gowns, and with large wings on their backs. One picture is of a gnome, about 12 inches tall, dressed in a somewhat Elizabethan manner, and also with wings.
Examination of the pictures today shows that the fairies look like paper cutouts, having a flat appearance, with lighting that does not match the rest of the photograph. At the time, however, the photos were viewed by many as evidence of fairies, most notably by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famed author of Sherlock Holmes.
The cousins remained evasive about the authenticity of the pictures for most of their lives, at times claiming they were forgeries, and at other times leaving it to the individual to decide. In the early 1980s they confessed that the pictures were fakes. Frances maintained that the final picture taken is genuine, however, and both girls have claimed that they saw fairies but were unable to take pictures of them.