15 Biggest Hoaxes That Fooled The World

1. The Cottingley Fairies


The Cottingley Fairies may well be one of the most well known pranks in the history of hoaxes. It consists of a series of five photographs apparently showing two young girls playing with the fairies that live at the bottom of their garden.

The photographs even captured the imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, who, despite his brilliantly logical mind, became convinced of the existence of fairies.

It wasn't until 1983 that the girls, now old women, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, finally admitted to the fraudulent nature of the photographs. They recounted how Elise had copied the illustrations from a popular children's book of and propped them up with hatpins. 

The two fully admit to the first four photographs being faked, however, they disagree on the origins of the fifth - Elise claiming that it is a fake and Frances insisting that it is the one genuine photograph that they took.

This photo doesn't feature either of the girls, but a couple of fairies in some long grass. Both women claim to have taken the photo, despite their disagreement on its legitimacy. It has been suggested that it is in fact an unintentional double exposure of the cutouts and the grass, meaning that it is perfectly possible that both women are correct in their assertions that they took the picture and explains their differing opinions about its content.

The legacy of the photographs have continued to capture the imagination of generations since. The paraphernalia associated with the girls is now on display at the National Media Museum in Bradford including prints of the photographs, paintings of fairies by Elsie, two of the cameras that the girls used and a nine-page letter from Elsie admitting the truth about the fairies at the bottom of her garden.

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Writer. Raconteur. Gardeners' World Enthusiast.