By Tim Binnall
Following a wildly successful auction last autumn, a bevy of infamous 'Cottingley Fairy' hoax photographs will soon be available for purchase once again. The images, which purportedly showed a pair of young girls interacting with some diminutive elemental entities in their backyard spawned something of a media firestorm in the late 1910s as paranormal experts and the public at large debated their veracity. The case took on almost mythic proportions when the legendary creator of the character Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, examined the images and determined that they were genuine.
Although the two girls at the center of the story allowed the debate over the photos to continue for decades, they eventually revealed that the images were a hoax in 1983. Nonetheless, the Cottingley Fairy case has continued to capture the imagination of people to this day. This was particularly evident when a pair of the photos went up for auction this past October and fetched a whopping $20,000 total for the two images. At the time, the auctioneer overseeing the sale marveled that the final price for the images was "absolutely staggering."
With that in mind, the same auction house is preparing for what may turn out to be another monumental sale as several of original Cottingley Fairy images are set to go under the hammer later this month. Additionally, a camera given to the girls by Doyle and possibly used to take one of the later photographs is also being auctioned. The pieces were previously in the provenance of Christine Lynch, who is the daughter of one of the two perpetrators of the hoax. Regarding her decision to sell the materials, she mused to a British media outlet "it's time they went to a museum where someone else can see them and enjoy them."
She also provided some fascinating insight into the impact the images had on her mother's life. According to Lynch, although she admitted that almost all of the photos were fake, her mother also insisted that one image, in particular, known as the 'Fairy Bower,' was real. The idea to fabricate the others, her daughter said, came from the other girl involved in the saga and was later seen by her mother as a grave mistake which "ruined her life because she was looking over her shoulder the whole time. She didn't like the dishonesty of it." Fortunately for Lynch, there may be a literal silver lining to the tale when the photos go up for auction on April 11th as the materials are expected to sell for a jaw-dropping $90,000 and that's just a preliminary estimate, meaning the final price could be considerably higher.