April Fools! To honor the day, I thought I would briefly touch upon one of the most successful hoaxes ever perpetrated, The Cottingley Fairies.
First published in 1919, the photos of 'fairies' cavorting with young cousins Elise Wright and Frances Griffiths caused quite a stir among Victorian esoterics, including 'Sherlock Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who would later join magician Harry Houdini as a debunker of psychics and mediums). Doyle even wrote a book about the event, The Coming of the Fairies. There were tons of articles written about the photos and hordes of Victorian-era folks longed to believe in the photographic 'evidence' of otherworldly beings. Doyle was convinced of the photos' authenticity, though many were certain the pictures were faked.
It wasn't until 1983 that that Elise and Frances admitted to faking the photos, though both maintained they had actually seen real fairies in their many trips to the beck (stream) in Cottingley, West Yorkshire. The story inspired two films, including Fairy Tale: A True Story:
Personally, I've met several fairies, though none of them were particularly magical (Sorry - couldn't help myself). Much like Houdini and James Randi, I am still waiting for absolute proof of psychic phenomena. Until then, I shall remain an open-minded skeptic and hope all of you do so, as well.