The Coming of the Fairies
After a number of deaths in his family, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, turned his attention to Spiritualism. I’m not very good at briefly defining the many different belief systems, but spiritualists believe that there is another plane of existence where spirits dwell and that our planes are capable of crossing and communication.
Spiritualism originally developed in the United States, but its membership was widely spread in most English speaking countries from 1840 to 1920. During this time, there was an increase in the reports of paranormal activity and attendance to mediums and séances. One of the most famous events during the height of the Spiritualist movement was the reveal of the Cottingley faerie photographs.
In 1917, two young in girls in Cottingley, a borough in West Yorkshire, England, caught their play with faeries on film. Two initial photographs were released to the press and, like any claim to seeing the Fair Folk, they were met with much skepticism. Conan Doyle, however, believed in their validity enough to write a book - - The Coming of the Fairies.
This book was a fascinating read. I’ve already made be belief in the realm of the Fae clear in past reviews, but I’d never really done much reading on the Cottingley photos. I knew the story and the circumstances and the press reaction, but I never thought to look any more into it. The Coming of the Fairies is, more or less, a collection of information about the Cottingley faerie phenomenon.
Conan Doyle provides a very sound argument for the validity of the photographs and the existence of faeries. He includes letters he exchanged with the people directly involved in the photography, photography experts that analyzed the photos, and other spiritualists. He includes eye witness statements to other faerie sightings and addresses many of the major claims made by those who believed they were fakes.
Even if you don’t believe in faeries, I’d recommend taking a look at this fascinating bit of myth history. While I enjoyed the fact that it was about faeries and providing good arguments for their existence, I also enjoyed the fact that Conan Doyle presented his argument s in such a calm logical way that even nay-sayers would be capable of enjoying the book.