Categories: Fact or fiction

University lecturer claims to have photographed real-life tiny tinkerbells

John Hyatt, 53, says his series of photos which were taken over the past two years prove that they do exist in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire

And he has now put his photographs on display at a special exhibition.

Mr Hyatt, who was a member of the Three Johns punk band in the 1980s and 1990s, says adults that have seen his photos have started to harbour ideas that they may indeed be real.

He said: ‘It was a bit of a shock when I blew them up, I did a double take.

Mr Hyatt insists his photos are genuine and have not been altered in any way

‘From my experience they were just enjoying themselves and there was a little dance in the sunlight going on’ said Mr Hyatt

‘I went out afterwards and took pictures of flies and gnats and they just don’t look the same.

‘People can decide for themselves what they are.

‘The message to people is to approach them with an open mind.

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‘I think it’s one of those situations where you need to believe to see.

‘A lot of people who have seen them say they have brought a little bit of magic into their lives and there’s not enough of that around.’

Mr Hyatt, who lives Rawtenstall, has posted some of his images on social media and says they have attracted much debate.

The existence of fairies has long been resigned to the realm of children’s books and Disney films, such as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, right, but Mr Hyatt, left, wants to get more adults to bring ‘magic into their lives’

The exhibition, called Rossendale Fairies, will be on show at The Whitaker Museum in Whitaker Park in Rossendale, throughout the spring.

Mr Hyatt said the name is a nod to the famous story of the Cottingley fairies where two schoolgirls in Bradford claimed to have photographed fairies in their garden, which they confirmed 60 years later had been faked with cardboard cut-outs.

However he admits the creatures he snapped are a long way from the characters depicted in children’s stories and hopes his pictures will change people’s perceptions of them.

‘Everything gets stereotyped, whatever it is.

‘But there are stranger things in life than fairies, and life grows everywhere.

Experts and the simply sceptical will no doubt point to explanations involving reflections, flashes or technical glitches or that the tiny shapes could be a flea, left or a fly, right

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In 2009, Phyllis Bacon, 55, believed she took a photo of a fairy at the bottom of her garden in New Addington, near Croydon in South London

‘I don’t believe they are just smaller versions of us and go home and have a cup of tea at the end of the day.

‘And one is suggesting they have any special powers.

‘From my experience they were just enjoying themselves and there was a little dance in the sunlight going on.

‘They are just beautiful pictures and beauty can make people believe.’

In 2009, Phyllis Bacon, 55, believed she took a photo of a fairy at the bottom of her garden in New Addington, near Croydon in South London.


Cottingley, a village outside Bradford in Yorkshire, would have remained in much deserved obscurity had 16-year-old Elsie Wright not taken a remarkable photograph of her ten-year-old cousin, Frances Griffiths, playing with ‘fairies’ on the banks of a stream which ran behind the garden of Elsie’s house.

A few days earlier, in the summer of 1917, Frances had slipped and gone into the stream, later telling her mother she had fallen into the water while she was ‘playing with the fairies’.

Her mother, unamused, sent her up to the attic bedroom she shared with Elsie where, later that afternoon, the two girls hatched a childish prank that would make headlines around the world, severely damage the reputations of eminent public figures and generate a controversy that endured for generations.

Elsie suggested they should take a photograph of the ‘fairies’ to prove to Frances’ mother that she had been telling the truth.

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The girls drew some fairies, cut them out and pasted them on to cardboard. With a few long hatpins on which to mount their ‘fairies’ and a roll of zinc oxide bandage tape.

Arthur Wright willingly agreed to lend his daughter his camera and girls set off, blissfully unaware that they were about to create one of the most reproduced photographs in history.

They arranged the four fairies – three with wings and one playing a piped instrument – in front of Frances, who put flowers in her hair, cupped her chin in her hand and, curiously, stared intently at the camera rather than the fairies when Elsie took the picture.

Wright developed the exposed plate a darkroom he asked Elsie what they were, and she told him they were the fairies that she and Frances played with by the stream – they took another photo a month later.

Polly Wright, Elsie’s mother, and her sister, Annie Griffiths, Frances’ mother took the photographs to a meeting of the Theosophical Society in Harrogate.

Knowledge of photography was not widespread at this time and few understood that the ‘spirit’ could be introduced by a simple double exposure on the same photographic plate.

As a result, many Spiritualists were encouraged to believe that the camera could ‘see’ what the naked eye could not, a belief which helped legitimise the Cottingley fairy photographs.

Soon the word spread and it was only many decades later did they admit that the photographs were faked and involved cut-out drawings of fairy figures that were fastened to foliage with hatpins.

Elsie and Frances stuck doggedly to their story for years. Not until March 1983, when she was 76 years old, did Frances finally confess.

‘I’m fed up with all these stories,’ she complained. ‘I hated those photographs and cringe every time I see them. I thought it was a joke, but everyone else kept it going. It should have died a natural death 60 years ago.’

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Elsie at first refused to comment, but later confirmed her cousin’s story: ‘I do not want to die and leave my grandchildren with a loony grandmother to remember.’

Frances continued to claim, contrarily, that she had seen fairies and that the fifth photograph – the fairy bower – was authentic. She died in 1986; Elsie died two years later.

‘The joke was only meant to last two hours,’ said Elsie towards the end of her life. ‘It lasted 70 years.’



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