“Fairies Photographed: An Epoch Making Event”, headlined the 1920 Christmas Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle, creator of famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes, revealed the infamous Cottingley fairy photographs to the world. This paper explores the backdrop of intersecting meanings overlaid upon this case. After WW1 many sought solace in Spiritualist and Theosophical movements following the death of soldiers. Doyle also championed this cause, his eminence supporting many mediums, spiritual photographers and the congruent Cottingley affair, as proof of otherworldly occurrences. This paper examines the polarisation between the rational sleuth Holmes and Doyle’s incredulous beliefs which were played out in the popular press. An investigative mode dominates Cottingley literature, setting up further polarisation and conflict. In addition, competing meanings attributed to the images, from the girls’ play fantasy to supporting evidence for adults’ Theosophical and Spiritual faith are examined. These created tension and conflict at the boundaries of public discussion in turn affecting the public reception of the infamous photographs.
The abstract to my final paper.