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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 18:36 GMT
'Fairy' pictures fetch 6,000
One of the infamous 'Cottingley fairy' pictures
One of the infamous 'Cottingley fairy' pictures
An 84-year old photographic archive relating to the celebrated Cottingley Fairies hoax has fetched 6,000 at auction - nearly twice as much as expected.

The collection of glass plates and other negatives, which fooled Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was bought by an unnamed buyer at the Bonhams & Brooks auction in London's Knightsbridge.

The hoax was carried out by Elsie Wright, 15, and her cousin Frances Griffiths, 10, in the village of Cottingley, near Bradford in 1917.

Elsie took pictures showing Frances with a troop of sprites dancing in front of her - they were made from paper cutouts, supported by hatpins that appeared to flutter by the movement of the breeze.

Woman with fairy
The faked pictures fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The two pictures convinced theosophist Edward Gardner and Conan Doyle, and as others became involved, the girls had little option but to stick to their story.

Conan Doyle published the first of his articles on the subject in the Strand Magazine in December 1920. By this time the girls had produced three more pictures.

Not everyone was convinced - some were quick to mock the writer and his friends, but many theosophists continued to give credence to the photographs for years.

In 1982 the British Journal of Photography published an article declaring that with the camera they were using it would have been impossible to have produced such clearly defined negatives.

Believers were not disabused until the cousins revealed privately, and then publicly, in 1982 to 1983 that the fairies were indeed fake.

A spokeswoman for the auctioneers said: "I am not surprised they went for twice the estimated price because they are absolutely lovely.

"They are also a good illustration of what they were doing with photography was using then, like using different exposures.

"It may seem strange that people were fooled, but this was just after World War I and many believed in spiritualism because their loved ones had died."

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