The Cottingley Fairies
One of the most famous hoaxes in the history of paranormal photography, the "Cottingley Fairies" appeared in a series of photographs taken by Elsie Wright (1901-1988) and Frances Griffith (1907-1986) beginning in 1917.
Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith were cousins. At the time of the first photos, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. Elsie worked in a photo laboratory and borrowed her father's camera to take the photos. After developing the photos, images of fairies were clearly visible. Elsie's father was unconvinced and declared them fake, but her mother (Polly Wright) accepted them as genuine.
In 1919, Polly Wright attended a meeting of the Theosophical Society in Bradford at which the topic was "Fairy Life". Polly mentioned the Cottingley photos, which were then brought to the attention of leading Theosophists and the wider public.
Despite the official position of Kodak laboratories, which stated that the photos could easily have been faked, the Cottingley Fairies attracted strong public interest. The defining moment for this hoax came when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, offered his support. A clairvoyant was also brought to the site and claimed that he had seen the fairies, although he was unable to capture them on film.
In 1981 Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith were interviewed for the magazine The Unexplained, in which they confessed to the hoax. The fairies were cut-outs held in place by hatpins. The cousins continued to assert that one of the images was genuine and they really had seen fairies.
See larger versions of all five photos here.