Comedian Steve Allen - The literal fairytale origins of fake news

PUBLISHED: 08:30 14 April 2019

Comedian and broadcaster Steve Allen.

Comedian and broadcaster Steve Allen.


If you have £70,000 you could buy some photographs.

That sounds like the start of some blackmail plot but photographs that are for sale are the famous ones that fooled the world.

Two young schoolgirls in 1917 used a borrowed Midg quarter-plate camera and paper cut-outs to fake photographic evidence that fairies exist. People believed what they saw and it was only in 1983 that the truth came out.

In many ways these girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, were architects of the modern world. Elsie was a teenager who used special effects to fool people with pictures. That’s basically what Instagram is. They also gave us fake news. They lied about reality and enjoyed seeing people who were meant to be sensible adults falling for their misinformation.

Yes, it was unlikely that fairies were real and in the photos you can see the edges where the fairies were cut from sheets of paper, but isn’t it more fun to ignore the facts and believe the “what if”?

It’s a good job they confessed or we may have lived through a time when Theresa May was Home Secretary and brought in a hostile environment for imps and elves. America might have started a war with Never Never Land. Imagine how high Trump’s wall would have to be to keep out things that could fly? The hope is that the original camera and photographs will be sold to someone who will put them in a museum. They could act as a reminder that we shouldn’t always believe the thing we prefer to believe, we should listen to facts, but if you think that’s likely to happen you’re probably away with the fairies.

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