Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Brush With Fairyland

Cottingley_Fairies_1Have you seen the Cottingley Faeries? They’re this famous set of early pictures of young sisters from Cottingsley, England, who took early photographs of what, to a modern eye, are patently imitation faeries. We make much of the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in by these things, and you can find a lot of people pontificating about how someone could create the world’s greatest fictional detective, but be easily deceived himself.

It’s spoken of as an example of unsophisticated thinking, of a public, new to technology, which could be bamboozled by the sort of trickery which wouldn’t take in a modern 4-year-old. A child who can’t say “Photoshop” might nevertheless Google these images and say, “They’re not real!”

Basil_Rathbone_Sherlock_HolmesWhy do we have such disrespect for the imaginary? Newton’s laws of gravitation area real, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who’s affected by gravitation should be able to harness that force and levitate. If magic is a thing, why would it hang out wearing a big sign saying, “This way to Narnia, and genies who fulfill impossible wishes?”

If magic were real, why on EARTH would it let you SEE it in a photograph, as if it were some easily-trapped natural phenomenon? That’s EXACTLY what magic ISN’T!

We need to stop asking ourselves, “Why are we so much smarter than those silly people who believed in magick” and start saying, “If magic is as real as physics, it’s going to be the same REALLY HARD WORK to figure some of it out!”

~ Jeff Mach