In 1917, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an ardent believer in the occult, announced that fairies really did exist. His proof? Photographs taken by 16-year-old Elsie Wright and her ten-year-old cousin Frances Griffiths from the village of Cottingley, Bradford. "The pictures," Michael Farquhar once reported, "showed the girls by a wooded stream, with winged sprites and gnomes who danced and pranced and tootled on pipes." With Doyle's endorsement, fairies promptly became a national obsession.
In 1983, it was revealed that Doyle (the genius behind the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes) had fallen for a simple deception. The girls, by then old women, admitted that they had posed with paper cut-outs, supported by hatpins.
[In fairness to Doyle, several photography experts examined the pictures and declared them free of superimposition or retouching.]