FAIRIES AND FLOWER CHILDREN
FROM 1917 TO 1967
2017 is a year replete with anniversaries to stir the fortean interest: last month we celebrated Kenneth Arnold’s epochal UFO sighting and the dawn of the saucer age, and in this issue we mark a number of other milestones embracing everything from pop music (p55) to poltergeists (p18).
Our cover feature reminds us that it is now 100 years since the first of the famous Cottingley fairy photographs was taken. It would be another two years before this and its companion picture burst upon the world, eliciting opposing responses from camps divided, in the aftermath of the Great War, between sceptics and spiritualists. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the eminently sceptical Sherlock Holmes, has tended to be placed squarely in the spiritualist camp, and seen as a gullible victim whose need to believe saw him taken in by a hoax that may have started as nothing more than a family prank before getting well and truly out of hand. This is the standard version of events, but, as Fiona Maher flags up in her article, the truth – probably now unknowable – might be more complex. The existence of two earlier fairy photos predating the publication of the earliest Cottingley pictures suggests another possible timeline for events, one in which the duplicity of the various parties involved in the case leaves us with a far tricksier narrative to consider; you can make up your own minds...
Fast-forward 50 years to 1967 and we find ourselves in a very different world, despite the Edwardiana favoured by the
Sergeant Pepper- era Beatles. This was the year that psychedelic consciousness really hit the mainstream, and nothing was ever quite the same again. As Gary Lachman observes, the potent mix of mysticism, music and drugs that characterised the ‘Summer of Love’ had been incubating for some time in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco, where Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the Warlocks (soon to be the Grateful Dead; see p55 and 67) had been taking Tim Leary’s enthusiasm for acid out of the labs and lecture theatres and into the streets and dancehalls. What they hadn’t predicted was that Leary’s call of “Turn On, Tune In and Drop Out” would send a massive influx of youngsters, all in search of the hippy dream, rushing to the Haight, whose fragile ecosystem was swiftly overrun. A unique social experiment in new ways of living was turned, almost overnight, into a new set of social problems. But the Haight’s creativity and idealism – swiftly commodified and commercialised though it was – is well worth celebrating, and its legacy endures, in all sorts of unexpected ways, today.
FT352:25: Mags Glennon emailed with a correction to this issue’s ‘Fairies Folklore and Forteana’ column. “The reported sightings of a leprechaun in April 1908 took place in the Killough area of Co Westmeath. This townland is about 10 miles from Mullingar, where, as the article mentioned, a wee man was later caught. By contrast Co Down is 100 miles away.”
FT352:39: David Clarke’s author biography was cruelly truncated by a last-minute design error. For anyone wondering what “He is the author of”, the answer is “How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth (2015).”