10 Crazy Hoaxes That Duped the World

Cottingley Fairies
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's interest helped turn the Cottingley fairies into a worldwide phenomenon. General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1917, when Elsie Wright and her cousin, Frances Griffiths, were kids living near Cottingley, England, they wanted to prove fairies existed. So they took a few photographs of each other with fairies dancing around them. Elsie had drawn the paper cut-outs, and the two used hatpins to invisibly set them in place. The girls' parents assumed they were trick photos, although the girls refused to admit it [source: Coppens].

Their fairy tale would have been nothing but a harmless home prank, except Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- a possible culprit in the previous hoax -- heard about the photos. Doyle was a big believer in fairies, and was about to write an article about them. He viewed the photos and mentioned them in his article. Soon people all over the world were viewing the girls' photos and excited to learn of the existence of fairies [source: Coppens].

The cousins stuck to their story for decades, only admitting the photos had been faked in the 1980s, when they were old and long retired. Today, people still travel to Cottingley to see the glen where the fairies were once photographed [source: Coppens].