A Mysterious Light

A previously unknown image from among the famous O’Malley children faerie photographs. The photograph was found between the pages of Mary O’Malley’s girlhood diary, which was only recently brought to light through the opening of the O’Malley family archive at Cambridge University. Dated 11 June 1897, the photograph was likely taken on the grounds of Undershaw, the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Hindhead, England where the O’Malley children had been invited to spend the summer by Conan Doyle’s son Kingsley. Mary O’Malley’s diary entry for this date is brief but illuminating: “More rambles through the woods today. P. brought his camera and we spent all morning hunting, though the rain kept most of them away. K. insists on showing his father, but the four of us swore him to secrecy. I believe he’ll keep quiet, but P. doesn’t think so.”


  1. P. was right this time, and Mary was amazed 33 years later when she visited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in spring 1930, shortly before he passed away. He informed her that the fairy lights were actually reflections of convex mirrors which he personally installed around the property to create a mystery for the children. Apparently, this was only one example of him transforming his extraordinary imagination into practice. To further support his explanation, he stressed that the fairies use to disappear with rain, which fended off the sunlight.

  2. While Mary O'Malley was completely focused on the fairies of the woods, the other children were much more concerned with what would happen when the GIANT at the other end of the teeter-totter they were seated on suddenly stood up. "Help, help," they cried in tiny frightened voices. But then Mother brought everyone sandwiches, including the giant -- who didn't move after all, and all was well.