THE world famous Cottingley Fairies hoax has inspired a chilling novel exploring post-natal depression.

The Cottingley Cuckoo by Alison Littlewood (writing as AJ Elwood) is described as an "eerie reimagining" of the fairy photographs which fooled many people, including scientists and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in the early 20th century.

Set in Cottingley, the novel is a gothic take on "the darker side of motherhood" and the terrifying impact of the mischievous fairies of Cottingley Beck through the years. Elwood interweaves a modern day setting with past events to create a story of mystery, fantasy, and psychological horror.

Captivated by books and stories, Rose dreams of a life away from the care home where she works, until elderly resident Charlotte Favell offers an unexpected glimpse of enchantment. She keeps an old stack of letters about the Cottingley Fairies, which insist there is proof that they existed. Rose is eager to learn more, but Charlotte allows her to read only a piece at a time, drawing Rose into her web.

As the content of the letters grows more menacing, Rose discovers she is pregnant. Her obsession with what really happened in Cottingley all those years ago spirals; as inexplicable events begin to occur in her home, and she's plagued with dark thoughts about her baby and its origins.

The Cottingley Fairies hoax continues to intrigue, more than a century after the photographs were taken by cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright between 1917 and 1920. It started when Frances, then nine, and Elsie, 15, went to Cottingley Beck with a small quarter plate camera and photographed magazine drawings of dancing fairies and a gnome, stuck to leaves and branches by hatpins.

After the images were presented to Bradford Theosophical Society, they drew the attention of Sherlock Holmes creator Conan Doyle who publicly declared that he believed them genuine. He encouraged the girls to take more fairy photos and what began as a mischievous prank became one of the biggest examples of image manipulation in photography.

Frances and Elsie kept the hoax secret for over 60 years until the early 1980s, when photographic journalist Geoffrey Crawley wrote a series of articles about them, prompting Elsie to write to him, revealing the truth. The story inspired the film Fairytale: A True Story which premiered in Bradford in 1988.

The National Science and Media Museum has several artefacts relating to the hoax, including two cameras given to the girls by Conan Doyle and a quarter-plate ‘Midg’ camera used for their first photographs.