2007, March: The Mummified Fairy of Derbyshire

The story first appeared online sometime late in March, 2007, in a webpage titled "Do Fairies Live at the Bottom of Your Garden?" The reason for the strange title was simple: the author claimed to be in possession of the mummified body of fairy, found recently in Derbyshire... and there was more. Pictures; lots of pictures.

        According to the account, the remains had been found by a local Derbyshire man (who wished to remain anonymous) while he was out walking his dog. The pair was following an "old Roman Road" located between the villages of Duffield and Belper, which had "long been shrouded in mystery with tales of ghostly highwaymen and strange 'dancing' lights on warm summer evenings." As they were passing an ancient burial mound they'd passed many times before, the dog began to bark at the mound and stopped walking, refusing to go anywhere near it.

        Wondering what was bothering the dog, the man approached the mound to examine it... and then he found the strange mummy, measuring only about eight inches tall.

Mummified FairyThe body. [Larger version here]

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        The man took the body home in a biscuit tin, and informed the police of his find the following day. They took the body for analysis... and also quickly contacted a "local expert on the paranormal," who then became the author of the article about the find. Understandably, the police were trying to keep the matter quiet until they had some answers about what the body was. The man who found the remains took the author to the mound where he found them.

        The burial mound proved to be a treasure trove of sorts, as the interior of the mound contained at least twenty other small bodies, in various states of mummification; some were preserved well enough that tiny fingernails and eyebrows could be seen!

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The author started to document all of the evidence in the mound. On one occasion, however, he was shocked to discover that someone had attempted to reseal the cave under the mound... the author had to wonder who had done it; the location of the mound and the nature of the find had not been made public at the time; and the true location of the mound is still kept secret.

        The author estimated that the state of the remains and other evidence around them suggested that the mummies were around four-hundred years old. The body gave a few other clues regarding the creatures; though no reproductive organs were visible, the body had a navel; this implied the 'fairies' reproduced in much the same manner as humans do. Cryptozoologists were said to have concluded that in life, the creatures would probably have blended into the environment so expertly as to be practically invisible to normal inspection; and it was further felt the creatures likely lived in treetops, only coming to the surface on rare occasion and perhaps passing Winter months underground.

        The body had also been examined by anthropologists and forensic experts who all agreed that the body was in fact the remains of a once living creature. Under X-ray examination the bones were found to be similar to a human child's, but were notably hollow, much like a bird's bones... so the skeleton was especially light in weight.

        The author also speculated that many such caves might exist undiscovered throughout England. He planned to return the body that had been examined back to the mound and then reseal the cave to return it to hiding.

        Considering how simple the webpage was, it didn't take long for it to attract a lot of attention; it received 20,000 hits soon after publication!

An April 1st Confession

        On April 1, 2007, just a few days after the story and pictures had first been posted, the website received an update... one that more than a few people didn't want to see.

        The fairy was a fake. It had been created by a man named Dan Baines, an artist "who designs illusions for magicians." He hadn't quite expected the explosive response his post would get from people when he put it up. By way of an excuse, Baines explained that he believed in fairies, and was curious if fairy belief was still out there in modern society; and the response to his fairy body story told him it was. In fact, despite this confession, a number of people continued to believe the body was real, postulating that a 'cover-up' was taking place; and Baines was urged by one person to return the body to the mound as soon as possible, "or face the consequences."

         It was only after the April 1st confession was posted that major news networks picked up the story, with the BBC News website running the headline "Fairy fool sparks huge response"... but given how quickly this story was posted -- it went up on April 1 -- I have to suspect that the BBC reporters were likely aware of the story before the confession was posted.

        While attention was still focused on the hoax -- and possibly to stop the people who believed the body to be real -- Baines placed the figure up for sale in Ebay, and on April 11, 2007, another BBC News article announced that the 'fairy' had sold for £280 (about $550) to an unnamed art collector in the United States. Baines told the BBC News that he "had become addicted to April Fool's jokes and is not ruling out similar pranks in the future."

        In the wake of the hoax, Baines announced he was creating a new website -- www.SecretOfTheHollowHills.co.uk -- which would both document the story of the hoax, and also encourage other creative people to share their fairy related stories and art; this site appears to have died around 2013. On April 1, 2014, seven years after the hoax was revealed, Baines offered a 'how to' DVD and supply kit for making your own fairy through Kickstarter, which garnered him £9,332 (about $15,500) before it was done.

        I mention all of this for one reason: on October 15, 2019, Baines found a new story to sell. Curious? Follow the 'See Also' link below.