A British professor is getting a swarm of attention for a series of photos depicting tiny creatures that he suggests look like fairies.
John Hyatt, who lectures on art research at Manchester Metropolitan University, took the photos around Lancashire, UK. The collection, entitled "Rossendale Fairies," is on display at the Whitaker Museum in Rossendale.
In an email to The Huffington Post, Hyatt said that he spotted the tiny creatures after taking pictures at dusk.
"I was just taking sunset through the trees and when I enlarged the photographs later in the studio, I saw these figures," he wrote. "They are not doctored apart from I increased the size of a detailed section of a larger photograph along with the DPI to stop them being just large pixels -- normal size enhancement techniques."
He said that the creatures in his photos don't look like normal insects.
“It was a bit of a shock when I blew them up, I did a double take," he told the Manchester Evening News. “I went out afterwards and took pictures of flies and gnats and they just don’t look the same."
Hyatt's photos have skeptics buzzing around him like flies. In fact, flies are what the photos actually show, according to one insect expert.
Entomologist Erica McLaughlin writes in the British Natural History Museum's NaturePlus blog that the creatures that Hyatt photographed are most likely a small species of fly known as the "midge."
"These tiny midges form mating swarms where the males will ‘dance’ around trying to attract the opposite sex," she writes. They have delicate wings and long legs which dangle down."
Hyatt isn't worried about skeptics:
“People can decide for themselves what they are. The message to people is to approach them with an open mind," he said, according to the Mirror. “I think it’s one of those situations where you need to believe to see. A lot of people who have seen them say they have brought a little bit of magic into their lives and there’s not enough of that around.”
However, Hyatt's opinion on the subject was enough to convince former FBI special agent Ben Hansen -- the former host and lead investigator of paranormal claims on the Syfy Channel series, "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files" -- that Hyatt is fully aware that his photos don't really show fairies.
"The majority of his quotes are redirecting the conversation away from the facts of the case and instead, toward a discussion on belief and magic," Hansen told HuffPost by email. "His motive? He clearly does what you would expect for an art and design director to do... bring 'magic into their lives' by appreciating the beauty of life that 'grows everywhere,' which in turn 'can make people believe.'"
Hansen is also skeptical that Hyatt had no clue he was photographing "fairies" until he developed the photos.
"The foliage is all blurred together for that artsy look that really crushes the background. He says he didn't see the fairies until later, but aside from the motion blur, they look quite in focus," Hansen said. "It would be quite coincidental that the fairies all happened to emerge in front of the camera at the precise distance they would be in focus."
The title of the show, "Rossendale Fairies," appears to be a direct reference to the Cottingley Fairies, a famous hoax involving fairies that occurred in 1917.
In that case, two girls, Elsie Wright, 16, and Frances Griffiths, 10, pasted drawings of fairies onto cardboard and took pictures of themselves with the mythical creatures. Although it sounds endearingly low-tech, the photos managed to convince luminaries like Sherlock Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that the fairies were real, according to the Daily Mail.
The author wasn't alone. In fact, the Cottingly Fairies created enough doubt that some believers were genuinely shocked when Griffiths admitted they were a hoax in 1983.
Considering Doyle was duped by a hoax, it may seem ironic that Hyatt quotes him to defend the validity of his paranormal pics to HuffPost.
"In [Doyle's] 1922 book, 'The Coming of the Fairies,' he said, 'We see objects within the limits which make up our color spectrum, with infinite vibrations, unused by us, on either side of them If we could conceive a race of beings which were constructed in material which threw out shorter or longer vibrations, they would be invisible unless we could tune ourselves up or tone them down… there is nothing scientifically impossible, so far as I can see, in some people seeing that which is invisible to others.'"
Hyatt's background is in art, but he doesn't believe that prevents his photos from providing a window to a world so far missed by scientists.
"I think it is entirely appropriate that the beauty of the artistic form enables people to open up to the possibilities of their world and to see it with fresh eyes. That is the goal of both the artist and the scientist," he wrote to HuffPost.