From The Surrey Shore . . .
The Newsletter of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore Vol. 3, No. 5, October 2004
****A Scion Society for All Who Enjoy Sherlock Holmes in All His Manifestations!****
That’s what you’ll get when you join the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore at our first A.C. Doyle Mini-Film Fest, on Saturday, November 20, from 1:30-4 p.m., at the Lawrence Library on north Hague Rd. on Indianapolis’ northeast side. We’ll be featuring rare videos starring two of Conan Doyle’s most famous literary creations—Sherlock Holmes (of course) and (sorry, not Barker, but . . .) Professor George Edward Challenger, from Doyle’s early 20th-century science fiction classic, The Lost World. We’ll be running two (or more, depending on time) half-hour Holmes adventures from the 1950s, starring Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes (and, no, that’s not Opie). In addition, as our feature presentation (which you’ll enjoy in particular if you hate those noisy theaters where the sound is turned up so much your teeth rattle), we’ll be offering the original, silent version of The Lost World (complete with classic stop-animation dinosaurs—none of those CGI effects here). And if you just can’t go to a movie without a bit of munching, popcorn and drinks will be available—for free! In fact, the entire program is free. What a deal! (We’ll try to have a few Sherlockian surprises as well, but we can’t tell you about them here because, well, they’re surprises.) So plan to join the Hated Rivals for an afternoon of viewing pleasure—it’s a complete mystery to us why any true Sherlockian movie buff would want to miss this one. Hope to see you there. For directions, see the “Coming Meetings” section, near the end of this newsletter.
Well, it appears that the frost is on the pumpkins and the leaves are on the ground (except for those hardy souls that still cling to the branches of their trees, defying as of yet the chill in the air and the pull of gravity). That means that it’s either Autumn or Earth has suddenly been transported out of its orbit to one that’s farther from the sun. Hmmm. I think I’ll place my bet on Autumn. As I write this, Halloween is just around the corner (although it’ll probably be past by the time you get this), and Thanksgiving is but a short month away. And just before that, of course, is our November mini-film fest meeting, with lots of old gems of a Sherlockian/Doylian nature. I hope that you’ll join the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore for that event. (And along with your deerstalkers and Inverness capes, do bring your magnifying glasses—it is, after all, a mini-film fest.) In the meantime, following are a few seasonal musings for your enjoyment and edification.
In keeping with the proximity of All Hallows Eve, my thoughts turn—as is often the case on many occasions—to Sherlock Holmes. And in keeping with the season, they now turn to Holmes’ relationship with the darker side of human nature. (As Holmes would agree, the seamier side of humanity offers horrors enough without any resort to the supernatural.) And so, rather than dwelling on Holmes’ many pastiche encounters with such fictional Victorian creatures of the night as Dracula or Mr. Hyde, we turn now to one very real creature of the night—one who haunted the streets of London’s East End during the late summer and autumn of 1888: Jack the Ripper! (Quick intake of breath, a sudden shiver up the spine, and the sound of heavy, pounding music—no, that’s not Jack on the way; just a few cheap special effects thrown in for atmosphere.)
Most of you who know anything at all about Jack the Ripper (and some of you who may not) are probably well aware that the Whitechapel Killer murdered and mutilated some five women in London’s East End during those months of terror. (At least that was the Metropolitan Police’s official count—some credit the knife-wielding fiend with at least two and sometimes more deaths. And one of the official victims, Elizabeth “Long Liz” Stride wasn’t mutilated, as the Ripper was apparently scared off by an approaching bystander before he could “do his work.”) The police seemed to have no idea of who the Ripper was nor how to stop him—at least in all the official reports. (Some Scotland Yard officials, in writing their memoirs in later years, did claim to know who the Ripper was—and some even identified him.) He spread fear throughout the city and the nation until, following his last crime, the murder of Mary Kelly, he suddenly disappeared.
Soon afterward, the police began to stand down from the myriad patrols they’d initiated after the Ripper’s second murder proved that his first wasn’t just a random event. Some took this as evidence that the authorities did know who he was and that he was no longer a threat—either dead or incarcerated. But no official record was ever provided, if that was, indeed, the case. Which is probably why the Ripper—who really was, by modern standards, a piker at serial killings—still fascinates us today. Many have made a study of Jack the Ripper if not their life’s work (which some have), at least as significant a hobby in their lives as those of us who are aficionados of the Great Sleuth of Baker Street. Just as we are known as Sherlockians, such people have dubbed themselves Ripperologists. (And in truth, many of us who are among the first category also count ourselves in the second as well, at least to varying degrees.)
Speculation on the Ripper’s identity has ranged from a mad doctor to an American poisoner to a member of the Royal Family. Modern-day FBI profilers have, on studying the facts and suspects in the case, identified one Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. (Kosminski was incarcerated in a mental institution soon after the last of the Ripper murders and was identified as a prime suspect by the police.) But not all agree with their conclusion. Some cling to conspiracy theories that identify the Ripper as a Freemason set on a task to preserve the Crown. Others continue to set forth their own theories—and to write books about them. Ah, many may wish—if only Sherlock Holmes were a real person (not realizing that, to many, he is). If he’d been on the case, the Ripper surely would have been caught. Well, in fact, Holmes was on the case. Not in reality (sigh), but in a number of movies and pastiches filmed and written over the course of the second half of the 20th century. (Doyle, alas, never wrote the Ripper into the Canon—unless, of course, one of the untold tales that Watson mentioned actually concealed the true identity of Saucy Jack behind one of many seemingly incidental and outlandish names.)
One of the first filmatic (and literary) clashes between Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper was the movie (and pastiche by Ellery Queen) A Study in Terror. In that story, Holmes identified the Ripper, but the killer himself perished in a fiery inferno, leaving the public unaware of his identity. (By the way, I’m not going to give too much away about these various stories, in case you want to look them up for future viewing or reading.) A second cinematic duel between these two giants of Victorian legend took place in the film (and novelization) Murder By Decree. This was a fictionalized version of the Masonic conspiracy theory first described in detail in the late Stephen Knight’s Jack the Ripper—The Final Solution. Knight identified Sir William Gull, physician in ordinary to Queen Victoria, as the Ripper, although the movie itself used a different name for this version of old Leather Apron.
Various writers have shown considerable ingenuity in identifying Jack the Ripper in the pages of a number of Holmes pastiches. Even the distinguished William S. Baring-Gould couldn’t help but do so in his “biography” of Holmes, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. Sadly, Baring-Gould picked Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones, from Sign of the Four, as the Ripper—and even more sadly, it was Watson who figured it out and saved Holmes, who was patrolling Whitechapel disguised as a streetwalker! One pastiche writer—his name and the title of his book I’ve long forgotten—even singled out poor Watson’s brother as Saucy Jack, which, of course, nearly unhinged the good doctor. And, of course, the height of blasphemy was Michael Didbin’s The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, in which Holmes turned out to be Jack the Ripper! (The Great Detective also turned out, by the way, to be Moriarty, in a split-personality twist on the Sherlockian saga.)
Probably the best—and in some ways the worst (but waaaay after Didbin’s)—of all the Holmes-Ripper pastiches was The Whitechapel Horrors, by Edward B. Hanna. It was the best in that it contained some of the best period atmosphere, plus it was copiously annotated, with notes describing all the places, characters, and events that Holmes and Watson encountered in the Ripper investigation. Even if you never read a factual book about the Ripper, or late Victorian London, you could learn quite a bit from this novel. It was one of the worst, however, in that, in the end, even Sherlock Holmes was unable to deduce the true identify of Jack the Ripper—he confessed to Watson that he had no idea who the Ripper could be! (Now, I know that the author was being true to the factual history he built up around the case, but I found it very unsatisfying to go through the entire book and then find that Holmes couldn’t solve it. Sure—no one ever did, but this is Sherlock Holmes! In a lengthy novel that you’ve invested so much time in, you want to see Holmes triumph—or at least have an answer, even if Holmes himself doesn’t produce it.) In retrospect, even with the let-down at the end, I enjoyed the book for its background information and atmosphere. I just wish I’d known in advance that Holmes would turn up empty-handed. It wouldn’t have been so much of a disappointment if I had. (And now that you do know, so that you’re forewarned, I can recommend the book to you; you can find used copies for a pittance on Amazon.com.)
Other Holmes-Ripper pastiches are out there—even Irene Adler has clashed with Saucy Jack in a couple of Carole Nelson Douglas’ novels about THE woman. And I was privileged myself to add a new page to the Holmes-Ripper saga some 12 years ago when I co-wrote much of From Dark Pages.
It was early in 1992 when our own Russell (Mimi DeMore), then working at the Victorian Morris Butler House in downtown Indy, contacted me and some other Sherlockian writers she knew. She asked us to help out on an interactive mystery drama to be presented at the museum that Halloween. The concept was that Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were to lead visitors throughout the house in search of Jack the Ripper. Along the way, they’d encounter various monsters and horror writers from Victorian literature. Several people contributed to the final script (including Hated Rival Jon Burroughs).
I ended up writing the opening sequence, where Holmes and Doyle first met the visitors in the entrance way of the house, along with the first room, in which Holmes encounters Queen Victoria and Sir William Gull (see above). I also co-wrote, with Mimi, the final room’s scene, in which Holmes and Watson encounter the Ripper in a “séance” vision that turns out to be real. And I wrote the closing sequence in which Holmes and Gull (the Ripper) fight it out on the stairways of the house, with Watson turning up at the end to save the day, per Holmes’ plan. I wrote a few opening, ending, and connecting sequences for some of the rooms as well—in particular, those where the party encounters first Frankenstein and then Dracula. The following year, I wrote a pre-opening sequence involving H.G. Wells, although it wasn’t actually performed until sometime later. (Jon wrote a room for Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” the first year and, the following year, a ghostly room in the house’s tower. He later wrote at least one more room to replace an earlier one in subsequent years.)
The first two years that From Dark Pages ran, I had the honor of playing Holmes. (Having written most of his lines myself, of course, helped in my presentation; sadly, subsequent actors in the role have not done so well, according to reports that I’ve received.) Jon played Poe the first year and Doyle the second; Mimi and Jon’s wife, Ronda, also had roles in the play, among current Hated Rivals. Overall, although it was a lot of work, it was also a great deal of fun. (Ask me about From Dark Pages—the Mini-Game at a future meeting.) Regrettably, after Mimi left and the responsibility for the production went to others, the agreement we’d made for them to use our work for free in exchange for writing credits in the program was no longer honored. So if you’ve gone in past years, you may have had no idea whose words Holmes, Doyle, the Ripper, and other characters were speaking. (We hope to get this remedied in the future.)
Oh, and if you’re wondering why I chose Gull as the Ripper, I had several reasons. For one thing, a Ripper miniseries of a few years earlier featured Gull as Red Jack, and I figured most of the public who attended would be familiar with that. And, unlike many other favorite suspects, Gull is one who cannot be completely ruled out as Saucy Jack. (Unlike the Duke of Clarence, who someone decided to name as the Ripper rather than Gull sometime after we were no longer involved, rewriting later scenes in the play to reflect that erroneous choice. This uninformed revisionism makes the entire scene in the Queen’s chambers ridiculous, because that phantom writer failed to change any of Holmes’ lines where he assured the Queen in no uncertain terms that the Duke was not the Ripper. Sigh—the follies of wannabe amateurs. Why had I ruled out the Duke of Clarence as the Ripper? Because he was demonstrably in other locations around England at the time of several of the murders. He could not possibly have made it to London and back unnoticed, given the state of 19th-century transportation capabilities—not to mention that he was an heir to the throne and quite easily identified. So Gull it was—and should have remained, for continuity purposes if for no other reason.)
But so it goes. At least you’ve now had your own little Halloween tour of the overlapping worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper (as well as your humble writer’s own part in it, however small that may be). Perhaps at some time in the future, I’ll expand upon this mini-essay. (Or maybe not.) I will let you know of our progress in reobtaining our authors’ credits in future From Dark Pages shows as the situation unfolds. In the meantime, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
And on that not-so-spooky note, I remain, till next issue, as always . . .
—C. Barker, Esq.
The weather cooperated beautifully for the Hated Rivals’ second tour of historic Crown Hill Cemetery, in west Indianapolis. In contrast to the 95+ degree temperatures and stifling humidity that plagued our tour two years ago, the skies were sunny and the temperatures were in the ’70s for a pleasant outdoor excursion with the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore. We met at the waiting station just inside the main entrance to the cemetery, where we were able to secure some additional tour maps for our self-guided tour. So all in attendance who wanted could have a map as a keepsake of the meeting. Our trek across the green lawns and past the gray, brown, and white tombstones, crypts, and monuments offered an historical smorgasbord of famous Hoosiers (and others) from the Victorian era. (If, indeed, “smorgasbord” is an appropriate term for describing these hallowed grounds and the dearly departed that inhabit them.) Among our stops were the gravesites of Benjamin Harrison, Col. Eli Lilly, Booth Tarkington, and Richard Gatling (inventor of the Gatling gun), as well as many the markers for the Confederate soldiers who died in Indiana POW camps during the Civil War. Of course, we also trekked on up to the highest point in the cemetery—that of the gravesite of Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley. (Well, okay—we drove up.) From that vantage point, we could see much of the entire city and took some breathtaking photos. We even met there a prospective new member! After wrapping up our tomb-ultuous trek, we adjourned to Aristocrat, the chosen restaurant of the day, on north College Avenue. There we indulged in our Canonical toasts, engaged in likely Sherlockian discussions, and began to plan for next year’s meetings. (Oh, yes—we also dined in fine style as well. No smorgasbord here, though.) Satiated on all counts—both in food and Sherlockian fellowship—we went our separate ways, eagerly anticipating the next meeting of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore.
The Victorians didn’t have movies or videos (or DVDs) as we do today. But they did enjoy a form of “moving pictures” through use of the magic lantern. This device projected light through painted slides, which were often made to “move” through animation and special effects, changing every 30 seconds or thereabouts. By the end of the century, you could find magic lanterns almost everywhere; in addition to those used in theatres and large-scale halls, magic lanterns found their place in homes, schools, churches, and fraternal lodges. While small-scale versions were given as toys to children, larger magic lanterns were often huge mahogany-and-brass devices, with double lenses lit by limelight, and known as a stereopticon.
Magic lantern shows in theatres often included live showmen and musicians providing a “sound-track” for the slide story on-screen. The audience even joined in to provide their own sound effects, from cheering, clapping, and booing to playing tambourines and horns. The Royal Polytechnic Institute, a popular museum in London, contained a large theatre designed especially for sophisticated magic lantern productions. (For more information on this form of Victorian “movie,” visit the Web site of the Magic Lantern Shows—which you can find at wwwmagiclanternshows.com/history.htm—from which this information was derived.)
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini team up yet again in the pages of The Arcanum, by Thomas Wheeler (Bantam, 2004; $22 in hardback; $14 in paperback; discounted at Web sites such as Amazon.com). This time, the year is 1919, and the two men are members of a secret group of spiritualist detectives know as (of course), the Arcanum. When the group’s leader is murdered in Hyde Park and his copy of the extra-biblical Book of Enoch stolen, Doyle and Houdini track the killer to New York City and interact with other literary lights of the period, including H.P. Lovecraft. Throw in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, the Nephilim of Genesis 6, the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” and the end of the world, and you’ve got a pretty wild ride. Reviews of the book are mixed—from hating it to loving it—but if the above piques your interest, you may find it worthwhile to pick up a copy. (Hint: A number of new and used copies are for sale on Amazon.com for fractions of the book’s retail cost—or Amazon’s regular price.)
A bit more word on the Tom Cruise-produced version of War of the Worlds reveals that Steven Speilberg has signed on to direct the movie, based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel. That can be only good news for those who enjoy that director’s work. Still no word, however, on whether it’ll be set in the original 1890s time period and in Britain (unlike the recent remake of The Time Machine, which was set in the correct period but inexplicably moved to America). No word, either on when to expect the movie, but given how long it usually takes to bring a picture to the screen, we don’t expect it before sometime in 2006.
The name of Sherlock Holmes often appears in rather strange places, but one of the most unusual that we’ve seen recently is in the eschatological book End-Time Delusions, by Steve Wohlberg (Destiny Image; $13.99). In the book, which critiques many currently popular apocalyptic schemes (such as the “left behind” theories and the myriad attempts to identify “the antichrist”), the author conjures up in one chapter the memory of Holmes, where he employs the Great Detective’s methods to evaluate yet another popular end-times belief, that of “the restrainer.” (If you’re not familiar with many of these ideas, feel free to drop us an e-mail for a more detailed explanation.) The sharp (or even the average) Sherlockian will spot some errors in the author’s usage—the author’s Holmes, for example, calls the good doctor “Mr. Watson” instead of just “Watson” or “Doctor,” as in the Canon. But even so, we can’t really object to the author’s attempt to introduce the Master Sleuth of Baker Street to audiences that may not normally be aware of him. (To do so would probably be an even worse delusion.)
A recent TV promo for the new Fox series House described the lead character (or maybe the series itself—the promo wasn’t totally clear) as solving mysteries like “Sherlock Holmes with a stethoscope.” (But wait—wouldn’t that be Watson?)
It’s baaaack! No, not another Poltergeist movie—but a new edition of the Holmes book that many consider to be among the most blasphemous ever published: Ms. Holmes of Baker Street, The Truth About Sherlock, by C. Alan Bradley and William A.S. Sarjeant. This second edition has a new introduction, but it otherwise appears to promote the same theory as the original: that Sherlock Holmes was, indeed, a woman. (Well, it would explain a few things . . .) If you’re not totally aghast at the idea (or the price—$34.95 for a 288-page paperback), you can get more info at the following Web site: www.uap.ualberta.ca. To order, fax toll-free at 1-800-678-2120 or e-mail email@example.com. (The book is published by the University of Alberta Press, which may go a long way to explaining it. Ah, those Canadians . . .)
And if you’re an aficionado of all sorts of Victorian literature, well-known and obscure—and, in particular, of the works of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, creators extraordinaire of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—you’ll love A Blazing World: The Unofficial Companion to the Second League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, by Jess Nevins (MonkeyBrain, 2004; $15.95). Like his earlier LXG volume (Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, described in an earlier edition of our newsletter), this book delves into the sources behind Moore’s and O’Neill’s second graphic series about the League (also available, collected in both hardback and softback). Jesse Nevins’ knowledge of obscure Victoriana is amazing, as he traces, panel by panel, the roots of all the images, characters, and situations in the second series—as well as a few peripheral items, such as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen game. If you want to learn more about Victorian literary trivia, this is the book for you—even if you’ve never read the series it’s based on. (Available at most bookstores, specialty comic book stores, and on-line outlets such as Amazon.com—often at a discount.)
Another new book for those interested in all aspects of life in Victorian Britain is Eating with the Victorians, by C. Anne Wilson (Sutton Publishing, 2004; $16.95). This delicious little book tells the story of typical Victorian meals, spread throughout the day, from breakfast through afternoon tea, on to supper (which, for the Victorians, often ran very late in the evening). If you’re looking for more insight, presented in a most tasteful way, to the kinds of meals Holmes and Watson may have devoured at 221B Baker Street (or that Mrs. Watson may have prepared the good doctor during his marriage), you’ll definitely want to chomp down on this tasty offering. (Okay—sorry. I couldn’t resist.) Available at most bookstores and such online outlets as (of course) Amazon.com—and even Edward R. Hamilton (where I found it).
Those of you here in the Hoosier state may want to indulge in a couple local Victorian events this December. The Old World Christmas Village and Market, at Joy of All Who Sorrow Eastern Orthodox Church, in Indianapolis, offers a Victorian-era Christmas village, with music, dining, shops, live entertainment, and other features, December 3-4. Admission is free. For more information, call 317-251-6354. And on December 12, at the Hillforest Victorian House Museum, in Aurora, Indiana, you can celebrate Christmas with a Victorian flair and an afternoon of holiday music at Hillforest’s Victorian Christmas Open House. This one does have an admission charge, however. For more information, go to www.hillforest.org on the Web or call 812-926-0087.
Following are the details of our upcoming meeting, plus the date and tentative information about our first meeting of 2005. (Check our Web site or our Indianapolis Star Web page for updates.) So set these dates aside to join the Hated Rivals at the following soirées:
A.C. Doyle Mini-Film Fest
Saturday, November 20, 2004, 1:30-4 p.m.
7898 N. Hague Road
Directions and Details: The Library is on North Hague Road, between 75th and 82nd streets, just a few blocks south of East 82nd Street and just north of the Lawrence North High School, on the Northeast side of Indianapolis. Take I-465 to I-69 N. and get off at the 82nd Street exit (the first exit on I-69). Turn left (east) and go to Hague Road, which is just a few blocks east of the exit. Turn right (south) and go straight until the road widens to two lanes; the library is just south of that, on the right. (For a map showing the location of the library or additional information about its location, check out the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Web site’s Locations page at www.imcpl.org/location.htm; scroll down till you find the Lawrence Library entry and click the Map link.) The program will include rare videos of a Sherlock Holmes series from the ’50s, plus the original, silent film version of Doyle’s The Lost World. Free snacks will be served, and a few surprises may turn up as well. The entire event is free, so we hope to see you there!
And don’t forget to mark your calendar for the first of next year’s great meetings . . .
Sunday, January 9, 2005: Our Annual Victorian Tea
and (Slightly Belated) Sherlock Holmes Birthday Party
Location: The Hamilton Country Historical Society Jail Museum in Noblesville
(Note: Dates and programs are tentative and subject to change as circumstances
change—but we’ll try to stick to these as much as possible!)
For more information, or for a hard copy of the newsletter, contact us at P.O. Box 26290, Indianapolis, IN 46226-0290; or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (And don’t forget to venture online to check out our Hated Rivals Web site itself, which you can find at http://surrey-shore.freeservers.com, for recent updates; or drop on by our Indy Star Web page at http://community.indystar.com/928/.) See you again in two months, back on the ol’ Surrey Shore, where the game’s always afoot! (But you already knew that—didn’t you?)
And Now, for Your Additional Creative Enjoyment . . .
“The Return of the Blank Space”
(A New Do-It-Yourself Sherlock Holmes Mystery!)
Instructions: As described last issue for “The Adventure of the Blank Space,” pick up a pen, pencil, tube of lipstick, or a crayon (or, if you insist, a bloody engineer’s thumb or even a mangled stub chewed off by the Hound of the Baskervilles—we’re not choosy). Proceed to write down in the following space your own Sherlock Holmes story. You can be as creative as you like. Make it a drama, a comedy, a love story (well, maybe for Watson), or even a farce. Include new characters or old, such as Inspectors Lestrade, Gregson, or Hopkins; Irene Adler; Professor Moriarty—maybe even (dare we suggest it?) Mr. Barker himself. Hey—you can even make them talking dogs or cats, if you want to. After all, this is your story! (The one and only stipulation is that it—yes, the entire story—must fit in the following space.) And after you’ve finished your masterpiece, send it on to us. If it’s good enough, we may just publish it in a future newsletter. (Or we may not. Depends on whether we run short again.) So have at it! (And most of all, as always, have fun!)
(Okay, we admit it—we just ran short of things to discuss again in this issue of the newsletter. But, hey—think of all the creative things you can do to make up for it. This may even be your big start on a life-long career of mystery writing . . . . naaaaw! In any event, enjoy!)