I’ve been collecting Sherlock Holmes stories, both Canon and Pastiche, since 1975. One of the busiest and most important periods in Holmes's life was in the fall of 1888, during The Autumn of Terror. There have been dozens narratives about this subject over the years, each offering different and sometimes conflicting versions of the battle with Jack the Ripper. What follows is an explanation of how none of these accounts actually contradict each other, with only one version being “true”, thereby making all the others false.
Early on in my collecting and reading, it became apparent that Holmes’s investigation of The Ripper was one of the most complicated of his career. By reading all of the various accounts of Our Hero’s labors, I was forced to learn great deal about The Ripper’s crimes, almost by necessity. I’ve been able to make three extensive Holmes Pilgrimages to London and England in 2013, 2015, and 2016. During those trips, my ever-present deerstalker and I have spent quite a bit of time in Whitechapel, visiting the locations of the different murders, as well as associated buildings, such as the Ten Bells Pub. I’ve explored those streets a total of six times, two times per trip. I’ve been there three different times in daylight, and three different times at night. Two of the three nighttime explorations began with the tours conducted by Donald Rumbelow, the former City of London police officer who is the acknowledged worldwide expert on The Ripper. He and I had several discussions about Holmes’s involvement in the case, and – pointing out my deerstalker to the crowd – Mr. Rumbelow added extra Holmesian content to the tours on those nights.
I discovered the following tale during my first Holmes Pilgrimage to London in September 2013. This narrative, along with a number of other Watsonian manuscripts, were unearthed during a fortuitous encounter in St. Martin’s Street, near the Westminster Reference Library, and more documents will be released in the future, in addition to those already published. "November, 1888" was originally in The Watsonian (Fall 2015, Volume 3, Number 2), and will be included in some future volume of Watson’s works, as edited by me. I decided to put this document onto my blog for a couple of reasons: First, because since it was initially revealed, there have been a few more Holmes-versus-The Ripper narratives published, showing that the entire story has yet to be completely told; and also because I’m often writing to this-or-that person about Holmes’s involvement in the Ripper investigation, and now I can simply send them a link, instead of reinventing the wheel every time to explain just what Holmes did in those terrible days of late 1888.
Edited by David Marcum
From the Journals of Mycroft Holmes
26 November, 1888
I was just pouring the brandy when my brother was shown into the Stranger’s Room. It was only a few days since I had last seen him, and he looked more careworn today than he had before, in spite of the fact that the events of the last few months seem to finally be passing.
Without making it an offer that he might refuse, I filled a second glass with a healthy portion. I did not know if he had eaten this morning, although I doubted it, but I was sure that he would be sensible enough to imbibe slowly and moderately, avoiding any light-headedness. There was no room in today’s discussion for that.
I saw him glance toward the window, looking out onto Pall Mall. A smile flickered across his worn and thin face as he correctly perceived that I had spent the last quarter-of-an-hour there, looking out on the constant parade of mankind moving back and forth between St. James and Waterloo Place. How lucky they are, those passing pedestrians, whatever their fortunes or misfortunes, to be able to go about their lives in blissful ignorance.
Sherlock accepted the brandy with a silent nod and sank into the red leather chair. I settled in my usual spot across from him. He took a sip and closed his eyes. I could not recall when I had seen him appear to be so weary and downtrodden. And yet, his indefatigable spark was still there.
“How is Watson?” I asked.
He did not open his eyes. “Recovering,” he replied quietly. (A)
I was already aware of the nature and extent of Watson’s injuries, as well as of his current condition, but it seemed like a good place to begin. Sherlock, of course, realized that I knew as well, but he allowed me the courtesy of letting the conversational gambit pass unremarked.
“Does he know the truth, then?” I asked. This was something that I did not know. “About his brother’s involvement in the matter?” (B)
“No, and he shall not, if I have anything to say about it,” Sherlock remarked. He opened his eyes then. “It is bad enough that he was wounded more than once during the last few weeks. The fact that his own brother was connected with this vast conspiracy that is now known to the masses as ‘Jack the Ripper’ is a burden that he should not have to bear. He had already believed his brother to be dead. No need to learn that the man had returned to London, only to involve himself with the vile cabal that has run amuck for this entire autumn.”
My brother’s voice had risen as he spoke. It was not shrill – I had never heard my brother sound that way, although Watson had related to me recently how Sherlock had shrieked and cried out just one year ago, when he was feigning near-death from a tropical disease, as part of a trap to force an admission of guilt from one Culverton Smith. (C) I had only met Dr. John Watson a couple of months before today, during the events related to my neighbor Mr. Melas, (D) and I already knew that he was a man who did not exaggerate. At some point since our first meeting, Watson had told me some of the facts related to my brother’s earlier feigned illness. Sherlock was always willing to go to any lengths to catch a criminal, even to the point of deceiving his greatest friend in order to devise a stratagem. But I was aware that he had never had to go so far as he had the past few months, while trying to destroy that great conspiracy that had been mistakenly credited to one shadowy man, known to the press and public alike as “Jack.”
I let the silence stand for a long moment, before asking, “Do you think, then, that it is finished?”
I knew the same facts that Sherlock did, but I valued his opinion nonetheless. I have always been able to assimilate the widest variety of data and reach a true and verifiable conclusion, but I did not have his personal acquaintance with crime, and of those who think criminal thoughts. Clearly, his experience far surpassed mine. I was sure, however, that in spite of all the years of educating himself in the ways of the underworld, nothing could have prepared my brother for what he had faced since the murder of Martha Tabram on 7 August had set these events in motion. Or rather, diverted events already in motion into a completely new and bloody course.
“If the Prime Minister will let it finish,” said Sherlock.
“He gave you his word – ” I began, before Sherlock interrupted.
“His word is a sliding and slimy thing, as you well know, based on what he perceives to be important and expedient at the moment. When he learned of Prince Eddy’s Catholic marriage, and the resulting child, there were any number of actions that he might have taken. Instead, he chose the Becket solution: ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent marriage? This turbulent wife and child?’”
“He did not commit the murders,” I reminded him. “He did not sanction them.”
“He suspected,” said Sherlock. “How could he not? As events began to unfold, could he not help but remember that he had mentioned to some of his cronies that the Crown might be in danger, thus letting nature take its course?
“You know this as well as I, Mycroft,” he continued. “The men who learned the secret from the lips of Salisbury felt as if they were charged with completing a task. They, however, did not know how to do so. They imbued the proceedings with great ceremony and importance, thinking they were saving the kingdom from the spark that could cause a socialist revolution. In order to give themselves some feeling of legitimacy, they attached to their plan a number of the Masonic rituals that they shared with one another. By the time the plot had progressed to actually contracting a killer to do their dirty work, the thing had almost become something of a Holy Quest!” (E)
He took a breath and shook his head. Before he could continue, I said, “None of this is disputable. The men that started the hunt to locate the women who knew the secret, and eliminate them – ”
“Not just the women who knew the secret,” he interrupted. “They were after the child and the mother as well. And need I remind you that the Prime Minister told me that Annie Crook has died, when I’ve already proved to my own satisfaction that she did not? A demonstrable lie!”
I nodded. “You are correct. The plans were set in motion by the Prime Minister’s fears. But he cannot be blamed for the way that the others became involved as things progressed. He did not know of the other killers who were drawn in, like ships with mad captains sailing intentionally into the whirlpool of supposedly officially-sanctioned murder.”
“Cut the poetry, brother,” said Sherlock. “That sounds suspiciously like something that was written in that effort published by Watson last Christmas.” (F)
“A Study in Scarlet, indeed,” I said. “The Ripper murders make the matter of Jefferson Hope’s revenge killings seem like a nursery rhyme.”
“You know as well as I the deadly truths that were involved in the history of most of those children’s songs.” He closed his eyes again and slumped back into the red leather. “I wonder if someday they will sing songs about Jack.”
I took a moment to stand and recharge our brandy glasses. This time, I added a bit of water to them both. We needed to remain clear-headed while we decided how best to go about saving the realm.
Finally, I said, “I believe the way to proceed is to first make sure that we know who the various ‘Rippers’ were.”
Sherlock sat up. “Agreed. Do we need something with which to write?”
I smiled at his pawky humor, surely a sign that he would recover from his experiences of the last few months. He knew that I never forgot a thing. And neither did he.
“First,” he said, “we must list Sir William Gull, and coachman John Netley, and the men who aided them.” (A) (E)
“Sir William was the man who took the Prime Minister’s implied wishes and made them real,” I agreed. “Netley and the others only too willing to aid him. And then?”
“You ask ‘and then,’ as if there was someone else who took the second place ribbon for butchery. They were all complicit, and equally guilty in the eyes of God and man. For instance there was the Duke of Shires. (G) And then there was the emasculated European nobleman, whose name we may never know. (H) Next, Henry Watson, the supposedly deceased brother of our friend, the good doctor, who overheard something of the plot and wrote himself into the story.” (B)
He had been ticking off names with his fingers. “Lord Daintry was involved as well, but to what extent? (I) Certainly as much as those Finnish butchers who happened to be in London and helped to fuel the ferocity of the murders. (J) Possibly they participated simply as a lark. And then there was the young Russian priest.” (K)
“What about Druitt, the attorney?” I asked. “Surely his guilt is less than the others. His growing madness was used to manipulate him.” (L)
“He was certainly involved, though to what degree may always be uncertain. Professor Moriarty certainly believes him to be the killer. The man clearly appears to be headed toward suicide. His actions are certainly indicative of . . . something. I am still watching him.”
“If actions are indicative, then Inspector Athelney Jones’s attempt to take the blame for the crimes must be examined. Are you certain that he is innocent?” (M)
“Jones is an idiot, but with good intentions, even if misguided,” replied Sherlock. “Somehow, reaching far above his usual limited abilities, he intuited the government’s connection with the plot, dimly grasped what discovery could do to the Crown, and took it upon himself to lure me onto a false trail, trying to seem as if he were, in fact, The Ripper. His ridiculous plan, thinking that he was protecting Prince Eddy himself, was undone in a few hours.”
“Still, the fact that this ‘idiot,’ as you call him, was apparently able to perceive what was going on – ”
“The man is innocent. He has already been called before his superiors, informed that he is a fool, and returned to his duties. The fact that he was willing to tarnish Scotland Yard with the stigma of harboring a murderous inspector, especially a murderer of the Ripper’s reputation and intensity, only shows how far he was willing to go to try to save the Crown. The fool’s self-sacrifice, in some ways, is actually admirable.”
“As was Lord Carfax’s noble attempt to do the same thing,” I added. “Attempting to divert attention away from his father’s involvement, even at the cost of losing his own life, and staining the future life of his own daughter.” (G)
“Indeed,” agreed Sherlock quietly, crossing his legs.
“And speaking of tarnishing Scotland Yard,” I added, “what about Inspector Foxborough, and all of his socialist plotting? (N) He knew the truth, or at least a great deal of it, and was willing to let the killings continue to bring about the downfall of the government.”
“That situation has taken care of itself,” said Sherlock. “As you know, Foxborough was killed. Before Sir Charles Warren’s resignation took effect, he made sure that Foxborough, as well as all indications of his crimes, were stricken from the official records.”
“Surely the Force knows what went on. There will be talk.”
“Lestrade knows the whole story. I owed him that much. A few of the other senior men know as well. Gregson, Bradstreet, Abberline. They may be unimaginative, but they can understand well enough what would happen if the truth, as they know it, were to be made public. They will quash things on their side.”
“Nevertheless . . . .” I said.
“You have doubts, brother, that the truth can be contained?”
“I do,” I said. “What are we to do, then? The conspiracy was too vast, too well known.”
“Denial,” said Sherlock emphatically. “Bald-faced denial.”
I shook my head. “I repeat, it is too well known. The policemen who assisted you know bits and pieces of the truth. They will talk, no matter what their superiors suggest to them. Others will speculate as well. They all know about different pieces of the overall puzzle. There is no way to believably present the idea that a single unknown madman was responsible, even to save the government.”
“Different pieces of the puzzle . . . .” Sherlock said quietly to himself. Then he was quiet for a moment, staring at the last of his brandy as he swirled it round and round. The morning light from the window overlooking Pall Mall caught it and made it glow.
“Nature abhors a vacuum,” he finally muttered.
“As I’ve been saying,” I replied with a certain vexation creeping into my voice. “We cannot hope that the simple explanation of a lone killer will satisfy the need for answers.”
“Exactly,” said my brother, uncrossing his legs and sitting straighter. “We have all the facts, you and I, here at our fingertips. It is quite probable that we are the only two men who know all that happened. At least,” he said, overriding my objection, “enough of the facts to have an overall understanding of the conspiracy.
“If there is a vacuum waiting to be filled with tales of the Ripper,” he continued, “then let us decisively take charge of filling it. We can provide enough tales for the curious public to choke them.”
I looked at him, not quite in shock, but with something close to it. “Sherlock, what you’re saying is impossible. We simply cannot release the true story to the public. They will not ‘choke’ on it, as you predict. They will parse it out into digestible morsels like baby birds, and squawk for the next, and then the next after that. They will dissect the truth and add their own speculations and elaborations, becoming ever hungrier, until the social disaster that Salisbury feared will inevitably come true.”
“Not,” said Sherlock, “if we give them the truth in such a way so as to make it contradict itself.”
I was quiet for a moment, digesting his idea. He watched me with a smile for a moment, enjoying as I caught up with him.
“You really might have a talent for this sort of thing,” I said quietly. “You mean to give up the whole truth, but in pieces.”
“You propose to reveal the segment implicating Sir William Gull and Netley as if it is the sole true solution, and as if they were the only killers. But you also, for instance, mean to release an unimpeachable account of the matter proving that the Duke of Shires was the only possible killer – indeed, that he could be the only possible killer.”
My brother nodded. “There are other ways to finesse the matter, as well. For instance, one version that is leaked to the public might identify Sir William by name. Another might call him, oh, ‘Sir Thomas Spivey.’ The facts will be there in the second account that seem to actually point to Gull, now called Spivey, but those who enjoy pulling at the threads of this rotten tapestry of a conspiracy will find just as much to point toward someone else.
“Of course, there will always be those who will favor the idea of a single killer with mere madness as his motive, such as Druitt or Kosminski (O) or Ostrog, or even that painter, Sickert. As these theorists preach their views, it will simply muddy the waters, and in the end confusion will reign. No one will know for certain what the truth was regarding Salisbury’s original wishes, and the murderous actions of Gull and all the others, because there will be so much available information that the public is trying to swallow that they won’t be able to get any of it down.”
“It is . . . quite elegant, in its messiness,” I said. “But how will we present these different perspectives of the same structure to the masses?”
A pained look crossed my brother’s face. After a quiet reflection, he sighed and answered. “As you previously mentioned, Watson published a story last December. (F) He had threatened to do so for quite some time – almost, in fact, since the matter occurred in early ’81. He is an incurable journal-keeper, and makes copious records of our cases on a regular basis. I do fear that he intends to publish more of them in the future.
“Be that as it may, I know that he has maintained extensive journals throughout the Ripper investigation, perhaps in greater detail than ever before. Mixed in with them are the other cases that were investigated during this time, such as the matter of the Baskerville Hound in Dartmoor last month, (P) and before that, the search for the killers associated with the Agra treasure. (Q) It was during that affair, as you recall, that Watson met Miss Morstan, whom I expect will be playing a greater part in his life before long. When some of the Ripper conspirators threatened her life while she was secreted in the Tower for her protection, the good doctor’s feelings for the lady were resolutely set in stone.” (H)
“If I understand you,” I said, “you are suggesting that we ask Watson to edit his diaries and notes into several separate volumes, multiple volumes in fact, for each killer or set of killers, and the circumstances related to their own involvement in the conspiracy. Each will be a complete narrative in and of itself, and each will identify a different Ripper suspect as the one and true villain. When one says that Sir William Gull was the killer, and all the events connected to that particular unmasking lead inevitably to him, it will seem as completely true as a similar type of journal entry that reveals, with step-by-step precision, that another man – or group – is the Ripper. With both written so as to just identify one specified killer or group, with all of the truth included to provide complete veracity, they will serve to cancel each other out, and the world will never know what really happened.”
“That is how I see it,” said Sherlock. “We can further confuse matters by relating events from cases that occurred before the Ripper murders began, and having Watson write them in such a way as to make them appear as if they are also related to these crimes, when obviously they are not. (R) This will in turn serve to cast doubt on the true events that we are placing in plain sight.”
“Watson could even make references in other diary entries related to unrelated investigations that you had been involved with the efforts to stop the Ripper killings, but never found a solution,” I added. (S)
“Or he could state that I was never asked to participate at all. (T) Many individuals know that I was involved, so once again, an element of confusion would be added to the whole mixture.”
A sudden thought occurred to me. “Would Watson be willing to do this thing that you have conceived? He values his reputation as an honest man, and rightly so. We are asking him to lie.”
“Not lie,” said Sherlock. “At least, not every time. Once he understands the need for such a deception, for such a selective . . . division of the truth, I believe that he will willingly join us.”
“Surely, you don’t mean to tell him everything,” I said.
Sherlock nodded. “He can never know the truth about his brother. In truth, he was injured before the thread connecting his brother to the matter was cut. If that part is to be revealed, it must be at some later date.”
“You say, ‘if that part’ and ‘at some later date.’ I assume that you mean, then, that these assorted versions of the bigger truth will be doled out in small spoonfuls, instead of dumped on an unsuspecting public all at once.”
Sherlock nodded. “As I said, Watson is likely to publish again, now that he has been bitten by that bug. I do not believe that he was satisfied with the way his last effort was presented. His literary agent, who also wrote the middle part of the work concerning those old doings in America, only managed to place their effort in a cheap Christmas periodical. Watson hasn’t said anything out loud, but I believe that he fancies something more permanent for his future literary efforts. I myself would prefer a definitive scientific description of my cases, possibly printed in a scholarly journal.”
I smiled. “You’ll have to write those yourself, brother,” I said. “I read Watson’s book last year, and I do not believe that he will be changing his style, no matter how much you harangue him about it. And I agree with you – he will publish again. Now it seems that, according to your plan, we will eventually need to encourage him to do so.”
“I would be tempted to say that more of these dubious stories about me will only appear over my dead body,” said Sherlock, “but I do not want that to become a necessary event, especially as I am the one proposing that we use these very same stories to bring about our plan.”
“It is not simply Watson’s reputation that may be affected if we do this,” I said. “All of these contradictory versions, with some saying that you could not reach a solution at all, will reflect upon you in ways that we cannot yet imagine.”
“A very small price to pay, I assure you,” replied my brother. “It would be a shame to have carried our burden this far, and not complete the task.”
“Still, with all of these versions being set adrift upon the waters, something unforeseen may occur. For instance, your acquaintance, the Professor, may very well use something like this to his own ends, to damage the government, or even you personally.” (U)
My brother smiled. “Perhaps someone could write a tale where you are the Ripper, Mycroft!” (V)
I sniffed. “Intolerable. Better that neither of us is tarred with that brush.”
“It cannot be helped. If the Professor does seek to add his own ingredients to the stew, it can only help to further the confusion that we are trying to create.”
“This stew that we have seemingly agreed to create,” I said. “Just how many versions of this reality do you envision?”
“As many as there are individuals who were involved in the conspiracy,” replied my brother, settling back again into the red leather chair. (W)
“If Watson intends to continue writing as you say, it should be easy to ask him to slip in contradictory references to his other non-Ripper narratives. (X)
“Indeed. And possibly someone in your department could make themselves familiar with Watson’s style, and generate something completely fictional as well. Perhaps, for instance, having the Ripper turn out to be the villain in Stevenson’s book from a year or so ago, about Jekyll and Hyde.” (Y)
“I am not familiar with it,” I said.
We sat in silence for some minutes. The brandy was gone, and I was disinclined to seek more. Each of us, I think, were contemplating the terrible crimes of the past few months, and this mad and unexpected scheme that we had concocted to steer the great ship of state back into smooth waters.
“It will work,” said Sherlock finally. “It must.”
“It will not simply involve Watson’s efforts,” he added. “We will need to ensure that Watson’s narratives are not only encouraged, but released in such a way, and at appropriate times, to offset damage as it may occur. Even into the next century or beyond, if necessary.”
“That can be done,” I said. “The resources available to me will make it so.”
My brother abruptly stood. “So be it, then.” As I also stood, but not nearly so abruptly, he continued. “The details can work themselves out soon enough. For now, I must be about other business.”
I nodded. I could only imagine what other business he could have. In spite of the many demands that the Ripper matter had made upon him, he had still managed to maintain his regular practice as well, investigating a number of unconnected cases during the previous months.
As I pictured him going about his work, an odd question popped into my head. “After Watson marries again, as we both suppose that he will, do you plan to continue residing in that shabby set of rooms in Baker Street? We owe you something. I can arrange for you to have a suite of the finest in whatever quarter that you wish.”
A flash appeared for an instant in his deep-set eyes. I was not sure if it were anger or amusement. Then, with a smile that seemed to take some of the care from his tired face, he said, “No thank you, brother. I believe that I have become quite accustomed to my situation, and more importantly, Mrs. Hudson has become accustomed to me. I am too old to be training someone else to my necessary ways.”
“Too old!” I scoffed. “You are but thirty-four!”
“And a weary thirty-four it is, indeed,” he replied. He moved a step toward the door, and then stopped. Pivoting on one foot, he turned toward me and stuck out his hand.
I could not remember how many years it had been since my brother and I had shared a handshake. But this was more than just a casual farewell. This was the sealing of a bargain. And this was also the acknowledgement that both of us, my brother more than me, and also our absent friend Watson, had come through the wars and had done a good job indeed.
I grasped my brother’s hand and we solemnly shook.
Then, with a nod, Sherlock turned and left the room.
SPOILERS and FOOTNOTES:
During the course of their momentous conversation, in which they devised their audacious plan to save the Crown from the filth and the aftermath of the massive Ripper Conspiracy, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes refer obliquely to a number of interrelated events that were later separated out into individually published and released strands of the investigation. For those who want to know more about the events to which they refer, a partial list is provided below, showing both titles and the individuals responsible for bringing Watson’s writings to the public.
A few of the listed notations listed below contain moderate spoilers, relating to whom the Ripper was identified to be in each particular telling.
You have been warned!
A. Watson was injured on several occasions during the Ripper investigation, including Murder by Decree (Book by Robert Weverka, and Film, 1979); Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack (Script, 1979); The Reign of Terror (“Lord Blackhood der Kether”, 2001, Internet Publication); and The Mycroft Memoranda (Ray Walsh, 1984); among others;
B. The Mycroft Memoranda;
C. 19 November, 1887: “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” (Dr. John H. Watson, 1913, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);
D. 12 September, 1888: “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” (Dr. John H. Watson, 1893, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);
E. The Masonic Conspiracy to protect the crown was related in various formats, including: Murder by Decree; Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack; The Reign of Terror; Sherlock Holmes: The Whitechapel Horrors (Edward B. Hanna, 1992); Holmes and the Ripper (Brian Clemens, Play Script, 1988, and Audio Drama, Big Finish Productions, 2010); The World of Sherlock Holmes (Michael Harrison, 1973); I, Sherlock Holmes (Michael Harrison, 1977); Lestrade and the Ripper (M.J. Trow, 1988); and Jack the Ripper versus Sherlock Holmes (Phillip Duke, 2012, Kindle Edition);
F. A Study in Scarlet (Dr. John H. Watson, 1887, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);
G. A Study in Terror (Film, and Book by Ellery Queen, 1965). In the book version, Ellery Queen takes Holmes’s solution and perceives a second, hidden solution;
H. The Whitechapel Horrors (Paul Boler, 2000, Internet Publication);
I. The Adventure of the Apocalypse Murders (Barry Day, 2001);
J. “A Special Brand of Courage” The One True Detective (Ronald Carpenter, 2005, Internet Publication);
K. Chapel Noir (2001) and Castle Rouge (2002) (Carole Nelson Douglas). The young Russian priest is revealed as Rasputin, who is later shown to be Professor Moriarty’s son in Rasputin’s Revenge (John Lescroart, 1987);
L. The Return of Moriarty (John Gardner, 1974); and Murder in Whitechapel: The Adventure of the Post-Mortem Knife (D.A. Joy 2009, 2013);
M. “Jack the Harlot Killer” Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street (William S. Baring-Gould, 1962) and “Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders” (Jeremy B. Holstein, 2014, Script Adaptation);
N. Murder by Decree (Book and film); and The Reign of Terror;
O. Fatal Enquiry (Will Thomas, 2015). This narrative reveals a parallel investigation by Cyrus Barker, Holmes’s hated rival upon the Surrey shore;
P. 25 September–20 October (various dates) and 27 November, 1888: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dr. John H. Watson, 1902, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);
Q. 7-10 September, 1888: The Sign of the Four (Dr. John H. Watson, 1890, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);
R. This very thing was done in a curious story relating one of Holmes’s separate investigations, later reworked to include references to The Ripper. It was initially released, for whatever reason, in German, and later in Spanish and French, as Wie Jack, der Aufschlitzer Gefast Wurde (How Jack the Ripper Was Caught) (1907). It has since been newly translated several times, and released in the U.S. under different titles, including: “Jack the Ripper” (Translated by Eduardo Zinna, Ripperologist Magazine, Issues 83, 84, and 85, September, October, and November 2007, respectively); “The Secret Files of the King of Detectives: Jack the Ripper” Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper (Translated and adapted by Frank J. Morlock, 2011); and Sherlock Holmes Versus Jack the Ripper (Translated by Joseph Lovece, 2014);
S. Narratives implying that Holmes found no solution to the Ripper crimes include: “The Secret Adventure of the Whitechapel Murders” The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Paul E. Heusinger, 2006); and “Omen Nemo” The Papers in the Case (Douglas Moreton, 1997);
T. The following indicate that Holmes was not involved with the Ripper Investigation: Sherlock Holmes and the Fall River Tragedy (Owen Haskell, 1997); Sherlock Holmes and the Treasure Train (Frank Thomas, 1985); The Travels of Sherlock Holmes (John Hall, 1997); “The Adventure of the Other Man” Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – Vol. 5 (Chuck Miller, 2013); “The Chesham Hall Mystery” More Sherlock Holmes Mysteries (“Anon.”, 2012, Kindle Edition); In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Buchanan Curse (Allen Sharp, 1993); Sherlock Holmes in New York: The Adventure of the New York Ripper (Philip J. Carraher, 2005); Murder on the Brighton Line (Mike Hogan, 2014, Kindle Edition); and Sherlock Holmes 1888: Autumn of Blood (Unpublished Manuscript);
U. This very thing happened in The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (Michael Dibdin, 1978). Only Chapters 1-2 reflect an accurate fragment of Holmes’s involvement in the Ripper Investigation. The remainder of the book is a spurious addition that has been grafted onto Watson’s original notes at some later date, probably after the turn of the century by Professor Moriarty’s brother, Colonel Moriarty, in an attempt to destroy Holmes’s reputation. True friends of Mr. Sherlock Holmes instantly recognized that these portions of the book were a libelous outrage, and not to be countenanced or taken seriously;
V. To see how this played out, examine The Last Confession of Sherlock Holmes (Kieran Lyne, 2014).
W. Other tales relating details of lesser-known individuals that were involved in the Ripper matter include: Dust and Shadow (Lyndsay Faye, 2009); Art in the Blood (Bonnie MacBird, 2015); Sherlock Holmes: The Plagues of London (Kelvin I. Jones, 2012, Kindle Edition); Sherlock Holmes and the Hunt for Jack the Ripper, (Gerard Kelly, 2014, Kindle Edition); Death by Gaslight (Michael Kurland, 1982); I Love My Work (Fred Walker, 1996, Script); “An Excerpt From ‘Sherlock Holmes & the Season of Terror’” (Bob Byrne, 2000, Internet Publication Fragment); “The Adventure of the Whitechapel Fiend” (James C. Bernthal, 2005, Internet Publication Fragment); "The Adventure of the Ripper's Scrawl" The Adventures of the Second Mrs Watson (Michael Mallory, 2009); “Fog” (“Baskerville Beauty,” 2006, Internet Fan Fiction); “The Singular Case of Jack the Ripper” (MyelleWhite, 2010, Internet Fan Fiction); “Viva Regina, Viva Britannia” (“You Float My Boat,” 2009, Internet Fan Fiction Fragment); “Within the Life of a Single Cigarette” (“OneDarkandStormyNight,” 2010, Internet Fan Fiction Fragment); Sherlock Holmes – The Way of All Flesh (Daniel Ward, 2004); Murder Most Foul (Gordon Punter, 2015); Ch 1-24 and 25 (pp. 211-212) Sherlock Holmes and the Two Professors (George Gardner, 2011. Chapters 25 [pp. 212-217], 26-28 and the “Postscript” are fictionalized); and “The Amorous Surgeon” Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Earl and Other New Adventures (N.M. Scott, 2012);
X. Holmes’s involvement in the Ripper investigations, as well as some telling details, are mentioned in passing in these investigations: “The Case of the Shot on the Stairs” (Bob Byrne, 2000, Internet Publication); “The Repulsive Affair of the Red Leech” Resurrected Holmes (Morgan Llywelyn, 1996); "The Adventure of the Hanging Tyrant" Curious Incidents 2 (M.J. Elliott, 2003); Sherlock Holmes and the Pandora Plague (Lee A. Matthias, 1981); “The Adventure of the Black Katana” Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective Vol. IV (Bradley H. Sinor, 2013); “The Kidnapper” (“Mysterylover17,” 2003, Internet Fan Fiction); and Sherlock Holmes and A Quantity of Debt (David Marcum, 2013), along with many others . . . ;
Y. A few of the completely fictional chronicles related to Holmes’s battle with the Ripper include: “Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror” (Callum J. Stewart, 2009 – Internet Fan Fiction incorporating Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde); Chapters 25 (pp. 212-217), 26-28 and “Postscript” of Sherlock Holmes and the Two Professors (George Gardner, 2011); Ripper: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (Philip Drew, 2013, Kindle edition, incorporating Jekyll and Hyde); Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire (Dean Turnbloom, 2012); and Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes (Bernard J. Schaffer, 2011). There are many more of this type than can be addressed here.
There are, of course, quite a few others along the same lines, some of which have yet to come to light. The plan of the Holmes brothers to release differing and contradictory accounts of the events concerning Holmes’s investigations in the terrible autumn of 1888 continues to be enacted to the present day and beyond, as different modern day editors are made privy to Watson’s notes and writings by the current keepers of Mycroft Holmes’s old department . . . .
I’ve been reading and collecting literally thousands of Sherlock Holmes stories since I was a boy in the mid-1970’s. In the mid-1990’s, I jumped in and re-read (or read for the first time) every Holmes story that I had up to that time. I assembled a small binder that I kept with me, containing a few maps and other handy reference items to add to my enjoyment. Early on, I started making notes about each story as I read it, including references to other cases, things that were incorrect within each story, and most importantly, the dates of the tales.
By the time I finished, I had a very rough handwritten chronology of both the Canon and all of these pastiches. While I had been making my first pass through every traditional Holmes adventure that I owned, I’d accumulated a lot more along the way. Since I was still in a Holmes mood – and I’m never really out of a Holmes mood, although I concurrently read lots of other things as well – I started reading through all of these Holmes stories again, this time more in a more chronological fashion, as based upon my notes. I refined what I had assembled before, and by the end I had a real honest-to-goodness Chronology of the lives of Our Heroes. Since then, I’ve still been in re-reading mode, adding in more and more new Holmes stories as they appear, now on an almost daily basis. The Chronology is a living document, now over sox-hundred pages long, breaking down adventures day-by-day, and sometimes hour-by-hour, by chapter, page, or even paragraph.
Often a story will just have a few paragraphs that occur on a certain day, and then nothing else takes place for the rest of the day. This is when a piece of another tale occurs. I discuss this to some degree in an essay in the Baker Street Journal (“In Praise of the Pastiche” Vol. 62, No. 3, Autumn 2012), and also in my book of Holmes stories, Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins(MX Publishing, 2015), where I “edit” some of Watson’s narratives. Seeing the way these stories intertwine and overlap gives one a great appreciation for the overall tapestry of the lives of Holmes and Watson. And there is no greater or more complicated period than the Autumn of Terror, 1888.
The first encounter that I ever had with Holmes was discovering the Holmes-versus-The-Ripper film A Study in Terror (1965) on television when I was ten years old, in 1975. That prompted me to start reading an abridged copy of The Adventures that I had recently obtained. Soon after that, I encountered Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould, with its own account of Holmes versus The Ripper. Which version to believe? It was the very first time that I would find alternate and conflicting accounts of Holmes’s cases presented in differing ways. But it laid the groundwork in my mind for understanding and weaving together later multiple tales of Holmes's investigations, such as those many tales about Giant Rats and Boulevard Assassins.
In 1979, I saw Murder by Decree in a theater with my dad, and I still believe it’s one of the finest Holmes movies ever, in spite of the fact that Watson, who is supposed to be thirty-six at time, is presented as a lumpy old duffer. Here, then, was yet another version of Holmes’s investigation into the Ripper Murders.
Over the years, many more versions of these Ripper cases have revealed themselves. As mentioned previously, in September 2013 I was able to spend several weeks in England during my first Holmes Pilgrimage, the trip of a lifetime. While there, I and my ever-present deerstalker made several explorations, both day and night, of Whitechapel, as so many Holmes/Ripper stories involve locations there. As I’ve explained in the introduction to Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins, as well as other books, I was fortunate enough while in London to acquire some of Watson’s notes. Among them was the above set of papers, “November, 1888”. I don’t know how Watson came to have it, or why, since it is clear within Mycroft’s writings that the document discusses certain matters of which Watson was supposed to remain ignorant. However, other items that I received while in London make it clear that the papers that I obtained were all assembled in 1929, so it is likely that Watson had been told the truth by then.
In any case, I was happy to see this document amongst all the others, as it confirmed what I had believed all along: Holmes’s investigation of the Ripper Murders was truly his finest hour, and he never handled a more convoluted or complex matter during his long and honored career.
* * *
My deerstalker and I explore Whitechapel by day . . .
. . . and by night . . . .