Our True History of Sherlock Holmes
-- Comments from Sherlockian experts
Listed are comments from (in alphabetical order):
George Hubbs (2007) | Beth Austin (2003) | Marshall S. Berdan (2003) | Paul G. Churchill (2000 & '03)
P. Stephen Clarkson, BSI (2000) | Ted M. Cowell (1999) | Linda Crane, ASH (1999)
Norman M. Davis, BSI (1999) | Ron Gibson (1999) | Jacquelynn Longhurst (2000)
Ronald Lowe (1999) | Mark McGovern (1999) | Regina Stinson (1999)
Chris Redmond, BSI (1999) | Arthur Renkwitz, BSI (2005) | Andrew Solberg, BSI (2003)
~ Comments by Dr. Tim Johnson on a 2007 presentation in Savannah, GA, USA ~
~ A review by Joseph Dierkes of a 2005 presentation at Baltimore, MD, USA ~
~ Blog comments by "Lady Norbert" about a 2005 presentation at Reading, PA, USA ~
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** "Our three-county library system foundation, which raises money from business and private individuals to supplement government funding, had its annual gala fund-raiser in Savannah during January 2007. The theme was The Mystery Story, and whom did we invite to be the "headliner" but none other than Sherlock Holmes, whose "scheduler" is John Sherwood.
"The attendees were wowed by Mr. Holmes. His real-life presence was never in doubt, as he handled even the most demanding and adversarial questions with straightforward confidence and ease.
"Sherlock Holmes worked in tandem with a well-known local TV news anchorman to run the foundation's live auction. As part of that, Mr. Holmes even agreed to have himself "auctioned off" for a future evening appearance. This auction item raised the highest amount of money of any of the live auction lots. And Sherlock was very active and even theatrical during all of this auction.
"The next day, Mr. Holmes appeared at a joint meeting of two local Rotary clubs. During the question and answer session, Mr. Holmes was asked which case or adventure was for him the most memorable. Without a second's hesitation he answered that it was when he saw Professor Moriarty's brains dashed out on the rocks surrounding Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. The way Holmes said this, as a matter of fact and yet with a small sardonic smile, brought a muted gasp from the audience.
"It was then that we realized that we had not hired John Sherwood to bring along Mr. Sherlock Holmes, but that we had signed up Sherlock Holmes, who occasionally pretended to be John Sherwood!
"By the way, Mr. Holmes should be thanked again, as he helped us achieve an all-time record high in fund-raising!"
on behalf of The Live Oak Public Libraries Foundation,
Savannah, Georgia, USA
** "The Live Oak Public Libraries Foundation had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Holmes at our annual gala event in January. 'Once Upon a Time: A Mysterious Evening' was a huge success, in large part to the presence of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed matching wits with the world's greatest detective and quizzing him in great detail about his cases. We actually auctioned off the opportunity to host Mr. Holmes at a soiree at a subsequent date and the bidding for his services was fast and furious. Who wouldn't want to be able to say that they had met the occupant of 221 B Baker Street?"
CHRISTY H. DIVINE,
Marketing/Development Director, Foundation Manager, Live Oak Public Libraries, Savannah, Georgia, USA
** "I first met Mr. Sherlock Holmes in 1954, at a meeting of The Six Napoleons of Baltimore, Md. Although some of those present told me his name was really Mr. Basil Rathbone, I knew better. And there I was, a stammering 16-year-old, shaking hands with Sherlock Holmes himself. Since that time, Basil Rathbone has always personified Sherlock Holmes in my mind's eye -- until recently.
"It was the occasion of the anniversary meeting of a Masonic group at a fine local restaurant in Catonsville, Md. I had been told that Mr. Holmes and Mrs. Godfrey Norton would be in attendance, but I confess I was skeptical. After all, hadn't I met the real Sherlock Holmes 46 years earlier? I knew that, since his retirement to the South Sussex Downs, he was not very inclined to visit the States any longer. Hence, I suspected an impersonator -- an interloper. Happily, I was mistaken.
"For more than two hours none other than the real, living Sherlock Holmes enthralled the audience, most of them not Sherlockians, with his rules of detection and answers to questions ranging from whether he was a fictional character (the very idea!) to the true location of Dr. Watson's war wound(s).
"Not only were his words concomitant with what Holmes would say and how he would say them, but his dress and physical actions were realistic to the core. He and Mrs. Norton -- a contralto whose voice is every bit as lovely as she is -- made believers out of several skeptics, one of whom was the lady who called him 'fictional.' (She was abashed at being invited to feel his pulse.)
"I have altered my mental image of Sherlock Holmes and Mrs.
Godfrey Norton to accord with my most recent experience,
which I devoutly hope will not be the last such meeting on the
terrace that I shall ever have."
P. STEPHEN CLARKSON, BSI
Canonical name: "Morse Hudson" (1970)
Napoleon XLVII, Commissionaire IX, Gasogene XII, Harker I
of the Six Napoleons
Tantalus-in-Perpetuity and Gasogene IV of Watson's Tin Box,
Ellicott City, MD
Listowner of The Hounds of the Internet
Author, The Sherlockian Star Chamber and The
** "Mr. Holmes was extraordinary! The members [of The Denizens of the Bar of Gold in April 2005] were in awe -- as one would hope -- in the presence of the Master. His deductive skills were demonstrated in truly Masterful (excuse the pun) ways. ... His presentation on the Seven Vital Lessons was exceptional. The philosophy inherent in his dialogue was profound. As a teacher of science, I was particularly taken with his concise exposition of method and outcome. Many of the Denizens commented on the impact of the presentation on their thinking. The evening was a smashing success!"
ARTHUR RENKWITZ, BSI
Leader of The Denizens of the Bar of Gold of Cambridge, MD
** "Like many Mid-Atlantic Sherlockians, I have had the pleasure of observing John Sherwood on stage in one of his impressive impersonations of Sherlock Holmes. And I was duly impressed, as much with his characterization as his performance. But, at the 24th Annual Saturday with Sherlock Holmes at the Pratt Library in Baltimore last month [November 2003], I was -- from my emcee chair on stage -- treated to the truly singular pleasure of watching the audience watch Mr. Sherwood. And it was even more impressive. To a person, they tracked his every move and gesture with a look that combined rapture with regalement, and hung upon his every word with an earnest intensity that former school teachers such as I can only fantasize about. It was indeed an enlightening experience for me to observe what they saw -- and one that only underscored my own conclusion that it was the announced attendance of Mr. Holmes alone that had accounted for the 50 percent increase in the size of our audience. All Sherlockian emcees should be so lucky as to have Mr. Sherwood grace their event with his Masterful presence."
MARSHALL S. BERDAN, BSI
Organizer and moderator of the annual "Saturday with Sherlock Holmes Symposium" at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
Affiliations: The Red Circle of Washington, The Six Napoleons of Baltimore, Watson's Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD, The Sons of The Copper Beeches (Philadelphia), The Three Garridebs of Westchester County (NY)
** "Thanks to John Sherwood's Sherlock Holmes, Baltimore had the best annual 'Saturday with Sherlock Holmes' ever (Nov. 8, 2003). Holmes was smart, humorous, touching, and (most importantly) *believable.* He was a hit with the toughest audience of all -- an audience full of hard-nosed Sherockians. Not only did the Sherlockians believe in him, but the non-Sherlockian members of the public who attended went away in wonder. Sherwood's Holmes brought us all back to 1895. You could almost hear the hansom cabs outside on the street."
ANDREW SOLBERG, BSI
Canonical name: "Professor Coram"
A frequent contributor to The Baker Street Journal and a member of Watson's Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD; The American Firm; The Beacon Society; The Hounds of the Internet; The Red Circle of Washington DC; The Sherlock Holmes Society of London; and The Six Napoleons of Baltimore
** "I recently met Mr Sherlock Holmes, late of Baker Street, at a dinner not far from Baltimore. This was my second meeting with the real Holmes, but unlike Mr Clarkson's experience, my first was with Jeremy Brett in 1989 outside the stage door of the Wyndham Theatre.
"It has been over a decade since then and Mr Brett has since passed beyond the Reichenbach and yet Sherlock Holmes lives on. The latest embodiment of Holmes is a man who calls himself John Sherwood, an obvious alias. 'Sher-wood'? It is to laugh!
"I have known him as a fellow member of Watson's Tin Box of Ellicott City, Maryland, and yet there was something about this gentleman which hinted at the past. Royal jelly be damned! Sherlock Holmes lives on through possessing bodies! He has taken up residence in this young man and has subsumed his very identity.
"Seeing him in his frock coat and long-stemmed pipe, I can now state unequivocally that he is Holmes, 146 years of age but looking barely in his seventies! And Mrs Norton -- with whom he made an appearance at that same dinner -- is as gorgeous a thing under a bonnet as Doyle once told us. She has a face and a voice that a man might die for ... or possess bodies for!" (2000) ...
"At the Pratt Library Weekend with Sherlock Holmes, Paul Churchill, speaking as Mycroft Holmes to his brother in the person of John Sherwood, said it best -- "Mummy always liked you best, and so do I!" John's portrayal of the Master was indeed masterful. He has the look, the sound, and indeed the personality of Holmes down pat. There is that slight tinge of arrogance, that razor-sharp wit, the ability to calm an adoring audience with humour and serious comment. It is a truly delightful experience to watch John Sherwood at 'work' -- which is to say, at play." (2003)
PAUL G. CHURCHILL, BSI
Canonical name: "A Genuine Corot"
Gasogene II, Quizmaster II, Watson's Tin Box; co-translator of Ritualia Musgraviensia, the first and only Sherlock Holmes story to be published in its entirety in Latin; illustrator of The Sherlockian Star Chamber, A Sherlockian Pictionary, Shades of Sherlock, and several other books not yet on the New York Times Best Seller List (by a long shot!).
** "John Sherwood's performance as Mr. Sherlock Holmes
is spellbinding. Over a 13-year run of sold-out Sherlock Holmes' Mystery Weekends, the guests of my inn kept coming back for more and more!
We are still receiving requests for another series of
encore performances. Absolutely outstanding!"
Innkeeper, The Victorian Villa Inn
Union City, Michigan
** NEW! ** A further message from RON GIBSON of professional interest to those seeking to book a performance.
** "I have counted Mr. Sherlock Holmes among my friends for many, many years. I recently learned he had removed to America and had reinvented himself as a journalist. I recently saw this journalist pretending to be, of all things, Mr. Holmes. As any acquainted with Mr. Holmes will tell you – there is no mistaking the real thing. So to Mr. John Sherwood (a thin disguise) I say 'give up the pretense and simply admit your true identity.' Best regards, Mrs. Elizabeth Hudson, late of 221B Baker Street"
Gasogene XII of Watson's Tin Box
Ellicott City, Maryland
** "For the past 11 years, my husband and I have been
going to The Victorian Villa Inn in Union City, Mich., for
Sherlock Holmes Mystery Weekends. ... Actor John Sherwood
has been magnificently playing the part of Sherlock Holmes
for all these years and has never once broken character.
In fact, John Sherwood's Sherlock was so convincing that,
at times, I began to believe he was indeed the 'real'
"Recently, I had the opportunity to finally meet Mr.
Sherwood as himself. I spent several wonderfully
delightful hours getting to know the real person behind the
Sherlock Holmes disguise. It was such a treat to finally
get to talk to him as himself after all these years.
"This year marked John's last performance at The Victorian
Villa Inn. He will be sorely missed there in his role of
Sherlock Holmes, and to borrow from the words of Dr. Watson
in 'A Scandal in Bohemia': 'The stage [at the Victorian
Villa] lost a fine actor...' "
Royal Oak, Michigan
** "Mr. John Sherwood's Sherlock Holmes is as
well-researched, well-played, and well-sustained as any you
will ever see. I have seen his portrayal carried beyond
the controlled environment of the stage for hours on end,
and among rabid Sherlockians. His name deserves to be
added to those of Gillette, Rathbone, Brett -- whomever you
wish -- as one of Sherlock Holmes' greatest
The Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay
** "About John Sherwood's performance: It is rare to meet one's heroes. I met one of mine -- Mr. Sherlock Holmes!"
TED M. COWELL
The Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay
** "As a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast
since the 1960s and a Baker Street Irregular since 1972, I
have seen practically everyone who has played Holmes, from
Eille Norwood to Jeremy Brett. I declare, without
hesitation and for the record, that John Sherwood is the
most realistic, believable, and true portrayer of Sherlock
Holmes whom I have ever seen and/or heard. At mystery
weekends at The Victorian Villa Inn, I had to remind myself
that we were playing a game.
"I have no doubt whatever that, were Sherlock Holmes real,
John Sherwood is what he would be.
"It was Sherlock Holmes I met and worked with, Sherlock
Holmes who guided me in investigations and in logical
thinking and Sherlock Holmes who graciously consented to be
present -- and who gave the bride away -- at my wedding. It
was a privilege, too, to have Sherlock Holmes present at
birthday meetings of The Criterion Bar Association, in Chicago."
NORMAN M. DAVIS, BSI
Canonical name: "The Grosvenor Square Furniture Van" (1972)
Formerly of the Criterion Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois
** "As an avid Sherlockian who has
studied every portrayer of Sherlock Holmes on television,
in films and on the stage, I have to say that John Sherwood
has captured the soul and spirit of the great detective
better than any other actor I have seen.
"With an understanding of his character second to none,
Sherwood becomes Holmes in every detail and nuance. He
bests the best of Brett and Rathbone."
LINDA CRANE, ASH (The
Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes)
Canonical name: "A Genuine Corot"
Formerly of the Criterion Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois
** "It was a delightful evening [when I met Sherlock
Holmes] ... although I have to admit ... that I was at odds at times at how to respond to him. He was a fascinating and gracious fellow, in spite of
my awkwardness, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him -- and
the lovely and talented Mrs. [Godfrey] Norton as well."
Gasogene XI of Watson's Tin Box,
Ellicott City, MD
** "I first met Mr. Sherlock Holmes
in 1988. I did not meet Mr. John Sherwood until 1999. In
the interim, my wife and I -- and an assortment of friends
too numerous to count -- filled the Inn one weekend a year
to visit with Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
"It was part of the game that Sherwood would never let down
his guard and become anyone but Holmes on those mystery
weekends. And during each of those 11 wonderful weekends,
Sherwood embodied all that I ever imagined Sherlock Holmes
to be. He performed without the aid of a director yelling
'cut' and allowing him to relax as Sherwood. He performed
virtually non-stop the entire weekend in an uncontrolled,
and at times chaotic, environment where he was besieged and
challenged in the most extraordinary ways by people seeking
to find a flaw in his credibility and character. No fault
was ever observed.
"It was in that environment that I and many of my friends
experienced the pleasure of befriending our hero since
"When I met Sherwood, I discovered a person as interesting
as Holmes himself. And, like Holmes, he is driven towards
the perfection of his trade, in Mr. Sherwood's case,
acting. I will be eternally saddened by Sherwood's
retirement from this role at the Villa, but I will always
count myself as fortunate of having been one of those who
benefited from the experience. And I will remain ever
hopeful of once again hearing
Sherwood utter -- as Holmes -- those words, 'Come at once,
the game's afoot.' "
The Honorable RONALD W. LOWE
** "I had dinner with Mr. Holmes -- yes, Mr. Sherlock Holmes
-- on a Friday night in April. ...
"My meal with the great man took place in Union City,
Michigan, the occasion being a 'Beef and Ale Dinner with
Mr. Holmes' which would, for those who could stay longer,
be the first event of a Mystery Weekend. I had to get back
to Waterloo at the end of a few days' travel, so I had
booked just dinner and one night at the remarkable
headquarters for these events, the Victorian Villa on the
main street, Broadway.
"Upon arriving, I was impressed with the sheer Victorian
clutter of the place, furniture, lamps, pictures,
memorabilia and even the head of a mighty deer. ...
"By late afternoon, other people were arriving for the
announced Sherlockian doings. They turned out to be a crowd
who already knew each other from a number of previous Villa
weekends -- though none with any other Sherlockian
connection -- and I felt rather the odd man out, although
they were friendly enough.
"Then all of a sudden Mr. Holmes strode through the bar,
and indeed he was Holmes to the life. My only regret at the
moment was that John Sherwood, the 'artistic director' for
the Inn, whom I know slightly through the Hounds of the
Internet, wasn't there to share the moment
with me. As John has commented to me, he never does seem to
be on hand when Mr. Holmes drops by. He -- Holmes, I mean
-- had some urgent business in another part of the
building, but a few minutes later he was back, shaking my
hand and greeting me by name.
"'Your reputation has preceded you,' he kindly told me. It
was odd for a few moments, and then quite familiar somehow,
making small talk with Sherlock Holmes himself.
"The scheduled 'dinner with Mr. Holmes' began with, of all
things, a round of Sherlockian Trivial Pursuit in the front
parlour of the inn. I was rather the centre of attention,
and rather uncomfortable, because I knew pretty much all
the answers, in contrast to this group of amiable amateurs.
So I was grateful when, right on time, dinner was announced
and that particular awkwardness was over.
"The menu was 'roast ox and barley stew,' and very tasty it
was .... I was seated next to Mr. Holmes and had more
opportunity for small-talk with him; there was also a
chance, as prearranged, to present him with a copy of my
most recent book, 'Canadian Holmes.' Several of the
participants (they were about fifteen altogether) were also
interested in having a look at it.
"During dinner the mystery began to unfold, as Mr. Holmes
told us about the release of two hate-group leaders from
prison in Georgia, a series of poison thefts, a delivery of
his own bee-pollen extract that had gone astray, and the
apparent fall of two people -- a baddie and his own friend
Harold Stackhurst -- from the top floor of the Villa two
days ago. Dr. Watson, we were told, is at Methodist
Hospital in Kalamazoo, tending Stackhurst; the baddie is
deceased; now where is the missing shipment of elixir?
There was great interest and puzzlement.
"After dinner we had more developments, as a small-time
crook named Waldron -- any resemblance to any Sherlockian
by that alias would be purely coincidental -- suddenly
appeared in the parlour, wanting help from Holmes. He was
escorted (by all the men in the party) to his car on a side
street. Holmes inspected the car at length with his
flashlight; then there were shots, Waldron drove
erratically away, Holmes was on the sidewalk groaning from
'a severe nerve pinch,' and within minutes he was rushing
off to his own investigations, while we the participants
were left to make what we could of the mystery. I was
invited to join one of the groups puzzling it all out, and
spent an hour or so in one of the third-floor rooms
conferring with three of the other participants.
"Of course we didn't make much progress, but it was fun
trying to work it all out, and I wished I were going to be
staying through the weekend for the rest of the fun. But I
had to leave immediately after breakfast, while the Detroit
group prepared for a long day of further excitement."
CHRIS REDMOND, BSI
Canonical name: "Billy" (1966)
Reprinted with permission from the Waterloo Sherlockian Letter
ISSN 1183-8914 - Number 46 - July 13, 1998
(Mr. Redmond maintains The Sherlockian Holmepage, the world's most extensive Web site devoted to Sherlockiana.)
Profound thanks to REGINA STINSON for use of some scans on
Other photos on these pages are by KATARI BROWN.
© 1999-2009 by MysteryVisits.com, West Grove, PA
Gratitude and acknowledgements are expressed to JOHN
AIDINIANTZ and the gracious staff of the SHERLOCK HOLMES MUSEUM at 221B Baker
Street, London, England, for their kind assistance and cooperation.
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"Adventures and Lessons" - Mr
Sherlock Holmes addresses the Criterion Bar Association
Bachelor" -- Mr Sherlock Holmes is interviewed at the
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Sherlock's Seven Lessons --
The Whole Art of Detection in a Nutshell
"Sherlockian Pastiches: The Dilemma" -
A defense of new tales of The Master by John C. Sherwood
The Ribston-Pippins' visit - A
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Quotes from Sherlock - Advice on observation and deduction.
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