Sherlock and the Supernatural—Vexed by Vampires
“Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking corpses who can only be held in their grave by stakes driven through their hearts? It’s pure lunacy.”—Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”
Was Holmes right? Are vampires rubbish or real? That’s what 15 Garridebs gathered to discuss at the Hastings-on-Hudson Library on November 10.
Ben Vizoskie kicked off the meeting by welcoming everyone. There were no new attendees to announce this time, so we quickly moved on to the toasts, which Sue Vizoskie introduced.
In the spirit of this month’s tale, Fran Schulz provided everyone with a red beverage for her toast to “The Sussex Vampire.” Len Poggiali toasted “The Three Garridebs,” explaining why the story was a good choice to name our scion after.
In his toast to Dr. Watson, Bob Zatz discussed Sherlock and Watson’s great partnership, comparing it to that of other famous duos, such as Batman and Robin, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and Laurel and Hardy. Bob noted that, like those other pairings, it wasn’t a one-sided relationship. Watson wasn’t just a tagalong. Instead, Holmes often needed him.
Warren Randall’s rhyming toast, which was also to the Sussex vampire, mentioned the author most often associated with the bloodthirsty undead, Bram Stoker.
Sue presented Will Walsh’s toast to Sherlock since Will was unable to attend the meeting. Will praised Sherlock’s integrity and his willingness to be honest and direct.
Bob Ludemann offered a toast to celebrate the birthday of Edward VII.
Next came the quiz. Warren earned the top score, followed by Fran and Terry Hunt.
Troy Reynolds then introduced the presentations. Ben gave the first paper, examining one of the greatest fictional characters ever created, Dracula. He hypothesized how Bram Stoker created Dracula, and even suggested that the notes in Holmes’s index came from a discussion with Stoker.
Paul Astle then discussed the case of Holmes and the curious categorization of his files. In addition to the illogical organization, Paul also noted the Master’s failure to be interested in vampirism in Hungary. He argued that Holmes should have found the history of Countess Elizabeth Báthory relevant.
Sue read an essay from The Log of “The Gloria Scott” by Bob Brodie. The piece provided historical background on Mincing Lane and the tea industry. Ben finished the papers with a photo presentation of Indiana University’s Lilly Library collection, which he and Sue had recently visited.
Becca then introduced the Show-and-Tell portion of the meeting. Troy brought three items: a print of a scene from “The Sussex Vampire” by artist Thomas Gianni, a comic book version of the story, and the Firesign Theatre record The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra.
Paul had a copy of the Jeremy Brett episode “The Last Vampyre,” which was loosely based on “The Sussex Vampire.” He also warned anyone who had not already watched it that it is not very good.
On the other hand, Ben recommended the two books he shared. The first was an edition of Dracula annotated by Leslie Klinger. The second was Dracula: The First 100 Years, a look at the famous vampire in novels, films, and comics, edited by another Sherlockian, Bob Madison.
By that time, we were ready for a break and refreshments. As this meeting was close to both Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day, and since the adventure for this month was about vampires, we held a costume contest. The break gave participants a chance to get into their costumes. As we returned to our seats following the break, Ben gave the announcements about upcoming meetings and Sherlockian events.
Then we had the costume contest. Warren came as Colonel Valentine Walter, from “The Bruce-Partington Plans.” Bob Ludemann was dressed as “The Noble Bachelor’s” Francis Hay Moulton.
Terry Hunt was a kilt-wearing Grice Paterson, whose tale Watson never told. Linda Hunt dressed as Eugenia Ronder, the veiled lodger.
Sue made a very believable tea seller for Ferguson and Muirhead, while Ben went all-in for his portrayal of Duncan Ross/William Morris.
The judges were Becca and Troy, who came as a violin and a bow, respectively. As they conferred about the winners, we continued the meeting with the new segment for short reviews of books, dramatizations, exhibits, etc.
Terry strongly recommended visiting the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey. Bob Ludemann discussed a radio dramatization of “The Sussex Vampire,” and Troy reviewed Richard Boyer’s pastiche The Giant Rat of Sumatra, an untold adventure mentioned by Holmes in this month’s tale.
Fran then led an entertaining and enlightening discussion of “The Sussex Vampire,” with a focus on the language and Watson’s writing style.
Following the discussion, we announced the costume contest results. Bob earned accolades for best portrayal of a character. The best-dressed award went to Linda, while her husband’s kilt earned him the title for best legs. Warren took the honor for best minimalist costume. Sue was praised for the most delectable props and best costume related to this meeting’s story. And Ben was honored as most dedicated to his costume.
After the winners selected their prizes (a book from a collection of supernatural-themed pastiches), we ended the meeting with Bill Schweickert’s “A Long Evening With Holmes.”
I’ll Have a Blue Carbuncle With You
Four weeks after we discussed “The Sussex Vampire,” the Three Garridebs gathered again to celebrate the Blue Carbuncle at J.C. Fogarty’s in Bronxville on December 9. Twenty-three Sherlockians attended the luncheon that honors the well-loved Christmas tale.
Troy Reynolds welcomed the attendees, including first-time guests Lee Ballinger and Lois Bush. Bob Katz was also recognized as a Blue Carbuncle rookie, but he informed us that he had actually been to a previous luncheon many years ago.
We then took a solemn moment to stand on the terrace for Thom Utecht, who recently passed away. Ben and Sue Vizoskie shared some stories and facts about Thom.
After the waitstaff took our orders, Becca Reynolds asked everyone to sign cards for some of the people who could not attend the event and gave us information about the raffle. Fran Schulz donated the main prize this year, a lovely basket containing several Sherlock Holmes books, a set of Sherlock nesting dolls, Sherlock soap, a Sherlock finger puppet, and Sherlock stamps. The second prize, donated by Sue, was a ribbon bookmark with a goose hanging from it.
Once the salads were served, Troy directed everyone’s attention to the photograph of Queen Victoria that had been donated by Tom and Olga Hurley and to the bust of Her Majesty, provided by Tony and Lorraine Czarnecki.
Lorraine then gave the toast to Victoria Regina. Although Victoria’s waistline may have expanded, she was still a gracious queen.
In the second toast, to Mrs. Oakshott, Warren Randall incorporated rhyme and the alphabet to honor the poulterer who raised the geese on Brixton Road.
Richard and Cynthia Wein entertained us all by singing a revised version of “Goodnight Irene” in their toast to—who else?— Irene Adler.
The final toast was offered by Ira Matetsky, who explored the mystery of the goose’s crop. Do geese have one or not? Ultimately, after a descriptive anatomical analysis, Ira preferred a solution he discovered had been given by Peter Blau many years ago. The confusion is all based on the typesetter mistaking Watson’s “a” for an “o.”
For those who still had an appetite, lunch was soon served. This year’s choices were steak, salmon, or chicken Française. As we finished our meal, Sue passed out a Canonical Animals word search.
While waiting for our desserts, Ben shared an email the Garridebs recently received. Apparently, the group is heir to a small fortune. Or it could just be spam.
Becca then introduced Greg Darak, who delivered a solo performance of what is destined to become another Carbuncle classic, “Milverton Is Coming to Town.” Once the applause died down, Greg led us all in singing some of the more familiar Sherlockian carols.
By then, dessert was served, refocusing our attention back to our plates.
As the last crumbs were devoured, Troy called Ira to the podium for a short presentation about artistry in the Canon. Ira sowed the seeds for serious debate when he questioned the long-held story that The Strand really wanted Sidney Paget’s brother Walter to illustrate the Holmes stories. Although Ira’s arguments were sound and the evidence compelling, many Sherlockians may have a difficult time accepting his theory.
We then had another round of carols, which ended with the presentation of a door prize. Bob Zatz won a facsimile of “How Watson Learned the Trick” from Queen Mary’s Doll’s House.
Finally, it was time to wrap things up. Troy gave the announcements, including information on the BSI Birthday Weekend in January. Becca then oversaw the raffle drawing. Cynthia Wein won the basket of goodies, but she decided that the Wein household is already full enough. So the drawing was redone, and this time Michael Bush won. Ira’s ticket was pulled for the bookmark.
Michael then closed the luncheon by reading “A Long Evening With Holmes.”
— Troy Reynolds
“A Case of Identity”—Heard and Not Seen
The story for our upcoming January meeting is “A Case of Identity.” There are at least two professional radio versions of this tale easily available on the internet or on disc. A 1948 presentation starring John Stanley as Holmes and Alfred Shirley as Watson is part of the series that began in 1939 with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce playing the detective and his bumbling partner. Stanley and Shirley do an expert job of imitating Rathbone’s and Bruce’s performances, but they lack the chemistry that made the original team so successful on radio and on the screen. In this treatment the Watson role is decidedly secondary to that of Holmes, and the doctor is treated disrespectfully by his friend, particularly when he is told not to interrupt Holmes’s questioning of Mary Sutherland. This version provides a happy ending by suggesting that our heroine will renew her relationship with her former lover, Will Hardy the plumber.
A more successful 1955 adaptation of the tale features Sir John Gielgud as Holmes and Sir Ralph Richardson as Dr. Watson. In this version Watson is no bumbling comic foil but an intelligent partner, quite capable of forming correct theories about a fair amount of what he observes. He is no Holmes for detecting, but he is treated by his colleague with respect and affection and valued for his strengths. It is a role equal to that of Holmes, appropriate for Richardson, an actor of legendary stature. Gielgud, with the most beautiful and most expressive of voices, brings a warmth to the character of Holmes that is lacking in some other interpretations. The two actors have wonderful chemistry, most likely developed over their many years as close friends and brilliant stage actors.
— Len Poggiali
A Story in Search of a Filmmaker
“A Case of Identity” (which we will discuss in January) is one of those Holmes stories that does not translate well to the screen, because no actual crime is committed, Holmes and Watson never leave their apartments, and the leading lady is so nearsighted that she does not recognize her stepfather disguised as her lover. As a result there is no screen adaptation of the story available to the public, although a 1921 Eille Norwood silent short, owned by the National Film and Television Archive of the British Film Institute, does exist and apparently is awaiting restoration (we should not hold our collective breath).
Absent a film version of the story, one might find solace knowing that YouTube is filled with whispered versions of the Canon. These curiosities are podcasts from ASMR, “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a pseudo-medical designation whose native soil is YouTube.” I’m not certain what that means, but I didn’t have to be in order to listen to the whispered version of “A Case of Identity.” Neither will you.
— Len Poggiali, with thanks to Greg Darak for his help researching this piece
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Upcoming events on the Three Garridebs’ calendar
•Jan. 26, 2019. Hastings Library. “A Case of Identity” •March 23, 2019. Hastings Library. “The Crooked Man” •May 18, 2019. Hastings Library. “The Veiled Lodger”
And other notable events
•January 9–13, 2019. Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York. See www.bsiweekend.com for the full schedule. •May 4, 2019. The Priory Scholars, New York, NY. prioryscholarsnyc.wordpress.com •For more, see the Sherlockian Calendar. Ron Fish created and, for several years, has tended www.sherlockiancalendar.com, which lists special events (often highlighted in red) and/or meetings on the Sherlockian horizon— with contact information and/or websites.