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Sherlock Holmes versus The Supernatural

29 Sep

Sherlock Holmes, the most celebrated private investigator in all of literature, famously shunned all suggestion of supernatural agency (as he told his companion Dr John Watson on more than one occasion “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”). Despite this, a surprising number of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the great detective start with strong hints that something uncanny is at work, most obviously The Sussex Vampire, The Devil’s Foot, The Creeping Man and, of course, The Hound of the Baskervilles. There is also the famous missing, though oft-mentioned by Holmes, adventure of The Giant Rat of Sumatra. In the end, however, these seemingly supernatural accounts are always rationalised and we are left with the comforting knowledge that all can be explained, that there is no darkness too deep to be illuminated by the light of intellect and reason. Whilst this may the case with Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, however, it was not the case with all of his short fiction.

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