Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Monthly Meeting Minutes Substitute - 20th July 2022

With the Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society celebrating its fifth anniversary this December, now seemed like an ideal time to get to know one of our more prominent members a little better. Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) was our founding member and is much loved by all of us. However, little is known about his early relationship with Holmesiana. For that reason, we sat down with Paul, who graciously agreed to be interviewed in place of the usual monthly meeting.

 

PTM – How did you first become involved in Holmesiana?

PTM – I was born into it. My great-grandfather – Sebastian Colin Ungulate Miller – was the partner of Arthur Conan Doyle when they opened the Bradford Pickled Egg Works in 1894. The plant was well known at the time as the backbone of the British Empire, pickling anything up to a hundred eggs a day in order to keep the wheels of Victoria’s global provinces moving. Naturally, Doyle became great friends with my great-grandfather and stole many of the best Sherlock Holmes plots from him. My great-grandfather didn’t mind this as he was fiddling the books at the Pickled Egg Works and was making a small fortune on hokey returned jar deposits.

PTM – You’re a natural Holmesian then?

PTM – Yes. With the egg works still operating today and the obvious Canonical pickled-egg-Sherlock-Holmes connection, it was predestined that I would take an interest in the world my family has been so much a part of for four generations.

PTM – Do you have any souvenirs of your great-Grandfather’s time with Doyle?

PTM – Oh yes. By far the most prized possession is the very egg that Doyle wrote the opening lines of The Hound of the Baskervilles on, before pickling it.

PTM – How was it pickled? Brine, distilled vinegar, malt vinegar?

PTM – Oh, distilled vinegar, obviously. This notion that one can pickle is brine is a fallacy. Fake news of the sort only America could come up with. Monstrous. Honestly, I don’t know how these “people” can looks themselves in the eye.

PTM – Does the ink on the egg not taint the flavour?

PTM – Not at all. Being squid ink, it actually enhances the meaty tones of the egg.

PTM – So, with all this Holmesian history in the family, it wasn’t surprising you’d end up joining some societies. But what made you start your own one in 2018?

PTM – Well, yes, I did join other societies, and I think they are great. The spirit of friendship is wonderful but I felt they all had the same problems.

PTM – Which were?

PTM – Well, for starters, they all required me to leave the house if I wanted to attend any meetings or society events...

PTM – Not something you are fond of, then?

PTM – No. I’m a big sitting-down partaker. I’m also very, very important. I’ve always thought that if something is worthwhile, people should bring it to me. But the other thing that the other societies get wrong is letting the wrong sort of people in.

PTM – And who would you say the wrong sort of people are?

PTM – The ones who aren’t me.

PTM – Yes, I wanted to chat with you about that. Your society has only ever had one member, is that right?

PTM – One human member, certainly. We did have a brief dalliance with allowing a headless mannequin to join us, but in the end, even her attitude was unbearable.

PTM – I think we can all understand that. Other people are awful, aren’t they?

PTM – Yes. Awful.

PTM – Yes.

PTM – Awful.

PTM – Yes.

PTM – So you formed the Shingle of Southsea?

PTM – Quite right. I sent myself a newsletter declaring the creation of the society and I’ve never looked back.

PTM – Really. No regrets at all?

PTM – Oh yes. Lots. But at the end of the day, the pickled eggs make up for all that, don’t they.

PTM – Rather. So, since then you’ve been doing a great deal of Holmesian work. What would you say was your proudest achievement so far?

PTM – I think that would have to be the discovery of the Doyle and Miller lamb-fighting arena in the basement of the Egg Works. It was customary back them for the workplace to be more than where you earned your money. Factories were the hub of a community. Your employer and your colleagues were like an extended family. So your workplace would have a canteen, maybe a bar and generally some sporting facilities to encourage the workers to socialise together. Doyle, as you know, was a massive fan of blood sports, and Sebastian Miller was rabid in his loathing for sheep. It was inevitable, then, that they would install a lamb pit in the building. I’d always heard rumours of its existence but no one had ever been able to find it. So I did a bit of research… a bit of poking around… and eventually I located it.

PTM – Wow! That must have been exciting. How did you manage it.

PTM – Well, for as long as I can remember the basement door had always been marked “Dangerous! Do not enter!” But on a hunch, I did enter. And there it was. A 10 meter wide lamb-fighting pit, with seating all around the outside. Enough for a thousand people. It turned out that the danger was just a wasp that had got in during the war, but it had died since then, so it was fine. There was a desk in one corner with a great big leather bound ledger where they kept all the stats from the lamb-fights. Obviously, I looked up the details of my great-gramp’s fights and he did OK in the ring, but it was Doyle who showed the real skill.

PTM – Oh really? I knew he was a big sportsman, but I didn’t know he was a good Lamber.

PTM – Oh yes. In one particular fight he managed to slaughter three dozen day old lambs with nothing more than a screwdriver. And remember, they didn’t have cross heads in those days. It was all flat head. Apparently, the foreman kept dumping the bleaters in at a rate double anything anyone had seen before. Everyone went crazy. They were begging the foreman to stop, saying no man could cope with that much ovine aggression, but the foreman and Doyle had agreed it all before the match and he knew what he was doing. Five minutes later, covered in fleecy gore, Doyle crawled out of the pit, leaving a lifeless broth of lamb behind him. The crowd roared in glee as Doyle spat a chunk of lamb ear on the floor. And that’s how he came up with the plot for Silver Blaze.

PTM – Gosh. Doyle really was a stand-up guy, wasn’t he? So what are the plans for the future of the Shingle of Southsea?

PTM – Well, I’m seriously considering closing it down, once we reach the five year mark.

PTM – Oh no! Why?

PTM – Well, as this interview shows, I’ve clearly run out of things to write and each month it just gets more and more difficult to sit down in a room with myself and make small talk.

PTM – But surely, all of Holmesiana would fall apart without the Shingle of Southsea to give them something to aspire to?

PTM – Good point. I’ll take it into consideration.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 20th June 2022

 Date of Meeting: 20th June 2022

 

Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

 

Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

 

Apologies:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) was unavailable for comment.

 

Motions:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved.

 

Toast:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) toasted The Tapanuli Fever:


Pardon me Holmes, is that the Tapanuli Fever?

Oysters all multiply. Holmes, you can't really die

It's just whack to contract the Tapanuli Fever

I'll, I'll fetch Culverton Smith, then find Holmes's taking the piss.

etc.


 Presentation:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave a long meandering talk about something or other:


Mr. Cross's Emporium


The following article which appeared in The Era on Saturday 9th January 1886 may interest the Holmesian zoologist. I have reproduced it word for word but have emphasised the words which highlight the Sherlockian importance of Mr. Cross’s emporium. Personally, I do find the content interesting as it gives an idea of the sort of things being traded around the globe with little regulation at the time.

 -----

MR. CROSS’S EMPORIUM.

The address of this well-known importer of foreign animals and birds is familiar all over the globe. Sports-men, either upon the prairies of Western America or in the Indian jungles, know where they can find a ready market for such living trophies of their valour as can be placed on shipboard. At Yokohama or Valparaiso, at Auckland or Zanzibar, any product of the animal kingdom, safely caged and labelled " Cross, Liverpool," would, save through the malign influence of some of the many mysterious agencies which are duly notified in the current shipping note, arrive safe and sound at the Earle-street depot. Eastern and Western cable companies alike could testify to the frequency of the recurrence of this address, in connection with such advises as "Three lions, per Sumatra," "Elephants, per Ganges, this date," "Buffalo and bears, ex Brussels," "Forward giraffe first steamer, urgent," "Want two well-marked full-sized tigers." The weekly announcements of the arrivals at Earle-street rarely fail to record consignments of some hundreds of birds and animals. The visitor to Cross's will not find the same animals caged at Earle-street two weeks together. Herein is the explanation of those apparently incredible announcements of arrivals which most readers of The Era are familiar with. The business carried on is a transit business, the stock being received either "on order" or for sale, rather than for permanent exhibition, as in the case of ordinary menageries. Still, the capacity of the Earle-street depot is such as to afford housing room for a larger quantity of livestock at any particular time than most menageries can boast of. Among the larger animals noted at a recent visit were one male lion, four Russian wolves, one Prussian ditto, one polar bear, one full grown zebra, exquisitely marked; two antelopes, nine bears, nine pelicans, two ostriches, and a crane; a host of civet and tiger cats, goats, monkeys, birds, and snakes. In the yard stood the latest importation, in the shape of a full-grown Cape buffalo, which had just come off ship- board. This "specimen" was boxed up in a strong wooden structure, itself a novelty in the way of West Coast productions, and weighed altogether upwards of two tons. Had the stock which was out on exhibition been at home, it would have increased the above list by two full-grown lions and cubs; seven Russian bears, one river elephant, three antelopes, one llama, one hyena, one panther, one black tiger, one giant rat, two ostriches, twenty-five monkeys, and a multitude of vultures, eagles, small birds, and sundries. For a "snake study," Cross's cases, stocked as they generally are, would rejoice the heart of any budding naturalist, The cost of large full-grown animals is as high as 500, £800, or even £1,000; the difficulty and risk of transit being proportionately great. Still, the amount of stock passing safely through Mr Cross's hands in one year, received from all parts of the world, represents a very respectable animal kingdom. As "Secretary of State to the Animal World," Mr Cross's position is unique. America can boast of her Barnum, and England still possesses her Sanger; but the mammoth establishments of these celebrities combined would scarce afford storage room for the living specimens of natural historical interest which pass through the Earle-street depot year by year. As a matter of fact, Mr Cross often supplies the greatest novelties to exhibitions like those of Barnum and Sanger. Should either of these gentlemen desire a pair of full-grown elephants - white or ordinary - a pair of lions, tigers, or panthers, they have simply to wire "Cross, Liverpool," who, should he not have the goods in stock, will pass on the message by an Eastern Tele- graph company to his agent in the locality from which the animals call be obtained. Thus, with the greatest expedition the goods will be put on shipboard, bound westward, and will be handed over to their respective purchasers with as little delay as possible. Or should any zoological gardens desire to add to its existing stock, or to stock new premises, Mr Cross would undertake to supply the want in a space of time which to ordinary people would seem incredible. The character of his business is best gauged by a perusal of Mr Cross's ledger. In it are to be found accounts which have been opened at one time or another with the flower of the English aristocracy, from the Prince of Wales downwards. Coming into a more useful and commercial region, accounts are found with the best known naturalists, gardens, and circus proprietors. It is owing to this world-wide connection that Mr Cross has been announcing for years that he is always open to purchase any living curiosity, and, on the other hand, that he has such a marvellous weekly importation. At Earle-street may be gathered the latest information as to any members of the animal kingdom which may be on sale at home, or as to the most expeditious means of securing specimens of such as are abroad. Steamboat, rail, and telegraph are alike impressed into the work of supplying inhabitants for the aviary of the nobleman, the caravan of the showman, or the tiny wicker cage of the working man's home.

 -----

The mention of a "giant rat" and imports from Sumatra naturally put me in mind of the untold story briefly mentioned in The Sussex Vampire: “Matilda Briggs was... a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.” I had never considered that importing giant rats might be a legitimate business activity before. This discovery led me on to investigate Mr. Cross’s Emporium of Earle Street, Liverpool a little further.

Earle Street is a very short street in the major port city of Liverpool. It currently contains just one building with an Earle Street address: the small Cross Keys pub at number 13. From adverts placed by Mr Cross's Emporium, we know it was at 16 and 18 Earle Street, so it must have been more or less opposite the Cross Keys in the site now occupied by Orleans House which now faces on to Edmund Street.

The above adverts were taken from The Era of Sunday 26th September 1880. Note that “giant rat” appears to be a common item of stock.

I did a little rooting about and managed to turn up the following about the Cross Menagerie. William Cross had been operating as an animal importer since 1865 and by the mid 1870 his firm was probably the biggest animal importer in England. He moved into the Earle Street premises in 1880 and in 1882 they began to admit paying visitors to view the animals they had in stock. Business continued in this way until 1898 when the premises suffered from a serious fire. At this point the public side of the business ceased trading but the import business continued until 1912 – being run by Cross’s children after he died in 1900.

By my calculations, the Matilda Briggs case must have taken place sometime between June 1876 and 19 November 1897 (that is, sometime between Holmes leaving university and telling Watson about the case during the adventure of The Sussex Vampire). Such timing makes it incredibly likely that Mr. Cross’s Emporium was involved with the importing of The Giant Rat of Sumatra – he was England’s main supplier of such animals, after all. From the way Holmes tells Watson about the case, it seems Watson was not involved in Holmes’s work at the time it took place. With Morrison, Morrison and Dodd stating they had not forgotten the Matilda Briggs case, they imply that enough time has passed that it would be possible for them to have forgotten. As such, I am inclined to believe that this is one of Holmes’s Montague Street cases, that is, pre-1881.

Of Matilda Briggs I can find no record other than a character in a short story title “Not So Bad After All” which appeared as a column filler in many newspapers around the world in 1878 and 1879 and a Mary Matilda Briggs who married Joseph Henry Bell in Leeds in 1879. (Sadly this was not the same Joe Bell who had once taught the literary agent.) Certainly, no ships of this name seem to have existed at the time. No doubt Watson supplied the ship with a pseudonym when he wrote about the giant rat in order to protect someone’s privacy, but among Watson’s many talents dissimulation finds no place and it is possible to deduce the name of the real vessel. You see, as well as being the name of a country, Sumatra was also the name of a barque. More than likely, at some point the Sumatra was conveying goods to Liverpool for Cross. In which case, Watson may have tipped his hand when he wrote of “the giant rat of Sumatra” – the rat came from the barque Sumatra – not the country, and was destined for the Cross menagerie.

I note that the chief officer of the Sumatra died at 226 Beaufort Street in Liverpool on 16th February 1880. Further, the Sumatra had been the subject of some mystery prior to this – in 1876 it caught fire and the crew abandoned it despite having the means to put the fire out. However, it was soon back in business, and I can find records of it in shipping columns up to at least September 1879.

Morrison, Morrison and Dodd were a firm specialising in the assessment of machinery, which rather complicates matters. What involvement might they have had in the shipping of exotic animals? For them to fit into this story, I believe they must have been brought in to assess the faulty machinery which led to the mysterious ship fire of 1876. Some special mechanism was on board that ship and, judging by their own and Holmes’s guarded talk about these matters, that mechanism was highly confidential.

From these identifiable fragments of story, I think it is possible to construct an approximate explanation for the “story for which the world is not yet prepared”. Cross, remember, imported animals for all sorts of clients and for all sorts of reasons. And Holmes spoke of the case not being ready for the public in 1897 (the year SUSS took place). This was a time of military secrets in the build up to the Great War. It seems evident to me that the story of the giant rat is very likely to be another matter of top secret military intelligence such as we saw in BRUC and NAVA. It follows, then, that the British military were using Cross to import giant rats in special circumstances for a secret military application.

The only explanation I can produce which explains all of these factors involves one of mankind’s worst innovations – biological warfare. We don’t know which country the giant rats were being imported from, but the Victorian age was one of great global exploration and conquest - more than likely they came from a new part of the Empire which also produced some hideous disease such as Tapanuli fever or the black Formosa corruption. The use of disease in warfare was by no means a new idea – texts indicate that as early as 1500 BC the Hittites would drive infectious sick people into enemy territory in order to cause epidemics. Throughout the 1700s “civilised” nations were using smallpox infected goods to conquer new colonies. Certainly, biological warfare was used in the Great War – anthrax being the most well-known weapon. So appalled was humanity at itself, that biological warfare was banned under the Geneva Convention in 1925.

It is no great leap, then, to suppose that British intelligence agencies, in the build up to 1914, had been looking for potential microbial weapons to assist in the inevitable world conflict. Having identified one in the form of a tropical disease somewhere in the Empire, the problem became how to safely transport it back to England to be experimented upon and weaponised. Rats, of course, are well known for their ability to transport disease. For this reason, the local giant rats were recruited. Once an infected individual was captured, it had to be safely taken back to England. Cross was brought in for his expertise in this field, but that was not enough. Special containment units would need to be constructed to keep the rats alive but segregated from the crew. These would require fresh air, despite being below decks. Some sort of pump would be in order, along with some sort of “air-lock” method for feeding and watering the creatures without coming into contact with them. Here we have the machinery which Morrison, Morrison and Dodd were concerned with. It seems to have failed twice that we know of. The first occasion was in 1876 when it started a fire. When this was investigated later in the year, the authorities seem to have been slightly perplexed as to why the ship had been abandoned, when it could have been put out easily with on board pumps. The secret reason, of course, is that the risk was not just of fire, but of the containment units being breached and infecting the crew. My belief is that this is when Morrison, Morrison and Dodd first entered the scene – they were consulted on how to avoid the same problem again – and they succeeded.

The second incident is likely to be the one which saw Holmes brought in. On 16th February 1880 Mr. Cowell, the chief officer of the Sumatra died aged only 26. Panic spread through all involved in the giant rat/biological weapon programme. Blame was thrown at Morrison, Morrison and Dodd for their inadequate containment unit designs. Morrison, Morrison and Dodd employed a rising young scientific investigator to clear their name and Holmes (possibly granted access to classified information by his brother) was able to defend the reputation of the firm by proving Cowell’s death was entirely unrelated. Remember, this is around the time Holmes is beginning to make a name for himself in official circles – little over a year later, when he first moved in with Watson, Holmes was already being consulted by policemen on a regular basis. Seeking an outside agent who could be trusted at this time would very likely have led MM&D to Holmes’s door.

Naturally, in 1897, Holmes would still have been guarding the secrets of this case carefully. The authorities would fear public outrage at the inhumane practice of using disease as a weapon and the enemies of England would not be given the opportunity to defend themselves against Britain’s arsenal. So there we have it – the real events behind the affair of the giant rat of Sumatra.

 

Any other business:

Buy my book. It is available from all the Amazon sites…

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

US - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

Canada - https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

Australia - https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

And, you know, all the others. Searching for B0B146NCY8 seems to be the key. Or 979-8824511970.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 25th May 2022

Date of Meeting: 25th May 2022

 

Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

 

Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

 

Appleogies:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) isn’t mad keen on apples.

 

Motions:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved that we should have a hat allowance. No one seconded. Motion was dismissed.

 

Toast:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) toasted Annie Morrison from The Reigate Squires:

 

So here’s to you Annie Morrison,

Kirwan loved you more than you will know.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

He rests in peace, Annie Morrison,

The Cunninghams have blown his heart away.

Hey, hey, hey.

Hey, hey, hey.

Etc.

 

Presentation:

Rather than give a proper presentation, "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) droned on about his new book celebrating the fifth year of The Shingle of Southsea. Frankly, it came across as little more than a bad advert:

I have published a new book called A Demi-Decade of The Shingle of Southsea - The World's Greatest Sherlock Holmes Society. It’s a sturdy volume – 397 pages of the work of "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) principally drawn from the minutes of these meetings. It also contains a few other essays and stories which have appeared elsewhere and a few pages regarding Shingle of Southsea history. The blurb on Amazon describes it as follows:

“In 2022, The Shingle of Southsea (the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes society) celebrates its fifth year of existence. This is a collection of the works of the society's members, including some history about the society as well as Holmesian poems, art, stories and essays.

Like all self-published Kindle Direct Publishing books, it really does suffer from a lack of editing, proof-reading and talent.”

But perhaps a better review was provided by Brad Keefauver on his website: http://sherlockpeoria.blogspot.com/2022/05/dont-set-this-book-aside-important.html

The book is available from all the Amazon sites…

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

US - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

Canada - https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

Australia - https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B0B146NCY8

And, you know, all the others. Searching for B0B146NCY8 seems to be the key. Or 979-8824511970.

It looks like this:

 



You should buy it. It’s not as awful as it could be. And it’s cheap.

 

Any other business:

No.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 28th April 2022

Date of Meeting: 28th April 2022

Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

 

Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

 

Apologies:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) smelt apologetic

  

Motions:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved that we shouldn't do that sort of thing anymore. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised and said he didn't know anyone was looking.

 

Toast:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) toasted Sherlock Holmes's legs:


 Sherlock Holmes had two legs -

One on either side.

They had the skin wrapped around them

And gooey bits inside.

They bridged the gap between his waist

And his little feet

Both of them bent at the knees

And he used them once a week.

 

Presentation:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following far too long paper about Holmes's religion: 


Was Sherlock Holmes a Pastafarian?

By Paul Thomas Miller


Foreword and Terms Defined

Pastafaianism, FSMism and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are all terms referring to a religion which has been emerging from the shadows ever since the prophet Bobby Henderson came forward in 2005. In short, Pastafarians believe that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) and it was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. They feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him. I am not, here, going to delve into an in depth discussion of the history and beliefs of FSMism, but encourage the reader to look them up for themselves: https://www.spaghettimonster.org/

FSMism has two holy books – The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and The Loose Canon. For references to The Gospel, I will state GOSPEL and the page number on which extracts may be found in the HarperCollins 2006 edition. The Loose Canon is available for free to download online - https://www.spaghettimonster.org/2010/07/the-loose-canon/ - and is split into chapters and verses in much the same way as the Christian Bible. References to passages from this book will be given in such a format.

Equally, a chapter and verse version of the Holmesian Canon is available and references to this will be given in such a format too. This version is available for free here: https://chapterandverseholmes.co.uk/

Due to there being two “Canons” involved in this essay there is need to avoid confusion. When referring to the texts relating to Sherlock Holmes, I will use the term “Holmesian Canon”. When referring to the second holy book of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I will use the term “Loose Canon”.

 

Introduction

Several other Holmesians have attempted to answer the question of whether Holmes had a religious faith and if so what it was (for example “The Theology of Sherlock Holmes”, Wayne Wall, BSJ V29N3). I have found all of their arguments and conclusions unconvincing, so I decided to have a go myself. As a kicking off place, I began by considering the number of mentions of religions in the Holmesian Canon. The results were not tremendously convincing.  The religion most mentioned was “Mormonism” or “Mormons”, which came up twenty-two times – although never in a very flattering way, so we may safely reject this particular candidate. “Christ”, “Christmas” and “Christians” get a total of twenty mentions. This is far more than the two mentions of “Mohammedans”, three of “Hindoos”, three of “Buddha” or “Buddhism”, two of “Voodoo” and six of “Jews” or “Hebrew”. The count, then, seems to suggest Holmes may have been a Christian. But let us consider this more closely. Take this extract from the Holmesian Canon where Watson is suggesting a book which both Holmes and Porlock (a Moriarty henchman) may own:

“The Bible!” I cried triumphantly.

“Good, Watson, good! But not, if I may say so, quite good enough! Even if I accepted the compliment for myself I could hardly name any volume which would be less likely to lie at the elbow of one of Moriarty's associates. (VALL 1:143-146)

This seems to suggest that Holmes did not own a Bible. Which would be unusual for a genuine Christian. Next, consider this moment from the beginning of The Devil’s Foot:

The vicar of the parish, Mr. Roundhay, was something of an archaeologist, and as such Holmes had made his acquaintance. (DEVI 1:28)

It is clear that the only reason Holmes made the vicar’s acquaintance was through a shared interest in archaeology. Otherwise, it seems, Watson should expect them to not meet. So Holmes can’t have been a churchgoer. Finally, we see his attitude to the Christian Devil in The Hound of the Baskervilles:

“But surely, if your supernatural theory be correct, it could work the young man evil in London as easily as in Devonshire. A devil with merely local powers like a parish vestry would be too inconceivable a thing.”

“You put the matter more flippantly, Mr. Holmes, than you would probably do if you were brought into personal contact with these things. (HOUN 3:111-113)

Dr. Mortimer chastises Holmes’s flippant attitude towards Satan, but what could be more natural for a man who does not believe Satan exists. Cumulatively, the evidence makes it very unlikely that Holmes could have been a Christian. But if this is the case, what are we to make of his behaviour at university:

Trevor was the only man I knew, and that only through the accident of his bull terrier freezing on to my ankle one morning as I went down to chapel. (GLOR 1:22)

This seems to indicate that Holmes did attend church, contrary to my observation above. But I would be far from the first to discuss the problem of a dog on campus. Dogs weren’t allowed on either campus of Oxford or Cambridge (most scholars agree Holmes would have attended one of these two universities), so how did Holmes encounter one on his way to chapel? All manner of convoluted theories have been put forward to account for this, but a much simpler one is available. Is not a more likely scenario that he was attending a chapel off campus? Something other than the Christian ones on campus? But where should we look for clues as to which religion’s chapel he was on his way to?

We do known something of Holmes’s attitude toward religion in general:

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. 337Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” (NAVA 1:322-338)

This attempt to use logical induction in the pursuit of theological certainties has, to my knowledge, only been attempted by one religion – The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Indeed Holmes’s argument above is remarkably like a passage in GOSPEL page 23 which makes a similar argument about different dog breeds being provided by FSM to serve different specific purposes and, further, whether any other theories could really explain the platypus. And the teleological argument put forth on GOSPEL page 170 is an entirely deductive one, such as Holmes sought.

It is this scientific approach to religion which leads me to consider whether Holmes may have been a member of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – a creed which, while at odds with science, also takes pains to provide scientific proof of its truth. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is littered with discussions of science and superscience and their connection with Pastafarianism. Indeed, pages 163 through 211 are dedicated to mathematical, theologerbraic and scientific proofs of FSMism.

Going back to the search for mentions of religion in Holmes’s texts we see a startling amount of FSMism indicators. Certainly, there is no mention of pasta, spaghetti or noodles in the Holmesian Canon, but this is not surprising given how secretive the Church has been up until recent years. However, “meat” gets five mentions and “balls” get thirteen. “Monster” achieves ten mentions and “flying” racks up nineteen appearances. This makes a total of forty-seven mentions of FSM, more than double any other religion.

(In the interests of transparency, it should be noted that “God” gets one-hundred and fifteen mentions in the Holmesian Canon. But this proves very little as there is no way of knowing which God was being referred to – Jehovah, Jupiter, Jah or whatever.)

We should not take any lack of the Holmesian Canon directly mentioning Holmes being a Pastafarian as indicative of whether he was or was not. Before 2005 Pastafarians were very secretive about their beliefs, and with good reason:

The commonly propagated myth that Pirates were thieves can be traced, unsurprisingly, to the Christian theologists of the Middle Ages. It’s Just another example of the discrimination and misinformation that we’ve had to contend with over the years, and another reason Pastafarians have been so secretive about their beliefs. (GOSPEL page 70-71)

If Holmes were a Pastafarian it would never have been explicitly stated in the text. But if he wanted to drop hints to others of his creed, we would be much more likely to find Watson leaving hidden clues scattered through his accounts. And I have found plenty of such examples. Consider the traditional depiction of FSM – a mass of spaghetti with two eye stalks and multiple noodle appendages surrounding precisely two meat balls:

The Spaghetti took with it two meatballs, and grew googly eyestalks. (FPP-PETE 3:10)

Now consider this extract from The Valley of Fear and ask yourself if it is not an example of Watson hinting at a hidden truth. It is certainly a queer turn of phrase to use otherwise:

Menzies, the Scotchman, gave a roar of rage at the sight and rushed with an iron spanner at the murderers; but was met by two balls in the face which dropped him dead at their very feet. (VALL 12:170, my emphasis)

And when we consider this passage from The Loose Canon:

He has chosen, in His Holy Sauced Wisdom, to reveal only these certain truths: that after the Earth itself, came mountains, trees and a midgit/midget (but not necessarily in that order), and that thereafter He took three days off, Friday being the Holiest among them. (2ANC 4)

is it not apparent that in The Sign of the Four Watson was making allusions to the FSM creation story when he mentioned these three creations: mountains, trees and a midget, all in the form of one man - Thaddeus Sholto:

A blaze of yellow light streamed out upon us, and in the centre of the glare there stood a small man with a very high head, a bristle of red hair all round the fringe of it, and a bald, shining scalp which shot out from among it like a mountain-peak from fir-trees. (SIGN 4:2, my emphasises)

In The Book of Midgets/Midgits in The Loose Canon, we frequently see the midgets/midgits exclaiming “Bork Bork Bork!” Can there be any doubt that this is what Watson was referencing when he pseudonymed the German spy “Von Bork” in His Last Bow?

Finally, compare this section of The Random Number of Not Commandments, Suggestions in The Loose Canon to Holmes’s treatment of Grimesby Roylott in the Speckled Band when Roylott burst into the 221b sitting room uninvited:

Thou shalt be amused rather than angered by the words and deeds of idiots; for I am thy Noodly Lord and I have created idiots solely for entertainment purposes, Mine first and thine likewise. (SUG 13)

Holmes chuckled heartily. “Your conversation is most entertaining,” said he. “When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught.” (SPEC 1:261-263)

The evidence seems to keep piling up. My hypothesis, then, is this: Sherlock Holmes was a Pastafarian.

 

Why Would Pastafarianism Appeal To Holmes?

As I’ve already stated above, Holmes would have first been drawn to FSMism by it’s scientific, deductive and logical explanations for its beliefs. But what might have induced him to take it further?

For starters both Holmes and FSMism exhibit a dislike of moral absolutes. For the FSM’s part, consider what He said to Pirate Mosey:

“I’m all for flimsy moral standards.” (PIR 4:4)

The Gospel and The Loose Canon time and again refer to the rejection of dogma. Rather than a list of moral absolutes (or “Commandments”) The Gospel provides The Eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts” (page 99- 101) and The Loose Canon provides The Random Number of Not Commandments, Suggestions (SUG). In both cases this is in recognition that no strict rule-set can be applicable in all situations and that, moreover, we already know what is right and wrong without needing an authority figure’s threats to encourage us to act appropriately. As The Loose Canon so rightly says:

“And he shall not follow any dogma, for that only causes problems. If he feels my rules are bad, he may choose to ignore them. I’m cool with that.” (PIR 11:3)

Dost thou really need these carved into a rock? (SUG 2)

Holmes understands this rejection of moral absolutes only too well. In his pursuit of justice he repeatedly rejects the dogma of British Law, insisting that greater justice may be done by following his heart instead:

“I have learned caution now, and I had rather play tricks with the law of England than with my own conscience.” (ABBE 1:432)

To give just a few examples, Holmes helps the killer of Charles Augustus Milverton escape (CHAS) and lets off the thieves who stole the Blue Carbuncle (BLUE). Indeed, he engages in illegal activities himself on several occasions – breaking into the homes of Hugo Oberstein and Charles Augustus Milverton for example. Each of these transgressions of law is taken because he believes the right thing to do is contrary to the contemporary prevalent dogmas.

Another factor of FSMism which may have appealed to Holmes would be its value system. Through parable, The Loose Canon details five characteristics which FSM believes are important to keep in mind (FPP-BOB 1:1-6:24). These are Compassion, Trustworthiness, Avoiding Prejudice, Humbleness and Loyalty. For all five there is evidence in the Holmesian Canon demonstrating that Holmes shared FSM’s respect for these qualities.

1. Compassion. Holmes repeatedly shows compassion towards the vulnerable in the Holmesian Canon. As with Helen Stoner:

“You must not fear,” said he soothingly, bending forward and patting her forearm. “We shall soon set matters right, I have no doubt.” (SPEC 1:34-35)

2. Trustworthiness. That Holmes endeavoured to be trustworthy is borne out by the delicate cases which were brought to him by others. Consider, for example, the King of Bohemia’s opinion which he expressed to Holmes:

“Your recent services to one of the royal houses of Europe have shown that you are one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which can hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all quarters received.” (SCAN 1:73-74)

3. Avoiding Prejudice. Holmes knows well the value of rejecting prejudice. He makes a point of rejecting it in his cases and his assessments of people.

“Now, I make a point of never having any prejudices, and of following docilely wherever fact may lead me…” (REIG 1:359)

“I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.” (SIGN 2:122)

4. Humbleness. With Holmes, humbleness is displayed in his adherence to fact. He neither boasts, nor talks himself down:

“I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers.” (GREE 1:18-19)

5. Loyalty. Perhaps the greatest example of Holmes exhibiting loyalty is found towards the end of The Three Garridebs when Watson is grazed by a bullet:

It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation. (3GAR 1:439-442)

Finally, I suspect that the element of contradiction in the Pastafarian texts may have also appealed to Holmes. In most Pastafarian literature, you will find an acknowledgement and acceptance of these contradictions:

“In my opinion, the texts of the Canon should never be altered or eliminated, however, any text, no matter how contradictory, can be canonized. Even this first edition has texts that contradict each other and even the Gospel of the FSM” (3ANC 11-12)

“As with all religious texts,” pointed out Dee Dee the First, “this one is confusing and obscure, with inherent contradictions, for it is the inspired and gathered lore of a religious people over time.” (PVH 1:50)

Holmes too, had a propensity for contradiction. For example, between the years 1891 and 1894 Holmes was exploring Tibet, Persia, Mecca, Khartoum and Southern France having faked his own death in Switzerland (EMPT 1:179-182). However, while playing dead and being thoroughly abroad he also popped up in Esher to solve a crime in 1892 (WIST). This is by no means the only example of contradiction in the Holmesian Canon which Holmes appears to have no difficulty acknowledging and accepting.

 

How does Holmes measure up as a Pastafarian?

If we are to compare Holmes’s behaviour to that we can expect of a Pastafarian, we should first consider Watson’s early impressions of Holmes, given in his famous list of Holmes’s limits (STUD 2:56-72). Most of the points Watson mentioned can be seen to be representative of the Pastafarian faith documented in The Loose Canon.

 

Knowledge of Literature.—Nil. (STUD 2:56)

The word “Literature” does not appear once in the entire Loose Canon showing that Holmes and FSMism both exhibit similar interest in literature.

 

Philosophy.—Nil. (STUD 2:57)

Traditional philosophy is rejected by both Holmes and FSMism:

[the Dark Lord Darwin] corrupts [students] with reason and evidence, tricking them into thinking the myth of evolution true and causing them to choose Science and Philosophy over our holy and delicious teachings. (SOTM 15)

 

Astronomy.—Nil. (STUD 2:58)

As in revealed by FSM, Holmes recognises that the earth, the moon and the stars are transitory and unimportant:

The fourth Holy Pirate sounded his trumpet and a third of the earth the moon and the stars became nothing. (1REV 4:5)

 

Politics.—Feeble. (STUD 2:59)

Holmes’s feeble knowledge of politics reflects a Pastafarian understanding of the damned nature of politicians:

“There is a reservation [in HellLight] for the tricksters, the con-men, the corrupt, unrepentant politicians…” (FAQ 51)

 

Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening. (STUD 2:60-62)

Holmes recognises the importance of some knowledge of poisons, as do Pastafarians:

In the split of a second, in the instant of an eye, the food of the evil one poisoned him and he perished. (1REV 11:29)

 

Geology.—Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. 65After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them. (STUD 2:63-63)

Holmes seems only to be interested in geology as far as it assists him in his work. Similarly, proper geology is not trusted in FSMism as it is believed that FSM has messed with the Earth to produce an effect contrary to reality for His own amusement:

All those fossil layers put there just to trick us. (PTRN 3:5)

 

Chemistry.—Profound. (STUD 2:66)

This may seem an unlikely skill for a Pastafarian, as generally FSMism is very suspicious of science. But if you really look into it, is chemistry a proper science? Chemistry – with all its mixing and heating - could more accurately be described as a type of cookery – an act clearly considered holy within Pastafarianism:

And their prize trade possession was Olive Oil and an ever expanding range of pasta sauces. (MID 4:5)

 

Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic. (STUD 2:67)

It stands to reason that a follower of a faith with a Stripper Factory in Heaven would have some knowledge of anatomy and that this knowledge may well be unsystematic:

Yes, the Beer Volcano and Stripper Factory of Heaven await thee… (SOL 80)

 

Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. (STUD 2:68-69)

This has very little to do with Pastafarianism and no doubt represents only the professional part of Holmes’s life.

 

Plays the violin well. (STUD 2:70)

The connections between the violin and ravioli are self-evident, as is the connection between ravioli and Pastafarianism. Clearly, when choosing an instrument to learn, a Pastafarian would chose the most Holy instrument of his faith which happens to be the one Holmes chose too.

 

Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. (STUD 2:71)

Holmes’s sporting interests here seem to match up with those of the FSM faith. With Pastafarianism’s highly piratical nature, it is unsurprising that a Pastafarian would teach themselves the useful pillaging arts of combat – especially swordsmanship. Although note should be made that Pastafarian pirates are discouraged from using physical force – for example:

No good pirate should brandish thine cutlass, or thine hook, or thine peg, nor any manner of implementation bestowed unto him by Him, nor act in such a way with malice aforethought to thine fellow creatures, which are all part of His magical, delicious, plan, for, in so doing, thine treat thine fellow creatures contrary to His magical, delicious, plan; unless yee be acting to prevent some greater evil that is exceedingly hostile to His plan, or, if the consumption of strong drink has rendered yee unaccountable unto Him for thine acts and thou hast felt the greatest of sorrow for thine transgressions against Him. (GDLNS 1:5)

 

Has a good practical knowledge of British law. (STUD 2:72)

As with “Sensational Literature” we cannot expect Holmes’s interests to solely revolve around his faith – his work features in this list too – hence knowledge of British law which is entirely unimportant to the Pastafarian church.

 

Moving on from Watson’s list, we also know that Holmes was a big fan of science – not just the chemistry which Watson noted, but the scientific method in general. Holmes describes himself as a “scientific detective” (SIGN 1:90) and Watson twice titles chapters of his books “The Science Of Deduction” (STUD and SIGN). Indeed, before introducing Watson and Holmes, Stamford is clear on this point:

He is a little queer in his ideas—an enthusiast in some branches of science. (STUD 1:40)

All of this may seem contrary to Pastafarianism – which is known for being suspicious of science. However, FSMism’s relationship with science is a lot more complicated than this simple statement. If you look at the church’s propaganda leaflets you will almost always find a section boasting about the “Scientific Proof” of FSMism. Indeed, a whole section of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is dedicated to such proofs. As mentioned above, pages 163 to 211 are dedicated to the “Enlightenment Institute” – mathematical and scientific proofs of the truth of FSM. In this regard, Holmes’s dual scientific yet questioning nature is entirely consistent with FSMism.

Another often remarked quality of Holmes was his attitude to class boundaries:

So unworldly was he—or so capricious—that he frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of some humble client whose case presented those strange and dramatic qualities which appealed to his imagination and challenged his ingenuity. (BLAC 1:4)

He is as at home assisting the more wretched members of Victorian society (e.g. Shinwell Johnson and Kitty Winter in ILLU) as he is scornful of the rich and obnoxious (e.g. Neil Gibson in THOR). He offers the poor street urchins of his local area honest work in the form of his famous Baker Street Irregulars – young strays who he pays for their assistance in his investigations. In short, Holmes is not a snob. Rather he is a charitable person who sees all humans as equal. This is a typically Pastafarian attitude:

As you treat the least of the midgets, so you treat Him.” (PVH 3:20)

Moving on, WWAPD is a section of the GOSPEL which starts at page 85. The initials stand for What Would A Pirate Do and they represent an advised FSMism approach to dealing with life’s difficulties. The seven parts of this process are given in detail and it is not surprising to find that Holmes’s approach to setting himself up as a consulting detective closely follows the method (with one or two Victorian twists). I shall discuss each step in turn:

1. A pirate would drink some grog.

Holmes’s intoxication of choice was somewhat stronger than grog. The opening passage of SIGN details Watson’s frustration with Holmes’s use of morphine and cocaine. But Holmes was by no means a tea-totaller either: whisky and soda pops up in REDH and NOBL, Tokay in LAST and brandy in REIG to name just a few examples. While not strictly grog, these are sufficient lubrication-for-the-mind to be a reasonable alternative for a Londoner of his era.

2. A pirate would obtain a parrot.

This, FSMism tells us, is for their ability to repeat making them a valuable note keeper. The Gospel accepts that these days a PC or diary might serve the same function in a push, but regrets that they aren’t as much fun. Holmes found a unique solution – he found a Watson.

3. Find ye a band of marauders.

A great Pastafarian needs a great team. And Holmes was by no means the lover of solitude that Watson sometimes claimed him to be (e.g. FIVE 1:295). Besides Watson, his “band of marauders” included the Baker Street Irregulars, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Gregson, Porlock, Shinwell Johnson, Langdale Pike, Stamford, Billy the page and Mercer.

4. If you can’t steal one, build yar ship.

Having chosen a career which would base him on land, this part of the WWAPD method does not apply so strongly to Holmes. Certainly, he enjoyed his high speed chase on a police steam launch in SIGN, but Holmes’s “ship” of choice was more often the Hansom cab, which could sail with ease through the sea of London streets.

5. Find thee a wench!

As Watson made clear at the start of SCAN, Holmes was never going to be one to get himself a wench:

He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. (SCAN 1:6)

All that Holmes required for companionship he found for many years in his closest friendships (e.g. Victor Trevor, John H. Watson and Harold Stackhurst) and this was sufficient to content him. With FSMism’s rejection of dogma, there is no theological difficulty here with Holmes substituting friends for lovers.

6. When in doubt, plunder!!

The Gospel states here that “The only way to avoid inaction is to take action,” and encourages Pastafarians to get out and have adventures. Certainly the Holmesian Canon provides us with sixty clear examples of Holmes doing exactly that and hints at many more which remain unrecorded.

7. Arrrgh!!!

This, I believe is self-explanatory. Holmes could not be more Argggh!!! If he tried.

 

Finally, we can make some deductions about Holmes’s adherence to Pastafarianism based upon the way he dressed. It is stated in the Pastafarian Gospel and Loose Canon that adherents should wear pirate regalia – the Holy garb of FSMism:

…His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. (BOBBY 26)

So it may seem negatively indicative that Holmes is never reported to wear a pirate hat, sash or peg leg. However, the acceptance that wearing full pirate regalia in public is difficult for modern Pastafarians was acknowledged  by FSM in AGREE 1-11. Further, while the pirate hat is the headgear still promoted by stricter Pastafarians, the colander has become the choice of less orthodox believers. Indeed, as early as PEN 2:7 the Pastafarian prophet Penelope is described as having a “Holy Colander on her head”.

Holmes was certainly not an orthodox individual – Watson insists that he was in possession of a “Bohemian soul” (SCAN 1:14) and “Bohemian habits” (ENGR 1:6) so the colander is probably the head-gear he would favour over the orthodox pirate hat. As is well known, it is due to an illustrator’s interpretation of the text that Holmes is closely associated with the deerstalker, but is it not possible that when Watson spoke of an “ear-flapped travelling-cap” (SILV 1:17) he was much more likely to be referring to Holmes’s religious garb – the collandeerstalker. While there are no collandeerstalker’s available to buy today, I have managed to produce a rough version of this head gear as a sort of proof-of-concept:

Conclusion

In conclusion, I find the evidence overwhelming that Sherlock Holmes was a closeted Pastafarian and had definitely been touched by His noodle appendage. That said, we should bear in mind that this might all be “False Evidence which has been placed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster as part of some Obscure Plan of which only He has Apprehension,” (SEM PREFACE).


Any Other Business:

I hope not. That went on far too long.