Wednesday, January 7, 2015



One of the goals of the Why Not 100 is to clue literature lovers in to facts they might have missed. Sort of the way Sherlock Holmes did. Sure, you’re probably aware that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books were told from Dr. John Watson’s point of view, that Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street, and even that Holmes was addicted to cocaine and morphine. But did you know...
  1. He was this close to being called “Sherringford” Holmes.
  2. Dr. Watson was originally named “Ormand Sacker.”
  3. While Holmes and Watson are generally considered to be—and portrayed—as middle-aged, they were actually in their late twenties for most of their adventures.
  4. Among Conan Doyle’s inspirations for the character was Edgar Allen Poe’s fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin.
  5. Not once in any of the Conan Doyle stories did Holmes ever utter the exact words “Elementary, my dear Watson.” He said, “Elementary.” And he said, “My dear Watson.” But never together.

  6. The phrase was actually first known to be used in a 1915 P.G. Wodehouse novel called Psmith, Journalist (which was actually first serialized in 1909).
  7. The first well-documented time that Holmes uttered the phrase was in the 1929 film The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
  8. Clive Brook, the British actor who said the line, played Holmes in two subsequent movies.
  9. In fact, Holmes only says “elementary” seven times in all of Doyle’s works.
  10. A Study in Scarlet was the first story to feature the mystery-solving Sherlock Holmes character. It had been rejected by many publishers and originally appeared in a Christmas book, Beeton’s Christmas Annual, in 1887.
  11. Conan Doyle was paid 25 pounds for it.
  12. It was a bit of a commercial flop.
  13. The author wrote the story at age 27. It took him three weeks to finish it.
  14. At a dinner party in 1889, Conan Doyle was convinced by Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine editor Joseph Stoddard to serialize a second Sherlock Holmes novel, which became The Sign of Four.
  15. Oscar Wilde was also at the party and was also convinced to serialize a novel—his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  16. It wasn’t until the Sherlock Holmes stories began to appear in The Strand Magazine that they became a global sensation. The magazine continued to publish the stories for more than four decades.
  17. Conan Doyle based much of Holmes on one of his professors, Dr. Joseph Bell.
  18. He was said to have based Holmes’s nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, on a fellow named Adam Worth.
  19. Conan Doyle was a doctor. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and wrote stories during study breaks.
  20. After graduating from medical school, he served a stint as a ship’s doctor. He went on a voyage to West Africa.
  21. Conan Doyle was also an amateur sleuth who, like Holmes, once helped free two men who were wrongly charged with murder.
  22. He was a good athlete who, after he became famous, played goalkeeper for a soccer team under a pseudonym.
  23. One of Conan Doyle’s pals was iconic American magician Harry Houdini.
  24. Holmes wasn’t perfect (witness the morphine addiction), and neither was the man who created him. In the well-known story “The Speckled Band,” a doctor trains a snake to kill at the sound of a whistle. Snakes are deaf.
  25. Sherlock Holmes has appeared in at least 226 different films.
  26. There also have been two musicals, as well as a ballet called “The Great Detective.”
  27. Basil Rathbone starred as Holmes in 14 films between 1939 and 1946. He became frustrated at being typecast.
  28. Five of the actors who played Holmes on stage or screen were better known for playing General Patton, Moses, James Bond, J.R. Ewing, and Iron Man.
  29. In fact, among the scores of actors who have played Holmes—besides the above George S. Scott, Charlton Heston, Roger Moore, Larry Hagman, and Robert Downey, Jr.—are John Cleese, Peter O’Toole, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, John Gielgud, Peter Lawford, Frank Langella, John Barrymore, Christopher Lee, and Benedict Cumberbatch
  30. Christopher Lee also played Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, in a film. 
  31. Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit films) plays Dr. Watson opposite Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock, the TV series. Cumberbatch was also the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit.
  32. The show films its Baker Street scenes about a half-mile away from Baker Street.
  33. The series pilot was titled “A Study in Pink.”
  34. In that show, unlike in the books, the characters don’t refer to one another by their surnames. They call each other “Sherlock” and “John.”
  35. Both Mr. Spock from Star Trek (Leonard Nimoy) and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation (Brent Spiner) have appeared as Sherlock Holmes.
  36. Oh, and you can add Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) from Star Wars to the list, too.
  37. The only fictional character who has appeared in more films is Count Dracula.
  38. Holmes has also appeared on postage stamps all around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Nicaragua and San Marino.
  39. The official address of the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London is 221B Baker Street.
  40. It actually sits between buildings at 237 and 241 Baker Street, making it unofficially 239 Baker Street.
  41. From 1932 to 2002, Abbey National occupied the 221B Baker Street address, eventually employing a secretary to handle the correspondence that arrived from all over the world.
  42. Though Holmes is so often portrayed wearing a deerstalker hat, he really only wore it while visiting the rural countryside during his investigations.
  43. It has been estimated that more than 40,000 fan-fiction versions of Sherlock Holmes stories have been created.
  44. Although the vast majority of Sherlock Holmes stories (four novels and 56 short stories in all) were narrated by Dr. Watson, two of them—“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” and “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”—were told by Holmes himself.
  45. Two other stories—“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” and “His Last Bow”—were written in the third person.
  46. Sherlock Holmes first appeared on film in the year 1900—in a minute-long story titled “Sherlock Holmes Baffled.”
  47. In an effort to get closer to a villain whom he is trying to expose in “The Adventures of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Holmes becomes engaged to a housemaid. After he solves the case, he simply leaves her.
  48. In “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” he tricks Dr. Watson into thinking he is dying of a deadly disease. Why? Because he doesn’t think his best friend would be able to keep the secret that he’s faking it.
  49. Toward the end of his life, Arthur Conan Doyle became a spiritualist who attempted to use a medium to contact long dead friends and family members.
  50. Aside from his detective stories, Conan Doyle published everything from poetry to historical novels to a series of books about the British during World War I.
  51. Winston Churchill was a big fan of his historical novels.
  52. Conan Doyle also published a 1912 book called The Lost World about dinosaurs still alive on an island. Sound familiar?
  53. It inspired Michael Chrichton’s Jurassic Park and Steven Spielberg’s film sequel to it, which he called The Lost World.
  54. Arthur Conan Doyle became Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—that is, he was knighted—not for his fiction, but for his journalistic work during the Second Boer War.
  55. Six years after Holmes’s first appearance, Conan Doyle actually killed him off in a story called The Final Problem.
  56. His readers protested, so eight years later he brought him back in “The Hound of the Baskersvilles.” The period in between is known as “The Great Hiatus.”
  57. Conan Doyle once said, “If in one hundred years I am known only as the man who invented Sherlock Holmes, then I will have considered my life a failure.”


  1. Interesting facts-who knew there was so many secrets behind Sherlock Homes?!

  2. Very Helpful. Alot of interesting facts!