Sherlock Holmes and Ghosts

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

‘There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.’  Sherlock Holmes
The Bascombe Valley Mystery

For me, the spirit world is an obvious fact that is based on my own personal experience.  However, to most people, the paranormal is more deceptive than obvious.  Perhaps it’s not surprizing that the spirit world became an obvious fact to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mind that created famed detective Sherlock Holmes.  His paranormal encounters set him on the path to exploring and understanding the non-physical world of spirit.  Doyle’s approach was scientific.  Not surprizingly, it was a challenge for him to collect physical evidence of the non-physical.  However, his own personal encounters, often in the presence of eye-witnesses, convinced Doyle that the spirit world was very much alive and well, and able to communicate.

Once, Doyle was wakened in the bedroom of his home.  He wrote, “I was lying with my back to the room, acutely awake, but utterly unable to move.” Doyle described having “clear consciousness that there was someone in the room, and that the presence was not of this world.”  He heard ghostly footsteps approach him from across the room and felt the presence bend over him.  He heard a loud whisper say, “Doyle, I come to tell you that I am sorry.”  Later, Doyle explained, “It was a certain individual to whom I had tried to give psychic consolation when he was bereaved.  He rejected my advances with some contempt and died himself shortly afterwards. It may well be that he wished to express regret.”

In another encounter, while sitting in an empty church with his wife, two sons, a daughter, and two friends, Doyle described how, “Roughly twenty feet from me, there was a dull haze of light, a sort of phosphorescent cloud, a foot or so across, and about a man’s height from the ground.”  His companions also saw the apparition. “The light glimmered down and hardened into a definite shape – or I should say shapes – since there were two of them. They were perfectly clear-cut figures in black and white, with a dim luminosity of their own. The coloring and arrangement gave me a general idea of cassocks and surplices.”  When Doyle’s wife called out loudly to the figures, “Friends, is there anything which we can do to help you?” the apparitions vanished. Doyle later learned that other people had previously seen ghosts in the same church.

Together with two friends, investigating a poltergeist activity, Doyle described how “a fearsome noise broke out.”  He said, “It was like someone whacking a table with a heavy stick.  The door of the sitting room was open and the noise reverberated down the passage.”  The three friends made a dash to find the cause of the noise, but found nothing, nor did they encounter any evidence of a hoax.  A year later, the house burned down and the skeleton of a child of about ten was found buried in the garden.  Doyle wondered if the child’s death had been the cause of the haunting.

The following video provides Arthur Conan Doyle’s personal perspective on Sherlock Holmes and what turned out to be his primary interest – the paranormal.  Enjoy!

 Elizabeth Rose, Diamond Lantern
ref: Stephen Wagner,