Maybe Sherlock Holmes was right with all that talk about not letting emotions get in the way of scientific reasoning.
On my shelf of books about magic (conjuring, that is, not the real stuff), I rediscovered the other day a book called The Secrets of Houdini, by J.C. Cannell. Within the first few pages, the author describes Arthur Conan Doyle's well known belief that Houdini used supernatural powers to accomplish his amazing escapes.
"Had he been faced with the mystery of the escape from a packing-case," the Cannell writes, "Sherlock Holmes, keen and cautious, would not have jumped impulsively to such a theory."
What would have he done?
"He would have said to himself, 'Is is possible for a man to escape by trickery from a packing-case in which he has been secured?' Moreover, Sherlock Holmes would have demanded, first of all, to know everything about the packing case; the manner in which Houdini was secured in it; the length of time required for the escape and other details."
Why didn't A.C.D. ask those same very natural questions? It does not seem to great a leap to suggest that his belief in spiritualism, to which he was so emotionally committed, may have affected the writer's approach. Sherlock Holmes, of course, would have approached the issue without that predisposition.
There seems to be a bumper crop lately of novels in which Sherlock Holmes is involved with the supernatural, and some of them quite good. The most common weak point, in my opinion, is that the great detective often accepts the other-worldly too easily. I can imagine a Holmes that would come to believe in the existence of vampires, for example -- but not without a lot of proof first.
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