The Best of Sherlock Holmes
Rating the Untold Tales of Sherlock Holmes: Survey Methodology
By Randall Stock
The untold tales of Sherlock Holmes were mentioned by Holmes or Watson in
the original stories but were never published. Now a survey of Sherlockians
identifies the most interesting of these untold tales.
This two-part survey took place in January and February 2003. Participants
came from the Hounds of the Internet
, an e-mail discussion group of experts
devoted to the Holmes stories. An e-mail message was sent to the group
informing them of the survey and inviting them to vote using a special web-page
form. They could also vote via e-mail. Forty-four people voted
in the survey, with seventeen voting in both parts.
The goal of the survey was to identify the tales that sounded the most interesting.
Since there are more than 100 untold tales, it could be difficult to remember
and evaluate so many case references. The process was therefore separated
into two parts: nominating candidates and then ranking the top nominees.
Part One of the survey involved nominating up to 15 candidates for the tales
that sounded the most interesting. To improve consideration and survey
reliability, voters were given a ballot listing 61 of the most colorful untold tales
and could also write-in candidates via e-mail. Each tale was identified
by a short, one-line summary of the case reference. The ballot was
derived from lists published in a variety of sources
and was pre-tested with several group members to insure that the most likely candidates were included.
The 33 voters in Part One made 432 nominations. Each of the top 14 nominees was chosen by at least one-third of the voters. Their choices,
with the number of nominations in brackets, include the following tales:
- The politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant 
- The giant rat of Sumatra (Matilda Briggs) 
- Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer 
- The madness of Isadora Persano (remarkable worm unknown to science) 
- The disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore (umbrella) 
- Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife 
- The singular affair of the aluminum crutch 
- The Camberwell poisoning case (Holmes winding a dead man's watch) 
- The Amateur Mendicant Society 
- The Abernetty family (depth which the parsley had sunk into the butter) 
- The repulsive story of the red leech (death of Crosby the banker) 
- Colonel Warburton's madness 
- The Dundas separation case (hurling false teeth at wife) 
- The most winning woman (poisoned three little children) 
In Part Two of the survey, voters ranked their top ten choices from the 14
top-nominated tales. The Part Two ballot listed the full story text
referring to each of the 14 tales. That text reference is shown on
the survey results page
. The tales were listed
in random order and did not indicate the number of nominations from Part
One. There were 28 voters in Part Two of the survey.
Participation in the survey was good. There were approximately 250
subscribers to the Hounds group, so the overall participation rate was roughly
17% and more than 10% for each part of the survey.
For additional information on the survey and an analysis of the results, see "Rating the Untold Tales" by Randall Stock in The Hounds' Collection
volume 8 (2003).
Return to the Top 10 Untold Tales of Sherlock Holmes