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The Best of Sherlock Holmes

 

The Best Untold Tales of Sherlock Holmes

By Randall Stock

 

Sherlock Holmes investigated many mysteries.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described sixty cases in detail, but more than one hundred others are only known by brief references.  These are the "untold tales" – unrecorded cases (or at least, the unpublished cases) mentioned by Holmes and Watson.

 

Many people have wanted to know the rest of the story behind these untold tales.   Some writers, in fact, have been inspired to write pastiches based on these references.  One of the more famous collections of such pastiches is The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr.  It includes twelve stories based on references to the untold tales.

 

While we may never know the true details of these cases, it is possible to determine which cases sound the most interesting.  The Hounds of the Internet, an e-mail discussion group devoted to Sherlock Holmes, evaluated the untold tales and selected the top ten.

 

The Top 10 Untold Tales of Sherlock Holmes

 

Untold TalePointsRating
1. The Politician, the Lighthouse, and the Trained Cormorant (8)202100
2. The Giant Rat of Sumatra (9)19094
3. The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore (3)15275
4. The Case of Isadora Persano and the Remarkable Worm (0)12562
5. The Dreadful Business of the Abernetty Family (1)12461
6. The Amateur Mendicant Society (1)12361
7. The Singular Affair of the Aluminum Crutch (2)11255
8. The Arrest of Wilson, the Notorious Canary-Trainer (1)11155
9. Ricoletti of the Club Foot and His Abominable Wife (0)8743
10. Colonel Warburton's Madness (2)7437
10. The Repulsive Story of the Red Leech (0)7437

 

This ranking is based on a 10-point weighted scoring system.  First-place votes are noted in parentheses after the title.  A rating scale provides simple comparisons.  It standardizes the weighted point totals by indexing the highest score to 100.  The text of each complete case reference is provided below.  More details about the poll are described in the survey methodology for ranking the untold tales.  The ballot included a list of 61 unreported cases based on a number of sources.  

 

Other Sources
Many Sherlockians have compiled lists of unpublished cases.  Some useful sources include:

 

Clarkson, Stephen.  The Canonical Compendium.  Ashcroft, British Columbia: Calabash Press, 1999.  This invaluable reference has a Topical index that notes more than 100 unpublished cases on page 18.  It also has a Story Index for each of the 60 published cases that includes a detailed citation and page reference for the five most common versions of the Holmes stories.  I highly recommend it, and it's available from Calabash Press.

 

Goodrich, William D.  The New Good Old Index.  Dubuque, Iowa: Gasogene Press, Ltd., 1994.  This useful index to many Canonical topics is keyed to the Doubleday Complete Sherlock Holmes and provides an extensive list of unreported cases on pp. 548-551, including some that don't involve Holmes.

 

Hardwick, Michael.  The Complete Guide to Sherlock Holmes.  New York: St. Martinís Press, 1986.  This book provides an overview of the Holmes Canon but often lacks the details needed by a serious investigator.  However, it is widely available.  It has a partial list of unchronicled cases on pp. 239-241.

 

Redmond, Chris.  The Tin Dispatch-Box: A Compendium of the Unpublished Cases of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.  2nd ed.  Lawrence, Kansas: [Privately Produced], 1965.  This 20-page booklet identifies 111 untold tales and provides dates and commentary on many of the cases.  It's probably the most detailed source for information on the untold tales.

 

Stock, Randall.  "Rating the Untold Tales." The Hounds' Collection volume 8 (2003): 38-41.  This article provides some additional analysis and discussion of the top untold tales noted on this web page.  See also this list of 61 unreported cases.

 

Complete Case References

The following passages provide the complete case reference to the top ten untold tales as described in the 1,122-page single-volume Doubleday edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes.  These descriptions were used in the survey for ranking the tales.  You'll note that many of the passages also mention other untold tales.  Some of these were also top-rated, but most of them did not make the top ten.

The Politician, the Lighthouse, and the Trained Cormorant (#1)

I deprecate, however, in the strongest way the attempts which have been made lately to get at and to destroy these papers. The source of these outrages is known, and if they are repeated I have Mr. Holmes's authority for saying that the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be given to the public. There is at least one reader who will understand.
     From "The Veiled Lodger" (Doubleday p. 1095)
Top 10


The Giant Rat of Sumatra (#2)

As our firm specializes entirely upon the assessment of machinery the matter hardly comes within our purview, and we have therefore recommended Mr. Ferguson to call upon you and lay the matter before you. We have not forgotten your successful action in the case of Matilda Briggs.
     "We are, sir,
Faithfully yours,
MORRISON, MORRISON, AND DODD.
per E. J. C.

     "Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson," said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. "It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."
     From "The Sussex Vampire" (Doubleday p. 1034)
Top 10


The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore (#3)

Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures, and as such will hardly bear narrating, since no final explanation is forthcoming. A problem without a solution may interest the student, but can hardly fail to annoy the casual reader. Among these unfinished tales is that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world. No less remarkable is that of the cutter Alicia, which sailed one spring morning into a small patch of mist from where she never again emerged, nor was anything further ever heard of herself and her crew. A third case worthy of note is that of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science.
     From "The Problem of Thor Bridge" (Doubleday p. 1055)
Top 10


The Case of Isadora Persano and the Remarkable Worm (#4)

Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures, and as such will hardly bear narrating, since no final explanation is forthcoming. A problem without a solution may interest the student, but can hardly fail to annoy the casual reader. Among these unfinished tales is that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world. No less remarkable is that of the cutter Alicia, which sailed one spring morning into a small patch of mist from where she never again emerged, nor was anything further ever heard of herself and her crew. A third case worthy of note is that of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science.
     From "The Problem of Thor Bridge" (Doubleday p. 1055)
Top 10


The Dreadful Business of the Abernetty Family (#5)

"The affair seems absurdly trifling, and yet I dare call nothing trivial when I reflect that some of my most classic cases have had the least promising commencement. You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day."
     From "The Six Napoleons" (Doubleday p. 584)
Top 10


The Amateur Mendicant Society (#6)

The year '87 furnished us with a long series of cases of greater or less interest, of which I retain the records. Among my headings under this one twelve months I find an account of the adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the British bark Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the Camberwell poisoning case.
     From "The Five Orange Pips" (Doubleday p. 218)
Top 10


The Singular Affair of the Aluminum Crutch (#7)

"They are not all successes, Watson," said he, "but there are some pretty little problems among them. Here's the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminum crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife.
     From "The Musgrave Ritual" (Doubleday p. 387)
Top 10


The Arrest of Wilson, the Notorious Canary-Trainer (#8)

In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca--an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope--down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East-end of London.
     From "Black Peter" (Doubleday p. 559)
Top 10


Ricoletti of the Club Foot and His Abominable Wife (#9)

"They are not all successes, Watson," said he, "but there are some pretty little problems among them. Here's the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminum crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife.
     From "The Musgrave Ritual" (Doubleday p. 387)
Top 10


Colonel Warburton's Madness (#10 - tie)

Of all the problems which have been submitted to my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for solution during the years of our intimacy, there were only two which I was the means of introducing to his notice -- that of Mr. Hatherley's thumb, and that of Colonel Warburton's madness.
     From "The Engineer's Thumb" (Doubleday p. 274)
Top 10


The Repulsive Story of the Red Leech (#10 - tie)


As I turn over the pages I see my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby the banker. Here also I find an account of the Addleton tragedy and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case comes also within this period, and so does the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin-an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French President and the Order of the Legion of Honour.
     From "The Golden Pince-Nez" (Doubleday p. 607)
Top 10


 

Related Web Pages and Information

 

A list of 61 untold tales used for this survey

A description of the survey details on ranking the untold tales

 

The Hounds' Collection volume 8 (2003) includes "Rating the Untold Tales" with additional analysis and discussion of these results, and is available from Bill Barnes at bbarnes@ozemail.com.au

 

Now that you know the best untold tales, be sure to read about Conan Doyle's published tales and find out which ones are The Best Sherlock Holmes Stories and The Top 10 Quotations from the Sherlock Holmes stories.

 

 

 

Thanks

Thanks to Bill Barnes, Sarah Cheek, Don Dillistone and Laura Kuhn for their help with the survey, and thanks also to all the Hounds who voted.

 

 


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Copyright © 2006 Randall Stock.†† All Rights Reserved.