Was Sherlock Holmes A Real Person?

April 05, 2016 8:12 AM

I was amazed to find out recently that one in five people in the UK think Sherlock Holmes was a real, actual, living human from history.

Sherlock Holmes
So not only do one in five people think that Holmes, the fictional detective and one of the most famous characters in British literature was real, but the same amount of people also believe that Miss Marple and even Blackadder were genuine historical figures.

As you'll probably know I find what people do and don't believe in fascinating, which is why I'm interested in the paranormal. There's lots of "evidence" that ghosts exist but most of the evidence is hearsay, speculation and nothing more than stories but there's a segment of the public who don't question these stories, they just take them to be fact.

In the case of Sherlock Holmes, his existence has been told in story form for over 100 years but they're just stories. Surely people see the name of the author on the books or realise that the TV shows and movies aren't based on actual historical events... don't they?
"Is Sherlock Holmes a real person? Obvs?"
This whole grey area between fact and fiction reminded me of a brilliant text message conversation I had with one of my friends about a year ago. In fact it wasn't even the first time we discussed it, she messaged me about six months before that asking "is Sherlock Holmes a real person? Obvs?"

My friend, we'll call her "Becky," apparently thought I was joking which led to an amazing second conversation on the subject, which is quite possibly one of my favourite conversations I've ever had and it went like this...

Becky

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Guess where I am... outside Sherlock Holmes' house!

Higgypop

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Oh cool, why?

Becky

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You gotta queue to get in. Imagine everything that went on in there. When did he die then?

Higgypop

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He's not real remember, we've had this conversation before.

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Becky

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Yeah, you were joking I thought.

Higgypop

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He's a fictional character from a book written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Becky

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WTF! I'm mad confused here. I don't think these people know this because they're all queuing to get in his house.

Higgypop

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Yeah, because it's a museum based around the stories of the character.

Becky

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Hmmmmm, I'm still confused.

Higgypop

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It's like James Bond. Bond never really worked at MI5 even though that's an actual real building.

Becky

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That's different though, James Bond isn't real and everyone knows that.

Higgypop

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The only way it's different is that they're written by different authors. Holmes is a character too, he's just much older than Bond but still from a set of books made up by a man.

Becky

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I'm not sure everyone knows this!

Higgypop

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They probably do, it's a tourist attraction. If they're a fan of Sherlock they've probably read the books.

Becky

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Right.

Higgypop

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Just reading about the museum online, the address of Sherlock's house didn't actually exist when he wrote the first book.

Becky

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See, it's his real house!

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Higgypop

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No, I mean it was a fictional address. The museum isn't even at 221b, it's at 237 or something.

Becky

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I didn't say it was at 221b. What are you talking about?

Higgypop

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221b was his address.

Becky

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When?

Higgypop

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In all of the books, it's where he lived.

Becky

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Oh, well it's all fake anyway so it's stupid.

Higgypop

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It's no more stupid than the Harry Potter studio tour.

Becky

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True, but I know Harry Potter isn't real.

Higgypop

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There's some real stuff in the Holmes museum like movie props and a chair that someone sat in for an artist to paint a portrait of Sherlock.

Becky

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Huh, but he's not real?

Higgypop

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No, it's just a chair that a model sat in.

Becky

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Oh, so what does he look like?

Higgypop

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He looks like how he was described in the books I guess, like the old drawings of him you see.


Interestingly, it seems the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle aren't fans of the museum as the attraction blurs the lines between fact and fiction and portrays Holmes as a real person with very little mention of the man behind the stories.
Photo credit: dynamosquito

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