The Sussex Vampire – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 1 Jul 1994

  • What features of the note required careful reading?
  • Has Watson forgotten Holmes’ laughter in BLUE, SCAN, etc?
  • What relationship is there between tea, nitrates, and machinery assessment?
  • Should Holmes have also looked under “B” (for vampire bats)?
  • Do Peruvians have an alien religion?
  • Do smart households permit crippling accidents, a deceased wife, and poisoned arrows?
  • Why didn’t Dolores share watching the baby?
  • Did Rugby teams use only local players?
  • Why doesn’t Watson disclose the baby’s name?
  • Why didn’t Holmes write his own telegram?
  • Did Jack attack the baby only twice?
  • Does being crippled develop the mind?
  • Did towns like Lamberley always have an inn?
  • Why a three-month delay between the attack on the dog and on the baby?
  • Can mental and nervous excitement elevate body temperature?
  • Were the missing arrows in the quiver ever found?
  • If Mrs. Ferguson had told Mrs. Mason, why did Mrs. Mason tell a different story to Mr. Ferguson?
  • Should Holmes’s final letter have referenced “sirs” instead of “sir”?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 13 Oct 1995

This tale seems to be unique in presenting a child as the criminal. Does it, together with the few other appearances of children in the Canon, suggest that the author held a less than rosy view of childhood and in fact subscribed to the doctrine of original sin?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 13 Mar 1998

In honor of our next story, I pledge to roll up my sleeve and donate a pint of blood at my local Red Cross. I encourage fellow Hounds to consider – shameless plug for a good cause! — making a contribution at your own local blood bank, too. Who knows? The life you save might be another Sherlockian’s. 😉 Now let’s enjoy The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.
This weekend’s questions and comments:

  • Here’s a love triangle: the story of a man, his wife, and her jealous rival. By the story’s end, are there clear winners and losers among the threesome?
  • Vampires are called “the undead.” Is it over the top to say Jacky’s mother is sort of “undead” herself?
  • “I think a year at sea would be my prescription…” Aw, come on! What would an English jury give the offender?
  • Does Holmes have any other client, anywhere else in the canon, who is as excruciatingly bashful about his problem as is Bob Ferguson?
  • If this story took place in our day and age, Bob Ferguson wouldn’t need an attorney or a detective. He could call on the services of a very helpful agency, “The Vampire Research Center,” founded in Elmhurst, New York. (There is also a Vampire Information Exchange, a Vampire Studies Society, and a Count Dracula Fan Club — all of which publish informative journals). “Vampirologist” Stephen Kaplan created the Vampire Research Center in order to study modern-day vampires and their victims. He developed a questionnaire to collect information from persons who report vampire attacks: Where did the attack occur, when and to whom? Were there witnesses? What did the vampire look like? Describe the wound. Did the victim go to a doctor, and if so what did the doctor say? Did the victim go to the police, and if so what did they say? And so on. People who think they themselves are vampires get another questionnaire: Why do you think you’re a vampire? How long have you been one? Describe your first blood-drinking experience. What does blood taste like? Do you prefer it chilled or warm? Etc. Etc. Etc. The questions get more gross as they go on. The V.R.C. also offers dental exams to observe any “unusual characteristics” of the teeth. Dear me. I think I’ll stock up on turtlenecks and stay in at night…

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 14 May 1999

When faced with an inquiry about vampires, Sherlock Holmes turned to his good old index for information on the subject, but found only what he called “rubbish”. “No ghosts need apply,” he told Watson. But how was he to deal with the situation of a man who claimed that he had caught his South American wife sucking blood from their infant son?

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will present the Hounds with his observations and questions on a case which involves South American weapons in a Sussex household, sibling rivalry, and a paralyzed pet. He hopes that like Vlad Tepes — known as “Dracul” to the many who feared him — the Pack will go for the jugular in this case.

This story begins with Holmes going through one of his massive and omnipresent scrapbooks. What is startling is his filing technique. “Vittoria”, “Vanderbilt,” and “Vampires” filed under “V,” yes. But “Voyage of the *Gloria Scott,*” “Victor Lynch,” and “Venomous lizard, or gila”? This is not filing alphabetically, it’s a mnemonic system of some kind. And if the material about vampires contained in volume “V” was “rubbish”, why did he bother to file it in the first place?

In any event, this is not the only adventure in which a child gives Holmes insight into the solution of a case. I refer, of course, to young Edward Rucastle in COPP, who reflected his father’s dark side faithfully. There aren’t many children mentioned in the Canon; only about two dozen are named (although many more appear ephemerally). It is predictable that Holmes would have developed the art of detection to recognize the importance and relevance of child psychology long before the official forces twigged to its significance.

How would lawyers become involved with the assessment of machinery, and what does the assessment of machinery have to do with tea brokering? And what does the importation of nitrates have to do with either machinery or tea? It sounds as though Ferguson did a little hopscotching in his choices of careers, doesn’t it?

In his letter to Holmes, Ferguson writes of his Peruvian wife’s “alien religion.” What would that have been — Catholic? Incan? And after Ferguson’s revelation that his wife had assaulted her stepson Jacky on two occasions, Holmes says, “Well, that is not unknown among stepmothers. A posthumous jealousy, we will say.” What a curious choice of words: “posthumous jealousy.” What do you suppose Holmes meant by that?

Baby Ferguson had a “small, angry red pucker” on his throat. That is the hallmark of localized infection. Perhaps it was not dangerous but surely it was uncomfortable for the infant. Discomfort in an infant is usually accompanied by crying and similar behavior, but this child apparently was content, waving his dimpled fists about. My question is, why did Holmes examine the injury instead of asking Watson, the physician on the scene, to have a look at it? Was he afraid that Watson, with his personal knowledge of wounds, might have recognized the injury as one not made by human teeth and suggested the cause before Holmes was prepared to reveal it?

A parting shot: How did Watson come into possession of the letter that Holmes wrote to Morrison, Morrison and Dodd at the conclusion of his investigation?

Discover more about The Sussex Vampire and read the canon.