Spiritualizing Sherlock Holmes


Arthur Conan Doyle and Spiritualism

A life-long interest in psychic matters led him to acknowledge Spiritualism as his faith; he spent the years from 1918 to his death preaching Spiritualism around the world and writing books and pamphlets in support of it (The New Revelation, 1918). Principal beliefs included the survival of personality after death and the possibility of communication (through mediums) between this world and the next.

He was badly taken in by the Cottingley fairy hoax of 1920. (See also Public Domain Review and Anglotopia.net.) He was a friend, then a foe, of showman Harry Houdini.


by Chris Redmond and Lindsay D. Colwell

If you have ever wondered whether Sherlock Holmes was a member of the Church of England, a Lutheran or a Zoroastrian, and (more important) if you have ever thought about a Sherlock Holmes tale and considered the religious and spiritual implications it contained, your proverbial prayers have been answered with the launch of “Spiritualizing Sherlock: A Study of the Religious and Theological Themes in the World of Sherlock Holmes” in November 2013.

Three years later, with changes in our lives and professional activities, this project is on hold, with the possibility that it will be revived at a date yet to be determined.

The purpose of the project is to make possible a systematic understanding of all the religious and theological matters that are explicit or implicit in the Holmes canon, and what we can learn from them. We have begun by casting as broad a net as possible, to include religious practices and institutions, theological ideas, and also moral teachings.

The first stage of the project will be a bibliography of existing writings on Sherlock Holmes and religion. There are many of them! The bibliography will include books both fiction and non-fiction, articles, and other works. Each entry will be accompanied by summaries, comments, and evaluations, appearing gradually as we are able to provide them. We hope to find a way to make this part of the project interactive, welcoming contributions and discussion from across the Sherlockian world. The bibliography will be made available, as it develops, in an online database.

In a later stage, we hope to develop a synthesis of the information and ideas that appear through the bibliography and our discussions of it, and to demonstrate patterns of religious ideas associated with Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Sherlockian canon. This part of the project will, we hope, some day result in a published monograph or e-book that will be a real contribution to Sherlockian knowledge.

The annotated bibliography

Following is a list of books and articles relevant to the topic that we have already identified. We know there are many others.

Books, non-fiction

  • Stephen Kendrick, Holy clues: The gospel according to Sherlock Holmes (1999)
  • Wayne Wall, God and Sherlock Holmes: A study in the life and literature of Arthur Conan Doyle (1984)
  • Samuel Rosenberg, Naked is the best disguise: The death and resurrection of Sherlock Holmes (1974)

Books, fiction

  • Guy Adams, Sherlock Holmes: The breath of God (2011)
  • Stephen Kendrick, Night watch: A long lost adventure in which Sherlock Holmes meets Father Brown (2003)
  • Alexander Jack, 221A Baker Street: The Adamantine Sherlock Holmes (Translated from the Coptic The Victorian Book of the Dead), by Hapi [pseud.] (1974)
  • Jamyang Norbu, Sherlock Holmes, the missing years: The adventures of the great detective in India and Tibet (2001)
  • Jamyang Norbu, Mandala of Sherlock Holmes (2003)
  • Richard Wincor, Sherlock Holmes in Tibet (1968)
  • J. Regis O'Connor, The Sacred Seal (1989)
  • Ann Margaret Lewis, Murder in the Vatican (2010)


  • Henry T. Folsom, "`My Biblical Knowledge Is a Trifle Rusty ...,'" Baker Street Journal, 15, No. 3 (September 1965), 174-182.
  • Stephen F. Crocker, "Sherlock Holmes Recommends Winwood Reade," Baker Street Journal, 14, No. 3 (September 1964), 142-144.
  • Francis Hertzberg, "There Is Nothing in Which Deduction Is So Necessary as in Religion," The Liberal Catholic, 37, No. 2 (June 1968), 56-58.
  • Leslie Marshall, "Behind the Abbey Door: A Meditation Upon the Religious and Philosophical Beliefs of Sherlock Holmes," A Baker Street Four-Wheeler. Edited by Edgar W. Smith. [Maplewood, N.J., and New York: The Pamphlet House, 1944.] p. 20-24.
  • Horace Reynolds Stahl, "Sherlock Holmes's Religion," Saturday Review of Literature, 10, No. 35 (March 17, 1934), 559.
  • Edgar S. Rosenberger, "The Religious Sherlock Holmes," Baker Street Journal [OS], 3, No. 2 (April 1948), 138-147. Commentary
  • William R. Cochran, "The Sleeper Awakens," Camden House Journal 35, No. 10 (October 2013), 2-3. Commentary
  • Karen Campbell, "And Love Will Still Be Lord of All: The Bright Heart of 'The Devil's Foot'," Baker Street Journal 62 no. 1 (spring 2012), 34-37. Commentary
  • Erinn Fry, "However Improbable: Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and Spiritualism," Baker Street Journal 62, no. 1 (spring 2012), 38-47. Commentary
  • Isaac Alderman, "The Quest for the Historical Sherlock, or, A Schweitzerian Critique of the Investigation of HolmesÕ Religious Values," online.
  • Andrew Solberg, "The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes," Baker Street Journal, 26, No. 4 (December 1976), 197-202.
  • John Gillard Watson, "The Religion of Sherlock Holmes," The Literary Guide, 70, No. 12 (December 1955), 12-14.
  • Anthony L. Williams, "Sherlock Holmes and Religion: With a Note on His Early Life and Eccentricities," Sherlock Holmes Journal, 8, No. 2 (Spring 1967), 44-46.
  • William P. Collins, "Sherlock Holmes and the Baha’i Faith," Herald of the South (July-September 1990), 37-42. Also, Sherlock Holmes Review, 3, No. 1 (1991), 16-19.
  • David Pearson, "Did Holmes Believe in God?" Beyond Baker Street: A Sherlockian Anthology. Edited and annotated by Michael Harrison. Indianapolis/New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., [1976]. p. 211-225.
  • E. C. D. Stanford, "The Beliefs of Sherlock Holmes," Sherlock Holmes Journal, 13, No. 4 (Autumn 1978), 104-107.
  • Mary P. De Camara, "Holmes's Level of Moral Thinking," Baker Street Journal, 28, No. 2 (June 1978), 90-91.
  • Nick Dunn-Meynell, "Hasn't a Prayer" (letter), Baker Street Journal, 62, No. 1 (Spring 2012), 71.
  • Evan M. Wilson, "Sherlock Holmes and the Bible, or `For God's Sake, Watson,'" Baker Street Journal, 23, No. 3 (September 1973), 172-175.
  • Wayne Wall, "Was Holmes Converted to Religion?" Baker Street Journal, 23, No. 4 (December 1973), 237-243.
  • Wayne Wall, "The Theology of Sherlock Holmes" Baker Street Journal, 29, No. 3 (September 1979), 134-142, 146.
  • Jeffrey L. Michaelman, "Was Sherlock Holmes Jewish?" Baker Street Journal, 35, No. 4 (December 1985), 232-236.
  • John A. Dern, "A Moment of Prayer," Baker Street Journal, 42, No. 4 (December 1992), 231-232.
  • Karl Krejci-Graf, "The Philosophy of Holmes," Sherlock Holmes Journal, 11, No. 4 (Autumn 1974), 117-121.
  • Richard Milner, "Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Red Rose," Baker Street Journal, 37, No. 3 (September 1987), 162-164.
  • Chris Redmond, "The Good Book — No, No, the Other Good Book," Canadian Holmes, 15, No. 2 (Winter 1991), 20-23.
  • Christopher Todd, "Sherlock Holmes as Literary Christ Figure," Baker Street Journal, 35, No. 4 (December 1985), 229-231.
  • Kelvin I. Jones, "The Great Return," Sherlock Holmes Journal 14, No. 2 (Winter 1979), 44-46.
  • Albert J. Menendez, "Sherlock Holmes and Religion," Baker Street Journal, 25, No. 2 (June 1975), 80-83, 97. Commentary
  • Robert F. Fleissner, "An Exegesis of Sherlock Holmes's `Faith,'" Baker Street Journal, 36, No. 4 (December 1986), 207-210.
  • Raymond L. Holly, "Bible Citations in the Sherlockian Canon," CHJ, 15, No. 8 (August 1993), 2-3.
  • Harriet E. Crosby, "Famous Shamus a Closet Presbyterian," Books & Religion [Trinity Church, N.Y.], 17, No. 1 (Spring 1990), 3-4, 35. Also, BC, 8, No. 3 (April 1991), 8-11.
  • Bob Coghill, "Lessons Learned from the Theological College of St. George's," Canadian Holmes 29 no. 2 (Christmas 2005), 4-14.
  • William P. Collins, "It Is Time That I Should Turn to Other Memories : Sherlock Holmes and Persia, 1893." Baker Street Journal 31.4 (1981), 213-23.
  • Drew Thomas, "Sherlock Holmes on Religion", online.
  • Hugh Ashton, "Was Sherlock Holmes Brought Up as a Catholic?", Baker Street Journal 63 No. 2 (2013), 29-31. Commentary
  • James McGrory, "The Great Perennial Problem: The Religion of Sherlock Holmes", Baker Street Journal 61 No. 3 (2011), 32-38.
  • Sean Fitzpatrick, "He Is Risen! Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Easter", Crisis Magazine April 6, 2015, online.