Popular culture references to Sherlock Holmes

Main article: Sherlock Holmes

Many writers make references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous literary creation, the detective Sherlock Holmes, and these often become embedded within popular culture. While Holmes exists predominately in the context of Victorian-era London, he has been mentioned in such outre contexts as the 22nd century[1] or hunting aliens or supernatural enemies.[2] The versions of Holmes wearing the deerstalker hat appear only a few in the original Strand pictures, as opposed to the far more common top hat. Holmes frequently says, "Elementary, my dear" to other characters. These references are in addition to the innumerable passing references to Sherlock Holmes made in a very large percentage of all literary and cinematic works, such as the labeling of a person as a "Sherlock", whether in reference to their intelligence (or in jest or sarcasm).


One of the first attempts was made in response to the "Great Hiatus" (when Arthur Conan Doyle decided not to write any more stories, to the dismay of his fans). Stepping into the breach, John Kendrick Bangs wrote Pursuit of the House-Boat (1897) [a sequel to his A House-Boat on the Styx(1895)], in which a deceased gentleman's clubhouse boat is stolen, whereupon Holmes arrives to help his fellow-deceased track down the boat by chartering a ship from Hades to London. Bangs' version of Holmes then comments to himself:

"For now," he said, with a chuckle, "I can get back to earth again free of cost on my own hook, whether my eminent inventor wants me there or not. I never approved of his killing me off as he did at the very height of my popularity."[3]

However,in 1894, Conan Doyle decided to return to writing, bringing Holmes back from the dead by claiming he had faked his death in "The Empty House". While Bangs' attempt was reverential, Maurice Leblanc decided to write the short story "Sherlock Holmes arrive trop tard"[4] ("Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late"). In it, Holmes meets the young thief Lupin for a brief time, unaware that he is, in fact, Lupin. After legal objections from Conan Doyle, the name was changed to "Herlock Sholmès" when the story was collected in bookform in Volume 1. Holmes returned in two more stories collected in Volume 2, Arsène Lupin contre Herlock Sholmès, having opened the floodgates to less flattering versions of Holmes. One of the more recent parodies in print is "The Lord Mike Saga", wherein Mycroft Miles (née Mills) is the Holmes figure, with the titles reflecting the styles: "A Study in Varlets", "The Strange Case of the Moth-Eater of Clapham Common", "Happy Times and Places", and "A Cameo Broached". Miles refuses to speak of Holmes, referring to him only as "the other chap".

Frequent speculation as to the "real" Holmes has existed since publication, and Mark Frost's novel The List of Seven (1993) and its sequel The Six Messiahs (1995) are not the first to put a spin on this. Frost has Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as its main character and tells the (fictional) story of how Doyle's Holmes was inspired by Johnathon Sparks, a mysterious man who saves Doyle's life from a mad occultist. The Wold Newton family series connects multiple famous fictional characters together to a mail coach that passed a radioactive asteroid in the eighteenth century - Holmes is a descendant of one of the travelers in that coach.


Some of the earliest films use Holmes as a character, notably the early films of William Gillette, the American actor who played Holmes in various plays.

During the Second World War American producers linked Holmes with the Allied war effort, defeating Nazi villains, and Moriarty who sells his skills to the Germans, e.g.

Later films would blur the lines between canon and non-canon, however.





Spoken word


Sherlock Holmes, as he appears in The Real Ghostbusters

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty appear in

Many aspects and details of Sherlock Holmes were adopted in the TV show House, M.D.

Further reading


  1. "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (a children's cartoon show)". Dicentertainment.
  2. "comic book series". Predator:Nemesis.
  3. Bangs, John Kendrick (1897). The Pursuit of the Houseboat. Harper & Brothers. p. 57. Retrieved 28 Nov 2009.
  4. Leblanc, Maurice (June 15, 1906). "Sherlock Holmes arrive trop tard". Je Sais Tout (17).
  5. See also Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes Films
  6. Martin Mystère: The shadows of Baker Street
  7. Jeon, Hey-jin; Lee, Ki-ha (2012). "Lizzie Newton: Victoria Mysteries (English translation)". p. 168. ISBN 978-1-935934-80-6.
  8. Jeon, Hey-jin; Lee, Ki-ha (2013). "Lizzie Newton: Victoria Mysteries (English translation)". p. 164. ISBN 978-1-937867-08-9.
  9. https://archive.org/details/SpiritsOfRhythm-Dr.WatsonAndMr.Holmes1943
  10. "Elementary, My Dear Turtle". TV.Com. 1992. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
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