Menacing Moriarty Marauder – Baker Street, London, 1892
After the disappearance of the Sherlock Sidewinder in 1876 Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the very first Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet in 1886 as an aide memoir to the strange creature that captivated him and the explorer Charles Burroughs all those years ago. Then one day in 1892 a strange note arrived in an unknown hand, slipped under his door in the middle of the night.
‘Be at the corner of Baker Street tonight at 11pm.’
Arthur arrived early, a sturdy revolver in his pocket his head full of questions. It was a clear moonlit night; a single lamp post cast an eerie glow. Arthur checked his watch, two minutes to go but not a soul was around. Then from one of the alleys further up Baker Street he noticed a low drifting mist across the pavement, slowly rolling and billowing in his direction. His hand slipped into his pocket and gripped the revolver.
There was a shape in the mist, barely discernable but he could see something strangely writhing towards him. The mists swirled around the creature giving little away as to its shape, was that a hat? a cane? Arthur raised the revolver ready for anything.
Anything but the blow that knocked him sideways into a door way and on to the floor, pinned down by some unknown entity that was wrapped tightly around his body, the mists swirled over his head and a voice whispered ‘Shhhh!’ Unable to move Arthur watched in amazement as the mists parted and he saw the creature for the first time. Looking similar in stature to the Sherlock Sidewinder a most evil looking entity slithered down the street, small beady eyes looked dartingly from left to right whilst a red lined cape swirled around behind. The whole thing felt abhorrent, unnatural as it disappeared around the corner.
The voice whispered again ‘Moriarty. The games afoot!’ and with that he felt the grip around his waste loosen as something, someone released its hold and with that was gone. Whatever had appeared so quickly had also disappeared into the shadows the same way. All that was left was an unusual smell, a smell that Arthur recognised, the unmistakeable smell of pipe smoke. The Sherlock Sidewinder was back.
When Arthur returned home later that night he found a second note had been slipped under the door.
‘There is more to this than you can possibly imagine’
The very next day Arthur visited Charles Burroughs and described his adventure with the strange creature called Moriarty and the return of the Sidewinder, Charles immediately set to work using Arthur’s description to paint the Menacing Moriarty Marauder. Arthur, his head spinning from the events sensed that he was being dragged into something quite sinister.
It played on his mind for many weeks, interrupting his frame of mind to such an extent that he decided the only way he was going to get to the bottom of this mystery was to devote time to it. So in 1893 Arthur sent an anguished letter to his mother, the Sherlock Holmes stories were distracting him from the real mystery that had presented itself. ‘I must save my mind for better things’ he wrote, ‘even if it means I kill off Holmes’.The Adventure of the Final Problem was published in 1893, in it Arthur describes a fatal meeting between Sherlock and of course the now infamous Moriarty based on his real life adventure that a misty night in Baker Street. It gave Arthur time to really pursue his own personal mystery, one which would lead him to public outcry and his greatest discovery in 1901.