Edisons Sherlock Sidewinder, 1874-1876 London
In 1851 the Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace, London was a major sensation, none more so than one of the exhibits, the first ever public display of a flushing toilet. Such was its popularity rumour has it that Queen Victoria herself visited and used it four times. Over the course of the exhibition it was used 22,000 times causing such a stir that in the following 40 years most of London was dug up to lay the foundations of a new sewer system.
During one such dig a workman spotting a curious light in a pool of water reached in and was promptly shocked into a feint. Upon waking he described a slithery snake like creature. Charles Burroughs, the foremost Victorian expert in the area of crypto zoology was called into investigate and eventually captured the sidewinder in the newly excavated sewer system using a goldfish bowl laced with coca leaves.
Named in honour of Thomas Edison’s creation of the Edison Electric Light Company in 1878 it’s takes on a peculiar ‘S’ shape when standing, it sports a deerstalker hat and can regularly be seen smoking a rather ornate pipe.
Charles took his sidewinder back home and placed it on a shelf in his study. At times the sidewinder would sleep, coiled up rather tight at the bottom of the bowl but always with one eye open, other times it remained upright and alert to every tiny movement or sound it could detect, almost as if it was constantly analysing its surroundings.
It remained an enigma for Charles, a creature that existed but almost offered no purpose to its existence, so enlisting the help of his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who also loved unexplained mysteries, they both used to spend many a happy hour with a glass of brandy and a cigar convinced that one day they would discover the truth about the sidewinder. Over the following months Arthur Conan Doyle became quite attached to his visits and intrigued that an explanation to the mysterious sidewinder still eluded him.
One stormy night, as Charles sat in his study, an almighty crash of thunder just before midnight was followed by a bloodthirsty howl in the distance from what sounded like a hound or wolf. Charles in his study noticed the Sherlock sidewinder uncurl into its highest position ever and look towards the window whilst lighting its pipe with its electric tail. Moments later, after being distracted, Charles was amazed to find the sidewinder had vanished.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was distraught upon hearing of the sidewinders disappearance, the only true mystery in his life had vanished without Arthur or Charles shedding any light on the mysterious creature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never truly got over losing the sidewinder and as a tribute named his hero, Sherlock Holmes, after the Sherlock Sidewinder in 1887 when ‘A Study In Scarlet’ first appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual.