Today was a quest for the location of John Doyle Lee‘s execution. I wanted to find this exact spot because Arthur Conan Doyle was interested in it. It appears that the original Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, has built into it a back story which begins with the murder of the fictional person John Ferrier (ferryman or iron man) at Mountain Meadows, Utah. The murderers were pursued all the way to London, England where one of them John Drebber was killed. Written on the wall in Drebbers blood is—RACHE—the very first word of the rather large Sherlockian canon. The police detective thought it meant a woman’s name, Rachel and the writer was disturbed before he could write the final letter l but Sherlock corrects him saying rache was, in the German language, a word for revenge.
In the fictional story this image refers back to a murder in Utah and this man’s effort to track down the murderers and wreak his revenge. Which he succeeds is doing but then Sherlock comes along and fixes him, “Gentlemen… Let me introduce you to Mr. Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and of Joseph Stangerson.”.
This is a particularly tangled skein of real life clues and fictional ones because the most famous murder of the previous era was that of a young woman named Rachel Dunlap who was killed in cold blood. It happened shortly after the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah, where approximately 130 people were willfully and cunningly slaughtered on Sept 7-11, 1857 at ( +37.4755 -113.6436 ). Rachel was separately murdered from the general holocaust by a commander of the troops John Doyle Lee the Count of Iron County, Utah and the creator of Lee’s Ferry (note the similarity to the fictional name John Ferrier ). Rachel had escaped the general massacre by running away and hiding. She wasn’t discovered until sometime later in a nearby gully behind some trees at ( +37.475 -113.634 ). After a conversation with her John Doyle Lee realized she was mature enough to testify against them in court and so he cut her throat.
It was for the murder of Rachel that he was found guilty, twenty years later and executed March 23, 1877 at the exact same spot where he murdered Rachel ( +37.4754 -113.6355 ). Neither he nor any one else was indited for the massacre and no one was ever officially accused or punished. This all becomes rather more piquant for the fictional story when the fact becomes known that Conan Doyle’s famous grandfather’s name was John Doyle. 1,
Conan Doyle apparently blends his personal reality and his fiction one for his exclusive satisfaction because these relationships have never been published, until now, some one hundred and twenty years after the events and eighty years after his death.
Furthermore it is exciting to the imagination when one comes to realize the significance that John Doyle’s secret nom de plume HB has for Conan Doyle and his hidden adventures. I will get to that in later blogs.
It appears that the detective who thought the word Rache written on the wall in blood, in a Germanic blackface font style, referred to a woman named Rachel was right after all. It is clear there is a real crossover between Doyle’s fictional life and his real one which needs to be pursued by scholars.
For example: You might ask how an intelligent and sane man could publicly proclaim to believe in fairies. But Doyle published a book The Coming of the Fairies about such silliness. He published that he believed this pretty girl succeeded in photographing live fairies. The answer to the question of why he did this is so obvious that it hardly needs mentioning, except that a hundred years later no one has mentioned it—it served his purpose to be thought so simple minded, on some issues, that he would believe in such things. But, what could his purpose be for appearing so very stupid?
People seem to think that Sherlock Holmes was the clever one and that his amanuenses was something of a dunce. They purposefully forget that the real Sherlock couldn’t think at all, that he had no brain, that he was fictional. In the various Sherlock Holmes societies they insist on that hallucinatory belief. The eagerness of people to be duped astonished even Conan Doyle but he went along with their needs and sought to fully satisfy them. Doyle’s purpose was clearly stated in the first word of the Sherlockian canon. RACHE