The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

Greetings, Detectives!

One of our favorite sleuths is the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Though born in literary form, Holmes has found himself reincarnated on television and movie screens more times than Arthur Conan Doyle probably ever expected. Take a look below as we explore some of the more memorable portrayals of the famous detective.

Basil Rathbone – Various Sherlock Holmes Appearances (1939-1986)

Basil Rathbone is the real deal when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes is the one of the most prolific of the bunch, appearing in a total of 18 productions as the iconic detective, including films, stage plays, television shows, and radio programs. Future actors, including Jeremy Brett, would look to Rathbone’s work as Holmes and emulate his character, meaning Basil Rathbone was perhaps the most influential Sherlock Holmes to date.

Jeremy Brett – Four Sherlock Holmes TV Series (1984-1994)

There is something to be said for totally immersing yourself into a role. Jeremy Brett certainly made the role of Sherlock Holmes his own in four television series. Unfortunately, due to his own physical and mental health issues, Brett’s portrayal became more and more erratic and even maniacal, both true to the character of Sherlock Holmes and greatly detrimental to his own well-being. The result, through tragic, is an extremely authentic Holmes performance that has prevailed over the span of decades.

Robert Downey Jr. – Sherlock Holmes (2009) & Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

RDJ and Jude Law took to the big screen to step into the roles of the iconic duo, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. The two played up the comedy in their characters, perhaps as a way to garner the attention of a new generation of fans. While still incredibly clever and quick-thinking, Downey Jr.’s Holmes added a slick charm into the mix. With witty one-liners and a yet unseen enthusiasm, this version of the detective is iconic.

Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock (2010-present)

Benedict Cumberbatch, along with this British miniseries, is popular—like really, really popular. Perhaps one of the most well-known versions of Holmes, this one has an addictive personality, cleverness beyond belief, and a complete lack of self-awareness when it comes to being a social human being. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is modern, conflicted, and completely enthralling. Add in his dry, snarky sense of humor, and we’re sold!

Ian McKellan – Mr. Holmes (2015)

Sir Ian McKellan brilliantly portrayed a version of Sherlock Holmes not often seen: an older, past-his-prime, retired detective. In this British-American crime drama mystery, which is based on a 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin, Holmes struggles to recall the details of his last case due to his fading memory. This portrayal cut through the facade and truly revealed the man beneath the deerstalker cap and his at times jarring personality.

Crack This Unsolved Mystery!

Greetings, Detectives!

Here at The Murder Mystery Company HQ, we are always interested in cracking a case! One mystery that has left us scratching our heads is that of DB Cooper and the only remaining unsolved air piracy crime in American history.

The Crime

On November 24, 1971, a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper bought a ticket on Flight 305 to Seattle, Washington from Portland, Oregon. After the plane took off, Cooper calmly indicated to a flight attendant that he was carrying a bomb and requested $200,000.

The flight attendant relayed his demands, which, after a few hours, were met, and Cooper released the rest of the passengers. He asked that the plane take off again to Mexico City, using a very specific flight plan.

One of Cooper’s demands was for four parachutes. Once the plane was in motion toward Mexico City, though unseen by any of the few crew members Cooper allowed to remain on board, Cooper jumped from the plane using, strangely, a dummy parachute (one that would not work like a real parachute should, accidentally obtained by the FBI from a skydiving school).

The Mystery

Cooper should not have been able to survive jumping from the plane using the practice parachute he used. However, after searching all surrounding areas, and even areas that he logically would not have landed, no body was found. Investigators scoured rivers, lakes, mountains, fields, and even people’s farms and homes.

Authorities also began looking into people who shared the suspect’s name but quickly came to the conclusion that the man had used an alias. It also turns out that the name DB Cooper itself had been misreported in the media, as the plane ticket had been bought under the name Dan Cooper, and the misnomer stuck. The DB Cooper everyone was looking for had vanished.

Also unrecovered was his parachute or any of the belongings he would have had on his person. It would take seven years for any physical evidence to surface. Among the eventually recovered items were three packets of money that were positively identified as being part of the $200,000 Cooper demanded, and instructions for how to lower the aft stairs of a 727, something that Cooper had indeed done when he jumped from the aircraft. It has been theorized that other evidence may have been destroyed in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

There have been several suspects throughout the decades, though none have ever been formally charged or even substantially linked to the case. The FBI announced on July 8, 2016, that it would suspend the active investigation of the case.

So what do you think, detectives? Did the suspect survive the fall and assume another identity to quietly live out his life with the stolen money? Or did his body somehow disappear after perishing during the leap from the plane, and any of the stolen money that logically should have gone into circulation once he began using it was just destroyed in the eruption?

Want to check out other bind-boggling mysteries? Our Clue-style shows are perfect for brushing up on your sleuthing skills, and they’re guaranteed to thrill.

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Titus Edition

We’ve discussed a few of the serious players in the world of mystery and detective fiction, so I thought we’d take a look at a fun take on our favorite detective, Sherlock, in the form of a determined little furball bent on solving crime like his human counterpart: Basil of Baker Street.

Basil is written by Eve Titus, a children’s book author with a penchant for anthropomorphizing animals and casting them out into the world for adventures that have captured the hearts and minds of children everywhere. I myself was an avid Basil fan as a child, and would often play pretend that Basil and his trusty sidekick Dawson were solving crimes behind the baseboards and between the walls of my childhood home.

Titus was skilled at meshing the human and mouse world, melding them together in a fantastical mashup that was as entertaining for children as it was for the adults who shared her stories at bedtime. Basil scampers off on adventures from the wild west all the way down to Mexico, solving crimes and outmaneuvering his arch nemesis, Ratigan, at every turn.

Basil is like Sherlock in many ways. He smokes a pipe and is prone to fits of melodrama and moodiness. Like Sherlock, he plays a musical instrument, but unlike Sherlock, it is a flute, not a violin! They keep the company of a doctor who chronicles their adventures and finds themselves invariably warring against their professor type enemies, Moriarty and Ratigan, respectively.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted read with a mystery that leaves you with the warm fuzzies, pick up Basil of Baker Street. However, if you’re looking for a criminally fun time that can’t be found in a children’s book, you might consider trying a murder mystery with The Murder Mystery Company at a crime scene near you!

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Butcher Edition

Today we’re going to step away from some of the old classic detectives and shine some light on one of the coolest contemporary private eyes to be written on paper! The character of supernatural private investigator and professional wizard, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, is written by author Jim Butcher in his currently ongoing series “The Dresden Files.”

Jim Butcher has made a groundbreaking bridge in the gap between old school detective fiction and fantasy. He effortlessly melds the two worlds of the seedy criminal underbelly of Chicago with the fantastical yet dangerous world of magic and the supernatural. Butcher writes Harry Dresden’s character as a wisecracking and cynical, yet dangerously powerful, private investigator. His cases take him anywhere and everywhere, from the mansions of vampiric crime lords to encounters with his not so kindly fairy godmother – and her pack of flesh-eating hellhounds!

Harry Dresden combines his wizarding talents with classic detective skills for a myriad of tasks, helping those who need it most while also trying to save his own hide. His clientele range from your average run of the mill humans, to all manner of fairy tale creatures, many of which you would not expect to see in the same story!

Using his eclectic assortment of wizarding powers, Harry saves himself, his friends, and the world many times over, evolving his powers and gaining an odd assortment of allies in the process. His attempts to come off as a gruff and hardened cynic are constantly undermined by his biggest weakness – to protect anyone who is vulnerable and in need of assistance or protection.

Butcher has made a wonderful contribution to the hard-boiled detective novel genre and continues to leave readers waiting with bated breath for the next book in his smash hit series. If you love a good mystery, but can’t wait till his next book to solve one, join The Murder Mystery Company for an evening of mystery, intrigue, and murder to take your mind off it. We promise you’ll have a killer time!

The Mystery of the Dancing Plague of 1518

There are many unsolved mysteries that exist across the globe, some of which strike fear into the heart of the masses, but not all mysteries are scary. Some of them are just downright bizarre and baffling, making us stop and wonder what was actually going on. The Dancing Plague of 1518 is one of those mysteries, which has puzzled historians and physicians everywhere since that fateful year.

The story is told that it all began with one woman, named Frau Troffea, in a small village in France close to the border of Germany. According to all historical records, she simply walked out into the streets of Strasbourg one day in mid-July and began to dance without the accompaniment of any kind. She was the only one, but not for long. After only a couple days Madame Troffea was joined by other dancers, and in a week’s time, over a hundred other members of the community were dancing with her!

This might seem like an odd but silly thing for people to do, but what truly makes it a mystery is that all of these people were dancing against their will. By the end of August, over 400 people had joined in the involuntary dance party in the streets. Local authorities were unwittingly making things worse by encouraging the dancing, thinking that the only way to cure the dancers was to dance out the “hot blood” they thought to suffer from.

When people started dying from exhaustion and weak hearts, those same authorities started rethinking their decision, and eventually decided that they were cursed by a locally revered saint, Saint Vitus, who was reputed to cast dancing curses. The afflicted citizens were loaded up onto wagons and sent up to a temple in the mountains to be “healed.”

There are several other noted occasions of “dancing plague” that happened in previous centuries, but none were as large or as well documented as the Strasbourg plage, which was also the last one to strike in Europe. Extensive research has been done on what started and perpetuated this bizarre event in history, but nobody can actually pin down what really happened despite excellent records from various sources.

Was it ergot poisoning from rye bread sold at the community bakery? Mass hysteria due to the psychological stress of poverty, illness, and natural disasters that was pandemic in the country at the time? Religious trance states that roped in the susceptible minds of those who were particularly devout? Most experts are on board with mass hysteria and religious trances, but nobody will ever really be able to say with 100% certainty.

You can look over the evidence and try to solve the mystery yourself, but if you are really in the mood for a mystery, look no further! Come join The Murder Mystery Company for an evening of mystery, intrigue, and murder, and solve a Clue-style mystery with our mystery experts near a crime scene near you!

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Rampo Edition

Hello again, welcome to the third installment of Famous Mystery Writers! Today we are going to take a peek into the world of a mystery writer and his characters from a completely different part of the world. Tarō Hirai, better known by the pseudonym Edogawa Rampo, hailed from Japan, and his literature was heavily influenced by Poe and Doyle, who are featured in my previous Famous Mystery Writers selections.

He studied economics at Waseda university, and graduated in 1916. Rampo took up a number of odd jobs to make ends meet, until he was finally published in 1923. This first piece was in Shin Seinen, a popular magazine written largely for an adolescent audience. He was the first Japanese author to feature in this magazine with a detective story. Rampo was not the first Japanese mystery writer, being precedented by authors such as Ruikō Kuroiwa, Kidō Okamoto, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Haruo Satō, and Kaita Murayama. He was however, the first to gain major mainstream popularity with his attention to detail, and mystery solving methods that were very close to the current Japanese culture.

Rampos character, Kogoro Akechi, is definitely Rampos interpretation of a Japanese Sherlock, while still maintaining his own set of eccentricities and genius. For example, unlike Sherlock, Akechi has a wife, and an adopted son who helps him solve crimes. He also dresses fastidiously, where Sherlock has a tendency to be a bit slovenly, especially in his home.

Then again, echoing Sherlock’s penchant for smoking a pipe, Akechi smokes Egyptian cigarettes while brooding over a case. Like Sherlock’s Moriarty, he also has a nemesis- The Fiend with Twenty Faces, which he comes up against several times in several different novels. Also similar to Sherlock who sticks to London for his cases, Akechi spends most of his time in his home city of Tokyo, and utilizes the Boy Detective Club, a knockoff of Rampo’s the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’.

Thanks for reading another edition of Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters! The Murder Mystery Company loves a good detective, and we’re always on the prowl for new characters to write about! Leave a comment below and let us know who you want to read about next!

If you love case cracking, and you want to solve a mystery of your own, check out one of our public shows, or set up a night of mystery at your own private event, and don’t forget your detective hat!

The Voynich Manuscript Mystery

The Voynich Manuscript was purchased in 1912 from the Order of Jesuits living at the Villa Mondrogone, who were discreetly selling some of their holdings in order to bolster their impoverished coffers, by a man named Wilifrid Voynich . Though Polish by birth, he was a British citizen living in London. He acquired the book at the Villa Mondragone, which is located near Rome. The manuscript has been dated to the early 1400’s according to carbon dating techniques. He purchased 30 books at that time, including a mysterious notebook which would later take his name, and a bevy of controversy.

The book is only about 240 pages long. Some of the pages are missing, but what remains appears to be a pharmacopoeia used in the early 15th century, as well as commentary about astronomy, biology, cosmology, and recipes most likely for medicinal purposes.

So what’s so interesting about a several hundred year old medicinal journal? Well, it has defied all attempts at decoding leading some to believe that the manuscript is an incredibly well made hoax. Take, for example, the images of the flora; most of these cannot be identified either by comparing them to actual specimens or the stylized drawings contemporary to the alleged creation date of the manuscript.

Some appear to be direct copies from other books while others appear to be combining roots from one plant with the leaves of another and the flowers of yet another plant. Some drawings in the book appear to be a sunflower, native to the as of yet undiscovered Americas. Other drawings appear to be crude renderings of galaxies and cells…which, with the technology at the time, were not able to be observed.

Historians can confirm it was once in the possession of Georg Baresch who sent several letters to Athanasius Kircher who had published a Codex of Egyptians Hieroglyphs. It is unknown if he ever replied but he did make an attempt to purchase it. He was firmly refused. Upon his death it passed to Jan Marek Marci who in turn gave it to Kircher. A letter that came with the manuscript claimed that it had once belonged to Emperor Rudolph II who had either loaned or bequeathed it to Jacobus Korcicky de Tepenecz, The Emperor’s head of the botanical gardens.

Record of it disappears after that until Voynich purchases it in 1912. Upon his death it passed to his wife, then to a friend and eventually to Hans P. Kraus who, after he was unable to find a buyer, donated it to Yale University.

So, hoax or history? Well, no one truly knows, but linguistics professor Stephen Bax thinks he may have begun to decipher the script and discount the theory that it was an elaborate hoax. According to the professor he focused on what appeared to be proper names, much like Egyptian Scholars have used to decipher hieroglyphs in the past. He uses the plants and star depicted in the book to decipher the glyphs in the book. He has called on other scholars, cryptographers and linguists to join in and help him decode the centuries old manuscript.

Think you’re a crack decoder? Then go to Yale University’s open source of the document and join in on solving this case. Want something a little less challenging? Then join The Murder Mystery Company at one of our public shows, showing around the country. If there’s no public show in your area we will come to you! Just call to start planning your event today!

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Doyle Edition

Having given a gracious nod to the silver tongued wordsmith Poe, let us turn our gazes ever forward to another literary genius in history, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The man is almost as fascinating as his most famous fictional character, our beloved favorite, Detective Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle was a Scottish physician and writer who popularized more than just his most famous fictional detective character. His interactions with university professor Joseph Bell, and the influences of Poe’s character Dupin, were a large contribution to the personality of Sherlock. While everyone knows the major facets of what made Sherlock who he is, such as his propensity for smoking a pipe, ability to play the violin, and penchant for certain illegal narcotics, there are a great many interesting tidbits not known to the modern day Sherlock lover.

Holmes is certainly an oddity, one that the world has embraced with open arms through the original works of Doyle, other authors, movies, and most recently, t.v. shows. While everyone has their own spin on how he looks, sounds, and acts; the one thing they all have in common is how exceptionally clever he is. A man of mystery dissected by the masses, he never fails to thrill and mystify, keeping readers and watchers captivated by his intellect, passion, and sometimes ridiculous methods of solving cases.

Sherlock was a very disorganized man despite having impeccable personal hygiene. He would often get upset if anyone tried to move or sort any of the multitude of papers he kept in his study. He hated to throw anything away, as it might be useful to him at a later time. Despite the extreme chaos of his belongings he had a knack for knowing exactly where anything he happened to be looking for was, to the continued disbelief of his roommate, Watson.

The genius didn’t just confound Watson with his disorganization but with his lack of social ability as well. Sherlock had no interest in the fairer sex as he was completely engaged in his work. He had a bad habit of not eating during times when he was solving crimes, to the point where he would sometimes go unconscious. He liked to impress and flabbergast anyone working on a case he was consulting on with very grandiose and cunning deductions he seemed to fabricate out of thin air. Flattery was one of the quickest ways to his socially inept heart. He was a master of disguise and also well versed in chemistry and literature.

Out of the numerous cases undertaken and solved by Sherlock, the most famous writings of Doyle were undoubtedly his four novels, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles, and The Final Problem, which allowed his avid readers to truly delve into the life and personality of Sherlock. He was so loved by the people of England that when Doyle killed him off, there was a public outcry so great that he brought him back to life ten years later to appease the disgruntled masses.

If you love case cracking, and you want to solve a mystery of your own, check out one of our public shows, or set up a night of mystery at your own private event, and don’t forget your detective hat!

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Poe Edition

Ah, Poe, that clever wordsmith. Imbued with the gift of leaving his readers pleasantly creeped out, it is he we must thank for the creation of some of the literary characters we love most. One of these singular creatures is Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, a mind set to solving crimes before the word detective was even a part of the world.

Among the many delightfully dark writings gifted to our minds from Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), “The Raven” (1845), and countless other works, his character Dupin, which we see featured in three of Poe’s works, is a marvel. Whether solving crimes on a whim for his own personal pleasure or sleuthing for monetary gain, the mechanics of his mind are astounding.

This character is said to be the bones of which the character Sherlock was written. It’s even alluded to in the first Sherlock novel, A Study in Scarlet, in a conversation between Sherlock and Watson. Both Dupin and Sherlock have the innate ability to read people based on nuance, body language, and speech, and have a disturbing tendency to reveal the minds of people who thought their secrets were safe so long as they stayed in their minds. How wrong they were!

The character Dupin set the standard for the traditional “gentleman detective,”— a member of the british gentry, very eccentric and keen minded, that often resided in a british townhouse. Dupin lived with his closest friend, and was eclectic in his hobbies (sound familiar?). He was not very fond of the police, indeed, he usually viewed them as an inconvenience at best.

The motive for choosing to solve the crimes in the three stories is different for Dupin each time, making him even harder to figure out. Poe’s character is the penultimate in rationality and comes off as snobby due to the fact that he did not interact with other people in any kind of normal way due to his heightened sense of observation and constantly churning process of abductive thinking.

All in all, Dupin makes for a fascinating character in a series of skillfully crafted stories. We salute you, Edgar. If you enjoyed this read, keep your sleuthing eyes peeled for the next famous mystery writer and character! If you want to solve a crime of your own, set in motion your own personal night of mystery, intrigue, and murder with The Murder Mystery Company today.

The Mystery of the Somerton Man

It’s December 1st, 1948 in Southern Australia and one of the world’s strangest unsolved mysteries has taken place. At 6.30 a.m. the body of an unidentified man, now known as the Somerton Man, is found. I’ll save you the details of his death because, frankly, that’s the least interesting part of this case.

The initial crime, a man found dead on a beach with two unsmoked cigarettes, was hardly remarkable…except for the cryptic code left on the body. Witnesses had viewed him the night before lying on the beach in the same position he was found. They concluded he was likely to be passed out because he wasn’t reacting to the numerous mosquitos.

Based on the interviews it is likely he died around 2 a.m. the morning on the day the body was found. He was dressed well but missing his hat which was unusual for the time period. Even more unusual was the fact that all the labels were missing from his clothing. That made it difficult to trace his country of origin, whether it be Britain, The U.S. or from within Australia herself. His wallet was also missing.

Attempts to identify the Somerton Man (named for the beach at which he was found) were unsuccessful from use of dental records. Many identifications were made over time, including a guess based on a description of EC Johnson, who was later ruled out when the man himself appeared at the coroner’s office. Newspapers ran the story with a picture, but all lines of inquiry were soon exhausted.

There was a break in the case when a brown suitcase believed to be that of the victim was handed over to police. It was from the railway station he had been at earlier that day according to a ticket found in his pocket. There were a variety of items found but most interestingly was a coat which, because of the way it was manufactured, could only have been bought in America. Was the man American? Or had he purchased the jacket from someone of the same size who had just been in America?

Around this time a scrap of paper was also discovered deep in one of the pockets of his trousers with the words, “Tamad Shud” which means “it is finished.” A wide search discovered that this was a very rare copy of “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.” The detectives released this to the press and the copy from which it came was found in a car that had been abandoned two weeks earlier. The detectives concluded that the car belonged to the victim.

In the back of the book there were several lines written, believed to be some sort of coded message as well as the unlisted number of a woman living in nearby Adelaide. She was interviewed by the police but asked her name to be kept secret. The woman, later revealed as Jessica Thompson, told them a story about having given the book to a man named Boxall during the war. The Somerton Man was later disproved to be Boxall when he was discovered alive with his wartime copy of the book and the Taman Shud line still intact.

Recently, 60 Minutes revealed that the Somerton Man might be the victim of Ms. Thompson. Her daughter believes that she was actually a Russian Spy, and may have had an affair with, and subsequently produced a child with the unknown victim. There is a current petition to exhume the body for a DNA test which may prove whether a son of Ms. Thompson was fathered by The Somerton Man. All attempts at deciphering the coded message in the book have been unsuccessful to date.

This case has been infuriating detectives and police forces for decades. Time has taken away evidence and witnesses, and the window of opportunity to figure out this crime of mystery, intrigue, and murder keeps getting smaller and smaller. Luckily, solving a crime with The Murder Mystery Company won’t leave you wanting to pull out your hair. If you like a challenge, and you think you have what it takes, grab your detective hat and hop on over to a public show with us. We guarantee you will have a killer time.