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The View from the East End (7)

By Inspector Hopkins

February 27, 2005
 

"The Many Facets of Sherlockiana"

Evidence Boxes

A refinement of the "Collecting" Facet of Sherlockiana has resulted in what my friend Paul Churchill calls his "Evidence Boxes". These are collections of items, papers, weapons, and other artifacts from each of the sixty cases in the Canon.

In addition to his rendition of the sitting room at 221B Baker Street, which I told you about before, Paul also collects or creates appropriate items that were mentioned in each of the Canonical stories. For example, in the box for "The Blue Carbuncle", he has an old battered black felt hat such as that worn by Henry Baker, a hotel receipt from the Hotel Cosmopolitan, a copy of the "Pink’Un", and of course, a gemstone resembling the stolen jewel. The box for "The Sign of the Four" might contain one of the pearls that Mary Morstan received each year, Holmes’s revolver, a tomahawk belonging to Tonga, and even his blowgun complete with poison darts!

Based upon an idea of Simon Goodenough, a fellow Sherlockian, Paul started creating these Evidence Boxes approximately five years ago. He has painstakingly assembled a set of items for each story, either by stumbling across them at flea markets or antique shops, or by purchasing them on e-Bay. He described having to purchase a whole set of various Cataract Knives, complete with case, in order to obtain one exactly like that mentioned in "Silver Blaze", so he could add it to that particular Evidence Box.

It took about three years of searching in order to locate an authentic Gasogene. The original protective wicker weave around it (to contain glass shards, should the vessel explode) was rotted away, but fortunately he had a skillful friend who was able to weave a new one for it. He now has several of these unique items, valued at hundreds of dollars each, and says, "You’re lucky if you can find one in any condition today."

And if he can’t locate a particular item, that doesn’t stop him: he’ll just create it!

Through a very clever mix of manual and computer artistry, Paul has developed a specialty of creating "faux documents": items such as hotel receipts, bills, checks, letters, the Dancing Men code, and even the famous Naval Treaty document! Many of these are included in his Evidence Boxes, and some have been distributed at the annual Baker Street Irregulars dinner. He has done so well at this craft, that sometimes even he has a hard time distinguishing an authentic document from one that he has created!At each of the scion society meetings that he attends, he brings the appropriate Evidence Box related to the story to be discussed, and lays out the contents for all the members to see and examine.

Not only is this an interesting and unique collection of things Sherlockian, it really helps to bring each of the Canonical stories to life in a special way. Seeing and handling actual items that were related to a case also brings Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the Grand Game to a higher level as well.Until next time, and wishing you happy Sherlockian thoughts, I am,

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY HOPKINS