The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire

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"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"
Author Arthur Conan Doyle
Series The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
Publication date 1924
Client(s) Robert Ferguson
Set in 1896
Villain(s)

"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", written by British author Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 Sherlock Holmes stories collected between 1921-1927 as The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in the January 1924 issues of The Strand Magazine in London and Hearst's International Magazine in New York.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Holmes receives two odd letters that make reference to vampires. Mr. Robert Ferguson, who comes to 221B Baker Street the next morning, has become convinced that his Peruvian wife has been sucking their baby son's blood. The woman is Mr. Ferguson's second wife, and by his first wife he has an adolescent son of 15, who suffered an unfortunate accident as a child and now does not have the full use of his legs, although he can walk. His name is Jack, and he has suffered beatings at his stepmother's hands, although Mr. Ferguson cannot imagine why. Ever since being found out by her husband, she has locked herself in her room and refused to come out. Only her Peruvian maid, Dolores, is ever allowed in. She takes Mrs. Ferguson her meals.

Even before Holmes and Watson set off for Mr. Ferguson's house in Sussex, Holmes has deduced what is going on, and it has nothing to do with vampires. Holmes's trip is made simply to observe and confirm what he has already deduced.

Mrs. Ferguson's maid announces that her mistress is ill, and Dr. Watson offers to help. He finds an agitated woman in the room upstairs. She speaks of all being destroyed, and of sacrificing herself rather than breaking her husband's heart. She also demands her child, who has been with the nurse, Mrs. Mason, ever since Mr. Ferguson has known about the bloodsucking incidents.

Holmes examines the South American weapons displayed in the house, and meets the children. While Mr. Ferguson is doting on his younger son, Watson notices that Holmes is gazing at the window. He cannot imagine why his friend is doing this.

Mrs. Ferguson is relieved that Holmes tells the truth about what has been happening, as this is exactly what she has wanted: for the truth to come from someone else's lips. It seems that the culprit is Jack, Mr. Ferguson's elder son, who is extremely jealous of his young half-brother. Holmes has deduced this, and confirmed it by looking at Jack's reflection in the window while his father's attention was on the baby. Jack has been shooting poisoned darts — thoughtfully provided by the weapon collection at Cheeseman's — at his brother, and his stepmother's behaviour of sucking the baby's neck is thereby explained: she was sucking the poison out. The wounds were caused by the darts, not by her biting.

Commentary[edit]

In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Holmes mentions to Watson the case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, referring to it as "a story for which the world is not yet prepared". This single reference has been expanded upon by a number of other authors and performers.

Adaptation[edit]

In a televised adaptation of this case entitled The Last Vampyre, produced by Granada Television and starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, the case was altered. In the televised version, Holmes was called by the town vicar to investigate the death of the baby, with the prime suspect being the newly arrived Mr. John Stockton, a man who is rumored to be descended from a family of vampires. During this investigation, it is revealed that Jack, driven to delusions due to the childhood accident which cost him the full use of his legs, has come to believe himself to be a vampire because of the power and fear such a creature inspires, seeing Stockton as a 'mentor' of sorts due to his seemingly vampire-like ability to charm women.

Jack was played by Richard Dempsey who was in the BBC production of the Narnia Stories by C. S. Lewis.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Christopher Redmond, Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Second Edition (Dundurn, 2009), ISBN 978-1554884469, pp. 35-36. Excerpts available at Google Books.