The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire

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"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"
AuthorArthur Conan Doyle
SeriesThe Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Publication date1924

"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", written by British author Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 Sherlock Holmes stories collected between 1921 and 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]

An advert from the 28 December 1923 edition of The Radio Times for the January 1924 edition of The Strand Magazine, leading with the announcement of the "new complete story of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle", whose title is not given

Holmes receives an odd letter that makes reference to vampires. Mr. Robert Ferguson, who comes to 221B Baker Street the next morning, has become convinced that his Peruvian second wife has been sucking their baby son's blood. By his first wife, he has a 15-year-old son named Jack, who suffered an unfortunate accident as a child and now, although he can still walk, he does not have the full use of his legs. After the bloodsucking began, Jack has unaccountably been struck twice by his stepmother, 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 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.

Upon their arrival in Sussex, 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.

Holmes then explains the truth about what has been happening, much to the relief of Mrs. Ferguson as this is exactly what she has wanted: for the truth to come from someone else's lips. It turns out 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 attempting to murder his half-brother by shooting poisoned darts at him, and his stepmother's behaviour of sucking the baby's neck is thereby explained: she was sucking the poison out. It also explains why she struck Jack, and why she was sick when Holmes and Watson arrived. The wounds, therefore, were caused by the darts, not by her biting.

Matilda Briggs and the Giant Rat of Sumatra[edit]

In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Holmes mentions to Watson the case of the ship Matilda Briggs and the Giant Rat of Sumatra, identifying 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 who have either created their own versions of the story or alluded to it in tales of their own.[citation needed]


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.

"The Sussex Vampire" was dramatised for BBC Radio 4 in 1994 by Bert Coules as part of his complete radio adaptation of the canon, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson, and featuring Michael Troughton as Robert Ferguson.[2]

The 2018 Japanese television drama Miss Sherlock adapted "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" in season 1, episode 4 "The Wakasugi Family", setting it in Japan.


  1. ^ Christopher Redmond, Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Second Edition (Dundurn, 2009), ISBN 978-1554884469, pp. 35–36. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Bert Coules. "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes". The BBC complete audio Sherlock Holmes. Retrieved 12 December 2016.

External links[edit]