The Adventure of the Speckled Band

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"The Adventure of the Speckled Band"
Short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Dr. Roylott (left) confronts Holmes and Watson. 1892 illustration by Sidney Paget
Text available at Wikisource
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre(s)Detective fiction short stories
Published inThe Strand Magazine
Published in EnglishFebruary 1892
SeriesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Blue Carbuncle
The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb

"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is one of 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the eighth story of twelve in the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was originally published in Strand Magazine in February 1892.

"The Speckled Band" is a classic locked-room mystery that deals with the themes of parental greed, inheritance and freedom. Tinged with Gothic elements, it is considered by many to be one of Doyle's finest works, with the author himself calling it his best story.[1] The story, alongside the rest of the Sherlock Holmes canon, has become a defining part of detective fiction. It has been adapted for television, film, theatre, radio and a video game. It is part of the exhibit at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The theatrical adaptation was written and produced by Doyle himself, directed by and starring Lyn Harding as Grimesby Roylott. The role of Holmes was played by H. A. Saintsbury. Doyle famously clashed with Harding over several details of the script, but later reconciled with him after the universal success of the play.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The death of Julia Stoner
Holmes strikes at the speckled band
The death of Dr Roylott

In April 1883, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson rise early one morning to meet a young woman named Helen Stoner, who fears that her stepfather, Dr Grimesby Roylott, is threatening her life. She explains that Roylott is a violent doctor of great physical strength who practised in Calcutta, India; is the impoverished sole survivor of a wealthy but ill-tempered and amoral aristocratic Anglo-Saxon family in Surrey; and was married to Helen's late mother, a wealthy widow, 30 years prior. After serving time in an Indian prison for killing his Indian butler in a rage, Roylott had moved to England to reestablish his practice, but retired after his wife was killed in a railway accident eight years prior.

Furthermore, Helen's twin sister Julia died two years prior, shortly before her wedding day. Despite hearing her last words, "The speckled band!", Helen cannot make sense of them. Now that she is engaged, she has also begun hearing strange noises and observing strange activities around her heavily mortgaged countryside home of Stoke Moran, which Roylott has made extensive modifications to even before Julia's death. Of particular note, he is having an outside wall repaired, forcing Helen to move into the room where Julia died.

After Holmes agrees to take the case, he is visited by Roylott, who threatens to harm him if he interferes. Undaunted, Holmes leaves for the courthouse to examine Helen's mother's will before joining Watson in traveling to Stoke Moran, where he scrutinizes the premises. Within Helen's room, he discovers her bed is anchored to the floor, an unconnected bell cord has been installed, and a ventilator hole connects her room to Roylott's. Holmes and Watson arrange to stay the night in Helen's room.

At three a.m., a slight metallic noise and a dim light through the ventilator prompts Holmes to light a candle. He soon sees the "speckled band", a venomous snake, on the bell cord and strikes at it with his riding crop. Agitated, it flees back through the ventilator and kills Roylott, who had sent it to kill Helen and was awaiting its return. Holmes identifies the snake as an Indian swamp adder and reveals to Watson the will initially provided an annual income of £1,100 before dropping to £750 sterling when she died, of which her daughters could claim one-third upon marriage. Desiring all of the income for himself, Roylott schemed to murder his daughters. Though Holmes also admits to indirectly killing Roylott, he does not foresee it troubling him and chooses not to tell the police Roylott's full motive to spare Helen any further grief.


Richard Lancelyn Green, the editor of the 2000 Oxford paperback edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, surmises that Doyle's source for the story appears to have been the article named "Called on by a Boa Constrictor. A West African Adventure" in Cassell's Saturday Journal, published in February 1891.[1] In the article, a captain tells how he was dispatched to a remote camp in West Africa to stay in a tumbledown cabin that belonged to a Portuguese trader. On the first night in the cabin, he is awoken by a creaking sound, and sees "a dark queer-looking thing hanging down through the ventilator above it". It turns out to be the largest Boa constrictor he has seen (more likely a python because there are no boas in Africa). He is paralysed with fear as the serpent comes down into the room. Unable to cry out for help, the captain spots an old bell that hung from a projecting beam above one of the windows. The bell cord had rotted away, but by means of a stick he manages to ring it and raise the alarm.

Identity of 'the speckled band'[edit]

"It is a swamp adder!" cried Holmes; "the deadliest snake in India. He has died within ten seconds of being bitten."

The key characteristics to be considered in identification of the snake are:

  • A fast-acting neurotoxic venom, as opposed to the common haemotoxic venom of most snakes
  • Ability to climb well
  • Appearance described as a "yellow band with brownish speckles", a "squat, diamond-shaped" head, and a "puffed" neck
  • An Indian origin[3]

Publication history[edit]

"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" was first published in the UK in The Strand Magazine in February 1892, and in the United States in the US edition of the Strand in March 1892.[4] The story was published with nine illustrations by Sidney Paget in The Strand Magazine.[5] It was included in the short story collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,[5] which was published in October 1892.[6]


First play publication


  • Conan Doyle wrote an adaptation for the stage in 1910, The Speckled Band.[7] It premiered at the Adelphi Theatre, London, on 4 June 1910, under the name The Stonor Case.
  • In autumn 2013, a new stage adaptation, Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band, by Max Gee premiered at Treasurer's House, York and Ripley Castle, Ripley, North Yorks. The play was produced by Theatre Mill, directed by Samuel Wood, and starred Liam Tims as Holmes and Adam Elms as Watson.[8]


Radio and audio dramas[edit]


Video games[edit]

  • The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures adapted "The Speckled Band" into the game's second episode, "The Adventure of the Unbreakable Speckled Band". In the episode, the protagonist, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, aids Herlock Sholmes (named "Sherlock Holmes" in the original Japanese released; changed in localisation for legal reasons) in the investigation, the protagonist's best friend, Kazuma Asogi, takes the place as the victim, and the culprit's true identity is changed to a Russian asylum seeker who was only going by the alias of Roylott to hide her identity. In the middle of the case, Sholmes deduces the story's original conclusion. However, Ryunosuke's partner, Susato Mikotoba, points out the numerous issues regarding the biology of snakes. Thanks to Ryunosuke, it is eventually deduced that the victim's death was caused by him tripping over a cat after being shoved, breaking his neck on a bedpost, and that the "speckled band" refers to a cat teaser toy.[citation needed] Later in the game's fourth episode; "The Adventure of the Clouded Kokoro," Herlock's assistant, Iris Wilson, adapts the events into "The Speckled Band", but changes some details around to make it more interesting to the audience such as by making the snake the murder weapon, fully aware that this wouldn't make sense considering the biology of snakes.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Green, Richard Lancelyn (1998). "Explanatory Notes". The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Oxford University Press. pp. 361–367. ISBN 0-19-283508-4.
  2. ^ "From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon". 13 March 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  3. ^ Klinger, Leslie. The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 200–300.
  4. ^ Smith (2014), p. 56.
  5. ^ a b Cawthorne (2011), p. 66.
  6. ^ Cawthorne (2011), p. 54.
  7. ^ Boström, Mattias (2018). From Holmes to Sherlock. Mysterious Press. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-8021-2789-1.
  8. ^ Hickling, Alfred (18 November 2013). "Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  9. ^ Eyles, Allen (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. p. 130. ISBN 9780060156206.
  10. ^ "The Speckled Band". Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  11. ^ Eyles, Alan (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. pp. 132. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.
  12. ^ Bunson, Matthew (1997). Encyclopedia Sherlockiana: an A-to-Z guide to the world of the great detective. Macmillan. p. 247. ISBN 0-02-861679-0.
  13. ^ Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. p. 198. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
  14. ^ Boström, Mattias (2018). From Holmes to Sherlock. Mysterious Press. pp. 196–199. ISBN 978-0-8021-2789-1.
  15. ^ Dickerson (2019), pp. 31, 39.
  16. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 50.
  17. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 72.
  18. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 87.
  19. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 97.
  20. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 131.
  21. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 183.
  22. ^ "Sherlock Holmes OTR - Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (January 9, 2014)". Internet Archive. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  23. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 230.
  24. ^ "Sherlock Holmes Tom Conway". Internet Archive. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  25. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 266.
  26. ^ "Sherlock Holmes 1948-12-19 The Speckled Band". Internet Archive. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  27. ^ a b De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 382. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  28. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 286.
  29. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 388. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  30. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 411–412. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  31. ^ "CBS Radio Mystery Theater 1977-1978". Internet Archive. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  32. ^ Payton, Gordon; Grams, Martin Jr. (2015) [1999]. The CBS Radio Mystery Theater: An Episode Guide and Handbook to Nine Years of Broadcasting, 1974-1982 (Reprinted ed.). McFarland. p. 214. ISBN 9780786492282.
  33. ^ Bert Coules. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". The BBC complete audio Sherlock Holmes. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Sherlock Holmes: The Speckled Band". Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  35. ^ Wright, Stewart (30 April 2019). "The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  36. ^ Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 311. ISBN 9780857687760.
  37. ^ Alan Barnes (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 138–143. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
  38. ^ Eyles, Allen (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. p. 140. ISBN 9780060156206.
  39. ^ Shinjiro Okazaki and Kenichi Fujita (ed.), "シャーロックホームズ冒険ファンブック Shârokku Hômuzu Boken Fan Bukku", Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2014, pp. 46-48, p. 53 and pp. 82-83.(Guidebook to the show)

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