Among some traditions, the night of masks and candy that we call Halloween is, quite literally, a lot more spiritual. It is a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead grows thin, and those who have passed on have a chance at communicating with the living. Conan Doyle was more into this sort of thing than Sherlock Holmes, but even in Holmes's very rational world, a time for turning one's mind to thoughts of those long gone fits in perfectly with this time of year.
We all have our ghosts, and so did Sherlock Holmes. On a cold and rainy fall eve, with the wind whistling down the chimney and the fog separating 221B from the rest of London, the dead surely rose in Holmes's memory on occasion. And who were Holmes's dead?
The late Irene Adler surely leads the pack, for as another ghost from Sherlock's past, old Trevor, once said, "the ghosts of our old loves are the worst." Especially those with whom a relationship never got to play out, as with Irene. But she's not alone . . . there are other shades who come to mind right behind Irene, practically fighting to get through memory's door to 221 Baker Street.
John Openshaw, for example, murdered on his way home from Baker Street, would not have far to come. Holmes's failure to save Openshaw was haunting even without any supernatural influence. A client killed after obtaining Holmes's help is not a spectre that leaves quickly. Hilton Cubitt will be standing with Openshaw in that company as well.
Others who died during Sherlock Holmes's investigations are apt to be memorable, even if they weren't clients. Blessington -- he who will forever be remembered with a noose 'round his neck -- may have just been a victim of karma coming around, but anyone whose life ends dramatically within days of you first meeting them is going to stay with you.
Those whose deaths Sherlock Holmes was somehow party to . . . Milverton, little Tonga, Stapleton, and certainly Moriarty are liable to come to call during such a spectral season of remembrance. Moriarty definitely has the longest way to travel, but he's also a motivated spook. He left an impression in Holmes's mental ether like no other.
Whether in pleasant nostalgia or zombie nightmare, this pack of Holmes's dead surely revisited him, and their legion held many more, to be sure. Unknown ghosts, like Sherlock's family. Seemingly minor players, like the pale and blue-eyed wife of Godfrey Staunton, who might have touched Holmes's heart at a vulnerable moment. Nameless executed murderesses like she who Holmes called "the most winning woman I ever knew." Those of uncertain fates, like Captain James Calhoun. The list goes on and on.
Unless the Baker Street Irregulars decided to anachronistically dress up as past clients and killers and come knocking on Mrs. Hudson's front door for lollipops, Sherlock Holmes probably spent more quiet Halloween nights that most of us do these days. But that's not to say his brain-attic was not haunted on the occasional dark October night.
Happy Halloween, Sherlock-world. Enjoy your spooks, whatever form they take.