As written about yesterday, The Baker Street Journal has raised the question of the authenticity of a certain well-loved detail regarding the death of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. When Holmes's death was first announced by The Strand Magazine, we've been told for years, black crepe mourning bands were worn by multiple folk in London in reaction to that horrible event.
In the modern era, thanks to this wonderful thing we call the internet, no one would deny that fan reaction had "We believe in Sherlock Holmes" posters put up all over the place. But as 1893 was without cell phones equipped with cameras, the evidence for those fan mourning bands is rather slim.
In fact, the theory proposed by Phil Bergem, then pushed by Peter Calamai and seemingly, The Baker Street Journal itself, is that Adrian Conan Doyle just made up the thing and told Doyle's biographer. Adrian, born in 1910, seventeen years after the event, would have no way of knowing anything about it, of course. And the theory runs that his paternal pride was so great that he felt like pumping up Sherlock Holmes further by making the mourning band thing up.
A theory, made up by Phil Bergem. (Nothing against Phil, mind you. Nice guy, dedicated researcher, but theorist, nonetheless.)
The Baker Street Journal has now ramped up the question by offering the following reward: "The first person offering proof (as judged by your Editor) of Londoners wearing mourning bands upon the publication of "The Final Problem" in response to Sherlock Holmes's "death" wins a year's free subscription to the Journal."
The esteemed publication offering this reward would seem to offer more credence to this theory that Adrian was playing with Carr, so in order to balance the scales, I'm perfectly willing to raise the stakes on the opposite side.
Sherlock Peoria, this humble, yet fiesty blog, will offer one hundred American dollars cash money to the first person offering concrete proof (as judged by the writer of this blog, to borrow the Journal's stipulation), that the story of the black mourning bands, first reported in 1949 by John Dickson Carr, is a fabrication. I'm sure The Baker Street Journal would be more than willing to publish such proof, and I'd be more than pleased to ballyhoo such a discovery here in this blog.
Unlike the Sherlock versus Elementary battle, which can never be truly won by either side despite the disparate size of the armies, this little debate has the opportunity for someone to produce definitive proof outside of an opinion in the comment section. And until such proof is produced, both sides are merely operating on their own beliefs, and we can't simply Snopes our way out of this one.
I believe in Sherlock Holmes. And black crepe mourning bands. And there's a C-note in it for anyone able to dissuade me of one of those beliefs.