Some time back, my mind wandered to Mrs. James Watson, the wife of Sherlock Holmes's friend and chronicler in "The Man with the Twisted Lip." I'd like to refer to her as Mary Morstan Watson, or Mrs. John H. Watson, but going strictly by the evidence presented in that tale . . . well, she really is most accurately identified as "Mrs. James Watson."
And what was the notable characteristic of Mrs. James Watson?
"Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house."
Grief, like all emotions, can be very hard to deal with when it comes on, most commonly brought on by the loss of a loved one. In "The Man with the Twisted Lip," the loss of a loved one is in the "misplaced" category rather than the "death" category, but the way Watson describes his wife and the reason people came to her, it seems like the latter might have been more common than the former. While folks whose loved ones were missing might come to Doctor Watson, folks whose loved ones had died would not need his services. So they came to his wife.
We know Watson spent more of his time in the company of Sherlock "No ghosts need apply!" Holmes, but the good doctor also had a certain literary agent in his social sphere, and therefore in his wife's social sphere. And when it came to a particular way of dealing with grief, said literary agent was hardcore headed down a certain questionable path. So let's just cut to the chase:
Was Watson's wife a medium?
Did folks in grief come to her to contact their recently passed loved ones?
Mrs. James Watson being a practicing spiritualist, holding seances, doing spirit writing, etc. makes that light-house line a very interesting thing, setting up a more direct conflict between Mrs. Watson and Mr. Holmes, explaining why the doctor might have been going for periods without seeing his best pal.
"Birds to a lighthouse," Watson wrote, and the symbolism of the souls of the departed being attracted to his wife's aura just adds to the idea of Mary Morstan, medium.
Sherlock Holmes, of course, knowing the powers of observation needed for an expert in cold reading (one technique for the con artist playing at spiritualism) would almost confirm Mary Morstan as such with his assessment of her as "most useful in such work as we have been doing." Sherlock's own displays of his powers of observation were basically cold readings -- which makes if odd to think that Watson's literary agent would have fallen so easily into such a trap at some point.
And yet John "James" Watson's association with devout spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle makes the idea of his wife Mary being deeply involved in the practice as well even more likely . . . with her husband constantly caught between worlds.
Ah, but if only someone could contact Mrs. James Watson's spirit and let us know the truth, eh?
I think I'll stick with Sherlock Holmes, though, and when it comes to Sherlockian scholarship, say, "No ghost wives need apply."