Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


DID SHERLOCK Holmes ever set foot on the North America continent? I mean actually, not just in those charming, but non-Canonical pastiches. Watson’s chronicles are wonderfully ambiguous in this regard. To quote Holmes himself, “It is quite a three pipe problem.”


To Play the Game: Being a Travel Guide to the North America of Sherlock Holmes, by David L. Hammer, Gasogene Press, Ltd., 1991. This book and others in Hammer’s series of Holmes travelogues are listed at

David L. Hammer of Laurel Cottage, Dubuque, Iowa, is a trial lawyer by profession—and a Sherlockian by passion. In the 1980s, Hammer founded Gasogene Press, which now includes among its offerings a series of guides to the travel of the world’s first consulting detective.

In a properly scholarly approach, Hammer cites a total of 13 Canonical ties with the United States and Canada. What’s more, with homage to the pattern of Dante’s Inferno, he arranges these topics in concentric circles: The innermost have the strongest Canonical links; the outer fringes are more highly conjectural or merely whimsical.

At its center is Holmes/Altamont. As chronicled by Watson in His Last Bow, to foil German agent Von Bork, Holmes disguises himself as Altamont, a Brit-hating Irish-American. (See

“…I started my pilgrimage at Chicago,” Holmes tells Watson, and “graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo…”

David and his wife Audrey visit Buffalo where research plays a role, as does serendipity. The city’s First Ward was settled by Irish-Americans residing there after building the Erie Canal in the 1820s. Ninety years later, it would have been the perfect neighborhood for Holmes to develop his Altamont cover.

Visiting the First Ward some seventy years later, the Hammers see a railroad crossing that reads New York Central and Hudson Valley Railroad.

Gad! Mrs. Hudson, of course, was Holmes’ landlady.

What’s more, nearby there’s an old building bearing the name E. & B. Holmes Machinery.


The First Ward, Buffalo, New York. Coincidence—or? Image from To Play the Game.

Writes Hammer, “That of course definitively settled the matter. It was a sign for me just as it undoubtedly had been a sign for Holmes some seventy odd years before.”

Cleveland, Ohio, qualifies for inner-circle periphery through A Study in Scarlet. Holmes has just met Watson, and the latter begins his chronicles with this complex tale involving Mormonism (which at the time had almost a Scientology status in England).

Enoch J. Drebber, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Salt Lake City, Utah, is found murdered at 3, Lauriston Gardens, London. Scrawled on the wall in blood is the word “Rache,” German for “revenge.”

After many twists and turns, Holmes is able to say, “I telegraphed the head of the police at Cleveland…. The answer was conclusive…I knew now that I had the clew to the mystery in my hand.”

Cleveland Sherlockians, members of Mrs. Hudson’s Lodgers, aid Hammer during his visit: They identify Holmes’ telegraphic correspondent at the time, circa 1881. What’s more, telegrams themselves are offered.


At left, Cleveland Police Chief Jacob W. Schmidt; at right, “telegrams of barely credible authenticity.” Images from To Play the Game.

Barely credible, maybe, but certainly in the spirit of Sherlockiana.

An outer circle of Hammer’s analysis includes Pennsylvania’s anthracite region, The Valley of Fear. (See


At left, the Canonical Valley of Fear; at right, map of Schuykill County. Images from The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and To Play the Game, respectively.

There’s also mention of Miss Irene (pronounced “Irene-e”) Adler, the only woman whom Holmes really respected (loved?). (See As recorded in Holmes’ Index and cited in A Scandal in Bohemia, Irene Adler was “born in New Jersey in the year 1858.”

Last, Audrey Hammer writes in the book’s Appendix A, “As a normal person living with a Sherlockian…”

I beg to differ. The evidence points to her being one of us. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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This entry was posted on January 26, 2014 by in The Game is Afoot and tagged , .
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