For the uninformed, I am a humongous fan of Sherlock Holmes. Like, really huge.
I haven’t read all Holmes literature, but I have read a majority of the short stories and one novel. Slowly but surely I’m making my way through all the books. Regardless, when I was deciding where exactly I wanted to spend my semester abroad in England, I was torn between Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes, so to speak. Should I go to school in the English countryside and play Quidditch with all the outdoorsy folk, breathe the clean air, and deal with lower prices (ARG!!), or do I go to England’s biggest city, deal with high prices (ARG!!!!), and visit the replica home of my British hero?
I didn’t hide my Holmes addiction. During my first few weeks, I asked several other people if they’d be interested in coming with me to the Holmes museum (somebody had to take my picture, after all). Eventually I broke the wills of two other Americans. (Okay, I asked nicely and they wanted to come. Also, I don’t like traveling and/or doing sightseeing in London by myself. The big mobs aren’t trustworthy enough for me to look awestruck while wandering around). With the traveling companions confirmed and the date set, I was ready. On Saturday, 25 January 2010, I completed my hajj and arrived at my Mecca.
First of all, the Baker Street tube station was awesome. Each tube station here has its own unique vibe to it: Westminster is modern, gray, and industrial, King’s Cross has witches and wizards running through walls, Tottenham has all sorts of cool murals, and Baker Street looks like it hasn’t modernized in over a hundred and thirty years. (Besides the electric signs, lights, Oyster card readers, cash machines, computers, digital displays of train schedules, etc.)
One of the first things to see when you get outside the station is the previously posted Holmes statue. Believe me, I was not the first person in line to get my picture there, but I do have to wonder the dedication of the people waiting…
Okay, I have to get this off my chest: Holmes wore his trademark deerstalker cap maybe twice. Nineteen times out of twenty, he was wearing a derby. And he didn’t smoke from a pipe very often, at least not the kind he’s usually portrayed with. His tobacco intake method of choice was either cigarettes, corn cob pipes, or cocaine. Something tells me most of the people that visit the museum – hell, most of the people who know who Sherlock Holmes is – don’t know this. But now you do!
After some wandering around, we did eventually make our way to the museum. Heart pounding, legs fidgeting, arms flailing, I crossed the street and found myself before a quaint, narrow building, guarded by a traditional (read: unofficial) bobby. He was kind enough to tell us where to buy the £6 tickets, and he even offered props for pictures!
After looking around the gift shop for a while, we bought our tickets and made our way up exactly seventeen steps to Holmesian nirvana.
The items on display were awesome. There were knick knacks from all sorts of Holmes stories. From the first to third floors, the entire building was amazing. Holmes’ room was on the first floor, which was a total mess. The Holmes impersonator pointed me out to his chemistry set, his desk, his bedroom, and the VR he shot into the wall (Victoria Regina, like he had to tell me. Pshaw.) Next floor up was Watson’s chambers, which was much tidier and had some more specific stuff. Third floor was their caretaker’s quarters, which had a few various items and a ton of wax dummies. Unfortunately, camera battery problems didn’t allow me to save many of the pictures I took of the took of the wax dummies, but trust me, they were cool. Rather than write about it, I’m going to show some of the pictures I did take.
On the stair case, there was this one random wax dummy of a little boy. I wasn’t entire sure who it was supposed to be, but I’ll be damned if the little bugger wasn’t creepy.
Some of the stuff on display was also a bit on the macabre side…
If you’d like to see the rest of the gallery (and trust me, nothing there is nearly as disturbing as the voodoo mummy baby or the soulless child), check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2907815&id=8371820&l=1e2a4fc27c
After getting my fill of the Holmes memorabilia on display (including a functioning old school toilet), I was prepared to depart… to the gift shop! After spending a good while looking over various purchasables, I eventually settled on four items: a keychain (£4.50), a replica Baker Street street sign (£5), a poster of a bunch of original artwork from the stories’ first run in The Strand (£4), and a miniature bust of Sherlock (£25). I almost bought the Sherlock Holmes board game, but that would have been an extra £22, and that would put me £2 over my budget. I know what you’re thinking, “Ben! You’re always complaining about how expensive everything here is, but you dropped about £40 on tourist crap? What a hypocrite!” To that, I have two things to say: 1) You’re a hypocrite, meanie. 2) This museum was one of the deciding factors of mine to come to London over some smaller town. I was fully prepared to drop an extra £20 (just not £22) for as many souvenirs as I could carry.
Still, the museum left me satisfied in ways you cannot understand. Unless you’re one of those religious types that’s been to wherever your religion considers sacred. Coming to this museum was like that: divine.