London. 1910. A procession of well-attired gentlemen and ladies are clearly out of place among the stalls and pushcarts of the Whitechapel District. As the group makes its way through the crowded streets, the tour guide stops now and then to point out various places where the mutilated bodies of the women had been found. Although the murders occurred twenty-two years prior, the man leading the group seems to know every detail and aspect of each slaying. Of those things he does not know, he offers freely his own insightful conjecture. This is, however, no average tour of brutal acts. It is a close look at infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper's trail of blood. And the man leading the group is none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—famous creator of fictional character Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective. In The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle, we learn what draws one famous Englishman to another in ways that are as fascinating as they are shocking.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually led a tour group to the sites of the Whitechapel Murders in the year 1905. While we do not have an existing description of that tour, authors Daniel Friedman, MD, and Eugene Friedman, MD, have meticulously pieced together Doyle’s own words to create a riveting account of his publicly stated beliefs on each of these horrific murders. As Doyle takes the group on his tour, the reader learns about the victims and the way each died. The authors have also included new pieces of evidence to understand better the murderer known to history only as Jack the Ripper.
Interspersed throughout the tour is the Friedmans’ unique and well-researched account of the life of the young Conan Doyle, which was shrouded in more mystery than any of his own works of fiction. The authors have uncovered facts about which few, if any, Doyle biographers have ever been aware. Doyle was able to reinvent himself so fully through his own writings that few recognized the more disturbing elements that were cut out of his own life story. What these two authors have uncovered in their investigation of Jack the Ripper and Sir Arthur will no doubt spark passion and debate among Sherlockian fans for years to come. The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle proves once again that truth—elementary as it may be—is always stranger than fiction.
Daniel L. Friedman, MD, received his BA from Stony Brook University, and his medical degree from St. George’s School of Medicine. He is currently a practicing pediatrician in Floral Park, New York, and is also an active member of the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where he sits on the voluntary staff advisory committee. Dr. Friedman’s prize-winning articles on Doyle and Holmes have appeared in numerous national and international journals. He and Dr. Eugene Friedman are also the authors of the book, The Strange Case of Doctor Doyle. Dr. Friedman resides in Long Island, New York with his wife, Elena, and their three children.
Eugene Friedman, MD, received his BA from New York University, and his medical degree from New York Medical College. He was Chief Resident in Pediatrics at New York Medical College and later served as Assistant Chief of Pediatrics at Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia. Dr. Friedman has been in private practice with his son, Daniel, for over twenty years.. He has held multiple leadership positions in organized medicine and has devoted himself to the education of future physicians. He and his wife, Sheryl, live in Long Island, New York and have five children and fifteen grandchildren.
1. The Doyles, 5
2. The London Hospital, 8 AM, 13
3. Young Arthur, 35
4. Hanbury Street, 9 AM, 63
5. To Feldkirch and Back, 73
6. The Ten Bells, 11 AM 89
7. The University of Edinburgh, 99
8. Dutfield’s Yard, 1:30 PM, 117
9. Apprentice and Arctic Adventurer, 139
10. Mitre Square, 3 PM, 165
11. Becoming Doctor Doyle, 189
12. Goulston Street, 4 PM, 203
13. An African Journey, 215
14. Miller’s Court, 5 PM, 233
15. His Portsmouth Practice, 251
16. Miller’s Court, 6 PM, 271
17. Of Marriage and Masons, 285
18. The London Hospital, 6:30 PM, 297
19. The Game is Afoot, 299
Annotated Bibliography, 311
About the Authors, 333
In 1903, British stage actor Harry Brodribb Irving hosted a dinner party at his London home. The two prerequisites he had set for earning an invitation to this exclusive soirée were membership in London society’s upper echelon and expertise in the art of conversation. He made sure the ambience of the evening would be conducive to relaxed discussions of the day’s more controversial issues. Gradually, the group’s focus shifted to a single topic—murder.
Irving himself had already achieved a degree of fame through several of the books he had penned on the subject, and his guests that night were a collection of Britain’s best and brightest in the spheres of law enforcement, forensic medicine, journalism, and crime and mystery writing. Irving decided, then and there, that there was no way he would allow such lively exchanges on his favorite subject to end after just one night. By the evening’s conclusion, he proposed that this small assemblage establish a dinner club dedicated to the formal study of murder and the criminal mind. Its mission would be “the propagation of truth and the communication of new ideas—rather from the necessities of things than upon any one man’s suggestion.”
This fraternity was not to be open to all who would want to join it, for, in the spirit of the day, it was designed to remain both exclusive and secretive. The roster of its first class was comprised of S. Ingleby Oddie, the City of London Police Surgeon; Norwich’s Dr. Herbert Crosse, a medico-legal expert; James Beresford Atlay, a noted barrister and archivist of crime; Arthur Lambton, writer and journalist, and the club’s first secretary; and, of course, Harry Irving himself. Almost immediately after its creation, the dinner club added to its members William Le Queux, the master of mystery writing; A.E.W. Mason, actor, author, and future spy; Max Pemberton, lawyer, mystery novelist, and journalist; John Churton Collins, Oxford professor and writer; George R. Sims, humorist, journalist, and poet; E.W. Hornung, creator of A.J. Raffles, the gentleman thief; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the recently knighted author.
This diverse group of gentlemen brought to the table credentials that qualified each of them as an expert in the inner workings of the criminal mind. Soon, admission to the club became one of the most sought-after prizes in the realm. While these gifted individuals referred to their club rather snobbishly as “Our Society,” the British press decided to tag the group with a somewhat more lurid label: the “Murder Club.” Its dinner meetings were held four times a year at the Great Central Hotel on Marylebone Road, and in the early days, these gatherings were informal affairs, where celebrated cases were bandied about in a chatty yet sophisticated manner. Some of its members had unprecedented access to crime photographs, weapons, letters, and other authenticated evidence associated with sensational cases. Indeed, some of the clubmen had been able to obtain and amass the rarest of specimens from crimes that had occurred as much as a century earlier. Many of these items were assembled into special exhibits and transported to the club’s dinner discussions, so these privileged associates could view and, in some instances, even hold them in their own hands.
Although Our Society was established as a sit-down dinner club, it refused to restrict itself to the confines of hotel meeting rooms. Within a year of its formation, the Murder Club went on its first field trip. On Wednesday, April 19, 1905, the three members of Our Society who were alumni of the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine—Dr. Samuel Ingleby Oddie, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dr. Herbert Crosse—along with H. B. Irving, John Churton Collins, and Collins’s twenty-six-year-old son, Laurence—met up with Oddie’s old friend Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown in front of the City of London Police Hospital in Bishopsgate. Brown, who was the current City of London chief police surgeon, owed his reputation to his knowledge of the burgeoning field of crime scene investigation, which had begun only three years before. He would take this select group on the excursion of a lifetime, a guided tour of one of London’s roughest areas, Whitechapel.
Although criminal activity, debauchery, and murder had always been considered intrinsic components of the district, the name Whitechapel had not evoked universal fear and horror until seventeen years prior when, in the late summer of 1888, the man who would become known as Jack the Ripper began his victimization of some of the area’s female residents. Wanting to perform its own investigation of the still unsolved Ripper murders, Our Society had decided to enlist the assistance of Brown and two police detectives who “knew all the facts about the murders.”
On this early spring day, the group of nine sallied forth to visit the sites at which it was said the Ripper had performed such terrible deeds. Moreover, Brown was not about to forfeit this rare opportunity to impress such an elite band of amateur crime solvers with his encyclopedic knowledge of non-Ripper related cases, sometimes taking the group to places that bore only peripheral relationships to the Ripper legend, hoping to create a better understanding of the neighborhood’s social, economic, and emotional climate during Jack’s reign of terror. This jaunt into unglamorous real life was exactly the type of thing in which all the members of Our Society reveled. In fact, according to the elder Collins, Doyle has been mesmerized by the hustle and bustle of the area.
As the group’s first president, Arthur Lambton was the acknowledged leader of Our Society, but it was Doyle’s association with the club that gave it its elevated status. Doyle, who had immersed himself in all of London’s activities, always managed to become the center of attention wherever he went. Everyone wanted to share the limelight with him. Doyle was held in the highest esteem by the Crown, mostly for his work chronicling the Boer War. In 1902, King Edward VII awarded him a knighthood, which he would have turned down had his mother not insisted that he accept the designation of “Sir.” As the most famous writer on the hottest topic of his day—crime—Doyle had the good fortune to find himself at a time when this subject was shedding its scruffy image and evolving into a refined science. He always seemed to be a half step ahead of the club’s other members when it came to the details of so many noteworthy crimes.
While there have been many theories regarding Jack the Ripper’s identity, over a hundred years later, his real name remains unknown. Perhaps a clearer understanding of the facts as they exist may shed light on this mystery. To this end, we have taken the liberty of bringing you, the reader, on a tour of Whitechapel similar to the one taken by Our Society in 1905. This book’s rendition of the original expedition is set five years later, and is presented in such a way as to avoid any confusion regarding the order of Ripper events. And who is better qualified to conduct our tour than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Replacing the other original tour members are eight fictionalized surrogates who will serve to ask and answer the reader’s questions along the way. Although this tour never happened, the facts of the murders as described are accurate, and the comments and opinions offered by Dr. Doyle and his invited guests are based on historical records. While the original tour visited nine documented murder sites on April 19, 1905, only the five Ripper sites recognized by Doyle are visited and discussed on this outing.
Along with our fictitious hunt for Jack the Ripper, we also offer a nonfictional look at the young Arthur Conan Doyle. To understand the man himself, and the ideas on which he expounds within our tour, we present a detailed biography based on the first thirty years of his life. We trace Doyle’s roots back to his earliest days in Edinburgh and watch as his life unfolds. We witness his hardships, education, adventures, and entanglements, allowing us to perceive the renowned author as few have ever done before. Alternating between biography and tour, we hope to give you not only the chance to piece together the picture of a famous man, but also the opportunity to solve a series of infamous crimes. The game is afoot.