Parallel Case of St Louis's Newsletter

Volume Thirteen Whole Number 69, December 2004

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PARALLEL CASE OF ST. LOUIS [PCofSTL]

Editor: Pasquale Accardo
Managing Editor: Joseph Eckrich
Roving Reporters: Gordon Speck & David Harlan
Book Reviews: Mary Schroeder

 

UNDER THE ARCH

It is that time of year again that we must discuss dues. As mentioned some time ago, we will need to raise dues slightly. US membership will be $15.00, Canadian will be $18.00 (US) and the rest of the world will be $21.00 (again in US funds). As al-ways, $3.00 of every membership/ dues will go as a donation to one of the three libraries that we support. Although it will not be due until our first meeting in 2005 (February 21, 2005), we would appreciate your pa-ying as early as possible, particularly so the funds can be used toward our 2005 symposium. Checks or money orders made payable to me or to The Parallel Case St. Louis may be mai-led to:

Joe Eckrich
914 Oakmoor Dr.
Fenton, MO 63026-7008.

* * * *
You will find below information on the symposium and also on the ex-cellent "Valley of Fear Expedition". Regarding the symposium, there has been a change in contact person, so please make note of that. The infor-mation will be found in the article on the symposium. We also have an ex-cellent paper by Janet Bensley I know you will enjoy.

* * * * *
Les Klinger's Annotated Sherlock Holmes (W.W. Norton) is out and it looks spectacular. The first two vol-umes contain all of the short stories with the novels appearing in a third volume in 2005. Les will be a pre-senter at our symposium.
JJE

DECEMBER MEETING

Instead of a December meeting, we are having a dinner. It will be strictly social with no formal program so that our non-sherlockian spouses or sig-nificant others may wish to attend. We will meet in the bar at The Che-shire Inn, 6300 Clayton Road, at 7:00pm on Saturday, December 11 for dinner at 7:30pm. You will need to RSVP to Joe by December 5, 2004 at 636-861-1454 or

jeckrich@sbcglobal.net.

Local members will also be receiving an email and a letter regarding the dinner.

The next actual meeting of PCofSTL will be at 7:30 P.M. on Monday, Feb-ruary 21, 2005, at Big Sleep Books, 239 North Euclid in the Central West End (314) 361-1600. The store is lo-cated between Lindell and Maryland Avenue on the west side of Euclid, two doors past the alley. The story for the evening is "The Gloria Scott".

We usually meet for dinner and drinks before hand and we are going back to our original place, Dressel's, which is at 419 N. Euclid Ave., around the corner from Llewellyn's. Everyone is welcome and reser-vations are not required. It is also not necessary to have dinner. You can just join us for a drink and con-versation. We generally arrive be-tween 6:00 and 6:30 P.M.


HOLMES UNDER THE ARCH
Most of our plans are compete for the symposium that takes place in St. Louis the weekend of May 20-22, 2005 at the Holiday Inn Southwest - Viking Conference Center at 10709 Watson Road at the corner of Lind-bergh Blvd. Confirmed speakers in-clude: Catherine Cooke, BSI, Leslie Klinger, BSI, Bill Mason, Julie Mc-Kuras, BSI and Sue Visoskie, BSI. Banquet entertainment will be provi-ded by Michael Elliott, "The Sherlock Holmes of Thought". There will be a participatory mystery surrounding the weekend created by Brad Keefauver around "The Sign of Four" with a prize for the winning solution. We will also have a pastiche contest (to be received prior to the conference) with prizes and, on Sunday, an open "mike" for anyone to get up and offer toasts, songs, short papers, etc. There will be door prizes throughout the day on Saturday and refresh-ments at breaks on Saturday and a continental breakfast on Sunday at the "open mike".

In addition to vendors, we are privi-leged to have a display of material from Sherlock Holmes Collection at the University of Minnesota. Contrary to previous reports, there is now only one contact person for both the con-ference and vendor tables:

Joe Eckrich
914 Oakmoor Dr.
Fenton, MO 63026-7008
(636) 861-1454 or

jeckrich@sbcglobal.net.

A block of rooms are available at the Holiday Inn Southwest - Viking Con-ference Center at a special rate of $85.00 plus tax. The hotel is close to I-44 and I-270. The cost of the con-ference is $100.00 plus $40.00 for the Saturday night banquet (specify beef or chicken) if received by March 15, 2005. After that date, the cost will be $115.00 plus $40.00. Ven-dor's tables will be $15.00 per table.

There will be a social gathering on Friday evening, which is when the mystery will begin. Vendors may be-gin setting up at 9:00am on Saturday and registration will also begin at 9:00am with the program beginning at 11:30pm. Please make checks out to "The Parallel Case of St. Louis" or to Joe Eckrich.

THE VALLEY OF FEAR EXPEDITION

by Joe Eckrich

The Baker Street Irregulars spon-sored an expedition to the Pennsyl-vania anthracite coal region depicted in The Valley of Fear on the week-end of October 22-24, 2004. The ob-ject was to see some of the few places in the United States in which a Sherlock Holmes case was located and to learn more about the Mollie Maguires, the real life counterpart to the Scowers. Gordon and I arrived in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania (originally Mauch Chunk) around noon on Fri-day the 22nd and checked into the very lovely Jim Thorpe Hotel that the BSI had taken over for the weekend. We then walked around Jim Thorpe, a very picturesque town, taking pic-tures of such buildings as the old jail (which was closed until that evening) and touring the Mauch Chunk muse-um, set in an old church. Throughout the afternoon we ran into old friends as they meandered into town and Friday evening the hotel provided a buffet of hor'dourves, after which we all walked to the old jail, where a number of Mollies had been hung. Although it had been in use not too many years ago, it was now a muse-um and gift shop and contained a re-plica of the type of gallows used for the Mollies. We had an opportunity to view a number of jail cells, inclu-ding one which supposedly contain-ned a hand print left by a Molly Ma-guire as he was being led the gal-lows and which no amount of wash-ing or painting over could erase. Fi-nally, our keynote speaker, Kevin Kenny, Assistant Professor of His-tory at the University of Texas at Austin, gave a presentation. His book, Making Sense of the Molly Ma-guires, an elaboration of his doctor-rate, is considered one of the best books on the subject. His view is that the Mollies were neither totally evil nor totally good, but somewhere in the middle.

On Saturday, we boarded two buses to tour the other nearby towns that make up "Vermissa Valley" and the story of the Mollies. The hotel pre-pared box lunches for us, which we ate at the Hibernian House, once owned by John Kehoe, King of the Mollies and one of the Mollies hung on Black Thursday. It is still in the Kehoe family. Each bus contained a tour guide who pointed out important locations and helped fill in the Molly story. Upon returning to the hotel, we were all presented with a book espe-cially published for the tour, Murder-land: A Companion Volume to The Baker Street Irregulars' Expedition to the Valley of Fear edited by Steven T. Doyle. (It includes a paper by our own Pat Accardo.) That evening we attended a banquet on the second floor of the Mauch Chunk Museum and the evening's speaker, Cathe-rine Cooke, BSI, identified Birlstone Manor.

On Sunday morning, we visited the Carbon County Courthouse, a short distance from the hotel, for a round-table discussion by our experts on the Molly Maguires, after which it was time for everyone to head home. I'm not sure if anyone changed their mind about the Molly Maguires but I do know we knew a lot more about them and the labor problems and violence that plagued the anthracite region of Pennsylvania in the 1860s and 1870s.

Rather than returning straight home, Gordon and I drove north to Cooper-town, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that is another story.

JJE

WHY DID OLD MR. FARQUHAR REALLY RETIRE?

by Janet Bensley

In June 1889, at the beginning of "The Stockbroker's Clerk," Watson writes that he has purchased a medical practice from "Old Mr. Far-quhar." This Mr. Fraquhqr has retired from practice due to "an affliction of the nature of St. Vitus' dance."

St. Vitus' Dance, or chorea, is a dis-ease of the nervous system charac-terized by involuntary and irregular muscular movements, without con-sciousness being suspended. There is a marked connection between this disease and the occurrence of acute rheumatic fever or inflammatory rheumatism and of the endocarditis, or inflammation of the membrane li-ning the heart's cavities. It more fre-quently is seen in those having a pronounced nervous temperament and there appears often to be a fa-mily predisoposition to the disease.1

· Every effort of the patient to perform a voluntary muscular act is attended by irregular spasmodic movements, over which he has no control, and the stronger the effort made, the more pronounced is this condition. The symptoms ge-nerally come on gradually, though sometimes suddenly, beginning usually in the hands and arms and extending to the face and legs. One or both sides may be involved and the movements may be general or confined to a few muscles. During sleep they are rarely continued. The disease may last for a few weeks only, or may persist in spite of treat-ment for many months or e-ven years. It frequently recurs, especially in the spring of the year.2

Watson tells us that he was kept very closely at work for three months after taking over the practice. Since this case occurs in June, it would make sense that Mr. Farquhar chose to divest himself of his practice if he anticipated that his symptoms would recur with the coming of spring. Un-doubtedly Mr. Fraquhar would anti-cipate a further decline in his number of patients if he once again showed symptoms of his affliction. He would thus want to sell his practice before he lost any additional patients, so he could get the highest price for it (poor old Watson, suckered again). Even Watson notes that "the public, not unnaturally, goes upon the prin-ciple that he who would heal others must himself be whole, and looks askance at the curative powers of the man whose one case is beyond the reach of his drugs."3

To try and cure himself of this afflict-tion, Mr. Fraquhar would have tried many medicines and methods. "Good diet, salt bathings and sys-tematic gymnastic exercises will suf-fice for mild cases. Where marked a-nemia exists iron (citrate, phosphate or hypophosphate, tincture of chlo-ride, syrup of iodine) is important. Obstinate cases may be treated with Fowler's solution of arsenic, in small doses, gradually increased. Cod-liver oil should be given if great debility exists. In chronic cases the tonics before mentioned with the addition of the hypophosphates should be re-sorted to, and change of climate is very likely to be of service."4 Other remedies included spraying the spine with ether, massage, taking arsenic in the form of Fowler's solu-tion (liquor potassae arsenitis) three times a day after meals, the taking of strychnine,5 or drinking an infusion of skullcap (Scutellaria latiflora) throughout the day.6 This is a lot to go through even when not trying to maintain a medical practice as your source of income, let alone when it seems to have no effect upon the affliction.

Although at the time the most com-mon cause of St. Vitus' dance was thought to be acute rheumatic fever or being of a pronounced nervous temperament, there is an older cause. One that had become ob-scure and rare by the time Watson purchased his practice form Mr. Far-quhar, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine in 1876. And note that Watson was careful to phrase it as "an affliction of the nature of St. Vitus' dance" (emphasis mine) - as if he was not convinced that it was tru-ly St. Vitus' dance. Perhaps some-thing "tickled his brain;" he knew there was something else that could cause such symptoms but he could not recall it.

Back in 1693, in the small American town of Salem, Massachusetts, a number of citizens suffered from St. Vitus' dance. Yes, I am referring to the infamous Salem Witches. How-ever, at this time the most common cause of the affliction was not rheu-matic fever or a nervous tempera-ment, it was ergot poisoning, or er-gotism. Ergot of rye is produced by a fungus (Claviceps purpurea) that grows parasitically on rye, along with other species of grain and wild grasses. There are two sets of symp-toms found where serious poisoning has occurred - convulsive and gan-grenous ergotism. It is the convulsive ergotism that was known as St. Vitus' dance, while the gangrenous type was known as St. Anthony's fire. Convulsive ergotism is charac-terized by nervous dysfunction, with the victim twisting and contorting in pain, trembling and shaking, and a more or less twisting of the neck (known as wryneck). In some cases it is accompanied by muscle spasms, confusion, delusions and hallucinations.7 It is no wonder that as ergot poisoning declined with the decrease in rye consumption during the early 19th century8 and the dis-covery of the ergot as a separate en-tity from the rye that allowed for its removal before processing, the symptoms from rheumatic fever took over the name of St. Vitus' dance. Thus by the time Watson and Conan Doyle were studying and practicing medicine this was the only cause known to them for St. Vitus' dance.

But how could Mr. Farquhar be suf-fering from ergotism? Consumption or ergot through food intake was un-likely in the later half of the 19th century. However, certain profess-sions ran a high risk of inadvertent self-poisoning with ergot - and being a doctor was one of these profes-sions (midwife, chemist or pharma-cist would be others).

Ergot has been used since medieval times by midwives to help induce childbirth. In 1808 the drug gained entry into academic medicine.9 The alkaloids ergotamine and ergonovic are derived from ergot. Today ergo-tamine is used to alleviate migraine headaches, while ergonovine is used to stop hemorrhage and cause con-traction of the uterus.10 In Watson's time - and Farquhar's - a fluid ex-tract of ergot was used after the placenta was expelled to contract the uterus and prevent excessive blood loss by the mother.11 Spilling a bit of the extract when measuring out a dose, or giving a dose to the patient when seconds can count (It takes less than five minutes for a woman to bleed to death if the uterus does not contract properly), could easily occur. The alkaloids from ergot are absorbed without difficulty into the body through the skin. One such ergot alkaloid that today's population is familiar with is Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (or LSD). Thus the good doctor was actually inadver-tently poisoning himself. As long as he continued in his practice, deli-vering babies and using ergot extract to contract the womb, he would suf-fer the symptoms. His only way of al-leviating his condition would be to retire, and cease contact with the al-kaloids. Hopefully he lived long e-nough to enjoy some recovery from his affliction.

1. Joseph G. Richardson, M.D. Medi-cology, or Home Encyclopedia of Health. (New York: University Me-dical Society, 1907), p. 369. [Note: The first edition of this "ten books - one volume" was published in 1903, and all editions were also printed in Philadelphia and London. Printings of the individual books would pre-date this version, and thus would most likely be available to Watson and Conan Doyle.]
2. Ibid., p. 644.
3. William S. Baring-Gould, The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1967), vol. II, p. 153.
4. Richardson, op.cit., p. 369.
5. Ibid., p. 644.
6. Ibid., p. 1358.
7. Ergot of Rye-1: Introduction and History, a lecture from the website www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT12.HTM
8. Mary K. Matossian, Poisons of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale Uni-versity Press, 1989), 190 pp.
9. www.ch.ic.ac.uk/rzepa/mim/drugs/htm/lsd_text.htm
10. Ergot, entry in The Columbia Elec-tronic Encyclopedia (Columbia Uni-versity Press, 5th edition, 2004) at www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/AO817570.html
11. Richardson, op.cit., p. 580.

 

BOOK REVIEW

Mark Haddon The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (New York: Doubleday, 2003).

This is indeed a curious example of the influence of the Master and his methods. It is a (sort-of) mystery or novel of detection narrated by the detective, a teenager with autism. This character seems to derive from two sources: 1) the author "as a young man…worked with autistic individuals" (Writing School Rule #1: "Write about what you know about" - but was the author more than a high-school volunteer/aide?), and 2) Uta Frith's claim that the ideal detective (Sherlock Holmes) had an "autistic intelligence" - clever, if odd, absent-minded with regard to others but sin-gle-minded in relation to special id-as, (overly) sensitive to the signify-cance of trifles, the brilliant but so-cially detached mind with obsess-sional characteristics, concrete and literal.1 Haddon takes this associa-tion a bit further and by implication asserts a number of things about Holmes that are at the least deba-table.

The novel starts out with the murder of a dog (not a horse - so there is good reason for the dog not to have cried out in the night-time) and chro-nicles the attempts of Christopher John Francis Boone to unravel its demise. In doing so, he uncovers any number of (his) family secrets (such as his mother's sudden disap-pearance and death), the emotional ambience of which is generally com-pletely lost on him. Obsessing on dogs, Christopher discusses why The Hound of the Baskervilles is his favorite novel (isn't it everyone's?). Christopher deduces that his hero Holmes must be an atheist because God is not scientifically objective:

"I like Sherlock Holmes but I do not like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories. That is because he wasn't like the real Sherlock Holmes and he believed in the superna-tural." (p. 88)

Why doesn't Christopher take Wat-son's authorship as literal? The bio-logical rationale for God being illo-gical is actually quite illogical - as well as factually rather ridiculous. (pp. 164-165)

The book is an easy read (one night-time at the most for 226 pages with diagrams, puzzles and a mathe-matical appendix) and has been re-commended by parents of children with autism or Asperger syndrome as a useful fictional insight into how the autistic mind works. As a piece of Sherlockiana, it is certainly quite "curious" - but one shudders a bit to think that its success will almost certainly lead to a sequel.

1. Uta Firth Autism: Explaining the Enigma (London: Basil Blackwell, 1989), pp. 43-44).

 

THE DATE BEING...


14 Jan The Occupants of the Empty House meet in Du Quoin at Alongi's Restaurant to discuss YELL.

11 Feb The Occupants of the Empty House meet in Du Quoin at Alongi's Restaurant to discuss GREE.

21 Feb PCofSTL meet at 7:30 P.M. at The Big Sleep Bookstore to discuss "The Gloria Scott".

08 Apr The Occupants of the Empty House meet in Du Quoin at Alongi's Restaurant to discuss FINA/Hiatus/EMPT.

18 Apr PCofSTL meet at 7:30 P.M. at The Big Sleep Bookstore to discuss "The Musgrave Ritual".

20-22 May Holmes Under the Arch II: The Site of the Four
2005

* * * * * * * * *

The Parallelogram is published by PCofSTL for its members and other interested Sherlockians. Membership dues are 12.00 per calendar year and include The Parallelogram as well as other mailings. The price of a sub-scription alone is $12.00 per calendar year (six issues per volume). Cana-dian subscriptions are $13.00 per calendar year and over-seas subscrip-tions are $15.00 per calendar year (US funds only). The opinions expressed herein are those of the individual contributors and do not reflect official PCofSTL policy. Submissions, letters, and other inquiries may be addressed to the Managing Editor:

Joseph J. Eckrich, BSI
914 Oakmoor Dr
Fenton, MO 63026-7008
636-861-1454
jeckrich@sbcglobal.net

or to the Editor:

Pasquale Accardo
2302 Cardiff Place
Richmond, Virginia 23236
804-276-2316
paccardo@chva.org

 

 






 

 

Parallel Case of St Louis's contacts,

Joseph J. Eckrich, BSI
914 Oakmoor
Fenton, MO 63026
636-861-1454
jeckrich@sbcglobal.net

or to the Editor:

Pasquale Accardo
2302 Cardiff Place
Richmond, Virginia 23236
804-276-2316
paccardo@chva.org

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