"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"
, one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve...
short-stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...
, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
Holmes receives two odd letters that make reference to vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...
s. Mr. Robert Ferguson, who comes to 221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street is the London address of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the United Kingdom, postal addresses with a number followed by a letter may indicate a separate address within a larger, often residential building...
the next morning, has become convinced that his Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....
vian wife has been sucking their baby son's blood. Several times, she has been caught doing this by the nurse, who at first to tell Mr. Ferguson about it. Indeed, Mrs. Ferguson bribed her to keep quiet.
At last, however, she became too concerned for the child's welfare and told Mr. Ferguson about what had been happening, and he refused to believe it. Just then, however, there was a further incident, and the wound on the child's neck and the blood on his wife's lips were evident. She offered no explanation, only a "wild, despairing look in her eyes".
The woman is Mr. Ferguson's second wife, and he has an adolescent son of 15 by his first wife, who suffered an unfortunate accident as a child and now does not have the full use of his legs, although he can walk. His name is Jack, and he has suffered beatings at his stepmother's hands, although Mr. Ferguson cannot imagine why, as he is such a dear boy, and she is otherwise a devoted and loving wife. Ever since being found out by her husband, she has locked herself in her room and refused to come out. Only her Peruvian maid, Dolores, whom she has known for years, is ever allowed in. She takes Mrs. Ferguson her meals.
Even before Holmes and Watson set off for Cheeseman's, Mr. Ferguson's house, in Sussex
Sussex , from the Old English Sūþsēaxe , is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West...
, Holmes has deduced what is going on, and it has nothing to do with vampires. Indeed, in ways, it is much more shocking. Holmes's trip to Cheeseman's is made simply to observe and confirm what he has already deduced.
Mrs. Ferguson's maid announces that her mistress is ill, and Dr. Watson offers to help. He finds an agitated woman in the room upstairs, and she says something about that "fiend", which Watson does not understand, as he cannot see how Mr. Ferguson could be described as such. She speaks of all being destroyed, and of sacrificing herself rather than breaking her husband's heart. She also demands her child, who has been with the nurse, Mrs. Mason, ever since Mr. Ferguson has known about the bloodsucking incidents.
Holmes examines the South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...
n weapons displayed in the house, obviously brought to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
by Mr. Ferguson's wife. Holmes meets the two children. Jack, the 15-year-old, seems excessively devoted to his father, although apparently he does not like his stepmother. The baby son is quite cherubic, and has an obvious wound on his neck. While Mr. Ferguson is doting on his younger son, Watson notices that Holmes is gazing at the window. He cannot imagine why his friend is doing this, as it is dark outside, and the window is partially obstructed by a shutter anyway.
Holmes realizes that this is a very delicate case, as it will mean pain for Mr. Ferguson. Mrs. Ferguson is relieved that Holmes tells the truth about what has been happening, as this is exactly what she has wanted: for the truth to come from someone else's lips. It seems that the culprit is Jack, Mr. Ferguson's elder son, who is extremely jealous of his young half-brother. Holmes has deduced this, and confirmed it by looking at Jack's reflection in the window while his father's attention was on the baby. Jack has been shooting poisoned darts — thoughtfully provided by the weapon collection at Cheeseman's — at his brother, and his stepmother's behaviour of sucking the baby's neck is thereby explained: she was sucking the poison out. The wounds were caused by the darts, not by her biting. She could not tell her husband what was going on, as it would break his heart. She could, however, tell Mrs. Mason, whom she trusted with the child.
Now, the truth is out, but rather than a legal remedy, Holmes prescribes a year at sea
A training ship is a ship used to train students as sailors. The term is especially used for ships employed by navies to train future officers. Essentially there are two types: those used for training at sea and old hulks used to house classrooms....
for young Jack.
In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Holmes mentions to Watson the case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, referring to it as "a story for which the world is not yet prepared". This single reference has been expanded upon by other authors and performers several times.
In a televised adaptation of this case entitled "The Last Vampyre", produced by Granada Television
Granada Television is the ITV contractor for North West England. Based in Manchester since its inception, it is the only surviving original ITA franchisee from 1954 and is ITV's most successful....
and starring Jeremy Brett
Jeremy Brett , born Peter Jeremy William Huggins, was an English actor, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in four Granada TV series.-Early life:...
as Sherlock Holmes, the emphasis of the case was significantly altered. In the televised version, Holmes was not called upon by Ferguson to investigate his wife's apparent attempt to kill her infant son, but by the town vicar to investigate the death of the baby, with the prime suspect being the newly-arrived Mr. John Stockton, a man who is rumored to be descended from a family of vampires. During this investigation, it is revealed that Jack, driven to delusions by a disability, has come to believe himself to be a genuine vampire because of the power and fear such a creature inspires, seeing Stockton as a 'mentor' of sorts due to his seemingly vampire-like ability to charm women. At the conclusion of the tale, Stockton is killed in an accident and Jack dies when attempting to fly off an abandoned castle, and Holmes and Watson speculate that, like the case of Giant Rat of Sumatra, the public is not yet ready for this case.