Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognizable figures in literary history.
The pipe-smoking, violin-playing consulting detective — pensive, dry, analytical and oftentimes grim – is known to readers throughout the world since Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” was first published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887.
In Cape May, where Victoriana is taken to an extreme, Sherlock Holmes is celebrated with spring and fall “Sherlock Holmes Mystery Weekends,” events drawing hundreds to the sleepy shore town to investigate alongside Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. This year’s mystery, “Sherlock Holmes and the Jackson Street Terror,” is slated for March 9 through 11 and November 2 to 4 2001.
Guests attend an opening reception and mingle with costumed actors who reveal “the mystery.” Part dinner theater, part interactive suspense, Sherlock Holmes Weekend has guests touring the city’s Victorian hotels dredging up clues and helping Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the case.
MAC Deputy Director Mary Stewart said this year’s mystery was specially written for the event by Dennis Township playwright John Peckich.
The cast includes Jeffrey Craig of Woodbury, New Jersey, reprising his role as Sherlock Holmes, and Jack Favorite of Moorestown, New Jersey, as Dr. Watson. A number of local actors also get into the act, including MAC guides and members of Cape May Stage, who play bit parts in the Victorian drama.
“It’s a murder mystery written in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, referencing Sherlock Holmes’ other adventures. It’s always written around historical events that occurred in Cape May or the United States at that time and it usually brings in other historical characters,” Stewart said.
This year, guests will have a chance to help Holmes crack a gruesome murder.
“The premise of it is a takeoff on Jack the Ripper. What had been happening in London starts occurring in Cape May and Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson come to investigate,” Stewart told CapeMay.com.
The game’s afoot on Friday, March 9 at 8:30 p.m. at the Savannah Key Restaurant in the Marquis de Lafayette Hotel, 501 Beach Drive, with a reception introducing the characters and the first act of the mystery. Holmes, Watson and other dignitaries gather and present the case.
Prizes will be awarded at the gala for the best Victorian costume, from waistcoats to hoopskirts and hats.
“Sometimes the crime is committed on scene, sometimes news of it comes into the room, and the crowd is dismissed with instructions to search Cape May, looking for clues. On Saturday afternoon, they do a house tour, and while on the tour, they’ll be locating eight clues, which may or may not figure into the mystery,” Stewart said.
The next day, guests take a self-guided tour of six Victorian houses from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., questing for clues. Some are valid, but others are red herrings!
The tour then proceeds to Holmes’ study at 3:30 p.m. at the Cape Island Baptist Church, Columbia Avenue and Gurney Street, to present clues to the consulting detective. Holmes reveals the answers to the clues, prizes are awarded and a Sherlock Holmes trivia contest is held. For those who haven’t brushed up on their Sherlock Holmes, some questions will be about Victorian Cape May. Stewart said special prizes will be awarded as well — awards for the oldest or youngest attending — so everyone will feel included.
At brunch on Sunday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m. at Savannah Key Restaurant, Holmes reveals the mystery’s solution. Winners who have gathered the correct clues and picked the correct culprit will be announced. Holmes and Watson will reward the Grand Prize Winner $250. Runner-up prizes include gift certificates. The person who falls the farthest will receive the coveted “Clueless Wonder” award.
“Nobody has ever actually solved the mystery yet,” Stewart admits.
Stewart said one other event, not related to the actual mystery will also be held. Playwright John Pekich and cast members will hold a gathering at Aleathea’s Restaurant, 601 Beach Drive, on Saturday, March 10 at 6 p.m. This “Recipe for Mystery” dinner allows guests to hear from the actors about drawing inspiration for their characters.
The full weekend package, not including accommodations, is $150 per couple or $80 per person. The full package includes the reception, the tour and meeting at Holmes’ study, and the Sunday brunch. The “quest for clues” tour is part of the weekend’s full package or can be purchased individually for $15. The optional “Recipe for Mystery” dinner event is $30 per person.
For more information, call the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts at (609) 884-5404 or 1-800-275-4278.
“It’s something people can get into and participate in some way,” Stewart said. “There are some people who’ve been coming back year after year and have gotten to know the cast socially.”
Holmes on the Web
It’s elementary that Sherlock Holmes would have his share of rabid fans and that they’d spill over onto the Internet. Fact is, the Internet is a great place for Sherlock Holmes aficionados; whether downloading your favorite Holmes mystery or contacting one of many Sherlock Holmes societies, the Web presents an abundant source of things Sherlockian. Or is it Holmesian?
The Sherlock Holmes Museum – Located at 221b Baker Street in London, the rumored residence of Sherlock Holmes, this British site was once a lodging house turned museum honoring the famous detective. www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk
Sherlock Holmes Society of London – Founded in 1934, this group, based in London, is a storage house of information about Doyle’s works, particularly the adventures and cases of Sherlock Holmes. The society’s web site has a listing of special events, an application form and information about attaining membership. www.sherlock-holmes.org.uk