Arthur Conan Doyle was a believer in the supernatural. My source here is from the Muse magazine, published by Cricket Media, in the October 2011 issue, page 6, by Doug Stewart.

One of the English celebrities who came to see the mystifying American perform that year [1920] was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mystery writer. Conan Doyle was as famous around the world as Houdini was, thanks to his wildly popular detective stories starring crime solver Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur's admirers may have assumed that he, like the brainy sleuth he had created, was committed to keen observation, hard evidence, and logical reasoning.
If so, they were wrong. Conan Doyle believed in fairies, ghosts, haunted houses, and messages from beyond the grave. He rushed backstage after one of Houdini's performances, and the pair talked well into the night. Sir Arthur believed that certain people, called mediums, had supernatural abilities. He was convinced that Houdini was one of them.

But did this belief in the supernatural influence his writings at all? Do we see any evidence of this in the Sherlock Holmes stories, or any of his other fiction works?

  • 2
    If you don't know this story already, read about the Cottingley fairies - it's very interesting. Doyle's treatise "The Coming of the Fairies" is available to read online, if you want to hear about his views on the supernatural directly from the horse's mouth.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 19:28
  • That's very interesting, because Holmes appears to be very inclined toward the logical ("once you've eliminated the impossible" and all that).
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


I think the message in one of the first scenes of "A Study in Scarlet" is that there is more going on in the world that people care to notice. Holmes quizzes Watson on the number of stairs in the house not to encourage Watson to pay more attention (although he probably accomplishes that), but make the point that people live in their own worlds much of the time--that they miss the details.

So if Doyle wanted his readers to have a more open mind to things like fairies, ghosts, messages from beyond, etc., morals of "pay attention" or "keep an open mind" would harmonize with this stance pretty nicely, even if his stories feature a lack of fairies, ghosts, etc.

  • Which scene from "A Study in Scarlet"? This answer would be improved by adding an exact quote, and since the text is in the public domain, you can find it online.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 0:54
  • I believe this is from A Scandal in Bohemia: "You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed."
    – muru
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 7:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.