Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is renowned primarily for one thing: the creation of the world’s first consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. Yet, there was far more to the man, including his prominence in later life as a leading Spiritualist.
For many who regard Holmes’s rational take on the world as a wonderful example of applied logic and empiricism, his belief in ghosts can be something of an unfortunate fact that doesn’t fit in with their view. Many rationalise that after the death of his son, Kingsley, in World War I, Sir Arthur turned to Spiritualism for comfort, and became increasingly obsessed with the belief.
This view is wrong. In fact, Arthur Conan Doyle first announced himself to be a Spiritualist in 1887 in a letter to the occult magazine “Light”. It was the very same year that his first novel starring Sherlock Holmes “A Study In Scarlet” was published.
Both of these events happened during a deeply influential period of his life in Southsea, where he was working as a GP at Bush Villas on Elm Grove.
How he came to be a devout Spiritualist, the twists and turns of his faith, and how he regarded his Spiritualism as for more important than his ficitional detective is a fascinating story. It involves ghost stories, poltergeist investigations, approaches from secret societies and a belief that science would one day prove the existence of the soul.
It’s this world that I explore in my book Conan Doyle and The Mysterious World of Light, 1887-1920, and which I elucidate in my talks on the matter.
I’m delighted when an audience finds out new things about this fascinating person. After all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very, very much more than a teller of tall tales, as my talk on the matter reveals!