Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Ghost Need Apply: The Adventure of Sherlock’s Spirit


“This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.”
—Sherlock Holmes, in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”

Sherlock Holmes lives!

Against the author of this article’s every theory and belief, Holmes clings steadfast to life, in the TVCU. No-one has seen him since the 80s, since his final retirement to the hardier bees of Tibetan climes, but we have every reason to suspect his royal jelly keeps him hale against the wind, and his mind keen enough to pierce those mysteries that remain to him.

But he died once.

And dying tends to leave ghosts.

1891—"The Final Problem"; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Everyone knows the story. The detective and the mathematician climbed a great hill; the mathematician had a great fall. The detective, for his part, clambered up the mountain and slipped far away, to the east, until time came to return.
 
 

The world believed him dead.

Two years later, Watson wrote “The Final Problem” in response to the Moriarty Controversy, Colonel James Morairty’s attempted post-mortem reparation of his brother’s reputation. The attempt failed, as it was bound to, in the face of Watson’s facts.

But the news was broken. All knew of Holmes’ death. So they held a wake: a vast, unorganized wake in which half of London was halted, congested black with mourners. For months afterward, ladies went about in black and men adored themselves with black armbands. Their hero was dead. The “best and wisest man [they] had ever known” was well and truly gone.

Sufficient emotion can fuel sufficient magic.

The fleshy Sherlock Holmes, alas, was beyond the mortal ken. The longing of the believed set in, and set in times several million. Something had to happen—and so it did.

 A shade emerged from the well-locked door of Baker Street, wearing Paget’s country costume—deerstalker, greatcoat, a great giant monster of a pipe. He had only one urge: to solve mysteries.

Tulpas are not ghosts, not semantically. They leave ectoplasm, they fade though walls and do as they wish with geometry. They’re similar enough for the untrained observer to confuse them. The sole difference is in origin: ghosts emerge from the dead, whatever a ghost may be constructed from; tulpas emerge from concentrated thought and concentrated emotion until something—in polite circles, they prefer to be called a thoughtform—emanates from the mass.

This Holmes, by all evidence, was such a thoughtform.

[NOTE: Historians are divided as to if the funeral procession actually did happen. It was repeated often enough, in gossipy memoirs and Holmesian reminiscences, in the decades following Holmes’ “death.”  Then they noticed something odd—no newspaper reported it, no-one “remembered” the event until long afterwards. Perhaps it happened, here in the real world; perhaps it did not. Regardless, we may assume it did in the TVCU.]

 
 
1894—“The Ghost of Sherlock Holmes”; Richard Morton & H.C. Barry

The tulpa of Sherlock Holmes becomes active in lower-class London, dogging murderers, anarchists, and burglars—as well as terrifying the general population. H.C. Barry, sensing music hall success, translates these postmortem adventures into a song and dance revue.



Don't start and pray don't leave your seats,
There's no cause for alarm;
Tho' I've Arrived from warmer sphere,
I mean you all no harm.
I am a ghost, a real ghost too,
That nightly earthward roams;
In fact, I am the spectre of detective Sherlock Holmes.
Detective Sherlock Holmes!

Chorus: 'Sherlock, Sherlock,'
You can hear the people cry,
'That's the ghost of Sherlock Holmes.'
As I go creeping by.
Sinners shake and tremble
Wherever this bogie roams,
And people shout, 'He's found us out,
It's the ghost of Sherlock Holmes'


The man who plots a murder, when
He sees me flit ahead,
Forgets to murder anyone,
And 'suicides' instead.
An anachist with lighted bomb
To cause explosive scenes,
Sees me and drops the bomb, and blows
Himself to smithereens!

Chorus:

The burglar who's a-burgling, when
He finds that I'm at large,
Gets scared and says, 'Policeman, will
You please take me in charge?'
The lady who's shop-lifting tries
To put her thievings back,
And says, 'Oh, Mr. Sherlock, I'm
A Kleptomaniac!'


1938—Five Ghosts—“The Haunting of Fabian Gray”; Frank J. Barbere, Chris Mooneyham, Lauren Affe, and Dylan Todd

Treasure hunter Fabian Gray comes in contact with the Dreamstone, one of those nasty, cursed baubles left lying about by nasty Lovecraftian beasts. In the contact, he becomes possessed by five ghosts: Dracula, Merlin, Robin Hood, Miyamoto Musashi, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes. In the contact, his sister’s soul is stolen. Cue years of questing to reclaim her soul and wake her catatonic body.

The old gods are not without agents all their own. They summon up the remains of Iago the betrayer, setting him on a path to kill Fabian and reclaim the Dreamstone. This battle culminates in the center of Shangri-La. Iago’s spirit is destroyed, and Fabian continues his quest.

H.P. Lovecraft consults with two other members of his brotherhood. In his open journal, one can see three things of note: the words "Dunwich" and "Necronomicon" as well as a squiggly sketch of Cthulhu's sushi head.

It goes without saying that Sherlock Holmes is the aforementioned tulpa. Holmes himself is demonstrably still alive at this time (for one example among many, see Manly Wade Wellman’s excellent “But Our Hero Was Not Dead”). When he requires healing, or wishes to watch his soul-clones more closely, Dracula enters a dream state. It’s entirely possible that Fabian Gray’s possession of the Dreamstone picked up on the physically drifting Dracula and collected his spirit. In the comic, Dracula is shown to be the least content with Fabian’s control—desperately seeking a chance to free himself, or control Fabian for his own ends.

Merlin still slumbers where he was imprisoned by his love, Nimue. It would be easy for his spirit to be picked up in the psychic maelstrom and deposited in Fabian’s body. Similarly, some legends say Robin’s spirit still pervades Sherwood. Miyamoto Musashi, perhaps the greatest swordsman in Japan, was buried in his armor as a sign of respect. One wonders if that respect is what allowed him to manifest—either as a true ghost or tulpa—until such time as Fabian absorbed him.

 Iago betrayed the noble Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello; for his crimes, he was tortured to death. He was no more successful a villain in death than he was in life. Shangri-La first appeared in James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. For a lost city, Shangri-La has certainly been discovered often. Among its “discoverers” are Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, Jem, G.I. Joe, Rick O'Connell and family, Nathan Drake, Lara Croft, and many, many others.

H. P. Lovecraft died one year previously, on March 15, 1937. It remains to be seen if Five Ghosts will require chronological adjustment. Or, perhaps, if some explanation is in the offing.
 




 


 
1938—Five Ghosts: Legend of the Masamune; Frank J. Barbiere, Gary Brown, Lauren Affee, & Dylan Todd

Fabian Gray arrives in Japan at the request of an old lover. A rival clan of Lovecraftian beasts are edging in on her territory, and she needs the skills of those long dead.

 The Holmes tulpa, as well as the spirits of Dracula and Merlin, and the ghosts of Robin Hood and Miyamoto Musashi all appear during this adventure.
 
1938—Five Ghosts: Lost Coastlines;  Frank J. Barbere, Chris Mooneyham, & Dylan Todd

Fabian Gray visits a lost island in the next stage of his quest.
 
 
 
The Holmes tulpa, as well as the spirits of Dracula and Merlin, and the ghosts of Robin Hood and Miyamoto Musashi all appear during this adventure. Gray has a Sankara Stone shipped to his house. He visits a lost island that is, all at once, the island from Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, the island from William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and a chunk of the Dreaming from Vertigo Comic's The Sandman. The final property does wonders for explaining both how Prospero picked up an immense knack for magic while stranded, and how none of the world's governments ever succeeded in finding Nemo's island home. Further, Gray meets an a woman possessed by the ghost of Sinbad and a man possessed by the ghost of Caliban. 
 
1938 to sometime before 1973

Fabian Gray continues to carry around Sherlock Holmes’ tulpa, as well as his other spirits. How the Holmes tulpa regained its independence is currently unknown.

During this time, the Holmes tulpa is joined by a Watson tulpa and both take up a semi-permanent residence in the Commonwealth (see John Myers Myers' classic Silverlock; in other circles, this semi-existing universe is know as the Land of Fiction or the Ideaverse). The duo regularly return to the TVCU proper.
 
 
 
May, 1973—“Sherlock Holmes’ Last Case: A Reply to Ronen”; Eric Flamholtz and Sherlock Holmes. Journal of Accounting Research, Volume 10.

 The tulpa of Sherlock Holmes arrives at Eric Flamholtz’s house in the dead of a power outage. He assists Flamholtz in defending his paper against that Professor Moriarty of accounting, Professor Ronen, before vanishing softly away.
 
1977—"The Thing Waiting Outside"; Barbara Williamson
 
Two telepathic children are deprived of their books, patted on their heads and told that their imaginations are much, much too active and they must focus on school work. They summon the Hound up out of The Hound of the Baskervilles and sic it on all who deny them their books. In the morning, the Hound slips away outside and the children reclaim their treasures.
 
The children have the abilities to either visit the worlds from the books, or summon up tulpas of those beings. They met with Lilliputians and the Red Queen, and previously summoned up cavemen and tigers. Based on the TVCU's rules regarding Wonderland crossovers, this Red Queen is Carroll's original. The Lilliputians already reside in a pocket dimension, and may very well be the physically-real beings Gulliver met in the 1700s. This Hound tulpa would eventually end up under the control of the Professor Moriarty tulpa and both, eventually, would be captured by the Ghostbusters in 1986.
 
1984—The New Scooby-Doo Mystery—“Sherlock Doo”

As all magazines must, sooner or later, Mystery Solvers Magazine holds its first annual Mystery Solvers Contest. And what better place could there be to hold it but old 221 Baker Street? Best intentioned contests oft go awry. First, someone in the magazine’s leadership decided that “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” had gone unsolved and decided it was best to settle an entire contest around a long-since-solved case. Second, someone dressed as a very ectoplasmic Holmes swiped the Crown Jewels (as, seemingly, all criminals must, at one time or another).
 
 

Mystery Inc., sans Velma and plus Scappy, steps in and solves the already-solved case and the “ghost” of the Master Detective. The grumpy old man this week was none other than Mr. Stapleton, out for revenge on the part of his ancestor, who perished during The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The Holmes tulpa does not actually appear, but this was so similar in theme as to demand inclusion.

 
1986—The Real Ghostbusters—“Elementary, My Dear Winston”

In the time between his infestation of Fabian Gray and his release back into the wider world, other Homesian tulpas have manifested. His is eternally joined by the good Dr. Watson. Unfortunately, the evil that fell down, down, down into the pit of Reichenbach has manifested as well, assisted by the only other “villain” encountered by Holmes and Watson to enter the public consciousness: the Hound of the Baskervilles.

The Moriarty tulpa is engaged in collecting “evil,” with the ultimate goal of becoming human. In pursuit of this goal, he makes the rather questionable decision of absorbing swords, armor, medieval tapestries, and, yes, the eternal nastiness known as books.

The Holmes tulpa, the Watson tulpa, and the Ghostbusters come together to capture the hound tulpa and the nearly-human, grossly oversized Moriarty tulpa. The Ghostbusters also capture the Holmes tulpa and the Watson tulpa, because hey, they’re “ghosts” after all.

How the Holmes tulpa and the Watson tulpa escaped the Ghostbuster containment unit is presently unknown, though the safe assumption is that they were set free in the gap between Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, when Ghostbusters was soldly out of business.

 Interestingly, the Moriarty tulpa manifests from the pink slime seen in Ghostbusters 2.

 
1989—Hellblazer #23; Jamie Delano and Ron Tiner

Constantine’s friends never fair well. Fresh from stopping the end of the world (again), Constantine stumbles down to his friend Jerry O’Flynn’s house. Jerry’s a collector, a collector of the outré. Moldy Necronomicons, beat-up old falcon statutes, the wreckage of a ship that chased a white whale. Uncommon things that collectors pay more for than any sane person should.
 
 

Turns out, Jerry’s been up to some bad business. He’s expanded his collection outside of reality. In his study alone, he has bits of rubbish nicked from Wonderland, from Neverland, from Ry’leh. Fictional beings are coming for him. But, kind as they are, they warned him first. The newly freed tulpa of Sherlock Holmes warned him first, from the kindness of his heart. Then they sent Blind Pew, from Treasure Island, with the black, black spot.

In the end, they catch Jerry and send him to torment. Constantine, shaken, is comforted by Holmes. The Holmes tulpa seems to be unaccepted by the beings from the Land of Fiction. He’s entirely alone—and never invited into their company, not even when they hold their grand trial of Jerry.

 On his way into the village, Constantine passes the Admiral Benbow Inn. This places the events of the story in Black Hill Cove. Both the inn and the town surrounding it come from Stevenson's Treasure Island.

In his study, Jerry keeps the Maltese Falcon, a bottle of Drink Me, a batty coffin that may have belonged to Dracula, the stone (and anvil) from which Excalibur was pulled, what appears to be the corpse of the Tick-Tock Croc, and the remains of the kingdom of Ozymandius. The Portrait of Dorian Grey is on his wall.

Jerry casts a book of Jorkins' notes, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten, and the Necronomicon into the fire. Constantine lights a cigarette from a single burning page of the Necronomicon.

 In a heap of junk in the corner, Jerry keeps the last bit of wreckage of the Pequod (Moby Dick), The Mad Hatter's Hat, and what might be Aladdin's lamp.

Additionally, they meet a cabbie who is the distant descendant of Bill Sikes and his prostitute girlfriend Nancy (Oliver Twist), who seems to be forced to replay the actions of his great grandfather thanks to the forces at play that night.

Alice and the Mad Hatter appear in a context that seems to suggest they are the Alice and Hatter of the Commonwealth. However, after reading the Thursday Next novels, I've determined that the Alice and friends of the Commonwealth are the real versions of themselves--they simply chose to mess with yet another universe for tea and giggles.

Peter Pan's appearance could go either way. I'm slightly inclined to place it here.

Crossovers from the Commonwealth:

Old Pew delivers the black spot to Jerry. Sherlock Holmes warns Jerry of danger. Some sort of jungle man (who might be intended to be Tarzan, though he couldn't look less like our favorite Jungle Lord) kills Jerry's dogs.  Constantine is attacked by the Seven Dwarves. Jerry is asked for advice by a hilariously Dutch Hamlet. Jerry is captured and put on trial by a number of aforementioned fictional characters, along with the Invisible Man and Cyrano de Bergerac. Winnie the Pooh drags Jerry to what passes for Hell for fictional characters.

 
1989—Constantine, always one to make a quick pound, sells off  Jerry O’Flynn‘s collection to Gideon's Pawn Shop, conveniently planted right in Whitechapel.

 
1989—Baker Street Graffiti—“Elementary My Dear”; Guy Davis and Vincent Locke

Sharon Ford—a post-Holmes detective, punkishly fulfilling the Master Detective’s prerogative—visits Gideon’s Pawn Shop. In tow, she drags her “Watson,” Susan Predergrast, and her lover, Sam. While shopping for Sharon’s new coat—coincidentally, a ratty old great coat—they’re accosted by a bumbling little ball of a man, shouting “That is not for sale!”
 
 

The Holmes tulpa and Sharon play a game of deduction. She concludes he is a barrister; he concludes she is a rock’n’roll star.
 
 

The Holmes and Watson tulpas leave without purchasing any of “their” trophies. Sharon, presumably, purchases Holmes’ greatcoat. She proceeds to wear it the rest of the series.

Gideon’s is rich with the refuse from Holmes’ life: Holmes’ jackknife (mentioned in “The Musgrave Ritual”), the infamous cardboard box (“The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”), the blue carbuncle (“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”), a lock of red hair (The Red-Headed League”), and a number of orange pips (“The Five Orange Pips”). Also among the remainder of Baker Street are the infamous deerstalker and greatcoat, never mentioned by Watson but depicted by Sidney Paget.

Also in the shop, one can find Rosebud, Mad Hatter’s hat residing on a dodo, Dorothy’s shoes, the Maltese Falcon, and a broken-down Dalek.

One wonders if this is how Constantine disposed of Jerry’s memorabilia. Every item, one and all, dumped quick in a low-class pawn shop. This seems especially likely, considering the items present in both Jerry's house and Gideon's Pawn Shop.

[NOTE: According to the introduction amended to the very first issue, Baker Street takes place in an alternate universe where the Victorian age never quite ended: social mores remain the same, dress is consciously Victorian, blimps rule the sky. Yet, save an occasional airship, there’s hardly an indication of this. Everything’s sufficiently modern to place it in the mainline TVCU. Airships may be the mark of the primary mirror universe (otherwise known, in some circles, as “Over There”), but a small number of them are in service in the TVCU as well (See Greatheart Silver, the Ralph von Wau Wau stories, Tarzan at Earth’s Core, and the DC Doc Savage comic book). Additionally, the airship The Hubris is owned by the insane multiversal historian John Hodgeman. Consequently, airships are a small but persistent element in the TVCU business world, especially with recent boosting by environmental groups.]
 
2001—Doctor Who Magazine #311—"Character Assassination"; Scott Gray, Adrian Salmon, & Elitta Fell
 
The Master arrives in the Commonwealth (Land of Fiction), demanding to be admitted to a gentleman's club for villains. They demur, whiteballing him as unstable. The Master, always petty and always angry, exterminates the lot.
 
 
 
As with Deadpool's later, marginally more successful attempt on fictional lives, all murdered tulpas revert back to their canonical form shortly after their death. While in the Commonwealth, the Master encounters or murders (in order): Captain Nemo, Robur the Conqueror, the Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Moreau, Dracula, Fu Manchu, the Invisible Man, Captain Hook, Shere Khan, Mr. Hyde, Raffles, and Professor Moriarty. Smee and Long John Silver are mentioned.
 
John Constantine already encountered the Fu Manchu and Invisible Man tulpas in 1989. The Captain Nemo and Dr. Moreau tulpas would revive to be murdered, again, in 2013. Presumably the Professor Moriarty tulpa escaped captivity when Ghostbusters closed down.

2009—Phineas and Ferb—“Elementary, My Dear Stacy”

The Flynn-Fletcher family goes on vacation in England. Bored beyond all comprehension, Candace reads all the Sherlock Holmes stories. Candace being Candace, she uses her newfound “talent” for deductive reasoning to bust her brothers. It doesn’t end well.

While tracking her brothers all about London, Candace passes a man dressed in Victorian finery. An exceptionally befuddled man dressed in Victorian finery. One wonders if this is the Watson tulpa. There's no evidence, but, perhaps, just perhaps, it's him.

2013—Deadpool Killustrated; Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli, Sean Parsons, and Veronica Gandini

One of the infinite Deadpools in the infinite multiverse has a problem.

He knows he's fictional. He's a puppet dancing at the edge of a pen, colorist's brush tickling his funny places.

So he sets out, guns and swords and insanity and incredibly awful one-liners in tow, to kill every fictional universe, and keep on killing every fictional universe, until he arrives at Earth Zero and can murder every last writer. So it goes. We find him at the far end of the Marvel multiverse, having carved and shot and exploded his way from somewhere near the center out to the fringes. He forces captive mad scientists to make him a portal into the next multiverse over. As he leaves, he murders them with a pre-prepared trap.

But before they die, the mad scientists send a distress signal through the portal. It arrives in 1895 London, where it is swiftly brought to 221b Baker Street. The Holmes tulpa quickly gets the signal in order; and discovers that a madman is out, killing the universe. Because, as Deadpool thinks, killing the Commonwealth--or, as he calls it, the "Ideaverse"--will wipe away every character inspired by the tulpa.
 
 

Therefore, killing Mowgli prevents the existence of Tarzan and Ka-Zarr; or murdering the Little Meremaid prevents Namor. It's incredibly unlikely, but other kind of plan would you expect Deadpool to concoct?

While's he's out and about, killing everything you ever loved, Holmes fetches The Time Traveller's time machine. He collects their own team to hunt down Deadpool: Beowulf, the monster-killer; Natty Bumpo, the tracker, Hua Mulan, the warrior; and the ever-trusty Dr. John H. Watson.
 
 

During this time, Deadpool implants one of his alternate personalities in Frankenstein's monster.

Holmes and his hunters track Deadpool all across the Commonwealth; finally, they confront him in 1627 Paris, over the corpses of the Three Musketeers. A fight ensues. Beowulf dies at the hands of Frankenstein's Monsters, which Watson then guns down. Deadpool steals the time machine, planning to deal a final blow to the Commonwealth. Holmes clambers aboard himself, and the two battle as spacetime passes them by. Just as Moriarty before him, Deadpool is thrown far away into the void of space.

The Commonwealth, however, is mortally wounded. No-one remembers the stories as they were. Things break apart, break down, like a wound allowed to fester. All that can repair it is memory. And so Holmes begins to recite, from memory, every altered story...

"My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be..."

The Commonwealth begins to heal.



Deadpool murders, in order:  Don Quixote and Sancho, Moby Dick, Pinocchio (who was inside Moby Dick's belly), Ismael (from Moby Dick), Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin, Dracula and his brides, the Headless Horseman (in reality, Brom Bones), the Little Women, Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future, Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau and his ani-men, the entire island of Lilliput, Julius Caesar and all of his murderers, the wonderfully heroic Kaa, Baloo Mowgil, and Baghera, the entire crew of the Hispaniola (from Treasure Island), Captain Ahab, Captain Nemo, and the Little Mermaid, Scylla and Charybdis, the three witches (from Macbeth), the narrator and the Raven (from Poe's "The Raven"), Dorian Grey, Gregor Samsa (from Kafka's The Metamorphosis), The Three Musketeers (and D'artagnan), Natty Bumpo, and, lastly, Beowulf.

With the universe restored, all of Deadpool's murders are undone and the stories resume their natural course.
 
The further adventures of the Holmes tulpa are, as yet, unwritten.


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