Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

'Welcome to London': Spectral Spaces in Sherlock Holmes's Metropolis

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

'Welcome to London': Spectral Spaces in Sherlock Holmes's Metropolis

Article excerpt

There is, that is to say, nothing more solid, more 'realistic', and more fictional than 22IB Baker Street1

The mood is everything. To become possessed by that To generate that2

The body lies on the pavement-face down, limp and unmoving-on Giltspur Street in front of St Bartholomew's Hospital in Smithfield. It is positioned before a wooden bench not far from a red telephone box and a lonely bus stand. Onlookers have gathered in the parking lot across the road, one of whom is a doctor. They watch with stunned curiosity, with several muttering in morbid excitement about what they are witnessing. From their amateur forensic skills, they have deduced that the individual leapt from the rooftop of the building and death was immediate upon impact Even when the sun shines in London, it is always grey.

The paragraph above describes the season 2 finale of the BBC's Sherlock ('The Reichenbach Fall') in which the titular character is seen to commit suicide by throwing himself from the rooftop of Barts, and also describes a scene I observed one summer's day in London in 2012.3 After a serendipitous encounter with an Australian Sherlockian, we embarked on a self-guided Sherlock Holmes walking tour which brought us to the medical establishment and, more interestingly, a fellow enthusiast from America who was re-enacting that climactic scene. A relative stood nearby taking photos as proof and souvenir of the city, foregoing hackneyed panoramic shots of the identifiable dome of St Paul's Cathedral in the background. These media tourists were undertaking a pilgrimage of sorts that sought to capture a 'London' that was meaningful. Other fans had already paid tribute at the site by marking a section of the building's exterior with notes and scrawls-I believe in Sherlock', 'Fight John Watson's war' and 'Moriarty was real'-that memorialised it for them. The sanctity of Barts as the metropolis's oldest standing hospital had been fortified by the (presumed) demise of a fictional character.

This opening anecdote illustrates one aspect of the Sherlock Holmes cultural phenomenon, that is, tourism of locations featured in the Sherlock Holmes narratives. The destinations are predominantly shooting locations for films and television programs, places cited in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's canon, and landmarks that have become attractions in their own right (such as the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street, the bronze statue of the detective outside Marylebone tube station and the Sherlock Holmes pub in Northumberland Street, London). The purpose of this article is twofold: to reinforce the hypertextual nature of Sherlock Holmes-inspired tourism and the importance of paratexts in the production of meaning, and to explore the affective experiences of London (or, more aptly, 'Londons') that tourists seek out A central premise is that Sherlock tourism stages the metropolis as seething with the spectral, destablising the modernist endeavour to render the world completely knowable and transparent I argue that the embodied experiences and performances of the Sherlock fan-as-tourist are influenced and informed by multiple representations and narratives, constructing spectro-geographies in which the tourist revels in the pleasures of the imperceptible and the in-between.

-On the trail(s): Sherlock Holmes tourism as multi-mediated experience

Today, VisitBritain increasingly uses the UK's world-renowned film and literary heritage ... to raise awareness of the appeals of Britain and its destinations. Sherlock Holmes is known around the world as one of Britain's most iconic characters. Our partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures is a great way of helping people discover the secrets of our destinations and entice them into having a fantastic adventure here.4

Writing in 1997 (and then again in 2007), Roberta Pearson noted the paucity of scholarly attention to Sherlock Holmes fandom despite it being one of the oldest (the first official Sherlockian society, the Baker Street Irregulars, was established in New York City in 1934). …

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