Chapter 8

Twilight of a Ghost-hunter





‘Come in, you are very welcome!

I always think of you as the Sherlock Holmes of Psychical Research..’

“So said Dame Jean Conan Doyle on my first visit to her Cadogan Square flat.”

Cadogan Square, Knightsbridge, London

“I was ushered into the delightful drawing room which was dominated by an enormous portrait of her father.”

“She told me she could remember, as quite a small child, sitting in a big red leather armchair beside the fireplace watching the flames to the background sound of her father’s nib racing with hardly a pause across page after page.”

“I have always felt close to Arthur Conan Doyle in more ways than one, even before his only daughter became my friend.”

Arthur Conan Doyle in his study.

‘How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,

however improbable,

must be the truth?’

- Sherlock Holmes to Dr Watson in The Sign of the Four (1890)

Doyle had been a member of The Ghost Club, before departing in 1870 after falling out with Harry Price, who was the club Chairman at the time.

Spirit photograph taken of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Ada Deane, 1922. Doyle defended the idea that ghosts or spirits could be captured on camera in his book The Case for Spirit Photography (1922), after Harry Price had accused ‘spirit’ photographers of fraud.

Price had established the London National Laboratory of Psychical Research in order to scientifically investigate the supernatural. His work served to debunk practitioners claiming to produce paranormal phenomena, including the work of ‘spirit' photographers who produced work that Doyle was convinced by - like the 'Cottingley Fairies'.

Spirit photograph taken of Harry Price by William Hope, 1922. Price later demonstrated that Hope had substituted the original photographic plates to create the illusion of the second figure in this picture.

Doyle’s departure marked a division between Spiritualists and those who maintained a more sceptical mind.

The Cottingley Fairies were a series of photographs purporting to capture these mythical, supernatural beings known from folklore.

Underwood regularly dined at The Sherlock Holmes pub when paying a visit to the Savage Club in Whitehall Place - an address that for decades served as a means for people to correspond with him directly.

Gazetteer of British Ghosts (1971)

A room dedicated to the great detective upstairs at The Sherlock Holmes pub in Northumberland Street.

Whitehall Place, London

Detail of the interioer of The Savage Club, when it was located at Whitehall Place.

A bronze bust of Underwood was bequeathed to the Savage Club in 2014. It was sculpted in 1974 by Patricia Finch - Gold Medal winner for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1976.