Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Real Story Of The Hound Of The Baskervilles

 Cromer Hall

Several months ago I was watching Castle Secrets And Legends on the Travel Channel.  One of the segments was about Cromer Hall in England (located just outside Cromer, about 140 miles or so northeast of London).  The Cabell family have been owner and residents of Cromer Hall for the last 150 years.

A local legend told to a visiting Conan Doyle, along with the physical description of the actual Cromer Hall built in 1829, are said to have been Doyle's inspiration for The Hound Of The Baskervilles published in 1902. Being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I was pleased when they showed that episode again about a month ago.  I augmented the information they provided with a little research of my own, starting with locating Cromer on a map.

According to a legend told to Doyle, on August 5, 1577, a large black Hound of Hell materialized in a local church and brutally mauled two people to death.  The hound glared at the other people in the church with red blazing eyes, then disappeared leaving only a scorched claw mark on the stone wall to confirm its presence—a mark that remains to this day.  The beast was called Black Shuk and blamed for all unexplained gruesome happenings that took place after that.

Another legend tells of Richard Cabell, a 17th century country squire. After seriously mistreating a village girl, he was hunted by wild hounds until he died of a heart attack.  Considered to have been an evil man and feared by the local villagers, they entombed his body in a small building by the church and placed a heavy stone slab on top of his grave so he couldn't escape.

The Cabell family has their own version of this legend.  Richard Cabell believed his wife had been unfaithful.  He chased her out into the night and viciously stabbed her to death.  Her loyal dog retaliated by tearing him to pieces.

Doyle took the basics of the the three legends along with a detailed description of Cromer Hall, and transported it all to Dartmoor.  And the name he gave to the family cursed with the presence of a Hound From Hell due to an ancestor's misdeeds?  The coachman who drove Arthur Conan Doyle to Cromer Hall that fateful day for his visit was a man named…Henry Baskerville.
The huge popularity of the story continues today.  Devotees of The Hound Of The Baskervilles often dress in period clothes, including the infamous deerstalker cap, and search Dartmoor for the origins of the story.

They do need to keep in mind that it's a fictional story, not a documentary.  :)


Ashantay said...

Richard Cabell was a bad 'un, no matter which version of the story you believe! Thanks for this intriguing look into the story's background. Always fascinating to learn how other authors get their ideas.

Mary Gillgannon said...

Wow,Samantha! Fascinating stuff. Kind of gives you chills, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing this.

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: Doyle surely must have thought of this information as a given for the basis of a Sherlock Holmes novel, especially since Sherlock was already a well established and beloved character. What luck for him to have it just fall into his lap like that.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Mary: Yes...who knows where the claw marks on the stone wall of the old church really came from or if that mark was even made by a claw, but it sure makes for a creepy story.

Thanks for your comment.

JoAnne Myers said...

A wonderfully interesting article. I love Sherlock Holmes and The Hounds of the Baskerville.
Thank you for sharing.

Samantha Gentry said...

Thanks, JoAnne. Glad you liked it.

I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan, too. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES has been made into a movie several times which proves its popularity.

Thanks for your commend.

Anonymous said...

Samantha, you always have the most interesting blogs. Thanks for ding all the research. Really enjoyed it.

Samantha Gentry said...

Karen: I'm glad you enjoyed my blog this week.

Thanks for your comment.

Vonnie said...

Great research, Samantha.

Samantha Gentry said...

Vonnie: Thanks. I had to chuckle when I read about the people in their deerstalker caps tromping across the Moors. Must be an interesting sight.

Thanks for your comment.