"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was first published in January 1924, appearing in The Strand magazine in the United Kingdom and in Hearst's International Magazine in the United States. It was republished in June 1927 as the fifth story in the anthologyThe Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
As in the 1902 novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, in "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", the brilliant consulting detective Sherlock Holmes is asked for advice in a matter which at first appears to involve supernatural happenings. Holmes is quick to rule out the possibility of anything paranormal having occurred. However, he is aware that a serious crime has been committed and quickly realizes who the guilty party is.
The story is notable for including the only reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings to "the giant rat of Sumatra", which Sherlock Holmes says is, "a story for which the world is not yet prepared". This mythical "missing case" has sparked the imagination of Holmes fans, it has been referred to in several adaptations to other media of Sherlock Holmes stories and other authors have written their own versions of it.
"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" has been adapted for British television and radio.
Sherlock Holmes receives a letter from a law firm. The letter tells him that one of the firm's clients, Bob Ferguson, recently asked them about vampires. Since the firm were unable to help, they advised him to contact Holmes instead. Consulting his reference works, Sherlock Holmes can only find legends about Eastern European vampires which he quickly dismisses as nonsense. However, when he reads Bob Ferguson's letter to him, Holmes quickly decides to accept the case.
Bob Ferguson of Lamberley, Sussex met Holmes' friend Dr. Watson many years earlier when they played on opposing rugby teams. Ferguson is a widower. He has one 15-year old son, Jack, from his first marriage. The boy walks with a pronounced limp due to a curved spine. Jack adores his father and is devoted to the memory of his late mother. Bob Ferguson remarried. His second wife is from Peru and they have a baby son. Although Jack has made no secret of not liking his stepmother, it is surprising that she has twice violently attacked him, once with a stick and once with her fists. Furthermore, Madame Ferguson has twice been seen sucking blood from her baby son's neck. On the first occasion, the baby's nurse, Mrs. Mason, saw her sucking the child's blood. Madame Ferguson gave the nurse five pounds to keep quiet. For some time, Mrs. Mason remained silent about what she saw but kept a constant watch on the baby and Madame Ferguson. Eventually, Mrs. Mason could not stand it any longer and told Bob Ferguson what she had seen. Mr. Ferguson did not believe her, until he saw his wife sucking blood from the baby's neck too. Afterwards, Madame Ferguson was kept locked in her room with her maid, Dolores, being her only contact with the outside world.
When Holmes and Watson arrive at Ferguson's three hundred year old home, they notice that its walls are decorated with modern paintings and South American tools and weapons. Holmes notices that Ferguson's pet spaniel is walking with a limp and asks what happened to the dog. Ferguson tells him that the spaniel is recovering now but that it became ill very suddenly and that its illness puzzled the vet.
The maid Dolores says that Madame Ferguson is very sick and should see a doctor. Dr. Watson examines her and concludes that she is suffering from "mental and nervous excitement". She says that she does not want to see her husband, although she says that she loves him so much that she is sacrificing herself to avoid breaking his heart. In a delirious state, she talks about a "fiend" and a "devil".
Bob Ferguson's son Jack is introduced to Holmes and Watson. He does not appear happy to find out that the detective Sherlock Holmes is in his house. Holmes asks to see the baby too. After the baby is brought into the room, Bob Ferguson says, "Fancy anyone having the heart to harm him". When he hears this, Holmes appears to stare out of the window. Holmes silently examines the scars on the baby's neck and asks to speak to the child's nurse, Mrs. Mason, in private.
Holmes gives Watson a note to take to Madame Ferguson. After she has read the note, she agrees to see her husband and Holmes. Holmes reassures Bob Ferguson that his wife is not a vampire. He points out that another reason for sucking someone's blood is to remove poison. Holmes says that, among the South American weapons on the wall, he noticed that the arrows were missing from a quiver. Those arrows were dipped in poison. Jack, who was jealous of his half-brother, had tried to kill the baby with the poisoned arrows after having practiced on the dog first. Holmes reveals that, when he appeared to be staring out of the window, he had really been looking at Jack's reflection in the window and saw, "such jealousy, such cruel hatred as I have seldom seen in a human face." Madame Ferguson confirms that this is true. She told Mrs. Mason the truth but could not tell her husband because she knew that it would break his heart. Holmes recommends that Jack be sent away to sea for a year.
"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" was loosely adapted as the eighth episode of the Granada TV series The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett. The episode, called "The Last Vampyre", first aired in the United Kingdom on the ITV network on January 27, 1993. In the adaptation, Holmes is first contacted by the vicar of Lamberley after Bob Ferguson's baby son (who is given the name Ricardo) has died. The official cause of death is pneumonia but supernatural causes are suspected. Suspicion does not initially fall on Bob Fergson's wife (who is given the name Carlota) but on a man called Stockton. Stockton's ancestors were driven out of the village of Lamberley over a century earlier after they had been accused of being vampires. Stockton is an expert on pre-Columbian South American religions and the occult. He is also Jack Ferguson's violin teacher. Under Stockton's influence, Jack Ferguson comes to believe that he is a vampire. After practicing on the spaniel, Jack attempts to kill Dolores with a poisoned arrow. It is Dolores' blood that Carlota sucks to remove the poison. Jack kills his father and dies while trying to fly. At the end of the episode, Holmes concludes that the baby Ricardo had indeed simply died of pneumonia, brought on by moving from Peru to the colder climate of England.
A largely faithful adaptation of the story, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson, first aired on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom on October 19, 1994. The character of Dolores is omitted from the adaptation. The program also includes readings of passages from Bram Stoker's Dracula. Holmes reads the novel as part of his research into vampires but dismisses it as rubbish.
- Text of "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" on Bibliowiki. The story is in the public domain in Canada but is still under copyright in the United States.
- Quotations from "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" on Wikiquote.
- "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" on Baker Street wiki.