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World-renowned detective. Most portrayed character in film history. Mystery-solving icon. Of whom are we speaking? Why, it’s Sherlock Holmes, of course! Any self-respecting amateur detective would guess that.

The ultimate detective archetype, the character of Sherlock Holmes has been a hero to millions of fans of mystery since his creation well over a century ago. So everyone can surely agree that this guy more than deserves his very own day.

Of course – elementary, my dear Watson!

History of Sherlock Holmes Day

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scottish author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, has stated that the detective character was originally inspired by his colleague, Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for whom Doyle had worked as an assistant. Like Holmes, Bell was famous for his ability to draw broad conclusions from minute observations, but his observations were put to work as a physician instead of a detective.

Francis “Tanky” Smith, a policeman and master of disguise who was Leicester’s first private detective, is also thought to have influenced the character. And, of course, Holmes best friend, Watson, is also a medical doctor as was Doyle.

Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story appeared in print in 1887 in a British Christmas paperback magazine publication. His stories continued to be published for the next forty years, until shortly before the author’s death. During this time, the detective had countless adventures, usually accompanied by his loyal friend and assistant, Dr. Watson. Other characters include Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, as well as his arch nemesis and criminal mastermind, Professor James Moriarty.

Records show that Sherlock Holmes Day has been celebrated since 2013. But many people don’t realize that the reason it is celebrated at this time is because May 22 is the birthday of the creator of the character, himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So there are certainly many reasons to observe and enjoy this day!

Sherlock Holmes Day Timeline


Sherlock Holmes is created

Born in the mind of Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, Mr. Holmes first appears in a short story in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, a British Paperback Magazine.[1]


First Sherlock Holmes film is released 

This first representation of the detective on film is actually a silent film that comes out of Chicago, USA.[2]


Final Sherlock Holmes book by Doyle is published

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes contains twelve stories and will become Arthur Conan Doyle’s final iteration of the character.[3]


Sherlock Holmes film is released 

Starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, this revival of Holmes in a period mystery action film is well received at the box office.[4]


Sherlock TV series first airs 

Starring fan favorite, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock hits the television waves on the BBC and later, in the US on PBS. It runs until 2017.[5]

How to Celebrate Sherlock Holmes Day

With there being so very many different versions of the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes, the ways of celebrating this day are virtually unlimited.

Read Some Sherlock Holmes Stories

For those who enjoy reading and have somehow never read these wonderful stories (gasp!) it is high time to get started. There are 56 short stories and four novels, so it might take a bit of time.

The weather in May in most parts of the world is quite nice, so an afternoon lounging lazily in the shade of a tree and getting lost in the world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is one great idea.

Watch a Sherlock Holmes Movie or TV Series

For those who have already read the stories and books about Sherlock Holmes or feel like giving their eyes a bit of a break, how about watching one of the many shows or movies that have been made about Detective Holmes?

Regardless of who their favorite Hollywood celebrities are, most people are likely to find someone they love breathing new life into the Sherlock Holmes character. From Sir Ian McKellen to Robert Downey Jr., from Christopher Lee to Benedict Cumberbatch and dozens of others, there are more than enough versions of Sherlock Holmes to choose from on television and the silver screen.

Try out one of these unique options:

  • Elementary (series 2012-2019). This American television series is a unique take on the character of Sherlock Holmes. So much so, in fact, that Dr. Watson is played by Asian-American actress, Lucy Liu.
  • Mr. Holmes (film 2015). As an aging, retired Holmes struggles to keep his memories from slipping, this film stars Ian McKellen and is based on the 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin, A Slight Trick of the Mind.
  • Without a Clue (film 1988). In this comedic take on the characters, a drunken Sherlock Holmes, played by Michael Caine, is simply a front man for the work done by Dr. Watson, played by Ben Kingsley.
  • Sherlock Holmes (series 1964-1968). Nigel Stock, Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing star in this BBC series of adaptations from Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.

Throw a Party for Sherlock Holmes Day

Invite a collection of friends to a delightful mystery party where guests are assigned a role ahead of time and come to participate and help solve the mystery. Some parties are specifically themed around the characters of Sherlock Holmes, and solving the murder is the activity that keeps everyone enthralled throughout the party.

Get the house set up to resemble 221b Baker Street, the place where Sherlock Holmes lived, and get ready to have a load of fun! For those who need some help with props and details, many options for murder mystery party packs can be found online.

Take a Trip to London

Those who haven’t visited 221b Baker Street in London are in for a real treat! The official museum is fun to see with relics of various kinds. Plus, the city of London is a playground for finding locations where the different movies and shows were filmed, especially those from the BBC series, Sherlock (2010-2017).

Enjoy Playing Detective

For those who feel like being a bit more active, Sherlock Holmes Day might be the perfect time to play a little detective. Do you have a feeling there might be something up at work that you’ve been dying to find out about but that none of the managers seem to want to talk too much about?

Has someone been stealing your sandwiches out of the refrigerator? Or maybe you’ve been getting some enamored texts from an unknown number and would love to know who’s sending them? Whatever little mystery is keeping you awake at night, let today be the day you decide to find out what’s up!

Read Sherlock Holmes with the Kids

And if you have children, Sherlock Holmes Day is the perfect day to get them interested in a real literary classic that never gets old, and maybe get them into reading as a whole in the process. No matter how you end up celebrating Sherlock Holmes Day, it’s a mystery to us–and one that’s up to you to solve!

Sherlock Holmes Day FAQs

Was Sherlock Holmes a real person?

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character created in the late 1800s and portrayed in many stories, novels, and films.[1]

Who wrote Sherlock Holmes?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish doctor turned author, created the character of Sherlock Holmes and wrote him into many stories.[2]

How many Sherlock Holmes stories are there?

Doyle’s character appears in 56 short stories and four novels throughout his 40 year career as a fictional detective.[3]

Who plays Sherlock Holmes?

In the most recent film and television series (unrelated to one another), Sherlock Holmes is played by Robert Downey Jr. (2009 film) and Benedict Cumberbatch (2010-2017 TV series).

Are Sherlock Holmes and Watson brothers?

No. Sherlock Holmes has a brother named Mycroft but Watson is his best friend who is also a medical doctor (as was the author, Arthur Conan Doyle).[4]

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