Review of Graceland Cemetery in Chicago A Sherlockian Walk Amongst the Tombstones

08 Apr

To get the full flavor of Graceland Cemetery one must read Brenda Rossini’s guide book by the light of a bulls eye lantern on a dark and gusty night while strolling  in Chicago’s most famous burial ground. Your hair will stand on end and your skin will prickle when you encounter Eternal Silence, the shrouded black granite statue by Lorado Taft near the entrance.

Brenda Rossini has captured the history and beauty of a Chicago landmark.

The cemetery founded in 1860 is the final resting place of Chicago’s most famous and wealthy personages. Ms. Rossini compares John Kinzie, Chicago’s first settler, a murderer and a real estate wheeler dealer, to the swashbuckling adventurers in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. She also cleverly brings in other references to Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle. The boxer, Jack Johnson is buried in Graceland; Arthur Conan Doyle was asked to referee the fight between Johnson, a black man and a white man in 1912. He refused. Anita, McCormick who is buried next to her father, the inventor of the wheat reaper corresponded with Arthur Conan Doyle about spiritualism.  

     Like every good Sherlockian sleuth, Ms. Rossini leaves the reader with a mystery. Who is in the grand mausoleum with the name “John Holmes” at the west end of the Graceland cemetery? John Holmes was supposedly a Chicago real estate broker who died in 1931, a year before Arthur Conan Doyle died. Conan-Doyle had an uneasy relationship with Sherlock Holmes. The author aspired to be known for writing great literature, not detective novels. Was he worried that Holmes would obscure his own reputation and that the detective’s final resting place would become a shrine, visited by pilgrims from all over the world? Did Conan Doyle arrange to have Sherlock’s remains buried in an obscure location under an alias?

     According to the lost diary, “The Mystery of the Scarlett Homes of Sherlock” Conan-Doyle had, on November 10, 1878 visited the cemetery before it became a home to the rich and famous of Chicago. He was with a group of medical students who snatched a body from a fresh grave for anatomical dissection. He was at the time a medical student visiting Rush Medical School with Dr. Joseph Bell, the model for Sherlock Holmes.

During his time in Chicago Conan Doyle met Joseph Medill and Alan Pinkerton who upon their death became residents at Graceland. This information in the first of the lost diaries of Arthur Conan Doyle, “

The Mystery of the Scarlet Homes of Sherlock

” should be included in future editions of Ms. Rossini’s guide book. Sherlockians, and others, interested in the history of Chicago will enjoy “Graceland Cemetery in Chicago”.”

Reviewed by John Raffensperger, MD

Graceland Cemetery in Chicago – A Sherlockian Walk Midst the Tombstones is available from all good bookstores including in the USA The Strand Magazine, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.



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