Sherlock Holmes & the Volcano Horror
A Stage Play by Hal Glatzer
Historical Perspective
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 54 short stories about the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his biographer Dr. John Watson. They made their debut in 1887, electrifying turn-of-the-century readers. Yet unlike many literary “classics,” these stories continue to be read today, and in nearly every language on earth; they have never gone out of print.
    Holmes was not the first private eye, in fiction or fact; but he personified what were then new scientific methods of crime-scene investigation. (Would we have C.S.I. on TV now without having first read about Holmes tracing shoe-prints, or examining threads, pebbles and fingerprints close-up, with his magnifying glass?) The popular conception of Holmes, with his calabash pipe and double-brimmed “deerstalker” cap, actually originated in magazine illustrations, stage and screen productions; but it has become an iconic image, instantly recognized around the world.
    Doyle was a doctor, and told his tales through the voice of Dr. Watson: an intelligent fellow who keeps up with the medical sciences, and is therefore able to substantiate the conclusions that Holmes arrives at by scientific methods of observation and deduction. But where Watson is a caring and considerate man, Holmes is so tightly focused on the mystery at hand that he has no time for or interest in anything or anyone else.

An early version of this play was performed in 1978 at the Manoa Valley Theater in Honolulu. Then, as now, it was inspired by one of Doyle's own favorite stories: The Adventure of the Devil's Foot, which he set in desolate, spooky Cornwall. Holmes calls it “the Cornish horror - strangest case I have handled.”

The Volcano House, in 1890, could accommodate 35 guests, and was managed by a Mr. and Mrs. Maby. It was a one-story log cabin with a lanai along the crater rim of Halema’uma’u. Later moved back, and used for storage, it was renovated in the 1970s, and serves today as the Volcano Art Center Gallery, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The Ka’u footprints are those of warriors caught in the 1790 eruption of Kilauea; the site is also within the National Park. And before Western contact, Hawaiians did look to their kahuna for religious, oracular and medical
skills.