unique. varied.

«The Final Problem» as a godsend.

FICTION – under the magnifying glass: Sherlock Holmes in the Haslital.
He knows. He already knew after a few seconds. Our genius in his tweed suit. «How are you?» asks Sherlock Holmes as he shakes his counterpart's hand. They're meeting for the first time. «You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.» His partner is taken aback. The pragmatic Dr. Watson is only looking for a room to rent in «A Study in Scarlet». And now, Sherlock Holmes starts the conversation in this way. Without knowing him. Amazing – his assumption is correct. He has just come from Afghanistan. Ten points.

Admittedly, we're not really surprised.

Looking back of course. His approach is always extremely rational and analytical. Our Sherlock Holmes. We know him. Even without having read the books. Most definitely. We don't need to explain anything more. Because more than 200 films, played by more than 70 actors, are about this distinguished detective. Not bad. Or in other words: Sherlock Holmes appears in more films than any other fictional figure. We see and hear him in plays, musicals, talking books, TV series, comics, cartoons and even in a ballet. Not to forget all the pastiches about Holmes and Watson. It's no wonder then, that the Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the most portrayed film character in history.

Arthur Conan Doyle

56 short stories and three novels about Holmes and Watson follow «A Study in Scarlet». And we don't need to mention the fact that they made their creator, Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (1859-1930) into one of the most successful authors of his time. He wrote the stories between 1886 and 1927.

Facts and Figures
pounds is what Conan Doyle got from «Ward, Lock & Co.» for the copyright of the manuscript «A Study in Scarlet».

Sherlock Holmes really existed! Really?

At least that's what 58 percent of British people thought according to a survey by UKTV Gold in 2008. The master detective is omnipresent. That can cause us some confusion. Winston Churchill isn't as successful: 23 percent of people asked assumed that the British statesman was a fictional figure. We won't comment on the English education system, we'll focus on praising the way in which Conan Doyle was able to breathe life into his stories.

Sherlock Holmes Schauspieler
Sherlock Holmes am Reichenbachfall

«The Final Problem»

...or the reason why Meiringen has a special place in the hearts of most Holmesians.

December 1893. The country is in mourning.

Disappointed readers in London tie black pieces of fabric or ties around their upper arm. Over 20,000 customers cancel the subscription to «The Strand» – the magazine in which the Sherlock Holmes stories appeared. One reader wrote the following directly to Conan Doyle: «You brute!». The author can definitely be happy that there was no social media at this time. What a shitstorm that would have created. Dislike. Thumbs down. And it goes without saying: Queen Victoria is also «not amused». But what happened?

Conan Dolye lässt Sherlock Holmes sterben.
Illustration von Sydney Paget: The Death of Sherlock Holmes

Shirking responsibilities. The plan goes wrong.

«The Final Problem», the last story in the anthology «The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes», appears in the December edition of «The Strand». That sounds good. But: At the beginning of the story there's an illustration of Sherlock Holmes and professor Moriarty. Both are entangled in a lethal hug next to the Reichenbach Waterfall – with the title: «The Death of Sherlock Holmes». Okay. We admit it. That is unexpected. We could not have uttered more than a «whaaat?» of disbelief either.

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) illustrated the pictures of Sherlock Holmes in «The Strand». The role model was supposedly his younger brother. His older brother denied this adamantly. Now then, perhaps there's a little jealousy involved here? Whatever the case, the checked deerstalker hat which Holmes wears in many pictures can be traced back to Paget's preference for exactly that hat. And it looks elegant. Conan Doyle on the other hand, only once described it in «Silver Blaze» as «an ear flapped travelling cap». The rest comes from the British illustrator.

Sydney Paget

Sidney Paget did a total of 356 drawings for 37 short stories and the novel «The Hound of the Baskervilles».

Our question is of course, why?

The answer is quite simple: Conan Doyle wanted to write historical novels and serious discourse more.
But this Sherlock took up too much time, as every story needed as much of a clear and original storyline as a whole book. But: Readers unconditionally wanted a new series. Only one trick would help. Without further ado, Conan Doyle demanded a huge sum (one thousand pounds!) from «The Strand» for the designated series «The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes». In the hope of course, that those responsible wouldn't go in on it. Hmm, bad luck. The magazine paid the full amount immediately. A blessing in disguise. Therefore the logical consequence was: the death of the master detective. There was simply no other way out. Sherlock Holmes had to go. Forever.

Arthur Conan Doyle,
on his decision to let Sherlock Holmes die.

«If I had not killed him, he certainly would have killed me.»

Conan Doyle had the idea of how to end the life of his cult figure in Meiringen.

In August 1893 he went there with his wife, who was suffering from Tuberculosis, for spa treatment. Following a visit to the Reichenbach Waterfall, everything went quite fast. The inspiration seemed to just come out of nowhere. The «Napoleon of crime» was brought to life. A machiavellian, criminal superbrain. Professor James Moriarty. Holmes' alter ego. They fight at the Reichenbach Waterfall and fall into the depths at the end of «The Final Problem». That's it. The end. Game over. Problem solved.

Hotel zum Wilden Mann

Conan Doyle stayed at the «Hotel zum Wilden Mann», today's «Parkhotel du Sauvage». In 1893 the owner's name was Alexander Seiler – possibly an inspiration for Peter Seiler from «The Final Problem»?

Meiringen 1985
Englische Kirche

«Where it is always 1891»

So that there's no confusion with the dates: Conan Doyle visited Meiringen in 1893. «The Final Problem» was set two years earlier though – in 1891. Just so we can differentiate between reality and fiction. Again, as a reminder: Conan Doyle really did exist, Sherlock Holmes didn't.
Whatever, fiction or not, for many Holmesians it's still 1891 in Meiringen. And nothing will change there. That's for sure. Because their bubble bursts here on this fateful 4th of May 1891.

Facts and Figures
people lived in Meiringen in 1891. Just over half of today's population.

«I don’t always die. But when I do, I don’t.»

The temporary collapse of a fictional world becomes a godsend for Meiringen.

Crime scene Reichenbach Waterfall.

There he is. Sherlock Holmes meets professor Moriarty. What does he do? Of course, he writes a last letter to his loyal helper Dr. John Watson. Behind him, the Reichenbach Waterfall goes thundering into the depths. That's it. The end. We know the story. They're never found.
Sherlock Holmes comes a couple of years too early – the tracks of the nostalgic railway doesn't get laid until 1899. His arch enemy completely takes advantage of this of course and tricks Dr. Watson into coming back to Meiringen. The poor guy has to walk the whole way. To professor Moriarty's joy – now he can talk to Sherlock Holmes alone, without interruption.

Reichennbachfall mit Absturzstelle

By the way, it's the highest of the three waterfalls at 120 metres which serves as the scene of the legendary struggle. A star marks the spot. However, the Reichenbach Waterfall is a painting in the TV series with Benedict Cumberbatch, where Sherlock Holmes is responsible for its recovery.

Facts and Figures
metres is the length of the Reichenbach Funicular route. It travels 244 metres high and takes 7 minutes.

Dr. John Watson,
on the Reichenbach Waterfall from «The Final Problem».

«It is indeed, a fearful place. The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house. (…) The long sweep of green water roaring forever down, and the thick flickering curtain of spray hissing forever upwards, turn a man giddy with their constant whirl and clamour.»
Dorfstrasse Meiringen
Hauptstrasse Meiringen

Annus Horribilis 1891. Around half a year after the supposed death of Sherlock Holmes, Meiringen becomes the scene of a catastrophe for the second time. But not in the world of fiction unfortunately.

On 25th October at 7.30 am, a fire breaks out in a house above the Brewery in the district of Stein. The oldest Haslital resident, the föhn, a warm wind from the mountains, doesn't think twice and leaves the districts of Stein, Meyringen, Eisenbolgen and Hausen in ashes. How would Sherlock Holmes have died if Conan Doyle had walked through Meiringen a couple of months later?
The full extent of the destruction only becomes clear a day later.

Brand von 1891
Brand von 1891
Brand von 1891
Brand von 1891
Facts and Figures
Buildings are turned to ashes within 2 hours and 854 people are made homeless. The fire claims one life.

A perfect duo: Haslital and Sherlock Holmes

He's returned and wants to stay in Meiringen.

Back to the present, we have to open our eyes. That's enough. Then we see him. On every corner. Everywhere. Sherlock Holmes with his deerstalker and pipe. Unmistakable. Even the absolute amateur detectives among us should at least have visited the life-sized bronze statue in «Conan Doyle Square» – without a magnifying glass hopefully.

Logo_Sherlock Holmes Meiringen
Sherlock Holmes Bike
Reichenbachbahn und Wasserfall
Frutal Meiringen
Sherlock Lounge Meiringen
Sherlock Holmes Fondue
Krimispass Meiringen

A closed, fictional world becomes real in an English church. Welcome to Baker Street 221b – in Meiringen.

We are not surprised that Conan Doyle's stories belong to the tradition of realism. The descriptions are so detailed that the office of Holmes and Watson can be found in the basement of the English church.
The Sherlock Holmes museum presents valuable original objects, provides background information and gives interesting insights into the crime and police history of the 1890s in London. Unbelievable that people think this detective didn't exist. Really.

Museum_Zimmer an der Baker Stree 221b

In 1991 it happens. Sherlock Holmes gets his museum. The Sherlock Holmes Museum is opened in the crypt of the English Church under the patronage of the «Sherlock Holmes Society of London» and Lady Jean Conan Doyle. When? On the hundredth anniversary of his death of course. On 4th of May.

The stereotype of a private detective and symbol of analytical and rational thinking.

Conan Doyle is not the inventor of detective stories (this honour goes to Edgar Allan Poe), but his figure is more realistic than some people who have really lived. A figure that defeated death and made a return. Each year on 4th of May, this is especially noticeable.

Meringen von oben

In accordance with Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes uses the method of deduction to form his conclusions. That's not new to us. That's the «ascent from the particular to the general». This would be a good approach for discovering the Haslital. «In general», the area offers a lot, but when we look further to «the particular», we discover a wonderful, fictional world in the middle of the real mountainscape of the Haslital.

The case that wasn't one.

But anyway. Back to the beginning. How did he know about Afghanistan? «Elementary, my dear Watson.»

Additional information

Sherlock Holmes Moments

More information

Photos: Jungfrau Region; Otto Kehrli
Story: André Wellig
Summer 2019


Haslital Tourismus

Tourist Center Meiringen
Bahnhofplatz 12
CH-3860 Meiringen

Tel. +41 33 972 50 50
Fax +41 33 972 51 50